A COLD NIGHT’S DEATH (1973)
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Flick is a 1973 TV thriller that aired on ABC’s Tuesday Night Movie. Mystery/horror involves two scientists (Robert Culp and Eli Wallach) who are sent to take over research duties from a third scientist at a remote mountain top base. They are doing behavioral experiments on monkeys for space travel and the current scientist sent some bizarre messages before losing contact. They arrive and find him dead under some very odd circumstances, but are ordered to continue his work. Soon strange occurrences haunt the remote base such as lights going on and off, doors and windows being opened and the heat being turned off. The two scientists start to point fingers at each other and as their time there stretches on, they begin to turn on each other refusing to believe that they and their test subjects, may not be alone.
Written by Christopher Knopf and directed by Jerrold Freedman, this is actually a very tense and disturbing little thriller from a time where television was producing a lot of quality horror, supernatural and Sci-fi TV movies. We get a cold and remote setting, which sets us up already with a sense of claustrophobia and then throws in some very unsettling circumstances in the mysterious death of the previous inhabitant, who seemed to allow himself to freeze to death. The two men don’t seem to agree as to how this man died and it sets up a growing distance between the two scientists as strange things start to happen around them. The suspense and tension cranks as they start to suspect each other of first, some sort of game, then possibly of some sort of psychological imbalance. It’s a great two man play as these men start to unravel and turn on each other, pointing fingers and making accusations as to what is going on around them. The big reveal comes in the last moments and the final frames will stick with you when we finally find out what is happening at Summit Base.
Aside from the simians this is a tight two man cast with Michael C. Gwynne’s helicopter pilot only seen briefly at the beginning. The rest of the 74 minutes it’s just Culp and Wallach, who do excellent work. They start out as two men who are colleagues and have worked together before. Both actors work well together and convey being unnerved at the death of ‘Dr. Vogel’ from the start. Each man has conflicting theories, which plants a bit of a seed of discontent right from the beginning. Soon as the activity inside the snow surrounded base gets weirder and weirder, the men are ripe to start blaming each other. Both actors really do well in portraying the gradual sense of mistrust that becomes suspicion and paranoia and then finally outright hostility. It’s a nice character study that really focuses on the destruction of these men’s professional and personal relationship due to some outside influence neither seems to be able to identify…and thus they point fingers at each other. Great performances from both actors..
This was a really cool flick! It was taunt and suspenseful and really kept you guessing until the final few scenes. The portrayal of paranoia and suspicion was really well done, as was the element of two people basically trapped together with the possibility of one or both losing their marbles and being a danger to the other…or is that what they are supposed to believe? The revelations comes almost at the very end and it will really unsettle you and take you by surprise. A really good little thriller with a classy cast!
3 scientists à la Mode.
Couldn’t find a trailer so, how about the full movie…
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