May 29, 2023

Hammer Volume Two: Criminal Intent – 4 Hammer film boxset from Indicator


The Full Treatment

Horror, Mystery | UK, 1960 | 15 | Dir.Val Guest | Claude Dauphin, Diane Cilento, Ronald Lewis

There is some excellent stuff here and there – I think that the opening shot that pulls back from a car radio playing a happy tune to seamlessly reveal a scene of disaster and carnage is good enough to redeem the problems with the remaining 2 hours of screenplay. But there’s an awful lot to get through in the next 2 hours, and a lot of it is a slog.

The black and white photography is crisp. There are some great visual setups (oddly, the driving scenes are the least convincing scenes in the movie, ironic considering the Lewis’ character is a race car driver). Diane Cilantro is adorable and a pleasure to simply behold (although her character is missing from the middle third of the movie). Also, there is a fascinating contribution from Francois Rosay who is on screen for maybe 5 minutes altogether, but who pulls the final climax together with a wordless performance that is in some ways the strongest in the movie.

Cash on Demand

Crime, Thriller | UK, 1961 | 15 |Dir.Quentin Lawrence | Peter Cushing, André Morell, Richard Vernon

Director Quentin Lawrence (“The Trollenberg Terror”) does a creditable job with this meaty script, written by David T. Chantler and Lewis Greifer based on a play by Jacques Gillies. One can tell that this is based on a play, with the accent on dialogue, but it’s interesting and riveting all the way through, with very taut direction by Lawrence who gets superb performances out of his two talented leads.

Cushing is a joy to watch as a man who becomes more sympathetic as the story plays out. And Morell is fun as the dapper, (mostly) calm thief. Solid support is provided by Richard Vernon as Pearson, the banks’ second-in-command, Barry Lowe as the teller Harvill, and Kevin Stoney as Detective Inspector Mason.

Also indicating a stage origin is a limited number of sets, but this only serves to give this superior film an intimate feel and help us to get completely involved in this twist-laden plot. And the story, which works as a variation on the classic Dickens tale “A Christmas Carol”, is irresistible for its theme of a person in need of some redemption.

Never Take Sweets from a Stranger

Horror, Mystery | UK, 1960 | 15 | Dir.Cyril Frankel | Gwen Watford, Patrick Allen, Felix Aylmer

This is a film which carries a huge amount of resonance in this day and age and it’s a topic which has rarely been handled. Set in Canada but filmed in England, given that story wise there is no reason for it to be set there, one wonders whether that was to give some distance between this country and the subject matter, as if no one dare suggest that this sort of thing could go on here.

Having said all that they don’t quite face the subject head on, old Mr Olderberry is not called upon to speak a word throughout the film and the manner in which he wanders around rather unsteadily gives the impression that he’s not all there, even though he is the patriarch of this wealthy family, so clearly he has had something about him at some time.

It’s not an entertaining film – the subject matter prevents that – but its moral and social intentions are certainly in the right place. The biggest drawback is the portrayal of the paedophile: played creepily enough by Aylmer, the problem is that he is far too broadly written; a slobbering, trembling, staggering monster of a man who is too obviously perverted and dangerous to be a truly believable character. Real paedophiles are much harder to identify, more cunning and evasive and seemingly ‘normal’. That aside, however, this is a very impressive message movie from the Hammer people.

The Snorkel

Horror, Mystery | UK, 1958 | 15 | Dir.Guy Green | Peter van Eyck, Betta St. John, Mandy Miller

An underrated Hammer attempt at a Hitchcock film. The murderer is revealed in the opening scene, and the tension comes from how his plot will eventually be revealed. The strange title makes sense in the context of the movie. It’s a bit sluggish in spots but the Twilight Zone/Outer Limits ending is especially well done, although they pull back from it being too dark.

Peter van Eyck is very good, a calculating killer with a ready answer to every challenge. He conveys a creepily intimidating monster very effectively. Mandy Miller’s performance, on the other hand, is sometimes wooden and unconvincing. She still manages to convey a very sympathetic vulnerability for most of the movie though, to her credit.

The best scene in the movie is one in which Candy has swum too far from shore at the beach after hinting to her stepfather that she’s realized how he may have done it. He swims out under the pretense of bringing her back to a safer distance, but murder is written all over his face, and in the way he swims and the way the scene is shot he appears just like a human shark, a swift, powerful predator quickly closing in on his hapless prey.

Special Features
• New title-specific documentaries exploring aspects of each film
• Audio commentary with film historian Michael Brooke and author Johnny Mains on The Snorkel
• The Snorkel original script ending: reconstruction of the finale of Jimmy’s Sangster’s screenplay
• Two presentations of Never Take Sweets from a Stranger: with the original UK titles; and with the alternative US Never Take Candy from a Stranger titles
• Never Take Sweets from a Stranger introduction by actor and filmmaker Matthew Holness
• Two presentations of The Full Treatment: the uncensored UK theatrical cut; and the censored US version with alternative Stop Me Before I Kill! titles
• Audio commentary with film historians Jonathan Rigby and David Miller on Cash on Demand
• New and exclusive interviews with cast and crew members, including actors Janina Faye (Never Take Sweets from a Stranger) and Lois Daine (Cash on Demand), props master Peter Allchorne (The Snorkel) and second assistant director Hugh Harlow (The Snorkel)
• Appreciations of composers Elisabeth Lutyens (Never Take Sweets from a Stranger) and Francis Chagrin (The Snorkel) by David Huckvale, author of Hammer Film Scores and the Musical Avant-Garde
• Hammer’s Women: Betta St John (2018): Diabolique magazine’s editor-in-chief Kat Ellinger offers an appreciation of the American actress, singer and dancer
• Hammer’s Women: Gwen Watford (2018): British cinema expert Dr Laura Mayne explores the life and career of the prolific English film, stage and television actress
• Hammer’s Women: Diane Cilento (2018): Dr Melanie Williams, author of Female Stars of British Cinema, explores the life and career of the Australian theatre and film actress and author
• Hammer’s Women: Lois Daine (2018): critic and author Becky Booth on the popular English film and television actress
• Archival documentaries, interviews and featurettes
• Original trailers and Image Galleries
• Exclusive booklets for each film, with new essays by Kat Ellinger, Julian Upton and Kim Newman, archival interview materials, contemporary reviews, and full film credits.

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