Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cash on Demand

It’s Hammer Time!

Those of us who bemoan Peter Cushing never played Ebenezer Scrooge can take solace in “Cash on Demand” (1961), a first-rate suspense melodrama from the famed English film company.

Set on December 23, Cushing plays Fordyce, a most Scrooge-like bank executive and a notorious stickler for detail and order. He dresses down one of his long-time tellers Pearson (Richard Vernon) for a minor mistake and threatens him with termination. No holiday cheer at this bank in the English provinces, and certainly no time for office chit chat or small talk with the staff.

That morning an examiner for the bank’s insurance company shows up. The smartly dressed Hepburn (Andre Morell) is there to check on the bank’s security system and to make sure everything is on the up and up.

Once alone with Fordyce in his office, Hepburn springs into action. He’s not checking on security but plans to rob the bank with Fordyce’s help. An accomplice has Fordyce’s wife and child held hostage at their home and Hepburn threatens to have them killed if Fordyce doesn’t help rob the bank by a certain time frame.

“Cash on Demand” is based on a play, and it shows somewhat, but it doesn’t seem to matter when performances of this caliber are on display. Both Cushing and Morell are absolutely at the top of their game as we witness the suave and very confident Hepburn toying with the continually battered emotions of the uptight and distraught Fordyce.

The film is only 80 minutes long and there’s not a wasted scene or moment. It’s a terrific suspense movie with no big set pieces, just the mounting tension as the clock winds down.

This is one of Peter Cushing’s very best performances and it’s too bad he never got to play Scrooge. Seen here, one can easily imagine him taking the role on and doing a marvelous job with it.

The dependable Andre Morell is always a pleasure to watch (he’s one of the screen’s best Dr. Watsons) but this is also a standout performance. It’s ironic that these two Hammer mainstays gave among their best performances in a film that was very hard to see until it was released on DVD. One early Hammer book even listed “Cash on Demand” as missing. There were poor VHS dupes floating around in the bootleg market, which didn’t do the film justice.

Earlier this year, the fine folks at Sony Home Video released their latest volume of Hammer offerings in a new collection called “Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films”, six hard to see films including “Cash on Demand.” I have yet to watch the other films, but the set is worth it alone for “Cash on Demand.” I’m greatly looking forward to the other films in the set.

It’s too bad Hammer never made a version of “A Christmas Carol.” A friend of mine came up with having Peter Cushing as Scrooge, Christopher Lee as the three Christmas ghosts and Michael Ripper as Bob Cratchit.

I’ll expand on that: Peter Cushing as Scrooge; Christopher Lee as Jacob Marley; Michael Ripper as Bob Cratchit; Barbara Shelley as Mrs. Cratchit; Francis Matthews as Fred, Scrooge’s nephew; Veronica Carlson as Fred’s wife; Martita Hunt as the Ghost of Christmas Past; Andrew Kier as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Andre Morell would have to be worked in somewhere, perhaps one of the chaps who asks Scrooge to make a charitable donation to the city’s orphanages.
Sigh. What a wonder it would have been. At least we have “Cash on Demand” to quench the demand of a Christmas movie done Hammer-style.


Rick29 said...

Kevin, I just saw this recently as part of the new Hammer Icons set and thoroughly enjoyed it. (THE SNORKEL, also in that set, is equally good.) What I loved about CASH ON DEMAND--in addition to the marvelous performances which you noted--is that I really didn't know how it would end. The actual climax was a bit disappointing and somewhat hurried...but I didn't care by then. Just getting there was a blast!

Kevin Deany said...

Rick: I know what you mean about the ending, and agree with you, but the rest of it was so good, I'm not going to complain.