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Icons of Suspense - Hammer Films

 

   The Snorkel (1958)        Never Take Candy from a Stranger (1960)

Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960)        Cash on Demand (1961)

These Are The Damned (1963)        Maniac (1963)

 

Hammer Films made their name with monsters and vampires, but this third complication from Columbia Pictures – all new to DVD – proves they could frighten you without them. Topping the set is the uncut version of the futuristic classic THESE ARE THE DAMNED, directed by the legendary Joseph Losey. Peter Cushing and Andre Morell match wits in CASH ON DEMAND. Oscar-winning cinematographer Guy Green (1947, Great Expectations) directed THE SNORKEL, about a young girl who can’t convince anyone her stepfather’s a murderer. The renowned Val Guest co-wrote and directed the startling psychodrama STOP ME BEFORE I KILL! Kerwin Matthews finds himself in the middle of a strange mother/daughter threesome in the Jimmy Sangster-written MANIAC. Plus, this ultimate rarity: Cyril Frankel’s astounding NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM A STRANGER, a serious, and still horrifyingly timely, chiller about a small town terrorized by an elderly child molester. You won’t do better than this impeccable collection from the darkest corners of the Hammer imagination.

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Sony Pictures opens the doors to the Hammer vault with the release of six films making their DVD debuts in The Icons of Suspense Collection Presents Hammer Films. Hammer Films made their name with monsters and vampires, but this third compilation from SPHE proves they could frighten the public without them. Topping the set is the uncut version of the futuristic classic These Are The Damned (aka The Damned, 1963), directed by the legendary Joseph Loseygr. Peter Cushing and Andre Morell match wits in Cash on Demand (1961). Oscar-winning cinematographer Guy Green directed The Snorkel (1958), about a young girl who can’t convince anyone her stepfather is a murderer. The renowned Val Guest directed the startling psychodrama Stop Me Before I Kill! (aka The Full Treatment, 1960). Kerwin Matthews finds himself in the middle of a strange mother/daughter threesome in the Jimmy Sangster-written Maniac (1963). Plus, this ultimate rarity: Cyril Frankel’s astounding Never Take Candy from a Stranger (aka Never Take Sweets from a Stranger, 1960), a serious, and still horrifyingly timely, chiller about a small town terrorized by an elderly child molester. You won’t do better than this impeccable collection from the darkest corners of the Hammer imagination...

 


Titles

 


 

Though England's Hammer Films is perhaps best known for its horror titles like Curse of Frankenstein, the studio released numerous pictures in other genres, among these features science fiction, comedies, historical epics, and more than a few thrillers, six of which make their Region 1 DVD debut in this intriguing set. Interestingly, the best-known, and, arguably, best film in the collection is Joseph Losey's These Are the Damned (1963), which hews closer to science fiction in its story of American tourist MacDonald Carey's encounter with a group of children at the center of a secret and chilling government experiment. Though suspenseful and well cast (a young Oliver Reed gets a fine showcase as a vicious Teddy boy unwittingly caught in the experiment), the film surpasses the limits of the genre in its character-driven depiction of lonely individuals at the mercy of unfeeling authority figures. Manhandled by distributors during its initial release, the version featured here is the original 96-minute edit.


The rest of the Hammer Icons of Suspense collection follows traditional lines of thriller plot structure, though there are a few interesting variations. Never Take Candy from a Stranger is a fairly chilling drama about child molestation--a taboo topic today, much less in 1960, when the movie was released--handled with an equal mix of stark suspense and courtroom fireworks, and all beautifully lensed by Oscar-winner Freddie Francis. Maniac (1963), directed by Hammer producer and exec Michael Carreras, is one of the studio's more effective and unsettling nods to Psycho, with American artist Kerwin Mathews falling afoul of a psychologically troubled mother-daughter pair, while a blowtorch-wielding lunatic roams the French countryside. Hammer vet Jimmy Sangster's script is typically top-notch, and the grislier aspects of the story get plenty of airtime. Sangster also co-penned 1958's The Snorkel (with Italian genre jack-of-all-trades Antonio Margheriti, using his Anglicized pen name, Anthony Dawson), an agreeable B mystery with Peter van Eyck as a widower suspected by his stepdaughter of killing her mother with the title device. Oscar-winning cinematographer Guy Green directed the latter, while Val Guest, who helmed some of Hammer's best early science-fiction efforts (The Quatermass Xperiment), cowrote and directed Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960), a juicy pulp exercise about racecar driver Ronald Lewis, whose head injury compels him to try to kill his wife (Diane Cilento). Matters are made worse with the introduction of a sinister psychiatrist (Claude Dauphin) whose interest in the case exceeds professional standards. And while Hammer icon Sir Christopher Lee is nowhere to be found in this set, his frequent onscreen foil, Peter Cushing, is front and center for Cash on Demand (1961), a terrifically taut programmer about a by-the-books bank manager (Cushing) who is blackmailed into robbing his own bank by a cunning thief (Andre Morell, who played Watson to Cushing's Holmes in Hammer's Hound of the Baskervilles). For those who associate Hammer Films only with horror, the six pictures included in the set will be an eye opener; for longtime fans of the studio's output, or those looking for vintage thrills, the set is a must-have. However, extras are relegated to original trailers for each film, despite the fact that many of the key players are still alive.

--Paul Gaita review at Amazon located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Releases: 1958 - 1963

DVD Reviews

DVD Review: Sony (3-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC

 

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution Sony - Region 1 - NTSC
Time: Respectively - 1:47:28, 1:19:57 + 1:30:09 + 1:26:15 + 1:21:00 + 1:35:09

Bitrate:

Disc with Stop Me Before I Kill + Cash on Demand

Bitrate:

Disc with Snorkel + Maniac

Bitrate: Disc with Never Take Candy From a Stranger + These Are the Damned
Audio English (original mono)
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Sony

Aspect Ratio:
Aspect Ratios - 2:35:1 for Never Take Candy from a Stranger (1960), Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960), These Are The Damned (1963) + Maniac (1963) - 1.66:1 for The Snorkel + Cash on Demand

Edition Details:
trailers


DVD Release Date: April 6th, 2010

One Keep Case
Chapters: 12 X 6 films

 

Comments:

Much in the vein of Sony's Icons of Horror - Hammer Films or Icons of Adventure collections, the six feature films of this boxset are shared, two each on three dual-layered, progressive DVDs with all 6 widescreen features being anamorphically enhanced. Aspect ratio are correct at 2:35:1 for Never Take Candy from a Stranger (1960), Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960), These Are The Damned (1963) + Maniac (1963) - while The Snorkel + Cash on Demand, are in original 1.66. Each disc is coded for Region 1 in the NTSC standard. They have original mono audio (or 2.0 channel stereo) and the dialogue is supported by optional English subtitles. The 3 DVDs are unfortunately housed in one keep cases, stacked one on top of the other (boo!) - and they are not sold separately at this time. I believe, all except These are the Damned (a UK edition exists) of these particular NTSC editions, can only be obtained in Sony's Icons of Suspense - Hammer Films collection at present. I don't own the Sony UK edition of The Damned to compare but captures I have seen lead me to believe the quality is very similar.

Image quality: All 6 features are black and white, and essentially single-layered, and quality varies between them. The Snorkel and Cash on Demand look the best - the former even showing a bit of grain. These Are The Damned is a notch behind, Never Take Candy from a Stranger + Stop Me Before I Kill! are hazier and contrast can be a bit muddy. Maniac has some green infiltration with the worst contrast. I have no adamantly strong complaints with the way these pragmatic transfers look as my expectations were not very high.  There is some minor digital noise throughout but nothing distracting. There are no overt damage marks - just some minor light speckles here and there. I think the captures below give a fair representation of how the DVD package looks. They are certainly very watchable.

Audio was acceptable if unremarkable. It was consistent and clear enough and the dialogue is supported with optional English subtitles.

 

Unfortunately there are no extras save some trailers which are cute and can get you into the Hammer 'mood'!

 

This is a solid set and I had a ball indulging in late night viewings. Hammer always had a slight edge in quality over a lot of similar, cheesy, and marketable, films. Fans have an idea what they are in for - and this package shouldn't disappoint despite the lack of supplements and crappy 'stacked' housing of the individual discs. It amounts to $3-and-change per film and that is surely worth the investment for your digital library. Enjoy!

Gary W. Tooze


DVD Menus



 

The Snorkel (1958)

 

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Never Take Candy from a Stranger (1960)

 

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Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960)

 

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Cash on Demand (1961)


 

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These Are The Damned (1963)

 

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Maniac (1963)
 

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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

 

 

 

Distribution Sony - Region 1 - NTSC




 

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