Stark Fear (1962)

US / 84 minutes / bw / Burke–Hockman–Swain Dir: Ned Hockman Pr: Joe E. Burke, Ned Hockman, Dwight V. Swain Scr: Dwight V. Swain Cine: Robert Bethard Cast: Beverly Garland, Skip Homeier, Kenneth Tobey, Hannah Stone, George Clow, Paul Scovil, Edna Newman, John Arville, Cortez Ewing, Barbara Freeman, Darlene Dana Reno.

A grindhouse movie without enough of the grind. Ellen Winslow (Garland) has been married to husband Gerald “Gerry” (Homeier) for three years, during which time his earnings have plummeted while his verbal and sometimes physical abuse of her have intensified. To help them out of their financial hole she finds a job as secretary of developer Cliff Kane (Tobey); Gerry, rather than thanking her, abuses her yet once more and then walks out, accusing her of deliberately selling him out to her lover, Cliff . . . except that so far as Ellen’s concerned Cliff is just the guy who hired her. Later she’ll find—as we do through an opening monologue by Cliff’s business partner Joe Vincent (uncredited)—that long ago there was a business feud between Cliff and Gerry.

To her horror Ellen learns from Gerry’s employer Mr. Nedwin (uncredited) that Gerry has decided to take a month’s unpaid holiday: Nedwin gives her a deadline to find her husband. In a frank discussion with her social-worker pal Ruth Rogers (Stone) and afterward, Ellen finds Gerry has been widely two-timing her. Again through Ruth, Ellen finds Gerry’s old friend (or lover, it’s implied) Elizabeth “Liz” Orwell (uncredited), who drunkenly breaks it to her that Gerry has been lying about almost everything, including that he was born and brought up in Pennsylvania: in fact he’s from Quehada, Oklahoma.

Off Ellen goes to Quehada hoping to locate Gerry through his best friend Harvey Suggett (uncredited). She tracks down Harvey through the latter’s trigger-happy wife Zelda (uncredited). Harvey takes her to the town cemetery to show her the grave of Gerry’s mother, also called Ellen. She manages to fend off his eager hands, as she does a few hours later when night has fallen, only for Gerry to butt in, threatening her with lines like “You ever seen a woman with her nose cut off?” She runs from him into Quehada’s celebrated but at this time of night deserted Juke Museum, where she frightens him off by switching on all the devices at once.

Exiting from the Juke Museum, she’s apprehended by cop Tom, who surrenders her to the ever-drunker Harvey. The latter drags her to a Comanche Storm Dance (or the tourist equivalent), then chases her into the night to the graveyard and indeed the grave of Gerry’s mother, where he rapes her. What Ellen doesn’t know until much later is that Gerry is happily watching all this . . .

Stark Fear - Gerry hunts Ellen in the Juke Museum

Gerry (Skip Homeier) hunts Ellen (Beverly Garland) through the darkened Juke Museum.

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