Never Take Sweets from a Stranger (aka Never Take Candy from a Stranger, 1959)
DIRECTOR: Cyril Frankel
WRITER: John Hunter, from the play The Pony Cart by Roger Garis
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Freddie Francis
MUSIC: Elisabeth Lutyens
CAST: Patrick Allen, Gwen Watford, Felix Aylmer, Janina Faye, Niall MacGinnis, Alison Leggatt, Bill Nagy, MacDonald Parke, Michael Gwynn, Frances Green, Estelle Brody, Vera Cook
Although not a horror film, Never Take Sweets from a Stranger may well be the most horrifying film Hammer ever produced. It takes as its theme child molestation, and remains shocking to this day.
The plot, taken from a controversial West End play, concerns the daughter (Faye) of a schoolteacher (Allen) and his wife (Watford). He has just arrived in a small Canadian town to take up a job as headmaster of the local school. The film opens as young Jean and her new friend enter the house of Clarence Olderberry, Sr, the figurehead of a wealthy and influential family in the community. When she later tells her mother she was abused by the elderly man, her outraged parents are met with widespread denial - including from the other girl involved. A court case ensues, which is brought to an early end when the Carters see the distress it is causing to their daughter.
They decide to leave the town, but while they are packing, their daughter and her friend again go missing - along with the accused neighbour. A frantic search takes place and the community is forced to admit the truth in a suspenseful - and very disturbing - climax.
The drama is, for the most part, dealt with straightforwardly by director Frankel (who returned to Hammer for the underrated The Witches in 1966), but there are a few sequences of genuinely well-crafted terror. As Olderberry, Aylmer depicts what is perhaps one of Hammer's most malevolent ogres.