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  • Benjamin May

Cash on Demand (1961) Review

Harry Fordyce is an exacting and priggish man, the manager of the City & Colonial Bank. He holds himself to a high standard, and demands the same of his staff. One day, a fellow by the name of Colonel Gore Hepburn arrives, claiming he is an insurance investigator who needs to survey the bank. However, it transpires Hepburn is in fact a cunning thief, who plots to manipulate Fordyce into helping him rob the safe. So begins a tense ordeal for Fordyce, the results of which are as unexpected as they are thrilling, in Quentin Lawrence's 'Cash on Demand.'

Based on 'The Gold Inside,' written by Jacques Gillies and featured on Theatre 70 in 1960, 'Cash on Demand' is a taut thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout its' run. David T. Chantler and Lewis Greifer's screenplay is terrific, featuring thoroughly believable characters, strong dialogue and much suspense. The initially aloof Fordyce is a particularly well-written creation, the character arc of whom is most understated and realistic. The terrifying journey Hepburn takes him on is one of high anxiety that will change him forever; and one which makes for an exciting experience for the viewer.

The film is produced by Hammer Film Productions, and was clearly a low-budget effort- the few, sparsely decorated sets being the clearest indication of this. However, it's a lovely looking flick nevertheless. Arthur Grant's black and white cinematography is striking, adding to the proceedings an atmosphere of film-noir. Grant primarily worked on horror films, and his work was always assured, stylish and memorable. 'Cash on Demand' may not be what he is best remembered for, but his efforts resulted in a distinct and beautiful looking movie that is a highlight of his filmography all the same.

The film also benefits from an evocative Wilfred Josephs' score, which adds supplementary tension to the already taut goings-on. Often, Hammer films suffered from overblown musical scores that robbed scenes of natural impact and drama. Josephs' is understated and effective in all the right measures. Additionally, editor Eric Boyd-Perkins' work is admirable, keeping the film's pace brisk, but not hectically so.

The late, great Peter Cushing stars as Fordyce, giving a performance of sagacity, vulnerability and depth. The heist situation forces the character to go on a journey of self-discovery, and he plays that out faultlessly. Like his dear friend Christopher Lee, Cushing was often pigeon-holed as "just a horror film actor" (particularly in the 60's and 70's) despite his great range. Though perhaps best remembered nowadays for his role in 'Star Wars' and as Van Helsing- and maybe by a few for his turn as Sherlock Holmes- in 'Cash on Demand' he gives a performance that is nothing less than a masterclass in acting; one which deserves to be lauded and more widely known.

Opposite Cushing stars André Morell as Hepburn, the villain of the piece. Morell also played the role in 'The Gold Inside,' and makes Hepburn a charming rogue that you can't help but feel a certain fondness towards. He and Cushing work together wonderfully, and the supporting cast deliver equally impressive performances- Richard Vernon in particular. Vernon plays Pearson, the head clerk of the bank, and is most natural, performing with an unpretentious ease.

'Cash on Demand' is a suspenseful thriller that borders on the film noir and will surely delight any who watch it. Featuring a fine screenplay and story, the film is unpredictable and tense. Benefitting from two excellent performances from Peter Cushing and André Morell, as well as an atmospheric Wilfred Josephs' score; it's a very memorable experience. It may be a low-budget affair, but 'Cash on Demand' is utterly grand.


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