Never Take Candy From a Stranger (1960)

I remarked upon the pedophile scene in Los olvidados, which took me aback for a number of reasons; at that time I hadn’t heard of this film, which is even more aback-taking (?) for other reasons: it’s all about a pedophile, it was made by Hammer of all the studios that could’ve made it, and it’s completely non-exploitative. And it was made in 1960 as well, which in some ways is the most remarkable thing about it; it would be another year before the very word “homosexual” would be uttered on screen for the first time, yet here was a film on a theme that, even in those days, must’ve seemed far worse to people than consenting adults gettin’ it on with other members of their own gender. It’s rendered even more horrible by the gross abuse of power involved in effectively silencing the victims of the crime; the setting is a small Canadian town basically owned and operated by one family, the Olderberrys, and it’s the aged patriarch of the family who does the dirty deed while his son (literally at one point) covers up the traces of it. It’s this small-town culture, this conspiracy of fear and “better off leaving well alone, we don’t want to cause any trouble”, that makes the whole thing even worse; the townspeople are evidently well aware that the old man is a monster but obviously don’t want to do anything about it for fear of offending Olderberry fils, who is clearly aware that he is basically a bully but knows other people fear him and is happy to exploit that. This really is quite amazing, wrenching stuff, and no wonder it was a flop in its own day. But really, you could re-release this in cinemas tomorrow and it would seem perfectly up-to-date and relevant… which in some ways is the most horrific thing about it.


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