While volumes have been rightfully inked on the life, times and music of Johnny
Ca$H what has been written on his cinematic legacy is scant. Then again so was
his film career so this makes perfect sense, right?
Well, back in 1961 Johnny was in a pretty cool, trashy flick called “Five Minutes To Live” AKA “Door To Door Maniac.” This AIP (bow to the east & pray heathens) movie was originally issued in 1961 as “F.M.T.L” then re-issued in 1966 as the title it’s best known as today “D.T.D.M.” Keeping that in mind, here’s my take on this little known bizarro world gem:
The internationally unknown genius that directed this here movie, Bill Karn is a stylistic melange of Ed Wood (you can actually see sets wobble in scenes here if you watch closely),K.Gordon Murray and Ron Ormond. Call him a hack or violent visionary, whatever you call him this movie works.
Somewhat of a re-write of the classic Bogart vehicle “The Desperate Hours” with Johnny Cash taking Bogie’s role as a hostage taking psychotic gangster. The first we see of JC on screen is him gunning down a cop with a submachine gun, wicked grin on his face and an amphetamine glazed look in his eyes. But, I’m getting way ahead of myself here.
Told in flashback Film Noir style by gangster Fred Derilla (Vic Tayback) this film is about a botched robbery/ransom plot gone awry. Derilla arrives at a local bank with the plan to get some loot ($70,000?!?) out of the bank prez (Donald Woods of “13 Ghosts” infamy) while Johnny Cabot (Cash) and his cohorts (including the C&W guitar legend Merle Travis!!!) hold hostage the wife of the said prez.
Twist here being that the Prez don’t really give a shit about wifey as he is going to split and go to Vegas with his mistress. Derilla gives him 5 minutes to hand over the loot or else back at house JC is gonna kill his wife. Once the banker sees he is serious about offing the little lady he pleads for more time. Derilla gives him five more minutes or ELSE!
Meanwhile back in the bank prez’s suburban nightmare tract home is where all of the fun is taking place. Johnny Cash is excellent as an unstable thug. Tormenting the wife by shooting at her, slapping her around a bit and serenading her with tunes like “I’ve Come To Kill” and “5 Minutes To Live.” He tells her to go and slip into something more “comfortable” which she does as a means of distraction.
JC has great lines while doing all this such as: “I guess you gals are all alike when ol’ Johnny steps on your starter.” Meanwhile, the call that the robbery has gone off never comes, Derilla is busted and Johnny Cash is left alone holding the bag. The banker has stepped on a silent alarm and the police are descending as the hostage situation plays itself out.
To compound his problem, the son (Ronny Howard) of the Bank prez comes home from school for lunch. Taking him hostage JC makes a mad dash but is gunned down by the cops who’ve surrounded the joint.
A happy ending ensues as the prez & his wife happily reconcile their differences and head off together for a wild weekend in Las Vegas. What happens there is anyones guess as “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” right?
All in all, this is a pretty endearing bit of sleaze. Yeah, the plot is flimsy, directing almost non-existent in spots, but this is Johnny Cash vehicle all the way. At one point while JC is tormenting the wife she finally explodes & screams “Go on, kill me! I can’t stand any more…. Kill Me, Kill Me, Kill Me!!!” Which basically echoes what most critics said when this first came out. But fuck them, as they didn’t like “Plan 9 From Outer Space” either.
It’s available through the ultra cool “Something Weird” video guys as “Five Minutes To Live” for only a measly $15 bucks. Their address.