Title: The Snorkel
Distributor: Columbia Pictures/Hammer Studios
Writers: Peter Myers, Jimmy Sangster (Screenplay)
Director: Guy Green
Producer: Anthony Nelson Keys, Michael Carreras
Starring: Peter Van Eyck, Betta St. John, Mandy Miller, Gregoire Aslan, William Franklyn
Released: September 1958 (U.S.)
Another Sunday, and another awesome offering from Hammer Studios! This little known film is one that is very deserving of more accolades. It really creeps you out when you think of how sadistic the killer is, and what lengths he’ll go to when putting his efforts into something he wants. Without giving away too much, you’ll definitely get your monies worth from this one!
With a cast of almost no familiar faces (for a Hammer film), this one usually escapes any lists of great films from Hammer, but don’t let that fool you, it really has solid acting, great sets/locations, and is an absolute creep-fest when you really think about it! Well, let’s get on with the movie!
The film begins with a phonograph (that’s a record player for all you kids out there!) belting out a tune. The record quickly comes to an end, and we then see a man, Paul Decker (Peter Van Eyck) and he’s taping all the windows shut, along with any place in the room that might let in/out air. We see a woman, lying on the couch, unconscious. He hears voices outside of the home, and notices two people (servants) heading inside. He quickly dons a snorkel, and attaches two long tubes that were hidden inside a secret panel in the floor, then creeps inside the hidden panel, and waits. Within minutes, the two servants try to enter the room where the woman is lying unconscious (and Paul is in the hidden compartment), but the door is locked. The female servant sniffs around the door (presumably smelling natural gas), freaks out, and gets the male servant to help break the door down. They enter, and are almost overpowered by the gas, but manage to open the windows. The woman, is already dead though, and the family vacation home in Spain is now a crime scene.
The next scene brings the police, and also a family friend, Wilson (William Franklyn). The lead inspector (Gregoire Aslan), tells Wilson the facts, but leaves the final verdict to the inquest. The two men attempt to theorize why this woman would commit suicide, and can’t figure it out. As they continue to talk, a voice cries out from the doorway. We then see Candy Brown (Mandy Miller), the daughter of the dead woman. She screams out that Paul must have killed her, because her mommy wouldn’t do such a thing. The inspector tells her that it was necessary to break down the door, so no one did this and then got away. She still wont believe it, and starts to search the room. Meanwhile, her dog, Toto, begins scratching at the rug covering the hidden compartment. While all this commotion is going on, Jean (Betta St. John) bursts into the room, and pulls Candy away. She’s Candy’s babysitter, and the two were in England while this was going on. As Candy and Jean are leaving the room, she shouts to the inspector that Paul also killed her daddy, but they brush it off.
We next see the Inspector question Jean, but she gives no answers they’re looking for other than the fact that she tells him about how Candy was present when her father died “accidentally” with her mother and Paul. Wilson then takes the girls to a hotel, and we see Paul creep out of his hiding place. He hides his snorkel, and watches the two servants leave the premises. He’s supposedly away working on a novel (he’s a writer), and has made great strides to have an airtight alibi.
Over at the hotel, Jean tries to assuage Candy’s fears that Paul murdered her parents, but she’s not wavering one iota. After Jean leaves, she tells her dog that she’s going to get the proof she needs to put Paul away. Jean goes back to the house, and finds Paul, “grieving.” Of course, he acts like he’s distraught, but the viewer knows different. Back at the hotel, Jean returns and talks to Candy, and they argue over Paul’s credibility. Suddenly, Paul enters the room, and Candy questions him vehemently. She then accuses him of murdering her parents.
The next day, Candy ventures out on her own, to investigate her mother’s murder, while the others are at the inquest. She goes right to the inspector, and pleads with him to believe her about Paul. The inspector tells her that it was impossible because the room was locked from the inside, and the gas would’ve killed Paul too. He also tells her that if she can find out how a man can be invisible and not die from the gas, he’ll arrest him. Once back at the hotel, Candy sees a poster being put up nearby her window, and it shows a tropical scene with men snorkeling. She gets the idea that that is how a man can breathe and not die from gas.
Jean comes in and tells Candy that they’re going to go to America for a trip to get away from all of this. Candy also learns that when you leave the country, your passport gets stamped, verifying the trip. She then sets out to find Paul’s passport, because he was allegedly in France when her mother died. Just as she is getting somewhere, her dog pulls something out of Paul’s closet. It’s the mask for a snorkel, but Candy is so set on finding his passport, she doesn’t even realize its importance. She eventually does find the passport, and as she looks it over, she’s suddenly startled from behind by Paul. He explains to her that his passport corroborates his being out of town when her mother died, so she leaves quietly. Her dog however, is another story. It continually goes into his closet and pulls out his snorkel gear. He then gets a sadistic look on his face, and summarily poisons the dog. Candy is beside herself with grief, and of course, blames Paul. She believes that she’s getting to close, and that’s why Paul did this, so she confronts him, and tells him that she knows he did this, and that she’ll see him dead for all of this trouble.
Later that evening, Jean is having dinner with Paul, and we see that not only is he a cold-blooded killer, but also that he’s subtly influencing Jean, as well as trying to “get his foot in the door” with her romantically. Candy is getting more determined by the minute, and Paul is getting more and more angry that this little girl might just have the will-power to match his evilness.
Will Candy prove Paul’s guilt, or will kill her first? Can Jean keep Paul’s slimy hands off of her, and be persuaded to believe Candy’s story? These questions will be answered if you watch this film!
OK, here are my thoughts:
First off, if you watch any movie on my recommendation, let this one be at the top of the list. The performances by Peter Van Eyck (Paul) and Mandy Miller (Candy) are top notch. Both have an iron will, and won’t be stopped once they’ve decided on a path. This is what drives the movie, from shortly after the beginning, to the end. Speaking of the end (no, I won’t spoil it), I was flabbergasted by the ending, but then it continued on for another thirty seconds, and that part kind of left some of the air out of my sails. Not that it took anything away from the movie, and when you look at it, for that era, it makes sense, but I wanted it to end a minute before it actually did.
A good music score, along with fantastic sets, really give the film that something extra all good cinematic features have throughout them. The filming location was Italy, and the home and surroundings used were more than adequate at doubling as “Spain” for the film. The Inspector didn’t play a huge role, but certainly gave the film a European flavor that was cool. The other main character, Wilson (William Franklyn), was another solid addition to the cast, and played a good cynic.
Get out there and grab this flick as it is part of a collection called “Icons of Suspense” that you can get on the usual places. A few other good ones on that set as well, so don’t hesitate if you can get it at an affordable price. See you next week!