Communication stops between Dr. Vogel at the Summit Laboratory of the Tower Mountain Research Center with the Base Research facility. The base head, Ryan Horner (Vic Perrin), decides that he needs to send a team to find out what is happening. The center’s laboratory is located deep in the Arctic and Vogel is there alone. Recently Dr. Vogel’s radio messages have been confusing and chaotic. It has been five days since Vogel radioed and there have been snowstorms in the area which prevented anyone from flying to the laboratory to investigate. Finally, Horner is able to send Robert Jones (Robert Culp) and Frank Enari (Eli Wallach) to find out what happened to Vogel and take over the research being done, if necessary.
The laboratory was working on experiments with primates. Several monkeys were involved in the program. Vogel was observing the behavioral patterns of the monkeys based on various environmental changes such as starvation or extreme cold. The experiments were being done at the behest of NASA for the space program. If things are not put back on track, the last four years of research will have been wasted.
When Robert and Frank arrive at the center, they find that the heat has been turned off and the place is a mess. They find Dr. Vogel frozen to death in an unlocked room with the window open. The monkeys are in their cages and are freezing. Robert and Frank get things cleaned up and get the heat back on. As they get situated and back on track, Robert is confused as to why Vogel would just sit there and let himself be frozen to death.
As Robert tries to figure out what happened, Frank tries to put it out of his mind and concentrate on his job. When strange things start happening Frank is ready to blame Robert. Robert realizes that the odd events are similar to what happened to Vogel. Frank accuses Robert of using him as a guinea pig and treating him the same as the monkeys are being treated. Robert begins to realize that something is playing with both of them, and their lives are in danger.
“A Cold Night's Death” AKA “The Chill Factor” was released in 1973 and was directed by Jerrold Freedman. It is an American made for television science fiction horror thriller.
The movie was actually quite riveting. Part of the appeal to the film is the clash of personalities that pits the two scientists against each other. It makes you wonder if one of them really is playing games or if there is some other entity responsible for what is happening. It’s not explained why the experiments are being done in such a remote place, but the isolated location adds so much atmosphere to the film. I can forgive that little oddity since the location is used as a suspect to what happened to the dead scientist and contributes to the psychological deterioration of Robert and Frank’s mental and social make-up. It’s very Twilight Zone-ish.
Some found the ending a bit of a letdown but for me it raised some questions that made the ending slightly ambiguous. At least to me. Not to spoil anything but the monkeys were being given injections of some kind and I wasn’t sure what for or what was in them. Did the injections have anything to do with what was happening at the laboratory? Did NASA really know what was going on at the research center? Were the scientists unknowingly part of the experiment in some way? Lots of questions that could be looked at as plot holes, or as just a cliffhanger ending.