Hammer’s non-horror films from the 50s and early 60s continue to impress me. The Snorkel, released in 1958, is a fairly good one.
White it deals with some of the themes that Jimmy Sangster was to explore obsessively in his early 1960s Hammer psychodramas (the idea of a villain deliberately trying to drive someone to insanity) it has some nice offbeat features of its own, and it has a very satisfying twist ending.
It’s one of those suspense movies that reveals the identity of the killer right at the beginning, and in this case there’s at least one person who also knows who the killer is right from the start. But they can’t prove it.
Candy Brown (played by Mandy Miller) lost her father in an accident when she was eight. Only it was no accident. Candy saw everything but since she was only a child no-one believed her. Now she is fourteen, and her mother has apparently committed suicide. Candy has no doubt that her stepfather Paul (Peter van Eyck) was the murderer in both cases. But her mother was found gassed to death in a room locked from the inside so suicide seems the only possible explanation. The police are satisfied. Candy is not satisfied at all.
A family friend named Jean has flown out from England to care for Candy (Candy and her father live on the Continent), but Candy has decided that if no-one will listen to her she’ll have to play amateur detective and gather the necessary evidence herself.
The movie’s strongest scenes are the opening and closing scenes. The opening sequence sets the nicely twisted mood for the film and it’s a well-constructed and clever visual set-piece. And the ending maintains the same twisted mood in a very effective manner.
Which is not to say that there’s anything wrong with the rest of the movie. Like many thrillers it does rely a little on plot devices that stretch credibility. It seems slightly strange that nobody will listen to Candy even when she relates things that she has direct knowledge of. She might be a teenager but she’s a sensible enough girl and there’s no obvious reason why nobody ever believes anything she says.
Director Guy Green does a solid job. The use of the snorkel as part of a murder plot adds a nice touch of the bizarre. And the locked room mystery device is done very well.
Peter van Eyck is terrific as Paul. He’s both very creepy and very charming. Mandy Miller is very good as Candy. Those two really dominate the movie completely.
As was usual with Hammer’s non-horror films the black-and-white cinematography is superb.
The DVD transfer on the disc (part of the Hammer Icons of Suspense boxed set) is excellent.