Experiment in Terror

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick) is a beautiful bank teller, one who is about to be placed in a tense, dangerous situation. A man has decided to rob the bank she works at, but not with a gun or even in the usual fashion, he has a darker plan in mind. He seeks to use Sherwood to carry out his plot and in the process, keep himself removed from the immediate situation. He informs her that she must steal one-hundred thousand dollars from her bank, then turn the funds over to him, or dire consequences will result. The man promises to not only murder Sherwood, but also her young sister Toby (Stefanie Powers). This sends Sherwood into a panic, as she loves her sister and couldn’t stand to see her harmed. The man is unknown to Sherwood, but he has a strange breathing pattern, the sole memorable aspect of his presence. Of course, he warns her not to contact the authorities, but she does and turns to the FBI. The agent dispatched is John Ripley (Glenn Ford), who is a dedicated and skilled agent, but in a case so odd and dangerous, even his skills will be put to the test often. The man behind this scheme is dark and intelligent, so it won’t be a simple case to crack, to say the least. But with the help of two determined victims, can Agent Ripley somehow end the madman’s plot before its too late?

This isn’t a well known picture, even though Blake Edwards (The Pink Panther, Victor/Victoria) directed & produced, but Experiment in Terror is a terrific movie. And now that it has reached DVD, I think this film will find a larger audience. After all, fans of film noir scour shelves for more genre releases, so Experiment in Terror should be well received. In addition to Edwards, the talent here also includes Lee Remick, Stefanie Powers, Glenn Ford, and Ross Martin, so the cast is a gifted and well chosen assortment. The performances are excellent across the board also, especially in the cases of Remick and Powers, who are superb here. That is because the female characters are given power and brains in Experiment in Terror, unlike a lot of movies, which seem content to have more helpless damsels in distress. The premise is strong and holds up well, though the movie does run a little thin at times, at just over two hours in length. Even so, the tension and suspense remain thick at all times here, thanks to the great performances and skilled direction. So while the movie is a tad too long, it doesn’t lessen the experience much. Columbia’s disc is thin on extras, but has an excellent visual treatment, which keeps it all in balance. So if you’re a fan of thrillers or film noir, be sure to give Experiment in Terror a look.

As I mentioned above, this movie has a number of excellent performances, but I think the best work here belongs to Lee Remick. Of course, you have to say something about her good looks, but Remick was more than just another pretty face. Yes, she looks great in her movies, but here she is given a more toned down, though still attractive presence. This brings a sense of normalcy to her, as she isn’t as glamorous as usual. I think that enhances her performance, since she looks more like a normal beautiful woman, instead of a starlet. In addition, her role was written so that she had more character than most females in this situation. Instead of being a helpless victim, Remick’s character is active in her situation. This brings a lot of fresh moments, since that empowerment can spin a situation, even if we’ve seen it all before. But Remick deserves credit also, as she is superb here and really shines in some scenes. Other films with Remick include Anatomy of a Murder, The Long, Hot Summer, The Omen, The Hallelujah Trail, and Days of Wine and Roses. The cast also includes Glenn Ford (Superman, The Blackboard Jungle), Stefanie Powers (Stagecoach, Herbie Rides Again), and Ross Martin (The Great Race, The Ceremony).

Video: How does it look?

Experiment in Terror is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I hoped for a good visual effort here, but Columbia has surpassed my expectations. The print used has some nicks and grain, but looks quite good, all things considered. This movie features a lot of high contrast visuals, but this transfer handles it all with ease. As such, we’re given rich and stark black levels, which allows for a refined overall presence. I noticed no instances of softness worth mentioning, though this is an older movie, so have some tolerance. All in all, a splendid visual treatment from Columbia, one that lets the film’s visuals shine through.

Audio: How does it sound?

The audio here is by no means remarkable, but the included mono soundtrack provides an acceptable presentation. A few signs of age can be heard, but this is mostly a clean and clear audio effort. The sound effects have solid presence, but this is an older mono option, so keep your expectations reasonable. The musical score here is terrific, as Henry Mancini’s work adds a lot to the experience. So I am pleased that the score sounds good here, with minimal instances of distortion or other age related flaws. I found dialogue to be clean and free from muffled moments and such, which means no vocals are lost here. This disc also includes subtitles in English, French, and Japanese, should you need those.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes the film’s theatrical trailer.

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