SCROOGED. (1988) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

SCROOGED. (1988) DIRECTED BY RICHARD DONNER. BASED ON THE 1843 NOVELLA, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, BY CHARLES DICKENS.

STARRING BILL MURRAY, ROBERT MITCHUM, ALFRE WOODARD, KAREN ALLEN, DAVID JOHANSEN, CAROL KANE, BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT AND MARIA RIVA.

I love this Christmas film, though it has certainly divided opinion between those who think it’s brilliant and those who think it’s a little too dark and mean-spirited to be a perennial Christmas favourite, and yet here we are, lol.

 It’s a re-telling of the traditional festive story of Charles Dickens’s, in which a mean old miser is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve and is taught by them the true meaning of Christmas. What is the true meaning of Christmas, you ask?

Well, I would say it’s to let others into your heart at this emotional time of year, and to try and do as much good for them as you would have them and others do for you. I think that’s it in a nutshell, but you may of course have your own interpretation.

For some people, it just represents a break from work and a microwaveable turkey dinner for one. For television bigwig, Frank Cross (played by Bill Murray), it means keeping his staff and crew working late into the night on Christmas Eve on a live version of the Charles Dickens’ story, A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Sounds like a pretty big ask, doesn’t it?

Not for the cynical, battle-scarred Frank Cross, who damned well didn’t get where he is today (IBC Television President) by pussy-footing around the employees’ feelings and needs. Did ‘e ‘eck as like, as they say down Weatherfield way. If Frank’s stuck in work on Christmas Eve, slaving away over a hot script, then so will his workers be, goddammit!

Frank is so scabby that he gifts the people he doesn’t give a shit about- his devoted personal assistant Grace and his kindly brother James- a poxy IBC towel for Christmas, whereas the top network executives he feels he has to kiss up to all get Hi-Fi stereo-slash-VHS-recorders.

Grace’s kids (one little fella has been unable to speak since he witnessed his father’s death) to their mom when she finally gets home: ‘Mommy, mommy! Where’s your bonus?”

Grace: ‘I’m drying my hair with it…!’

Anyway, so much for Frank Cross and his much-vaunted kindness and generosity! His old deceased boss Lew Hayward, played by the handsome John DYNASTY Forsythe, comes to Frank to tell him that, due to his Scrooge-like ‘Bah! Humbug!’ mentality, he can expect the Three Spirits in due course.

The Ghost of Christmas Past is an obnoxious taxi driver played by David Johansen of the predating-glam-rock-and-punk band, the New York Dolls. Frank is shown by this ghost how he cruelly dropped the love of his life, Claire (Karen Allen of Indiana Jones fame), for the lure of showbiz money and glamour. Claire works in a homeless shelter now, but she’s still crazy in love with Frank, more fool her…

The Ghost of Christmas Present is a delightfully violent fairy played by horror movie star Carol Kane, who once starred in one of the scariest horror films ever made: WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. (‘Have you checked the children?’)

Frank, through the ball-breaking, ass-kicking little tiny fairy, learns that he pays his personal assistant Grace a pittance which doesn’t go far enough in enabling her to support her hungry family, and that he’s treated his brother James disgracefully, even though James still loves him and wants to be pals with him again.

Frank is finally urged to change his selfish ways by the Ghost of Christmas Future, who shows him what it feels like to be cremated. Yes, cremated, and I don’t fancy it either, lol. And what’s even worse than being cremated? Being cremated with no-one there to mourn for you because you were such a curmudgeonly so-and-so in life…

Bobcat Goldthwaite as fired IBC employee with a grudge Eliot Loudermilk also features in the transformation of Frank Cross, as does a rather frightening glimpse into Grace and Claire’s cold, bleak futures… the futures that will happen if Frank doesn’t make the effort for them now. Will Frank get off his smug, comfortably insulated network hiney and step up to the plate…?

Robert Mitchum, star of the Golden Age of Hollywood (CAPE FEAR, RYAN’S DAUGHTER, THE WINDS OF WAR, WAR AND REMEMBRANCE, etc.), plays Preston Rhinelander, Frank’s boss, and Preston’s wife, interestingly enough, is portrayed by a lovely lady called Maria Riva, the daughter of none other than acting royalty, Marlene Dietrich.

Bill GHOSTBUSTERS Murray is great when he’s doing anything, but he’s probably at his best when he’s administering death by a thousand verbal paper cuts to his co-actors, that is to say, when he’s being supremely bitchy, catty, cutting, sarcastic, insulting, you name it, he can do it. He’s got a repertoire of insults that STRICTLY’s Craig Revel-Horwood would die for, dawling, and that’s saying something…!

SCROOGED is up there with NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS, JINGLE ALL THE WAY, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, DECK THE HALLS and all those other terrific Christmas films that we re-watch every year even though we know them upside-down and inside-out by now. They’re as much a part of Christmas as sage and onion stuffing and wrapping paper, so let’s watch ‘em all again this year and to hell with the begrudgers. It’s only once a year, after all…

THE IT CROWD. (2006-2013) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. PS, HAVE YOU TRIED TURNING IT OFF AND ON AGAIN…?

THE IT CROWD. (2006-2013) CREATED BY GRAHAM LINEHAN.
STARRING CHRIS O’DOWD, RICHARD AYOADE, KATHERINE PARKINSON, CHRIS MORRIS, MATT BERRY AND NOEL FIELDING.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is one of the funniest, un-woke-est sitcoms I’ve ever seen, and no wonder, as it’s written by Graham Linehan, the guy responsible for FATHER TED and BLACK BOOKS. All three sitcoms are modelled on the same, seemingly fail-safe, formula:

Take two blokes with hopeless social skills and poor life skills in general (Fathers Ted and Dougal, Bernard Black and Manny Blanco, Roy Trenneman and Maurice Moss) and put them in the sort-of-care of a woman who’s nearly as bad as them (Mrs. Doyle, Fran Katzenjammer and Jen Barber), and off you go; you’re away to the races!

The London-based show is set in the building of Reynholm Industries, a sort of media and communications business of whose exact purpose we’re kind of unclear.


It’s owned by the bombastic, moustached, corrupt and arrogant Denholm Reynholm, who commits suicide by jumping out a window when there are found to be ‘bizarre irregularities’ in his accounts, just like in FATHER TED. That’s an example of Graham Linehan borrowing from himself, lol.

Down in the dingy, untidy basement room in Reynholm Industries, we have the titular IT or Information Technology crowd. (Even Jen doesn’t know what IT stands for!) Chris O’Dowd plays Roy Trenneman, ‘a man from Ireland.’

He’s a big fan of Internet pornography and trying to get women to go out with him (maybe if he did the former less, he’d achieve the latter more!), he has lovely curly Irish hair and he always looks like he’s just crawled out of bed, a look that women do generally seem to find attractive. (Well, the girls on the seventh floor might dig him, I don’t know…!)

He’s horribly work-shy and resents the customers who phone him looking for assistance with their computers. He invariably responds with the by-now-famous line, ‘Have you tried turning it off and on again…?’ and beyond this he’s not really prepared to go, the lazy article.

He’s got a great selection of T-shirts and looks like the kind of big, tall, lopey, hairy Irish guy who might be in the band the Coronas or something. (I wonder are they still called that, or did they change their name after the COVID-19 pandemic??? I would have.)

I love when he’s out for the night at GAY: A GAY MUSICAL, and pretends to be ‘leg-disabled’ when he gets caught out using the theatre’s ‘Disabled’ bathroom. Hilarious. I also love the episode in which he tries desperately to convince a more-successful-than-he-is friend from school that he’s absolutely, definitely, positively not a window-cleaner, lol.

The funniest thing in the whole entire show is probably when the barrister asks Roy to place a cut-out of Ralph Ineson’s face on the exact place on the diagram of Roy’s buttocks where Ineson kissed him after he gave him a massage, it’s just too flippin’ funny. Maybe google this particular bit to see what the hell I’m talking about here…!

Richard Ayoade plays the adorable genius-nerd Maurice Moss, who definitely passes the autism test and who should never be allowed to run after his bullies with a gun, but there you go.

He loves counting and watching COUNTDOWN, being on COUNTDOWN and, when he’s not engaged in any of these worthy pastimes, he adores playing STREET COUNTDOWN with various former COUNTDOWN winners. Me? Well, I’ll have a ‘P,’ please, Bob…

The ravishing red-headed Jan Barber (Katherine Parkinson) hasn’t the first idea about computers but convinces the CEO to take her on as ‘relationship manager,’ or the person who liaises between the IT department and the rest of the company.

She’s only moderately good at doing this, but her personal relationships with men are a disaster, lol. I love the episode where everyone thinks she’s dead and she appears to be haunting a boastful tosser called Bill Crouse, who will certainly never tell anyone he slept with her again…!

Noel Fielding from THE MIGHTY BOOSH plays sometimes-character Richmond Avenal, the strange and forgotten goth who lives in the building behind a red door in the basement, a door which Jen has been warned by her colleagues, Roy and Moss, not to open, so naturally the first thing she does when their backs are turned is… open the door…

Douglas Reynholm, the work-shy son of the late Denholm Reynholm, is a fantastic character. ‘You don’t need to tell ME where to sign on a sexual harassment suit…!’ Loud, super-sexist and with a fantastically booming, carrying voice, he dresses like a reject from SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, he has no idea what his father’s company does, even though he’s just inherited it, he hits on every woman he meets and has fabulously funny lines such as, ‘Damn these electric sex pants!’ and ‘You there, computer man, fix my pants!’ I love when he tells Jen to ‘dress up like my sexy dead wife!,’ and he has the outfit already there and ready to go, the pervert…

The #metoo crowd would make mincemeat of poor Douglas. Would a super-sexist character like his even get written into a sitcom anymore, or is that day gone now too? I can imagine what he might say, in his dramatic booming voice, to such a bunch of marauding feminists as might confront him in his office in Reynholm Industries:

‘You there, ugly hairy men-women! There’s no need to be bitter, and jealous of your prettier female counterparts! My massive knob is an Equal Opportunities Employer! Mind you, I’ll have to shag all of you from behind; I don’t want those earnest, make-up-less faces putting me off my stride while I’m poking the fireplaces, haw-haw-haw!’ The ‘woke’ crowd would tar and feather him, and then run him out of town on a rail…

THE IT CROWD, which also features a great theme tune with nifty graphics, is as funny as Graham Linehan’s other works, FATHER TED and BLACK BOOKS, as I said earlier. He just has a genius for writing about these types of ordinary situations that turn farcical, ridiculous and out-of-control very quickly when you put the right characters into the mix. The show is on Netflix now and is so well worth watching. I’ll leave you with some classic lines…

‘Did you catch that ludicrous display last night?’

‘What was Wenger thinking, putting Walcott on so early…?’

‘The thing about Arsenal is that they always try to walk it in…’

‘Moss, you’re saying football things…! In a football voice…!

Classic lines indeed. Happy Christmas, folks.

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘THE ENCHANTED ORCHESTRA.’ (1979) THE SCREENPLAY BOOK REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

THE ENCHANTED ORCHESTRA. (1979)

PUBLISHED IN 2021 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I’m delighted to be able to say that, after a brief hiatus, Michael Armstrong’s gorgeous glossy-covered screenplay books are rolling off the presses again. Just in time for Christmas, and just as you were tearing your hair out by the roots over what to buy the film buff in your life to show your love this festive season, lol.

In the unlikely event of your not recognising the name, I can tell you that Michael is a writer/actor/director who’s been working in the film industry for a very long time, knows it inside-out and upside-down, warts and all, and is famous for having written the screenplays (and, in some cases, acting in and directing) to the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring a young David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970. A gruesome but frighteningly real depiction of eighteenth century witch-burnings.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

‘Every year on midsummer night at the stroke of twelve, we come alive…’

THE ENCHANTED ORCHESTRA, sadly, is one of those screenplays that didn’t, for one reason and another, make it onto the big screen (See A History of the Screenplay for more detailed information), but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

It will appeal in particular to anyone with a deep passion for and knowledge of classical music (two things Michael clearly has in abundance), but also to those who like a side-order of child-like whimsy and wonder with their main course.

Intended to fuse both animated and spectacular live-action sequences, it would have translated, I think, into something truly glorious and multi-coloured on the big screen, and might even have become a perennial Christmas favourite with the nippers and adults alike. Let’s set the scene…

‘In England, King George V was on the throne, Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence ruled the popular stage and Jazz was here to stay. Poverty and unemployment may have filled the streets outside but the theatres and picture houses were packed, dance music was all the rage and the fashionable young people of London society indulged and frolicked as they always have done and probably always will…

And, in the world of classical music, a strange and mysterious legend was about to be born…’

It all sounds terribly decadent, doesn’t it? You half expect Jay Gatsby to pop up, bearing expensive gifts and yelling ‘Daisy! Hey, Daisy!’ up at Daisy Buchanan’s bedroom window in the manner of a vest-ripping Stanley Kowalski from A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE.

We’re catapulted early on into ‘a young person’s dance party, being held in the huge garden of the Granville’s Mayfair House.’ In a scene straight out of Bertie Wooster, the handsome young hunk of the house, Robert Granville, and his posh but ditzy socialite fiancée, Amanda Harcourt-Compton, catch Robert’s nine-year-old brother, Peter, under the table at the party scaring the female guests with his pet toad, King. Can’t you imagine the horror of the Bright Young Things?

‘Peter, you beastly beast, how could you do something so utterly, utterly beastly, you little beast, you?’

Peter is the youngest member of the rich and cultured Granville family, of whom Sir Arthur Granville is its paterfamilias and head. He’s not a nasty Pa, though, he’s a tolerant and kindly one who even considers his son Robert’s beloved dance and jazz music on a par with the classical music he himself favours. In fact, he’s a conductor of classical music himself, and a man of some international renown. He’s passed on his love of classical music to his youngest son, Peter.

Young Peter is the main protagonist. He probably has two or three main things going on in his little nine-year-old life at the moment. One, his kindly, much adored but sexy Nanny is leaving him to marry his Uncle Henry, the dirty devil. She was only a factory girl, anyone?

It certainly does call to mind the trend in Wodehouse for rich and titled older men to lose their aristocratic heads over shopgirls, parlourmaids and tearoom waitresses. Much to the disgust of their money-grubbing relatives, I might add.

Peter’s Nanny, judging from the description, reminds me of a certain bosomy District Nurse Gladys Emanuel from sitcom OPEN ALL HOURS. Peter will definitely miss laying his head comfortably on her generous knockers of a bedtime, added to which he also has to get used to the idea that his primary care-giver from now on will be the odious Miss Grisby, ‘the archetypal strict governess, a fearful sight for any small boy.’

The other thing occupying all Peter’s attention at the moment is a concert at the Royal Albert Hall at which his very own father is performing, but which he himself is not allowed to attend because of his tender years:

At a huge hoarding outside:

NEWS CHRONICLE

24TH JUNE 1932

MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT GALA CONCERT

UNDER THE PATRONAGE OF THEIR MAJESTIES THE KING AND QUEEN

IN AID OF THE MUSICIANS’ BENEVOLENT FUND-

Peter is devastated that he can’t go, but must stay home with the awful Miss Grisby instead. He is determined to attend this magical gala evening, however, and employs the well-known tearing-and-tying-your-sheets-together-to-make-an-escape-rope method of leaving the house at night before hurrying to where the concert is being held, the Royal Albert Hall.

‘A slight fog is starting to settle

As PETER hurries along the lamp-lit streets…

Passing glimpses of London’s nightlife:

People in evening dress-

Paupers around Hyde Park-

Fashionable restaurants-

Carriages and automobiles…

The blinding dazzle of Harrods shop-windows,

Resplendent with tempting luxuries and fashions…

And on PETER runs…

The writing is so evocative, and the images so easy to see in our mind’s eye, that we have no difficulty in imagining ourselves right there with Peter, in that foggy, gas-lit London of nearly a century ago. In the hours that follow, the magic happens.

I can’t tell you too much for fear of spoilers, so suffice it to say that a small boy who loves music more than anything else in the world (except, maybe, for Nanny’s magnificent knockers), is introduced to a behind-the-scenes world of musical magic where instruments come alive and historical figures of immense greatness- Beethoven, Puccini, Verdi, Handel, Tchaikovsky, Wagner (Hitler’s favourite composer, lol), Strauss and Mussorgsky are only dying to come back to life and dispense their acidic wisdom.

We end up asking ourselves questions like, are musical instruments only as good as the human beings who play them, or can they, if left to it, make music on their own? Do musical instruments have feelings?

1st Violin: We feel things when humans play us.

Bass Drum: They hit me. I feel that.

Horn: Good.

Horn is clearly a bit of a sadist, lol.

The screenplay contains haunting descriptions of Stonehenge and the obliteration of Pompeii by the volcano Vesuvius. You’ll meet adorable little riverside creatures who could have hopped straight off the pages of Beatrix Potter and Kenneth Grahame, and you’ll get to watch Michael poke satirical fun at the double-barrelled nonsense of the Bright Young Things of the ‘thirties. Amanda Harcourt-Compton-Fink-Nottle, indeed.

On the back cover of this beautiful book (which, by the way, contains seventy-odd pages of fabulous illustrations) is a quote from myself, actually, saying that:‘The film fan in your life would be eternally grateful for a gift from this luxurious, glossy-covered collection.’

Well, Christmas is just around the corner, folks. You know what to do.

Ta-ta for now and kind regards,

Sandra Harris-de Cadenet-de Havilland-Little-Glossop.

You can buy this book and all of Michael’s other books as well at the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

Happy shopping!

OUTBREAK. (1995) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

OUTBREAK. (1995) DIRECTED BY WOLFGANG PETERS. BASED ON RICHARD PRESTON’S 1994 NON-FICTION BOOK, ‘THE HOT ZONE.’

STARRING DUSTIN HOFFMAN, RENE RUSSO, MORGAN FREEMAN, DONALD SUTHERLAND, PATRICK DEMPSEY, KEVIN SPACEY, CUBA GOODING JR.

BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

God, I love a good plague or virus movie. CONTAGION (2011), the masterpiece that kills off the annoying Gwyneth Paltrow within the first ten minutes, is probably my favourite, although RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR (2006) is excellent too. That one’s about dirty bombs and chemical warfare, but it’s all the same thing, innit?

OUTBREAK, one of the most streamed films on Netflix during the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic (I find that hilarious), probably isn’t the most technically or scientifically accurate movie about a pandemic.

Like, how come every infected person but Rene Russo dies a horrible, disgusting death that includes bleeding from the eyes like a statue of the Virgin Mary in a haunted grotto? An obvious flaw, but it’s still a great romp and references that great American institution, the CDC, or the Centres for Disease Control. You know you’re in for a good watch when they have to call in the CDC! I think they brought ‘em in to the Stephen King six-hour mini-series THE STAND (1994) as well. A great bunch of lads, the Chinese. Erm, I mean the CDC.

The diminutive method-acting Dustin Hoffman plays army medic Colonel Sam Daniels, MD. All the main men in this film play different ranks of army personnel, and, unless you know which rank supersedes which other rank, you’re apt to become a tad confused. Here’s a simple trick to following Who’s Who: Sam ranks higher than Kevin Spacey and Cuba Gooding Jr., his old muckers and colleagues, but lower than Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland, the top brass. Got it…?

Sam’s ex-wife, Roberta ‘Robby’ Keough, MD, is an army medic too. They are going through a messy divorce when it’s obvious they still love each other and their two beautiful dogs. They should put the nonsense aside and have an honest conversation for once instead of all the sniping and snapping.

Anyway, the virus, right? It’s brought into America- Cedar Creek in California, to be exact- by an adorable disease monkey similar to the ones that people initially thought were responsible for the spread of AIDS.

A big dope called Jimbo steals the little critter from the animal testing laboratory where he works after it’s been smuggled into the country. He hopes to sell it to a pet shop on the black market, no questions asked, but before you can say, ‘we’d better put a call in to the CDC,’ Jimbo and the pet-shop owner are dead of the virus and the monkey is running amok in the woods after being released by a misguided Jimbo.

Dozens of Californians (not the Californians, they’re the beautiful people!) immediately catch the virus and die horribly. Sam wants to find a cure, for which he’ll need to find the monkey, but Donald Sutherland just wants to nuke the town of Cedar Creek in Operation Clean Sweep, something he did thirty years ago when the same virus showed up in a village in darkest Africa. He clearly just really loves to nuke stuff, and gets really annoyed when Sam keeps trying to stop him.

Dustin Hoffman is quite funny and endearing as Sam, the sort of loose cannon, maverick medic. He strides around the place standing up to his superiors (especially Morgan Freeman, who might know more about this virus than he’s letting on) and saying things like, ‘With all due respect, Brigadier, fuck you,’ when he’s about to contravene a direct order, which is most of the time.

The scene where Dustin Hoffman helicopters onto the exact right boat that brought the plague monkey into ‘Murica before helicoptering back off again is a little far-fetched. Sam’s speech to the soldiers who are tasked with dropping the bomb on poor old Cedar Creek is hokey in the extreme, mawkishly sentimental, but that’s the kind of fun, over-the-top disaster movie this is, lol.

I love the spooky scene where the nice, normal ordinary Cedar Creek mom has to leave her husband and kids and go somewhere unknown in order to be ‘isolated’ by the Army, who are of course working for the government. THE CDC, the CIA, the FBI, they all terrify me, even though I said earlier that the CDC were a great bunch of lads.

It’s just the thought of all the secrets they must have kept over the years, all the things they must have decided at the highest level that it wasn’t in the ‘public’s best interests’ to know.

And, if you’ve seen RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR, you too might have a fear of the Army turning up at your house one day in the middle of a terrifying public health crisis, but not to help you by bringing you bags of oranges and stores of penicillin…

It’s interesting to watch stuff like this in the context of our own recent pandemic. CONTAGION probably mirrors our COVID experiences the closest, with masks and self-isolation and vaccines and people who say the vaccines are a load of bollocks and all part of a wider government conspiracy and whatnot, but OUTBREAK is great craic too, and it vanishes from Netflix at the end of November, so chop chop! Catch it while you can, but not the virus. Definitely don’t catch that…

CHILDREN OF THE CORN. (1984) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN. (1984) BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY FRITZ KIERSCH. SCREENPLAY BY GEORGE GOLDSMITH.

STARRING PETER HORTON, LINDA HAMILTON, R.G. ARMSTRONG, JOHN FRANKLIN AND COURTNEY GAINS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Isaac: Malachaiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

Malachai: Whaaaaaaaat?

Isaac: Tell Bart to come home!

Malachai: He’s not here! I think he’s at Nelson’s!

Isaac: Whooooooooo’s Nelson…?

Heh-heh-heh. I just had Isaac and Malachai re-enact a shouted conversation between Homer and Milhouse from THE SIMPSONS for the hell of it, just because they seem to be in such fine voice all the time.

Anyway, I love the first thirty-five or forty minutes of this Stephen King horror film adaptation. I love watching the dynamics of the relationship between newly-graduated doctor Burt Stanton (played by Peter ‘Thirty-Something’ Horton) and his try-too-hard girlfriend, Vicky Baxter. I could watch this pair bicker passive-aggressively all day. Burt is a Grade-A commitment-phobe, and slithers away from all of Vicky’s cringeworthy attempts to bring them closer together.

I also love the bits where they’re driving round in circles in ‘corn country’ trying to find the town where Dr. Burt is supposed to begin his doctoring career, but all they find after hours and hours of driving and getting more and more bad-tempered and narky with each other is a dead boy whom they may or may not have run over.

Oh, and a cranky old man running a gas station whut don’t have no gas no-how. And as for this old-timer giving the young couple some directions to where they’re going, well, talk about ‘There ain’t no Mono-rail and there never wuz…!’ Something strange is definitely going on around these here parts…

Those bits are great. It’s only when they get to the bits with the small blonde-haired girl in the LITTLE HOUSE AND THE PRAIRIE get-up who can draw the future (sometimes, she even whittles the future) that I settle back for a swift kip.

These kids are super-boring and have little to recommend them. Outmoded fashions, a funny old-fashioned Biblical way of talking and ridiculous restrictions on their own lives (‘She was listening to music and drawing and doing puzzles!’) and mental health.

They’ve killed all the adults in their town, on the orders of their teenage leaders, Isaac and Malachai (these two are brilliant!) and therefore only have corn to eat. It seems to me that they’re a tad over-reliant on the corn, plentiful though it may be:

Isaac: Hey, Malachai, whatcha get for your birthday?

Malachai: Um, some corn, I guess.

Isaac: Oh yeah, right. Corn…

And what about when they go to the job centre?

Official: And what other jobs have you had?

Isaac: I’ve worked in, erm, corn some.

Official: Hmmm. I see. What are your strengths?

Isaac: Erm, I’m good with, um…

Official: Corn…?

Isaac: Yeah.

Official: I see…

And their phoney, makey-uppy god, a malevolent entity who apparently ‘walks behind the rows’ (of corn? What else?), has got these dumb, poorly-dressed hicks committing suicide at nineteen, the age at which their lives are just about to open up like a flower.

Why? Well, the dopes believe they’re going to live in their version of Heaven with ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows,’ but of course they’re so not. It’s all a big fat religious con, if they could but see it, the poor fools.

I like Isaac and Malachai tearing verbal strips off each other near the end, but the end itself is messy and confusing and there’s probably just a little too much fire. I love when the couple end up with the two ‘normal’ kids at the end and Burt says playfully: ‘How’d you kids like to come and stay with us for a week?’

Vicky is ecstatic, probably because she feels that the kids will bring herself and Burt closer together, much like having a baby of their own. I just can’t wait till Dr. Burt finds out that you have to keep kids for longer than just a week. Would sure love to be a fly on that wall…

Hey, how’d you get Isaac or Malachai off your back?

Just point to somewhere in the distance and yell: ‘Dang me, it’s an Outlander…!’ Lol.

Also, right, I’m now officially coining the term, ‘corn horror.’ There are loads of films that would come under this category: HUSK, SIGNS… Well, there’s bound to be a few more when I sit down to have a good think about it.

PS, RIP, Sarge, you poor good doggy, you. That was well out of order, what happened to you.

I’ll leave you with an hilarious quote on the film from Roger Ebert:

‘By the end of Children of the Corn, the only thing moving behind the rows is the audience, fleeing to the exits.’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THE VANISHING. (1993) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

THE VANISHING. (1993) DIRECTED BY GEORGE SLUIZER. BASED ON THE NOVELLA, THE GOLDEN EGG (HET GOUDEN EI) BY TIM KRABBE AND ON THE 1988 DUTCH FILM, THE VANISHING, OR SPOORLOOS (WITHOUT A TRACE).

STARRING KIEFER SUTHERLAND, SANDRA BULLOCK, JEFF BRIDGES, NANCY TRAVIS AND PARK OVERALL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’ve always loved this strange, disturbing film, and it’s only today, as I’m researching it, that I’m finding out that, A, it’s a re-make of a much more popular 1988 film of the same name, and, B, it’s considered to be one of the worst re-makes ever made.

Well, that sure told me, didn’t it? George Sluizer, a Dutch-Jewish film-maker, now deceased, made both films, although why he made the second one only five years after the original, I’m not sure, unless it was to have both the Dutch and English versions out there. Elementary, my dear Watson…

I’ll concentrate on the later version here, as it’s the only one I’ve seen. Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock play attractive young American couple, Jeff and Diane (A little ditty, ‘bout Jeff and Diane, two ‘Merican kids doing the best they can…!). Okay, yes, I know that it’s meant to be a song ‘bout Jack and Diane, and not Jeff and Diane, I just had a brief moment of levity, is all. So sue me, John Cougar Mellencamp, lol.

Anyway, Jeff and Diane are really annoying together. Jeff is a bit of an insensitive prick, and Diane the kind of woman who has a panic attack if Jeff leaves her alone for two minutes to go to the bathroom.

She’s clingy and emotionally controlling, making Jeff give her endless promises and reassurances that he’ll never leave her. Well, of course we know men just love that kind of thing. They can’t get enough of extreme neediness in a bird. How Jeff doesn’t leave her ass in the tunnel where their car breaks down is some kind of miracle.

Jeff and Diane are on their way back home from a less-than-successful driving holiday when Diane vanishes into thin air after paying a quick visit to a gas station convenience store. For three long years, Jeff obsesses about the disappearance night and day, posting fliers featuring Diane’s mugshot all over the place and appearing on television and talk radio shows.

He even acquires a new girlfriend, Rita the waitress (freshen your drink, sugar…?), she of the fabulous curly hair-do and the determination to make Jeff, a complete stranger who wanders randomly into the diner where she works, into the Perfect Boyfriend for herself.

Perfect in every way, except, of course, for the all-consuming obsession with his missing girlfriend. But there’s no underestimating the ruthlessness of a diner waitress in the matter of love. She’s onto a good thing here, is Rita.

Living with would-be writer Jeff beats the hell out of serving hash browns and eggs over-easy to auld lads who think her body comes with the price of the check. (Pandering by using ‘Merican spelling.) Rita won’t give up on Jeff. But will Jeff give up on Diane? Not bloody likely.

I don’t even think that it’s a matter of Jeff’s being in love with Diane any more, like poor Nancy fears. After all, he’s now got Nancy to tickle his fancy, innit? I honestly think it’s more the case that his male pride is hurt by having had his girlfriend swiped from him, right out from under his nose, and now he just wants to find out for certain what happened to Diane.

He needs to know. He needs closure. He needs the answer to the question, what happened to her, almost as much as he needs air to breathe, and not even the feisty Nancy can change his stubborn mind. Enter the villain of the piece, Jeff Bridges as the weird and shambling University chemistry professor, Barney Cousins…

This is the only film of Jeff Bridges’ in which I don’t fancy him. I loved him in films like JAGGED EDGE and THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS. Here, he has a horribly unflattering hairstyle and a funny accent, which I’ve only just worked out is probably meant to be Dutch, given the earlier version of the film and the Dutch director George Sluizer.

Barney is creepy. The scenes where he’s in his car, rehearsing how to abduct a defenceless female, would certainly give you the willies. Barney is super-intellectual and detached and curious about things. You could imagine him staring impassively, with scientific objectivity and no compassion, at an animal or a human being in pain or distress.

Jeff, on the other hand, is impetuous, hot-headed and inclined to punch first, ask questions later. Who will win in their battle of wits? Will intellect win out over stubbornness and tenacity, or will a bunch of fives annihilate intellect every time…? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out, folks.

I love the scenes where the feisty Nancy squares up to the evil Barney, and also the fact that her co-waitress and partner-in-crime is played by Park Overall, who once co-starred in a great old ‘Eighties sitcom called EMPTY NEST with Dinah Manoff, Kristy McNichol and David Leisure. She herself portrayed a nurse called Laverne. Her heavy Southern accent and no-nonsense personality is kind of her trademark.

Enjoy the movie anyway, folks, whichever version you see. And steer clear of anyone called Barney, as they are clearly bonkers. Exceptions include the big purple dinosaur on kiddies’ TV, the character from THE FLINTSTONES and Barney, the resident drunk in THE SIMPSONS.

This list is subject to change, just as soon as I can think of any more Barneys. Hey, wasn’t there a posh New York department store called BARNEYS in FRIENDS where Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel Greene used to shop? I’ll look into it. Over and out…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

EMILY. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

EMILY. (2022) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY FRANCES O’CONNOR.
STARRING EMMA MACKEY, FIONN WHITEHEAD, OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN, ADRIAN DUNBAR, ALEXANDRA DOWLING, AMELIA GETHING AND GEMMA JONES.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Freedom of thought…’

This period drama-slash-biopic looks incredible on the big screen, which is where I saw it recently. It tells the story of Emily Bronte’s life before she wrote the book for which she is famous, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, the same tale of Cathy and Heathcliff’s doomed love which inspired Kate Bush’s magical, evocative and chart-topping song.

You don’t have to be a fan of the book to watch this film, I suppose, but it probably helps. I myself love the book, the song, the writer, the singer and the wild windy moors that inspired the whole shebang, so I was literally in writer-heaven for the two hours and ten minutes. Yep. It’s a long ‘un…! Brace yourselves…

Emily Jane Bronte (1818-1848) was an English novelist and poet. The film EMILY, written and directed by a female actor-director (it’s totally a woman’s film, though that doesn’t mean that men can’t enjoy it too!), concentrates on the period of Emily’s life when her Irish father Patrick Bronte, not a barrel of laughs by this account, at least, was serving as perpetual curate to the parish of Haworth in Yorkshire.

Emily, already a stunningly beautiful young woman when we meet her, spends her days writing poetry, making up stories for the amusement of her two sisters, Charlotte and Anne, and running wild on the moors in all weathers with her troubled alcoholic brother, Branwell, who is a painter on his good days.

Their mother is dead at this point, probably from bearing her husband six children, of whom only four are alive when we come in, in an era when women traditionally had a desperate time during childbirth and it weakened them forever after.

The sisters and Branwell miss their kind, gentle mother dreadfully. I’m not surprised. While their priest father isn’t overtly cruel or abusive, he’s still stiff and unbending and pious and there’s a lot of church and praying and being good and all that stuff that frequently doesn’t sit too well with young people.

Emily is thoroughly wild and undisciplined, unlike Charlotte and Anne who are much more genteel and lady-like, and I’m genuinely surprised her humourless father doesn’t try to marry her off to someone in order to curb her excesses.

I say try, because the spirited Emily, dubbed ‘the strange one’ of her family by the villagers, would surely have resisted to the death the notion of marrying for anything other than love…!

Emily and Branwell have such a close, intense relationship that I half-expected them to just slip into an incestuous kiss or two on the moors, or even the full monty. That’s not the way it goes, however, and Emily chooses for a love object her father’s new curate, Mr. William Weightman, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR on Netflix.

Their affair is as wild and exciting as Cathy and Heathcliff’s as first. They make tumultuous love in an abandoned, ramshackle cottage on the moors and Emily, her long dark hair hanging loose and free as an excellent metaphor for her unfettered thinking and behaviour, is happier than she’s presumably ever been in her life.

Then something abominably unfair and wretched happens, and it’s after that that Emily settles down to write the book that makes her name. Did she have to endure the horrible cruelty of a doomed relationship herself before she could adequately write about one? Maybe. Everything happens for a reason, so they say, and maybe so did this.

The film gives the impression that Charlotte was jealous of Emily’s success in writing and publishing WUTHERING HEIGHTS, the gothic novel to end all gothic novels, and we see her getting stuck in to her own writing after Emily’s premature death from tuberculosis. Charlotte, as we know, penned JANE EYRE, another iconic book, and so, if she only knew it, she didn’t really have any reason to be jealous of Emily.

We clearly see both Emily and Charlotte being inspired to write by the moors outside their very bedroom windows. The moors are indeed a place where you could ‘roll and fall in green.’

Wild and desolate, they extend to the Brontes’ garden and takes in the church where their father is parish priest and the fabulous old graveyard. It would be so easy to be inspired to write by such a dream-like place. The scenes where it’s raining on the moors (that’s all of them, lol) are out-of-this-world gorgeous.

Unfortunately, the downside of living in such a place and time is the long list of diseases that can carry off a body in a twinkling, due to unsanitary conditions and lack of all the medicines that sadly haven’t been invented yet.

Cholera, tuberculosis, the consumption, for example, all those delightful ailments characterised by high fever and genteelly coughing up blood into a hanky before you expire, all skin and bone and huge tormented eyes, and have to be laid to rest pretty sharpish-like before you infect anyone else with your gross disease, eeuw!

Emma Mackey, who plays Emily, is a terrific actress and captures her subject’s conflicted essence really well. Gemma Jones- BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY and a million other things- portrays the Bronte sisters’ aunt, though I’m not sure which side of the family she represents. She’s seventy-nine, now, would you believe, and looks adorable in her sweet little bonnet and ribbony old lady things.

The film is actually a good choice for Halloween. There’s a sort of séance in it which puts the willies up all the sisters (though not in the way they’d like, I fancy, snigger), and WUTHERING HEIGHTS, while not classified as a ghost story as such, has more than enough that’s haunting in it to justify either reading or watching it in the season of the witch, when the veil between our world and the spirit world is at its thinnest. Enjoy.   

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER. (2021) AN IRISH FOLK HORROR REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER. (2021) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY KATE DOLAN. STARRING HAZEL DOUPE, JORDANNE JONES, CAROLYN BRACKEN AND INGRID CRAIGIE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Damn you, scary Irish horror films about changelings and the wee folks and so on! Scared the Christ out of me there the other night, making me close my bedroom door at bedtime instead of leaving it invitingly open for Dracula as usual. Well, you know, just in case he’s ever free for a supernatural shag, like.

This film, which feels to me to be primarily a woman’s film with a mainly female cast, is set on an Irish housing estate with mountains and woods nearby. Char, short for Charlotte, is the protagonist. She is a schoolgirl with a really miserable life. I mean, seriously, you’d feel actively sorry for her.

She has no dad. Her mum Angela has untreated mental problems. They live with Angela’s mum Rita, who, though kindly, is elderly with health and mobility problems, and Angela’s brother Aaron, who lives nearby, pops round from time to time to throw an eye over things.

There’s not enough food in the house for a growing schoolgirl, and you get the impression that poor miserable Char, with an unexplained burn on her face to boot, has to fend for herself much of the time. She gets bullied in school by a trio of really disgustingly horrible female bullies, and, to be honest, her life is just one long round of misery piled on top of misery.

Anyway, one day Char’s mentally unstable mother Angela, who clearly needs to be treated for her obvious depression, goes missing for a day and a night. The Guards aren’t a whole lot of help.

Then, Angela just suddenly turns up back at the house, seemingly none the worse for wear. Where the fuppin’ hell has she been…? ‘I can’t tell you… yet,’ Angela tells her daughter Char ominously. Well, that’s not bone-chillingly disturbing at all…

It’s clear to the viewer that Granny Rita thinks there’s something radically wrong with the Angela who’s returned from God-knows-where. A terrified Char notices some pretty big differences herself between her old mother and this frighteningly upbeat new mother.

There are some really creepy scenes as she tries to keep herself safe from the eerily manic ‘New Mom.’ (Including one set to the music of Irish, erm, heart-throb, singer Joe Dolan. I haven’t been able to find out whether writer and director Kate Dolan is any relation…!)

Where has Mum been, and what if anything does it have to do with the burn on Char’s face, which her family have always tried to persuade her is a birthmark? And why do the neighbours think that Char’s family is weird, and why does the dad of one of Char’s bullies order his daughter to stay the hell away from Char?

It’s all tied up with the fascinating but terrifying world of Irish folklore and mythology, where changelings and fairy folk and curses and spells abound. Trust me, you don’t want to piss off the little people, whether it’s by demolishing their fairy fort in order to build a new road, or by trying to swap a changeling back for your original child. Nothing but thorns and sadness, or even madness, lies in store for such a person.

YOU ARE NOT MY MOTHER, on Netflix at the moment, gave me a right good scare, so I’ll score it highly and recommend it to fans of Irish folk horror. Almost as frightening as the scary story itself is the bullying element of the movie.

If girls today are really as vicious to each other as they appear in the film, then teachers and parents are not properly doing their respective jobs of keeping an eye on the little brats. Parents in particular need to start looking into what the hell their kids are doing in their after-school hours and clamping down on it where necessary.

The film is set at Halloween, by the way, and revolves around a bonfire built by the schoolies (handle fire carefully and responsibly, kids!), so it’s the perfect film to watch this October. Happy viewing.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

LUDIK. (2022) A NETFLIX CRIME DRAMA SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

LUDIK. (2022) A NETFLIX CRIME DRAMA SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
WRITTEN/CREATED BY PAUL BUYS AND ANNEMARIE VAN BASTEN.
STARRING ARNOLD VOSLOO.

This South African crime drama series premiered on Netflix just a couple of weeks ago, and I’m here to tell you that if the writers come up with, say, another eighty episodes at least as good, we could be looking at the new THE SOPRANOS, still the best television programme ever written.

LUDIK, the first Netflix show to feature the sexy-sounding Afrikaans as a language, has several parallels with THE SOPRANOS, starting with an anti-hero who could give Tony Soprano a run for his money in the heart-throb stakes.

Daan Ludik is a handsome South African furniture billionaire in his fifties who smuggles a few diamonds on the side. Well, he didn’t get that mansion and that car and that trophy wife by selling a few pouffes, innit? Tony Soprano is a mafioso whose waste management business is a front for his other less savoury activities. Less savoury than waste management? You’d better believe it.

Daan has a beautiful blonde trophy wife called Anet, who spends all day swilling wine in her bathrobe. She probably married Daan for the luxurious lifestyle he can afford to give her, yet she bitches at him for working all the time instead of dancing attendance on her and their young son, Danie. Tony’s blonde bitchy wife Carmela has to contend with goomars or mistresses as well, so Daan’s wife should at least be content that he’s faithful.

Each wife will be unfaithful, or at least nearly unfaithful, one with a priest followed by an underling of her husband’s, and the other wife with another woman, a psychologist. (In LUDIK, it’s the son Danie who’s getting the psycho-analysing, and in THE SOPRANOS, it’s the head honcho himself.)

Daan was not pampered or spoiled as a boy. He endured savage whippings from his father in his childhood, and he got nothing for nothing. Both Daan and Tony favour tough love, and the odd clip on the side of the head, for their soft-as-butter ‘sensitive’ sons, Danie and Anthony Junior, but the mothers intervene to keep the lads tied to their apron strings, much to the fathers’ joint disgust.

Daan’s beautiful but temperamental, bitchy grown-up daughter Louise seems to have a similar kind of love-hate relationship with him to the one Meadow Soprano has with her Pops. Neither girl wants their alpha male Papas to be telling them what to do at this stage of their lives, either with their careers or with their respective black boyfriends. That’s not me being racist there, by the way. That’s the two dads. Tony comes straight out with it, though Daan is just marginally more subtle about it. ‘Stay away from my daughter!’

Daan’s dad, a preacher due for retirement, is a mean-spirited old bastard called Viljoen. His successful and generous son Daan will pay for everything for him, no matter how much it costs, but the old buzzard is rude, ungrateful and horrible to Daan about it. When he has a cup of tea at his son’s house, he says, how much do I owe you for the tea?

Tony Soprano also has a nightmare parent, his mum Livia, who for a long time refuses to go into a nursing home for her own good and safety. (‘It’s not a nursing home; it’s a retirement community!’) Let’s not forget how she puts an actual hit out on her son at one stage in the series, and how she resists all Tony’s attempts to make the old witch happy.

Both men, Daan and Tony, have their fair share of lame ducks and hangers-on swinging out of them. Daan has his dead sister Linda’s deadbeat alcoholic hubby, Swys, to contend with. Tony has his drug-addicted, hot-headed nephew Christopher, his loser friend, restauranteur Artie Bucco, his hippy sister Janice with the carpal tunnel syndrome and her disability cheques, and finally his elderly Uncle Junior Soprano, a man who’s having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that he’s not the capo di tutti capo anymore…

Daan has the evil gun-running gangster Arend Brown as his sworn enemy, and Tony has new enemies every week, ranging from rival mob boss Phil Leotardo to the FBI. They each have a rat in their camp too, by the way, and feelings will be properly hurt when the news comes out.

THE SOPRANOS has the Bada-Bing; LUDIK has Andy’s Strip Club. Well, I guess it does exactly what it does on the tin. For a series with such a sexy premise and such a fanciable male lead, there’s a surprising absence of sex in it. I waited all series for a glimpse of Daan Ludik’s sculpted, muscular butt mid-coitus or in the shower, but, alas, he keeps his towel on for the full six episodes. Advice to the writers for Series Two: lose the towel…!

If you think you recognise Arnold Vosloo, the man who plays him, it’s probably because he plays the Mummy in the films THE MUMMY and THE MUMMY RETURNS, in 1999 and 2001. He has hardly any dialogue in these two brilliant action and adventure movies set in modern and Ancient Egypt, but he’s so charismatic and gorgeous that you don’t mind a bit. He’s all about the confident movements of his magnificent, semi-clad body. His sneer is second to none, his arrogant superiority lovely to look at. His gorgeous lips and eyes do all the talking.

And his character of Daan Ludik is not at all the a**hole he was described as by another reviewer. He loves his family, lame ducks and all, and will always put them first in his own way. That might mean mostly neglecting them emotionally and even physically much of the time, but it’s ultimately for their own good, lol. Daan Ludik knows what’s best for his family, and that’s the end of it.

I hope that LUDIK will get the go-ahead from Netflix to come back with a second series. It has got to continue, for me and all the other women who fell in love with Daan Ludik at first sight. It’s kind of set up for a sequel already and, as I said earlier, it’ll just take some exposure to catapult this series into the top ten shows on Netflix. Go now, my pretties, and tell everyone you know about this delicious televisual feast. Daan’s life as a lead character in a hit television show, and mine as his Number One Groupie, depends on it…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/
 

MONSTER: THE JEFFREY DAHMER STORY. (2022) A NETFLIX SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

DAHMER: THE JEFFREY DAHMER STORY. (2022) CREATED BY RYAN MURPHY AND IAN BRENNAN.
STARRING EVAN PETERS, NIECY NASH, RICHARD JENKINS, MOLLY RINGWALD, MICHAEL LEARNED AND PENELOPE ANN MILLER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Set your faces to stunned admiration, people, because this is the best piece of television I’ve seen all year, and it’s been a good year for television. It’s the Jeffrey Dahmer story in series form, and it’s a terrific achievement on the part of Ryan everything he touches turns to gold Murphy and his screen-writing team.

The acting is superb, the story-telling is the right mix of the gruesome and the sympathetic, the era of the early ‘Nineties is perfectly re-created and Evan Peters as the serial killer is just so good as the murderer with the adorably cute grin and occasional quirky sense of black humour.

This is the only Netflix series I’ve seen so far that I’ve been seriously tempted to re-watch again from the beginning as soon as it ended. I’m actually sad that I’m not watching it any more, that’s how compelling it is.

Ready for some plot now? ‘Course you are, lol. The past is expertly blended in with the present as we see Jeffrey Dahmer growing up as a shy, awkward, somewhat weird lonely kid from Milwaukee who doesn’t really care about school or making friends or getting a head start in life.

His home-life is what one might delicately refer to as a shit-show. His mother Joyce doesn’t seem to want to be married with children; she pops pills, threatens suicide constantly and does everything in her power to be mentally if not physically absent from her husband and Jeff.

She screams and throws things and brandishes a knife at her husband in front of a traumatised Jeffrey, and she finally walks out on her family, taking her other child with her, when Jeff is about eighteen. Jeff misses her, crazy and out-of-control as she is, and takes to drinking heavily and mooning round the house, aimless and depressed, in her absence.

Richard Jenkins as the father, Lionel Dahmer, is superb. He’s the person who inadvertently sparks off Jeff’s interest in dissecting body parts. In Jeff’s youth, his father shows him how to cut up the roadkill they find on their car journeys together. If he had the slightest idea where that was going to lead to, he might have thought twice about involving his son in such a gory activity.

Lionel’s marriage to Joyce is in a terrible state. He walks out on Joyce a lot during Jeff’s childhood because of Joyce’s erratic behaviour, and is already married to the kindly and supportive Shari (played by the marvellous Molly Ringwald) by the time Joyce walks out on the Dahmer family for good.

Dad really, really loves his gormless-acting son, the golden-haired Jeffrey, and is genuinely concerned about the adult Jeff’s burgeoning alcoholism, his almost complete lack of a work ethic and seeming inability to get on with people and make friends.

He pushes Jeff into a community college and then, when that fails, into the army. When that fails too, it’s a case of ‘You’re moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air!’ For auntie and uncle, read Grandma; he moves in with his grandma, Lionel’s elderly mum, in West Allis, Wisconsin, after college and the US Army have both bombed, and terrorizes her with his strange behaviour.

Grandma is a quiet, God-fearing Church-going woman, and Jeffrey’s behaviour quickly becomes unacceptable to her. His alcoholism, compulsive lying and swearing, his occasional outbursts of violence, and, worst of all, the constant parade of young black or Latino men he brings back home with him at night to do God-knows-what-with. She’s deeply uncomfortable about what this last thing might say about her beloved grandson’s sexuality.

When Grandma interferes with what he’s trying to do with these men (drug, kill, dissect and even preserve bits of them), Jeffrey gets angry and there’s a moment there when I genuinely fear for Grandma’s life. You’ll literally never believe who plays her; Michael Learned, who once upon a time used to portray the mother in a little-known American television programme called THE WALTONS

Between 1978 and 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer kills and dismembers seventeen mostly black young men and boys. He commits necrophilia and cannibalism and preserves a number of body parts for his own amusements.

He seems to prefer to have sex with dead or incapacitated males, as he doesn’t like his sexual partners to move around too much or take the initiative. He gets a bad reputation around the gay bathhouses for being a man who drugs and rapes his partners.

Niecy WHEN THEY SEE US Nash is fabulous as Glenda Cleveland, the black single mother living next door to Jeffrey Dahmer in the Oxford Apartments, his last address before his imprisonment. Can you imagine living next door to him? He’s the original Neighbour from Hell.

Through the vent that connects their two apartments, she hears the fighting and shouting as Dahmer subdues his victims, and the sawing and hammering noises he makes as he cuts them up. She also smells the foul odours of the decomposing bodies.

The police don’t come out smelling of roses in this case. Glenda calls them numerous times to report the highly suspicious noises and stench coming from Jeff’s apartment, but Jeff just trots out the old ‘Oh, I left out some meat and it went bad’ excuse and the cops just thank him and apologise for disturbing his evening…!

The cops really mess up when a young Laotian boy, Konerak Sinthasomphone, Dahmer’s youngest victim, is trying desperately to escape Jeff’s clutches and very nearly makes it. Jeff turns up and is so convincing in his assertions that Konerak is his ‘boyfriend’ that the police actually return the young man to Dahmer’s custody, leaving a horrified Glenda looking on, barely able to believe their stupidity, and also their willingness to accept the word of a white man over that of anyone black or Asian or Hispanic.

This is such a good television series; I honestly can’t commend it enough. Well done to Ryan Murphy and his team. I can’t wait to see who they’re giving the ‘magic treatment’ to next…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/