Archive for the ‘Jimmy Sangster’ Tag

Maniac (1963)   Leave a comment

maniac poster

American artist Jeff Farrell (Kerwin Matthews) stumbles into an isolated village in the Camargue region of southern France and meets Annette Beynat (Liliane Brousse).  There’s obvious chemistry between them, but Annette gets blocked by her stepmother, the sexy Eve Beynat (Nadia Gray).  Eve’s still married to Annette’s dad, but he’s out of town so Eve makes a play for Jeff.  She’s very subtle.  After Eve and Jeff go horseback riding, she takes off her blouse and asks him to towel her off.

hug
“Jeff? Are we still on for tonigh…oh.”

It works.  Soon, they’re making the beast with two backs all over the place and Annette’s left out in the cold.  There’s just one little problem.  Eve still has that pesky husband.  I said he was out of town, right?  Well, he is.  He’s in an asylum for the criminally insane for using an acetylene torch to kill the guy who raped Annette years earlier.

torchy
“Just a little off the eyes.”

And you thought ONE LIFE TO LIVE was complicated.  Eve says her husband has all his marbles.  He just went a bit overboard (a bit) and if Jeff helps him escape from the sanitarium, he’ll leave the country and start a new life leaving Eve and Jeff to do the horizontal mambo as much as they want.  Sounds logical, right?  Jeff, blinded by lust, says he’d love to help a torch-wielding maniac (TITLE-DRINK!) out of the booby hatch and can we do that toweling-off thing again, honey?  Anyway, cool asylum-escaping ensues, but things go a little twisty.  Will Jeff do crimey stuff?  Will Eve’s husband find his matches?  Will Annette get a little action?  Will Eve take Jeff horseback riding again?  Please?

torch check
“An adjustment et voilà! Ready for your close-up!”

Writer Jimmy Sangster loved LES DIABOLIQUES.  He set MANIAC and SCREAM OF FEAR in France and added a bunch of plot twists in both.  He also cast women in lead roles and made them strong and smart.  Eve’s a real multi-tasker too.  She runs a tavern while hatching an escape plot and seducing a young stranger.  Way to go, Eve!  Sangster writes realistic dialogue and the plot hums along nicely.  Director Michael Carreras and cinematographer Wilkie Cooper keep the mood tense and the atmosphere noirish.  There are some terrific night shots around the inn and later, they film a nifty climax in a cavernous quarry.

final battle
“This is the biggest version of Don’t Break the Ice I’ve ever seen.”

This film is a hoot.  Despite the over-the-top elements of the story, it’s all very natural.  It’s naturally gruesome, but MANIAC was made by Hammer so they have to have a soupcon of gore.  It’s in the contract.   I had fun watching this one.  The cast, screenplay, location, and complexity combine to make it a fun watch and Sinbad, uh, Kerwin is a cutie.

cyclops
“Anybody else see a Cyclops?”

 

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The Snorkel (1958)   1 comment

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.

hammer-the-snorkel
“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.


Very subtle, Candy.

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.

murd
“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?


“Why not electricity?”

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.

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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!

iconsofsuspense002
“What do you mean we’re twenty feet short?”

Scream of Fear (1961)   3 comments

poster scream

When a film starts out with a crew of locals dredging a lake, you know you’re in for a treat.

Penny Appleby (yes, really) anyway, Penny Appleby (Susan Strasberg) arrives by chauffeured limousine to the home of her estranged father in Nice, but is disappointed to learn that he’s away on business.  Sure.  He hasn’t seen his daughter in ten years and he chooses this exact time to leave town.  Wheelchair-bound Penny immediately starts seeing her out-of-town dad sitting in chairs, slumped over in the pool house, and generally, dead.

dadclose
“Hi, honey.”

Oddly, these sightings prey on her mind.  Soon Penny’s stepmother, Jane (Ann Todd) begins to suggest that Penny might need psychological help.  This idea is approved by the omnipresent Dr. Pierre Gerrard (Christopher Lee with a French accent!).

lee
“Oui!  Oui!”

Penny’s not alone though.  Robert, the chauffeur (Ronald Lewis) is drawn to Penny.  At first, he feels sorry for the lonely girl, but as more suspicious things happen, Robert becomes Penny’s ally.  The two amateur sleuths launch a clandestine investigation into the possible disappearance and probable death of her father.  They also theorize on the reasons (money) that his death might work out well for certain people.

cutie
“I’m hot, therefore good.”

Director, Seth Holt (The Nanny) builds tension and the script by Jimmy Sangster (Horror of Dracula) is spare and intelligent.  Cinematographer, Douglas Slocombe (The Servant), makes good use of darkness and candlelight and also does one of my favorite things…he waits.  He and Holt let the actors do their thing and allow Sangster’s twisty story to unfurl.  My one critique is Susan Strasberg.  Yes, I know her dad is Hyman Roth and taught generations how to act.  I just think he forgot to teach her.  She’s shrill and you never really connect with her and that’s her fault.  She’s the weak link in an otherwise superb thriller.  Hammer Films made a number of thriller/mysteries along with the numerous horror films the studio is famous for.  They’re not as well known as the gothic horrors, but they’re worth checking out.  This is a good one.

acting
“Stand back!  I’m acting!”

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