Ransom

Ransom

Director: Alex Segal, Glenn Ford, Donna Reed, Leslie Nielsen

Cast: Alex Segal, Glenn Ford, Donna Reed, Leslie Nielsen

     
 
Viewers familiar with the 1996 Mel Gibson blockbuster Ransom may be disappointed that there are no smirking villains, car chases, or bloody fistfights in the original 1956 version of the same story. Even so, the earlier Ransom! has much to offer on a purely dramatic level. Based on the Richard Maibaum-Cyril Hume TV play Fearful Decision, the film

Overview

Viewers familiar with the 1996 Mel Gibson blockbuster Ransom may be disappointed that there are no smirking villains, car chases, or bloody fistfights in the original 1956 version of the same story. Even so, the earlier Ransom! has much to offer on a purely dramatic level. Based on the Richard Maibaum-Cyril Hume TV play Fearful Decision, the film stars Glenn Ford as self-made industrialist David Stannard. When his son is kidnapped and held for 500,000 dollars ransom, Stannard at first sets about to cooperate with the abductors and to raise the necessary funds. Somewhere along the line, however, Stannard's outrage erupts and boils over. Buying air time on a local TV station, he pulls out the half-million dollars, then informs the kidnappers that they'll never get their hands on a single penny. He further threatens to use the money as a reward for the kidnappers' capture, dead or alive, should any harm befall his son. Despite the protests of his wife, Edith (Donna Reed), and the admonishments of his friends, family, business associates and even the police, Stannard sticks fast to his decision...but will he live to regret it? The boy's abductors are never seen in Ransom!; instead, the film concentrates on the multitude of ramifications (including a few political ones) stemming from David Stannard's bold stance. As such, the 1956 Ransom! is in its own way as tense and exciting as the more elaborate 1996 remake.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
Alex Segal's 1956 low-budget thriller Ransom! hides behind its two-dimensional kidnapping premise as a smokescreen. The film's roots run deeper than an abduction -- so much so that the kidnapping, in retrospect, appears a mere afterthought. Segal and his co-writers (Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum) build the gestalt of their story around David G. Stannard (Glenn Ford), a deeply flawed and errant father figure, who is not only morally impure (he pilfers lumber for his son's clubhouse, illicitly, at a knocked-down cost) but who runs his vacuum cleaner entrepreneurship second-in-command to the older brother to whom he has felt inferior since childhood. To overcompensate for his deep-seated feelings of inferiority, Stannard throws himself into an insane risk following his son's abduction (promising the abductors on television that they will never see a cent of the ransom, and swearing a Bible oath to use the cash as a ransom on their heads), which of course propels the man into a head-to-head battle of wills against his older brother, who thinks him insane. ("I'm sorry for you," the elder moans, ."..on so many levels.") In this sense, Stannard presages Nick Nolte's Sam Bowden in the 1991 Scorsese remake of Cape Fear by 35 years. To call Stannard "less than sympathetic" would be an understatement; he is seriously disturbed and even, arguably, ghastly. Segal's heart lies in the right place -- the psychodramatic prospect of Stannard wrestling with his own demons is far more fascinating than a Z-grade kidnapping plot -- but the child's murder would be a far more logical conclusion to the father's tumultuous inner struggle. (God, how it would have infuriated viewers had it stuck to its guns!) Ransom! suffers from its lack of dramatic momentum throughout; the preponderance of the film asks the audience to sit on folded hands and watch as Stannard cracks up and his wife, Edith (a shattering performance by Donna Reed) teeters on the edge of breakdown, which fails to generate adequate suspense. The flaw may lie, partially, in the producers' decision to lengthen the drama by appending footage onto it. (Segal originally shot an abbreviated version of Ransom! for network television). But the lengthened picture retains two powerful sequences: the weakened and bed-bound Edith's tender atmospheric recollections of the young Stannard's birth and the parents' onscreen discovery of the bizarre kidnapping attempt, which -- because it emerges beneath such an innocent masquerade (a phony nurse arriving at the school to pick the child up for medical tests) -- hauntingly echoes the latent depravity in 1950s Middle America (as evidenced by serial killers Glatman, Starkweather, Beck-Fernandez, etc.), with its eerie sociological parallels to morally schizophrenic Victorian England.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/29/2014
UPC:
0888574055523
Original Release:
1956
Source:
Warner Archives
Time:
1:42:00
Sales rank:
14,879

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Glenn Ford David G. Stannard
Donna Reed Edith Stannard
Leslie Nielsen Charlie Telfer
Juano Hernandez Jesse Chapman
Robert Keith Chief Jim Backett
Alexander Scourby Dr. Paul Y. Gorman
Richard Gaines Langly
Juanita Moore Shirley Lorraine
Mabel Albertson Mrs. Partridge
Bobby Clark Andy (the kidnapped son)
Ainslie Pryor Al Stannard
Lori March Elizabeth Stannard
Robert Burton Sheriff Jake Kessing
Robert Forrest Fred Benson
Dick Rich Sgt. Wenzel
Mary Ellen Hokanson Nurse

Technical Credits
Alex Segal Director
Jeff Alexander Score Composer
Arthur E. Arling Cinematographer
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Cyril Hume Screenwriter
Arthur Lonergan Art Director
Richard Maibaum Screenwriter
Nicholas Nayfack Producer
Helen Rose Costumes/Costume Designer
Ferris Webster Editor

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