SERGIO LEONE’S ‘ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.’ (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

west jill face

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. (1968) DIRECTED BY SERGIO LEONE.

STORY BY DARIO ARGENTO, BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI AND SERGIO LEONE. STARRING CLAUDIA CARDINALE, HENRY FONDA, JASON ROBARDS, CHARLES BRONSON AND GABRIELE FORZETTI.

MUSIC BY ENNIO MORRICONE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘He not only plays. He can shoot too.’

‘Gonna be a beautiful town, Sweetwater.’

‘People like that have something inside. Something to do with death.’

‘Nothing matters now. Not the land, not the money, not the woman.’

‘How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? Guy doesn’t even trust his own pants.’

‘He’s whittling on a piece of wood. I gotta feeling when he stops whittling, something’s gonna happen.’

Christ Almighty, I love cowboys. Hot sweaty cowboys in films like this one really do it for me. With their week’s growth of beard, tousled hair, cigarette-smoke-narrowed eyes and big fat holsters, they push all my buttons big-time.

I would not say no to being dragged by the hair into the nearest stable by a seasoned cowboy and shown the stuff that a real man is made of. Of course, they have a name for that type of thing nowadays (I believe it’s called being dragged by the hair into the nearest stable by a seasoned cowboy and shown the stuff that a real man is made of) but, oh wow, how glorious the Wild West must have been in some ways. You saw what you wanted and you just took it.

A woman, a homestead, a decent piece of horseflesh or a plate of beans. It was all the one to those dusty drifters, half-crazed with lust after many lonely nights on the trail of the lonesome pine, beating their meat in solitude to the music of the crickets.

Can this be the most magnificent Western, spaghetti or otherwise, ever made? God, yes. Set in the dying days of the old Wild West as we know it, it’s an epic battle between, not good and evil exactly but, shall we say, more a battle between bad-with-more-than-a-hint-of-good-thrown-in and evil, if you get me. Although of course everything seemed so black or white in the old days with not much in-between. No room for half-measures.

Claudia Cardinale, an absolute bombshell of a woman cast in the mould of Sophia Loren, Raquel Welch and Brigitte Bardot, plays Jill, a young woman who travels alone to the railroad town of Flagstone. Jill has hope in her heart. Jill is going to be looked after by a man from now on. No more nasty fending for herself in the cold cruel world. Nice work if you can get it, huh?

She’s expecting to be met off the train by Brett McBain, an older man with property whom she’s married the month before. After a lifetime of whoring in New Orleans, Jill is finally ready to settle down and embrace respectability.

But the entire McBain family, the father and his three children Maureen, Patrick and Timmy have been brutally slaughtered by the hired killer known locally as Frank. Frank works for crippled railroad mogul Mr. Morton.

Mr. Morton wants Brett McBain’s land, which is rich in water, a valuable commodity in such a dry, dusty desert town, but not only that. The railroad is expanding at a rate of knots and the McBain land is the ideal situation for a new station.

Mr. Morton wants Frank to scare the McBains’ away, but Frank is something of a hothead. No half-measures with Frank, see? A few well-placed gunshots and Jill’s lovely dream of married bliss goes up in smoke. Aw well, maybe respectability ain’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway, lol. Maybe Jill’s better off without it.

Henry Fonda is superb as the baddie Frank. Dressed in black, chewing tobacco constantly- a disgusting habit!- and always looking to increase his own cut of every pie, he’s probably the most evil character Mister Goody Two-Shoes Nice Guy Henry Fonda (TWELVE ANGRY MEN, THE WRONG MAN) has ever played.

Frank’s cold, calculating and cruel. He talks about killing Jill, the rightful heir now to the entire McBain fortune and therefore an obstacle to Mr. Morton’s acquisition of the precious land, even while he’s making love to her in a scene that always makes me hold my breath.

Such is his personal magnetism that Jill doesn’t even care about what he’s threatening her with. All the women love a bad boy, and hired gun Frank is as bad as they come.

Jill’s so weak at the knees she can’t even stand up straight and take umbrage when he says, while expertly caressing her naked body: ‘You like to feel a man’s hands all over you. Even if they’re the hands of the man who killed your husband.’ Swoon, Jill, swoon, what else is there to do?

Jason Robards plays Cheyenne, a local bandit whom Frank attempts to frame for the wholesale slaughter of the McBain family. Cheyenne fancies Jill too and she likes him but I think that this is more of a friendship thing in that he never tries to force himself on her. When he barges in on her at the McBain homestead, however, she naturally assumes that that’s just what he’ll do. Check out what she says to him:

‘You can throw me across the table and amuse yourself with me, and you can even bring in your men. No woman ever died from that.’ (I don’t think that’s strictly true, is it?) ‘And afterwards all it’ll take is a jug of boiling water and I’ll be exactly the same as I was before. Just with another filthy memory.’ Feisty little thing, ain’t she?

I love it when Cheyenne tells Jill as he’s leaving her kitchen, having partaken of her hot, strong coffee: ‘You know, Jill, you remind me of my mother. She was the biggest whore in Alameda and the finest woman who ever lived. Whoever my father was, for an hour or for a month, he must have been a happy man.’

In his own way there, he considers that he’s paying her a compliment. However, the #me too and #time’s up people would have a fit at some of Cheyenne’s later words to the buxom Jill. Referring to the railway workers and station builders working away right outside her door:

‘You don’t know how good it makes a man feel to see a woman like you. Just to look at her. And if one of them should pat your behind, just make believe it’s nothing. They earned it…!’ You know what, for once, I ain’t sayin’ nuthin’…

I’ve left Charles Bronson till last because he’s the coolest character in the film by miles. He plays a Mysterious Stranger who comes into town on the train with a view to finding Frank and wreaking revenge on him for unknown crimes Frank has committed in the past.

The Man says very little, but what he says counts. ‘Inside the coats were three men. Inside the men were three bullets.’ He’s the f**king coolest cowboy to ever wear shoe leather and have a leathery complexion to match. (Although in that red undershirt, I thought he bore an uncanny resemblance to Ralph Waite who played Pa Walton in THE WALTONS…!)

The Man plays his silver harmonica with an eerie expertise and before long, without his lifting a finger really because that’s how freakin’ cool he is, Jill is head-over-heels in love with him, Cheyenne the bandit is his friend for life and the normally confident Frank is running scared. He doesn’t know who the Mysterious Stranger is but he knows that he’s frightened of him.

The showdown between Frank and The Man is one of the greatest in cinema. They just don’t make ’em like that no more. The first ten minutes of the film too, by the way, is fantastic beyond words.

It’s like a complete short film in itself, the three dirty sweaty cowboys in the long coats known as ‘dusters’ waiting for the train and the one person they’re waiting for is revealed to be suddenly on the other side of the tracks, eerily playing his harmonica…

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is a fabulous film. With a knockout score by Ennio Morricone (I saw him perform live here in Dublin in 2015, by the way!) and the constant close-ups of craggy, unsmiling unshaven faces, it’s something that leaves a powerful impression behind it, unlike some other films which you may well forget the minute they’re over. This is one film you won’t forget in a hurry. This one, you’ll remember. It’s a killer of a film.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL (2018) and WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH (2017): TWO NAZI HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

Werewolves-of-the-Third-Reich2-1

THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL (2018) AND WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH (2017): A DOUBLE BILL OF TRULY WOEFUL NAZI HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I received both of these films as a birthday present recently and I had great craic watching them, despite the fact that they’re both awful, lol. THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL is apparently the third film in a trilogy, so somewhere out there, knocking around merrily as if they haven’t got a care in the world, are the two other films that spawned this unholy hell-child.

Based on a real doll, a doll that exists in real life and is said to be possessed of supernatural powers, it’s by far the worst film of my two birthday gifts. It’s a film of two halves. The first half actually promises to be good, believe it or not.

An obviously abused wife is fleeing from her sadistic husband in Nazi Germany. She’s bringing with her an old book said to possess the power to grant life to inanimate objects. Hitler has sent some of his most high-ranking Nazis to retrieve the book at all costs.

What does Hitler want it for anyway, the cheeky beggar? If he was hoping to use it to revive his floppy pecker, well, I don’t think the book performs actual freakin’ miracles, lol. From what I’ve read, he wasn’t exactly a sensation in the bedroom. Eva Braun must have died a very frustrated woman. Good job there were so many hot Nazis around…

Anyway, the abused wife, Eva von Hammersmark, is charming and feisty and the film might have been a bit better if it had concentrated more on Eva and her nasty hubby Joseph. However, we lose Eva at the end of the first half of the film when her car is hijacked by another nasty piece of work (she certainly seems to attract that type!) and she and her abductor end up at the isolated farmhouse of a very strange man indeed…

The second half of the film doesn’t seem to have anything at all to do with the first, and it’s virtually incomprehensible to boot. The ancient German toymaker responsible for creating Robert the Doll is aboard a train for some reason, fighting off Nazis with the help of his ventriloquist’s dummy, Robert. I think they’re all fighting for possession of the mystical book but don’t quote me on that. They could be doing anything at all, this bit’s such a mess.

WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH has garnered a number of truly stinking reviews, but I liked it much better than THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE STUPID WOODEN DOLL WHO LOOKS LIKE THE EVIL DUMMY FROM THE GOOSEBUMPS BOOKS.

 A group of four painfully American soldiers escape from the Nazis while they’re being carted off to military prison in Germany in World War Two. They wander deep into rural Germany, Hitler’s Third Reich, and end up stumbling upon something rather out of the ordinary.

It’s an SS medical experiment camp run by the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele and his, um, wife, Ilse Koch. She’s a big show-off cow who’s very anxious for the four (yes, four, maybe it was all they could afford, lol) prisoners at the camp to know her terrifying nickname, the Bitch of Buchenwald…

Here at the camp, Mengele, played by an actor who could easily double as Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s personal toady and Minister for Propaganda, is taking time out from experimenting on twins and making his infamous ‘selections’ on the arrivals ramp at Auschwitz.

He’s engaged on a top-secret mission for the Fuhrer, played by a man who looks like Scottish actor Robert Carlyle with ‘a perfectly square bit of black dirt’ painted onto him between his schnozz and his kisser. Mengele is perfecting a method that will turn regular Nazis into werewolf Nazis, so they’ll be just as vicious and bloodthirsty but just not quite as blonde, lol.

The Nazi chosen to go first in this terrifying experiment is the handsome young fella who’s been giving the horny, frustrated Ilse Koch the ride while Mengele’s been occupied trying to turn straw into gold, I mean Nazis into werewolves. Yes, Ilse is a passionate woman who needs to be loved and she’s been playing hide-the-salami with the film’s one good-looking Nazi, the clever girl.

Mengele has found out about his wife’s unwise infidelity and he’s deliberately chosen her lover for the furry face and scratchy fingernails out of spite and jealousy. And the lover can’t even refuse to do it because it’s for Hitler, haha, for Hitler and the Third Reich and you know how fanatical these guys were about doing stuff for Hitler and his precious Reich, lol.

Can Ilse save her sexy blonde lover from a fate pretty much worse than death? (Is being a werewolf worse than being a Nazi? I can’t even tell…!) Can ‘the Fabulous Four’ (those ‘Murican soldiers I mentioned earlier) manage to break into the camp and foil Mengele’s dastardly plan to win the war for Hitler with his unholy army of savage werewolf soldiers?

If you still actually care at this point, you might enjoy the fun ending and the promise of more films to come. Oh, and the end of the ROBERT THE DOLL movie promises, well, another ROBERT THE DOLL movie sometime in the future too, God help us all.

Maybe by then they’ll have a few more Nazi uniforms to go round and they might even have had time to iron out the plotholes in their concept. Who am I kidding? Even the mystical book couldn’t reanimate these turkeys, but I still enjoyed them- well, WEREWOLVES, anyway- and they’re only meant to be a bit of fun. Don’t y’all go taking ’em seriously now…

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

AUSCHWITZ: THE LAST JOURNEY. (2006) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

auschwitz last journey outside train

AUSCHWITZ: THE LAST JOURNEY (DER LETZTE ZUG). (2006) DIRECTED BY JOSEPH VILSMAIER AND DANA VAVROVA. STARRING GEDEON BURKHARD, LALE YAVAS, LENA BEYERLING, SIBEL KEKILLI, ROMAN ROTH AND LUDWIG BLOCHBERGER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Hey, don’t feed the animals…!’

This German language film is an absolute masterpiece, utterly compelling but undoubtedly grim viewing at the same time. It’s an historically and factually accurate depiction of the dreadful journey of one of the Holocaust trains transporting Jews to Auschwitz, as seen from the viewpoints of two or three specific little families or couples.

The journey starts at home, with the inevitable tramp of booted feet on the quiet streets outside in the middle of the night. Then it’s ‘Open up, it’s the Gestapo!’ and the terrified Jews, the last few Jews left in Berlin, have only five minutes to pack their things and get downstairs to the waiting trucks and lorries.

They’re allegedly being taken to a ‘place of safety,’ because there are too many Allied bombs falling on the city. A likely story. The viewer knows that the Nazis are simply rendering Berlin ‘Juden-frei’ or ‘Jew-free’ as a ‘gift’ to Hitler for his birthday. If I may be permitted a little levity (anti-Nazi, that is, not anti-Jew!) here, what happened to the notion of giving someone a voucher and letting them pick out their own present?

At the train station, a calm voice over the tannoy tells the seven hundred Jews leaving Berlin for Auschwitz (although they don’t know that yet) not to panic. If they board the trains in a nice orderly fashion, they’ll be provided with the food and drink that will sustain them throughout the journey. This doesn’t sound so bad, the waiting crowds tell themselves.

Some children question why they’re to travel in cattle cars when they’re not cattle, they’re people, but their mothers hush them and remind them that, after all, it’s wartime. Some of the Jewish men, suspecting correctly where they’re being taken, resolve even at this stage to work together to escape the trains once they’ve boarded.

Once the doors to the train have been bolted and the Jews are ‘safely’ aboard, all pretence at politeness on the Germans’ part will cease and the Jews will realise that they’ve been duped. Though they still haven’t been told precisely where they’re going, they can guess. Now will begin the most horrific journey of their lives, and even then it’s still not as bad as their awful destination.

One hundred people crushed into one cattle car. One bucket of water for them all to share, and no food except what they’ve managed to bring themselves. Another bucket for toilet purposes. Men, women, old people, children and babies all steaming in the heat and breathing the same foul, fetid air. One tiny barred window and a locked and bolted door.

The Jews are deemed to need so little care once they’ve been securely locked inside the cattle cars that the Nazi powers have given the job of commander to a young boy of barely twenty, an Oberleutnant Crewes.

This baby-faced Nazi, however, is already full of the poison and cruelty inculcated into him by his elders, so the Jews needn’t expect any mercy from this quarter. As the train stokers say: ‘These young ones are full of this whole Aryan race shit, as if the Virgin herself had personally whispered it into their ears.’

Conditions inside the cattle car quickly become unbearable as the train trundles rather than hurtles its way through Hitler’s Germany, the countryside of his Third Reich, to Auschwitz in Poland.

There are long delays too, for example when they have to sit back and allow precedence to the trains filled with German soldiers rushing to the Front, and another time while a gallows is being built to hang a group of partisans and leave them hanging, as a grim warning to all who see them.

During these interminable delays, the cry is all for ‘Wasser, bitte!’ as the occupants of the cattle car beg for a little water to ease their raging thirst. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t. They hand their valuables out the window to the train operatives in return for water and a bit of bread. They’ll lick the water up off the floor of the cattle car if they have to.

Let’s meet our main protagonists. Henry and Lea Neumann, a handsome young couple, are here with their young daughter, a remarkably clever and brave little girl called Nina, and their baby son David.

Albert Rosen and Ruth Silbermann are a young engaged couple who are so in love with each other it’s lovely to see. Ruth has a lot of character and guts and she’ll make Albert, a former jeweller, a marvellous wife, a wife he can be proud of.

Jakob and Gabrielle are an elderly couple, devoted to each other and with balls and chutzpah to spare. Jakob has been a comedian and entertainer all his life. When the Gestapo and the sinister man in the trenchcoat give him five minutes to pack his most valuable possessions, he brings his collection of jokes and the tuxedo he wears to perform in.

Gabrielle is his pianist. She has as much courage as the diminutive Jakob who, before this awful train journey happened, tried to persuade his beloved to emigrate to America. She refused to leave him, however, so now they’re both here.

The staunchly good-humoured old couple use their talents and entertainment skills to try to keep up morale in the stifling cattle car, in which people are already dying of dehydration and shock and everyone’s stripped down to their underwear in the intense heat.

Henry and Albert are the two men who try to engineer escape from the train of certain death. If they don’t manage it for anyone, then this train will one day pull up at Auschwitz.

There’ll be barbed wire, attack dogs, endless shouting and doing everything ‘on the run’ the way the Nazis preferred it. There’ll be the infamous ARBEIT MACHT FREI, which might just as well read ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE, as in the workhouses of old.

There’ll be ‘men to the left, women and children to the right’ and grey-faced Sonderkommandos pulling and pushing them into the correct lines before the Nazis get angry. The new arrivals might see the chimneys that are kept alight night and day and belch out smoke and a peculiar-smelling ash round the clock.

Some of the new people may have heard of these chimneys and their grisly purpose. ‘It can’t be true,’ they tell themselves as they look up, wide-eyed. ‘How can it be true? It doesn’t make any sense, the Nazis destroying their own workforce!’

If it sounds like hell to the reader, well, one can’t even imagine what it was like for the people who were brought here. The film’s ending is one you won’t forget for a long time. It’s even sadder than the little vignettes of our main protagonists’ former happier lives which are cleverly interspersed throughout the film.

I’m not one to preach but, if ever a film could represent a cogent argument against racism, then this film would have to be it. Every time I watch it, it makes me feel ashamed of my nice cushy life in one of the so-called ‘civilised’ countries. And you’ll certainly never waste a drop of water in your life again after seeing this. I guarantee it.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor