EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (aka: GRIP OF FEAR) (director: Blake Edwards; screenwriters: from the book by Mildred Gordon & Elliott Gordon; cinematographer: Philip H. Lathrop; editor: Patrick McCormack; music: Henry Mancini; cast: Glenn Ford (John Ripley), Lee Remick (Kelly Sherwood), Stefanie Powers (Toby), Roy Poole (Brad), Ned Glass (Popcorn), Ross Martin (Red Lynch), Clifton James (Capt. Moreno), Anita Loo (Lisa Soong), Patricia Huston (Nancy Ashton), Warren Hsieh (Joey Soong); Runtime: 123; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Blake Edwards; Columbia Pictures; 1962)
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Blake Edwards switches genres after success with several light comedies and dramas, and follows his hit Breakfast at Tiffany’s with this crime thriller (he did a popular crime series on TV called Peter Gunn, but this was his only crime thriller movie venture). It’s a straightforward detective story of an asthmatic psycho, Red Lynch (Ross Martin), who menaces a young, single San Francisco bank teller named Kelly Sherwood (Lee Remick). The psycho accosts Kelly by her house garage at night and after revealing he knows a lot about her life forces her to rob her bank of $100,000, as he threatens to kill her and her high school student sister Toby (Stefanie Powers) if she involves the police or refuses to cooperate in the robbery.
The clever Kelly manages to contact FBI agent John Ripley (Glenn Ford), as the frightened woman takes a chance of not following the psycho’s instructions. But since she never saw his face as the psycho hid in the shadows, she can’t help the agent with an eye-witness report. The efficient and concerned agent sets up a plan to protect her and Toby, with the agents secretly keeping tab of her movements. The only one in the bank informed about what’s going down is the bank president, as Kelly does her usual teller’s job as she waits for the psycho’s instructions.
When the psycho kidnaps Toby, Ripley tells Kelly to go through with the robbery. The exciting climax, which has gained favor among film buffs, takes place at packed Candlestick Park during a Dodgers-Giant night game–where the great hurler Don Drysdale is on the mound for the Bums. When the game ends and everyone heads for the exits, the agents try to find the perp in the crowd after he makes contact with Kelly to get the robbery money. They already have identified him as ex-con Red Lynch, someone responsible for the murders of three women but oddly showing a generous side. He paid the costly medical expenses for the 6-year-old son of his ex-girlfriend (Anita Loo).
There’s no mystery about the psycho’s identity or attempt to explain things through psychology, instead it remains suspenseful by keeping things realistic and urban while showing in detail how meticulous the law enforcers are in their investigation. Ford and Remick give solid performances, while Ross Martin makes for a scary psycho.
REVIEWED ON 11/15/2004 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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