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The Snorkel (1958)

With the release of Sony's The Icons of Suspense Collection, a collection of six Hammer films, came quite a few reviews of The Snorkel from some of my fellow Hammer fans.  So in anticipation of this week's Hammer film I thought I would break out my own set and witness what Hammer has to offer in the thriller department.  The result... one of the best Hammer films I've seen thus far.

The Snorkel is an interesting thriller that opens by not only showing how the story's murder is enacted but also the identity of the murderer.  Peter van Eyck plays the killer, Paul Decker, the victim is his wife.  He sets up a very meticulous plan to make it appear she committed suicide by sealing all the doors and windows in the sitting room and turning on the gas lamps.  Meanwhile Paul manages to survive by hiding underneath the floor boards with a snorkel attached to some outside pipes, allowing him to freely breath air while the room fills up with toxic gas.

Candy Brown the daughter of the deceased Mrs. Decker has just returned from England to learn of her mother's death, immediately she accuses Paul whom she swears she saw kill her father when she was eight years old.  Nobody believed Candy then, nobody believes her now, especially in this case when the room was sealed from the inside and Paul supposedly off in France for a few days.  But Candy knows Paul is responsible and she'll prove it if it's the last thing she does.

At first I didn't expect The Snorkel to be that thrilling of a film, especially under the conditions that we already know the who, why and how of the murder.  But as the story progresses it becomes more of a vendetta against Paul and the question turns to how will Candy prove what appears to others to be insane accusations, and will Paul kill her before she has a chance to do so?  Peter van Eyck is an excellent villain, he has the look, the demeanor and the voice.  As the film progresses my hatred of Paul substantially grows, he's simply evil incarnate as he manipulates the way everyone thinks about Candy and ruins her life by killing everyone she loves.

The greatest disappointment of the film was actually the performance of Mandy Miller as Candy.  For a character who witnessed Paul killing her father about six years earlier, then have that man marry her mother and eventually kill her as well, her emotional scenes seem overly forced and corny to me.  Only a few occasions does Candy actually ever appear genuinely grieved and most of those occasions are near the film's conclusion after Paul has tired to kill her.  I also found it a little bit of a stretch that Candy's mother would marry Paul in the first place when her daughter was convinced he murdered her father.  In real life you normally don't marry someone your kid is adamant about calling a murderer, whether you believe them or not.

Where The Snorkel truly shines is the ending which is very Hitchcockian, although I also must say I found the final minute to be a bit of a cop-out on the part of Candy.  Some people will agree with me, some people will not, but the pure agony Paul's actions would have caused anyone over a six year period I would choose the first ending alone.  Overall, The Snorkel is a good introduction into the Hammer catalog of thrillers, and in terms of the limited amount of films I've covered thus far this one ranks right up there with my current favorite Hammer project The Vampire Lovers.  Anyone into Hitchcock or old school thrillers in general should give this one a look.



  1. Yes, a neat little thriller - and Van Eyck is just evil incarnate. I agree that the bleaker ending would have given the film a final punch, but was probably too much in those days.

  2. @Watching Hammer - any recommendations on other good Hammer thrillers to check out that are of the same caliber or better?

  3. "Never Take Sweets/Candy From a Stranger", "Cash on Demand", "Taste/Scream of Fear", "Paranoiac", "The Nanny", "Straight on Till Morning" are all worth a look.


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