Thank you to our hosts, Barry at Cinematic Catharsis and Gill at Realweegiemidget Reviews who present The Third Hammer-Amicus Blogathon running from October 22nd to October 24th. Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Encore
Taste of Fear released in the States as Scream of Fear is an elegant thriller written and produced by Jimmy Sangster (The Brides of Dracula) and directed by Seth Holt (The Nanny).
Our film opens with the body of a young woman recovered from a lake while another young woman returns home after a long absence. Penny, played by Susan Strasberg (Picnic) has a complicated history. After the divorce of her parents, she moved to Italy with her mother and has not seen her father for a decade. Her closest friend was her nurse Maggie, who was hired to assist the wheelchair-bound Penny following a riding accident.
Arriving at her father's villa in France, Penny is told that her father is away on business and has not set a return date. She is also told that her father has been ill and under a doctor's care. Penny is meeting her stepmother Jane played by Ann Todd (The Passionate Friends) for the first time. The relationship between the two is a strained one. Is Jane over solicitous? Is she hiding something? Perhaps Penny is paranoid about her strange situation. She is reputed to have always been an over-imaginative and skittish girl.
Penny is putting what trust she has in her father's chauffeur Robert played by Ronald Lewis (Mr. Sardonicus). Robert is kind and romantic, and a plus in Penny's eyes, he doesn't like his employer's wife. When Penny is frightened by the sight of her father's corpse, it is Robert who believes her while Jane calls in the local doctor Pierre Gerrard played by Christopher Lee (The Gorgon). Dr. Gerrard seems fixated on her mental state and keeps pushing sedatives.
It is a case of who and what to trust for both Penny, and for the audience. Is her vulnerability making Penny susceptible to nefarious persuasion or is that fragility the root of hallucinations and paranoia? Penny leans into the comfort offered by "Bob" and backs away from Jane's attempts to be a friend. Will proof be found to establish the truth of these people and the mysterious events at the villa?
It is not a contradiction to say that the four leads in Taste of Fear play their duplicitous roles with straightforward honesty bringing the intriguing and twisting script to life. The tasteful and shadowy cinematography by Douglas Slocombe (Julia) and the stylishly classic score by Clifton Parker (The Blue Lagoon) subtly support the story.
Taste of Fear was an international success for Hammer from a box office standpoint, from a critical standpoint, and for the audiences who have discovered it in the 60 years since its initial release. It is the very definition of a horror classic.