While Hammer Films is best remembered today for gothic horror films like Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula, it also had a rich history of suspense thrillers. My experience with this type of Hammer films is limited despite having had The Icons of Suspense Collection: Hammer Films DVD set for nearly four years. One of the movies that immediately caught my eye was Cash on Demand (1961), mostly due to the presence of the legendary Peter Cushing. When Derek, Scott and Casey at the 1951 Down Place podcast made this their Christmas movie in December, it was finally bumped to the top of the viewing list.
Cash on Demand is an adaptation of the Jacques Gillies’ 1960 television play The Gold Inside, which would explain the fact that probably 90% of the movie takes place in a bank manager’s office at the Haversham branch of the City and Colonial Bank. That manager is Harry Fordyce, marvelously played by Peter Cushing. You despise Fordyce very quickly as he is a micromanager and annoyingly precise. His life is being the bank manager and having everything just right, from folding his scarf in a certain way to ensuring that lobby pens are clean and perfect for all customers. His assistant is Pearson (Richard Vernon, The Satanic Rites of Dracula), a very different man who has grown weary of Fordyce and wants out of the bank. It’s the Christmas season, which plays a part in a key twist but really figures more into what the movie is a reworking of. Sharp eyes will very quickly see Ebenezer Scrooge in the character of Harry Fordyce and, as the movie plays out, we see events that force a man to compromise his beliefs in order to save his family.
Andre Morell (The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Plague of the Zombies) plays Colonel Hepburn, a bank robber who has devised a plan to rob the bank under the guise of a bank examiner. As the movie plays out, the Colonel plays a key role in the transformation of Fordyce while building tension as the lives of Fordyce’s wife and son are at risk unless he follows every instruction precisely. Throughout all of this, Cushing is in his glory. Witnessing him start the movie as a very reserved individual and morph into a broken man brought to tears is stunning. Plus, his penchant for having objects in hand is easily accomplished through an office full of accessories. The fact that the movie is almost entirely set within the bank contributed to the low budget. A small cast with only two main characters and two key supporting characters makes for a very tightly written story. With a brisk runtime of 85 minutes, the thriller unfolds quickly and will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Shot over a three-week period in the spring of 1961, it was not released in the UK until late in 1963. However, it was released in the United States much earlier in December 1961. It is a mostly forgotten tale that has generated a following due to the powerful performances of Cushing and Morell, as well as it’s beautiful and rich black and white presentation.
I highly recommend this film, especially if you want something a little different for the Christmas season. However, it is just as enjoyable on a rainy spring afternoon. Check out the trailer on YouTube as you shop for the DVD on Amazon, which is an amazing buy at $16 for six movies. The movie is also currently on YouTube. Then, head on over to the 1951 Down Place podcast for episode 28 for the usual tremendous discussion. Highly recommended viewing (and listening)!