An Abysmal Truth

For all the monsters approaching their victims in Hammer Studios’ horror line, it’s Never Take Candy from a Stranger’s villain that rates as the most terrifying. A known pedophile, the silent Clarence Olderberry (Felix Aylmer) pulling a rope, still connected to a fleeing rowboat with two girls inside. The camera switches to a perspective shot, looking up toward Clarence, a twisted smile stretching across his face. No vampire can induce the same authentic, unnerving, and uncomfortable fear.

Hammer turned a race car driver, step mothers, and other oddities into effective  cinematic killers. Memorable as they were, none carry the discomfort of Olderberry. He’s too real, the plot too authentic, the camera too unsettling.

Never Take Candy from a Stranger is infuriating to watch as people act, deflect, or ignore what’s so obvious

Say Never Take Candy from a Stranger isn’t one of the great movies of the 1960s. That’s true. However, it ranks among the most essential and important. The only mistake is assuming pedophilia happens only when the perpetrator is visibly mentally ill. Everything else is worth noting.

Set in a Canadian town, Olderberry is respected – too much so, allowing him to go on abusing children because his family brought jobs and prosperity. The nine-year-old who brings accusations, along with her parents, only recently arrived; outsiders cannot be trusted, so the claim falters when presented to authorities. Plus, there’s turmoil in the accusing Carter family, worried how making a public case will look because so often such things remain unspoken. That’s the issue. Never Take Candy from a Stranger demands a correction.

Townspeople blame the little girl and her parents. It’s their fault, the girl for entering the house of a stranger, the parents for not teaching her better. Never Take Candy from a Stranger reveals the lackluster progress in how society treats sexual crimes, utterly prescient in the Me Too era. Victim blame, and let the powerful, prestigious, wealthy abuser go.

On release, Never Take Candy from a Stranger didn’t find an audience, critically or financially. No one wants to sit in a theater watching a story like this. Others condemned the subject matter entirely, which grossly misses the point. Exposing broken systems and hiding from reality allows these people to remain free. This isn’t entertaining, nor should it be. Rather, Never Take Candy from a Stranger is infuriating to watch as people act, deflect, or ignore what’s so obvious. A court case inflames the absurdity when a lawyer accosts a grade school child, bringing her to tears, in a high-dollar defense.

That we can’t look back frustrated on how outdated Never Take Candy from a Stranger is, instead its continued relevancy, speaks louder than the content itself.

Never Take Candy from a Stranger Blu-ray screen shot

Video

Aside from the slightest dirt, Never Take Candy from a Stranger shows barely any age. Restoration cleans up nearly every frame. Plus, the mastering shows superb resolution and clarity. Sharpness naturally brings fidelity, handling facial texture in close, and rich backgrounds. It’s possible to pick up fingerprints on glass doors.

Extensive gray scale moves between pure black and excellent white. Medium tones vary greatly, gradients precise, smooth even. Shadows look full bodied and thick. Encoding handles a consistent, pure grain structure. There’s barely any sign this is a digital print; compression is barely perceptible in certain shots. Easily one of the best lookers in Mill Creek’s Hammer Blu-ray set.

Audio

While restricted, there’s enough range in the music to add depth. DTS-HD keeps the muddied treble clean enough, and aged sound effects passable. The score’s deeper elements like violins rumble a bit, the right amount to add slight force.

Puffier dialog is typical given the time period, still clear. Occasional dubbing aside, it’s a constant.

Extras

Historian Constantine Nasr adds perspective via commentary.

Never Take Candy from A Stranger
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Movie

Disturbing and essential, Never Take Candy from a Stranger reveals the faults in society’s unchanging attitudes toward sexual crimes.

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