Never Take Candy from A Stranger (1960)
Cast: Gwen Watford, Patrick Allen, Felix Aylmer, Niall MacGinnis, Alison Leggatt, Bill Nagy, Janina Faye
Director: Cyril Frankel
Nutshell: A shocking departure for Hammer into taboo territory but crafted with admirable restraint and maturity. Way ahead of its time.
Never Take Candy from A Stranger is a very strange sort of Hammer production in that though it is easily as horrifying as most of their films – this one isn’t really a horror film at all. The movie tackles a very relevant issue and did so years before it was acceptable to talk about such things as child molestation. The taboo subject matter has been handled with appropriate sensitivity by the director and the acting is of a high quality.
At the onset, Gwen Watford (fondly remembered as the “Ayah” with a dodgy Indian accent from “The Ghoul“) and her husband are a couple who have recently managed to acquire good jobs in Canada and they have made their way along with Watford’s mother in law as well as Jean their own daughter, a girl of less than ten. The film starts with shots of the young girl and her new friend enjoying a swing but looming above them is the building belonging to the powerful local family and gazing at the young girls through a binocular whilst getting extremely worked up with excitement is an elderly man old enough to be the girls great grandfather. Its clearly obvious that he has an affliction but when the little girl reaches home and is asked why she took so long, she tells her parents that they had both gone to the Olderberry Household where the older Olderberry had asked them to dance for them after removing all their clothes. Shocked and stunned the newly arrived Carters have little option but to approach the police despite locals warning them about the influence the Olderberry family enjoys in the vicinity.
Matters go to a rather hostile courtroom where the defence is able to deflect and defuse matters because of their influence and standing in the community and the perverted old man gets away yet again despite a history of offences.
The acting is of a high standard all around with the Janina Faye performing particularly well. Indeed, the director Cyril Frankel was primarily chosen for this film based upon his reputation of working with children and here he shows exactly why. Also impressive is the veteran Felix Aylmer who lurches after the girls in a manner rather reminiscent of Christopher Lee’s Curse of Frankenstein creature. Gwen Watford and others are on point.
It is a very well written and gripping drama with a potent message as well as a frightening one. Numerous important issues are touched upon along the way – social, sexual and legal. This is a film Hammer has every reason to be very proud of. Far from the cheap exploitation-style people had every right to expect.
Never Take Candy from A Stranger is a serious and well performed film about a difficult and not particularly “entertaining” subject – especially way back when the film was made.
Once again Indicator Blu-Ray have done an exceptional job on their release of this film in keeping with their growing reputation for excellence.