Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Patrick Allen, Budd Knapp, and Bill Nagy
NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM A STRANGER (aka Never Take Sweets from a Stranger/1960). Director: Cyril Frankel.

High school principal Peter Carter (Patrick Allen of Night Creatures) and his wife Sally (Gwen Watford) have moved to a new community with their young daughter, Jean (Janina Faye), and her grandmother, Martha (Alison Leggatt). One afternoon Jean tells her parents that she and her friend Lucille (Frances Green) were given candy by an elderly man in a house nearby who told them to take off their clothing. Peter wants to confront the old man, Sally wants to call the police, and the grandmother advises caution -- they aren't completely sure what if anything happened and the old man, Clarence Olderberry Sr. (Felix Aylmer) has a lot of clout in the town. Because of this the Carters find a lot of opposition when they have the man arrested and a trial ensues. Will the entire town turn against them and will Olderberry get away with his inappropriate behavior or get the help he clearly needs? Never Take Candy from a Stranger is a non-sensational look at a repellent subject, and is generally well-done and well-acted; Leggatt is especially good, as are Michael Gwynn [The Revenge of Frankenstein] as the prosecutor and Bill Nagy as Olderberry's son. This absorbing and distressing film leads up to a tragic and hard-hitting finale. One of the film's flaws, however, is that the "pervert" in question seems rather feeble and to be suffering from Alzheimer's, making some of his actions possibly unlikely, and his behavior perhaps more demented than criminal. A more menacing and younger antagonist, a more formidable and devious pedophile, might have given the film even more dramatic heft, although the ending is nevertheless uncompromising. Freddie Francis' cinematography gives the film a nice look, and there is a fine musical score by Elisabeth Lutyens [Paranoiac].

Verdict: Sobering look at a town's dirty secret. ***.

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