The following is an entry in the above blogathon, in which I am very flattered to be included as a participant.
Cash On Demand (1961)
dir: Quentin Lawrence
When you think of Peter Cushing, you think horror movies. When you think of Peter Cushing and Hammer Studios, you think, um…horror movie double feature.
<adopts completely fraudulent Australian accent> But what if I were to tell yeeoo Peter Cushing starred in an excellent holiday movie from that very steeyoodio?
That would be 1961’s Cash On Demand, a drama with a dash of caper flick, directed by Quentin “Not That Thief Tarantino” Lawrence.
Care for a detailed breakdown of the film’s many twists and turns? Well, too bad. This is a review, not a book report. Nonetheless, magnanimous Mister Manor will supply a brief synopsis to provide a general idea, rather than spoil all that transpires, before you see the damn movie. (Glaring at you, Eighteen Paragraphs Of Plot Summary Person.)
Just before Christmas, the vault flush with pound notes, staid spit-and-polish bank manager Harry Fordyce (Cushing) is visited by Colonel Gore Hepburn (Andre Morell), an inspector from the firm’s insurance company, who arrived in town so recently, he’s still toting luggage.
Eyeing the books and touring the premises, tailed by the nervous Fordyce, everything seems to be in satisfactory order. That is until a seemingly casual conversation in the manager’s office reveals Hepburn’s true intentions.
The inspector is an imposter and ringleader of a criminal enterprise, insisting Fordyce stuff said suitcase with a load of loot and not make a single hoot that will alert the bank staff or police. To ensure Fordyce’s cooperation, the gang has kidnapped the manager’s son and wife; and it will take but a simple hand signal out the window to have one of Hepburn’s henchmen murder Mrs. F and the boy.
Though that snippet of storyline may make Cash On Demand seem like a crime drama or suspense—and there are elements of both in play—it’s much more about the interaction between two central characters almost casually doing their jobs. Don’t expect Die Hard: London Calling. Or even a glimpse of a weapon—besides the old gray matter.
Peter Cushing, as per usual, shines and works masterfully with a foil, slowly transforming from an aloof to a sympathetic character. Understandably distraught, and clearly devoted to his family—and thus humanized—Fordyce maintains as much composure as could be expected under the circumstances. Peter C plays it perfectly, concerned but courageous, without getting melodramatic. (After all, this guy killed Dracula; so, he knows a bit about “never let them see you sweat.”)
Cushing’s counterpart Andre Morell (who was in Oscar-winners Bridge On The River Kwai and the 1959 version of Ben Hur) hangs in there with his co-star blow-for-blow, acting-wise, his Hepburn bordering on affable, by screen baddies standards.
Putting aside the whole kidnappy-murdery aspect of his personality, that is.
Like Cushing, Morell reels it in, providing just enough villainous overtones without venturing into sinister psychotic territory. It’s almost like “I’m the bad guy, you’re the good guy. My job is to threaten and intimidate people for other people’s money. Nothing personal.”
And the two leads knowing exactly how to interpret the roles makes the whole thing work.
Of course the screenplay and direction deserve “credit” as well. Director Lawrence weaves in enough of the rest of the cast to give each of the bank’s staff a touch of depth, from Fordyce’s harped-on subordinate to the office playboy.
By doing so, it not only inspires viewers to care about those potentially in harm’s way, but it also breaks up what would otherwise be an 84-minute two-man show and very likely grow tedious, even with the stellar performances of Cushing and Morell.
Except for a brief trip to the vault, Cash On Demand takes place in Fordyce’s office and the bank office visible to the public. Consequently, while viewing the film, I could envision it as a stage production or perhaps one of those live TV broadcasts. (One creepy critic called it “claustrophobic.”) As it turns out, it was a telecasted presentation, Cash On Demand being a cinematic reworking of the British television series Theater 70 episode “The Gold Inside”…co-starring Andre Morell.
Considering all the remakes constantly cranked out and how the bulk of them are based on already overexposed characters and scenarios…well, it’s just a thought.
With the number of Tinseltown movers and shakers always drawn to Barry’s blogathons and the way these same Hollywood pests hang on my every word, we’ll have to wait and see if there will be another C.O.D.
In the meantime, I’ve used my immense influence to secure a copy of the original for thee to see for free. Just click on the link, rat fink: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5xa6iZdme8