The Night Holds Terror (1955)

Approved   |    |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

The Night Holds Terror (1955) Poster

A group of escaped convicts take over a suburban home to evade the ongoing police manhunt, making the lives of the family living there a nightmare. The longer the men stay there, the more ... See full summary »


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31 August 2002 | bmacv
| Vince Edwards strongest player in oddly authentic family-held-hostage drama
The Night Holds Terror doesn't have a whole lot going for it except for tension – but maybe that's enough. Like Detour (which may be a distant ancestor), it's the story of how a whim, a twist of fate, can turn lives upside down. Driving home from his job at Edwards Air Force Base, Jack Kelly picks up a hitch-hiker (Vince Edwards) who pulls a gun on him. The rest of Edwards' gang (John Cassavettes and David Gross) join up, but spare Kelly's life when he has only 10 bucks on him. Deciding that trading in his car for cash is a better deal, they take over Kelly's knotty-pine home – he has a wife (Hildy Parks) and two kids – until the following day.

From then on in it's a standard family-held-hostage suspenser, with Edwards putting the moves on the wife and the inevitable sorting out of the pecking order among the gang members. When they depart next morning, taking Kelly along for insurance, Parks disobeys orders and calls the police. But will the police locate the gang before they kill Kelly?

His five years of glory as Ben Casey, M.D. still down the road, Edwards, smoldering and stretching the seams of his T-shirt, makes the strongest impression in the movie – maybe the only impression. Cassavettes (occasionally looking like Jerry Lewis at about the same time) delivers an unremarkable performance, and the rest of the cast is no more than passable. Photography is the flat, ‘50s style until the end, when some night shots in driving rain add atmosphere. The story unfolds in the semi-documentary style common to its times, complete with voice-over narration (first by Kelly, then by an anonymous authority figure).

The Night Holds Terror gets compared frequently to The Desperate Hours, a better production but a stagier one as well. For all its low-budget look and low-price acting, the movie retains some authenticity. At times it almost seems like cinema-verité – like those edgy little films Cassavettes himself would soon be making.

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