April 13, 1962
EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, a ne0-noir suspense thriller, opens on this date in 1962. Director Blake Edwards, following up his box-office smash BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, turned to a pulp novel by the Gordons, Operation Terror, about a psychotic killer (Ross Martin, whose menace is amplified by an asthmatic wheeze), who terrorizes a female bank teller (Lee Remick, a convincing lady in distress) and her sister (Stephanie Powers) in an attempt to rob her employer. FBI agent (a stalwart Glenn Ford) takes over the investigation as Martin leaves a trail of murder victims.
The film serves as as a template for several currents in the movie world of the early 1960s. Photographed in sharp-edged black and white by Philip Lathrop (who would shoot two other notable monochrome films that year, DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES (also directed by Edwards) and LONELY ARE THE BRAVE, the film typifies the era’s reliance on black-and-white cinematography to convey mood and tone. It also represents the end of the two-decade classical film noir period, before the shift into color filmmaking across all genres by the mid-60s. Shot extensively on location in San Francisco, and making effective use of that city’s landmarks, particularly in the taut climax at Candlestick Park during a major league baseball game, it serves as a time capsule in that respect.
Along with DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, the film is also one of the final forays into tense drama that director Edwards would venture, before shifting to comedies (e.g. THE PINK PANTHER, THE PARTY, 10, VICTOR VICTORIA) for the remainder of his career. And accomplished composer Henry Mancini contributed one of his four remarkable scores that year, with a title theme enhanced by the use of an autoharp to chilling effect.