This wonderfully shot and poignant film was denounced in its time, but it touches on abuses that still plague society as a whole.
A wealthy old man abuses two young girls. The town doesn’t want to believe it’s true, but the parents fight for justice. Let’s dig into 1960’s NEVER TAKE CANDY FROM A STRANGER, directed by Cyril Frankel!
As I See It
The film starts out with an admission and a warning.
The filmmakers concede the story is fictitious but caution that it could happen anywhere and be coincidentally true. Understanding the implications of the title, I figured this to be a propaganda film and did not assume much in regard to quality.
What the film delivered, however, was honest, open dialogue centered around the politics of a small town, with the focal piece of the story being the elder member of a wealthy and influential family acting “inappropriately” with two young girls.
The dynamic is complicated by one of the girls being a local and the other being the daughter of the new school principal, an outsider.
Forty minutes in, we get the court case as the young girl’s parents have courageously, and against everyone’s advice, proceeded with charges against the old coot.
Here we get the most authentic representation of the politics of society on a local level.
The townspeople know what the old man is up to, but they deny it because the trouble stirring up shit would cause is more bothersome to them than the cries of babes.
Being produced by Hammer, this film is an excellent example of how the horror genre and its filmmakers have always been at the forefront of processing and addressing heavy social issues instead of hiding and repressing them.
In a primarily British cast, it’s the young Janina Faye (Jean) who holds some prior genre credits, including another Hammer Film Horror of Dracula, and The Headless Ghost.
Of Gratuitous Nature
The mechanism within the story is simple enough. It’s the open commentary that becomes complex and necessary. But in the era it was released, speaking in the open air about such topics was utterly taboo and led to the “failure” of the film.
It’s the performances for me that stick out. From the Carters (Gwen Watford, Patrick Allen, and Janina Faye) on down, there was hardly a poorly directed or delivered performance. It is also beautifully shot, and Janina Faye’s plentiful freckles film brilliantly in black and white.
Ripe for a Remake
The subject matter takes a ton of integrity to mess with and avoid the warranted backlash. Over the years, our genre has been peppered with icons (Freddy) who exploit children in the most grotesque ways, so it was never too taboo for mainstream acceptance as a storyline.
It has no proper follow-up, but it would be hard to argue that it doesn’t have a place, with its long-term effect at least, in the history of Movie of the Week type films that warned teens and parents of societal woes.
Where to Watch
Mill Creek Entertainment included this film in the Hammer Films Ultimate Collection, which gathered twenty Hammer films that didn’t focus on a vampire. You can stream it on Flix Fling.