Now this really is a odd one. Originally released in 1961 as Five Minutes to Live, it was re-released in 1966 as Door-to-Door Maniac. On the surface it’s a typical ultra-cheap crime B-movie, but it has some genuinely bizarre touches. The plot is ingenious, and I won’t spoil it by revealing any major details other than to say that it involves a bank robbery carried out by means of a threat to the wife of a bank executive.
Johnny Cash (who also sings the title song) plays Johnny Cabot, on the run after a warehouse robbery that went wrong. Johnny is recruited for the bank job because he has a reputation as being a careful criminal. One has to wonder how he gained that reputation, because in fact he’s totally psychotic and wildly unstable. The essence of the plan is to take advantage of the fact that the bank is located in a quiet and incredibly boring small town where all the citizens are perfect and devoted husbands and wives, so naturally the bank executive will co-operate if his wife is threatened. In fact this is where the movie starts to become something else entirely, when we see the reality behind the picture-perfect façade.
It reminds me a little of the very strange movies Sam Fuller made in the early 60s, like Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss. It seems to be attempting a blend of crime film with social satire. It also throws in some reasonably strong violence (by 1961 standards). It’s an uneasy mix of film noir, black comedy and exploitation movie.
That might make it sound like a ground-breaking film, which it might have been had it been done with any real sense of style, or even a basic level of film-making competence. In reality it’s a bit like Ed Wood trying to do Citizen Kane. The production values are poor, the dialogue is cringe-inducing, none of the disparate elements of the movie come together properly, it’s badly paced, the cinematography is stodgy and unimaginative and the acting is bad beyond belief. Johnny Cash is the worst offender. He should have stuck to singing. It’s a performance of uncontrolled hysteria that achieves a kind of awesome epic quality.
The combination of strangeness, interesting ideas and totally inept execution gives it all certain charm and an undeniable fascination. It’s a train wreck of a movie, but it’s an interesting train wreck. Definitely worth checking out if you have a taste for off-beat movies.