Paranoiac is another overlooked Hammer film from the early 60s. It’s rather similar to Nightmare – both were directed by Freddie Francis from screenplays by Jimmy Sangster, both were shot in black-and-white and Cinemascope, and both deal with madness and the fear of madness. In Paranoiac we’re introduced to the Ashby family, and a very disturbing little family they are. Mr and Mrs Ashby were killed some years ago in a plane crash, and a few years later Tony Ashby hurled himself off a cliff into the sea. The surviving children, Simon (Oliver Reed) and Eleanor (Janette Scott), were raised by Aunt Harriet. Simon and Eleanor are set to inherit the family money, but Simon’s a bit of a bad boy and has expensive tastes and he’d really prefer to inherit the whole fortune himself. As luck would have it, his sister Eleanor appears to be getting crazier by the day, but then a spanner is thrown into the works when long-lost (and presumed dead) brother Tony shows up on the doorstep. This not only upsets Simon, it also threatens to unlock assorted family secrets.
Oliver Reed is in full-on crazed drunken bad boy mode, and is a delight to watch. Every single character in this movie is disturbing and/or creepy in some way. It’s obvious that at least one family member is totally insane, but it also seems quite possible that more than one might be mad, but which ones? I don’t think this one is quite as good as Nightmare, but it’s still a very very good movie and one that I recommend very highly. It’s included in the recent Universal Hammer Horror boxed set, and the DVD transfer is superb.