Monday, April 6, 2015

Cult Movie Theatre: The Girl in Black Stockings

Let's clarify one point upfront: There is no girl in black stockings in this 1957 low-budget thriller about a serial killer. Instead, you get Anne Bancroft and Mamie Van Doren before they became stars--plus an eclectic supporting cast, some nifty black-and-white photography, and the famous Parry Lodge (more on that later).

Beth screams as she sees the victim.
The opening is the film's highlight: a Hitchcockian sequence in which two would-be lovers, Beth (Bancroft) and David (Lex Barker), discover a mutilated corpse by a lake when David lights a cigarette. The scene is set up perfectly with the couple discussing their relationship in a secluded area not far from an ongoing outdoor dance. You can view the full 2:48 scene on the Cafe's YouTube Channel by clicking here or, depending on your browser, just click the link in our sidebar).

We're soon told that "they don't stop with just one" and, sure enough, other murders follow. There is no shortage of suspects, including Beth (whose apparent vulnerability could easily hide a deranged mind) or David (allegedly a lawyer who got into his car and drove from L.A. until he felt like stopping--in Kanab, Utah).

He hates women!
Then, there's Edmund Parry (Ron Randell), who owns the local lodge with his care-giver sister Julia (Marie Windsor). Parry  can't walk due to psychological paralysis that started when his wife left him 10-12 years earlier. As a result, he hates all women and makes sure everyone knows about it. (Randell's off-the-wall performance has only enhanced the film's cult reputation.)

Indeed, the only character I ruled out as a suspect was the alcoholic Indian trapper that's initially arrested. That's part of the fun of The Girl in Black Stockings. It helps, too, that the possible killers are played by familiar faces such as John Dehner, Stuart Whitman, and Dan Blocker.

A young Anne Bancroft.
Anne Bancroft gives a credible performance in the title role. She would win a Tony the following year for Two for the Seesaw, directed by Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde). She followed that with a Tony for Best Actress for The Miracle Worker in 1960. It proved to be her ticket to film stardom when she repeated her performance as Helen Keller's teacher for the 1962 movie version. That earned Bancroft her only Oscar (though she would later be nominated for The Pumpkin Eater, The Graduate, The Turning Point, and Agnes of God).

Mamie Van Doren.
As for Mamie Van Doren, she has little to do in a small role in The Girl in the Black Stockings. Not surprisingly, though, she is featured prominently on the poster.

William Margulies' crisp black-and-white photography gives this low-budget thriller a nice noirish edge. He had a long Hollywood career as a camera operator and later cinematographer. He worked almost exclusively in television from 1958 to 1974. He earned four Emmy nominations for his cinematography (two of those being for Have Gun--Will Travel).

Finally, we come to the Parry Lodge, the real-life hotel that figures prominently in The Girl in Black Stockings. Brothers Whit, Chauncey, and Gronway Parry opened the lodge in 1931 in Kanab, Utah, to provide housing for film crews and casts shooting in the area. Over the years, numerous movies (mostly Westerns) have been partially filmed near Kanab, to include Western Union, My Friend Flicka, Westward the Women, Duel at Diablo, and even Planet of the Apes. The lodge has different owners today, but is still open to business.

You can even visit the Parry Lodge website. I did--though I admit I was disappointed. It includes a list of movies made in the area...but doesn't mention The Girl in Black Stockings.


  1. I came across this on television, but it was somewhere in the middle of the movie and I tucked it away in the corner of my mind to watch from the beginning someday. Unfortunately, it is a corner of my mind I haven't visited in a while. Thanks for the interesting article.

  2. This is an interesting little picture that is wonderfully done in black and white. Looking at the two photos of Anne's character and Mamie's character it is easy to see not only the very different hair styles (black and very short vs. platinum blonde, silky, and long) but also their outfits are totally different with Anne dressed very blandly and Mamie elegantly gowned and showing her shoulders and neck.