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A ruthless crook abducts the wife and child of a bank manager and then masquerades as an insurance company detective while scheming to rob the institution in this crime drama. Unfortunately, some of the manager's employees learn about the plot and the terrified manager must beg them to remain silent. Fortunately, the cops have been on the case all along. Written by
December the 23rd. The City & Colonial Bank is visited by a charming stranger identifying himself as Col. Gore Hepburn (Andre Morell). He asks to speak with bank manager Harry Fordyce (Peter Cushing), who's a harsh, demanding, detail-oriented type who doesn't care to get to know his employees better. Soon Hepburn is revealed as a very clever and ruthless bank robber who forces Fordyce into being an accomplice by threatening Fordyces' wife and son. In a short span of time Fordyce shows a touch more humanity by revealing what it is in the world that he cares most about.
Director Quentin Lawrence ("The Trollenberg Terror") does a creditable job with this meaty script, written by David T. Chantler and Lewis Greifer based on a play by Jacques Gillies. And one can tell that this is based on a play, with the accent on dialogue, but it's interesting and riveting all the way through, with very taut direction by Lawrence who gets superb performances out of his two talented leads. Cushing is a joy to watch as a man who becomes more sympathetic as the story plays out. And Morell is fun as the dapper, (mostly) calm thief. Solid support is provided by Richard Vernon as Pearson, the banks' second-in-command, Barry Lowe as the teller Harvill, and Kevin Stoney as Detective Inspector Mason.
Also indicating a stage origin is a limited number of sets, but this only serves to give this superior film an intimate feel and help us to get completely involved in this twist-laden plot. And the story, which works as a variation on the classic Dickens tale "A Christmas Carol", is irresistible for its theme of a person in need of some redemption.
Slickly made in every respect, this is among the best of the black & white Hammer thrillers.
Eight out of 10.
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