*. A British (Hammer) production whose original UK title was Never Take Sweets from a Stranger. Set in Canada, though the opening titles inform us that it’s a story that could have happened anywhere. Which is nice to know.
*. It’s never said where in Canada we are but my best guess is New Brunswick. There’s a lot of logging going on in Jamestown and one mention is made of St. John and the St. Lawrence River. Not that it matters, but I was curious.
*. Not a successful film at the time, for what I think are pretty obvious reasons. The subject matter isn’t a lot of fun: the patriarch of the town’s richest family is a pedophile, but is protected by his wealth and power. It’s basically a message movie, controversial when it came out and still unsettling.
*. Unfortunately, like a lot of Hammer productions it takes a good idea (the story is based on a play called The Pony Trap) and gives it a mostly indifferent execution. The pursuit of the two girls through the forest by the pervy killer is actually well done, and it comes after a decent if predictable bit of courtroom drama. But it never really grips the way it should.
*. It’s daring even today. Or should that be especially today? The landscape has evolved and the issues raised have become more complicated. But perhaps not surprisingly it’s a movie that pulls back from being too edgy. The word “bastard” even had to be dubbed out to “swine” for release in the U.S., which is kind of weird since “swine” is about as British as “sweets.”
*. I say it pulls back mainly because the creepy old man isn’t a credible villain. Exactly how he gets the girls to undress for him isn’t clear since he seems to be totally nonverbal. How he catches up to them is a live question too, as he seems to have suffered a stroke at some point and can only stagger around through the woods a bit like Frankenstein’s monster (a comparison that goes along with his inability to speak).
*. In other words, he’s a beast and not a villainous man, which blunts some of the horror. What remains is a disturbing but not very enjoyable movie that remains a bit of a curiosity. For many years it dropped out of sight entirely, again for the more or less obvious reasons. And yet the subject matter of children at risk remains relevant, as (perhaps even more depressingly) does the social analysis. Clarence Olderberry Sr. is still with us, but so is Jr. I think we know better how to protect ourselves from the old man, but his son is still running loose.