“Never Take Candy from a Stranger” (1960)
Studio: Hammer Film Productions
Starring: Gwen Watford, Patrick Allen, Felix Aylmer, Janina Faye
Directed by: Cyril Frankel
Rated: Not Rated
Running Time: 81 min.
Synopsis: Parents takes on a rich old man in the community that they believe tired to molest their daughter.
When you think of Hammer films, you think of gothic, monsters, devils, ghosts, etc, but the company has made many other pictures in different genres. Case in point, Never Take Candy from a Stranger (aka; Never Take Sweets from a Stranger) which is a thrilling drama about a man accused of trying to molest a little girl. Although it’s a drama, there are plenty of shocking moments and thrills throughout the film that are the trademark in any Hammer film.
The film takes place in a small town in Canada, where a husband and wife, Peter and Sally Carter, and their daughter, Jean, are new to the town. The couple finds out some disturbing news, when their little girl tells them what she did that afternoon. She begins to tell them that her and her friend went to this old man’s house, Clarence Olderberry, to get some candy, but before they got any they had to take off all their clothes and dance for him. Her parents are very shocked to hear this and decided to press charges against the old man. They come to find out that Olderberry is a very important person in the town and they are advised by the police to forget about the incident. The Carters ignore the advice from the police and press charges. The case eventually goes to trial and the Carters hope to put Olderberry away for good.
The film was very controversial for its time when it was released. Not many films dealt with sexual predators and putting a child character in this type of situation. Although, the interaction between the little girls and old man are not shown on screen, what is applied is very shocking for the time and even for today’s standards. Actually, the film’s subject matter is very relevant to today’s issues with the growing number of sexual predators and the number of children being kidnapped and murdered.
Things I liked about the film was the story, suspense, and cast of characters. It almost has a Hitchcock vibe to it in some ways. The pacing of the suspense was very much like the Hitch. It was also very character driven and the cast was impressive. The story was like an episode of Law& Order: SVU, but with a British vibe. The scenes in the court room are done very well. When Jean is put on the stand and the lawyer is hammering her with question after question, seeing if she made up the whole thing or not is one of the stand out moments of the film. It’s also very creepy when Olderberry is in the court room. He just sits there and doesn’t say a word and just stares at the little girl. He is one creepy old man.
Some other stand out parts are later on in the film, when the trial is over and the old man is cleared on all charges, Jean and her other friend, Lucille, are walking near a forest and they run into Olderberry. The old man starts to chase them and the girls run for their lives. This is one of the most thrilling scenes in the film. Also, one moment that I remember is in the beginning when Jean is telling her parents about what happened, she’s very gleeful and happy as she starts the story and when she mentions she took off her clothes for the old man it doesn’t even faze her. Once she says that to her parents, the mood changes. Later on, she is haunted by nightmares of the old man. Suddenly, what she thought was innocent is now very traumatic.
There were only a few things I didn’t like. Some of the scenes towards the beginning seem to drag a bit and this slowed down the pace. The movie didn’t pick up until the end of the middle part of the film. Like I said before, most of the actors were good, but some of the supporting characters were so-so. As a whole the film was very well done and I was pleasantly surprised.
Never Take Candy from a Stranger is a good film in the Hammer collection. For the first time, the film is now available on DVD, along with other forgotten Hammer films that are dramatic, thrilling and suspenseful. This film has a great mix of good acting, a well-told story, and tons of suspense. A good film all around and it is worth checking out.