Home Invaders in an Era of Invaders from Space

The Night Holds Terror breaks the bubble of safety that hung over post-war America. In a sacrosanct housing development, the average middle class family is taken hostage by a trio of thugs, leading to numerous shots of a worried wife, panicked kids, and fear-mongering tensions.

The best sequence of Night Holds Terror comes early – too early. The trio of hostage takers pin their victim Gene Courtier (Jack Kelly) to the desert sands, firing shots near his head. It’s unrelenting, and given how unhinged these three appear, Courtier stands only a limited chance of escape.

Courtier survives (there’s hardly a movie if he doesn’t), leading to a number of scenes in his home. These drag. Night Holds Terror piles on villainy with depictions of molestation and violent outbursts, tiring and unnecessary. That’s the manipulative side, piling on pace-stalling action without ever developing characters. Actress Hildy Parks, in one of her few non-TV roles, spends much of Night Holds Terror staring at a phone, so limited a character as to be demeaning.

Night Holds Terror piles on villainy with depictions of molestation and violent outbursts

Although strictly bottom-billed material, the pairing of cinematograher Fred Jackman Jr. and writer/director Andrew Stone creates an often visually arresting piece, even ahead of its time. Some handheld movement and stellar lighting (particularly images of a phone booth, in the rain, at night) give Night Holds Terror a 1960s vibe, freer and experimental (infrequently so) than its mid-’50s contemporaries. Some lush desert scenery helps too, baking in the sun and suitably isolated.

To get a better sense, imagine Night Holds Terror as a TV production – an extended episode. That’s where it falls, some evocative imagery aside. It’s too thinly plotted and stocked with studio bit players unable to convey the needed drama. Add in booming narration to further degrade and exploit fear, and it’s clear Night Holds Terror’s ambitions never reach for anything grand.

Video

There’s an outstanding master used for this disc. Aside from certain rushed shots lacking in proper focus, sharpness provides the needed texture. Close-ups hold facial definition, exceeding the era’s norms. In the desert, the various plant life shows texture.

That sounds great – if and when this is all visible. Mill Creek packs Night Holds Terror on a disc with two others films in the Noir Archive 2. That leads to some damaging compression, rendering grain a blocky mess. That swipes detail and causes sharpness to waver from mosquito noise. Some banding intrudes too.

This is a definite casualty as the print shows hardly any damage. Forget any fading too; gray scale looks splendid, especially black. Given the number of night shots with specific shadowy requirements, that’s key. Depth and density both perform well above expectations.

Audio

Highs wobble, the worst thing that’s notable about this indifferent DTS-HD mono track. Otherwise, audible stability holds to a consistent standard with natural (for the time) dialog and a well sustained score.

Like the print, instances of pop or static were cleaned, keeping this track damage free.

Extras

Nothing.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Night Holds Terror
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The perfect middle American ’50s undergo a breakdown in The Night Holds Terror, and fear-spawning thriller notable for minor visual touches.

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