Clad in street clothes and a snorkel, Paul Decker (Peter van Eyck) seals the windows and doors of a fashionably furnished living room. Then, he blows out the gas lanterns and cranks them up, filling the room with gas. He and his snorkel hide under the floor boards, safe from the noxious fumes. The unconscious woman on the sofa is not so lucky.
“I thought we were all wearing snorkels.”
Soon, police arrive at the Italian villa and rule the death a suicide. How else could a woman die in a locked room? Candy Brown (Mandy Miller), the woman’s daughter, disagrees and accuses Paul, Mom’s husband, of the deaths of her mother and of her father three years earlier in a diving accident. Diving-snorkel, get it? She can’t prove a thing and the local police don’t bother to investigate. No one believes her. She’s just a teenaged girl, after all.
She’s also wealthy and Paul wants that cash. The death of his wife leaves Mom’s fortune to Paul, but this pesky kid keeps complicating matters by telling police and anyone who’ll listen that he’s a murderer.
“He’s a murderer.”
Despite successfully convincing everyone else that Candy’s just a bratty, delusional kid, Paul finds her constant reminders of his recent murder off-putting. Candy’s accusations also interfere with his attempts to romance her caretaker, Jean (Betta St. John). In other words, the kid has to go. Can Paul pull off a third murder? Will the Italian police finally look more deeply into why a healthy, happily married mother would kill herself? Why, when renovating their lovely Italian villa in the late 1950s did Paul insist on keeping the gas lamps?
Directed by Guy Green and written for the screen by Jimmy Sangster and Peter Myers, THE SNORKEL boasts a creative plot and lovely black and white cinematography by Jack Asher. Anthony Dawson, the tall, long-faced criminal Ray Milland hires to kill Grace Kelly in DIAL M FOR MURDER, wrote the original story for THE SNORKEL. An atypical Hammer film, THE SNORKEL is one of the zippy thrillers like MANIAC and SCREAM OF FEAR Hammer made alongside their usual Gothic horrors like DRACULA and THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.
This is not Frankenstein.
THE SNORKEL is an entertaining, fast-paced thriller with an unusual plot and good acting. Peter van Eyck, who usually plays Nazis, does a terrific job as the homicidal stepfather and Mandy Miller convinces as the wronged daughter. Despite our knowing the identity of the killer from the beginning of the film, we’re still intrigued by Paul’s meticulous murder plot and we wonder to what lengths he’ll go to hide his crimes and get what he wants. The film doesn’t delve too deeply into background or motive, but who cares? We’re more interested in Paul’s sly machinations and Candy’s methods of stopping him to look for plot holes. Also, THE SNORKEL has a dynamite ending. What a fun way to spend ninety minutes!
“What do you mean we’re twenty feet short?”