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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>
This film was based on an episode of The United States Steel Hour (1953) called "Fearful Decision" that first aired live on June 22, 1954. It was so well received it was restaged on May 10, 1955. After this film was made, it was remade by 'Ron Howard' as Ransom (1996). See more »
While I enjoyed the Mel Gibson remake of this picture and was pleased to see him in a serious role where he could display his acting chops, I thought the whole idea was a little divorced from reality, although it made perfect sense at that time as it must have seemed forty years earlier. The notion of a kidnapping victim's family refusing to pay any ransom and using it instead as a tool to convince the perpetrators to turn the boy loose sounds logical enough, but in real life such an act would bring such universal condemnation upon the father in a real-life scenario that no one has ever considered doing it for real. Part of the reason is that so few children are snatched for money, but usually for other more nefarious reasons by mentally warped individuals who generally work alone and don't confide their plans to friends and associates, making such threats to kidnappers at best useless or at worst counterproductive. Because the villain was evident in the Ron Howard remake, the story had to take a turn whereby the father would have to confront the kidnapper one on one. In this original, the snatchers are virtually unseen, so all the drama rests with the victimized family and how they interact with those who come to their aid or to view the spectacle. As such, it gives the principals, Ford and Reed, the chance to emote and they perform very well. Donna Reed was an unusually gifted actress as her Oscar win and Emmy nominations attest and Glenn Ford was an underrated actor in his day, probably best known by younger generations as Superman's adopting father in the final stages of his career. Sad to say, there's very little suspense in the narrative, and one wonders how great directors like Hitchcock, Zinneman or Kazan might have turned this into a great film. If you've only seen the newer version of the two films, take the time to watch the original. Some of the acting is exceptionally good, and it's mostly a well-crafted film. If nothing else, it's interesting to see how different generations of filmmakers can put totally differing spins on essentially the same story. Dale Roloff
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