• Hammer Films Double Feature: Never Take Candy From A Stranger/Scream Of Fear

    Released by: Mill Creek Entertainment
    Released on: March 6th, 2018.
    Director: Cyril Frankel/Seth Holt
    Cast: Gwen Watford, Patrick Allen, Felix Aylmer, Niall MacGinnis, Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee, John Serret, Leonard Sachs
    Year: 1960/1961
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    The Movies:

    Two more films from the Hammer vaults on an affordably priced Blu-ray double feature from Mill Creek Entertainment!

    Never Take Candy From A Stranger:

    First up, a black and white thriller directed by Cyril Frankel in 1960. In this film, known in the UK as Never Take Sweets From A Stranger, nine-year-old Jean Carter (Janina Faye), the wife of school principal Peter Carter (Patrick Allen) and wife Sally (Gwen Watford), is playing in a woodlot with her friend Lucile (Frances Green) when she learns she’s lost her purse. Inside was her cherished candy money, and so she’s understandably upset. Sally, Lucille, however, knows where they can go to get free candy and so she leads her friend to an eerie old house inhabited by a strange old man named Clarence Olderberry, Sr. (Felix Aylmer) who all this time has been watching the girls out of his window.

    Later that night, when it’s time for bed, Jean isn’t able to fall asleep. She confesses to her parents that while she and Lucille were in Olderberry’s home he coerced them into taking off their clothes and dancing for him in return for the candy Lucille had promised. Soon enough, Peter gets the police involved but Captain Hammond (Budd Knapp) isn’t so sure that Jean is telling the truth. The Carters are new in town whereas Olderberry’s family have deep roots in the community that stretch back years. When word gets out about Peter’s complaints, he gets a visit from Clarence Jr. (Bill Nagy) who threatens he and his daughter with what will surely be a nasty defense on the part of the family lawyers. Regardless, the trial ensues and, as Jr. promised, the lawyers take advantage of Jean’s nativity and immaturity to blow holes in her story. Clarence Sr. is let off, which causes Carter to assault him right then and there in the court room.

    When the Carters decide to leave town, Jean and Lucille once again play in the woods while Peter and Sally pack their belongings, when who should appear once again but Clarence Sr…

    Pretty grim stuff and very confrontational for its time, Never Take Candy From A Stranger plays out as part thriller/part court room drama but either way you slice it, this is a really well-done film. The black and white photography from Freddie Francis is solid and the technical aspects of the production quite strong overall. The score is good and the story is engaging, even if the content is understandably quite unnerving. John Hunter’s script, adapted from the play Pony Cart by Roger Garis, is smart and thought-provoking and the whole production takes a very frighteningly realistic approach to the subject matter that treats it with respect.

    Performances are quite strong. Patrick Allen isn’t always the most convincing as the father, but he’s fine in the part. Gwen Watford plays the concerned mother well even if her take on the character is pretty much exactly what you’d expect – it’s not bad at all, there are just no surprises here. Young Janina Faye shows serious talent as Jean, however, and Felix Aylmer is seriously creepy as the lecherous old man who goes after her.

    Scream Of Fear:

    The second feature, written by Jimmy Sangster and clearly heavily influenced by Clouzot's Les Diaboliques, was directed by Seth Holt in 1961. Also known as Taste Of Fear, the film follows Penny Appleby (Susan Strasberg), a young woman bound to a wheelchair who has just returned to the family home after some time away at a boarding school. She’s come back for a reason, however, and that’s that her best friend has recently been killed in an accidental drowning. When Penny comes back though, she realizes that her father has gone missing, supposedly away on a business trip.

    At first Penny’s stepmother, Jane (Ann Todd), seems to be overcompensating for something. She’s unusually kind to Penny, really too kind, but this never stops Penny from enlisting the aid of her driver Bob (Ronald Lewis) to help her snoop around the house in hopes of finding some clues. Things take a dark turn when Penny starts seeing what she believes to be the ghost of her father prowling about the guest house. Feigning concern, Jane brings in Doctor Gerrard (Christopher Lee), who alludes to the fact that Penny’s visions might be stemming from her own issues and that she may in fact be suffering from a mental breakdown.

    Susan Strasberg, who had a bigger career in television than she did in film (though genre fans will recognize her from Bloody Birthday and The Manitou to name only two of her big screen credits) is very good here. The way in which she portrays Penny as simultaneously fragile and brave is solid, and she creates an interesting character out of her. Ann Todd is great as the mysterious stepmother who clearly has something to hide, and you can never go wrong with Christopher Lee in a film like this, even if he is underused.

    While the influence of Clouzot's film is so strong that Scream Of Fear’s script boarders on an act of plagiarism, Holt nevertheless delivers a gripping film. Shot by Douglas Slocombe, it’s an excellent looking film filled with evocative and shadowy camerawork set to a rousing score from composer Clifton Parker. The editing is very tight, particularly in the last third, and some of the film’s eerie visuals really stick with you after it’s all over with.


    Both films are presented on a 50GB Blu-ray framed in widescreen, the first at 2.35.1 and the second at 1.66.1. Each film takes up approximately 20GBs of space on the disc, so compression isn’t bad at all (it is typically an issue with Mill Creek titles). The black and white image for each picture is crisp, clean and nicely detailed. Blacks are strong and we get a good greyscale here. Contrast looks just fine and the image is free of any serious print damage. Grain appears naturally and there are no issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. The transfers are appreciably film-like. All in all, for what is essentially a budget release, these looks quite good, though Scream Of Fear employs some semi-frequent soft focus photography that obviously lessens fine detail when utilized.

    Both films are presented with English language LPCM Mono tracks and they sound fine. The scores used in each film have good range and presence while dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion to note. No problems here at all, really. Optional English subtitles are provided for both films.

    No extras on the disc, just menus and feature selection.

    The Final Word:

    Mill Creek’s Blu-ray release of Hammer’s Never Take Candy From A Stranger/Scream Of Fear may be barebones and disappointingly free of any extras whatsoever, but it does offer up two very good films in nice shape and a great price.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!