Crescendo is a 1969 (released 1970) British psychological thriller directed by Alan Gibson (Goodbye Gemini, Dracula A.D. 1972) from a screenplay by Alfred Shaughnessy (The Flesh and Blood Show) and Jimmy Sangster for Hammer Film Productions.
The movie stars Stefanie Powers (Sweet, Sweet Rachel; The Astral Factor), James Olson, Margaretta Scott, Jane Lapotaire, Joss Ackland and Kirsten Lindholm.
Alfred Shaughnessy initially wrote a treatment of the script in the mid-60s. In 1966 Michael Reeves (The Sorcerers, Witchfinder General) approached Hammer with Shaughnessy’s script. James Carreras tried to make it for two years with Joan Crawford but could not get the finance. In 1969 the project was reactivated, with Jimmy Sangster hired to rewrite the script and Alan Gibson to direct.
Drawn to the spectacular south of France to research the late composer Henry Ryman, music student Susan Roberts (Stefanie Powers) encounters his son, drug-addicted Georges (James Olson) and his eccentric family. Investigating the haunting strains of an unfinished Ryman concerto leads Susan to discover an empty piano… and a brutally savaged mannequin! Georges tells her she’s the lookalike of his lost love. But Susan may not be the only one at the villa with an eerie doppelgänger…
“Crescendo is one of Hammer’s most forgotten efforts. As a film, it’s weak in that the story takes quite a while to grab significant attention, and its events are stagy, even though Scott MacGregor’s château set design is impressive (only some brief second unit stuff was actually shot in France). While the story tends to borrow a bit from some of Hammer’s earlier Psycho-inspired thrillers, it does pick up quite a bit somewhere before the climax, with the usual twists and turns and several murders tossed in along the way.” George R. Reis, DVD Drive-In
“Alan Gibson, who would go on to helm Hammer‘s modern-day Dracula films, over-directs with too many shots of people and objects placed in distinct foreground and background to compose a clever picture. The set pieces, however – albeit too few – are very effective indeed, and all the performances are understated when they could so easily have gone over-the-top. Viewed today, it could be a very good episode of the much later Hammer House of Horror. Should it ever turn up on satellite TV, it comes highly recommended.” David Hanks, The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television
” … despite some genuine location filming in France, this has an artificial, largely stage-bound feel with the setting restricted almost completely to the main house and the area around the pool Not a patch on Taste of Fear then but with some decent performances, a nice musical score, and taut direction, this is a fairly enjoyable suspenser that delivers some nice twists and deserves at least one viewing.” Tipping My Fedora
“For keen followers of Hammer’s efforts, it makes a new departure. To the usual blood, some sex is added – mainly underwater nudity and a few bare bottoms. Everyone acts with conviction beyond the call of duty …” Films and Filming, 1970
Susan Roberts: “There’s more to life than just existing.”