Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ransom! (1956)


“That's the barrel they have me over. They don't have to trust me. I have to trust them.”


            The Stannards are a wealthy family. Dave Stannard (Glenn Ford) is a vacuum tycoon. He lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife Edith (Donna Reed) and their young son Andy. Their morning starts off happy and nice. Andy keeps taking the wood out from under the beds so he can build a fort in the backyard. Dave is upset with his son but not angry. He tells Andy they will build a fort together after work and school.
            Dave comes home two hours early from work to play with Andy. Andy is not home. Edith gets a call from the school nurse saying Andy had been picked up by a nurse from the doctor’s office. The woman said the doctor wanted to see Andy right away after some test results came back. Dave calls the doctor about this. The doctor tells Dave he never sent anyone to pick up Andy. Dave and Edith realize that their son must have been kidnapped and call the police.
            The police come to the house. A reporter named Charlie Telfer (Leslie Nielson) sneaks into the house trying to get an exclusive. Dave is not happy about Charlie being in the house but he lets Charlie stay only if he does not write anything for the paper until the following day.
            The kidnappers call demanding ransom. Dave gets the money together but he rethinks about paying it when the chief of police says that Andy could be dead. Dave goes on TV to plead with the kidnappers. He speaks directly to the kidnappers that he has the five hundred thousand and puts it all on the desk in front of him. Dave tells the kidnappers he will not pay the money.
            After the broadcast reporters surround Dave and Edith’s house like vultures wanting any information they can get. They beg Charlie for a photo from inside the house and he refuses since he knows what the family is going through. The papers are all against Dave for not paying the ransom except for Charlie.
            Everyone but Dave is worried about public opinion. The sheriff comes in furious with Dave about the broadcast and how he has not spoken to the press. Dave becomes even more angry and upset and kicks the sheriff out of his house. During much of the ordeal Edith has been kept upstairs in her room sedated by doctors. She comes downstairs with the paper in her hands. She is upset with Dave for not paying the ransom. The police later find a shirt that belonged to Andy in the backseat of a stolen car with blood on it. The police, press, and Edith all think Andy is dead.
            To get away for just a moment, Dave goes outside in the backyard to see what Andy had been building before he left for school. He hears someone behind him. When he turns around he sees Andy coming out from the bushes.
            I have to say Ransom! was intense. I think it was made intense because of Glenn Ford. Ford as amazing. All the tension comes from him playing a worried but determined father. You can see through Ford’s acting that Dave was unraveling yet he was trying to stay together and remain as strong as he could be. This was definitely one of the best roles I have seen Glenn Ford in so far. Donna Reed did not have too much to do. She was a woman in the 1950s and was treated as such. Her nerves were considered too delicate and she was given sedatives and forced to stay in bed with no one allowed to tell her what was happening downstairs. Despite this Reed was very good. I like her and Glenn Ford together. This was Leslie Nielson’s first film role. I could not believe Nielson was in a serious role I am so used to seeing him in silly films like Airplane! or The Naked Gun. He was good.

            If this storyline sounds familiar it is because it was remade in 1996 with Mel Gibson in the lead role, Rene Russo as the wife, and Gary Sinise as the main kidnapper. That version is awesome as well it is a great movie. I highly suggest watching Ransom! if TCM airs it again (it is not available on DVD or on Youtube).