There are few greater pleasures in film-watching than viewing a film for the first time that features the wonderful Peter Cushing, one of my very favourite actors. Although Cushing sadly passed away back in 1994, his film career was so long and successful that he featured in over a hundred films, and I doubt I will have opportunity to see them all, but at least it assures that every year some ‘new’ film comes around that is blessed by Cushing’s presence.
Part of the latest Hammer box set from Indicator, Cash on Demand is a particularly special pleasure, in that it is a genuinely great British movie and that it also features one of the very best performances from Cushing that I have ever seen. Not bad considering its a film that I had heard so very, very little of before. Indeed, I suspect many Hammer fans have hardly heard of it, either. In this era in which so few ‘old’ films seem to get airings on British television, this release is a prime example of the importance of these kinds of catalogue releases on disc. Bravo Indicator, then, for this fabulous release.
Cash on Demand is a black and white drama that feels very much like a television play and that’s actually what its based upon- Jacque Gilles’ acclaimed television drama The Gold Inside which aired on British television in September 1960. Fortunately the makers of the film refrained from ‘opening up’ the dramatic piece when transferring it to the big screen, allowing it to maintain its tense, almost claustrophobic feel and really allow the actors to take centre stage. Its the perfect ‘b’ movie.
A deliberate modern twist on Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Cash on Demand centres upon Bank manager Harry Fordyce (Cushing) a fussy and petty man who runs his provincial branch very strictly with little consideration for his staff even in the run -up to Christmas. As the snow falls outside, ‘Colonel’ Hepburn (a devastatingly charming Andre Morell) enters the bank claiming to be an insurance investigator tasked by the Banks owners to test the branches security and the conduct of its staff, but he is actually a smooth bank robber with a ruthless streak. Convincing Fordyce that his wife and child at home are in the hands of Hepburn’s accomplices, who will kill them if Fordyce doesn’t cooperate, Hepburn tests Fordyce to the limit with his cunning plan to rob the entire contents of the bank’s vault during that otherwise very normal morning.
Its a very tense, very dramatic film with a brilliant script full of twists and turns and plenty of opportunity for Morell and Cushing to play off each other in an acting masterclass. I’ve rarely seen Cushing in particular in anything quite as impressive as this -really, that’s saying something in itself- and the way he plays his characters’ Scrooge-like cold offhandedness and allows it to crack and melt away under the intolerable strain of his situation is a real treat to behold. Morell, too, shows his mettle here as he demonstrates he is the equal to Cushing, disarmingly charming one moment and simply terrifying the next. Its a brilliant, brilliant film and I really can’t wait to watch it again- indeed, I suspect this film will be a Christmas staple for many years to come.