Door-to-Door Maniac (Five Minutes to Live) (1961): Bill Karn’s Curio Indie, Starring Johnny Cash

Bill Karn directed Five Minutes to Live, a neo-noir crime film, later re-titled Door-to-Door Maniac for its 1966 rerelease.

The film stars Johnny Cash, who wrote and sang the title song, and Cay Forrester, who wrote the screenplay and whose husband, Ludlow Flower, produced.

Five Minutes to Live was one of only two theatrical film roles Cash performed on-screen in his career; he would appear in several TV films and do some voice-over work later on.

Fred sits in a dark room sharing details of his latest bank robbery: How he teamed up with hardened criminal Johnny Cabot to execute his plan.

Cabot is about to take the wife of the bank’s vice president hostage. He holds her until he receives a call from Fred, informing him that they have the ransom money. Cabot watches the Wilson house as the husband leaves for work, and their son heads off to school. Posing as a door-to-door guitar instructor, Cabot talks his way into the house, and takes Nancy Wilson hostage.

At the bank, Fred enters vice president Ken Wilson’s office, and hands him a check for $70,000, informing Wilson that he will withdraw the funds to cover the ransom or his wife will die. He tells Wilson to call home for proof that Nancy is being held hostage, then informs him that if he does not call Cabot back in five minutes, Mrs. Wilson will die.

Wilson has been planning to leave his wife anyway, and runs off to Las Vegas with his mistress, Ellen. He tells Fred that he will be doing him a favor by killing his wife. Fred does not believe that Wilson will let his wife die. He is proven correct, as time ticks by, when Wilson finally cracks and agrees to pay the ransom.

At the Wilson house, Cabot seems to enjoy terrorizing his hostage. He begins forcing her to listen to his songs about her demise, shooting at her and making sexual advances.

Back at the bank, Fred has been taken down by the police, who arrived after a man tripped the silent alarm.  Cabot gets nervous, when he doesn’t get the expected call from Fred.

When the police arrive, a panicky Cabot grabs Bobby and runs into police gunfire. Bobby pretends to have been shot in order to encourage Cabot to put him down.

Upset by the accidental shooting of the boy, Cabot fires back, and is killed by police. Nancy runs outside to find her son, still alive and well.

The film ends with Fred concluding his story to the police, then Mr. Wilson driving to Las Vegas, with his wife, not mistress.

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot
Donald Woods as Ken Wilson
Cay Forrester as Nancy Wilson
Pamela Mason as Ellen Harcourt
Vic Tayback as Fred Dorella
Ron Howard as Bobby Wilson (credited as Ronnie Howard)
Merle Travis as Max
Midge Ware as Doris Johnson
Norma Varden as Priscilla Auerbach