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.
Penny Appleby “Don’t treat me like I am a mental defective!“
Sir Christopher Lee is quoted in the The Hammer Story: The Authorised History of Hammer Films book of saying Taste Of Fear “was 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.
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