Residents at a posh Utah hotel become suspects when a girl is found murdered during a pool party. Local sheriff Jess Holmes takes charge of the investigation and must discover who among the terrified guests and staff -- including bodacious vixen Harriet Ames, the hotel's bitter, crippled proprietor, visiting lawyer David Hewson and his secretary, Beth -- is the culprit, even as murders continue to take place.
One Of a Kind
This late fifties whodunit has some interesting credits. It was directed by the able and eclectic Howard Koch, and features three quite different actresses in major roles,--Mamie Van Doren, Anne Bancroft and Marie Windsor. Suave character man John Dehner is cast as the local lawman; ex-Tarzan Lex Barker is the male lead; Stuart Whitman and Dan Blocker have small roles; and Barker wrote the music score. This is the only movie I have ever seen that features a murder suspect who is a bitter, woman-hating man, psychosomatically paralyzed from the neck down, who can't even pour his own drinks or light his own cigarettes. Ron Randell plays him marvelously, and had the film been directed by Ingmar Bergman would surely have won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. I wouldn't quite call this movie trashy, but it has a trashy feel to it, as it comes across in some ways as a sort of Southwest version of Peyton Place crossed maybe with Anatomy Of a Murder, the small-town black and white mood of which it strangely anticipates. Everyone in this movie has a secret. The question is, whose secret is murder? The pacing isn't strong here, and the dialog is variable. William Margulies' photography is excellent, however; and the settings,--the motel resort and small desert town--are perfectly realized. There is a nice feeling for people whose lives have fallen just short of the big time, and who are angry about it. As a result, more than in most movies, everyone seems more than capable of being a killer. I especially like the sense of isolation in the film, and with it the edge of danger. As with so many crime pictures of its era, it seems to be trying to say something about American life, and how materialism and ambition are destroying it. With its acerbic invalid in one corner, and its muslceman in the other, and all the beautiful women gallivanting about and making life miserable for everyone, this one, with sharper writing and a sense of the absurd, might really have risen and become an Antonioni-like commentary on the American Dream. As it stands, it doesn't come close, though some of its characters and images linger in the mind long after its over.
Not Really "Good" But Ahead of its Time
Bizarre thriller set in a Utah resort where the body of a woman is found brutally sliced up. David Hewson (Lex Barker) was supposed to have gone out with the woman but instead went with someone else (Anne Bancroft) and soon he's looking into who did the brutal murder. It's important to note that THE GIRL IN BLACK STOCKINGS came out three years before PSYCHO or PEEPING TOM and while this film here isn't nearly as good as those two, it's worth saying that this one here beat them in regards to murder and mental illness. It also beat those two masterpieces by showing and discussing some graphic murder scenes first. This film here is too uneven and at times too poorly done to be considered "good" but I think fans of the genre are going to find enough interesting things here to make it worth viewing. I'm not going to ruin the ending but I will say that the final fifteen-minutes are extremely well done and manage to be quite creepy as well. I really liked how the film played itself out and once you see who is responsible and why the murders were done, well, it's very nicely handled. Barker, best known for his stint as Tarzan, does a pretty good job here as he's at least interesting enough to help the viewer go through the entire film. He manages to carry the film without a problem but Bancroft also deserves a lot of credit as she too is extremely good. Ron Randell is also good in his role as a paralyzed man and Marie Windsor, a noir vet, is good as his sister. Cult favorite Mamie Van Doren also briefly appears. Barker not only acted in the film but he also did the music score, which is quite effective. The problem with the film is that some of the supporting performances aren't all that memorable and there are times where the direction is a bit sloppy. Some of the dialogue could have been better written as well. Still, this film manages to set itself apart from a lot of other mysteries from this period and the good things here make it worth sitting through at least once.