Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films (Disc 1 of 3) Stop Me Before I Kill! / Cash on Demand (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.
Stop Me Before I Kill!: In this heavy drama, a race car driver suffers a head injury on his wedding day and becomes a mental case. The couple puts off their honeymoon while he is treated by a psychiatrist. Later when they make love, he tries to strangle her. This behavior becomes a habit, for every time they are romantic he becomes insanely angry with her. He thinks he has really gone 'round the bend until he sees his new bride and the shrink together. He goes to the doctor and confronts him. In turn, the shrink tries to make the man believe that he is hallucinating. A chase ensues between the men. The frightened doctor tries to flee in a cable car and ends up having a fatal fall. The married couple then continues their honeymoon.
Cash on Demand: A ruthless crook abducts the wife and child of a bank manager and then masquerades as an insurance company detective while scheming to rob the institution in this crime drama. Unfortunately, some of the manager's employees learn about the plot and the terrified manager must beg them to remain silent. Fortunately, the cops have been on the case all along.
Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films (Disc 2 of 3) The Snorkel / Maniac (1960)
The Snorkel: Paul Decker (Peter Van Eyck) arranges what seems to be the perfect murder of his wife, while at her home in Italy. Lightly drugging her into unconsciousness, he seals the room she is in and turns on the gas, and then dons a diving snorkel with hoses drawing air from the outside -- he remains hidden in the room beneath the floorboards even as the police investigate the crime scene. As far as they know, he was just over the border in France when Mrs. Decker committed what appears to be suicide -- and there is no reason to investigate further, beyond a routine inquest. But he doesn't bargain on Candy (Mandy Miller), his wife's daughter by her previous marriage -- she has long believed that Paul killed her own father, and is positive that he was responsible for her mother's death. Try as those around her -- including her guardian (Betts St. John) -- do to convince her otherwise, she won't let go of this idea. And when Paul kills Candy's dog Toto, she tells him he will have to kill her, because otherwise she will kill him. From that moment on, they are on a collision course, as Paul tries at once to protect himself, covering tracks that he never thought anyone would trace -- not having bargained on the obsessive girl -- and to discredit her in preparation for possibly having to kill her. Meanwhile, Candy waits, watches, and asks question after question, hoping for one clue or slip that will allow all of her suspicions to fall into place. And finally, after several rounds of cat-and-mouse, and a near-fatal encounter, they meet face-to-face at the scene of the crime.
Maniac: An American artist travels to rural France for a relaxing vacation and ends up falling for a lovely young woman, whose father is the owner of a cafe. Unfortunately, her father is not in town, as he is locked up in the local looney bin for immolating the man who raped his daughter. The trouble begins when the girl's stepmother seduces the artist and then convinces him to help her free her murderous husband, a man who cannot bear the thought of a man touching his beloved daughter.
Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films (Disc 3 of 3) Never Take Candy From A Stranger / These are the Damned (1960)
Never Take Candy From A Stranger: Set in Canada, this nasty little fable is about a respectable village elder (Patrick Allen) who is also a sexual deviate. Using candy as bait, he persuades two little girls to dance naked for him. When the girls complain to their parents, the old man is taken to court, but his prestige in town assures an acquittal. Inevitably, the man's perversities lead to the death of a child. The British title for this repellant film was Never Take Sweets From a Stranger; it was based on John Hunter's play The Pony Cart.
These Are the Damned: Joseph Losey directed this unusual science fiction effort, which has won a small but fervent cult following. Simon Wells (MacDonald Carey) is an American visiting England, where he meets a woman named Joan (Shirley Ann Field). Simon is immediately attracted to Joan, but there's a considerable obstacle in their budding romance: Joan's brother King (Oliver Reed), the leader of a violent pack of motorcycle rockers. King has a barely concealed incestuous attachment to his sister, and he sometimes uses her to lure victims into his gang's clutches. King and his cronies attack Simon, take his money, and leave him stranded, where he's eventually found by a pair of military security men. Simon is brought to the home of Bernard (Alexander Knox), a scientist working on a secret project for the government, and his girlfriend Freya (Viveca Lindfors), a sculptor. Joan eventually tracks Simon down in hopes of winning his forgiveness, but another run-in with King causes Simon and Joan to discover a cave that holds a terrible secret: a group of strange, cold-blooded children who were the products of one of Bernard's experiments gone wrong. The children were genetically engineered to survive a nuclear war, and, as a result, they are radioactive enough to kill anyone who comes in close contact with them. Controversial in its day, The Damned was produced in England in 1961 but was not released until 1963, when Hammer Films booked it as the second-half of a double bill with Maniac. It did not reach American screens until 1965, when it was shown under the title These Are the Damned.