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Cry Terror!

Cry Terror!(1958)

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teaser Cry Terror! (1958)

Three years after making the hostage drama The Night Holds Terror (1955), writer-producer-director Andrew L. Stone made another: Cry Terror! (1958). (In between the two, he turned out the Doris Day thriller Julie [1956].) Stone and his wife, Virginia, who was also his producing partner and film editor, had a reputation for location shooting and high degrees of realism in their often gripping pictures, which included The Steel Trap (1952), The Last Voyage (1960), and The Password is Courage (1962).

Cry Terror! was no different, using almost documentary-style technique to build a suspenseful tale of a couple (James Mason and Inger Stevens) and their daughter who are held hostage and forced to assist the villains in their scheme to extort an airline by threatening to bomb a plane. (Mason plays a TV repairman who is unwittingly made to construct explosive devices.) Meanwhile, the FBI is on the case and trying to stop the villainy. The criminal mastermind is played by Rod Steiger, with Neville Brand, Jack Klugman, and beautiful Angie Dickinson among his cohorts. Dickinson had already appeared in dozens of television shows and films dating back four years, but it would be her next feature, Rio Bravo (1959), that would really elevate her career toward stardom.

Andrew and Virginia Stone made their films independently -- Virginia edited this movie in a makeshift cutting room in their back yard -- but had a deal with MGM for Cry Terror!'s distribution. They filmed many key sequences on location on the streets of New York and even in a subway, for stark realism.

This was the first of two "Stone" films in a row for James Mason, with The Decks Ran Red (1958) quick to follow. Mason had seen The Night Holds Terror and been very impressed by Stone's handling of suspense. He was originally asked to play the Rod Steiger role but wanted to shy away from bad guy parts and asked for the other lead instead.

Mason was now at a low point in his career and marriage. Stone later recalled lunching with him about once a week during production. "I had the impression of a very unhappy man," Stone said, "but...[he] was totally sincere, a little tight-fisted with the tips maybe, but you always knew where you stood with him and he would never let you down. The pictures we made together could maybe have been a bit better, but we were very pressed for time and James was always there on cue, always professional."

Rod Steiger remembered: "You felt that things in [Mason's] life were eating away at him, and that he was always in a tremendous kind of emotional pain which he was bravely trying to hide... There was something churning inside of him, and although he never let it show in his work, you could always sense it. He was a tenacious son of a bitch, and a great survivor, but I think he was maybe too intelligent for some of the work he had to do in movies.... It may have been that, like me, he got too far away from the theater where we both spent the first decade of our careers, and then could never get back in touch with it."

By Jeremy Arnold

SOURCES:
James Mason, Before I Forget
Sheridan Morley, James Mason: Odd Man Out

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