Five Minutes to Live

Five Minutes to Live

Director: Bill Karn

Cast: Bill Karn, Johnny Cash, Donald Woods, Cay Forester

     
 

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Johnny Cabot (Johnny Cash) is a bloodthirsty New Jersey gangster who is forced to hide out in a small California suburb after killing a cop during a job gone wrong. He's given a chance to get back in the game by Fred Dorella (Vic Tayback), a crook with a novel plan for a foolproof bank heist. Dorella has been studying the daily habits of the Harper Federal Trust vice…  See more details below

Overview

Johnny Cabot (Johnny Cash) is a bloodthirsty New Jersey gangster who is forced to hide out in a small California suburb after killing a cop during a job gone wrong. He's given a chance to get back in the game by Fred Dorella (Vic Tayback), a crook with a novel plan for a foolproof bank heist. Dorella has been studying the daily habits of the Harper Federal Trust vice president Ken Wilson (Donald Woods). He learns that Wilson and his wife Nancy (Cay Forester) are on a strict schedule every morning and Dorella plans to use their dull routine against them. After Wilson goes to work, Johnny tricks his way into the house with Nancy by pretending to be a door-to-door guitar salesman, and then holds her hostage. At the same time, Dorella visits Wilson at the bank and demands 70,000 dollars in cash. If he doesn't get the loot and contact Johnny by phone at a specified time, Nancy will be killed. What Dorella hasn't counted on is that the Wilson home is not a happy one, and Ken is planning on running away with his mistress that very evening. Meanwhile, the leering, sadistic Johnny taunts Nancy about being "the perfect wife." He does all he can to humiliate her, forcing her to put on makeup and a flimsy negligee, slapping her around and singing menacing songs. When the Wilsons' son Bobby (Ron Howard) comes home from school for lunch, a terrifying showdown with the police leads to tragedy. Guitar legend Merle Travis has a small role as a cowardly bowling alley owner in this crime drama, which was re-released in 1966 under the title Door-to-Door Maniac.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Fred Beldin
It's a hard film to find, but if the prospect of seeing a twitchy, bug-eyed Johnny Cash use six-year-old Ron Howard as a human shield during a violent shootout sounds promising, then Five Minutes to Live delivers in spades. This long-lost picture starts off with Cash riddling a policeman with machine gun bullets and never lets up, piling one raw act upon another with the Man in Black turning in a wild performance as a feral killer. In nearly every scene Johnny is either wielding a weapon or obsessively strumming an acoustic guitar (the tasty riffs he picks were post-dubbed by co-star Merle Travis), and Cash channels something very dark and very disturbed in this role. He nearly trembles with his aggression, and it's clear that if Cash hadn't been the seminal music figure that he was, he could have had a fine career as a Hollywood heavy. Director Bill Karn gives Five Minutes to Live a breathless, desperate energy that transcends its obvious exploitation roots, sometimes coming close to capturing the same vibe as Russ Meyer's early black-and-white melodramas. The film also takes a healthy satirical poke at the sterile face of suburbia, a theme that hadn't yet become standard in American cinema. The Wilsons put on a good show for the neighbors but their lives are a mess of hangovers, adultery, and lazy parenting. When Johnny arrives he makes his disdain for their lifestyle plain, muttering "I never saw so much of nothin' in my life," and smashing the tacky knick-knacks that decorate the Wilson home. There are a few loose plot devices that need tightening, but with a film that moves this fast and furious, it hardly matters. By the time this thriller was re-released (with the lurid moniker Door-to-Door Maniac), Cash was on his way toward cleaning up his own troubled life and embracing Christianity, which might explain why such a vicious portrait remains difficult to see. However, while Johnny Cash's larger-than-life persona depends on his image as an elder statesman of American folk music, there are plenty who still relish his early hell-raising days, and Five Minutes to Live is the film that those fans need to see.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/20/2015
UPC:
0874757059792
Original Release:
1961
Rating:
NR
Source:
American Pop Classic
Time:
1:14:00
Sales rank:
78,359

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Johnny Cash Johnny Cabot
Donald Woods Ken Wilson
Cay Forester Nancy Wilson
Pamela Mason Ellen
Midge Ware Doris
Vic Tayback Fred
Merle Travis Max
Howard Wright Pop
Norma Varden Priscilla
Ronny Howard Bobby

Technical Credits
Bill Karn Director
Johnny Cash Songwriter
James Ellsworth Producer
M.K. Forester Screenwriter
Carl Guthrie Cinematographer
Robert L. Joseph Screenwriter
Gene Kauer Score Composer
Donald Nosseck Editor
Harry Reif Set Decoration/Design
Edwin Shields Art Director
Palmer Thompson Original Story

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