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

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