Watching film which is supposed to be a ‘World wide ‘ art form one can become centralized on the Hollywood model. The British have always done a strong job with the spy thriller as long as the maintain their essential “British flavor”. There is a tone in their Television series from the sixties I.T.V series THE AVENGERS to the films like the classic Hitchcock Directed THE 39 STEPS (1935). CASH ON DEMAND (1961) is perhaps not in the same cinematic league as those yet is is a refreshing excursion into the heist film.
CASH ON DEMAND was produced by HAMMER FILMS and distributed by COLUMBIA PICTURES in 1961 which was the same year as the initial James Bond offering DR. NO. HAMMER FILMS was getting notice for their remakes of Horror films and sequels that splashed color, gore and sexuality on the screen. The studio also did a series of pictures dubbed ‘Physiological thrillers” by the names of CRESCENDO (1970) , TASTE OF FEAR (1961) plus others. These starred as would most of the early Hammer productions the same troupe of actors usually with a choice newcomer or big name sprinkled in sometimes an American for marketing purposes. Black and white films are always a favorite with me and CASH ON DEMAND does not disappoint in that department.
Plot wise we have a story about the perfect crime of a theft of 97,000 pounds sterling from the a city bank in a small town during a snow storm. The star of the picture is Peter Cushing who plays Bank Manager Harry Fordyce who is menaced by Andre Morell and Col. Gore Hepburn. Hepburn masquerades as a bank insurance person come to test the alarm system.
The initial glimpse of Peter Cushing as Fordyce brings that stylised ‘British flavour’ forward as he brushes off the banks outside sign when comes into work. He is ruthlessly efficient and cold towards his staff as he asks one of the women to remove her Christmas cards from her desk as they are not ‘Dignified.” He dresses proper in conservative style with limited body movements and speaks in clipped tones. This a man who is in total control of his world which is the bank, knows his job and his and other peoples place in the scheme of things.
This is contrasted by the younger employees of the bank which sit on desks when Fordyce is not in. The men try to date the women and flirt shamelessly foreshadowing the young peoples new ideas of the sixties England that were trying to replace the old ways in ‘Swinging London”
The world of the Bank is turned upside down when Hepburn reveals his true intentions plus he has kidnapped Fordyce’s wife and daughter who will be killed if they do not succeed. Fordyce must keep this secret from his staff as he goes about the alarm check and other duties. Morell and Cushing do some excellent verbal sparing through out all the while with Morell’s character holding the ace of having control of Fordyce’s family. The staff that Fordyce rules with managerial coldness learn of the plot. Fordyce begs them to do nothing because of his wife and child however the wheels have been set in motion. The terrified bank manager must endure a police visit Detective Bill Mason (Kevin Stoney).
Tension abounds with little bits of business between the actors which Cushing was famous for developing himself. Little quirks of character like the lighting of cigarette or pipe and drawing on it in a special way. The placement of desk items in easy reach for a moment. One also takes tea differently if on is a manager at a bank then the usual person. The pivotal physical turns when he spins to face a adversary are all different each time these are all hallmarks of actor building character which is to often not seen or a lost skill.
CASH ON DEMAND (1961) features taunt writing by David Chantler and Lewis Griefer keeping the dialogue down to size and short direct scenes. Director Quentin Lawrence who actually performed the same function on the original television adaption of this story called THE GOLD INSIDE’ for program called THEATER 70 keeps the action rolling and the setups to a minimum. Action is in shot inside the Bank plus outside on the street in the snow all in glorious properly photographed with shadows black and white.
CASH ON DEMAND (1961) runs sixty six minutes in original form pumped up to eight nine minute late on. It seems like a hard picture to find on networks yet it is well worth solid film making on budget with good characters and a story.