Originally published online at 4:3.
Five Minutes To Live [aka Door-To-Door Maniac] (dir. Bill Karn, 1961) – Watch
Five Minutes To Live is an interesting take on the heist genre, in which the leveled-headed crook Fred Dorella and the sadistic Johnny Cabot attempt to rob a small town bank by holding the wife of its’ vice president hostage. What Fred and Johnny don’t know is that the vice-president, Ken, is on the verge of divorcing his wife and eloping to Las Vegas with his mistress. While it’s not a bad movie, I’m not sure whether or not I’d consider it a good one either. It’s an interesting enough concept and a decent script but it’s unfortunately marred by bland direction, poor pacing (the first third is near-glacial) and an overall low production value. The films biggest draw is that Johnny Cash plays the cruel Johnny Cabot, in the first of his incredibly few big-screen appearances. And he does a really good job of playing an absolutely horrible asshole – a minute into the film he merciless guns a police officer down, and spends the majority of the film both physically and mentally torturing the VP’s wife.
Released in 1961, Cash was just beginning his meteoric rise to fame and was in the early days of forming his ‘Outlaw Musician’ personality; due to Cash’s popularity sky-rocketing the film was re-released in 1966 and retitled Door-To-Door Maniac. While his acting ability is pretty limited – he more or less plays himself – he does a good job of portraying of a cold-blooded killer. The film’s best moments come from him torturing Nancy; at one point he gleefully dances around the room smashing things, while another has him grazing Nancy’s face with a gunshot and then proceeds to play the film’s title song on his guitar while she rolls around screaming in pain. The film also manages to maintain a decent level of suspense, which honestly surprised me after how direly boring the opening third was. There’s genuine tension as they build to Fred learning that the banker is fine with his wife dying, while Johnny is such a wildcard that he could unremorsefully kill Nancy at any moment. The film’s pacing problems do slightly ruin this suspense; when Fred confronts Ken the question of whether he’ll let Nancy die is quickly resolved. Overall, Cash’s scenes are probably the only parts worth watching. He may not be a great actor, but he brings some much-needed energy to the film. Five Minutes is very much a B-movie, but if you’re interested in seeing the Man in Black go full outlaw it’s worth a watch.