Five Minutes to Live (1961)


AKA Door-to-Door Maniac

Five Minutes to Live is a short little crime drama featuring Johnny Cash as a rather repugnant criminal. Cash plays Johnny Cabot (adding yet one more name to the list of non-actors who have trouble responding to any name except the one they were given), a ruthless killer in hiding who teams up with fellow criminal Fred Dorella to rob a bank of the vast sum of $70,000 (Hey, it was 1961. That was big dough back then.)

Dorella, the mastermind of the duo, has a simple plan. Johnny kidnaps the wife of one of the bank executives and holds her hostage, while Dorella goes to the bank with a ransom note. Dorella thinks his plan is perfect. He’s been staking out the house the executive lives in for over a month and believes he has the job timed down almost to the second.

Also, check out that house over there. You, me, white picket fence… What do you say?

What they don’t count on is the bank executive having an affair, thinking about running away with his mistress and trying to work up the courage to ask for a divorce. Oopsie. Guess he wasn’t paying close enough attention. That, my dear fellows, is called poor planning.


Most of the movie is taken up with scenes of Cash terrorizing the poor housewife. He prods her with his gun, shoots and smashes things and then subjects her to the sound of him playing the movie’s title song. Not content to psychologically torment her, he also does so physically in the most repulsive way, at one point forcing his way into the bedroom and making her to put on a frilly negligee.

Yeah, she looks totally into you.

For a B-movie that was obviously filmed on a shoestring budget, the acting isn’t half bad. Most of the side characters range from passable to pretty good and Cash doesn’t suck as much as I thought he might. That said though, while he does display some obvious raw talent, he probably should have skipped the acting roles. He can pull off repulsive criminal quite well (surprisingly well, actually), but physicality is not his strong suite, so the moments where he was scuffling with the housewife were almost head-shakingly bad.

Overall, the film’s pretty good. It’s not the best written, or best directed and it has some slow moments in the middle where it seems the writer or director were trying to make a statement about suburbia. I suppose they made their point, as it is the dullest point of the film, but it’s also short and doesn’t take away too much from the rest of the movie. It’s a nice, quick little crime drama which is probably best enjoyed by people who like Johnny Cash or B-movies in general.

Oh, and the movie also has a 7-year old Ron Howard as Bobby, so there’s that.

Seen here portraying the un-Opie-ist Opie he could muster.

Five Minutes to Live is available on a variety of streaming services.

It is also available on DVD.



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