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.