Wednesday, December 17, 2014


This thriller has a plot right out of Dark Shadows, and the short pre-credit sequence of a woman in colonial-era garb running away from a house while thunderclouds collect just heightens that comparison—though the movie was made a year before Dark Shadows, so it's probably just intended to conjure up a Gothic tone. The movie proper begins with young sexy Julie Merriday (Joey Heatherton) recklessly speeding along in her fancy sports car with her boyfriend Harry (Nicolas Coster) warning her to be more careful. As she passes a truck, she accidentally runs motorcyclist Ben Gunther (Troy Donahue) off the road. They stop to attend to him and take him back to her fathe'’s mansion. Ben seems OK, but he calls Julie "Barbara" and insists he knows her, believing that she is the reincarnation of her great-grandmother and he, in a past life, was her lover. Julie's Aunt Sarah (Jeanette Nolan) confirms that Barbara did have an affair with a Ben Gunther, resulting in an illegitimate child. Julie starts to believe Ben's story and the two begin a dalliance, leaving Harry out in the cold. But there is more to Ben than meets the eye…

William Conrad, of TV's Cannon and Jake and the Fatman, directed three thrillers for Warner Bros. in 1965: BRAINSTORM, TWO ON A GUILLOTINE and this one. All are workmanlike and watchable, but they are also predictable and very much of their era, generally feature stars and supporting players from television, and though they generally look glossy enough, they were probably made on a relatively low budget. The surprise here for me was how good Heatherton was; granted, I kept thinking she was Connie Stevens—who is the star of GUILLOTINE—but still, she did a fine job as the sexy damsel who may or may not be in distress. Donahue is, as usual, attractive but wooden, though that element serves him well playing a character who may or may not be evil and/or insane. Coster, mostly known as a soap opera actor, is good and his quirky smile/sneer serves him well. Barry Sullivan barely registers as the rich father, and Howard McNear (Floyd the barber on Andy Griffith) has a cameo. Bland but watchable. I've got TWO ON A GUILLOTINE on the shelf for a future viewing. [Warner Archive Instant]

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