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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A Cold Night’s Death (1973)

My made for television marathon continues with this little gem that was an ABC movie of the week. It stars Robert Culp and Eli Wallach and basically no one else. The two of them are scientists that have been assigned as a relief team for an isolated testing facility high in the mountains. There they are to experiment on chimps in the high altitude to simulate what our astronauts have to deal with on their missions. The men are replacing another scientist who was acting irrational and suddenly broke off contact. When they arrive they find him dead, frozen to death in a room with the window open.

What made the man kill himself? They don’t know and focus on continuing the experiments. But soon they start to experience odd occurrences like the heat going off and the generator just stopping. Windows open and equipment turns itself on as well. But there are just the pair of men working at the isolated lab, so which of them is responsible. Or perhaps they are just going crazy. But maybe there is something more happening that neither of them is ready to admit until it is possibly too late. Regardless they can’t get any help due to the snowstorm that has the lab isolated from the rest of the world. Isolated and alone how will the pair survive?

Be warned that I’m going to be vague so as to not spoil the payoff. A Cold Death’s Night could be accused of being boring. While I admit not much actually happens beyond them fixing broken equipment and keeping the generator running I was still sucked right in. The movie manages to create an atmosphere of mystery that keeps the viewers’ attention until the very end. I kept trying to figure out what the hell was going on and filling in the blanks. But I honestly didn’t see the ending coming until it was pushed right into my face. Though if I think about it the movie was hinting at it along while doing away with all the other possible explanations.

Robert Culp was awesome
Which brings me to one of the things that the story and plot does well. It gives the viewer several potential solutions for the odd things that are happening. Did the original scientist get cabin fever and go nuts? Is that what is happening to his replacements? That is certainly possible. Could there be someone else sneaking around the facility causing issues? Again, that is suggested by the doors closing on Culp’s character. Then again maybe one scientist is using his colleague as a test subject, which is also brought up during one of their arguments.

With the exception of a brief sequence with a helicopter pilot at the start the entire movie is just Culp and Wallach’s characters. They have to carry the movie with their performances alone. As mentioned above there are some things hinted at, but there isn’t much action until the end. And while I love the plot and think the writing is stellar without two great actors it wouldn’t work. These guys are great and because of them the movie is successful in creeping out the audience.

Finally, without spoiling anything I have to say the ending is “chilling” (pun intended) and creepy. The little window on the door… holy crap man that freaked me out. Obviously, I recommend this one. The link above takes you to the movie on YouTube. Check it out!

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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