More Icons Of Suspense From Hammer Films: Part Two/Conclusion

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9-23-2010 10-05-01 AM.jpgWrapping up my recent coverage of Sony's new Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films DVD collection (click here to reserve it online), here are reviews of the last two films in the set:


Never Take Candy from a Stranger (1960):  The Carter family has barely settled in their new home in the Canadian  "Jamestown" area when young nine-year-old Jean (Janina Faye) and a playmate are lured to the home of the town's weathy benefactor Mr. Olderberry and are made to dance naked for him!  Jean's parents -Dad's the new school principal- try to bring Olderberry (who we discover has had a long history of surpressed pedophile activity) to justice, or at least get him to an asylum.   But the Carters soon run into the overwhelming influence of Olderberry's rich son, who, besides practically runing the town,  blocks their attempts to pursue the matter (thanks to the son, the cops don't want to investigate and other parents won't speak up).  Subsequently, the Carters themselves get shunned by the town's citizens after Mr. Olderberry is found innocent of all charges.  Meanwhile, Jean and her friend aren't out of Mr. Olderberry's sight...

A terrific, powerfully realistic  film, directed by Cyril Frankel, Never Take Candy from a Stranger succeeds both as an attack on child molestation and as a chillingly compelling thriller.  The well-cast selection of mostly unknowns  (though you may recognize Bill Nagy, who plays  Mr. Oldenberry's son, as gangster  "Mr. Midnight" from 1964's Goldfinger) adds to the sense of verisimitude.  The film is an obvious indictment of citizens and institutions that ignore evil out of selfish fear, and whom, in the shattering climax, pay a horrible price for their thoughtless inaction. It's also, in it's last 15 minutes, one heck of a scary film, made more so by the fact that, unlike Hammer's usual stock company of fantastic monsters (Christopher Lee's  Dracula, Peter Cushing's Baron Frankenstein and his various creatures, etc.), Mr. Oldenberry (as well as his son and the citizens who enable his sick urges) is much more frightening because pedophiles like him do exist in the real world.

Cash on Demand (1961):  Fussy, nasty-minded  bank manager Fordyce (Peter Cushing), who's already terrorized his loyal, hardworing staff, gets his comeuppance two days before Christmas when he meets an alleged bank security expert (Andre Morell, who played Dr. Watson to Cushing's Sherlock Holmes in Hammer's 1959 remake of The Hound of the Baskervilles).  The security guy is actually a criminal who claims to have Fordyce's wife and son -the only two people in the world the manager cares about!- hostage and who forces Fordyce to help him rob the bank.  Tension mounts as Fordyce, under pressure, slowly begins to lose his nerve...

Cash on Demand is a pretty good, low-key little caper film.  The excitement, helped immensely by solid performances from Cushing, Morell and the fine supporting cast, builds slowly to a boil as we wonder if any of the staff will tumble to the security expert's real plans, or if Fordyce will crack under the stress.  Characterzation is stressed equally along with plot, with some surprising bits by all players.  Even Morell's criminal turns out to be not quite the person we thought he was.  Though confined to a few interior sets and dependent on dialogue and acting (held together by director Quentin Lawrence), Cash on Demand holds your attention from start to finish. 

These two films, plus the others (These Are The Damned, The Snorkel, Stop Me Before I Kill!, Maniac) in the Icons of Suspense collection, are all available from the library here.

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