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When his son Andy is kidnapped and held for ransom, David Stannard liquidates his assets to meet the half-million dollar demand. A casual remark by newspaper reporter Charlie Telfer makes him change his mind. Despite the pleas from his wife Edith and brother Al, and the resultant condemnation of the press and public, Stannard goes on a nation-wide television program, displays the money and warns the kidnapper that not one cent will be paid for ransom; instead the money will be used to track down the kidnapper if Andy isn't returned unharmed. The police then find the boy's blood-stained shirt. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jesse Chapman aka Uncle Jesse:
"King David was much moved and thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son, Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
[while crying and holding and comforting David Stannard, who has just learned that his son appears to have been killed by the kidnappers. From 2 Samuel, Chapter 18, Verse 33]
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Having seen the mediocre remake of Ransom, starring Mel Gibson, I was intrigued when I came across the original from 1956 that featured the always great Glen Ford. I'm glad I did, because now I know how the film was supposed to be made.
Ransom! is the story of the wealthy Mr. Stannard (Ford) and his wife (Donna Reed) who are devastated to find out that their son has been kidnapped. Stannard immediately agrees to the kidnapper's terms, but at the last minute turns the tables when he goes on television and announces that the 500,000 ransom is now a price on the kidnapper's head, a decision which shocks the local townspeople and especially his wife.
I have a feeling this film was innovative using television as a platform, it had to have been based on the year the film was made - 1956. Although I had seen it played out before in the more recent version of Ransom, with a mild effect, the use of the medium in this manner was extremely powerful, even slightly shocking. Ford made his career playing fairly tough characters; even his roles in comedies had a slightly rough edge. I have to say that this was the best I have ever seen him. He was steely, yet desperate in his resolution that he was making the wisest decision, no matter what the consequences - and when his vulnerability finally cracked through the surface, you cannot help but absorb some of his pain. Donna Reed was a fairly minor character as the mother - she helped set the tone in the beginning, but was basically used later in the film as fuel for Ford's guilt. Leslie Nielsen was also featured as a newspaper reporter who becomes a kind of sounding board for Ford's character, and did a decent dramatic turn at it. It's still interesting to see him as a dramatic actor when we are so used to seeing him only in comedies for the last twenty years.
While Akira Kurosawa's "High and Low" still remains my favorite film in the "kidnapped" genre, this is definitely a close second. The kidnapping of a loved one has been a pretty common plot device in the first century of cinema, but when a film adds to or even transcends the genre it becomes distinct. Ransom! does just that, and I highly recommend it.
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