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The Icons of Suspense Collection: Hammer Films (Stop Me Before I Kill! / Cash on Demand / The Snorkel / Maniac / Never Take Candy from a Stranger / These Are the Damned)

Macdonald Carey , Shirley Anne Field , Cyril Frankel , Guy Green    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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The Icons of Suspense Collection: Hammer Films (Stop Me Before I Kill! / Cash on Demand / The Snorkel / Maniac / Never Take Candy from a Stranger / These Are the Damned) + Icons of Horror: Hammer Films
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  • Icons of Horror: Hammer Films CDN$ 20.02


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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


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Yves-Michel TOP 500 REVIEWER
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Writing a review on such package is always a bit tricky, even if the Sleeve suggest a homogene film selection, it is almost never the case.

Hammer association with the horror genre casted a shadow over the rest of the filmmakers catalogue. They often venture in the Suspense/Thriller type of stories. But true to their style, there is always a very evil (Read : Monster) character at the center of each film. The 6 movies only slightly vary in style as they all are (more or less) Whodunits flicks. The exceptions are "....Damned" and "Cash...".

I set the bar very high as I watched "Cash on Demand` first. Peter Cushing (as dark as usual) is stuck in an Avengers-like scenario, where he has to help steal his own bank. "... Damned" is a totally disturbing SCI-FI movie. The "Government experimenting with kids" subject has been used many times, but never with such flair and finesse. "..Candy from strangers" has more power nowadays and is standing the test of time. The whole scenario about Kids molesters being protected by thightly knitted villagers will get your blood boiling. The other 3 films are "who is the killer" simple films. They are OK. The weak one is "The Snorkel". You just cannot wait until it ends.as you are told who is the bad guy in the opening scene.

All of them, are well-produced. Some world-class actors, producers and filmmakers were involved. Quality is A+..The packaging is garbage. The disk on disk multidisc box deserves an E-.

Overall, the package is a very good deal for Hammer films fans and movie lovers. You just have to accept that you will not fall in love with ALL the movies.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Icons of Suspense - Hammer Films May 31 2010
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Hammer is better known for its colour horror remakes of the classics - Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy - however, these black and white gems should not be overlooked. They are all consistently great. My only complaint, and this goes for Sony's last Icon title as well (Icons of Science Fiction - Toho) is the case. For some reason, they package the disks in a case where they are stacked one on top the other, which could lead to scratching of the individual disks. They produce a quality package of films and then go cheap on the packaging, go figure.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  36 reviews
64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cash On Demand! (At Last!) April 3 2010
By Mr. B. Fraser - Published on Amazon.com
A superb trio DVD disc set of Hammers' Columbia releases! Of great interest here because they have not seen the light of day for nearly fifty years! Good clean, crisp and sharp bright transfers! Minimal packaging no booklet but, it matters not! I was delighted to view the full length version of 'Cash On Demand' a taut and superb suspenser with an excellent script with sardonic and alternating comical dialogue-no spoilers here for those yet to see! 'Never Take Candy From A Stranger' is another gem dealing with (then) with the very real threat of child abduction. 'The Snorkel' another suspenser-worth a look. Three others-all in crisp black & white-don't wait until this set is out of print-you'll never get over it!
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sony's Best ICONS Collection Yet. April 9 2010
By Chip Kaufmann - Published on Amazon.com
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Sony's ICONS OF SUSPENSE sets the highwater mark for releases in their ICONS series so far. This is the third in the series after ICONS OF ADVENTURE and ICONS OF HORROR to feature releases from England's Hammer Films. Two other sets, ICONS OF SCIENCE FICTION, feature Japanese movies from Toho Studios and low budget offerings from producer Sam Katzman. There is also an ICONS OF HORROR set featuring Boris Karloff. All three Hammer releases have featured lesser known fare although Columbia Pictures (now part of Sony) released more Hammer offerings than any other major American studio. What makes this set especially appealing is that none of these films have appeared on DVD before and they are presented uncut and in their original aspect ratio which is key to at least two of the films (NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM A STRANGER, THESE ARE THE DAMNED) which feature stunning black and white cinematography. Unlike the previous two ICON releases, you get 6 movies with this set instead of 4.

All of the films were made and released between 1958 and 1963 after Hammer had made it big with their Gothic horror films. They also made a number of so called "psychological thrillers" in the vein of PSYCHO although some were made before it. Disk 1 has STOP ME BEFORE I KILL which dates from 1958 and shows the dark side of psychiatry. CASH ON DEMAND, from 1961, features a taut script and one of Peter Cushing's best non-horror performances. Disk 2 has THE SNORKEL (1958) and MANIAC (1963), about a perfect crime and a twisted killer, are the least of the set but still worthwhile. Disk 3 is worth the whole package for it contains beautiful uncut versions of two 1960 classics NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM A STRANGER about pedophilia and THESE ARE THE DAMNED, a multi-layerd offering from Joseph Losey (THE SERVANT). If you enjoy quality cinema on a meager budget then check out what the Hammer team did with these 6 titles. CASH ON DEMAND and Disk 3 are so good, I could watch them over and over again.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another must-have DVD set from Sony April 14 2010
By Dan Day - Published on Amazon.com
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"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.

Disc One

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.

Disc Two

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.

Disc Three

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.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Set of Six Superb Films! Oct. 4 2010
By Richard Masloski - Published on Amazon.com
I was looking for some quality entertainment for the Halloween season and picked this collection up in a store. It was a "used" copy so I bought it at a good price. (If it wasn't used I probably would have held onto my money.) But....boy, I am so glad I purchased this. The movies are excellent and make for exciting, thought-provoking viewing. I don't want to give away too much, but offer here just a few observations and insights into the collection. And this collection is worth every penny! There are 3 discs with 2 movies on each and are as follows:

1) "Stop Me Before I Kill" - This is the weakest and most predictable of all the films. But it is still well-written, acted, directed - and the end may very well have been the inspiration for the ending of the recent "Shutter Island."

2) "Cash on Demand" - Based on a play and seeming very much like a filmed play actually helps in creating that perfect sense of confinement and being trapped that is essential to the plot. There is a touch of "A Christmas Carol" to it, also - and Peter Cushing gives perhaps the best performance of his long career in this movie.

3) "The Snorkel" - This movie is like an episode of "Columbo" in that the crime is shown in the beginning sequence but instead of Peter Falk we rely on a young girl to solve the case. There is the sparring twixt killer and "investigator" that was the largest part of the "Columbo" series. And in this movie there is a basset hound that will surely remind you of Columbo's pet dog which had a recurring role in several of the "Columbo" episodes. But all "Columbo" similarities aside, this is one heck of a film!

4) "Maniac" stars Kerwin ("Seventh Voyage of Sinbad")Mathews in a movie that isn't as good as the two mentioned above, but it has a fantastic locale (the south of France) and a keeps-one-guessing story-line that by-and-large works.

5) "Never Take Candy From A Stranger" left me slack-jawed. It is an amazingly powerful film conveyed in the simplest of ways - and the story-line is perhaps even more relevant today than it is when the film was made. This is frightening film - but not due to gore and guts and graphic excess. It is frightening because it is so subtly done and shows like no other film I can think of "the banality of evil." This and "Cash on Demand" are the two best features in the collection.

6) "These Are The Damned" is totally unpredictable and utterly engaging - because you don't have a clue where it is going. And Life is like that. So on this one especially, rid yourself of any and all expectation as to where it will lead you.

There is no CGI in any of these films, no blood and guts that are supposed to be shocking but no longer are because they have been used time and again to the point of overkill (all pun intended) ; no...these films (three of which are bona-fide classics by my lights), these films rely on strong stories, excellent acting and fabulous direction and photography. And the music doesn't constantly dictate how you're supposed to feel as strongly as movie scores of today often have a habit of doing. These are movies from a time when plot was paramount, when dialogue mattered, when the film-makers knew how to walk the tightrope subtly without falling into the net of sensationalism. This collection is a treasure-trove of obscure films that might have been forever lost without the advent of DVD. So I suggest you get 'em while they last! (Unless, of course, you prefer fast-paced, action-packed, overly scored, underwritten, CGI laden movies that have, sadly, become the norm for these hectic, hellish times.)
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A MASTERPIECE, A VERY GOOD FILM AND FOUR OTHER MOVIES ALREADY FORGOTTEN Jan. 25 2012
By Daniel S. - Published on Amazon.com
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THE FULL TREATMENT

**1/2 British psycho-thriller. Sex with her husband means certain death for poor Denise Colby so she restrains herself for the time being and contents herself with nude sea bathing in the Mediterranean while Doctor Prade's concupiscent binoculars are observing her (gasp!). After these exciting beginnings, I admit that I nearly felt asleep during Allan Colby's psychoanalysis before waking up for the finale. In short, the film is 30 minutes too long but will certainly please amateurs of British thrillers.

CASH ON DEMAND

** My favorite scene of Cash on Demand is the opening credits one with superb travellings driving us from the main door of the bank to its strongroom. The rest of the film is watchable with an agreeable outdated charm but I often had the feeling to see a play and not a film. Good Peter Cushing performance, though. Already forgotten.

THE SNORKEL

**1/2. Routine British thriller with at least two great scenes: the first describes van Eyck's pre Jaws shark-like attempt to drown Candy and, of course, the film's last scene. Just too bad that Hammer preferred a happy ending to a more disturbing and cruel one. Recommended to Hammer fans and nostalgic ones though.

MANIAC

** One or two interesting scenes like the final scene in a gravel pit that could have been used as a set for H. Rider Haggard's She. That's about all. Recommended to Hammer films fans, only.

NEVER TAKE SWEETS FROM A STRANGER

***1/2 A very good surprise. The movie could have been sanctimonious but isn't. The theme is very daring considering it was shot in 1960, the photography - thank you, Freddie Francis - superb and the villain one of the most disturbing characters I've seen in a long time. Highly recommended.

THE DAMNED

***** Joseph Losey is outrageously disregarded nowadays, let's admit it. Like Richard Brooks, he must wait for a better future and crawl through history limbo with a hopeful smile. Take The Damned for instance, a sci-fi mystery produced by Hammer films during the Cold War: nobody cares for it. After five minutes, you know for sure that this film is directed by an auteur and not by a yes man obsessed by special effects or the description of improbable aliens. The Damned could very well be the best movie ever produced by the British production company. Masterpiece.
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