B&W, 1962, 123 mins. 21 secs.
Directed by Blake Edwards
Starring Glenn Ford, Lee Remick, Stefanie Powers, Ross Martin, Roy Poole, Ned Glass, Anita Loo, Patricia Huston, Gilbert Green, Clifton James
Indicator (Blu-ray & DVD) (UK R0 HD/PAL), Twilight Time (Blu-ray) (US R0 HD), Sony (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Experiment in TerrorExperiment in TerrorAn odd film out in so many ways, this taut, noir-esque crime thriller with horror overtones is easily the darkest film by director Blake Edwards, who had just come off of the Production Code-baiting hit Breakfast at Tiffany's and made this almost back to back with his acclaimed alcoholism drama, Days of Wine and Roses, and his most famous cinematic contribution, The Pink Panther. The Oscar-nominated star of Days, Lee Remick, stuck with Edwards for this film as well and used her piercingly beautiful eyes to great effect here as Kelly Sherwood, an unassuming San Francisco bank teller who comes home one evening (in a neighborhood called Twin Peaks!) to be confronted by a wheezing psycho who wraps a gloved hand over her mouth and threatens to bring both harm to herself and her younger sister, Toby (Powers), if she goes to the authorities about an impending heist he's planning to pull off at her bank -- one she will perform herself.

Kelly's frantic disregard for the anonymous blackmailer's warning leads her to reach FBI agent Rip (Ford), though they're interrupted when the peeping maniac strikes again and threatens Kelly by stepping on her face down on the floor. Understandably distraught, she's reluctant at first when Rip gets in touch with her but soon goes along as they come up with an intricate plan to trap the guilty party. Various clues lead them though a maze including a Chinese-American family and an ill-fated sculptress, with their Experiment in Terrorquarry always seeming to be one step ahead. Experiment in Terror

In the early '60s, mainstream thrillers all seemed to be influenced by Hitchcock but were splitting off in two very different directions: glossy, colorful espionage films in the vein of North by Northwest (a la Charade, Arabesque, etc.) and gritty, button-pushing black-and-white shockers like Cape Fear, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Homicidal, and of course, this one, with a few odd women-in-peril oddities in between like Midnight Lace. Edwards' film is definitely among the best as it deftly combines nightmarish imagery (that opening ten minutes!) and a fascinating look at the various cultures around San Francisco, hopping between locales and social classes with ease on its way to the big finale at Candlestick Park of all places. It also benefits immensely from a chilling, highly atmospheric score by the great Henry Mancini, building on some of his ideas from Touch of Evil and doing a dry run of sorts for his outstanding work a few years later on Wait Until Dark. It's also a feast for fans of character actors; apart from the gorgeous Powers (who would soon headline thrillers of her Experiment in Terrorown for Hammer with Die! Die! My Darling and Crescendo), the film offers some robust parts for The Wild Wild West's Ross Martin (in a very Experiment in Terrordramatic contrast from his usual TV persona or his later reunion with Edwards on The Great Race), Ned Glass (Charade), and even Clifton James a decade before he became Sheriff J.W. Pepper in two James Bond films.

The first Blu-ray of Experiment in Terror appeared in 2013 from Twilight Time featuring a sterling new HD transfer with a pleasing if modest DTS-HD MA 5.1 English track (nicely derived from the original audio stems of the film from the sound of it and still almost entirely center based), an isolated Mancini score, two trailers, and two TV spots.

The dual-format UK release from Indicator in 2017 definitely adds on the extra value by carrying over the isolated score and all the trailers and TV spots, but two new significant goodies are included as well. Critic Kim Morgan contributes a new audio commentary that starts off as an artistic and aesthetic appraisal of the film, picking apart the framing and lighting choices, before moving into the backgrounds of the cast and crew including Edwards' mostly gun-for-hire status at the time Experiment in Terrorand the shift to neo-noir occurring somewhere around this time. A new video interview with Powers, "All by Herself" Experiment in Terror(18m44s), is very entertaining and a bit touching as she starts off by noting she's the only surviving major cast member and recalls being cast at the time as a "young and hot teenager" in the studio system including classes at MGM. She has plenty of Edwards stories, even recalling their first meeting, and recalls being close friends with Remick who mentored her as a beginning actress. She also goes a bit into the escalating European co-productions at the time and chats a bit about Martin, who was much friendlier in person than his role here. While some Indicator releases have improved noticeably over their American counterparts, there wasn't much room to advance here; it looks great with more disc space allotted and features identical framing, black levels, and detail as its American predecessor, which is a good thing. This time the audio is LPCM mono (with the 5.1 option for those who want it), and it sounds at least as good as the U.S. disc with plenty of great rumbling bass during those opening credits and a nice, hefty presence throughout. The insert booklet features an additional piece by Morgan about Edwards' life and professional status at the time and an analysis of how the Code was deteriorating at the time, as well as a detailed analysis of the villain's character; more idiosyncratic and surprising is "Operation Gordon," a Jeff Billington piece on the writers of the source novel ("the Gordons") whose real-life ties to the FBI through male half Gordon Gordon resulted in some fascinating, recently declassified documents with more than a bit of turmoil at the office!

Reviewed on April 13, 2017.