(director: Alex Segal; screenwriters: Cyril Hume/Richard Maibaum; cinematographer: Arthur E. Arling; editor: Ferris Webster; music: Jeff Alexander; cast: Glenn Ford (David G. Stannard), Donna Reed (Edith Stannard), Leslie Nielsen (Charlie Telfer), Ainslie Pryor(Al Stannard),Juano Hernandez (Jesse Chapman, butler), Robert Keith (Chief Jim Backett) Bobby Clark (Andy Stannard), Richard Gaines(Langly), Alexander Scourby(Dr. Gorman), Mabel Albertson(Mrs. Patridge), Robert Burton (Sheriff Jake Kessing), Juanita Moore Shirley, maid); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Nicholas Nayfack; MGM; 1956)

“Always riveting.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

This tense psychological thriller is based on the 1954 TV play “Fearful Decision” by Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum, which starred Ralph Bellamy as the father. It was remade in 1996 by Ron Howard and starred Mel Gibson. Director Alex Segal (“Harlow”), who directed it on TV, does a fine job intransferringit to the big screen. The obscure pic has remained under the radarandonce in a while plays on TCM (where I saw it).

Self-made millionaire industrialist David Stannard (Glenn Ford) is co-owner with his older brother Al (Ainslie Pryor) of the successful Stannard Vacuum Cleaner Manufacturing firm, which sells as a public stock, and has a happy suburban home life with his ideal homemaker wife Edith (Donna Reed)and his energetic bright 8-year-old son Andy (Bobby Clark).One afternoon Andy fails to come home from his private school and the parents soon learn he was kidnapped from the school under the ruse that a nurse picked him up to take him to his private physician’s office. The Chief of Police (Robert Keith) taps the house phones, but his men are not fast enough to nab the kidnapper’s call for ransom of a half a million dollars. At first the beleaguered dad is ready to pay, but cynical experienced reporter Charlie Telfer (Leslie Nielsen) informs David the odds are the same of getting back the kid whether you pay or not. While his hysterical wife is sedated, the cunning businessman goes on live TV and says he will not pay the ransom but will offer a reward of $500,000 to hunt down the kidnapper and if not caught in the next ten years will set-up a trust fund with his own money (meanwhile returning the company’s funds to replace it with his funds) so other parents can use it to capture their child’s kidnapper.

There’s a tender scene where the stressed-out father is alone in his room and contemplates if he made the right decision (thinking that perhaps his gamble jeopardized his son’s life more, will leave his marriage in a broken state and created an unneeded controversy for his company), as it’s believed the boy will turn up dead. The loyal house servant (Juano Hernandez) gently comforts the anguished father with just the right soothing words and gestures, in the film’s most moving and genuine scene.

Though it can’t get itself untangled from being a teleplay, it still works out well because it delivers the dramatics, it’s well-acted, it’s intelligently presented and is always riveting.

Ransom! Poster