Leon casino, The Icons of Suspense Collection Presents Hammer Films is a 6 film set on 3 DVDs that celebrates some of the lesser known, especially to US audiences, products of Hammer Film Studios. Distributed domestically by Columbia Studios these films range from murder thrillers to robbery capers. The real surprise was not having heard of five of the films and being blown away by three of those five to an extent I wouldn’t have thought possible. I had heard of These Are the Damned, mainly because it was directed by Joseph Losey (in 1961 although not released until 1963)) in the UK after his dealing with the blacklist led to fleeing the United States years earlier. The edit of These Are the Damned in the Hammer set is the uncut version. An allegorical tale that starts off with a motorcycle gang chasing an American tourist only to take a bizarre sci-fi twist with government experiments with radiation and mutant children. Stop Me Before I Kill! (1961) and Maniac (1963) are run of the mill B-grade thrillers albeit with great locations in seaside and rustic France. Cash on Demand (1961) immediately grabbed hold on my senses. COD unfolds like a tense psychological drama as a bank heist occurring in real time takes place. Think of it, most films don’t unwind in the length of time it takes to watch them, and when they are the mood isn’t always concise. In the last several years such films would include Nick of Time (1995) or Tape (2001). More experimental yet noteworthy examples are Russian Ark (shot in one digital take) and Hitchcock’s Rope. But I digress. Cash on Demands pits a weak willed Peter Cushing as a loathsome bank manager who’s blackmailed by master criminal Andre Morell. Morell threatens to kill Cushing’s wife if he doesn’t cooperate. The real time conceit is handled without patronizing the audience and the tension and acting keep you glued to the story. The Snorkel (1958) just begs to be different and refuses to be pigeon holed by genres. A sociopath kills people with gas while hiding under their floorboards wearing a snorkel with hoses running to fresh air. Gradually the daughter of one of his victims comes to suspect him and yet nobody will believe her. Never Take Candy From A Stranger (1960) seems like it could’ve been made yesterday because of the way the story of a child molester unfolds with a matter-of-fact documentary type feel. Set in Canada, we take the point-of-view of a new couple to town, in fact the principal of a school. Their child calmly relates how she and another girl went into so-and-so’s house and, well, took their clothes off. At first the parents freak, then they debate whether to pursue charges. Against everyone’s advise the case goes to trial and the old man accused is found innocent. In a gripping third act the same old man chases the girl into the woods with the intent to kill them. They certainly didn’t make films like this in America in 1960 and frankly very few films nowadays can match the intensity of Never Take Candy From a Stranger. The package includes trailers for the various films all of which are in glorious black-and-white. trailer for These Are the Damned