"The Icons of Suspense Collection: Hammer Films" is Sony's follow-up to their two other Hammer sets. The films featured in this set are some of Hammer's most obscure. All of the six included are debuting on Region 1 DVD. Having written reveiws for other Hammer product, I would like to put down my thoughts on this set, disc by disc.
STOP ME BEFORE I KILL! stars Ronald Lewis (TASTE OF FEAR, MR. SARDONICUS) as a man convinced he's being driven to kill his wife. The film was directed by Hammer veteran Val Guest, which means it has some interesting details, but with a running time of 108 minutes, the story is a bit overlong.
CASH ON DEMAND This film has about three or four sets, a small cast, and not much action--yet it may be the best picture in this set. Peter Cushing stars as an anal bank manager, and Andre Morell opposes him as the mysterious and somewhat charming bank robber, "The Colonel". Cushing and Morell spend most of the movie verbally sparring with one another, but the actors are so good, and the tension so high, you'll forget you're just watching two guys talking. Peter Cushing is my idol, but I have to admit, Andre Morell steals the show.
THE SNORKEL Peter Van Eyck (who starred in a number of German Edgar Wallace thrillers) stars as a man who thinks he's committed the perfect crime. This picture has a great opening, and it also features Betta St. John (CORRIDORS OF BLOOD, HORROR HOTEL).
MANIAC This is one of several "mini-Hitchcocks" that were written by Hammer's Jimmy Sangster in the early 60's to capitalize on the success of PSYCHO. If you've seen the other Sangster Hammer thrillers (TASTE OF FEAR, PARANOIAC, NIGHTMARE) you'll know pretty much what to expect and you'll probably be able to guess the plot twists. Film buffs will note that the leading man is Kerwin Mathews, who may have been the best Sinbad ever.
NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM A STRANGER This is a drama about, believe it or not, child molestation. One would think right off the bat that because it is a Hammer film, it's pure exploitation, but this is actually a well-crafted, serious, and gripping story. Out of all the movies in this set, this one surprised me the most. It stars Hammer favorite Patrick Allen.
THESE ARE THE DAMNED This well-renowned, cult science-fiction film is making it's DVD debut in the longest version of the movie available. While watching this, I was constantly reminded of THE BIRDS (the coastal setting, the slow build-up, the camera looking down on the characters and the action from far away). I won't give away the story, but here's a few items of note: in the beginning of the film, Shirley Anne Field wears some of the tightest pants in entertainment history (at least until Robert Conrad in "The Wild, Wild West" came along), and the soundtrack has a rock & roll song, "Black Leather Rock". The song's lyrics are so over the top that it almost ruins the story's mood.
This was directed by Joseph Losey, a man beloved by critics. The movie is excellent, but I wonder how much of a reputation THE DAMNED would have if it had been helmed by one of Hammer's regulars. Oliver Reed plays the crazed gang leader King, and like most of the Hammer roles Reed played, he makes a bigger impression than the leading cast.
Overall, if you are a Hammer fan, or someone who appreciates classic suspense movies, this is a must buy. This set doesn't contain any of the cheesy Hammer monster movies beloved by fans, but it will pleasantly surprise those who have never seen or heard of the films included in this set. All the films here are black & white, but they are all in widescreen and the picture and sound quality is superb for product that is almost all fifty years old. Once again, Sony hits it out of the park.