AVAILABLE ON REGION 1 DVD
RUNNING TIME: 88 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
The staff of a city bank arrive early morning to open up. The manager Mr. Fordyce, who has alienated himself from his employees, browbeats his top clerks Pearson and Sanders over inconsequential errors and even threatens to sack the latter. Then Security Chief Hepburn shows up and asks to see the bank’s rooms and vault. When he and Fordyce are alone in Fordyce’s office, he reveals to him that he’s actually a robber, and that his two aides have already kidnapped his wife and child and will use electrodes on them if Fordyce doesn’t play along with Hepburn’s scheme to loot the vault. Fordyce has to try to keep from the staff what is going on….
Peter Cushing said that this film contained his favourite out of all the parts for Hammer that he played, and it’s easy to see why. The character of Ebenezer Scrooge is always a gift for an actor and Cushing is pretty much playing a variation of him. Cash On Demand was based on an episode of Theatre 70, a series of TV plays, entitled The Gold Inside, and even has the same director, plus Andre Morell and Richard Vernon reprising their roles. Indeed this film, set almost entirely in the bank and virtually, it seems, in real time, is extremely stagy and talky, despite an opening giving us a tour of Bernard Robinson’s bank set which comes across a bit like padding but is nice nonetheless, and the constant snow falling outside which adds to the fable-like feel. Around two thirds of it just features Morell and Cushing, but luckily both actors are on top form, and it’s interesting that, while Morell’s villainous Hepburn seems like he will have no bones about ordering the deaths of the family of Cushing’s Fordyce should his plan go awry, the suave bank robber often comes across as the more likeable of the two, encouraging Fordyce to be nicer to his staff and even his wife and kids. Watching an unpleasant person learn to be a better human being is always good viewing, and the scene where Fordyce, who has bullied his staff all the time, begs them to help him cover up the robbery, is probably the highlight of what is a superbly subtle and convincing performance by Cushing, but Morell is no less effective in what is largely a psychological game of cat and mouse.
While it was quickly released in the US double billed with sleazy drama Walk On The Wild Side, Cash On Demand didn’t come out in the UK until 1963 where it was billed with musical Bye Bye Birdie. The stripped down suspense drama, which almost entirely avoids anything which could be described as action, manages to be quietly riveting, though I couldn’t help but chuckle at an early scene where Fordyce says: “Banking is one of the few dignified businesses left in the world”, and some of the minor performances are rather poor. I can’t decide whether I like the somewhat pat ending which thematically feels right for the film but not so much in a narrative sense. In any case, it’s really Cushing and Morell’s show, and what this minor, but immensely likable chamber piece, shows is that, just sometimes, little in movies can match the sight of two great actors going at it.