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

Johnny Nobody (1961) Priest Nigel Patrick Investigates Blasphemy & Divine Intervention

James Ronald Mulcahy (William Bendix) was a successful author. Was this quiet and quaint Irish village actually his birth place? I wasn’t sure. He was an American, maybe the returning prodigal son? With his newest book flying off the shelves he had money to flash. To the dismay of the local residents he had decided to settle within the community and they weren’t practically best pleased. James Mulchay’s mouth was as big as his personality, HUGE!. A thuggish man, large and obnoxious. You see, the village was centered around the parish church and the locals were all God-fearing Catholics. Mulchay’s book on the other hand was centered directly against the Church and the belief of an all seeing and powerful God. He was an atheist and extremely opinionated about it. You didn’t need to ask him or listen to him, he would bulldoze his thoughts onto you as loud as he possibly could. So one thing you didn’t want to see was James Mulchay matching down the road heading for the local pub. Sober he was unbearable but filled with whisky he became the most loathsome, offensive, man on Earth.

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The Window (1949) And The Tragic Case Of Bobby Driscoll

Firstly, anyone heard “crying wolf” anywhere around me will be getting a jolly good telling off, that’s for sure. Using my esteemed name in vain, well whatever next? Further more, wolf’s don’t cry! And don’t listen to those wicked rumours about that wolf shaped ball of fluff, whimpering and sobbing at the back of the Odeon cinema in 1999 during the opening scene of Disney’s Tarzan. It simply wasn’t true, it was not! Sniffles. Oh no, I’ve just thought back to it. “Oh dang it! pass the tissues, please!“. Ok the legend of the crying wolf is true so I’ll let you use the quotation for the Aesop’s Fable to start the film.

Opening intro –The boy cried ‘wolf’. ‘Wolf’ several times and each time the people came to help him they found that there wasn’t any ‘wolf.”

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Lolly-Madonna XXX (1973) Kidnap, Moonshine, Screaming Piggies & Happy Families

Lolly-Madonna XXX (1973) poster kidnap movie artwork

With that wonderfully exploitative title, Lolly-Madonna XXX it really grabs your attention. And to be honest I really didn’t know what I was getting myself involved with. I’d found out pretty early on in the film that the triple X wasn’t there for it’s pornographic nature but in fact it relates to “kiss kiss kiss”. However, don’t get me wrong, this film is still strictly 18 certificate material. Continue reading

Unearthly Stranger (1963) A British Sci-fi Gem With An Explosion Inside His Brain

Unearthly Stranger (1963) John Neville British Science Fiction film poster thriller

A spine-chilling sound resonates eerily through the cloudy skies. A man appears, panicked. Fear upon his face. Rain falls in the pitch black of night. Big Ben looms in the moody landscape. The man turns and runs. Down steep stairs, along cobbled lanes. By the River Thames he hurries through the puddles as beams of light from street lamps make ghostly lines and angles. London is asleep. The man is alone. He carries on to his destination. Bursting through the doors of his office, covered in a mix of sweat and rain, he grabs the tape recorder. Agitated and holding back hysteria, Dr. Mark Davidson (John Neville) looks us directly in the eyes and feverishly warns the world of the Unearthly Stranger.

Unearthly Stranger (1963) John Neville British Science Fiction fear thriller tape recorder panic

Dr. Mark Davidson – In a little while I expect to die. To be killed by… something… that you and I know is here? Visible yet moving unseen amongst us all each moment of the day and night. There were times when you thought I was insane BUT listen to this tape I beg you so you know what it is you have to fight!

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