THE PHOTOGRAPHER OF MAUTHAUSEN. (2018) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE PHOTOGRAPHER OF MAUTHAUSEN. (2018) DIRECTED BY MAR TARGARONA. STARRING MARIO CASAS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a superb film, the kind of concentration camp movie that looks so real you can hardly believe it’s a movie and not actual documentary footage. It’s the story of Francisco Boix, a young Spanish Republican and communist who was an inmate of Mauthausen concentration camp between January 1941 and the time of liberation in May 1945.

Mauthausen, built in Austria after the annexation of that country in 1938, was the place where the Germans sent the bulk of their Spanish political prisoners, most of whom were being held in French camps when they fell into Nazi hands. When France capitulated to Germany in 1940, these prisoners were just handed over to the Nazis and many of them ended up in Mauthausen.

Mauthausen was a pitiless camp, though the others weren’t exactly holiday camps and day spas! It was known for its gigantic quarry, featuring the ‘stairs of death,’ in which thousands of inmates were literally worked to death, carrying huge slabs of rock up and down the gargantuan staircase, the rock which was used in many Third Reich monuments.

There were many ways to die in Mauthausen, some of which are named in the film. Being worked to death on poor rations, as we’ve just mentioned. Gas chambers and gas van. (Our photographer was meant to die in one of these vans, but a vital part of the mechanism, the part through which the gas was filtered, had been disabled, presumably by inmates.) Torture. Starvation. Exposure, standing naked on the parade ground in all weathers. Cold showers in winter. It was a dreadful place, a true hell on earth.

Francisco arrived at the camp aged just twenty. He could speak German and therefore worked first as a translator, but he graduated from here to working in the camp’s photography laboratory, under Paul Ricken of the SS.

Ricken documented camp life and was creating a photographic memorial to the Third Reich, and Francisco was an invaluable help to him in this work, to the point that Ricken rewarded him with visits to the camp brothel, where one could have sex with female prisoners who were dead behind the eyes after what they’d been through.

Unknown to Ricken, however, Francisco was hard at work creating his own memorial; a testament to the evils and atrocities the Nazis had committed in Mauthausen. At great personal risk to himself, he secreted these negatives in different hiding places for retrieval after the war. He even recruited various prisoners he thought he could trust to hide and hold more negatives for him.

‘They’ll never believe us otherwise,’ he kept telling people. ‘Without proof, no-one will believe what happened here.’ Throughout the bloody history of the concentration camps, we have testaments from many different prisoners who kept records, as best they could, by means of their art.

Some composed poems or songs, those with access to art materials drew pictures, and Francisco took his photographs. Sometimes they dug holes to hide these diaries or drawings, and, years after the war ended, their memories and records were still being unearthed and added to the massive canon of proof that the concentration camps happened, that the Holocaust happened, that the brutal deaths of millions of innocent people happened. No matter what the deniers say…

In one scene, Francisco loses his temper and beats up his boss, Ricken, accusing him of being a dirty, disgusting voyeur who gets his kicks out of photographing death, the dead and the dying, such as the grotesque hanging that had just taken place on the camp parade, accompanied by the sick and obscene sense of the theatrical so beloved of the Nazis.

Francisco is tortured as a result of this attack, and told to give up his precious negatives. He manages to hang on just long enough for the SS to flee the camp because they know the war is lost and the jig is up. Francisco goes on doing what he does best, taking pictures, documenting camp life, bearing tangible witness to what happened there.

After the Nazis lost the battle of Stalingrad, the SS in Mauthausen- and other camps- are told to destroy any photographic evidence they have of the camps, in particular, any evidence of bigwigs like Himmler and Kaltenbrunner having ever been there.

Later on, a little closer to the end, even things like evidence of the equipment of death at places like Auschwitz were ordered to be dismantled. Crematoria, the chimneys, the gas ovens, written records of who was murdered and when, log books.
 
Francisco has photographic proof of Himmler, the former chicken farmer, the little grinning Reichsfuhrer with the receding hairline and the little glinty specs, actually ascending the notorious ‘stairs of death’ in Mauthausen, chatting and laughing away with the accompanying SS men.

At the trials that took place after the war, Francisco is able to stand up and point to people he saw there, in the camp, although of course Himmler had committed suicide early on and thus escaped all earthly justice.

Tragically, Francisco never recovers- how could you, anyway- from what he’s seen and experienced, and he dies of kidney failure at age thirty, but not before he’s given his photographs to the world as a permanent legacy.

 I only took pictures, whinges Ricken to Francisco when the war ends. I just took pictures. Yes, Ricken, you did, of the deaths, the hangings, the bodies of the suicides on the electric fence, the gas chambers and the gas vans, the ‘scientific’ experiments on the prisoners like our poor friend the dwarf who were ‘different,’ and you did nothing. Nothing at all to prevent the ill-treatment and murder of the inmates in your care.

We’re not told what happens to Ricken after the war. Like a lot of former Nazis, he probably died in his bed at age ninety after having a successful re-invention as a pub landlord or the owner of a lovely Bed and Breakfast, having managed for years to convince himself and others, his loving family included, that he hadn’t really been a Nazi at all and he’d personally never killed anyone, so he had nothing to reproach himself with.

The people who knew him in his re-incarnation as a private citizen will say you couldn’t meet a nicer, kinder more compassionate individual if you walked the length and breadth of the land, and his headstone probably reads, Beloved Husband and Devoted Father of Whoever. But Francisco Boix’s photographic testament still exists to give the lie to such flannel. Amen to that.

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving! — Writer’s Block Inc

Turkey Day is finally here and we escaped the city late last night after I picked my husband up from work. I was surprised to find roads sparse. Rush hour happened without me and I was okay with that. It gets dark up here around 4:00 pm. One rapid test later, and we were on […]

Happy Thanksgiving! — Writer’s Block Inc

Why I Quit Camp NaNoWriMo — Penstricken

My novel was going nowhere (although he’s feeling much better now, thanks) and I noticed someone on Twitter remarking that they had just signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo. Ah-ha! I thought, Now’s as good a time as any to give this whole NaNoWriMo lark a bash. Maybe it will help me complete my novel… I was very excited about it. I was going to make progress and lots of it! I joined a cabin so that I could compare notes with other like-minded writers; I read all the useful ‘camp care packages’ that were sent to my inbox, full of useful advice to help me make the most of Camp NaNoWriMo; I perused the forums and all the articles full of helpful writing tips… The one thing I did not do was write my novel.

Why I Quit Camp NaNoWriMo — Penstricken

GERALD’S GAME. (2017) A STEPHEN KING FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

GERALD’S GAME. (2017) BASED ON THE 1992 BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. CO-WRITTEN, EDITED AND DIRECTED BY MIKE FLANAGAN.

STARRING CARLA GUGINO, BRUCE GREENWOOD, HENRY THOMAS, KATE SIEGEL, CHIARA AURELIA AND CAREL STRUYCKEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Question: What is a woman…?

Answer: A life support system for a cunt…

Wow. I loved this Stephen King movie adaptation of the supposedly ‘unfilmable’ book, GERALD’S GAME. I found it on Netflix during a routine scroll-down and was happily immersed within five minutes.

I love films about troubled marriages, having had my own share of rubbish relationships, and it’s obvious fairly early on that rich couple Jessie and Gerald Burlingame are heading off for some kind of make-or-break romantic weekend away at their super-isolated country house in Alabama.

Gerald, a good ten or fifteen years older than his wife, is some kind of executive business hot-shot, and he’s told his office people he’ll be out of touch for a few days. They have no children, and Jessie has only a few friends but they’re not really close, so there’ll be no-one to disturb them for these few days.

Carla Gugino as Jessie Burlingame is a truly beautiful woman in the Rachel Weisz mode, the kind of delicious, red-lipped, smoky-eyed brunette, perfectly proportioned, who makes us washed-out blondes all look like a sack of crap.

Gerald is clearly lucky to have her, as she seems to be a lovely sweet person as well, but Gerald isn’t entirely happy with their sex life- they currently have none- and he’s hoping that this weekend will rekindle something in them that’s been missing.

Two hundred dollar steaks are his idea of a culinary aphrodisiac, and a prologue to the nookie. Then follows the sex, and a smugly smirking Gerald, hepped up on Viagra, whips out the handcuffs, and not the furry novelty kind either, but the real thing. Sheriff issue handcuffs, lol. ‘Put your hands on the car, boy, or I’ll pepper yo’ ass with buckshot six ways till Sunday,’ and that kind of thing.

Jessie is a little weirded out by the metal love cuffs, but Gerald has made it clear he needs to try out some new stuff, so she feels obliged to go along with him, to save their marriage, see? But only up to a point. When she tells Gerald she’s had enough of his shit, much to Gerald’s angry mortification, something thoroughly unexpected happens that leaves Jessie fighting for her life.

They’ve left the back door open in their eagerness to get to the bedroom. But that’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, the place is in the middle of nowhere, right, and there isn’t a living soul for miles around, which was probably what Gerald, the sneaky sod, had in mind when he was whisking his gorgeous missus away on a dirty weekend for a spot of how’s-yer-favver, lol.

Jessie is in an exceedingly vulnerable position in their lavish holiday home. A stray dog, a stray escaped lunatic and some very disobedient memories from her troubled childhood that just won’t stay buried are some of the things that walk right up to her and get in her face while she’s a sitting duck, trapped in a SAW-style how-far-will-you-go-to-survive-type situation.

Well, they’re the only things that walk up to her, but, trust me, they’re enough. I had a sleepless night over this film, I can tell you. The horrific topic of child sexual abuse is handled very well here, by the way, showing us that the demons that come out of our closets at night are not the only monsters we have to fear.  

The ‘Crypt Keeper’ or grave robber in the film was inspired by none other than Wisconsin serial murderer Ed Gein, the gift that just keeps giving as far as cinema is concerned. PSYCHO, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS were all inspired by Ed, who liked to gut people and make furniture and ornaments out of their skin.

He’s possibly the spookiest of all the ‘famous’ serial killers, is Ed. Anyone who’s as much at home rootling about in a cemetery as in his house, as comfortable around the dead as the living, has the power to make other, so-called ‘normal’ people feel very uncomfortable.

He’s one of the few major serial killers of the twentieth century who doesn’t seem to be the subject of a Netflix documentary. I’d love to think there was one in the pipeline. Ed’s a fascinating, if gruesome, study. We’d all have nightmares after watching his story.

You’ll be rushing to research the condition of ‘acromegaly’ after watching GERALD’S GAME, and, just to warn you, there’s a scene in the film that would take the actual skin off your hand. Shit. I meant to say it would put the heart crossways in you. Forget I said that other thing, would you? The film also covers the grisly but extremely interesting topic of how long can you go without water/food, etc., before you die…?

You’ll be reminded very much of one of King’s other book-to-film adaptations, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, when you watch this film. It seems like a lot of strange, unasked-for things can happen during a total eclipse of the heart, sorry, I mean the sun. I went all Bonnie Tyler there for a minute.

Do the normal laws of God and Man not apply during this short but eerie time-span when the sun is obscured by the moon and dark shadows fall across the earth? ‘Keep watching, Mouse, keep watching!’ ‘Husbands die every day, Dolores.’ We don’t go all out for eclipses over here. Maybe it’s just as well…

‘You’re not real! You’re made of moonlight.’

PS, you might have seen on social media recently that the Bed, which is one of the three main stars of GERALD’S GAME, has finally married the Handcuffs, also an important player in the tightly-knit cast. After meeting on the set of the film and enjoying a whirlwind romance, the couple gave birth during the summer to Baby Futon, an adorable cherub who, according to her mother, the Handcuffs, is the living image of her father, the Bed. The couple have decided jointly that the Handcuffs will stay home and take care of Baby Futon, while Daddy Bed tries out for a part in the new John Lennon retrospective, A Bed for all Reasons.

‘We couldn’t be happier,’ gushed the couple from their new Hollywood home when I caught up with them during a Zoom chat yesterday. ‘We’ll always think fondly of GERALD’S GAME, as obviously that’s how we met. We’ve asked Carla and Bruce to be godparents, but we haven’t heard back from them yet. Of course, they’re very busy with their various careers. Um, did we mention that we couldn’t be happier…?’

Aw, it’s too sweet…

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

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

VERY SUPERSTITIOUS… A POEM BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SUPERSTITIONS.

A POEM BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Don’t walk under ladders

As far as you’re able

Whatever you do, keep

New shoes off the table

Spilled salt from the shaker

Goes over the shoulder

Saluting the magpie

Assures growing older

Don’t open umbrellas

While still in the house

It’s unlucky for you and

Could be for your spouse

Don’t hang a horse-shoe

With ends pointing down

The luck will run out

And you’ll look like a clown

Black cat on the road?

Hurry out of its way

And don’t say ‘good luck’

To a friend in a play

When you’re inside the theatre;

It’s rotten bad luck

Let’s hope when the chandelier

Falls, they can duck

You do have to live, though,

And not in a bubble

But, whatever you do, don’t

Set eyes on your double

Be third on a match

See the Number Thirteen

Or a looking-glass break

‘Cause your end won’t be clean

When rejoicing with friends

At the Christening feast

Check the scalp of the child for

The Sign of the Beast

Three small Number Sixes

There, under the hair

But it’s best for mankind if

You don’t find it there

Don’t kill a ladybug

Under your nose

And pretend not to notice

That murder of crows

You’re best to do nothing

Considered bad luck

Though that leaves doing nothing;

Goodnight and good luck!

Why We Must Carry on Being Brave Writers #amwriting

We have to carry on being brave writers because readers need our stories. Some need our stories because they want to be entertained. Some require our work because it reminds them of their past and reading it will take them back in time. Some need our stories because they will act like mirrors and show them who they truly are. Some want to read our stories because they are curious about the stuff we write as they follow us on social media, and some readers need our stories because buried in our writing is something which will change, heal or give them new direction. They will use our stories like compasses and plot a new course through their life. They will see parts of themselves reflected back in our stories, parts that they might need to change. They will turn whatever is contained within our stories to heal an invisible…

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THE CRUSH. (1993) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE CRUSH. (1993) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ALAN SHAPIRO. STARRING CARY ELWES, KURTWOOD SMITH, GWYNYTH WALSH, JENNIFER RUBIN AND ALICIA SILVERSTONE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

It’s a bit disturbing to read that the writer and director of this ‘90s erotic thriller based his movie on a real-life experience of his own with a girl who later sued him for using her real name in the film. One wonders what the ‘woke’ battalion and the #metoo movement would make of it all.

Cary Elwes’s character in the film, a journalist called Nick Eliot, finds himself in a whole heap of trouble when he rents a rich couple’s guest-house and falls afoul of their beautiful young teenage daughter, as prime a piece of jail-bait as Nick has ever seen. Her name is Adrian Forrester, although she’d be better named Lolita…

I hope I’m not doing Alicia Silverstone (known for starring in CLUELESS, and in those three famous Aerosmith music videos from the early ‘90s, CRYIN’, AMAZING and CRAZY), who plays the fourteen-year-old Adrian, any disservice here by saying that she’s perfect for this role, her movie debut. Sexually precocious, flirtatious, seductive, fully aware of the effect she has on men and determined to get what she wants, by fair means or foul.

Nick is undeniably attracted to the gorgeous teenager, who’s apparently a child prodigy in various subjects as well as a smouldering Bardot-esque-type beauty. She reads WUTHERING HEIGHTS and Jane Austen, by choice, she’s a mini-Mozart on the ivories, she’s a keen entomologist, that is, an expert on insects, and a champion horse-rider and a talented writer to boot. Talk about the girl who has it all…! Just think about what she could achieve if she got her mind off men for a minute…

 Adrian makes it clear from the start that she’s smitten with the handsome twenty-eight-year-old reporter, and Nick is flattered, not altogether surprisingly. It’s not until the pair actually kiss, on the night of her parents’ party, that the scales seem to fall from Nick’s eyes and he finally realises what trouble he could be in if he pursues a sexual relationship with Adrian. Beautiful and sexually aware she may be, but she’s still only a child, and the adult in the situation must be the one to do the right thing.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, however, and Adrian turns extremely nasty when Nick tells her they can’t be together the way she wants. He’ll always be her friend, though, he promises her, and she can always count on him to be there for her if she needs him. One wonders if he would be so free with his avowals of undying friendship if she’d been acne-scarred and wearing braces on her teeth…

It’s not Nick’s friendship that Adrian wants, however. Now that she’s been rejected, everything of value in Nick’s life is under severe threat. His glittering new career at PIQUE magazine, his difficult boss’s high opinion of him, his (adult!) girlfriend Amy, a photographer from the same magazine, his beloved vintage car, which he’s lovingly restoring, and his own good reputation as a man who doesn’t rape and beat little girls. Yeah, things get really black there for Nick for a while. Will he ever see the light at the end of the tunnel again…?

It’s a bit far-fetched that Adrian manages to do all the things she does in the film without anyone suspecting her. She’s only a teenage girl, after all, and not Superman, but it’s an entertaining and gripping film, so we can probably excuse a few- well, a whole truckload of- loopholes.

The two leads are extremely good-looking, as I’m sure they both know (Carey Elwes is known for his roles in THE PRINCESS BRIDE and the SAW franchise), and the premise of the film is infinitely believable. Just look at FATAL ATTRACTION, SWIMFAN or PLAY MISTY FOR ME,  each of which have similar themes of rejection and a terrible revenge for same.

There’s a lotta trouble out there a guy can get himself into, if he messes with the feelings of the wrong woman. You’d think that would make men more careful, wouldn’t you, but no. Guys never learn, seemingly, and they will never stop being attracted to nubile underage females with unblemished bodies. One can’t blame them for that, for basic human biology; it’s what they choose to do about it that matters…

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 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.com/dp/1781994234


 

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS (2015) AND THE FALL OF THE KRAYS (2016). A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS (2015) AND THE FALL OF THE KRAYS (2016). DIRECTED BY ZACKARY ADLER.
STARRING SIMON COTTON, KEVIN LESLIE, PHIL DUNSTER, DANNY MIDWINTER AND ALEXA MORDEN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. These two low-budget films, based on the true life stories of notorious British gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, claim to leave out the glamorisation of the twins’ stories and to leave us with the impression that its two subjects are nothing more than two truly nasty pieces of work. Well, job done, because both films are heavy going and the twins have no redeeming features in them whatsoever.

It’s not entirely realistic, however, because no-one is truly all bad, or even all good, for that matter. Even Hitler had his redeeming features. He loved dogs, especially his own bow-wow Blondi. He liked children, and the offspring of that charming couple, the Goebbels,’ doted on him and called him Uncle Adolf.

He was a vegetarian too, and even though I know that that doesn’t automatically make a person ‘good,’ if he’d been alive today he probably would have been to the forefront of the ‘save the earth by stopping eating meat’ campaign. Isn’t that a really weird thought…?

But the Kray twins in these two films just come across as thugs, brutish, humourless and incapable of feeling love or kindness, never mind mercy, towards any of their fellow men, or women.

Their mother Violet is not seen in the film except in brief, dialogue-less flashback, so we are not able to witness the twins’ adoration for her that the 1990 film, THE KRAYS, with Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp in the starring roles, deals with so well.

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS just shows us the twins beating people up for nearly two hours until eventually they pretty much run the criminal underworld in ‘50s and ‘60s London. There doesn’t seem to have been any crime in which they didn’t participate; protection rackets, arson, armed robbery, and, finally, murder. They leave behind them a trail of bloody and broken bodies, all casualties of their ferocious, overwhelming need for more and more power.

Ronnie, like in the superb 1990 film, is portrayed as the more violent and angry of the twins, the one that always goes too far and has to be pulled away by Reggie, who’s screaming things like, come away, Ron, leave him, he’s dead already! They allowed people to get into huge debt to them, and then mutilated or crippled them in retaliation.

Ronnie’s mental illness, his schizophrenia, is dealt with here. He did in fact finish his life in Broadmoor, the high security mental hospital, and would have been on medication, one presumes, till the end of his days. While he was at large, however, no-one, not even his beloved twin, could keep him in check.

It was his excesses, and his genuine feeling that he and his brother were ‘untouchable,’ that led to his carelessness and to his making the mistake of shooting people in front of witnesses.

Usually, witnesses to their crimes could be leaned on and ‘persuaded’ neither to testify against the Krays in court nor to single them out in identity parades, but every dog has his day and all good things, as they say, come to an end.

It was the tireless work of London copper Leonard Ernest ‘Nipper’ Read that eventually got the terrible twosome banged up for life, a long-time ambition of Read’s. It was the murders of George Cornell of the excessively violent Richardson gang, convicted gangster Frank Mitchell, whom the Krays sprung from Dartmoor Prison as a sort of mad, ill-advised publicity stunt, and finally of Jack ‘the Hat’ McVitie, that eventually ‘done for’ the brothers. Nipper has quite a big part in the second film.

Reggie marries his quiet, girl-next-door type girlfriend Frances Shea in the second film, but he’s so foul to her and her parents are so against the match that it all ends in tears, and more besides, for poor Frances.

She just didn’t seem to know the complexity of what she was getting in to. Ronnie was terminally jealous of his brother’s marriage and wife. Whatcha need anyone else for, Reg, when we got each uvver, was his answer to everything.

The only likeable people in the two films seem to be Dickie Baker, a member of the twins’ so-called Firm, and Lisa, the beautiful but slightly tragic escort/hooker. They look like they have a chance of happiness together at one stage, but they decide not to take it, for reasons best known to themselves. Sad. I love when she dryly calls him the Ghost of Christmas Past…! Cheeky but apt. Anita Dobson, by the way, of EastEnders fame, is back behind a bar here as the poor, put-upon bleached blonde pub landlady, Madge.

Well, there you go, anyway. The 1990 film, THE KRAYS, has real heart and we quite get to like the twins and empathise with them and their dear old mum, even though we know that the lads have done some really bad things.

Part of our empathy stems from the fact that the twins are played by the dreamy Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp from ‘80s British New Wave band Spandau Ballet, but it’s also a bloody good film as well. Here, the Krays’ close relationship with their mother, brilliantly played by Billie Whitelaw, has something almost of the mystical about it. Mother and sons are nearly supernaturally close, connected tightly forever through hearts and minds.

The women here are all such troopers too, such strong characters. They’ve survived Hitler and World War Two, they can make a few shillings feed everyone in the family for a week and they know what it’s like to be dodging blows from an unemployed and depressed alcoholic of a husband at closing time on Friday and Saturday nights. Such a great film. I thoroughly recommend it to your attention.

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS and THE FALL OF THE KRAYS, unfortunately, don’t come close to the 1990 film for heart, soul and characters we can empathise with. It makes the two brothers look evil, mentally deranged and just thoroughly unpleasant characters. There’s a good ‘Sixties soundtrack and you might find your nostalgia strings being plucked at the sight of ‘Sixties London, but there’s not a lot else to commend this gore-fest. Sorry…!

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

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

THE THING. (1982) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

JOHN CARPENTER’S ‘THE THING.’ (1982) DIRECTED BY JOHN CARPENTER. BASED ON THE NOVELLA ‘WHO GOES THERE?’ BY JOHN W. CAMPBELL JR.
SCREENPLAY BY BILL LANCASTER. MUSIC BY JOHN CARPENTER AND ENNIO MORRICONE. SPECIAL EFFECTS BY ROB BOTTIN.
STARRING KURT RUSSELL, KEITH DAVID, PETER MALONEY AND A. WILFORD BRIMLEY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Three things to note about supernatural body horror film THE THING: 1. There’s an awful lot of fire in it. 2. There aren’t any women in it, ergo no love story either, the only thing the film is missing. 3. Kurt Russell has the most beautiful eyes. Gorgeous lips too, but, my word, those eyes are to die for…!

It’s shocking nowadays to read over the bad reviews this film initially garnered on its release, and then to compare them with the rave reviews it’s received retrospectively and continues to receive to this day.

Either those early critics really, really got it wrong or it was simply a case, as some people think, of THE THING’s having just found it too hard to compete with two other films that were released at the same time.

Namely, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, which of course presents an altogether different, more positive view of alien visitors from Outer Space, and Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER. 1982 was clearly a good year for science fiction movies.

Suffice it to say here that this film is widely regarded nowadays as one of the best horror movies ever made and John Carpenter, its creator, one of the best horror movie directors. Did I mention that I saw him perform his movie soundtracks live in Dublin’s Vicar Street one Halloween Week a few years ago? I didn’t? Well, gather round, friends, and I shall tell you a wondrous tale…!

Haha, I’m only joking. I tell that story enough every year. Today we’ll just talk about THE THING. So, um, well, here’s the thing, geddit? See what I did there? It’s the story of a highly malevolent, parasitic alien life form that somehow finds its way onto an American scientific research station in Antarctica, after thousands of years of being buried nice and cosy-like in the ice.

That’s a hell of a story, isn’t it? Something similar happens in the marvellous horror movie, HORROR EXPRESS, starring Hammer royalty Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and also TV detective Kojak, aka actor Telly Savalas. Who loves ya, baby?

Anyway, once the lads at the research station encounter THE THING for the first time (in their dog pound as it’s initially taken the form of a cute cuddly bow-bow), they still don’t even grasp the enormity of the situation they’re in. This is only the beginning of the horror for the men, whose lives on the station are probably isolated and tough enough as it is.

All there is to do on the station is drink whiskey, smoke weed, watch videotapes of old TV shows, argue with each other, and, erm, presumably masturbate to old memories and any porno mags they’ve been able to lug up there. Do they ever do any, um, scientific research, which after all is why they’re there? Do you know, I’ve never seen it happen…?

THE THING has the power to take on any life-form it chooses, but only if there’s already an existing life-form for it to take the shape and form of, if you get me. It sneakily decides to take on the appearance of various scientists at the station, and the only way for the other brainiacs to tell the difference is by doing a blood test, which isn’t always convenient:

‘Um, excuse me, Mr. Thing, would you mind awfully just taking a seat here and giving me your arm? It’s only a little prick, you’ll hardly feel it, and you can TOTALLY go back to killing us all afterwards, I promise! We even have lollipops here for anyone who gives blood. Hey, how about those Mets, huh…?’

Kurt Russell, deeply attractive in a full beard and with his thermal long johns on under his outer clothing, is the main character, R.J. MacReady, and the scientist who’s the most proactive in trying to track down and destroy THE THING. He’s (Mac) ready for anything, see? His answer to everything is literally fire. It’s hilarious.

Every time he spots anything that remotely resembles THE THING, he turns a flame-thrower on it and no exceptions. If he’s not careful, he’ll forget himself and end up scratching his arse with that flame-thrower or trying to turn on the TV with it. It reminds me of an episode of THE SIMPSONS where they’re trying to figure out something, I forget what, and Marge ends up saying ‘No fires!’ to all of Homer’s pyromaniacal suggestions.

The feeling of suspicion and paranoia that builds up in the station as the men all view each other now as potential enemies is so strong, it’s almost palpable. Everyone’s all, like, let’s just sit here, real nice and quiet-like, where we can all keep an eye on each other, real friendly-like. No-one trusts anyone else any more and, when men’s tempers are frayed in such an isolated and claustrophobic situation, things can be triggered almost accidentally, bad things.

Again, it’s like that episode of THE SIMPSONS in which Bart Simpson, Milhouse Van Houten and Martin Prince each have shares in a rare comic-book, the first RADIOACTIVE MAN comic or something, but they quickly grow to distrust each other, each thinking that the other is planning to commandeer the comic for himself.

There are very few situations in life that can’t in some way be compared to an episode of THE SIMPSONS, as I’m forever telling my kids. There’s also the episode in which Mr. Burns and Homer are trapped together in a mountain cabin during an avalanche of snow, and they begin to mistrust each other pretty damn fast there too.

The special effects in THE THING are amazingly good, stomach-turning and extremely gory. They’re so good it’s actually incredible to think that they were created a whopping thirty-nine years ago and yet they’ve never been bettered since. Please don’t argue with me about this. I am a woman. I am programmed to win every argument, without exception, and I fight dirty, too, and I’ll resort to tears if I have to, lol.

Although there are some excellent horror film franchises on the go today (INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING, SINISTER, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, to name but a few), no-one’s ever really managed to scale the dizzying heights that John Carpenter and Rob Bottin achieved together all those years ago. Maybe no-one ever will. And Rob Bottin, clearly some kind of genius, was only in his early twenties when he worked on this movie. To have this calibre of work/film on your CV at that tender age is nothing short of fantastic.

I read online that the film is screened every winter, along with THE SHINING, for the lads at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. That’s funny and kinda sweet but it’s also a bit like showing ALIVE as the in-flight movie on an aeroplane or a virus outbreak film in the hospital waiting-room to people experiencing, well, um, a viral outbreak. Funny but inadvisable, maybe even a little tactless. Still, it’s only a movie. Isn’t it…?

I’m off now to make a nice cup of tea to settle my stomach after all those gory special effects.  I only wish there were some way to do it where I didn’t have to get up from my chair, wash a cup, get the teabags, boil the kettle… Wait a minute. What would Kurt Russell do? I know. Where’s my flamethrower…?

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

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