Directed by: Joseph Cates
Cast: Sal Mineo, Juliet Prowse, Jan Murray, Elaine Stritch, Daniel J. Travanti
Written by Tom Sheffield
Who Killed Teddy Bear is a psychological crime thriller that was released in 1965 but was refused certification on its original theatrical release due to its “sleazy, taboo-breaking nature“. The film has been newly scanned from one it’s few surviving 35mm prints and is available for the first time on Blu-ray and Digital. The restoration carried out involved careful grain management, both automated and manual removal of film dirt and damage, and correction of major instability, warping and density fluctuations.
After Norah (Juliet Prowse), a nightclub dancer, receives a series of obscene phone calls, police detective Lt. Dave Madden (Jan Murray) begins an investigation to find the unbalanced pervert before he can act upon the threats he’s been making. Nora befriends the club’s busboy, Lawrence (Sal Mineo), and Lt. Dave Madden as he investigates her case, but who can she really trust?
Who Killed Teddy Bear has a strong cast that all give a superb performance, but its Sal Mineo as Lawrence was a personal highlight for a number of reasons. Lawrence is an incredibly unpredictable character and Mineo really stands out from his castmates in this film with this performance. Mineo’s mannerisms and facial expressions really elevate the presence of his unhinged character.
The perverted stalker is revealed to the audience halfway through the film in a dramatic stroke of a match that illuminates his face. At this point, it doesn’t come as much of as a surprise to the audience, not if you’ve been paying attention anyway. I imagine the reveal was much more of a surprise for those who had the chance to see it during its original release. It is, however, still a very dramatic and well-shot reveal. This reveal allows the story to explore this character more and offers up some shocking surprises along the way.
What I truly loved about Who Killed Teddy Bear is how it captured the era in which it was filmed. The swinging 60’s vibe oozes from this film, whether it’s the busy disco dancefloor at the nightclub or the taxi-lit streets of Manhattan, Oscar-nominated cinematographer Joseph Brun’s breathtaking imagery is truly the highlight of this film and his work here surely inspired a number of films that followed it.
Whilst this thriller may have lost some of its thrill over the years, it’s an incredibly well-shot film that offers an authentic look at the fashion and style of the 60’s and an incredible amount of work went into restoring this film, and it has really paid off in the end product. The film handles its genuinely creepy and frightening subject matter by pulling no punches, and it’s easy to see why it failed to be certified for a theatrical release back in ’65. The ending takes such a sharp turn in tone, you won’t be forgetting it any time soon.
Who Killed Teddy Bear is available to purchase digitally on October 15th and is released on Blu-ray September 17th.