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17 December 1984: The Sweet Scent of Death

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Dec. 17th, 1984 | 09:00 pm

“The Sweet Scent of Death” was episode 8 of season 1 of the “Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense”, also known as “Fox Mystery Theatre.”

This Hammer Film Production premiered in September 1984, though it wasn’t broadcast until 17 December 1984.

It was one of thirteen 70 minute episodes, this one being written by Brian Clemens and directed by Peter Sasdy.

Peter had directed Michael before, in the two pilot episodes of “Arthur of the Britons” – “Arthur is Dead”, and “Daughter of the King.” He said of Michael Gothard: ‘I thought of him as a very interesting actor, with strong personality and in the right part he’d always give a good performance.’

Reviews and plot synopses:


In this suspenseful drama an American ambassador and his wife encounter problems when they visit their pastoral retreat in the English countryside and discover a portrait covered in blood. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi



American diplomat Greg Denver arrives in England as the new U.S. ambassador to London, and to avoid spending the whole time at the embassy he rents a beautiful country house for his wife, Ann. But while Greg is away in London, unknown intruders terrorize his wife, and Ann soon realizes that they may have more of a motive then sheer random terror …



Writer Brian Clemens was a natural choice to contribute some stories to the series: not only had he worked for Hammer several times before during their heyday, he'd also always been associated with the Hitchcockian mystery and suspense style that this particular series was focused on …

"The Sweet Scent Of Death" seems slightly over-familiar material though, and feels like one of the stories that suffers the most from having the screenplay extended to fill the seventy-minute running time.

Dean Stockwell and Shirley Night star as Greg and Ann Denver. Greg is the American Ambassador to the UK who buys a secluded country house for his wife to enjoy the English countryside while he is away on business.

Upon arrival, they have a bunch of blood red roses anonymously delivered -- even though no one knows they have moved there! Ann is sure that she recognises the strangely behaving delivery man though, and soon pins down his identity to the British fiancé of a girl who was murdered in New York ten years previously. Ann had been the ambitious lawyer who got the man accused of the crime off the charge on a legal technicality!

Soon, Ann begins finding blood red roses all over the house and suspects someone of skulking about outside during the night; when she finds an enlarged photograph of herself in the basement which has been slashed to ribbons, Ann becomes convinced that she is in grave danger from the former boyfriend of that murdered girl!

Director Peter Sasdy ("Hands of The Ripper", "Countess Dracula") builds the mystery and tension up quite well at first but the "twist" ending is oddly signposted very early in advance making the final revelations supremely unspectacular and easy to predict.

The trouble is, this is a very overused story idea … and despite Clemens bringing a well-worked-out motive for all the strange happenings and Sasdy handling the climax in excellent style, it can't help all falling a little flat.

All the characters seem curiously blandly written with the only person really shining being Robert Lang in a small part as an avuncular police detective.

Background to the series

"Hammer House Of Mystery And Suspense" was actually a revival of an old idea of Michael Carreras' … but it had never been followed through. Now, story-editor Don Houghton started requesting script ideas from literary agents and ended up with synopsis from many Hammer regulars; Hammer veterans such as Val Guest, Peter Sasdy and John Hough were brought on board to direct several episodes; and funding for the series came from Twentieth Century Fox who stipulated a seventy-minute running time for each episode so that they could each be presented as a movie of the week (broadcast under the name "Fox Mystery Theatre") for their US screenings.

Like many of Hammer's sci-fi movies from the early-fifties, the episodes also had to include American stars in key roles. The American influence is very obvious in the finished episodes: the horror content is muted and often non-existent and there is a very mid-eighties glossy look to the series which has badly dated many episodes.

Also, the last minute extension of the episodes from fifty minutes to just over seventy, leaves some of the them feeling over-stretched. Nevertheless, this is still essential viewing for the British horror fans ...

IMDB entry

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