Tuesday, November 24, 2015

It's Not The Most Efficient Way To Rob A Bank

My dad and I had more fun at the expense of Experiment in Terror. Considering it's a film about a shadowy criminal with a raspy voice threatening to kill either Kelly (Lee Remick) or her sister if Kelly refuses to steal 100 grand from the bank she works at, with Glenn Ford as the lead FBI agent trying to catch the crook, it's hardly a film for jokes.

And yet, we were cracking wise throughout. The killer's voice is undoubtedly the result of smoking inferior, foreign cigarettes, rather than ones made with smooth Charleston tobacco. He makes Kelly attend a baseball game between the Giants and the Dodgers, and since it's in San Francisco, I said she'd be pissed because she's a Giants' fan. Then she showed up after the game was in progress, so it became clear she was a Dodgers' fan after all. There was a lot of commentary about how bad the FBI agents were at observing unobtrusively. Yep, just two guys in trench coats and snap-brim fedoras, sitting in an unmoving car at night. Nothing suspicious there. There's a reporter/snitch character played by Ned Glass, who was one of the three people who attended the funeral of Audrey Hepburn's husband in Charade, so we made jokes about that.

Jokes aside, it actually is a very tense movie, if a little long. There's a bit too much spinning tires in there. I think the Gordons, Gordon and Mildred, who wrote the story and the script I guess, wanted to show how the feds were trying to track this guy down from multiple angles, and trying to close the net before he slipped through. It's not a bad idea, but at a certain point, I kind of wanted the movie to get on with it. Just a little shorter, 10 minutes would have been enough.

As it is, Remick's quite good. She's aware enough to be scared, but not so much it keeps her from calling the feds. She's trying to protect her sister, which simultaneously gives her some extra courage, but is also a lever the killer can use against her. The interactions between Remick and Powers are strong, they sell the familial affection well.

It's a little late in the game to be worried about spoilers for a 1962 film, but I'll keep the killer's identity a secret, since that's how the film was done. You don't see his face until halfway through, and his name was kept out of the opening credits (at his suggestion). Even after that, he's mostly in shadow, or disguise, or extreme close-ups of his mouth while he's on the phone. There was one point late in the film, when I realized he'd been on screen in disguise earlier and I'd missed it, I kicked myself. So I guess it was effective makeup. Also, the scene was shot from a different angle than a lot of his others, and the focus wasn't really on him, so it was a good job all around by the crew.

My dad kept expecting Glenn Ford's character to either get rough with someone, or to get his wheels turning too fast and make a bad leap, but it never really happened. There's no romantic tension between his character and Kelly, and he's mostly very steady. A change of pace from thrillers where it's deeply personal for the investigator, or he gets too involved with the person in danger. Ford's character is just trying to do his job, best he can. He's a calm center for the movie, with the killer trying to apply pressure to Kelly while staying mostly out of sight, while Kelly's trying to hold it together herself.


SallyP said...

One of the best parts of watching old movies is the snarly commentary.

CalvinPitt said...

I agree, even with good movies it's a lotta fun.