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STARK FEAR(director: Ned Hockman; screenwriter: Dwight V. Swain; cinematographer: Robert E. Bethard; cast: Beverly Garland (Ellen Winslow), Skip Homeier (George Winslow), Ken Tobey (Cliff Kane), Hannah Stone (Ruth Rogers), George Clow (Harvey), Barbara Freeman (Hilda); Runtime: 86; B.H.S.; 1961)
“This film is only for Beverly Garland fans.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Ed Wood Jr. doesn’t make them this horrid. It’s a brutally dark tale of a sadistic drunkard who mentally tortures his wife and eventually aims to kill her. Cult film star Beverly Garland is the attractive Ellen Winslow married for three years to oil executive Jerry (Skip Homeier), who lied to her where he was born and raised. When she takes a job with Cliff Kane (Ken Tobey) in order to pay the bills, the hubby who earns $20,000 a year goes into a jealous snit. He slaps her, calls her a tramp, spills a drink on her and tells her he wants a divorce.

Ellen consults with her best friend Ruth (Hannah Stone), and tells her she found out that Jerry is really from this redneck Oklahoma town called Quehada and not from Pennsylvannia. Since Jerry disappeared, she goes to find him in Quehada. She wants to tell Jerry that his boss said if he doesn’t show up on Monday to work, he’s fired. Ellen looks up his best friend Harvey and is told by his wife, that her husband is a good for nothing drunk and womanizer; the wife further says, that if she catches him with another woman, she’ll kill them both. When Ellen locates Harvey, she finds him to be a porcine, drunken slob who tries to sexually force himself on her. Harvey has taken her to the grave where Jerry’s hellion mother is buried and tells Ellen that she has the same name as Jerry’s mom; that Jerry hated his mom so much, that when she died he never came back. But Jerry has guilt-feelings and since then has fresh flowers delivered every month to her grave.

Jerry shows up in town and steals Ellen’s purse and convertible, and traps her in town. She is spotted by Harvey, who in a drunken rage takes her to the cemetery and brutally rapes her while Jerry watches from behind the bushes.

When Ruth rescues her the next day, Ellen returns to work for Cliff. Just when their romance is becoming serious, she finds out that Cliff and Jerry have a history together; that Jerry once took a job away from Cliff. She now realizes that Jerry’s anger was because Cliff hired her to needle him. Going against the advice of Ruth, she arranges to meet Jerry in a cheap motel to apologize. At the motel, she is surprised Harvey is there in his place. She escapes another rape when Harvey’s wife shows up, as Jerry called her hoping she would kill her.

Warning: spoiler to follow in next paragraph.

The Garland character is one stupid lady. It’s hard to know what she wants, she’s so confused and laden with guilt. She invites Jerry over again for one last chance but he acts sadistic to her, but she’s saved by Cliff. When he asks her to marry him and go to Mexico City where he is relocating his business, she says no. In the final scene, she changes her mind and gets on the plane with Cliff just as it is taking off. I have no idea why she changed her mind.

The two things that are positive about the film: Beverly Garland is a looker and the film is an oddity. But this film is only for Beverly Garland fans, which I count myself as an unofficial member.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”