Five Minutes to Live (1961)

aka Door-to-Door Maniac
Article 4432 by Dave Sindelar
Date: 1-27-2014
Directed by Bill Karn
Featuring Johnny Cash, Donald Woods, Cay Forester
Country: USA
What it is: Crime thriller

A seasoned bank robber partners with a down-on-his-luck hood to pull off a ransom scheme by holding a bank manager’s wife hostage; she will be killed unless he approves a bad check for $70,000 dollars. However, the plan does not run smoothly…

Several years ago Johnny Cash released a three-disc set retrospective of his work in which each of the discs dealt with a theme that he consistently returned to in his musical work. The third disc was entitled “Murder”, and those familiar with his musical output certainly can attest to the fact that he has a knack for singing about criminals and killers. So it makes sense that his first movie role would feature him as a sadistic hood with little respect for human life, and when he’s in the scenes where he’s holding the banker’s wife hostage, we really sense that he’s dangerous and unbalanced. However, there is a real question as to whether he’s unbalanced enough for this movie to qualify as horror, and I don’t think it does (even if one of the alternate titles is DOOR-TO-DOOR MANIAC); he never kills anyone for no reason at all. As for the movie as a whole, I like the central concept, but the script isn’t particularly good, and the direction is often lifeless; when it works, it’s usually the result of the skill of the actors. The movie feature Vic Tayback, (who is very effective as the robber who pairs with Johnny Cash), Ron Howard, and another well-known country artist, Merle Travis.


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