Dogs Know Best

Paul Decker is the best kind of movie murderer. He’s full of himself, approaches others with arrogance, and he convinces his smug self no one will catch him. Played by Peter van Eyck, he’s ruthless and terrifying, finding a way to make a cold stare inviting to some, and searing to others.

Using tropes from teen monster flicks (The Blob), The Snorkel becomes a back-and-forth mind game between Decker and his daughter Candy (Mandy Miller). She knows he killed her mother, and he knows she knows, beginning a stellar silent war as each attempts to reach others to prove their case. Of course, adults don’t believe Candy. In another nod to creature movies, there’s even a scene in which Decker swims after Candy as she floats on the ocean water, complete with tense horror music.

The Snorkel fits snugly in the Hammer line

The Snorkel fits snugly in the Hammer line. Decker doesn’t have the prominence of vampires or mutants, but he’s their equal – sinister, and an engaging force on screen. His willingness to harm a child adds to his villainy, a completely cold, immoral brute waiting for an opportunity.

Amid gorgeous Italian scenery, the setting lacks a sadistic tinge – no crumbling castles or mansions. Instead, it’s a vacation spot, serene and safe for most, yet that adds to the inherent fear. The Snorkel preys on late ‘50s era, post-war anxiety where the world seemed increasingly unsafe or uncertain. In The Snorkel, that extends into private spaces, turning the family dynamic against these characters.

As a heroine, Candy is accosted by her caregivers. After all, no one believes a grief-stricken teenager right at the age when kids rebel against their parents. At times, The Snorkel is oppressively hopeless, and innocent as Candy seems there’s a darker element to her personality plotting to end the man she blames. It’s a movie on the precipice of understanding mental health; shame Miller retired from film acting after this. There’s a sequel percolating, following her character, whether in progression or regression.

Other than the location, The Snorkel makes much of almost nothing. Story construction needs only a few sets, and characters frequently return to the crime scene. That’s clever, a film utilizing what’s in front of itself, not overextending, and still creating a tense thriller.

Video

Immediately stung by heavy sharpening, The Snorkel’s thick grain structure elevates severely. Mill Creek’s compression isn’t up for the task leading to significant artifacting. Between the unnatural grain and digital weight, little else can escape. Top that with notable haloing and there’s no filmic quality remaining in this presentation.

Almost certainly an older, DVD-era master, limited resolution squeezes out more obvious textures. Say, sweaty faces that always bring out fidelity. The rest exists purely in the SD realm, struggling to resolve anything complex. Scenery falls apart, victim to everything from the artifacting to sharpening and lagging resolution.

Pinched by compression, the gray scale slacks off and introduces banding between shades. The midtones look squashed, leaving two extremes and no nuance. Snorkel avoids crush and clipping, if to no benefit. The end result is murky and indistinct.

Audio

Not much of note in this DTS-HD offering. Generally clean highs dominate. An expected wobbliness indicative of age mar the highest treble. Otherwise, there’s no concern.

Balanced dialog fits in appropriately, assuming a slight volume boost. It’s enough to wonder if this is somehow compressed, despite the codec.

Extras

Bringing together historians C. Courtney Joyner, Mark Jordan Legan, and writer/producer Phoef Sutton, the commentary gives the needed historical context.

The Snorkel
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
4

Movie

Small in scale yet hefty in tension, The Snorkel makes for a compelling back-and-forth murder thriller between father and daughter.

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3 (1 vote)

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