Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Experiment in Terror


I’ve been reflecting sadly that it is probably very difficult to get a film like this made today. Lee Remick is a bank teller. She comes home one night and is grabbed from behind by a man who says she is going to help him rob the bank, or he will kill her and/or her little sister. This is all very noir, very close in, and very sinister. Don’t contact the police; I’ll know. She calls the FBI anyway, but chickens out. And the bad man is suddenly back; he’s been listening for her to call. The FBI finds her from the few clues they have. (Lord, phone technology has come a long way. It used to take ages to trace a call. Here, the bad guy can call from his own phone and not have to worry.) So Lee and the FBI agent, Glenn Ford, start a cat and mouse game with the bad guy. And here’s where everything is different these days. Today, the bad guy will be almost omniscient, playing with the cops. He won’t be unveiled until the last possible moment, when the girl will be a hostage with a gun to her head. Not here. It’s mostly police procedure. The man is smart, but no Einstein. The little sister is captured, but they free her ten minutes before the climax, which happens in a Candlestick Park so crawling with police that the bad guy never had a chance. And damn it, I like it that way. There’s no big shootout in an empty warehouse, no big explosions, nothing of the over-the-top shit we all know too well these days. The film is by Blake Edwards, shot on location in San Francisco, with music by Henry Mancini that really enhances the sense of dread.