Watching this movie was a blast from my past. I watched it some fifty-five years ago on a local station's Saturday night "Shock Theater." This is one mixed bag of haggis.
The good: Richard Boone, one year into "Have Gun–Will Travel" (CBS), convincingly plays a good, tortured man who's driving himself crazy. A lesser actor would have made this unwatchable, but Boone pulls it off. Except for the female lead, Peggy Maurer, who brings little to the party, Boone is surrounded by capable character actors (including Herbert Anderson, whom old-timers may remember as the father of TV's "Dennis the Menace," Jay North). Albert Band's direction is uneven: some scenes are staged so statically that I nearly fell asleep; others are so surrealistic that it snapped me back to attention. Gerald Fried's score is suitably weird, with duets for tuba and harpsichord, and chord progressions that may remind you of "Star Trek" episodes he scored nine years later. And the movie's premise is spooky—you have to hand it that.
The less good: This has "B" movie written all over it, as though it were made in ten days with a budget of about twenty-five bucks. There are two, maybe three, interior sets in 84 minutes. With maybe one exception, the actors look like they wore their own clothes from home. (Though it never rains, Anderson wears one raincoat throughout the picture, which must have given Lt. Columbo an idea.) The day-for-night exteriors are unconvincing. After a neat build-up, the ending collapses like a house of cards, trying to wrest sense out of nonsense.
But you know what? Even though I chanced to watch the crappy video version—to judge from other reviews, there must be another, cleaner print out there, somewhere—its crummy appearance seemed right for the seediness of the proceedings. Even though it's hokum, it's entertaining hokum. A really good B movie that does its job with the resources available pleases me more than an A budget movie that fails to reach its potential. Take it for what it is, no more and no less, and it's a guilty pleasure. With Boone carrying the weight, there's more pleasure than guilt.