The Culp Collection #1: A Cold Night’s Death (1973)

Following the death of Robert Culp in 2010, I made it my mission to try and watch more of his performances in films and on TV. It’s taken a while but I’ve finally got around to it, mainly thanks to YouTube and the appearance of a number of Culp TV Movies on the video channel.

To kick things off I started with A Cold Night’s Death (also known as The Chill Factor), directed by Jerrold Freedman and first shown on ABC Television on 13 January, 1973.

Culp stars as Robert Jones, a research scientist sent to a snowy research base along with colleague Frank Enari (Eli Wallach) when contact is lost with a Doctor Vogel. Snow storms have prevented previous attempts to reach the Doctor, and as we hear in a voiceover at the start, radio transmissions from Vogel had suggested that he’d been in discussions with Napoleon and Alexander the Great.

Flying in by helicopter, Jones and Enari soon discover the frozen body of Vogel sitting at the radio transmitter, with no obvious signs of anything suspicious. The pair bring with them a monkey for research purposes, a companion for the other primates being tested for the US space race.

From here the story begins to enter psychological thriller territory, with the two scientists trying to understand what happened to their predecessor while undertaking their own work. Needless to say, a type of cabin fever descends on the men, leading them to question each other about strange goings on during the night. Meanwhile, the monkeys quietly watch and listen.

It’s a simple tale that’s given a sheen of quality due to the performances of Culp and Wallach, while Freedman, a veteran of TV Movies, manages to find some interesting angles in the confined set.

While YouTube is hardly the best place to watch a film, 10 minute installments not the best viewing experience, it’s better than nothing and A Cold Night’s Death is well worth 90 minutes of your time.

2 thoughts on “The Culp Collection #1: A Cold Night’s Death (1973)

  1. I have to go back and give this one a second chance at some point. I started watching it a couple of years ago, on YouTube, and only got through the first 10 minute segment. I don’t know if it was the cumbersome way of watching the movie (on YouTube, 9 segements, waiting for stuff to download, twidling my thumbs) or if it was the scene where the helicopter pilot is showing Culp and Wallach around the lab and he shows them the big tubs or vats used to collect snow to be melted and filtered for drinking water, ect. Given the way they found the scientist frozen to death in the radio room, I had this vision of one of the other two (Culp more n’ likely) ending up frozen in a block of ice in one of those vats.

    Man, I have too active an imagination!

  2. I suppose there are only so many directions a film like this can go in, and signposting things so heavily does suggest a certain ending, but you may be surprised with this one. Culp nails the performance and it’s worth watching just for him really.

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