Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films
U.K. | 1961
Directed by Quentin Lawrence
Peter Cushing
Andre Morell
Richard Vernon
| 80 Minutes | Not Rated
Format: DVD(R1 - NTSC | 3-disc set)
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
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Review by
Troy Howarth

NOTE: DVD Rating is for entire 6-film set
Mr. Fordyce (Peter Cushing) rules over his employees at the bank with an iron fist; his inflexibility is sorely tested when suave Colonel Hebpurn (Andre Morell) disrupts his well-ordered existence with a bank robbery...
    Hammer Studios is renowned for their Technicolor Gothic horror films usually starring Peter Cushing and/or Christopher Lee but their output was by no means limited to such fare. Cash On Demand is an ideal example of the strain of TV-to-film adaptations with which they made their bread and butter for so many years.
    The film was based on a 1960 episode of the British anthology series Theatre 70, titled Gold Inside. Written by Jacques Gillies, the episode involved two key participants who later worked on the film: director Quentin Lawrence, and actor Andre Morell (playing the role of Col. Hepburn in both versions). In that version, however, Fordyce was played by Richard Warner (The Mummy's Shroud).
    The story has rightly been pegged as a variation on Charles Dickens' venerable A Christmas Carol, but it is by no means a slavish imitation. Fordyce isn't so much a miser, a la Scrooge, as he is socially maladjusted and self-conscious. In order to compensate for his awkwardness and feelings of inferiority, he keeps people at a distance even his family, whom he clearly loves. In taking on the role of a despot at the bank, Fordyce is able to feel important. Col. Hepburn may not exactly be the three Ghosts of Dickens' tale rolled into one, but he does see through Fordyce and thus he takes great pleasure in deflating the little man and humiliating him at every turn. The irony is not lost on Fordyce he snaps at Hepburn for having the audacity to moralize, even though he is a bank robber but the experience teaches him humility and how to better interact with his fellow man.
    The small ensemble is perfect. Peter Cushing gives one of his finest performances as Fordyce. After playing so many authority figures in gaudy horror films, he clearly relished the opportunity to play a real human being in a more realistic context. Cushing's usual mannerisms notably a nervous rubbing of the neck are on display, but they are entirely befitting such a fussy, overly meticulous character. He begins the film as a cold, unfeeling, almost automaton-like presence, but as the film unfolds he displays more humanity and gradually gains audience empathy. Cushing is matched by Andre Morell (The Plague of the Zombies) as the smooth bank robber, Col. Hepburn. Cushing and Morell had previously been teamed as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson for Hammer's The Hound of the Baskervilles, but their association began with the famous Nigel Kneale-scripted version of 1984 for the BBC. The two actors clearly had respect for one another, and they played off each other beautifully; while they made for an admirable pair of crimefighters in Hound, there's no doubt they were best paired as adversaries as in 1984 and this film. Part of the pleasure of Cash is the simple spectacle of Morell bullying Cushing. Hepburn may be a bank robber, but he has a code of honor and the humanistic way in which he interacts with Fordyce's underlings leaves one in no doubt that he would be the more pleasant employer to deal with. Morell wrings ample nuance out of every ironic line, and his nastier side as when he physically attacks Fordyce is truly threatening. Cushing and Morell dominate the proceedings, but there are also fine supporting performances from Richard Vernon (The Satanic Rites of Dracula, Goldfinger) and Norman Bird (Hands of the Ripper). Vernon is particularly good as the Bob Cratchit-like clerk who is at odds with Fordyce's character.
    Quentin Lawrence's direction is smooth and efficient, with total emphasis on story and character development. It's not a flashy film, but this works in its favor. The settings perfectly evoke a small town bank, the Christmas season is beautifully conveyed, and the pacing never slackens. If the film has an Achilles heel at all, it's in Wilfrid Josephs' soundtrack it's not a bad score, per se, but it does tend to hit the emotions a little too square on the head; a little less of it would have gone a long way.
    With its sensitive direction and immaculate performances, Cash On Demand remains one of Hammer's strongest, yet most atypical, productions.

Cash On Demand is part of Sony's new Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films set. The feature is presented, along with Stop Me Before I Kill! (1960), on the set's first disc. This is a pretty obscure title, long represented in America via multigenerational dupes, and it's wonderful to have it presented on DVD. Some copies on the gray market clocked in at just over an hour, but the Sony edition is of the full, uncut 80 minute version. Given that the film is told almost completely in 'real time', the added minutes are essential to maintaining the story's time line.
    The 1.66/16x9 transfer looks good on the whole. The source elements show a little wear and tear, but there is nothing too distracting to report; indeed, the image is sufficiently crisp to draw attention to how phony looking the fake snow really is! The mono soundtrack is in good shape, as well, and English subtitles and closed captioning are included. The only extra is a theatrical trailer, also presented in 1.66/16x9. 4/11/10