2011 March 07 • Monday
The 155th Soundtrack of the Week is Henry Mancini's Experiment in Terror, one of many collaborations between Mancini and director Blake Edwards.
1962's Experiment in Terror was ahead of its time, anticipating both the sleazy and spectacular thrillers that would come out of Hollywood in the 1970s and '80s but also the giallo films of Mario Bava and other Italian directors.
The plot concerns a psycho killer who terrorizes a bank teller so that she'll leave her bank one day with $100,000 in her purse. (Would this have been possible?) If she doesn't cooperate he'll kill her and her younger sister, but not before making them wish they were dead.
Lee Remick is the teller and Glenn Ford is the FBI agent who answers her call when she phones the San Francisco branch of the agency. Lucky for her, the entire San Francisco branch seems to have absolutely nothing to do and immediately puts all of its resources and personnel on her case. Glenn Ford is the acme of stolid 1950s-ish American competence. If George Reeves's Superman ran afoul of him, Superman would be in trouble.
The movie is genuinely suspenseful and occasionally quite frightening. Ross Martin's performance as the asthmatic psycho killer—another villain with an "otherness"-enhancing affliction—is made exponentially creepier by Philip Lathrop's superb black-and-white photography and Henry Mancini's sickeningly dreadful main theme.
This is apparently an album recording and not the original motion picture soundtrack. The original soundtrack makes extremely effective use of the Hammond organ—a single low note, a sound of pure menace, is the true "theme" for the maniac villain. And Mancini fans will appreciate that during the climax o