EXPERIMENT IN TERROR ( 1962 )

“I suddenly realized that the fellow who didn’t show up was getting about fifty-times more money than I was getting. So I thought, ‘this is silly,’ and became an actor. I certainly never thought I’d wind up in motion pictures. That was far beyond anything I’d ever dreamed of.”

( Glenn Ford )

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Canada, that vast country which stretches from the United States to the Arctic Circle is home to some of cinemas most acclaimed stars who held prominent reign over Hollywood, but first and foremost, it is also the birth place of Legendary actor, Glenn Ford whose contribution to motion pictures cannot be usurped.

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Glenn Ford had certainly come a long way since his childhood days up north. From the moment he departed Canadian shores to embark on his journey to the bright lights of Hollywood, Ford charted many different territories and explored every destination imaginable.

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The actor who was born on May 1st, 1916 in Sainte-Christine-d’Auvergne, a small village in the Portneuf Regional County in the province of Quebec, achieved great success in the film industry. Although he is best remembered today for his roles in western productions, Glenn Ford garnered popularity in all genres of cinema.

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His versatility and deftness in adapting to different roles allowed him to shine in a diverse range of films. While he succeeded in portraying challenging characters, Ford proved time and time again that he could morph into breezy protagonists in comedic parts, which include, The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father ( 1963 ), where he was cast opposite Shirley Jones.

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The previous year, Ford returned to the thriller genre when he was cast in the 1962 crime film, Experiment In Terror, also starring Lee Remick, and directed by Blake Edwards who became widely known for his directorial work in comedies, his most famous being, The Pink Panther ( 1963 ). Joining Edwards was Mildred and Gordon Gordon, the prolific crime writing duo who based the screen play on their 1961 novel titled, Operation Terror. 

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THE PLOT:

As the tagline reads, Experiment In Terror plunges you into a new dimension of fear. Bank clerk, Kelly Sherwood ( Lee Remick ) is terrorized in the garage of her San Francisco home late one night by an unidentified man with an asthmatic voice who forces her to steal $100,000 from her bank. Sherwood is immediately thrust into the throes of intense fear when she discovers that the stranger is an encyclopedia when it comes to her daily lifestyle. He knows her everyday schedule, and threatens to murder Kelly and her sister Toby ( Stephanie Powers ) if she doesn’t proceed with the plan.

Danger is pronounced if Kelly notifies the police, but knowing that trouble is brewing, she calls the San Francisco office of the FBI, and speaks to John Ripley ( Glenn Ford ) who takes on the case, and tries to track down the antagonist. During a series of investigations we find out that the unidentified man is Red Lynch ( Ross Martin ), who has a criminal record of several different offenses, including murder and statutory rape.

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Experiment In Terror is an obscure film that doesn’t get any coverage today. Ross Martin received a Golden Globe nomination for his supporting role as the villainous Red Lynch who insists that Kelly take the money from her bank, while both Ford and Remick were lauded for their performances. In his biography about his father, Peter Ford states, “From start to finish, Experiment In Terror is a terrific movie, directed with dazzling style, one of those films of the early 1960’s that took the suspense-crime film into a new era: grittier, more provocative, and adult. Film buffs now see it as one of the key films to influence the later revolution in the thriller genre in Italy, the so-called giallos made by people like Dario Argento and Mario Bava.”

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In Hollywood the usual custom was that scenes that take place during the night were filmed during the day, but the filming of Experiment In Terror was a lot different. To create that dark and ominous atmosphere, Edwards insisted that the night time scenes be shot at night, often in foggy and congestive conditions. To enhance the level of suspense, Blake Edwards wanted the film shot in San Francisco with the hilly terrains as the backdrop. The city with its mystique and colorful appeal was the perfect place for murder and tension.

“I had to find some way to get you here. Take off your clothes. You want me to take them off for you?”

After Ford’s twenty-two year contract with Columbia, Experiment In Terror marked the end of his tenure with the studio. The actor was melancholy about leaving the studio that he developed such a great rapport with, but he was enthusiastic about commencing the next step of his journey.

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For his final collaboration with Columbia, Glenn Ford went out with a bang. Though, Experiment In Terror didn’t garner the reception it deserved, both stars were excellent in their respective roles. As John Ripley, Glenn Ford is stoic, straight-laced, and seems to be too involved with his job to worry about romance. When Kelly Sherwood calls for help, Ripley is interested in assigning himself to the case, but after watching those two characters playing out each scenario we get the impression that Ripley is not interested in Kelly as a woman. He only wants to do his job and protect her from Red Lynch.

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The project was jointly owned by Blake Edwards and Lee Remick. Glenn Ford was only fulfilling his contractual responsibility with Columbia, and was really only a secondary addition to the film. His part is solid and he received top billing, but in truth, Remick was the main protagonist. She was the one who appeared in almost all scenes while Ford was the sidekick.

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Experiment In Terror is a Hitchcockian style film that Hitchcock never made. The picture is infused with suspense, apprehension, and nail-biting terror. The music score by Henry Mancini is superb and the evocative cinematography creates a dark, menacing and foreboding ambiance that was represented in Hitchcock’s productions that were filmed in black & white.

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The title itself rings terror, but when you add the indelible talents of Glenn Ford and Lee Remick, you know your in for a chilling ride that is full of Film Noir undertones and mystery that is sure to keep viewers on the edge.

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TRIVIA:

The helicopter in the film is a 1947 Bell 47G, registration N141B. It crashed outside Cincinnati, Ohio on May 20, 1982 and the two people on board suffered minor injuries, but the aircraft was written off. This helicopter was also used in the TV show Highway Patrol (1955).

As of 2018, Kelly’s house at 120 St. Germain Ave. in San Francisco is still standing with the same architecture.

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CAST:

Glenn Ford: Born, Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford on May 1st, 1916 in Quebec, Canada. Died: August 30th, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California. Aged 90.

Lee Remick: Born, December 14th, 1935 in Quincy, Massachusetts. Died: July 2nd, 1991 in Los Angeles, California. Aged: 55.

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This post was written for the Fourth Annual O’Canada Blogathon, hosted by Silver Screenings and Speakeasy. For more articles covering Canadian stars and films, please click here.

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4 thoughts on “EXPERIMENT IN TERROR ( 1962 )

Add yours

  1. Great article, Crystal! I saw this film a few months ago and was surprised by how good it was. There were scenes that truly stressed me out, and the villain is plenty creepy. I also really love Glenn Ford’s character. It can be frustrating to watch a thriller and see the characters do everything wrong, but Ford is such a calm, cool, brilliant man.

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  2. I always forget Glenn Ford is Canadian, believe it or not. (I’m always the obnoxious one at a party who says, “Oh yes, so and so – they’re Canadian, you know.”)

    As for “Experiment in Terror” it looks like a terrific film that should be more well-known. I tried to find it online to stream, and couldn’t see anything right away, but will keep looking. Thanks for recommending.

    And thanks for joining the blogathon! Glenn Ford certainly does deserve a nice tribute like yours. 🙂

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  3. Glenn Ford was right at home in a variety of films and excelled in every genre.

    Experiment in Terror is an excellent film and you highlighted many of its outstanding qualities. Back in 2012 I used it as an entry as a blogathon entitled The Best Hitchcock Films Hitchcock Never Made. I hope Blake Edwards would have taken it as the compliment intended.

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  4. A good film, I agree. I saw it a couple years ago when TCM aired it. I was so disappointed to find out that the baddie was none other than the fave sidekick from The Wild, Wild West, Artemis Gordon! Glad to see that he, Ross Martin, was nominated for an award for his role. I think a lot of Ford’s early films were in noir, and I watched a good one on Youtube a while back, if it’s still there, try to see Framed, a tight film, well acted.

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