It is December the 23rd, and in this quiet rural English town the residents are preparing for Christmas. In the local bank, the staff are planning a small party for that evening as this is their last day of work before the holidays, though they haven't asked their boss, Fordyce (Peter Cushing) if he agrees, for he is a stern overseer whose high standards are a source of great stress to them. When he arrives, he proceeds to criticise Pearson (Richard Vernon) about the state of a pen the customers are asked to use, but he has a bigger criticism when he calls the man out for an irregularity in the books, threatening to sack him...
So we can deduce from that opening ten minutes that Harry Fordyce is not a nice man, and is willing to ruin Pearson's career in banking over an error which he has corrected: not the sort of character you would be sympathising with. However, what Cash on Demand proceeded to carry out was a volte face in our feelings about Fordyce, so that by the end, much like Charles Dickens' Scrooge, the coldhearted banker thaws after a traumatic incident, though given this was a Hammer production you might have expected a supernatural reason for that turnaround. In that you would be wrong, however.
Hammer did not make horror movies and nothing but, and this was one of those exceptions to their tradtional fare, a thriller that having been based on a play could be produced fairly cheaply: all they needed was a decent script and a solid cast. It was no surprise they went to two of their more reliable actors for this, with Peter Cushing tying with Christopher Lee as the studio's most identifiable performers, though this time he was not in the villain role, he was our unlikely hero. Or he would have been if he'd done anything more heroic than simply endure the ignominious treatment at the hands of the other main character, one Colonel Gore Hepburn, played by a relentlessly chummy André Morell.
The Colonel shows up at the bank ostensibly to carry out checks on their security, and gets the staff off on the wrong foot almost immediately by pointing out he really should not have been invited into Fordyce's office straight away. Once the two are alone, he reveals his true colours: the telephone rings, and Fordyce answers, whereupon he hears the panicking voices of his wife and young son on the line, just enough for him to get the message that they are in grave danger should he not do exactly what Hepburn tells him to. Yes, we were in heist movie territory, though not from the point of view of the criminals this time, but seeing the events play out from the victim's perspective.
Hepburn's plan is a good one, because if nothing else Fordyce is a man who sticks to rules, and even when those instructions are forced upon him against his will, making him the ideal person to be robbed by a thief who apparently has the upper hand. Seeing as how it was horror Cushing was best known for, Cash on Demand was often held up as an example of what he could do when given a "proper" acting role, the implication being if he hadn't squandered his talent on a disreputable genre he could really have gone places. His fans knew that he didn't have to prove himself to the sceptics because it was a rare movie which he appeared in that did not feature a worthwhile performance from Cushing, but it was nice that in this effort he had a role allowing his expertise to be demonstrated to a different audience. If only Fordyce had genuinely outsmarted Hepburn then it might have been a minor classic, as it was we had to be satisfied the experience had made the manager a better person, though the two stars' accomplished sparring was good stuff. Music by Wilfred Josephs.