der-golem

DER GOLEM. (1920) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

der-golemTHE GOLEM: HOW HE CAME INTO THE WORLD or DER GOLEM, WIE ER IN DIE WELT KAM. (1920) DIRECTED BY PAUL WEGENER. WRITTEN BY PAUL WEGENER AND HENRIK GALEEN. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY KARL FREUND AND GUIDO SEEBER. COUNTRY: WEIMAR REPUBLIC.

STARRING PAUL WEGENER, ALBERT STEINRÜCK, ERNST DEUTSCH, LOTHAR MÜTHEL, LYDA SALMONOVA AND LONI NEST. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This magnificent classic of German Expressionist Cinema, based apparently on an old Jewish folk-tale from the sixteenth century, has a 100% rating on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes and is so old that its country of origin doesn’t even exist any more.

The now defunct Weimar Republic was also home to that other marvel of German Expressionist Cinema, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, and it lives now only in the history books. I find that fact endlessly fascinating. Talk about shrouding a movie in the mysterious mists of time…!

It’s a strange enough story, too. It’s about an olde-timey Rabbi who creates a monster out of clay to protect the endangered Jews and then the monster runs amok, as monsters tend to do, and the townspeople end up needing protection from it. I surely hope that the irony isn’t lost on them…

The Rabbi is called Loew. He resides in a Jewish ghetto in medieval Prague, the ghetto sets having been designed by an actual architect and positively astonishing to behold. One day this Rabbi Loew predicts disaster for his people in the stars, and sure enough the next day the Jews are all ordered to leave the city forever by order of the Holy Roman Emperor.

This decree is hand-delivered by the Knight Florian, as gay a chap as you’ll ever meet with a spring in his step and a jaunty flower in his cap, who promptly falls in love with Rabbi Loew’s daughter Miriam. She’s a real silent movie beauty played by Lyda Salmonova, and Knight Florian is by no means the only man around who wants to wuther her heights, as it were.

Rabbi Loew’s assistant, who’s never named as far as I know, is also warm for Miriam’s form. But for sheer style, panache and vigour and vim (Vim? Wtf?), Knight Florian wins out every time over the rather drab but attractive assistant whom Miriam’s probably used to seeing every day by now. There’s a love triangle developing there that’ll bear keeping an eye on.

Meanwhile, however, the good Rabbi is bringing to life his extraordinary creation, The Golem, and sending it down the road to the olde-timey equivalent of Tesco to get the bread and milk. I kid you not, he actually uses the towering and imposing creature as a servant for a bit, before bringing him to the Emperor’s palace to perform his real party piece.

The downside to creating a monster, however, is that occasionally, they turn on their creators. ‘You can’t create a monster,’ says Lisa Simpson in that very funny episode of THE SIMPSONS about ‘the all-new, improved KIDZ NEWZ,’ ‘and then whine when he stomps on a few buildings.’

Indeed you cannot, Lil’ Lisa Slurry. The Golem doesn’t have any buildings in mind for stomping on, as such, but there’s one local lady who’s going to find her Rapunzel plaits being used for a purpose she surely never intended…

Speaking of THE SIMPSONS, there’s an hilarious TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode in which Bart uses a Golem to do his bidding by posting scrolls into its mouth. At the end of the episode, a female Golem is created to keep the male one company, but he’s none too happy as his mate for life is voiced by the annoying Fran Drescher from sitcom THE NANNY. OH. MY. GAAAAAAWD…!

The Golem was one of the cinema’s earliest monsters, but I’ve never seen him as an evil creature. I actually quite like his reassuringly solid build and impassive features. The scene where he’s being gentle and docile with the little girl from the town is eerily reminiscent of the one from Universal’s FRANKENSTEIN over a decade later, where the monster created in the scientist’s laboratory meets an innocent young chum playing by the lakeside.

You know what else is eerily prophetic? The banishment of the Jews from the city totally brings to mind what happened to the Jews in real life as little as thirteen years later or even less. In 1933, Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power and the Jews were hunted and hounded into ghettos like the one in Warsaw, before being ultimately routed out of the ghettos once again and put on trains for their so-called ‘re-settlement in the East.’

We know now, of course, that that was only a euphemism for ‘the Final Solution’ to ‘the Jewish Question,’ or transportation to the death camps. It’s hard not to think about all that when the film ends on a shot of a glowing Star of David.

This silent horror film will just blow you away, with its amazingly intricate sets and the sheer aura of decades-old magic in every frame. It’s as mystical and awe-inspiring as its contemporary, THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI, and if you haven’t seen it yet you should make it your business to. It’s the bees’ knees and no foolin.’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

pd-vamp

FREE SEXY VAMPIRE BOOK FOR ALL THE SUPER-SEXY VAMPIRE-LOVERS OUT THERE!!!

pd-vamp

Book One of Sandra Harris’s sex-and-spanking Victorian Vampire series FANGS AND FOREPLAY… THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF DRACULA (formerly known as ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA) is FREE, FREE, FREE from 6th Feb-10th Feb!!! Just follow the link below to Amazon and Bob’s your Uncle…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

woman-in-black

HAMMER’S ‘THE WOMAN IN BLACK.’ (2012) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

woman-in-blackTHE WOMAN IN BLACK. (2012) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY SUSAN HILL. DIRECTED BY JAMES WATKINS. STARRING DANIEL RADCLIFFE, CIARAN HINDS, JANET MCTEER, LIZ WHITE, MARY STOCKLEY AND SHAUN DOOLEY. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Susan Hill sure got lucky when she came up with the idea for this book, heh-heh-heh. Wish I’d thought of it first. What a fantastic story, for a kick-off, a surefire draw for the horror community.

This super-scary and atmospheric movie is a HAMMER film, HAMMER FILM STUDIOS being the company that brought us those wonderful Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing films from the ‘Fifties, ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies. DRACULA (1958) and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1965), to name just a couple. This modern-day venture into horror is definitely worthy of inclusion in the superb HAMMER canon. I personally think it’s a bloody brilliant film, excuse my French.

Daniel Radcliffe, who was the luckiest boy in the world for the whole of the ‘Noughties because he got to play Harry Potter in the films of J.K. Rowling’s stupendously popular books, is the star of the film. He’s grown-up now and quite handsome, but you can still see the Harry Potter in him, haha. You’ll never lose it, Harry…!

Anyway, he plays a young widowed lawyer called Arthur Kipp in this chilling supernatural horror film, set in Edwardian times. That means the times after the Victorian era. I think…! He gets sent to an out-of-the-way village called Crythin Gifford on a legal job.

He’s got to go to a place there called Eel Marsh House to take care of the legal documents of the deceased owner, one Mrs. Alice Drablow. He hates the thought of leaving his four-year-old son Joseph with the nanny, but needs must and all that…

The natives of Crythin Gifford are super-unfriendly. The very mention of Eel Marsh House seems to get everyone’s hackles up. Arthur’s only ally in the place is a rich local landowner called Samuel Daily, marvellously played by one of my favourite actors, Ciaran Hinds.

Eel Marsh House has to be seen to be believed. It’s one of the best haunted houses I’ve ever seen in any film ever, and that’s the truth. It’s a truly magnificent old ramshackle house on the edge of a marsh, hence its name, and it’s only accessible at certain times of the day because of the tides. The grounds are delightfully overgrown and spooky and even contain an old graveyard, and as for the house itself…!

The interior of the house is straight out of the Victorian era, with dusty old drapes and old curios under even dustier glass that look like they were borrowed from the Natural History Museum of the eighteen-hundreds.

There are ornaments and bric-a-brac and old photographs everywhere and all kinds of fantastic Victoriana and old clutter. There’s no electric light, no remaining servants and no neighbours for miles around.

But that’s where all Mrs. Drablow’s legal documents are being stored, so that’s where poor Harry, I mean, Arthur, has to hole up for the duration. But he won’t be alone in the house. No, he’ll have company all right, the grim old residence’s one remaining tenant…

Next to the house itself, which for me is the star of the whole shootin’ match, I love Ciaran Hinds’ character, the rich but decent Samuel Daily, and I loved when Samuel lent Arthur his adorable little dog Spider (what kind of name is that for a cute puppy?) so he wouldn’t lack for company in the house.

Company’s one thing Arthur won’t be lacking, though. Eel Marsh House has a tragic history and its tentacles of terror (I like that, tentacles of terror!) reach as far as the village of Crythin Gifford, a village surprisingly low on children. Why is that, I wonder? Harry will need to draw on every ounce of his wizarding powers to survive a stay in the toxic and deadly dangerous Eel Marsh House…!

There are some really good jump-scares in the film that’ll give you the willies big-time. The old nursery at the top of the house is filled with the freakiest-looking old Victorian-type toys the film-makers could find, or so it seems. It’s got all the old staples in it like the haunted rocking-chair and the old enchanted music-box and it’ll creep the bejeesus out of you if you find Victorian nurseries creepy, which a lot of horror fans do.

There’s also a lovely old crypt in the film, though sadly we don’t get to have a good old snoop around inside it which I would have loved. I simply adore nosing around inside other people’s crypts…!

This is a beautifully-shot, well-acted horror film with magnificent scenery and settings and a really scary ghost. Watch it if you can, but leave all the lights on. She’s coming to get you…

PS, I’m not forgetting that there was an excellent made-for-television version of this story filmed in 1989, as I know a few of you horror fans are going to remind me! As a bonus feature, as it were, I’m including here a review I wrote of that 1989 version but please, please be warned, it contains extreme spoilers as I penned it when I was only a fledgeling of a wee baby bird of a chicklet of a reviewer and I thought that that’s what you were meant to do…!

THE WOMAN IN BLACK. 1989. DIRECTED BY HERBERT WISE. STARRING ADRIAN RAWLINS, BERNARD HEPTON, DAVID DAKER AND PAULINE MORAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Based on the hugely successful novel by Susan Hill, this is the story of young solicitor Arthur Kidd, a family man with two young children. Kidd is sent by his employer to the small town of Crythin Gifford on the east coast of England to attend the funeral of elderly and reclusive widow Mrs. Alice Drablow and afterwards tie up any loose ends pertaining to her estate.

At the funeral, Kidd is uncomfortably aware of the presence first at the back of the church and then outside in the graveyard of a grim-faced woman dressed entirely in black. Kidd travels then to Mrs. Drablow’s home, a cheerless old pile called Eel Marsh House which is connected to the mainland by a tidal causeway periodically obscured by mist.

While rooting about amongst old Mrs. Drablow’s effects, he finds two death certificates and a photograph of someone who looks suspiciously like a younger version of the woman in the black attire. He also listens to some disturbing recordings made by the late Mrs. Drablow that seem to indicate that the house has a troubled past, a past chiefly involving a woman of whom Mrs. Drablow has been wary, to say the least, if not outright afraid.

A few things happen in quick succession, none of them good. Well, it’s a bleedin’ ghost story, innit…? Kidd is plagued by the sound of a pony and trap he cannot see, a horse in difficulties and a child screaming for its mother. In a room in the house decked out as a nursery he hears the laughter of a child and the sound of a child’s voice saying: “Hello…?”

Kidd learns that old Mrs. Drablow and her now-deceased hubby adopted the child of Mrs. Drablow’s sister, a woman who later felt forced into kidnapping her own son and tried to flee with him. She and the child died horribly when their horse and trap sank in the fog-wreathed marsh, and it is the sound of their death-throes that Kidd hears repeatedly now.

Sam Toovey, a local land-owner in whom Kidd has confided his experiences, warns Kidd not to return to the house. He also points out to the increasingly unnerved young solicitor that any appearance of the woman dressed entirely in black usually means that the death of a child is imminent.

Clearly the so-called titular Woman In Black, not content with merely haunting the bejeesus out of the inhabitants of Crythin Gifford, is also wreaking revenge on any poor parents lucky enough to possess that which has been taken from her so cruelly.

Anyway, long story short, Kidd wisely decides to leave Crythin Gifford but before he does, he has one more terrifying encounter with Jennet Goss- that’s her name- that has him fleeing back to London as if Old Nick himself were on his tail. Distance is no object for The Woman In Black, however.

In a starkly chilling scene in keeping with the overall feel of the film, she appears in the middle of a lake on which Kidd and his little family are boating. A tree falls on their boat, killing all four of them. Mean old Woman In Black, offing a perfectly nice family like that. Tsk tsk. What’s the world coming to?

This made-for-television film may not be as flashily atmospheric as the more modern HAMMER version, but it’s an effective little chiller just the same. So effective, in fact, that I fully expected to see the silhouette of The Woman In Black everywhere I looked for the rest of the night.

It’s one of the starkest, grimmest and most realistic-looking horror films I’ve seen lately. The acting is flawless and the scenery and settings are bleakly beautiful. Watch this film if you possibly can, but do be careful. She don’t give no warning, she don’t…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

shadow-of-a-doubt-6

SHADOW OF A DOUBT/FAMILY PLOT: A DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

shadow-of-a-doubt-6SHADOW OF A DOUBT/FAMILY PLOT: A DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SHADOW OF A DOUBT. (1943) DIRECTED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. STARRING JOSEPH COTTEN, TERESA WRIGHT, HENRY TRAVERS, PATRICIA COLLINGE, MACDONALD CAREY, WALLACE FORD, HUME CRONYN AND EDNA MAY WONACOTT.

FAMILY PLOT. (1976) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE RAINBIRD PATTERN’ BY VICTOR CANNING. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. MUSIC BY JOHN WILLIAMS.

STARRING KAREN BLACK, WILLIAM DEVANE, BARBARA HARRIS, BRUCE DERN, CATHLEEN NESBITT AND ED LAUTER.

I had a grand time re-watching both of these Alfred Hitchcock thrillers back-to-back over Christmas this year. SHADOW OF A DOUBT is widely-regarded as a stone-cold classic, not only one of the master director’s best films but also the one he’s supposed to have considered to be his own personal favourite of all his movies.

FAMILY PLOT is Hitchcock’s final film, a thriller also with twists and turns to beat the band but with a distinct comedy element to it. Both films concern family ties and the exhaustive complications that can arise therein, which I’m guessing we all know from experience to be the case…!

I like SHADOW OF A DOUBT best, without- ahem- a shadow of a… Well, you know how that ends, haha. Teresa Wright plays a small-town girl, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Newton, who lives in Santa Rosa, California. She’s named for the man she idolises, her Uncle Charlie who’s her mother’s adored younger brother.

Uncle Charlie is back in town after a long time away, and Young Charlie is so thrilled to have him back that she doesn’t give much thought to what he’s been up to during his lengthy absence. The whole family is delighted to have the prodigal uncle back under their roof, especially Charlie’s kindly older sister Emma, who wants to mother him and never let him out of her sight again.

There’s something a little different about having the handsome and charming Uncle Charlie around the place this time around. For one thing, he seems to be being shadowed by two guys, men whose claims to be conducting a national survey on families for the ‘government’ are so lame that it’s surprising anyone at all believes ’em.

(Mind you, housewives from the ‘Forties were probably so used to swallowing their husband’s lies and edicts that every word out of men’s mouths was gospel to them, haha, and it didn’t occur to them to question what they heard.)

Also, Uncle Charlie seems more secretive and edgy than Charlie remembers, and he doesn’t seem too comfortable in his own skin. Perhaps most disturbingly of all, he seems to have picked up some extremely warped world views in general and views on a certain type of woman in particular.

Young Charlie gradually comes to the realisation that maybe Uncle Charlie’s time away from the family was spent engaging in pursuits that weren’t quite, shall we say, lawful. Maybe they were even murderous…

Joseph Cotten does a wonderful job of playing the charming uncle with the shadowy past. I adore the love story between Young Charlie and the cute-as-a-button detective.

I also love Henry Travers, also known as ‘Attaboy, Clarence!’ or Clarence Odbody the Angel in Frank Capra’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, who’s playing Young Charlie’s father here. His deliciously but unconsciously fiendish conversations about crime and murder with his best friend Hume Cronyn (husband to Jessica Tandy from DRIVING MISS DAISY) act as a delightful backdrop to the build-up of suspense, tension and high drama going on elsewhere in the film.

Even though it’s the master director’s last film, I must confess to not liking FAMILY PLOT as much as I do SHADOW OF A DOUBT, which to me feels like a far superior film. FAMILY PLOT is a comedy-thriller and, as I’ve always been much more open to being frightened half to death by the films I watch than being made to laugh by them, maybe that’s why I’m not crazy about this movie. It’s still a good film though, and well worth a watch if you’re a Hitchcock fan.

Barbara Harris, apparently a lady whom Hitchcock had been wanting to work with for a while, plays a phoney psychic who’s been commissioned by a rich elderly client to find her nephew who’d been given away for adoption at birth.

The rich old lady is feeling guilty for having forced her sister, who’s now deceased, to give away her baby boy and so she wants her nephew back so that she can die with her guilty conscience assuaged. The nephew, incidentally, will inherit the old dear’s entire fortune if he can be found…

The phoney psychic Blanche will pick up a handy little commission of ten grand as well, a sum that neither she nor her boyfriend George, a humble chauffeur hilariously played by Bruce Dern who’d previously been in Hitchcock’s MARNIE, are going to sneeze at. All they have to do now is to find this nephew who’s heir to a massive fortune, the elusive Edward Shoebridge…

On the other side of the story, we’ve got smarmy ‘jeweller’ Arthur Adamson (William Devane) who, along with his stunning girlfriend Fran, played by horror queen Karen Black, makes his real living out of kidnapping rich folks and demanding a ransom in gemstones.

Karen Black, who was utterly superb in horror movies like BURNT OFFERINGS and TRILOGY OF TERROR before moving on to star in modern horror flicks like Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES, would add a touch of solid-gold class to any proceedings, and she plays a blinder here. William Devane, who starred alongside Roy JAWS Scheider and Dustin Hoffman in MARATHON MAN, is also perfectly cast as the duplicitious businessman.

You’re probably wondering where the whole ‘family’ element comes into the picture. Let’s just say that when the paths of the two sets of couples collide, and collide they most certainly will for reasons which I’m not at liberty to divulge, it’ll give a whole new meaning to the words ‘family plot…’

You can’t go wrong with a Hitchcock, any Hitchcock. Even if I’m personally not nuts about FAMILY PLOT, it’s still the last film the master director ever made and as such is worthy of respect. As for SHADOW OF A DOUBT, it’s an absolute cracker of a thriller. So go on, film fans, pull that cracker! After all, Christmas is only over when you decide it is…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

strangers-on-a-train-2

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN/THE WRONG MAN: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

strangers-on-a-train-2THE WRONG MAN/STRANGERS ON A TRAIN: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK THRILLERS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE WRONG MAN. (1956) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE TRUE STORY OF CHRISTOPHER EMMANUEL BALESTRERO’ BY MAXWELL ANDERSON. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN.

STARRING HENRY FONDA, VERA MILES AND ANTHONY QUAYLE.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. (1951) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. BASED ON THE 1950 NOVEL BY PATRICIA HIGHSMITH. SCREENPLAY BY RAYMOND CHANDLER. MUSIC BY DIMITRI TIOMKIN.

STARRING FARLEY GRANGER, ROBERT WALKER, RUTH ROMAN, PAT HITCHCOCK, LEO G. CARROLL, MARIAN LORNE, JONATHAN HALE AND LAURA ELLIOTT.

I love these two Alfred Hitchcock movies. One of them is about a man wrongly accused of a crime, robbery to be exact. The other is about a man who is being blackmailed into committing a much worse crime, the crime of murder, by a psychopath with whom there is simply no reasoning. Because he’s a psychopath, haha. They’re both cracking little films which would each make for terrific festive viewing right about now.

Henry Fonda turns in an understated powerhouse of a performance in THE WRONG MAN as Manny Balestrero. The film is based on a true story, by the way, a fact of which Mr. Hitchcock makes us cognisant at the beginning of the film.

Manny is a nightclub musician whose salary barely keeps a roof over his little family’s heads and food in their mouths. He seems like a decent quiet man and a good caring husband to his missus Rose, played by Hitchcock actress Vera Miles, and their two little boys.

When Manny, in a terrible case of mistaken identity, is accused of holding up an insurance office, his life takes a distinct turn for the nightmarish. Henry Fonda does a brilliant job of showing us Manny’s quiet desperation. It looks to us like Manny is in shock as the police take him in for questioning, charge him and put him in a holding cell until he can be arraigned.

The police station and courtroom stuff is exceedingly well done. As this is based on a true story, there’s no wickedly Hitchcockian twist at the end but THE WRONG MAN remains one of the best films ever made about a man wrongly accused of a crime he not only didn’t commit, but wouldn’t even have ever dreamed of committing because it was just so out of character for him. The cops really did finger ‘the wrong man’ for this particular crime.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN is a case of ‘You do my murder and I’ll do yours.’ Farley Granger and Robert Walker are utterly superb as the two titular strangers who meet on a train journey.

Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is a well-known tennis player whose bitchy wife Miriam won’t give him a divorce to marry the love of his life Anne Morton, a Senator’s daughter.

Well, in all honesty, why should she if she doesn’t feel like it, especially now that Guy’s making a few quid on the tennis circuit? I’d hang in there for dear life if I were her. I actually think that Miriam’s a much maligned character in this film. As Guy’s wife, she’s got rights, hasn’t she? Not that anyone ever acknowledges them…

Bruno Anthony, the aforementioned psychopath, is a mentally unstable idle layabout who thinks that the death of his rich but overbearing father would be the answer to all his prayers.

By the end of the train journey, Bruno, unaware and uncaring of how sick his mind actually is, thinks that he’s persuaded Guy to do a ‘criss-cross,’ beautifully-parodied in one of THE SIMPSONS’ Treehouse Of Horror Halloween episodes. It means ‘You do my murder and I’ll do yours.’

Bruno fondly imagines that he has arranged for Guy to bump off his, Bruno’s, old man while Bruno himself will murder Guy’s unfaithful wife Miriam. Guy dismisses Bruno’s nonsense as the ramblings of a lunatic, but when the bespectacled Miriam turns up dead, he suddenly finds himself having to sit up and take notice of Bruno’s wild ravings…

Farley Granger, you might remember, played Philip, the weaker of the two college-boy murderers in Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE (1948), in my opinion one of the best films he ever made.

As Philip was a nervous wreck throughout the whole of ROPE, we never really got to see him smile. In STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, we get to see how handsome Farley Granger really is and what a gorgeous lopsided grin he’s got. ‘Twould melt the knickers off a nun, that would.

He does a great job of portraying Guy’s desperation as he unwillingly gets more and more entangled in Bruno’s mad plan. Robert Walker turns in no less of a masterful tour-de-force as the madman to whom other people’s lives don’t matter a jot. They are merely inconveniences to be swept out of one’s way when necessary.

I love the scene when Guy’s girlfriend Anne goes to see Bruno’s mum in an attempt to straighten things out. Mrs. Anthony, having presumably been caught between her domineering husband and insane son for years, is so steeped in denial that it would take more than the slightly vapid Anne Morton to reach her. The Anthony house is magnificently-furnished and old, by the way.

I adore Leo G. Carroll’s presence here as the stuffy Senator, but it’s always genuinely surprised me how he was okay with his beloved eldest daughter taking up with a married man who was then suspected of his wife’s murder. And him being such a stickler for the proprieties!

And he should certainly have spanked his younger daughter Barbara for her constant cheeky interruptions, so unbecoming in a female of the time but, then again, maybe Barbara’s real-life father Alfred Hitchcock might not have liked that idea so much…!

Hitchcock’s cameo in this film is rather delightful, by the way, and the scene where Bruno attempts to retrieve Guy’s lighter from a storm drain is deliciously suspenseful.

There you go, anyway, dear movie buffs. Two great old Hitchcock films for you to enjoy over Christmas and New Year along with the remains of the eggnog and the selection boxes. Happy New Year and may all our 2017s be filled with brilliant films, new and old.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

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grace-kelly-dial-m-for-murder

A KISS BEFORE DYING/DIAL M FOR MURDER: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF MURDER MYSTERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

grace-kelly-dial-m-for-murderA KISS BEFORE DYING/DIAL M FOR MURDER: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF MURDER MYSTERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

A KISS BEFORE DYING. (1956) BASED ON THE DEBUT 1953 NOVEL BY IRA LEVIN. DIRECTED BY GERD OSWALD.

STARRING ROBERT WAGNER, JOANNE WOODWARD AND MARY ASTOR.

DIAL M FOR MURDER. (1954) BASED ON THE 1952 PLAY BY FREDERICK KNOTT. SCREENPLAY BY FREDERICK KNOTT. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK.

STARRING RAY MILLAND, GRACE KELLY, ROBERT CUMMINGS, JOHN WILLIAMS AND ANTHONY DAWSON.

I watch these two cracking murder mysteries every Christmas, even though they have nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever. And I always watch ’em back-to-back as well, because of the similarities between them and the fact that they each have leading men with murder in mind heading up the proceedings. Let’s look at them now in more detail. After you, gentle readers…!

A KISS BEFORE DYING is an American film noir in colour, if you please, and DIAL M FOR MURDER is a detective movie superbly filmed in 3-D, which is quite impressive given how old it is. A KISS BEFORE DYING could so easily have been filmed by Hitchcock, I always think. It’s almost more Hitchcock than Hitchcock himself. Maybe Gerd Oswald (this was his directorial debut) was a fan!

In A KISS BEFORE DYING, Robert Wagner (who later starred alongside Stephanie Powers as the handsome charismatic billionaire Jonathan Hart in ‘Eighties drama series HART TO HART) plays the leading male, college boy Bud Corliss. Bud’s devastating good looks are equalled only by his devious mind and sleight of hand when it comes to solving the number one problem in his life.

He’s knocked up his girlfriend, fellow college student Dory, see? Her future hubby Paul Newman might have had summat to say about that, haha. Anyway, Dory is thrilled about the pregnancy because she adores the criminally handsome Bud and also wants to get away from her overbearing millionaire father. She hears wedding bells and is clingy and needy to an irritating degree.

Bud, however, as he’s been courting Dory only for her Daddy’s moolah, is horrified by the news of the impending visit of the stork. He smells a disinheriting in the air for Dory and sees all his cunning plans for self-enrichment coming to nothing. He concocts a plan so fiendish it’s actually hard to watch it unfold on the screen. It’s also, to my mind, needlessly complicated.

If he’d only just married the bloody girl, her Pops would’ve come round in the end! But no, he has to weave a web so tangled that surely it’s only a matter of time before he gets caught up in it himself…

The book on which the film is based was written by Ira Levin, who also wrote ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, so you know the film is gonna be good. The 1991 re-make of the film starring Matt Dillon and Sean Young is actually excellent as well.

DIAL M FOR MURDER is set in a marvellously British London and has an older but no less handsome and charming Ray Milland as the leading man with murder in mind, former tennis star Tony Wendice.

His beautiful wife Margot, played by Grace Kelly, one of Hitchcock’s favourite blonde leading ladies, has been more or less flaunting her affair with American mystery writer Mark Halliday, for which sin he plans to bump her off. Plus she has a nice few bob in the bank as well, which will definitely come in handy for Tony, who’s a bit strapped for cash at the moment.

Tony’s own plan is no less needlessly complicated than Bud Corliss’s. Furthermore, he even engages an outside party to do his murder for him, a circumstance practically guaranteed to foul things up.

The scene in which he positively bamboozles poor old petty crook Captain Lesgate with his double-talk and sinister threats is probably the best one in the film. It certainly shows us just how determined the evil Tony is to get what he wants. He was a brilliant actor, Ray Milland.

The plan goes equally spectacularly awry in the 1998 re-make of the film, A PERFECT MURDER, starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen. It’s a f***ing terrible plan, haha, and so is Bud Corliss’s. Too many variables, as the fella says. Too many flippin’ imponderables. Way too many things that can, and do, go wrong.

My favourite character here, beside Tony Wendice himself, is the absolutely super-British Chief Inspector Hubbard, whose valiant attempts to finger the real villain in DIAL M FOR MURDER provide entertainment and some rather spiffing bursts of dialogue.

It’s a film linked together with latchkeys (none of which are on nice sensible key-rings, by the way!), ladies’ stockings and handbags and, together with A KISS BEFORE DYING, will make perfect festive viewing for the older members of the family. And remember, folks, not every super-villain wears tights and funny face-paint, you know. Some are right under your nose the whole time…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

grinch

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS/ THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF HOLIDAY FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

grinchgrinch

DR. SEUSS’ ‘HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS’ AND TIM BURTON’S ‘THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS’: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF HOLIDAY FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DR. SEUSS’ ‘HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS.’ (2000) BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF DR. SEUSS. DIRECTED BY RON HOWARD. PRODUCED BY BRIAN GRAZER AND RON HOWARD.

STARRING JIM CARREY, TAYLOR MOMSEN AND ANTHONY HOPKINS AS THE NARRATOR.

TIM BURTON’S ‘THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.’ (1993) BASED ON STORY AND CHARACTERS CREATED BY TIM BURTON. DIRECTED BY HENRY SELICK. PRODUCED BY TIM BURTON AND DENISE DI NOVI. MUSIC BY DANNY ELFMAN FROM ‘THE SIMPSONS.’

STARRING CHRIS SARANDON AND CATHERINE O’HARA.

These are two festive favourites that strike me as being kind of similar, which is why I’ve decided to lump ’em in together in this steaming double helping of Christmassy film reviews. They’re both beautifully animated and they each have a strong iconic male character in the lead role.

Namely, the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas because he f***ing hates it and Jack Skellington from Halloween Town, the guy who is so enchanted by the new and novel idea of Christmas that he tries to, well, not so much steal it exactly but, shall we say, he attempts to appropriate it for himself and his fellow ghouls just for one holiday season to see how it goes.

I’ll be totally honest with you guys. I possibly would have hated ‘HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS’ if it hadn’t been for the presence in it of Jim Carrey. He bends over backwards to deliver a powerhouse performance as the lead character, the furry green and wrinkly fellow who lives on the outskirts of the mythical town of Whoville.

He lives as a cranky and Christmas-hating outcast, mostly by choice but also because the townspeople are afraid of the Grinch and hate his practical jokes and negative attitude towards Christmas, the holiday season they love more than any other.

They go way overboard themselves for Christmas, turning the little town of Whoville into a veritable winter wonderland of fun, feasting and festivities. And all the while, the Grinch sits alone in his cave muttering ‘Bah Humbug!’ at each fresh manifestation of the townspeoples’ festive excess.

The only person (or are they really people with their freakishly flattened ‘League Of Gentlemen’ snouts?) in town with any compassion for the Grinch is little Cindy Lou Who, played by Taylor Momsen with a couple of really big ugly fake front teeth shoved in her pie-hole.

She’s sorry for the hated creature, with whose pitiful backstory we’re fully au fait through a sequence of flashbacks. There are perfectly good reasons for his miserly Christmas-hating, it seems. This makes us sympathise with the Grinch rather than the mercenary townsfolk.

Cindy Lou is also worried sick about the way that Christmas in her town has become all about the presents, the excesses and the materialistic element of the festive season. Can she make her parents and the rest of the Whos of Whoville acknowledge that the true meaning of Christmas is the love we share with friends and family?

And, in the meantime, a thoroughly hacked-off Grinch is planning to steal the whole kit and kaboodle, just like Homer Simpson from THE SIMPSONS when he has to save Christmas for the people of Springfield by stealing everyones’ Funzo toys. Let’s see now. That makes four Christmases he saved, versus six he ruined, three were kind of a draw…!

The animation is gorgeous and the songs are all cleverly written. The film has a great message but I’m very much afraid that I hated all the Whos, even Cindy Lou, and I still think in all honesty that Jim Carrey is the best thing about the movie. It’s still makes for a good Christmas watch for the kids, though.

And watch out for that awards ceremony. It’s the funniest awards ceremony since Fr. Ted Crilly picked up his Golden Cleric in the Christmas Special of FATHER TED back in the late ‘Nineties.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, a stop-motion animation film, is just sheer perfection all the way through. Chris (THE PRINCESS BRIDE, FRIGHT NIGHT, DOG DAY AFTERNOON) Sarandon voices the lead character of Jack Skellington, a lanky skeleton with the fancy title of ‘the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town.’

Halloween Town is the marvellous creation of Tim Burton, a fantasy world peopled by the most adorable ghouls, goblins, vampires, werewolves, witches, trick-or-treaters, boogeymen and other such wicked little oddities. The imagination Tim Burton must have simply defies all logic.

Jack is in charge of organizing their annual Halloween holiday, which the creepy residents of Halloween simply live for, which is cute indeed considering that most of the little blighters are actually Un-Dead, haha.

When we come in, however, Jack is actually starting to get bored and fed-up with the same old rigmarole every year. He’s actually bored with Halloween, if you can credit that, and he yearns for a change.

When he accidentally stumbles upon the holiday of Christmas and decides that it might be a bit of a lark to take it over for once, the stage is set for some distinctly un-Christmassy activities…

The animation here is exquisite, as are all the delightfully spooky entities with which Tim Burton has peopled his magical fantasy world. The songs are all brilliantly written by Danny Elfman of THE SIMPSONS, and the character of Jack himself is just a delight to watch.

Look at the way he carefully researches the holiday of Christmas and tries to figure out just exactly what is the deal with the whole thing! It’s marvellous and heartwarming to witness.

Sally the Rag Doll-slash-amateur-toxicologist (wonder if any of the naughtiest of the wee gremlins have ever asked her for roofies for a bit of the old ‘in-out…?’) is kind of the Cindy Lou Who of this film.

She’s the only one who can see that Jack Skellington is possibly heading for the disaster of a lifetime, kidnapping Sandy Claws and taking over Christmas and everything. She’s also madly in love with Jack, of course. Will Jack, the silly sausage, work this out in time, or is he too busy unintentionally ruining Crimbo…? Well, you know what men are like…

On my 2008 SPECIAL EDITION DVD of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, two wonderful short films by Tim Burton are also included. That’s why you should always check out the extra features, people. You can find some real gems nestling amongst them sometimes.

The first of these is VINCENT from 1982, in which horror icon Vincent Price narrates a grisly little poem about a boy called- you guessed it- Vincent, who might be a perfectly normal little boy in some respects but who really wants to be like his idol, Vincent Price.

Little Vincent Malloy likes to read the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and wants to immortalise people in his wax museum just like his idol did in that marvellously creepy film about, well, a wax museum.

Directed and written by Tim Burton, this six-minute treasure (there’s no other word for it) is the most exquisite piece of horror cinema you’ll possibly ever see. Vincent Price narrates with fiendish glee and it’s so nice to hear the familiar rich deep timbre of his voice reading the cleverly twisted rhymes.

The second of these short films is called FRANKENWEENIE (1984), which was recently (2012) made into one of those glossy big kids’ films for Halloween. It’s the story of a young boy called- believe it or not- Victor Frankenstein, who’s an American kid from the ‘Fifties who positively adores his dog Sparky.

When a tragedy occurs and Sparky is called away to Doggie Heaven, little Vincent takes inspiration from a school science experiment to help him bring the furry critter back to life, with mixed results.

The film is one of the purest tributes to the original FRANKENSTEIN movies from UNIVERSAL you’ll ever see, and it also features horror royalty Shelley Duvall, the mom from THE SHINING, as Victor’s mother. And watch out for the canine Elsa Lanchester, she’s a real hottie…!

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is probably the only film that so successfully manages to blend our two favourite seasonal holidays. I can’t even think of any others. It makes great viewing for either holiday. Enjoy the hell out of it, dear readers, and Happy Holidays to everyone out there in Internet Land! May we all have a delightfully fiendish and ghoulish 2017. (In a good way, of course!) xxxxxx

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor