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  Taste of Fear Cliff Riches
Year: 1961
Director: Seth Holt
Stars: Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee, John Serret, Leonard Sachs, Anne Blake, Fred Johnson, Bernard Browne, Richard Klee
Genre: Horror, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: In a lake in Switzerland, a body of a young woman is found by the police, victim of suicide. Not long after, on the French Riviera, another young woman, wheelchair-bound Penny Appleby (Susan Strasberg) returns to her estranged father's house to make amends and get to know him after ten years apart, particularly since her mother has now died. However, on the way there Robert the chauffeur (Ronald Lewis) informs Penny that although her stepmother Jane (Ann Todd) is there, her father has been called away, so will not be joining her for a while. Penny is confused at this, but is warmly received by Jane in spite of them never having met before, and is shown to her room. Yet there's more to this than meets the eye...

There's nothing extraneous in Jimmy Sangster's script for Taste of Fear, also known as Scream of Fear, it all goes to serve the twists and turns of the plot. Psycho had been a big hit the previous year, and Hammer films looked to repeating that success with their own brand of psychological horrors, but more than Psycho it was the French thriller Les Diaboliques that really informed the narrative here. Even the setting is French, and the big revelations are similar in style to those in that original. That's not to say such connections spoil your enjoyment, indeed, when you're aware of what there is in store it might even be enhanced.

When watching the film a second time, you can see where there have been little cheats in the story and presentation to keep you guessing first time around, but director Seth Holt sustains a spooky atmosphere, thanks in large part to Douglas Slocombe's excellent black and white photography. Holt keeps his camera tight on Strasberg's worried features, never letting us forget we're seeing events from her perspective, not hinting that there's more to her than we expect. This is mainly because everyone around her seems so suspicious, from Jane whose kindly expressions appear to hide her real feelings, to family doctor Gerrard - as he's played by Christopher Lee, how could we not suspect him?

Penny grows to feel that there is a scheme against her to drive her to madness, as she admits herself, she's never been less than neurotic and sensitive, and falling from her horse and being left paralysed from the waist down has done nothing to improve her state of mind. So when she wakes in the middle of her first night in the house to hear strange sounds, and then discovers a supposedly locked room that houses a lot of junk and the corpse of her father, she doubts that everything is healthy in this home. This is especially apparent when the corpse disappears, and nobody believes her when she says she saw it. And there's more to come, with a phone call from her father (or is it?) and possibly the film's most famous scene in the overgrown pool - surely an influence on the likes of Dementia 13 and Dario Argento's Inferno? Overall, Taste of Fear is neat, suspenseful and satisfying to horror fans and mystery fans alike. Music by Clifton Parker.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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