Cash on Demand (1961) – Tuesday’s overlooked movie

Cash-on-Demand_posterThis tense real-time thriller ultimately becomes, somewhat surprisingly, a variant on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Peter Cushing plays the austere and unyielding manager of the City & Colonial Bank in Haversham, disliked, with reason, by all his staff. Enter André Morell, a charismatic crook who threatens to destroy all that the uptight manager holds dear, both at work and at home. Hammer Films made it on a miniscule budget and had little confidence in it – in fact it was held back for release in the UK for nearly two years. It deserved much better treatment as it punches way above is weight. So, it is 9.45 on the morning of 23 December, snow is falling and peace and goodwill quickly are soon to vanish …

I offer this review for Todd Mason’s Tuesday’s Overlooked Movie meme over at his fab Sweet Freedom blog – you should head over there right now.

“I flatter myself I am a rather uncommon thief. A common one would just make off with the money, but I can’t help interesting myself in people. It’s a failing you ought to cultivate, Fordyce.”

Told in real time across 83 minutes, we begin shortly before the bank is due to open to its customers. The staff are planning a party but know full well that Mr Fordyce will disapprove. In fact he is thinking of other things – specifically an incredibly minor book-keeping infraction for which he is planning to fire the elderly Pearson (the wonderful Richard Vernon), who has been with the company for over a decade and who would face ruin. But Mr Fordyce just won’t budge, his pernickety black and white mind turning a small irregularity into what he claims is an offence tantamount to embezzlement. Enter Colonel Gore-Hepburn who says he is doing a surprise security check from the insurers. Actually, he is a bank robber and an exceptionally cool and confident one. And very quickly the ordered little world of Mr Fordyce starts to crumble.

Cash-on-Demand01

If director Budd Boetticher and writer Burt Kennedy had collaborated on contemporary suspense movies rather than Westerns starring Randolph Scott, one imagines that Cash on Demand is just the sort of film they would have come up with – a taut, claustrophobic siege in which the villain proves to be much more charming and understanding of human frailty than the nominal protagonist.

“I detest brutality. I want bank robberies to be smoother and more sociable.”

The film was based on ‘The Gold Inside’, a 70-minute television play by Jacques Gillies shown as part of the Theatre 70 anthology series on ITV on Saturday 24 September 1960. The director was Quentin Lawrence, who also made the subsequent movie with André Morell and Richard Vernon recreating their roles for the big screen. Cushing makes a great addition to the cast, playing superbly against his old sparing partner Morell – the two had starred together in the BBC TV version of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954), The Black Knight (1954), the Hammer Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) and Cone of Silence (1960) and would later appear opposite Ursula Andress in the Hammer version of She in 1965.

Cash-on-Demand02

Once Gore-Hepburn has shown his true intention to empty the vault of the £97,000 it holds, the remaining hour is a terrific example of turning the screw. The Colonel is always in control and quickly establishes his dominance over the prissy bank manager by threatening his wife and child and, in one brilliantly brutal and calculating moment, slapping Fordyce around, truly breaking the man down and making him his unwilling accomplice. While it is only at the end that the Dickensian dimension is brought centre-stage, it is quite clear that Fordyce is Scrooge, Pearson is Bob Cratchit and the Colonel in essence Marley. While we are caught up in the split-second timing of the plan (there is a great sequence in which Fordyce is forced to empty the vault and then watches, in horror, as an alarm on a thirty-second delay is set until it is almost too late), what gives the film its true greatness is the way that we see the banker change. Brutalised and humbled as he faces the reality of his own disempowerment, he is finally able to appreciate the position he has put his staff in – just when he will need their understanding, sympathy and even complicity, the most.

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This is a truly superb film, very easy to get on DVD and online (though I shan’t link to it as it’s clearly an illegal upload), exciting for the white-knuckle suspense sequences and the brilliant fireworks between the three leads. Morell is just perfect in the showy role of the smart reprobate but Cushing and Vernon are equally good in their restrained but less showy roles. If you like suspense drama, Christmas movies, Hammer suspense starring Peter Cushing or just a rattling good yarn, then I highly recommend this superb thriller without hesitation.

My dedicated microsite devoted to the Hammer suspense films can be found here. For more information on the film, see some of the great films reviews scattered over the Internet such as Shaun Anderson’s analysis over at The Celluloid Highway; Joanna Wilson at Christmas TV History; Kevin Deany at Kevin’s Movie Corner; Steve Miller at The Peter Cushing Collection.

DVD Availability: The film is available in no frills but impeccable edition in Europe as standalone release (as part of the Columbia Essential Classics range from Impulso in Spain) or more economically as part of the Hammer Icons of Suspense DVD box in the US, which is easy to get and offers top-notch picture and sound quality for six films on three DVDs – the other titles are The Snorkel, The Full Treatment, Never Take Sweets From A Stranger, Maniac and Joseph Losey’s The Damned – you really should go and get it you know …

Cash on Demand (1961)
Director: Quentin Lawrence
Producer: Michael Carreras, Anthony Nelson Keys
Screenplay: David T. Chantler, Lewis Greifer
Cinematography: Arthur Grant
Art Direction: Bernard Robinson
Music: Wilfred Josephs
Cast: Peter Cushing, André Morell, Richard Vernon, Norman Bird, Edith Sharpe, Lois Daine, Kevin Stoney

***** (4.5 fedora tips out of 5)

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43 Responses to Cash on Demand (1961) – Tuesday’s overlooked movie

  1. Sergio – Isn’t it amazing what good onscreen chemistry (of all kinds) can achieve? And when a film-maker times the action/suspense sequences just right, they do keep one riveted without losing the characters in the process. Thanks for sharing this example of that with us.

  2. Santosh Iyer says:

    I have seen the film.
    It is a superb film with brilliant acting, script and direction. A gem. Riveting from start to finish.An interesting variation of Christmas Carol by Dickens.
    There are great suspenseful sequences,such as when Fordyce forgets to close the inner vault door and the 30 second alarm is set off.
    I agree with your rating of 4.5

  3. Mike says:

    Great review, Sergio. Several years ago, this really was a bit of a forgotten gem, wasn’t it, until DVD releases like the Icons of Suspense – which is where I first saw it – set brought its charms to a new audience. There’s the irresistible rise in tension, the deconstruction of Cushing’s character, the Christmas Carol angle, so many things to enjoy over the film’s brief running time, and as you say all made very cheaply and Hammer clearly didn’t really know what to do with it for quite some time. For me the pick of that boxset and retrospectively up there with the best of Hammer’s suspense films.

    • Thanks Mike, good to hear from you (talk about the blogger with perfect avatar 🙂 ) Yes, like you I only came across it forst in that box set, which hats of great films in it, but none quite so impressive as this. I have no idea of the TV version survives but I’d love to be able to compare the two.

      • Mike says:

        Ha ha thanks for the avatar recognition – I happily admit to loving the way Cushing inhabits this character; the way his world falls apart along with his stuffy meanness is the highlight for me. Great acting from both. I believe it started as a BBC televised play, didn’t it, one of those programmes frustratingly lost to time until the possibility that one day, some gopher happens to delve deep within the right archive (I picture the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the List Ark, except instead of priceless artefacts it’s just row upon row upon row of old film stock)…

        • ITV rather than BBC, so the odds of finding a copy are even more reduced sadly. I always think that the storage of folk at Kaleidoscope in Birmingham must be like that foinal matte shot in RAIDERS!

          • desktidy says:

            Happily, according to Kaleidoscope’s Lost Shows search engine it appears “The Gold Inside” is not among the missing episodes of Theatre ’70’
            http://lostshows.com/default.aspx?programme=5a21c521-a0b1-4e1a-aaa8-f572ce4b6912
            As an ATV series, I think this means a release from Network is theoretically possible at least. 🙂

            Great review. Like many I discovered the film on DVD and it’s now entered my rotation of seasonal viewing.
            A perfect example of quality low-budget British film making of the period. The performances, direction and the overall atmosphere of the piece are terrific.

          • Thanks for that, great news – well, wouldn’t that make a terrific extra on a Blu-ray release!

  4. Colin says:

    Nicely done – one of the very best things Hammer ever made, and ample proof that the studio wasn’t just a horror stable. I can’t disagree with a thing you, or the other commenters, have said about the film. Wonderful budget filmmaking, lean, spare and exciting and affecting.

    • Thank you Colin, very kind. I have read reviews that knock the Dickena aspect at the end. Maybe a bit more time and budget might have made a difference but I think you do need that final element. Musn;t leave out the human factor after all!!

      • Colin says:

        Humbug! I think the ending is just perfect – the whole thing is building towards that payoff – it would be a lesser work if ended any other way.

        • Especially because it relies on Vernon being true to hsi basically generous character, showing the same sympathy to his boss as he did to the junior member of staff – that’s the kind of Christmas spirit I can definitely get behind!

          • Colin says:

            Yes, the story wouldn’t have a point otherwise – criticisms of the ending are redundant in my opinion.
            And the writing, direction and acting all come together beautifully in the movie – a real high point for everybody involved.

          • In many ways, despite the genre trappings, it is an incredibly naturalistic piece that really benefits from the low key playing – there is also virtually no musical score I think.

          • Colin says:

            And the real time aspect feeds into that as well, adding to the drama and making you feel you’re there as it all unfolds.

          • Ii was the reviewer for thw MFB I think who slightly critical of the ending (or rather, unconvinced by it) – and perhaps the real time aspect is where that stems from – if you had a lap dissolve, to suggest a change in the character, maybe he would have been more convinced. The real time approach works wonderfulyl well, though of course it is one that then would have been maybe overfamiliar as a tectic on studio TV productions in the style of stage productions (as this had been of course)

  5. kaggsysbookishramblings says:

    I *love* Peter Cushing, but I’d never heard of or seen this film, so thank you so much for the excellent heads up – off to research….. 🙂

  6. Patti Abbott says:

    Always astounding to me how many British films I have missed!

  7. John says:

    I saw this last year. Very impressive! A shame Cushing wasn’t allowed to play more interesting parts like this one. I saw it on one of those Hammer double DVDs. The other movie is Stop Me Before I Kill! (aka <The Full Treatment) with Diane Cilento as a wife filled with dread in a messy “My husband’s losing his mind” thriller plot. This movie with Cushing is by far the better of the double bill. I’m surprised I never picked up on the Dickens similarity. Thanks for pointing it out. I may just watch it again with that in mind.

    • Thanks John – so glad you’re a fan as well! I have the same DVD I think, albeit as part of the Icons of Suspense box (hence my review of Stop Me Before I kill (aka The Full Treatment) a little while back. Right here in fact 🙂

      • John says:

        That must be why I sought out the DVD! I thought perhaps you had reviewed the Cilento movie. You were the one who turned me onto all these crime/noir Hammer movies. Have you reviewed all movies in that “Icons” set now? You also convinced me to try for a second viewing that Diabolique ripoff… er, homage… with Susan Strasberg (can never remember it’s blah title) and how glad I was I re-watched it. I so enjoyed it the second time around when I wasn’t in a grumpy mood eager to criticize Jimmy Sanger for everything he seemed to have stolen from Clouzot.

        • You are very kind chum 🙂 And you are so right as he really kept going back to Les Diaboliques, no question about it, but I liked how he rang the changes to be honest. I still have a couple more from the Icons set actually, Never Take Candy from a Stranger and (These Are) the Damned – the latter is by Joseph Losey but not really a Fedora title – the other is about child molestation and was in its day a groundbreaking look at a taboo subject – I’m steeling myself for both of those frankly! And yes, Taste of Fear (aka Scream of Fear) is just a superb thriller, easily the best of the Sangster titles along with The nanny, something he apparently agreed with.

  8. tracybham says:

    Sounds very good and I had never heard of it. I will have to seek it out after we work down our “to be watched” discs, etc.

  9. Colin Brockhurst says:

    How lovely to find so many fans of this terrifically tense and atmospheric little film. I only stumbled across it a couple of years ago and have watched it several times since. Cushing and Morell, in particular, are superb.

  10. Todd Mason says:

    Yikes…that HAMMER ICONS box does sound difficult to leave alone…thanks, as always, Sergio.

  11. Sergio, while I’m not quite familiar with Peter Cushing or his films, he seems to be quite popular among bloggers. I have read a few reviews of his films. The “Dickensian dimension” is an attraction here, particularly the change in the banker that you mentioned. I’d certainly like to see that.

    • Cushing of course was a big name in the UK from the 1950s onwards and seems to have been, by all accounts, an incredibly decent and kind person. This film is very easy to find online and it way better than the last season of Downton Prashant – give it a go! 🙂

      • Cheers, Sergio! I think, we’re still into season four of DOWNTON ABBEY. Many of these television series come to India only after a couple of seasons are telecast in the West. I watch the odd episode. I’ll take your advice on Cushing.

        • Really hope you enjoy your encunters with Peter Cushing – there is a fun little tribute here, though it does focus too much on the horror stuff – he was also a terrific Sherlock Holmes:

  12. Jeff Flugel says:

    I caught up with this really terrific little nail-biter last summer when I finally picked up that HAMMER ICONS OF SUSPENSE DVD set. Your piece here does full justice to this film, Sergio! Morrell is dandy as the suave mastermind, and Cushing has never been better as the cold fish who grows increasingly human and sympathetic as the plot thickens. Some people carp (reasonably enough) about a certain character’s out-of-character “about face” at the ending as a flaw in the film, but if one takes this as a somewhat skewed take on A CHRISTMAS CAROL, then it just about works. Not enough of a problem to derail all the good that has come beforehand, IMO.

    • Thanks very much Jeff – and I agree, the Dickens angle is in fact a major plus – we need that character to change, otherwise its just a cold exercise in suspense (albeit a very exciting)

  13. This sounds excellent, and as if it would make for an excellent family viewing session (parents, grown-up children and Granny) over Easter, so I’m off to see if I can get hold of a copy right away…

    • Really glad this caught your eye Moira – but then, I don’t suppose I could really have recommended it much higher – hope you really enjoy it. Easy to to get online if you have to!

  14. Yvette says:

    I love Peter Cushing, Sergio. Most especially as Sherlock Holmes. He was SO good. I loved his style and his bony face. He was the perfect ‘bad guy’ next to Darth Vader in STAR WARS. Though I’m not a big fan of Hammer films (shame on me, I know!!), still, I did see some once upon a time at the movies. 🙂 This one sounds terrific and I loved the trailer – thanks for the inclusion. I will definitely be watching CASH ON DEMAND one of these days.

  15. Pingback: THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (1902) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | Tipping My Fedora

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