Blu-Ray News #154: Two More Hammer Double Features From Mill Creek.

A couple years ago, Mill Creek Entertainment treated us all to a couple of twin-bill Blu-Rays of some Hammer horror pictures. While some folks had problems with the transfers — I thought they were terrific, you sure couldn’t complain about the price. My hope was that those titles would sell enough to warrant more, and it looks like they did. The next two double features pair up Scream Of Fear (1960) with Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960) and The Maniac (1963) with Die! Die! My Darling! (1965). All four of these were originally released by Columbia in the States.

Scream Of Fear (1961; UK title: Taste Of Fear)
​Directed by Seth Holt
​Starring Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee

These four films come from Hammer’s string of often Psycho-inspired thrillers of the early 60s. One of the best of the bunch is Scream Of Fear, which borrows more from Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques (1955) than it does from the Hitchcock picture. Susan Strasberg is terrific as the handicapped young woman who is being systematically scared to death by a conniving couple. Jimmy Sangster’s script, Seth Holt’s direction and Douglas Slocombe’s black and white photography are all top-notch. This is a good one.

Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960)
Directed by Cyril Frankel
Starring Patrick Allen, Gwen Watford

In a way, it’s hard to believe this story of an old man praying on young children even exists. But it does, Hammer made it, and while it’s hard to take (especially is you have a teenage daughter), by implying what’s happening rather than showing it, it becomes all the more effective. That’s a lesson I wish all filmmakers would learn. Not for everyone, for sure, but it’s excellent.

Oh, it was called Never Take Candy From A Stranger in the UK.

(The) Maniac (1963)
Directed by Michael Carreras
Starring Kerwin Mathews, Nadia Gray, Donald Houston

Aside from the psycho freak (Donald Houston) wielding a blowtorch, what strikes me about Manic is what a slimeball Kerwin Mathews is in it. To see Sinbad himself hitting on both a teenager and her stepmother, as he pounds gallons of brandy, is a little jarring.

Michael Carreras’ direction is a bit flat, and the movie suffers for it. He was a much better producer or writer than a director — his dad ran Hammer. What the picture really has going for it is DP Wilkie Cooper’s black and white Megascope — love those B&W ‘Scope pictures!

For some reason, Columbia dropped the The from its title in the US.

Richard Burton (center) is about to kick Donald Houston’s teeth out in Where Eagles Dare (1969)

Donald Houston, the picture’s maniac, would go on to appear in my all-time favorite movie — he’s the Nazi agent Richard Burton kicks in the face during the cablecar fight in Where Eagles Dare (1969). In Maniac, he’s appropriately over the top, and stills of him with his torch and goggles fascinated me as a kid.

Die! Die! My Darling! (1965; UK title: Fanatic)
Directed by Silvio Narizzano
Starring Tallulah Bankhead, Stefanie Powers, Peter Vaughan, Yootha Joyce, Donald Sutherland

This time, Hammer aimed for something more in the vein of Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964). They wisely got the great Richard Matheson to write it and the incomparable Tallulah Bankhead to star. Good, creepy stuff. This would be Bankhead’s last role, aside from her turn as Black Widow on Batman.

Mill Creek has these scheduled for a March release. I’m eternally grateful for their ongoing efforts to bring movies like these to hi-def at such low cost.

2 Comments

Filed under 1960, 1961, 1963, 1965, Alfred Hitchcock, Christopher Lee, Columbia, DVD/Blu-ray News, Hammer Films, Mill Creek, Richard Burton, Richard Matheson, Robert Aldrich

2 responses to “Blu-Ray News #154: Two More Hammer Double Features From Mill Creek.

  1. john k

    Very nice write up Toby,
    Actually the UK title was MANIAC it was paired with Losey’s
    superb THE DAMNED (These Are The Damned)
    Indicator UK don’t seem interested in Losey’s film-I sure hope
    Mill Creek release it in a future set.
    Yep! the previous Mill Creek Hammer doubles did generate some bad
    press but were fine by me-what are these cats doing-projecting them
    on to their living room walls.
    I welcome the Mill Creek doubles and they save space to boot.
    As for losing the extras I did get the opportunity to hear the
    commentary on Indicator’s THE GORGON …a total snoozefest!!!
    Toby.you have raised the bar on “voice overs” and I’d love to hear you
    set loose on some Hammer titles.
    Never seen NEVER TAKE SWEETS FROM A STRANGER..certainly
    never wanted to at the time,but the Mill Creek edition will be a fine way
    to see it.
    Oddly enough NEVER TAKE SWEETS FROM A STRANGER was released
    at the same time as Guy Green’s THE MARK which is tough to watch
    even today. An even tougher watch is Fuller’s later blistering
    THE NAKED KISS. These films were groundbreaking in approaching
    a taboo subject then and now and the Fuller film is very strong even by
    today’s standards.
    Certainly as a 14 year old NEVER TAKE SWEETS FROM A STRANGER
    never had the same appeal as THE PIRATES OF BLOOD RIVER or
    CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF-it remains one of the few Hammer films
    that I’ve never seen.

    Like

    • Never Take Sweets From A Stranger is a very solid, non-exploitive take on a very icky subject. Everyone involved does a very good job with it. In one way, I’m looking forward to seeing it again — in another way, I can take my time.

      Like

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