For Reel


The Night Holds Terror (1955)
July 20, 2016, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Andrew L. Stone
3.5 Stars
The Night Holds TerrorThe real life hostage situation that began when Gene Courtier picked up a hitchhiker on his way home from work in 1953 came during a period when Hollywood was obsessed with similarly-themed invasion stories—the thugs from the street were now invading your car, your place of work, and even your home itself! Before William Wyler’s take on the Courtier story made its way to theaters as The Desperate Hours, this low-budget programmer so prided itself on authenticity that it used the real names of the victims and filmed much of the action on location, prompting one of the criminals (portrayed viciously by a young, tightly-wound John Cassavetes) to file a suit with Columbia Pictures. The Night Holds Terror. expands on the fatalism of Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour in arguing that a simple wrong decision can be enough to destroy a life—in the early-goings, Courtier’s (played by Jack Kelly) voice-over continuously remarks on how each and every audience member can relate to the plot (“who hasn’t picked up a hitch-hiker before?”, he argues). It is when the film progresses from the similar ground covered in The Hitch-Hiker and into an authentic suburban home that director Andrew L. Stone finds the most suspense. The kitchen becomes a claustrophobic hellhole and a common household item like a pair of scissors becomes a key weapon. Among the film’s advocates is Quentin Tarantino, who selected it for the first installment of his own film festival in 1996.

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