The Night Holds Terror


1h 26m 1955
The Night Holds Terror

Brief Synopsis

Escaped convicts take over a suburban home.

Film Details

Also Known As
Terror in the Night
Genre
Crime
Thriller
Film Noir
Release Date
Sep 1955
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Color
Black and White
Film Length
11 reels

Synopsis

While driving home to Lancaster, California, aircraft engineer Gene Courtier stops to pick up hitchhiker Victor Gosset, who moments later pulls a gun and demands Gene's wallet. Finding only ten dollars, Gosset declares that he and the other members of his gang expect more money. Gosset forces Gene to drive off the desert road, where they are joined by another car carrying fellow gang members Robert Batsford and Luther Logan. Angered over the ten dollars on Gene, Batsford wants to kill Gene but Logan advises against it. Gene pleads for his life and when Batsford wonders whether Gene has any valuable property, offers to sell his car and give them the proceeds. Gosset and Logan accompany Gene to the bank to sign the car over to them, and there Gene's desire to escape is thwarted by his concern that others might be injured. Gosset and Logan are offered $2,000 for the car at a dealership, but are told that there is only $500 in the office and they must return the following day for the balance. Batsford decides to wait out the night at Gene's home, despite Gene's frantic attempt to convince him otherwise. The group go to Gene's small house, where his wife Doris becomes terrified and frantic with concern for the Courtiers' two young children, Steven and Deborah. Gene and Doris cut short the visits of various neighbors who stop by unexpectedly, as well as a telephone call from Gene's father. After a few drinks, Gosset flirts clumsily with Doris, and when he attempts to force her to dance, Gene knocks him down, sparking a tense moment. Batsford insists upon wearing Gene's smoking jacket and takes the master bedroom, forcing the Courtiers into a smaller room in the back near the children. As Gosset begins dozing off, Gene grabs a pair of scissors and when Logan goes to the washroom, makes an attempt to stab Gosset, but Logan intervenes with a loaded gun. When Gosset tries to strike Gene, however, Logan again intercedes, cautioning both men not to rouse Batsford. The following morning, Gosset retrieves the money. Batsford decides to take Gene with them when they depart to ensure that Doris will not contact the police, yet as the group departs, Doris declares that she will call the police in thirty minutes if she has not heard from Gene. Doris then sends the children next door with strict instructions to say nothing of the previous night's activities. Meanwhile, Batsford, having deliberately left a bit of paper on the telephone, returns in a few moments to see if Doris has called the police. After threatening Doris again, Batsford and the others depart. In the car, Gene realizes they have adjusted the radio to the police frequency, in order to hear if they are being sought. When Doris's neighbor Phyllis Harrison comes by to ask why the Courtier children are so subdued, Doris confides the previous day's events. On the road while Batsford stops at a gas station, Logan tells Gene that he met Batsford and Gosset two days earlier and remains interested only in robbery, not murder. When Batsford returns, Logan points out that Gene, in an earlier attempt at bribery, had indicated that his father was the owner of a wealthy grocery chain and might provide them with an enormous ransom. Batsford considers this, but, concerned about Doris' threat, begins looking for a telephone. Back at the Courtiers' house, Doris and Phyllis wait anxiously as the half hour passes without word from Gene. Phyllis then forces Doris to telephone the police station, where an inner bulletin is immediately circulated, including into a press box. Meanwhile, after waiting for a busy telephone booth to empty, Batsford calls Doris and demands a huge ransom from Gene's father. When Batsford puts Gene on the phone, however, Gene blurts out that they are listening to the police dispatch signal. Doris calls the police back to report this and the bulletin is recalled just before it reaches the radio dispatcher. The press bulletin, however, is overlooked, and when a reporter finds it and goes to question Doris, she refuses to speak with him. The police then summon the press to explain the situation and request a news blackout on the story until Gene is rescued. Looking at mug shots, Doris is able to identify Gosset. The next time Batsford telephones Doris to inquire about the ransom money, the police are able to make a partial trace on it, narrowing the robbers' location to Los Angeles. That evening, a television reporter, spurred by the police request for a blackout, delivers a broadcast on the police's effectiveness in kidnapping arrests and convictions. Logan and Gosset listen to the report anxiously, as Batsford retrieves another car. Gene attempts to convince Logan to help him overpower Gosset, but when he hesitates, Gene knocks Gosset out. The two men flee and Logan struggles to hotwire a car, just as Batsford returns. When Logan attempts to escape, Batsford kills him and forces Gene in the car with him to make a final call to Doris. Batsford allows Gene to say only one word and Doris demands to ask him a question as proof that he is truly alive. Gene hesitates over Doris' question, which allows the police time to trace the call and dispatch officers. Horrified, Doris hears the police arrive and several shots ring out, before Gene returns to the open line to assure her that he is safe.

Film Details

Also Known As
Terror in the Night
Genre
Crime
Thriller
Film Noir
Release Date
Sep 1955
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 26m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Recording)
Color
Black and White
Film Length
11 reels

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of the film was Terror in the Night. The film was based on a true incident that occurred in February 1953. The film opens with offscreen narration, spoken as a photo of the real Courtier family is displayed under the opening credits. The narration states in part: "In practically all important respects, this is a true story. Where ever possible we have used the original locations and even the actual words spoken. It is the account of a family-the Courtier family." An August 1955 Los Angeles Times news item indicates that the family of convicted kidnapper and armed robber Leonard D. Mahan, Jr. filed a $750,000 suit against Columbia Pictures, Ben Cohen and the film's producer, writer and director, Andrew Stone, claiming invasion of the right of privacy. The family protested that because Mahan, Jr., who was serving a seven-year sentence in San Quentin, was portrayed in The Night Holds Terror (in the role of "Batsford") as "a brute and mastermind criminal," the family was ostracized and Mahan, Sr. fired. The suit enjoined the defendants from showing the picture, a request dismissed by a Superior Court judge. The final outcome of the suit is not known.
       In November 1955, according to a Los Angeles Times report, Mahan, Jr. filed suit, again for $750,000 in damages and a share in the profits of the film. The suit was filed against Columbia, Stone and Eugene Courtier, the real-life victim of the incident. Mahan, Jr. maintained that the film was made without his permission, did not indicate his insistence of his innocence and would lessen his chances for an early parole. Mahan, Jr. also demanded an accounting of the of the shares of the film's profits. The final outcome of this suit also is not known.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall October 1955

Released in United States September 1955

Looeely based on true incidents that occurred in 1953 and 1954.

Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (John Cassavetes American Filmmaker) March 4-21, 1980.

b&w

Released in United States September 1955

Released in United States Fall October 1955