Sunday, 9 July 2017

EXPERIMENT IN TERROR - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Restored nail-biter @ TIFF BellLightbox

Blake Edwards serves up the epitome of cool.
"Take off your clothes. You want me to take them off for you? Then take them off."
- Ross Martin as Red Lynch in Blake Edwards's Experiment in Terror.

Experiment in Terror (1962)
Dir. Blake Edwards
Scr. The Gordons (Mildred & Gordon)
Starring: Glenn Ford, Lee Remick, Ross Martin, Stefanie Powers

Review By Greg Klymkiw

The villain's name is Lynch. The heroine lives in a neighbourhood called Twin Peaks. The square-jawed, monkey-suited hero is an F.B.I. agent.

Doing the math, geek?

Don't worry. Even if it's not adding up for you, there's plenty more on display than mere cinema-geekery in Experiment in Terror, the consummate 1962 thriller by Blake Edwards that puts most contemporary nail-biters to shame. (Yeah, Get Out, I'm talking to YOU!)

Late one fine San Francisco evening, gorgeous bank teller Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick, dolled-up in only the finest array of designer wear) is accosted in a suburban garage, from behind naturally, by a dark figure who manhandles her appropriately, guessing her measurements with dazzling precision.

He demands, through a gravely asthmatic voice, that she will steal $100K, following his instructions to the letter. Oh, and she better not go to the police. If she disobeys him, he plans to rape and murder both Kelly and her lithe little teenage sister Toby (Stefanie Powers). Hell, he might still do it anyway. Just for fun.

What's a girl like the impossibly gorgeous Kelly Lynch to do? Well, call the F.B.I. of course and be lucky enough to get the handsome agent John Ripley (Canada's own Glenn Ford) on the line. Big mistake. No sooner does she get off the blower when the predatory attacker suddenly appears, belts Kelly to the floor and crunches his nicely-polished black shoe on her throat. He knows everything. He sees everything. And she better not screw up.

What follows is a terror-infused cat and mouse game. Villain Red Lynch (Ross Martin) is quickly revealed to us (and the cops), but he's one slick dude and though he might be arrogant and totally bat-shit crazy, the man is a mastermind. Every step of the way he manages to outsmart the cops and the picture spins like a whirling dervish through several edge-of-the-seat set pieces and finally climaxes during a ball game in a packed-to-the-rafters Candlestick Park.

Some might find it a bit strange that such a crackling terrific thriller came from Blake Edwards. Yes, he did indeed deliver the hugely successful Breakfast at Tiffany's, the ubiquitous Pink Panther series, 10, one of the best romantic comedies of the 70s and the beloved gender-bending musical-comedy Victor/Victoria, so he's not the first guy one thinks of as someone who's going to deliver a picture as downright throat-catching as Experiment in Terror. But you know, Blake Edwards can and has been cool. He was, after all, the creator of the hard-boiled private-dick series Peter Gunn and here he assembled a top-flight cast, dazzling Phillip Lathrop black and white cinematography on location in San Francisco and a jazzy, jangling score from Henry Mancini.

And then there's Ross Martin as rapist, forger, armed robber and psycho killer Red Lynch - he's easily one of the nastiest, scariest villains in screen history. His thin lips, Cheshire grin, over-the-top wheezing and off-the-Richter-scales slime-bucket attitude all contribute to the creation of a gloriously chilling and, dare I say it, cooler-than-cool madman of the highest order.

He looks great in drag, too. Well, uh, not really "great", per se, but Jesus Christ, I'd hate to meet him in the Ladies Room. Oh, and in Experiment in Terror, we most certainly do meet him there. Damn, it's scary!


A restored digital print of Experiment in Terror plays at TIFF Bell Lightbox.