A COLD NIGHTS DEATH
The scenario of the scientists isolated in a high-altitude mountain laboratory as something lurks cannot help but create association with The Thing from Another World (1951). Indeed, you cannot help but speculate that the image of the scientist found frozen to death at the radio desk served as inspiration for one of the iconic images in John Carpenters subsequent remake The Thing (1982). A Cold Night's Death quite remarkably manages to strip the complement of the base down to only two men there is a third man present at the outset but he is just the helicopter pilot and departs fairly soon in and the entire show plays out between the two scientists. Moreover, the nature of what is happening is never made clear until the very last scene. What we have is a paranoia and cabin fever drama that works rather effectively.
The one thing that all of the other commentary about the film that I had read before seeing it tended to highlight was the twist ending. On the site here, for example, I would be scrupulous about not giving this away and make a point of always prefixing the discussion of endings with a spoiler alerts warning in bold (as you see below). It would seem that other genre commentators, particularly in the print media, have not been so scrupulous about such. I would describe the film along the lines of scientists at a remote research station succumb to cabin fever and paranoia as they find something is toying with them whereas other commentators have always described the film in terms of its twist ending [PLOT SPOILERS] scientists at a remote research station discover that the apes they are experimenting on have been experimenting with them all along, which leads you to expect a film more along the lines of something like Link (1986).
[PLOT SPOILERS CONTINUE] The whole film is a build-up to this twist revelation. In this respect, A Cold Night's Death resembles more a half-hour episode of a show like The Twilight Zone (1959-63) or even more so The Outer Limits (1963-5) than it does a full film. The crucial thing about the twist, especially in comparison to the way it has been revealed as a crucial plot element by other commentators, is that it only becomes apparent in the last shot of the final scene. Indeed, the rest of the film is a deliberately Lewtonian one that has something happening in the laboratory but it being unclear what. We never see a single ape until this last frame, leaving the nature of the menace as an unseen one right throughout. In delivering the twist this way, the film deftly avoids any explanation for the cause of the sudden rise in ape intelligence.
Jerrold Freedman had mostly directed in television, including making episodes of shows such as Night Gallery (1969-73) and The X Files (1993-2002, 2016 ). Screenwriter Christopher Knopf had a four-decade career in film and television, including writing the classic alien monster movie 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) and the adaptation of The Choirboys (1977). One of the surprises about the film is that it is co-produced by Aaron Spelling, best known as the man behind Fantasy Island (1976-84), The Love Boat (1977-86), Charlies Angels (1976-81), Beverly Hills 90210 (1990-2000) and a mountain of other shows. For a time in the early 1970s, Spelling made a career out of these horror tv movies with the likes of Crowhaven Farm (1970), How Awful About Allen (1970), The House That Would Not Die (1970), A Taste of Evil (1971), Satans School for Girls (1973) and Cruise Into Terror (1978), as well as the sf film The Love War.
Full film available online here:-