Scream of Fear (1961)

Scream of Fear (1961), directed by Seth Holt.

(Aka Taste of Fear).

A young woman in a wheelchair -- Susan Strasberg, age 22, last seen in Picnic (1955) -- arrives on the Riviera to meet her long-absent father and new stepmother. Surprise: Dad is away and everyone is making excuses as to why. She begins getting glimpses of his dead body, but no one will believe her. Is she cracking up, or are they trying to make her think so? Some great twists in this one.

This is an adventure thriller for young women: the disabled but plucky heroine asserting herself in a hostile setting, an amateur sleuth pursuing the clues with the aid of a handsome, attentive chauffeur. It would have been a good date film back then: being grabbed by your date in the dark theater was always a good thing.

This shows what Hammer could do in their non-horror titles. It's so well conceived, so seriously done, that you can almost forget the hundreds of other thrillers you've seen and pretend it's the first time.

Fine art-film look, efficient without being rushed, lovely composition and emotional sensitivity by the actors. Christopher Lee has a supporting role and said this was the best Hammer film he was in: best director, story, and actors.

Hammer's The Gorgon (1964) is on the same DVD.