It's fair to say that director Blake Edwards is best known for lighter, and often comedic, fare. The Pink Panther movies, Breakfast At Tiffany's, Operation Petticoat, and quite a few others. So Experiment In Terror stands out as one of his darker films, and it also stands out as yet another damn fine one from a damn fine director.
Lee Remick plays Kelly Sherwood, a woman who finds herself terrified one evening when a man accosts her in her own home and tells her that she will rob money from her workplace, a bank. If she contacts the police or attempts to stop the plan from unfolding then it will put the life of her younger sister (Toby, played by Stefanie Powers) in grave danger. Remick somehow manages to get the police informed (headed up by the dependable and assured Glenn Ford) and a tense game of cat and mouse unfolds as the deadline for the robbery nears and the police try to get their man.
Based on a novel by Gordon Gordon and Mildred Gordon (who gave themselves the imaginative title of . . . The Gordons), Experiment In Terror excels because of the little touches throughout that feel real and tense enough to keep you distracted from the sillier aspects of the main premise. Most of the scenes featuring Ford doing actual police work are very effective, and the two-hour runtime allows the tension to be ratcheted up while viewers get to learn a bit more about the main supporting characters.
Remick is very good in the lead role, often wide-eyed and tremulous with fear, and Ford brings the necessary gravitas to his part. Powers doesn't get to do as much, but is good enough, and Ross Martin is unnerving enough as the asthmatic baddie, often shown in shadow or just moving in the background as he keeps an eye on his prey. Even those with much less screentime - Roy Poole, Anita Loo, Patricia Huston, et al - do solid work.
Directorially, Edwards is as solid as ever. I've never really thought of him as a truly great talent, more so a damn fine one (as mentioned above), but his approach to the material here mixes the tense set-pieces with some plodding detective work in a way that keeps things interesting, well-paced, and genuinely gripping for a large portion of the runtime.
Unjustly overlooked, or forgotten, by many (including myself), Experiment In Terror is ripe for rediscovery. Fans of crime films and thrillers may find that they have a new favourite.
You know your in good hands when the film gets an Indicator label release from Powerhouse films. Pick it up here - Experiment In Terror