While director Blake Edwards is not predominantly known for his thrillers, this 1962 noirish entry is gripping and frightening - particularly the first hour. Henry Mancini provides an unnerving "mod" score similar to the one he would for Stanley Donen's "Charade" a year later. Shot in black in white, restored to widescreen format on DVD, the San Francisco locations (including the Golden Gate Bridge and Candlestick Park) gives this film a interesting aura.
Lee Remick is a young bank teller named Kelly Sherwood, who lives with her teenage sister, Tobey (Stefanie Powers). One night she is accosted in her own garage by an asthmatic psychopath, "Red" Lynch (Ross Martin, menacingly frightening), who promises to kill her and her sister if she doesn't go along with his scheme to rob her bank. He informs her that he is aware of her every move and is not afraid to resort to violence if she does not go along with his scheme. The shaken young woman contacts FBI agent John Ripley (Glenn Ford) who does all that he can to protect the sisters and explore every angle he can to bring Lynch down. He soon discovers that this sadistic criminal has a penchant for women who can get him loot, and then leaves their battered corpses for all their effort. Nancy Ashton (Patricia Huston) is one such lady who contacts Ripley for help but her fate is already sealed (watch the eerie, voyeuristic sequence in her mannequin filled apartment - shiver).
It begins to drag a bit in the second hour, with the introduction of a Chinese woman, Lisa (Anita Loo) who is an unwitting file cabinet for Lynch - the evil killer is paying for her handicapped son's medical treatment. While this element may not have been needed, Ford's interaction with the boy is utterly touching, as is his concern for Kelly and her younger sibling. When Lynch is able to catch hold of Tobey for leverage, he debates whether to molest her or not (forcing her to undress), but for some reason, cannot go through with it. With Kelly in the crossfire, Ripley and his fellow agents close in on him in a memorable climax in Candlestick Park's baseball stadium.
Unlike the gratuitous violence and nudity often found in films today, "Experiment In Terror" relies on plot development, effective camera angles and concentrated performance in order to bring out fear in the viewer, and for the most part, it does it in spades. Ford's courageous, quiet embodiment, Remick's strong yet gentle performance and Stefanie Power's moving, sweet vulnerability give this taut movie all that it requires. And Ross Martin is the perfect villain - menacing, stalking, cold-blooded, manipulative, and deadly! And by all means, keep the lights on! The DVD features subtitles and two trailers, "The Big Heat" and "The Lady From Shanghai".