Hammer Films Double Features: Maniac/Die! Die! My Darling! [Blu-Ray]; Never Take Candy from Strangers, Scream of Fear! [Blu-Ray]

As with all Mill Creek releases, they’re prone to bringing fans and collectors whole box sets of films, and then to re-release the sets in various volumes here and there. For fans that can’t spring for the big box set, there are two releases from Mill Creek Entertainment that got the Blu-Ray treatment. These are fine releases if you want the movies or nothing else. If you want the bells and whistles, you’ll just have to wait longer.

1963’s “Maniac” is set in France centers on a man named Jeff who is driven to insanity after he tortures the man that raped his daughter. After being released from the asylum years later, Jeff strikes up an affair with a young woman who convinces him to help her break her husband out of the asylum. Oblivious to being used by her, “Maniac” takes twists and turns that amount to considerably respectable entertainment. The performances are tight, while “Maniac” really comes together as an experience thanks to clear motivation and coherent plot.

I managed to see the 1965 “Die! Die! My Darling” and it’s a fairly solid horror thriller that feels like a mix of “Misery” and the Gwyneth Paltrow stinker “Hush.” Written by Richard Matheson, Stefanie Powers treks to visit the mother of her fiancé as a means of getting to know her. When she’s drugged and locked in the house, she must figure a way out before her mother in law’s endless punishing and torture results a guaranteed death. It’s a standard thriller with some god pressing moments, but overall it’s not a masterpiece. I actually had to sit finish this in two sittings. “Never Take Candy from a Stranger” centers on Clarence, a psychopath living in a Canadian Town who is sexually attracted to little girls.

When Peter and Sally arrive with their nine year old daughter Jean from England, Peter learns that Jean and her playmate have been sexually abused by Clarence in exchange for candy. When Peter and Sally take him to court they learn he’s rich and powerful and the odds are stacked against them. Apparently, “Never Take Candy from a Stranger” was a critical bomb, being destroyed by critics and audiences, as it is it’s a fairly exploitative and despicable piece of horror. It’s uneasy material used for genre fodder and I wasn’t a fan. “Scream of Fear!” from 1961 stars Susan Strasberg as a paralyzed young woman confined to a wheelchair who returns to her father’s home.

Incidentally he happens to be away. Suspicious o her new stepmother, as played by Ann Todd, she begins to notice weird goings on around the house. When she finds her father’s corpse, which suddenly disappears she begins to wonder if there’s a conspiracy or if she’s losing her mind. “Scream of Fear!” is a solid horror shocker from Hammer with some fine performances. I would definitely lead with “Scream of Fear!” While each release are bereft of features, you can at least watch sharp transfers of some very good Hammer horror.