Distributors have been slow to mine the archives of Hammer for potential high definition blu-ray releases. To date we have had only three; the dual edition package of Vampire Circus (1972) courtesy of US distributor Synapse, UK distributor Optimum’s dual edition package of Quatermass and the Pit (1967) and Eureka’s presentation of Paranoiac. The latter was the first Hammer title to see the light of HD as Eureka took early advantage of their relationship with Universal (future HD releases from this label include Silent Running , Touch of Evil , Repo Man  and Two Lane Blacktop ). Although Paranoiac was not the most obvious title for the champagne treatment, it was the first time the film had enjoyed a digital release in the UK. Unfortunately it isn’t a particularly good film. It is boring, long winded (despite only running for 81 minutes), predictable and hopelessly riddled with generic clichés. These are major shortcomings, but in its favour the film looks beautiful. The monochrome cinematography of Arthur Grant is stunning, and totally justifies the decision to release this title in HD. That the film is so gorgeously shot is not a major surprise when one sees the name of cinematographer extraordinaire Freddie Francis as director.
Simon is a boorish lout, a womanising psychopath with a healthy contempt for all human life (ask the nurse!!). He is determined to prove his sister Eleanor (Janette Scott) insane in order to cash in on her share of an inheritance bequeathed to them by their dead parents. This a tale of warring siblings and greed, and it is conducted largely through dialogue, and largely in lavish drawing rooms and studies. The fly in Simon’s ointment comes with the arrival of his brother Tony (Alexander Davion) who was believed to have committed suicide because he was unable to live with the loss of his parents. Simon and his cadaverous Aunt Harriet (Sheila Burrell) are convinced the young interloper is an impostor. Simon’s reasons for thinking this have strong foundation - he murdered his younger brother and bricked him up behind a pipe organ! A certain queasiness is introduced with a dual layer of incest - Eleanor to Tony (though it turns he is not related) and Aunt Harriet to Simon. Simon clearly plays on the affections of his Aunt and delights in manipulating her to his will.
© Shaun Anderson 2011