In the opening scene, two little girls are playing on a swing in the woods, laughing and enjoying a lovely afternoon. Then we see they are being watched by an old man with binoculars in a nearby isolated house. One little girl tells the other that she knows where they can go to get candy. As the two girls skip off together in the left side of the screen, we see that the abandoned swing dominates the foreground on the right side--a sign of leaving childhood behind.
|Jean (Janina Faye) and Lucille (Frances Green) leave childhood behind.|
|Janina Faye as nine-year-old Jean.|
|Niall MacGinnis questions the witness.|
With a first-rate cast, a literate script, and excellent direction from Cyril Frankel, Never Take Candy from a Stranger should have garnered stellar notices. Instead, it was panned by critics and ignored at the boxoffice. Undoubtedly, the title didn't help (neither does the original British title Never Take Sweets from a Stranger). I also suspect that moviegoers expected a more conventional tale of horror from Hammer Films, the home of Dracula and Frankenstein.
This one includes a truly horrifying scene near the climax as the two girls are chased in the woods and find a rowboat. They climb into it, thinking they are leaving danger behind...when they realize the boat is still tethered to the dock. Their pursuer then grabs the rope and begins to pull them in.
Without ever showing violence, Never Take Candy from a Stranger ranks as one of Hammer's most frightening films, right down to its somber conclusion.
“X” The Man With The X-Ray Eyes (reviewed by Grand Old Movies)
Roger Corman’s unsung 1963 masterpiece, “X” The Man With The X-Ray Eyes, is a film examining cinema’s very essence—the act of seeing. As movies capture the world in visual terms, we thus experience movies as visual objects, viewed through our faculty of sight. Corman thrusts that notion right at us from his film’s first shot, a giant eyeball staring at us as we in turn stare back at it. This is how we understand what’s before us, the film seems to be saying, through our own fleshy orbs—the only pair each of us has, as one character notes. Eyes are our primary organ for taking in the world around us, and we’d better be damn careful how we use them.
As with Xavier’s vision, Corman’s film looks beneath its low-budget, sci-fi surface, and finds mythic resonances in its anti-hero’s quest. Is Xavier a doomed Prometheus, enduring torture to bring fire to humanity, or a disobedient Adam, defying divine law in seeking knowledge? But in its hallucinatory effects and theme of expanded vision, the film also anticipates how the Sixties generation pursued mystical experience via drugs and esoteric religions. While working as a sideshow attraction Xavier masks himself with a bandanna decorated with a large, open Eye, a reference to the “third eye” that signals inner perception, beyond mere physical sight. Xavier’s irony, however, is that the more he sees, the less he knows; people, places, the world itself, have slipped away from him, leaving him in a spiritual abyss.
Yet the film’s overarching viewpoint is seemingly Biblical, especially in the famous final scene, in which Xavier staggers into a revival meeting and hears the preacher exhorting his flock to repent. Instead, Xavier proclaims his own apocalyptic vision: beyond “there are great darknesses,” he cries, but at the center he can see “the Eye that sees us all.” Has Xavier’s sight finally reached God? No answer is given; rather, the appalled reverend responds with Matthew’s advice to the lagging sinner: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out!” And so Xavier does, raising two bloodied sockets to our own appalled gazes. The screen swiftly goes black; then light gradually returns—or rather, waves and lines of light, through which skeletal impressions of buildings and landscapes bleed through, as if the camera now participates in Xavier’s torment, its mechanical eye imprinted with his human ones. It’s a vision of unending horror: of knowledge that can’t be unlearned, and of eyes that can’t be closed.
|Sharon Tate as Sarah.|
Polanski, who had not yet directed Rosemary’s Baby, shows a genuine flair for the horror genre. There’s a masterful scene in which Sarah is taking a bath, while Von Krolock watches her through a skylight. Snow begins to float into the bath water. As Sarah looks up, the vampire crashes through the glass and bites her neck. Bath water splashes against the door suggestively and then stops. Later in the film, Polanksi stages a ghoulish scene in which vampires emerge from graves in a cemetery, still wearing their rotting clothes, as they make their way to the Midnight Ball.
|Alfred tries to destroy a vampire!|
Originally, Polanski planned to cast Jill St. John as Sarah, but a producer friend introduced him to the stunning, red-haired Tate. The two were married soon after The Fearless Vampire Killers. Tate’s career was on the rise (she co-starred in the trashy but popular Valley of the Dolls) when Charles Manson and his cult murdered her in 1969.
Released as Dance of the Vampires in Britain, The Fearless Vampire Killers was trimmed nine minutes for its U.S. release. The video version is the full 107-minute film. The famous subtitle Or, Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck never actually appears in the film credits. (For a more in-depth review of this film by Cafe contributor Sark, click here.)