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on 28 January 2014
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on 21 March 2011
As well as their gothic horror films featuring vampires, werewolves, mummies, zombies and man-made creatures, Hammer Studios also made a number of more contemporary thrillers very much in the style of Hitchcock or Clouzot.

Like "Taste Of Fear" (a.k.a. "Scream Of Fear") and "Maniac" before it, "Crescendo" is set in France and it stars Stefanie (she's gaw-juss) Powers as a beautiful music student who travels to a villa there to research the life and work of a now-dead famous composer and she soon becomes mixed up in all sorts of strange goings-on involving the late composer's widow, his wheelchair-bound son, a naughty French maid, the family's creepy manservant and even a doppelganger (or whatever the French word for doppelganger is).

To say much more about the plot would probably spoil the film for those who have not seen it and I am sure that lots of people will not be too familiar with this film because it is not one of the more well-known Hammer movies although it did feature as part of a double-bill in the early 1970s with "Dracula A.D. 1972" (helmed by the same director). I will mention though that some elements of the story did remind me a little of the brilliant "What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?" and the doppelganger theme also later appeared in the Hammer House of Horror tv episode "The Two Faces Of Evil". Alongside Stefanie Powers, the cast of "Crescendo" also includes Clive Anderson lookalike James Olson, Margaretta Scott, Jane Lapotaire and Joss Ackland.

This DVD presents the film in its correct screen ratio of 1.85:1 and it is uncut so this means that all the saucy bits have been left intact. Extras are a bit thin on the ground - well, there aren't any actually, but that does not really bother me. If you have a desire to track down some of Hammer's more obscure non-horror output then you could do a lot worse than give "Crescendo" a look.
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I tend to agree with "Django". I like this film quite a lot whilst recognizing that it's not great or Hammer's best. What I do like are A) Stephanie Powers, looking great, she wears bikini very well, and acts pretty good too. (This film and "Die, Die My Darling" with Tallulah are 2 of her best, in my humble). B) The support cast is good, Jane lapotaire doing her best to steal every scene from Steph., and being very sexy herself. Margaretta Scott, who proves she can be quite daunting and fearsome (did she ever do comedy?). C)The large studio set is impressive-just wish there had been more of the brief lovely location. D)The script-it's not perhaps typical Sangster, and the film is dialogue/character led rather than action, but none the worse for that. Last-the print on this DVD is excellent. If you don't want gore and blood, but like a plot and some nice sexy bits, and you like Stephanie, you should get this. Only 3 stars tho cos it is a wee bit slow. (But I like it).
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on 5 November 2011
Weird, slightly kinky Hammer horror yarn has a young grad student (Stefanie Powers) doing a thesis on a deceased composer while a guest of his widow (Margaretta Scott) and her wheelchair bound son (James Olson) in France. But everything is not as it seems. The widow insists Powers dress in a dead woman's clothes, the son has schizophrenic mood shifts, the maid (Jane Lapotaire) has blackmail plans and the butler (Joss Ackland) is there to protect the ugly family secret. With the exception of one genuinely shocking moment, there aren't many thrills to be had but the film moves along nicely.

The Warner Archives MOD DVD is a decent anamorphic wide screen (1.85) transfer.
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Crescendo is directed by Alan Gibson and written by Alfred Shaughnessy and Jimmy Sangster. It stars Stefanie Powers, James Olson, Margaretta Scott, Jane Lapotaire and Joss Ackland. Music is by Malcolm Williamson and cinematography by Paul Beeson.

Susan Roberts (Powers) travels to the South of France to stay with the Ryman family as she researches the work of late composer Henry Ryman for her thesis. Once there at the villa, Susan finds that the remaining family members are a little strange...

Out of Hammer Films, Crescendo came at the end of the studio's cycle of psycho-thrillers that had begun so magnificently with Taste of Fear in 1961. Filmed in Technicolor, Crescendo has more than a passing resemblance to Taste of Fear. We are in a remote French villa in the company of some shifty characters. A wheelchair features prominently, there's spooky goings on, skeletons in the closet and our lead lady who is the outsider at the villa is in grave danger. So it's Taste of Fear but in colour then!

Crescendo is not a great film, it's ponderously paced by Gibson, meandering through the first half set up and it's all a bit too obvious as to what is going to unravel. That said, the finale is a good pay off in its construction, the Ryman villa set is suitably designed for some creepy shenanigans, while the colour photography is deliciously lurid with the zesty oranges and ocean greens particularly striking the requisite campo composition.

Then there's the cast! Powers is just dandy, having had her trial run in the disappointing Die! Die! My Darling! in 1965, she hits the required "woman in confused peril" notes even though the script does her absolutely no favours. Olson gets to don the worst hair cut in Hammer history as Georges, but the character is pungent with emotional disturbances. Wheelchair bound and having a penchant for hard drugs administered by the sultry maid...

Ah yes! Lapotaire as the housemaid Lillianne, she steams up the screen with her teasing sexuality, positively revelling in her ability to have poor Georges eating out of her hand. Scott handles the batty Ryman matriarch well enough, while Ackland does a damn fine Lurch impression. The film has some qualities that put it above average, but it's a bit too bloodless to be a must see horror film, and much too laborious to be a thriller. It sits in some sort of Hammer Film purgatory, a picture that asks you to take the rough with the smooth. But all things considered, you probably should watch Taste of Fear instead. 6/10
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on 4 June 2015
One of Hammer's worst thrillers. A bore of a film
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on 16 February 2015
thanks for the item
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