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Terrified (1963)

by on 2011/09/10

“Anyone who likes their work that much has to be crazy.”

* * *

Let me see here… We’ve got a Western town and graveyard set, a police car, a black balaclava, three spiders and a bunch of actors with swell hair. Let’s make a movie.

Terrified is simple. It is a movie about something we folks with cable take for granted these days. Flick on any channel and you’ll find guy getting buried alive or a woman being stalked. That’s just the dinner-hour programming.

Fortunately, simple is my favourite. According to the promotional copy, Terrified is about a college boy who is writing a term paper. The topic? Terror. Cue the suspenseful music.

The action pivots around Marge (Tracy Olsen), a lovely, young cocktail hostess. She’s seeing a couple of neat guys: the bookish Ken (Rod Lauren), the practical, stodgy David (Steve Drexel). Both want to protect her.

Why? Marge has had some pretty bum luck over the last few years. Her father died, then her mother, and then her brother lost his mind. Each had a suspicious “accident.”

Now there’s a maniac trying to run people off the road. He also likes to bury people alive.

Nevertheless, Marge manages to cope pretty well.  Well, I say she’s coping but she is inexplicably driven to talk to “Crazy Bill” down at the old Ghost Town. To me that seemed like a bad idea.

Welcome to the old Western town set. Plus, Crazy Bill lives crazily close to the Ghost Town Cemetery. You’ve now got yourself a recipe for Scooby-Doo-grade horror.

Marge and David find the old man dead, impaled on a cemetery fence. Like good citizens, they race to tell the police. Ken, the terror-fascinated student, decides to stay to sleuth out the identity of the killer and confront his own fears. It might help the work on his term paper after all.

Kids and their crazy academic ambitions. They’ll never learn.

There’s not much more to this film. Ken is chased around the Ghost Town by a masked man. Ken’s pummelled, strangled, imprisoned, bound and gagged. In fact, this might have been one of the longest hide-and-seek chase scenes I’ve seen in a film. This low-budget flick felt like it didn’t know what to do with itself in Act 2, so poor Ken does more running and narrowly escaping death than Jack Bauer in 24.

Ken (Lauren) is an attractive hero, hunched and brooding like a young Benicio Del Toro. Tracy Olsen as Marge is mostly effective as the hunted, terrorized hostess, though she seemed more peeved than frightened through most of the film. David (Drexel) is an early-60s human time capsule – an uptight, pomaded, repressed, stick in the mud.

I must confess, I’m a real sucker for folks in early 60s clothing creeping through goofy graveyards. This black and white horror flick, directed by Lew Landers, would be a perfect selection for a chilly autumn evening with a couple of Ovaltines by the radiator.

I’m giving Terrified a passing grade.

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81 minutes


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