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Icons Of Suspense Collections: Hammer Films (2010)
Movie Review by The Gravedigger

Icons Of Suspense Collections: Hammer Films (2010) This new collection of 6 Hammer Films that were released by Columbia Pictures, newly transferred, has a wide variety of thrillers not seen in decades. The one thing in common is that they all have a set "bad guy" in each film who ultimately gets his comeuppance. It's also interesting to see how much the characters smoke and drink, which I guess was the norm back in the 50's and early 60's. There are two movies per disc.

Cash On Demand (1961)

This film casts Peter Cushing as a really uptight, Ebenezer Scrooge-type guy who runs a bank. He's alienated himself from all his co-workers, who he views as subordinates. This becomes a problem when a different sort of bank robber comes in and wants the ninety-thousand dollars that's in the vault. The robber convinces him that he's holding his wife and young son hostage and that if he doesn't comply they will be killed. Almost the entire movie takes place within the bank. This probably has the "happiest" ending of all six films.

Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960)

This begins with a car accident with a race car driver, Alan Colby (Ronald Lewis of MR. SARDONICUS), and his new bride. Months later, when he's out of the hospital, he and his wife go on vacation since they never had their honeymoon. But he's really high strung and is becoming more paranoid. He's always sweating, shaking, and is aggressive towards others. He has issues. His wife talks to a psychiatrist who is also on vacation and he encourages her to talk, while giving her a cigarette and a drink. Alan is afraid he's going to strangle his wife--and at one point he almost does and she has the bruises to prove it. It's a compulsion that comes over him. He and his wife return to London, hoping things will be better, but he's emotionally all over the place, happy one minute, angry the next. Is he bi-polar? With the urging of his wife he goes to see that same psychiatrist who is now in London. He manages to relive the accident and sees the reason why he wanted to kill his wife. Now, he feels like he's cured. But the next day he has overslept and his wife is gone, though there is blood in the apartment. He thinks that he has strangled and dismembered her during his blackout...

This movie kept me guessing until the end is one of the more entertaining movies in this package.

Also Known As The Full Treatment

Snorkel, The (1958)

The title kind of threw me off, as it sounds like the title for a DR. SEUSS book. It is anything but. It begins with an older guy sneaking around his wife's bedroom while she's sleeping. He turns on all the gas nozzles from the lamps and then puts on a scuba

mask. He hides in a compartment that under the room's carpet and floorboards and has his mask's snorkel hooked up to outside lines that are supplying him oxygen. So while his wife dies from breathing in the gas, he stays alive. In fact, he stays there all day while the maid discovers her body and calls the authorities. Then, when everyone is gone, he gets out of the house and then returns, seeming as if he just returned from his trip.

His step-daughter is convinced that he killed her mother, since she knows she'd never commit suicide without leaving her a note. And she believes that this same man killed her father, something she saw when she was eight years old. However, everyone things she's crazy and dismiss her suspicions. So she has to figure out a way to prove her suspicions. This is a fairly suspenseful film but it should have ended about two minutes earlier than what it did--that last scene kind of undid the payoff.

Maniac (1963)

Takes place in rural France, with the opening sequence showing a young girl attacked by a lecherous old guy who gives her a ride. Her father catches them, knocks out the guy with a tire iron and then goes to work on him with a welding torch in the barn. We then go to five years later, when an American, Jeff (Kerwin Mathews of SEVENTH VOYAGE OF SINBAD) comes through. He has just broken up with his girlfriend, who leaves him in the small town. He goes to the bar, drinks a lot of cognac, and decides to rent a room there at the inn. He's immediately interested in the 19 year old girl who serves him but her step-mother has her eye on him and eventually the two start sleeping together. She tells him about her husband, who is in the local mental asylum for murdering that man. He's going to be transferred to a regular prison because they think he's now sane--but, for some reason, she wants to break him out before it happens. She tells Jeff her plan and he agrees to help her break him out. At first, all goes as planned, but when Jeff finds a body in the car trunk the next day it begins a downward spiral. I must say that the ending did surprise me--I didn't see that coming and it makes perfect sense.

Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960)

This is an unsettling story, the most suspenseful movie on these discs. A school principal has just moved his family to a small town in Canada and they are set to begin their new lives. But one day his young nine-year-old daughter comes home and says that an old man invited her in his house and gave her and her friend candy after they took off their clothes and danced for him. The mother freaks out and wants to report it to the police, the husband thinks it might not be true and the grandmother says it's no big deal. Even the captain of the police department dismisses this story, saying "no real harm has been done", which infuriates the mother. It turns out that the old man is the grandfather of the Alderberry family, which controls much of the business and income in the town. They are practically untouchable. Richard Alderberry goes over to their house denying anything is wrong with his father--and the parents of the other girl insist she was playing elsewhere that day. However, they do decide to press charges and the case goes to court. The old, lecherous man is found innocent by the jury. The parents decide to pick up and move but not before their daughter and her friend get lost in the woods---chased by that same old man. And he's really crazy this time. Will they find their children before he does something much worse than simply watch them?

Also Known As Never Take Sweets From A Stranger

These Are The Damned (1963)

In England an American's boat is robbed by a gang of hoodlums, led by a young Oliver Reed. The leader's sister is also in on it but changes her mind and flees with the American. But the brother is pissed off and is determined to get his sister back. The two flee and enter a top secret military base and make their way into an underground facility. Here, they discover all these radioactive children. They are part of an experiment to develop a form of humanity that would survive the intense radioactive fallout of a third world war. They are also very isolated and are educated by built-in televisions. This has the feel of Hammer's Quatermass movies, though it's a weird combination combining the science fiction elements with the whole gang story.

If you're a fan of Hammer and are interested in seeing some of their early work, you'll definitely enjoy this new collection.

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