Much better than the average TV movie, A Cold Night’s Death does not let up on the suspense for most of the approximately 70 minute running time. A sparse story, starring three live men, a dead man, and a few research primates, the film sticks us in a remote snowbound lab where the original scientist has died under mysterious and creepy circumstances. The two guys sent to replace him don’t agree on anything, and one wonders whether the company that sent them there to experiment on the monkeys may have actually been experimenting on the men. Someone is, that’s for sure. Doors open and close, the heat goes on and off, windows open by themselves, and we watch the men get closer to attacking one another.
Aside from the actors, Eli Wallach and Robert Culp, the movie stars a chilling electronic score by Gil Melle. The music is probably one of the most memorable TV movie scores I’ve heard, and it’s not because you can hum along with it. In fact, it sounds less like music than it does ambient noise in many places, but it perfectly manipulated my emotions while I watched. I can’t remember the last time I felt as tense about a movie as I did while Culp was trapped outside in a 20 degree below blizzard, for example.
There are only two problems I have with the film: as a resident of a place where it hasn’t snowed since 1989, and then only a couple of inches, I can’t imagine voluntarily going to a place with weather like the research station has. Especially if the last employee had frozen to death for no good reason anyone can determine! No reason other than that it was cold, of course. I mean, couldn’t they have done tests on the animals in a lab that was artificially chilled somewhere in sunny southern California? I know, there would have been no movie then, but still. Also, I didn’t care for the final explanation for the weirdness, but that’s just because it wasn’t ghosts. The real culprit wasn’t any less scary, and I wonder how many people were able to guess whodunit ahead of time, because I didn’t.
This is a rare movie for me to have enjoyed in that it’s dead serious and totally scary, with no what-the-fuck extra 70s flavoring. It’s a very tight production. I highly recommend that you check it out, so much so that I’m embedding it here. You’re welcome.