Taste of Fear (1961) Twisty Wheelchair Bound Thriller From Hammer Film Productions

This review is for another British thriller from Hammer Films called Taste of Fear (1961)

What’s going down?

Penny was having a really rough time of it. Her father had left, remarried and moved to the French Riviera with his new bride. Then in a tragic horse riding accident, she’d fallen and broken her back, resulting in her legs becoming paralysed. She begun to get used to the wheelchair and was getting her life back together. Until the horrifying discovery that her best friend had drowned. She was of course traumatised by all these devastating events. Penny receives an invitation from her father to stay in his Riviera mansion and recuperate. The hard part for her after excepting this invite was, one, she hadn’t seen her father for ten years and the second, she really didn’t care for her stepmother at all. However, maybe it would do her the world of good to relax and try to come to terms with her life. The problem was, where was her Dad, why was her stepmother so nice and who was this strange doctor who kept appearing for dinner?

The main players

Susan Strasberg plays Penny Appleby
Ronald Lewis plays Robert
Ann Todd plays Jane Appleby
Christopher Lee plays Doctor Gerrard

Tagline – (On the poster of a screaming Strasberg) This is positively the only photograph we can show you!… Because we refuse to reveal the story’s shocking qualities!

Sure I’ve seen them in something?

Here’s the four main players…

Susan Strasberg I hadn’t recognised but was sure I knew the name. Maybe I’d forgotten because of all the acid I’d taken before I’d pressed play? Oh I’m only joking because I’m soon reminded of whom she was whilst looking through her work. Her name and face suddenly dawned on me. She was the psychedelic hippy chick in The Trip (1967) alongside Peter Fonda in the bonkers Roger Corman druggy drama. Plus she was at it again with Jack Nicholson in more hippy spaced out free love drama in Psych-Out (1968). As time passed by she would get caught up with a blackmailer in Rollercoaster (1977) and then taken hostage with hijackers in the Chuck Norris action vehicle Delta Force (1986).

Ronald Lewis plays Penny’s father’s chauffeur Robert. A general helping hand wandering around the place looking hunky. I knew I recognised him from a few films, which did indeed lead to me ranking my brains. It wasn’t until I looked at his filmography that it clicked. The two main ones I knew, I’d reviewed them! He played a detective alongside Jack Warner in the much recommended murder mystery, Jigsaw (1962) from director Val Guest. He’d also appeared in the Napoleonic warship film Billy Budd (1962) which starred Peter Ustinov and Terence Stamp. A truly astonishing piece of moving drama if you haven’t seen it.

I don’t believe I knew of Ann Todd before this film though I had seen her in the David Lean film The Sound Barrier (1952) and didn’t know who she was. She’s been smashing out films right back from 1931! She also starred in an Alfred Hitchcock film with Gregory Peck called The Paradine Case (1947). I read a quote she said about Taste of Fear that made me chuckle a little, “I found Susan Strasberg impossible to work with-all that ‘Method’ stuff.

Is there any real point listing how great Christopher Lee was! A true legend of cinema. From horror classics and monster movies alike…. What was amazing, is how he also transgressed into newer films, with younger viewers discovering him in the form of Count Dooku in the Star Wars saga to Saruman in The Lord of the Rings. In Taste of Fear he plays the ominous family Doctor Gerrard along with a rather dodgy French accent!

Notes on production?

Taste Of Fear is the original name for this film. Lets be honest, Taste of Fear does sound a bit odd! The American release changed it to the more sensible and to the point, Scream of Fear! Susan Strasberg gets to do exactly that a few times. Can’t remember her poking her tongue out and tasting the fear?

This Hammer Films movie is directed by Seth Holt who sadly died at the young age of 47 from heart failure! He came up through the ranks at the Ealing Studio’s working as an editor on The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) and Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) to name a few. His debut film as an director was the British thriller called Nowhere To Go (1958) which I have on my to watch list. He also had Bette Davis as his leading lady in the mystery thriller The Nanny (1965).

This Welch man missed a trick! He should of changed his name to Gangster! Jimmy Sangster wrote so many great thrillers, he was prolific. A proper original gangster of Hammer films and thriller writing. Twists and turns and suspenseful horrors were a specialty for him. Check The Snorkel (1958) for another bout of Hammer thrills.

What’s incredible, aside from the brilliant script, is the camera work. It’s so atmospheric. The director of photography was Douglas Slocombe. A man who lived to be 103 and has a endless list of credits for his filming skills. Too many to name but here goes a few, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and the following two sequels. Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), The Italian Job (1969) Robbery (1967) The Man in the White Suit (1951) The Third Secret (1964) and the lucky fella even got to look through the camera lens ogling the super sexy beauty that is Raquel Welch in Fathom (1967).

Hits like a sledge hammer

There’s many wonderful suspenseful moments, mostly coming from strange camera angles and the eerie dark, there’s something in the shadows. To mention any of this would take away from the true creepy nature of them. So for the hammer blow for this section I will go for opening scene on the river. A spectacular picturesque landscape that reveals itself to a very unsettling scene. The tranquil framed shot of boats peacefully fishing on the river is in fact the police dredging the vast water for a body! When said body is found, a short scene shows two men struggling to bring it onboard their small boat. I found it a very disturbing scene.

Cutting remarks

Penny ApplebyDon’t treat me like I am a mental defective!

Verdict

Sir Christopher Lee is quoted in the The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films book of saying Taste Of Fearwas the best film that I was in that Hammer ever made.!“. High praise indeed. I have many Hammer films to go find out if he was right, however, I will add that this is a truly fantastic mystery horror. Featuring brilliant performances throughout this moody and very chilling thriller. The dark settings, the well used light that really draws you into the nooks and crannies of dark recesses of the old house. The camera moves in strange ways and hangs from different angles. Literally letting light shades have their own space in the frame. The story develops at a nice pace, slowly working through it’s reasonably short run-time. The four main players all captivate you with their screen-time. There’s no doubt this is Susan Strasberg film and she gives a stunning performance. If you get a chance to see it, please make time for it, I’m sure you will like it as much as Sir Lee and I did.

Rating score

Wolfman’s rating 9.0/10       IMDB 7.4/10

Feel free to recommend me related movies and any other trivia if you wish. Keep having fun at the movies…. Mikey Wolf

The Snorkel (1958) The Ruthless Gas Man Cometh But From Where?

This review is for the British thriller, The Snorkel (1958)

What’s going down?

Set on the coastline of Italy just a stones throw from the French Italian border. We start inside a room of a grand old villa. The room was dark. Enough light shone through the half opened window shutters to see this man with white blond hair meticulously move around the living room. He looked decisively shifty? You could see he’d planned out whatever he was doing weeks or month before. It felt like he almost had a spring to his step. You watch him as he begins to do strange things. Rinsing old glasses of milk before taping up windows and doors. For what reason would he do that? It was like he was sealing himself in. He remembers the rug by the door, quickly rolls it up, pushing it tight into the gap at the bottom. Was he done? He checks, then turns the lights off. Hang on, these are gaslights? With gas pouring into the room you can only imagine he is about to commit suicide. He takes a seat ready for his demise. But wait, he takes something out of a bag and places it on his head?…

The films title might give it away but whatever happens it’s not this man’s death that will be investigated but his wife’s. For this man has achieved the perfect crime. An open and shut case. The investigating Italian inspector seems to think so. However the poor young Candy, the man’s step daughter, has other ideas. Idea’s that will mean he will have to start his chilling cold calculating murderous ways again…

The main players

Mandy Miller plays Candy Brown
Peter van Eyck plays Paul Decker
Betta St. John plays Jean Edwards
Grégoire Aslan plays Inspector
William Franklyn plays Wilson

Tagline – Teenage Girl Vs. … Killer-With-A-Gimmick

Sure I’ve seen them in something?

Mandy Miller plays the grieving young detective Candy Brown and the real star of this film. She was a seasoned child actress having appeared in many films like the quirky comedy with Alec Guinness in The Man in the White Suit (1951). She would star in the award winning drama Mandy (1952) being nominated for Most Promising Newcomer To Film at the BAFTA Awards in 1953. She played a deaf and mute girl alongside Phyllis Calvert, Jack Hawkins and Terence Morgan. She missed out on the award losing to Claire Bloom in Limelight (1952). I haven’t seen Mandy but it sounds an excellent drama, I really hope to see it soon. It is also called Crash of Silence. Mandy Miller is also famous for singing the 1956 novelty record Nellie The Elephant.

Peter van Eyck would be typecast as a go to villainous Nazi officer so it’s nice to see him as just a ruthless scheming murderer here! He’s fantastic, very creepy and conniving in the part. He might be best known for his part in the extremely suspenseful nitroglycerine film, The Wages Of Fear (1953) where he plays Bimba. Also the German agent in superb Cold War thriller The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) His filmography is chockablock even with his untimely death at the age of 57.

Betta St. John plays Candy’s travelling companion and kind of au-pair. I haven’t seen her before as I look through her credits. Though she has a couple of Tarzan films on her CV, so it’s possible I’d seen them in my youth. One film in there that looks very interesting is a horror mystery going by the name The City of the Dead (1960). Have you seen it? Worth a watch? Feel free to let me know.

Notes on production?

Guy Green is in the directors chair for this Hammer Films outing. He is known for films like The Angry Silence (1960) with Richard Attenborough and A Patch of Blue (1965) with Sidney Poiter and famously became the first British Director of Photography to win an Academy Award for the David Lean‘s drama Great Expectations (1946).

The Snorkel is said to be written by Scottish actor Anthony Dawson. Though there doesn’t seem to be a published novel that I can find and reading on Wiki it says there’s some confusion over the fact. With a process off elimination being that leads Anthony Dawson as the likely true author. What is fact is Anthony Dawson was a fantastic actor and can be seen in films like Dr No (1962) Midnight Lace (1960) and in Alfred Hitchcock’s murder mystery Dial M For Murder (1954). Plus here’s a little pub quiz answer that could arise over a few jars of beer. You could put him down as actors playing James Bond’s nemesis in Blofeld. He plays the villain in From Russia with Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965) however you only see the back of his head and hands with his voice dubbed by Eric Pohlmann!

The screenwriting duties went to Peter Myers and a Welsh guy called Jimmy Sangster who was prolific. He wrote a ton of horror, thriller titles and a heap of Hammer Films. Way too many to list but here are three The Horror of Frankenstein (1970), which he also directed I must add. X the Unknown (1956), a Quatermass film without Quatermass! and a change of direction in the babe-full spy film Deadlier Than the Male (1967) which I’ve reviewed if you wanna look at the pictures..

This is another of the Hammer Films company taking a turn from their usual classic Gothic style horror and producing this mystery thriller. The Snorkel is filmed in and around the stunning looking Villa della Pergola, Alassio, Italy. Which you can stay in if you like, it does look very fancy.

Hits like a sledge hammer

My silly fault for putting this question in here. It’s hard to say anything without giving away spoilers. There are four that I say hit pretty good for that factor we the viewer are looking for. Those movie moments that make you either gasp or go “No way that’s crazy!” or “Dear God!“. I’m gonna mention them in a roundabout kind of way, so be warned to jump on if you don’t wish to know or be even any ideas… That first moment you see the mask reveal as the beginning credits start rolling is dark as F!… Then the riffling through his cupboards looking for his passport and you see the smoke and sense the figure behind her… The John Wick (2014) moment! I know right how could they?.. And the end scene. You see it coming but they add a nice little touch to it. They back out being completely dark but you know deep down why they had too. Therapy sessions would of been too costly! Either way it was skillfully played out.

Cutting remarks

Paul Decker –We did have fun on holiday?
Candy Brown –Yes that was before you killed my Daddy!

Verdict

The Snorkel is an excellent well written thriller. Everyone plays their role well with Peter van Eyck the right side of menacing without hamming it up. However it’s Mandy Miller character that grows through the runtime. From an innocent 14 year trying to figure out how she could possibly snare her black-hearted step father and bring him to justice. Without the help of the inept police department she has to do it alone. You see her grow as she puts herself in the line of danger. At first I worried that she might be extremely annoying until she dropped that line above. That was a gut punch. The camera work is exceptional at times. One creative camera shot follows Candy’s night walk to the murder scene. The camera passes through brushes and trees as it follows along the twisting path in the dead of night. It’s a neat little thriller and well worth giving a go. Do try and see the original UK version with a runtime of 90 minutes as the US version I read has been cut down to 74 minutes. I don’t know what you could cut by 14 minutes?

The Snorkel is on YouTube to stream here at time of writing.

Rating score

Wolfman’s rating 8.0/10       IMDB 6.8/10

PS If you wanna read more on The Snorkel visit Mike’s Take On The Movies excellent review.

Feel free to recommend me related movies and any other trivia if you wish. Keep having fun at the movies…. Mikey Wolf

Raw Deal (1986) Arnold Schwarzenegger Takes On The Mob

This weeks nostalgic look back at the rental movies from my youth brings me to action on the streets of Chicago in Raw Deal (1986)

Tagline – The government gave him a raw deal. Nobody gives him a raw deal! “How bad is that tagline?

Who’s our hero today?
One of the kings of action, the Austrian Oak, Arnold “Arnie” Schwarzenegger flexes his muscles whilst crushing bones with his hammer fists.

Had I seen this one on VHS back in the day?
Yeah of course, Arnie movies were essential for any self respecting teenager or adult, especially after Terminator (1984) and Commando (1985) and the two Conan films all being multiple renters. To see a new Arnie appear on the shelves was so exciting. The following year Predator (1987) would arrive and shit got real!

Quick plot run down.
Sheriff Mark Kaminski used to work in the FBI before being made to resign and moved out to a small-town. With news reaching him of the death of the son of his old FBI partner Agent Harry Shannon he is asked to help track down the killers. Those killers happen to be part of the Chicago Mob and completely untouchable. Harry needed Mark to infiltrate the Mob and bring the organisation down from within and help him revenge his son’s death. Mark goes deep undercover, changes his name to Joseph P. Brenner and suits up for the job in hand. Of course this will also mean opening a can of whoop ass on a bunch of mobsters and dropping cheesy one liners along the way.

Detective Baker – “What’s the “P” stand for?Joseph P. Brenner – “Pussy!“????

Does the hero have a day job?
Sheriff Mark Kaminski (Arnold Schwarzenegger) uses his tough FBI training skills to give small-time felons the cold hand of justice in his newly demoted small town job. He’s reasonably happy cleaning up the place from the criminals as the local overweight cops watch on as superman goes to work. However his home life is less than ideal. His wife has become an alcoholic after having to leaving her family and friends in the City after Mark lost his job.

What’s our heroes special skills?
One special skill is to blend in, to fit in and not look suspicious in any way. How does he do that you may ask? Well simples, he dyes his hair dark and slicks it back. Not sure if that was to make him look Italian? or just bad ass?

Heroes weapon of choice?
Shotguns, a variety of side arms, Uzi and his trusty promo poster gun, the Heckler & Koch HK94 and of course pure muscle strength.

Heroes drink of choice?
If his character is anything like his big Austrian roots then like our Arnie he would be smashing back one litre sized beer stein’s and adding the next Oktoberfest to his diary. Say in Arnie’s voice – “Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer.

Does hero have a sidekick?
His old colleague and friend from the FBI Agent Harry Shannon (Darren McGavin). He has the resources to fund Mark’s infiltration into the organisation. Fancy suits, massive cigars and a few pots of Dax hair pomade (This is not a sponsor, other hair products available). He organises from the sidelines with surveillance and records the developments.

Hot girl? Damsel in distress or ass kicker?
Monique (Kathryn Harrold) likes the finer things in life but can’t resist gambling all her money away. She doesn’t have luck on her side. Until she bumps into undercover Arnie. She might not get lucky with him but she does get to unleash some stored up tension. She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty. Dismantling a mannequin she swings out at attacking gangsters with arms and a “severed” head. Kathryn Harrold is great in her part, forever chain smoking and adding, at times, a little bit of comedy between the twosome.

Who’s the main baddie?
Luigi Patrovita (Sam Wanamaker) is the high up crime boss of the Chicago mafia. His right-hand man is Paulo Rocca (Paul Shenar) who runs his lieutenant hit man Max Keller (Robert Davi).

Baddies special skills?
Money, power and many inside corrupt cops, lawyer etc on the payroll.

Psycho baddies rating out of ten? 7/10
There’s a lot of them which has to bump up the score. Head boss man on his own actually doesn’t do much at all though is that what being the boss is all about? Send in the minions.

Heroes balls of steel and anger ratings out of ten? 9/10
He goes full Terminator. Actually literally. He dons the black leather jacket whilst blasting his way in like the T-800 carnaged its way through the police station.

Surely it features a training montage scene?
Not a training one but we do get a weapon-up montage in a riff, rip-off of his Commando gearing up for war. Just without Bazookas and Claymore mines.

Does it feature an impossible mission?
Is any mission impossible with Arnie on the case? He’s taken on alien hunters, clones of himself, robots from the future, Satan, Sinbad and Batman. The Mob should be a push over for him.

Does the hero get a chance to show off their muscles?
Any chance he can grab his Stanley Kowalski wife beater vest and pop those guns out, we all know he’s gonna take it.

Will I be needing to pause the video player? AKA are there any boobies?
Diddly squat I’m afraid to report, though Monique does reveal a few tasteful cleavage shots.

Sex scene?
No nothing at all. Oh wait, hang on. Monique wants a piece of that man mountain. Both drunk she takes off his shirt to reveal his pecs. “Oh… my… God!” she says just as Mark instantly passes out.

Any good totally random surprise scenes?
I can’t think of any to be honest. Could add Mark’s drunk wife pissed at him, as she writes shit on a cake before throwing it at him. “You shouldn’t drink and bake!” Yeah that’s another real bad one liner from our Arnie…

Films body count? Low/Medium/High
Has to be high 30s?

Best death scene?
Easy this one. I don’t know if it was intentional but to have The Rolling Stones playing as a baddie falls from a crane into a rolling stone boulder compactor in a quarry was genius or a lucky accident? Also funny how he took the time to record over the actually cassette tape he puts in the car stereo which had The Crusaders – Street Life written on it.

Explosion ratio? Low/Medium/High?
We get the mother of all explosions at an oil refinery. TBH thinking back I have no idea why he did it? Maybe to pretend he had died, it was a bit excessive. It took out the whole factory processing plant lighting up the sky for miles…

How many stuntmen probably really died making this film?
Some of the punches being thrown about did look to connect at times and heads hitting walls sure looked like they had to hurt. I’d guess no deaths but some black eyes and bruised cheekbones.

Best Lines

A Hitman – “So you wanna be a witness?… Witness This!

Mark Kaminski – Who do you think I look like? Dirty Harry!

Monique –The only way you’ll ever end up lying next to me, Max, is if we’re run down by the same car.

Any other familiar faces and actors pop up?
There’s many. I’ll quickly do a few.

  • We’ve got Darren McGavin aka the Carl Kolchak The Night Stalker. Also he’s Billy Madison’s Dad and can be seen in Dead Heat (1988) along with many things.
  • Detective Baker on the case trying to figure why all the bodies keep stacking up is Ed Lauter. Such a familiar face. Can’t list them all but here’s a few films. The Longest Yard (1974) with Burt Reynolds, the rival family feud of Lolly-Madonna XXX (1973), a few Charles Bronson’s films like Breakheart Pass (1975) and The White Buffalo (1977).
  • And I’ll finish with Robert Davi. You would of seen him in Action Jackson (1988), Die Hard (1988) in a Bond film with License To Kill (1989) to the opera singing bad guy in the brilliant family favourite, The Goonies (1985)

Production Credits
Raw Deal is directed by British filmmaker John Irvin. He made many films, nothing really outstanding but all pretty enjoyable nonetheless. The Dogs of War (1980), Hamburger Hill (1987) Robin Hood (1991) but what may be the best is the superb John Le Carre series with Alex Guinness in the cold war saga of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Raw Deal was produced by Dino De Laurentiis. I’ve read that he had Arnie caught up in a multi-picture agreement that Arnie was desperate to be released from. Dino De Laurentiis also had the rights for Total Recall (1990) but did not want Arnie in the part, instead he was gunning for Patrick Swayze. With Raw Deal performing badly at the box office it resulted in Dino De Laurentiis going bankrupt and having to sell the rights of Total Recall which also released Arnie from his contract. With the new Total Recall bought by Carolco Pictures Arnie would be moving in and the rest is history so they say.

Cheese-O-Meter! Low/Medium/High?
A semi hard (oooh matron) medium cheese like a Gouda I’d say.

IMDB score rating – 5.6/10

Wolfman ACTION & FUN rating – 7/10

Wolfman over all film rating – 6/10

Closing thoughts………………………………………….
Truth be told I didn’t like Raw Deal that much back in the day. It was kind of boring and a messy confusing plot. This was the 2nd time of seeing it after all those years. 35 years ago! It’s much better than I remembered but you can see why, other than the iconic poster image that many had on their bedroom walls, this one is not one of Arnies best. However it still a lot of fun to be had when you sit back with a few brewski’s and just let it run.

Feel free to let me know your thoughts on the film if you want. But most importantly have fun with the movies.

Keep it filmy…. Mikey Wolf.