Crescendo (1972)
Directed by Alan Gibson

Starring James Olson Jane Lapotaire Margaretta Scot Stefanie Powers

A lost Hammer gothic thriller, "Crescendo" made its way back to DVD via the "Warner Archives" series in 2009, making it one of the last Hammer films to see any kind of official release.

While "Crescendo" isn't the greatest Hammer thriller, it's pretty damn good. It's also noteable for being the only movie ever to feature a nude scene by Stefanie Powers (albeit for only a millisecond).

The film opens with a Fellini-esque dream sequence that sets the mood. James Olson (who later played the exorcist priest in "Amityville II") is shown getting down with a lover on a beach, only to be approached by a gun-wielding figure that blows his lover away. After a horrified look at her face -- not just a skull -- he looks up at the face of the shooter -- and sees himself!

It takes a good 45 minutes or so from here for the film's pace to pick up again, as we go through the process of meeting the characters. Olson's character, it turns out, is a wheelchair ridden ex-athlete and the son of a major piano player. Powers plays the student who is visiting the family estate to write a paper about the late pianist, and naturally starts falling for his paralyzed son. Meanwhile, family matriarch Margaretta Scot seems to be manipulating events to have Powers stay in the house. And, to make matters more interesting, Olson's paralalyzed athlete is a heroin addict who is being blackmailed by the estate's maid, whom he's also having an affair with.

Not to give too much away, but the film veers from gothic mystery into psycho horror territory once the pace picks up, and the twist is pretty difficult to see coming.

Gibson, who also directed "Dracula A.D. 1972," does an admirable job helming a mystery with a miniscule cast. And the performances are pretty good all around. Released the same year as "A.D.", this was too much of a sixties film to make much of a dent in the U.S. box office. It becomes spretty clear why Hammer stopped making money when you consider this came out around the same time as "Last House on the Left."

Still, it's a pretty good little thriller that suprisingly never got released to VHS or DVD, until Warner Bros. saw fit to release it to DVD-R under the "Warner Archives" banner in 2009. A very worthwhile watch.

<< Back

-- Review by Lucius Gore

comments powered by Disqus