Viewers familiar with the 1996 Mel Gibson blockbuster Ransom may be disappointed that there are no smirking villains, car chases, or bloody fistfights in the original 1956 version of the same story. Even so, the earlier Ransom! has much to offer on a purely dramatic level. Based on the Richard Maibaum-Cyril Hume TV play Fearful Decision, the film stars Glenn Ford as self-made industrialist David Stannard. When his son is kidnapped and held for 500,000 dollars ransom, Stannard at first sets about to cooperate with the abductors and to raise the necessary funds. Somewhere along the line, however, Stannard's outrage erupts and boils over. Buying air time on a local TV station, he pulls out the half-million dollars, then informs the kidnappers that they'll never get their hands on a single penny. He further threatens to use the money as a reward for the kidnappers' capture, dead or alive, should any harm befall his son. Despite the protests of his wife, Edith (Donna Reed), and the admonishments of his friends, family, business associates and even the police, Stannard sticks fast to his decision...but will he live to regret it? The boy's abductors are never seen in Ransom!; instead, the film concentrates on the multitude of ramifications (including a few political ones) stemming from David Stannard's bold stance. As such, the 1956 Ransom! is in its own way as tense and exciting as the more elaborate 1996 remake.
by Hal Erickson synopsis