While Alpha Video’s latest serving of two forgotten B films from the 50s and 60s isn’t exactly what many of us would refer to as “grindhouse” material, the pairing of W. Lee Wilder’s Fright and the Beverly Garland vehicle Stark Fear is still a lot of fun.
Our journey into low-budget psychological terror begins with Fright (1956), a very cheap but nevertheless enjoyable quickie from director W. Lee Wilder, the big brother of famous Hollywood director Billy Wilder (it’s true, folks). Although W. Lee Wilder was never able to catch up to his baby brother Billy in terms of talent, the elder Wilder, along with his screenwriter son Myles, still managed to etch a name for himself on the Bad Movie Wall of Fame (or Shame, depending on your point of view), bringing us such memorable sci/fi class-icks such as Killers From Space and Phantom From Space along with what is considered to be the industry’s first abominable snowman film, The Snow Creature.
In Fright, W. Lee and Myles tell the less-than-harrowing tale of a nearly expressionless psychiatrist Dr. James Hamilton (played by an equally expressionless Eric Fleming, star of both Conquest Of Space and Queen Of Outer Space). When Dr. Hamilton isn’t using his form of (non-)hypnotherapy to talk cornered escaped killers down from bridges, or hitting up all of the bars in New York in an attempt to drink every last drop of scotch there is, he’s busy wearing ugly shirts and trying to get in the pants of a split-personality patient Ann Summers (Nancy Malone), whose alter-ego is a 19th Century Baroness. For a while, things seem all fine and dandy for the rather quaint doctor, but then, a bored ulcer-ridden reporter leaks the whole thing to the press and the Baroness personality threatens to make Ann go away for good. Hamilton’s solution? Hypnotize the convicted murdered from the beginning into “killing” the unwanted persona! Why, there are so many potential lawsuits in this film that it’ll make you cringe!