In the 60s, Elvis was churning out a whole mess of movies. Formulaic light musicals, mainly. Now, I’m not here to review one, so why would I bring it up? Because our flick of the moment happens to star another popular singer of the day: the one and only Johnny Cash. Yes, that’s right, while Elvis was wiggling his hips and kissin’ his cousins, Johnny was starring in a mean spirited, low budget crime picture called Five Minutes to Live (1961).
Johnny Cash plays Johnny Cabot, a psychotic criminal who gets himself involved in a rather unusual bank heist. He’s tasked with taking the wife of a suburban bank’s vice president hostage in her own home. His partner Fred is in charge of squeezing the ransom money out of her husband. If he doesn’t pay up, Johnny’s only too happy to kill the unlucky housewife.
A bit of a convoluted way to rob a bank, but you have to admit it’s original. Really though, you can take or leave the plot. It’s not important. You’re here to see Johnny Cash. And what you really want to know is, can he act? Yes, as it turns out. He steals the whole damn movie. Every move he makes is imbued with a smoldering menace that insures you won’t be able to take your eyes off him.
And what fun he has! He berates the harried housefrau for her slovenly appearance, and forces her to change into a marabou accented negligee. At gun point, of course. And naturally he has to do a little redecorating, in the form of smashing all her most beloved knick knacks. As much fun as the makeover antics are, the real highlight comes when he croons the title song to her, lackadaisically strumming along on the guitar he conveniently brought. All in all, there are worse ways to be informed that you only have “five minutes to live.”
Unfortunately for all of us, Johnny’s reign of capricious terror can’t last forever. The plot gets thick as coagulated blood when little Bobby (a very young Ronnie Howard!) comes home from school for lunch. Naturally, though he’s a cold blooded killer, Johnny has a weakness for children. With this massive monkey wrench in the works, will the heist be pulled off? Hell, I’m not going to tell you. You’ll just have to watch it yourself, and believe me, you’ll be glad you did. If you’re still not convinced, keep in mind that the film was called “Door to Door Maniac” when it was rereleased a few years later. If that’s not a title for the ages, I don’t know what is.
And after all, it’s not like you’re going to see Elvis using Ron Howard as a human shield in a police shootout.