The High Deserts Social Network Blog…

1955 film based on real AV kidnapping

TRUE EVENTS – “The Night Holds Terror,” released in 1955, was

based on the true kidnapping of an Edwards Air Force Base worker and

his family. Above, the marque sign for the second bill is wrong. The movie’s

name is “Case of the Red Monkey,” referring to a tiny Communist spy.

LANCASTER – A real Antelope

Valley kidnapping provided the

plot for a 1955 movie whose tag-

line was “’l‘hree young, empty-eyed

killers, without mercy or morals,

turn a private home into a house

of horror!”

“The Night Holds Terror,” whose

villains included future “Ben Caseyg

M.D.” television series star Vince

Edwards and future three-time

Oscar nominee John Cassavetes,

tells how Edwards Air Force Base

worker Gene Courtier is kidnapped

and held hostage along with his

wife and two children alter he picks

up a hitchhiken

Much of the black-and-white

movie was shot in the Antelope

Valley; with a lot of scenes of desert

roads and Joshua trees, including

one where Courtiefs kidnappers

force him out of his car and shoot

at him.

They decide against killing him

in favor of holding him and his fam-

ily hustage over the weekend to get

cash for his car, then ultimately try

to ransom him for cash from his

fathen ‘

Besides the scenes ‘of Joshua

trees and Antelope Valley desert,

there’s also a quick glimpse of

the Lancaster railroad station at

Sierra Highway and Lancaster


“The Night Holds Terror” was

the first of two family-held-hos<

tage dramas to be released within

months of each other.

After Columbia released “The

Night Holds ‘lerror,” Paramount re-

leased the bigger-budget “The Des-

perate Hours,” which was based on

an earlier book and starred “Casa-

bianca” star Humphrey Bogart as

the lead villain and Fredric March

as the embattled family man.

` Time magazine in August 1955

said of “The Night Holds Terror”:

“Shot in 18 days on a low budget

($78,000), ‘Night’ was produced,

directed, written and edited by the

husband and wife team of Andrew

and Virginia Stone.

None ofthe cast has a Hollywood

‘name’; most of them came from

TV What emerges is a surprisingly


“The Night Holds Terror” used

the kidnapping victims’ real names

and the real Antelope Valley set-


But the movie fabricated the

whole last half involving the ran-

som attempt, frantic efforts to trace

telephone calls and a last-minute

police rescue. ‘

In reality the robbers left Court-

ier after getting his check for the

car at Stranske Motors in Lan-

caster; he told his story about being

held hostage to Lancaster Sheriffs

Station deputies.

Lancaster detectives decided

to believe Courtier’s story in part

because they were able to find the

empty pistol cartridge at the spot

in the desert where Courtier said a

bullet was fired inches away from

his head, according to a May 26,

1953, Los Angeles Times article

about the start of the trio’s trial.

But it was easy to see why mov-

iemakers picked up on the story,

whose title came from newspaper


The three defendants were ac-

cused not only of kidnapping and

robbing Courtier, the Antelope Val-

ley _Press reported, but of “forcing

his wife, Doris, to dine, dance and

play cards with them all through-

out the night in the Courtiers’


In its June 25, 1953, article

about the three being found guilty

the Antelope Valley Press called

them the “ ‘Night of Terror’ trio.”

Courtier, a 26-year-old North

American Aviation technician,

lived with his 24-year-old wife and

two children in a government home

on Ninth Street at Edwards Air

Force Base. While driving home,

he stopped to pick up hitchhiker

James Canigan, 22, of Los Ange-


A few miles down the road,

Carrigan pulled out a gun, robbed

Courtier of $5 and forced him to

drive off the road, where ex-convict

Leonard Mahan, 24, and AWOL

Camp Pendleton Marine Donald

Hall, 18, pulled up in Mahan’s car.

As in the movie, they decided to

force Courtier to sell his car and

give them the money

They went to Courtier’s Ed-

wards home, where Doris Courtier

was held prisoner by Hall while the

other two took Courtier and his car

to Lancaster.

Courtier got $500 in cash for the

car, but for the remaining $1,251.02

he got a check he oouldn’t cash un-

til the next day, so the kidnappers

‘stayed with him and his family


Mahan made the mistake of get-

ting his car an oil change while the

trio was holding Courtier; deputies

went to the shop and got the ser-

vice record, with the car’s license


While the movie showed the

kidnappers being captured when

police oornered them in their car

in a Los Angeles rainstorm, the

real-life kidnappers were arrested

separately: in Inglewood, in a

downtown Los Angeles hotel and in

a LosAngeles bar.

Turner Classic .Movies peri-

odically shows “The Night Holds

Terror,” as well as “The Desperate

Hours.” ~ °

Compiled by Managing Editor

Charles E Bostwick.

March 15, 2011 - Posted by | antelope valley commercial production, antelope valley film office, antelope valley film production, antelope valley filming locations, north la county film production | , , , ,

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