ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG. (1927) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

lodger scarf

THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG. (1927) DIRECTED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK.

BASED ON THE NOVEL BY MARIE BELLOC LOWNDES AND THE PLAY CO-WRITTEN BY MARIE BELLOC LOWNDES.

STARRING IVOR NOVELLO, MALCOLM KEEN, JUNE TRIPP, MARIE AULT AND ARTHUR CHESNEY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This fog-wreathed silent movie has the distinction of being the first real thriller ever directed by a certain Alfred Hitchcock, and the distinction also of being a bloody good film as well.

It already bears some of the future hallmarks of the great man’s directing and, in fact, it’s a jolly polished product for a first-timer. Not many thriller directors could have achieved such perfection on a first try.

Thirty-eight years have elapsed since Jack The Ripper held the city of London to ransom in the infamous ‘Autumn of Terror’ in 1888, and here now we have Alfred Hitchcock presenting us with this spooky tale in which a serial killer of women murders an attractive blonde female every Tuesday, regular as clockwork. Well, it’s good to be regular, lol. There’s a whole branch of the pharmaceutical industry devoted to that very end, after all. (Excuse the pun…!)

This is probably one of the first ever films to make reference to Jack The Ripper or be based on him. The man who savagely slaughtered Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly in the Autumn of Terror in 1888 gave rise to an absolute plethora of books, films, magazine articles and word-of-mouth stories all detailing his horrific crimes for the reading public who, seemingly, couldn’t get enough of him. We could be looking here at one of the first few films based on his infamous career of butchery and hate.

Funny too, that Alfred Hitchcock should begin his illustrious career almost mythologising blondes, when we all know now that he had a big thing for them in his later works. Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, Eva Marie Saint, Grace Kelly, even Doris Day, all gorgeous glamorous ice-cool blondes to set the pulses racing and the temperatures soaring. Someone had a definite fetish, heh-heh-heh.

Anyway, off we pop now back to London in the ‘Twenties, as fog-wreathed, dark and mysterious a city as it was in Saucy Jack’s time. A bevy of beautiful blondes are being done to death every week by a madman calling himself ‘The Avenger,’ leading blondes to wear dark wigs as a means of protecting themselves from the marauding murdering maniac.

We go now to the Buntings’ house. Ma and Pa Bunting, a traditional middle-aged English couple, have rooms to let. Pa Bunting sits at the kitchen table reading the newspaper in his shirt-sleeves while Ma Bunting cooks up the vittles.

Now meet Daisy Bunting, their ravishing blonde (yes, blonde!) daughter who works as a model or mannequin for a nearby fashion-house. She’s a thoroughly modern Millie, is Daisy, with her ‘golden curls’ cut short in the style of the time and her legs, shown off to perfection, encased in the hose and high-heeled shoes that were all the rage amongst the young women of the day. Long skirts and dresses were out. Showing off yer shapely pins was in, in in…!

She’s a proper little flapper, this one, with her smart little cloche hats hugging her neat little head, and of course she has a suitor. The Boyfriend is a tall strapping capable fellow, a police detective no less, and one who’s investigating the ‘Avenger’ murders to boot.

Daisy and The Boyfriend rub along together just fine, and no doubt the Buntings are thrilled skinny that a chap with such a good pensionable job is taking an interest in their Daisy, an interest which might very easily lead to matrimony. After all, doesn’t The Boyfriend himself remark to the Buntings:

‘As soon as I’ve put a rope around the Avenger’s neck, I’ll put a ring on Daisy’s finger!’

However, along comes the titular ‘Lodger’ to set the cat royally among the pigeons. One dark foggy night, Mrs. Bunting opens the door to a tall dark-haired young gentleman with a scarf wound round his face. He’s come about the room to let. As he’s willing to pay a month in advance, Mrs. Bunting is more than happy at first to accommodate the handsome stranger.

He’s a queer duck though, is this one. For a kick-off, he asks Mrs. Bunting to take away the pictures in his room, which are all of golden-haired young women. Hmmm. Very odd indeed, wouldn’t you say?

He’s certainly a bit of a rum cove and no mistake. When he meets the golden-haired Daisy, however, he demonstrates no such aversion to blonde females. The pair are instantly attracted to each other.

The Lodger, with his air of mystery and his chalk-white face painted to resemble a chorus girl’s, complete with Clara Bow lippie, is utterly enchanted by Daisy, much to The Boyfriend’s disgust.

How dare this poncy fly-by-night swoop down and take Daisy away from him? How dare he buy her an expensive dress from the fashion-house where she models? Such a gesture smacks rudely of an intimacy which disturbs The Boyfriend no end.

The Buntings are none too pleased either, especially when The Lodger’s mysterious nightly comings and goings seem to coincide with the movements of The Avenger, who’s continued to commit his ghastly murders even while we’ve all been caught up in the super-exciting love triangle between Daisy, The Boyfriend and The Lodger.

The Buntings and The Boyfriend all come to the same dreadful conclusion. If The Lodger is The Avenger, who signs his killings with his chosen moniker so we know whodunnit, then isn’t Daisy’s life in the most appalling danger? And hasn’t she this very night gone off into the fog with The Lodger without so much as a by-your-leave to the Buntings or The Boyfriend…?

The scenes near the end, that are not quite the end, resemble the grim finale of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA from 1925. I’ll say no more than that. The foggy gaslit streets of London deserve a credit all their own, and Alfred Hitchcock an even bigger credit for managing to make his debut thriller so marvellously, gothically atmospheric.

There’s a twist in the film- you know Uncle Alfred’s a big fan of a twist in the tale/tail- and to think that he made this film nearly a hundred years ago boggles the mind. I love that something so completely perfect and perfectly complete was made so long ago. It’s a must-see for Hitchcock fans. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

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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BLACKADDER. (1983-1989) THE COMPLETE FOUR SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BLACKADDER. (1983-1989) THE COMPLETE FOUR SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Blackadder2

WRITTEN BY ROWAN ATKINSON, RICHARD CURTIS AND BEN ELTON.

STARRING ROWAN ATKINSON, TONY ROBINSON, HUGH LAURIE, STEPHEN FRY, TIM MCINNERNY, MIRANDA RICHARDSON, PATSY BYRNE, BRIAN BLESSED, MIRIAM MARGOLYES, JIM BROADBENT AND GABRIELLE GLAISTER.

‘Baldrick, it’s the stickiest situation anyone’s ever been in since Sticky the Stick Insect got stuck on a sticky bun.’

‘Yes, the Teutonic reputation for brutality is well-founded, Baldrick. Their operas go on for three or four days and they have no word for ‘fluffy.’

By anyone’s standards, this British pseudo-historical situation comedy snaps, crackles and pops in all the right places. It’s bally well top-notch stuff, as Lieutenant George himself might say. It always comes near the top of Best Sitcom Lists and, as far as the English are concerned, only two other sitcoms could possibly top it: ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES and FAWLTY TOWERS. I think I’d give BLACKADDER first place, personally speaking. The writing is just pure genius.

There were four complete series of BLACKADDER between 1983 and 1989, each taking place in a different historical period of England’s long and chequered past. Each one stars Rowan Atkinson as the Edmund Blackadder of the period and Tony Robinson as his less intelligent and much less fragrant sidekick-slash-dogsbody, while the cast around them shifts slightly each time, while maintaining a little core group of regulars, if you get me.

SERIES ONE: THE BLACK ADDER is set in 1485 at the end of the British Middle Ages. These were pretty yucky times, with plagues and pestilence stalking the land and flies and muck and shit everywhere from the indifferent sewerage systems in place at the time. There were none, I think, in point of fact. With shit from the privies flowing like the Thames down the streets of English towns, it’s no wonder the peasants were always catching the plague.

Peter Cook plays Richard the Third, who accidentally gets his bonce lopped off by an inept Blackadder after winning the Battle of Bosworth Field. Richard the Fourth succeeds to the throne and is played by the big, bearded, larger-than-life Brian Blessed, he of the booming voice and lavish theatrical gestures. If anyone was born to play a King with a loud booming voice, surely this guy was, lol.

The Blackadder in this series is the King’s weedy second son, the one he doesn’t like and can barely recognise when he sees him. Flanked by the malodorous Baldrick and the wonderful Tim McInnerny as the foppish Lord Percy Percy, Blackadder is a somewhat ineffectual bumbler here and nowhere near as cunning and self-advancing as he becomes in the later three series.

By the time we reach BLACKADDER TWO, the character of Blackadder has been developed into the shrewd opportunistic sycophant we’re more used to seeing. Set in Elizabethan times, the Queen is marvellously played as a self-absorbed, self-obsessed selfish psychopathic cretin by Miranda Richardson.

The mischievous, some would say malicious Queen’s mood can turn on a dime, as they say, and so it’s ‘off with his head’ for anyone who pisses her off. Blackadder therefore spends his days sucking up to her big-time, in competition with Stephen Fry as her Numero Uno Toady, Lord Melchett.

Patsy Byrne is marvellous as Nursie, the Queen’s constant companion and former Nanny, who is obsessed with the booby-feeding she did when Queenie was a nipper. She treats the Queen as if she were still in the nursery and the Queen seems okay with it, probably because of the comforting familiarity it brings.

Then of course, on other occasions, she’s all, like, shut up Nursie, what would a demented old bat like YOU know about anything, lol. It’s all part-and-parcel of the tightly-knit, almost symbiotic relationship between the pair.

As brilliantly capricious as Miranda Richardson is as Queen Elizabeth, my favourite ‘dim aristocrat’ of the whole show is Hugh Laurie as the idiotic Prince Regent, the Prince of Wales, in BLACKADDER THE THIRD. The Regency period, taking place as it did towards the end of the 18th century and the start of the 19th, was the era of the fops, and nobody fops like Prince George.

In his magnificent frock-coat and knee-breeches, his wig atop his bonce and his boat-race powdered and rouged to perfection, he drives his butler Edmund Blackadder Esquire to distraction with the emptiness of his head and the idiocy of his thoughts and ideas, if he has any. If the always-strapped-for-cash Blackadder wasn’t able to make a few quid on the side by selling the Prince’s socks behind his back, he’d probably hand in his notice.

The premise of each episode is that a tricky situation presents itself and Blackadder and Baldrick, who by now is a scruffy sight indeed, have to come up with a multiplicity of ‘cunning plans’ to try to extricate themselves from it.

The plans are always ridiculously complicated, often involve a disguise of some sort, and usually go tits-up in a spectacular way, leading Blackadder to bemoan the fact that ‘Fortune vomits on my eiderdown once again, Baldrick.’

I love the one in which the pals meet the Scarlet Pimpernel during the French Revolution, and the one in which Robbie Coltrane (who also appears in the Crimbo special) plays Dr. Samuel Johnson, the man who wrote the world’s first ever Dictionary.

When Baldrick accidentally tosses the one and only copy of this precious manuscript onto the Prince Regent’s drawing-room fire, believing it to be mere kindling, Blackadder is in a fearful bind.

He’ll have to stay up all night in order to re-write the Dictionary again, the Dictionary it took Dr. Johnson ten years to write, or risk the great wrath of the Doctor and his sword-wielding sidekicks, the boozy, drugged-up Romantic poets, namely, Shelley, Byron and Coleridge. I think Keats is absent for some unknown reason…!

Needless to say, the following morning sees Blackadder still stuck on ‘A is for Aardvark.’ The scene where Dr. Johnson is trying to explain the ‘plot’ of his Dictionary to the thick-as-a-plank Prince Regent is hilarious. Reminds me of that joke in THE SIMPSONS: ‘So, I finally finished reading the Dictionary. Turns out the zebra did it…!’

BLACKADDER GOES FORTH, the final series, is many peoples’ favourite. It’s set in the mucky, water-logged (but poetry-rich) trenches of World War One. Captain Blackadder is at his absolute wittiest and most sharp-tongued here (‘I lost closer friends than that when I went for my last delousing!’) as he battles the deprivations of warfare alongside his mates.

These are his loyal batman Private S. Baldrick (the S stands for Sod Off, as in Sod Off, Baldrick!) and the aristocratic but infinitely loveable upper-class twit, Hugh Laurie as Lieutenant George Colhurst St. Barleigh. 

Blackadder, he of the biting wit and cutting sarcasm, spares neither of them as he demonstrates to the enchanted viewer his unsurpassed skill as master of the scathing put-down.

The main aim of Captain Slack Bladder in this series is to try to avoid the certain death involved in ‘going over the top,’ or taking part in ‘The Big Push,’ as it’s known. This isn’t just because he’s a snivelling coward, but because he genuinely bemoans the awful loss of life, all of it unnecessary, caused by this dreadful war.

By Jove, you coves, it’s enough to make you stick a pair of underpants on your head, shove a couple of pencils up your nose and go ‘wibble!’ Only don’t let me catch you at it, dash it all, or I’ll jolly well have to shoot you for cowardice.

I’m always crying like a baby long before the ‘Big Push’ slow-motion finish, when the three lads finally charge out into the smoke and fog and certain death of ‘no-man’s land,’ joined by Tim McInnerny as Captain Kevin Darling. (Rik Mayall as Lord Flash-heart: ‘Darling? That’s a funny name for a guy! The last person I called ‘Darling’  was pregnant twenty seconds later…!’)

I cry when Hugh Laurie as Lieutenant George, serious for once, realises out loud that he’s the only one of his bright-eyed school chums left alive now, the tiddly-winks-playing, leap-frogging chums who signed up so hopefully to beat the ‘Hun’ three years ago when the war began. It’ll all be over by Christmas, isn’t that what they thought? And now look at the devastating waste of all the young lives gone forever thanks to the stupid war.

Stephen Fry is superbly funny as the lads’ superior, General Melchett, but he’s making a serious point here too. Commanding his men from a comfy, cosy French chateau miles behind the front line, he doesn’t live in the real world of trench foot, rat sandwiches and coffee made from mud and sprinkled with Baldrick’s dandruff-for-sugar. The generals complacently moved armies about on their little maps but it was the men on the ground- and in the trenches- who bore the brunt of these near-sighted, ivory-tower decisions.

Anyway, if you’re not bawling your eyes out by the time the mist and fog clears to reveal a poppy field, empty of living humans but silently bearing witness to the millions who died, then you’re an unfeeling monster, lol. Grown men freely admit to crying at the emotional last episode, titled GOODBYEEE, without a trace of shame. I’ll leave you, as Jerry Springer used to do, with my final thought, and it’s this:

‘If I should die, think only this of me;

I’ll be back to get you…’

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

SEE NO EVIL: THE MOORS MURDERS. (2006) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

myra maureen

SEE NO EVIL: THE MOORS MURDERS. (2006) BASED ON TRUE EVENTS.

DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER MENAUL. WRITTEN BY NEIL MCKAY.

STARRING SEAN HARRIS, MAXINE PEAKE, JOANNE FROGGATT, MATTHEW MCNULTY, GEORGE COSTIGAN , SUSAN TWIST AND JOHN HENSHAW.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Does a dog have a soul…?’

This one originally aired on ITV over the course of two nights in 2006, and I’d say there was hardly a family in the whole of England and Ireland that wasn’t glued to it. I was watching it myself and I thought it was phenomenally well done, despite the horrific subject matter. Having re-visited it recently as a two-hour-and-seventeen-minute film, the impact was no less powerful.

It’s the story of the infamous Moors Murders as seen through the eyes of Myra Hindley’s younger sister Maureen, whom Myra called Mo or Moby and genuinely seemed to love, if such a cold-hearted woman could be deemed capable of love.

It’s 1963 and the death of her baby Angela Dawn with David Smith, her young husband, sees a distraught Maureen turning to her older sister Myra for comfort. A side-effect of Myra and Maureen’s spending more time together is that David Smith and Ian Brady are thrown together a lot too.

At first, David isn’t terribly keen on Ian, an egotistical show-off proud of his high intellect and the fact that he’s well-read. Ian loves an audience. He spouts a lot of nonsense about philosophy, relativism (whatever that is) and existentialism that goes right over Dave’s head at first. As it did mine, I must say.

Gradually Ian, with his narrow, pinched-looking nose and cruelly thin lips, gets inside Dave’s head. He gives Dave books to read by the Marquis de Sade, books that Ian has studied carefully himself along with books on Nazi ideology and Nazi atrocities.

Dave finds himself reading about the rape and physical abuse and torture of young women, but his wife Maureen tells him that she can’t understand how either he, Dave, or Ian for that matter, can get their kicks out of reading about men beating and/or raping women. We don’t know what Dave makes of all this but it’s pretty obvious how Ian feels on the subject.

Ian and David plan a bank robbery together, unknown to Maureen but not to Myra, who will drive their getaway car. (Ian doesn’t drive, you see.) They take guns out onto the nearby Saddleworth Moor for shooting practice.

The four young people, Ian, Myra, Maureen and Dave, spend a lot of time out on the beautiful wild Moors because it’s Ian’s and Myra’s favourite place. Maureen is heard to remark that she doesn’t know what they see in the cold, windy expanse of grass and muck.

I can certainly see the attraction of moors, they’re wild and windy and gloriously sort of primeval as in Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but these moors in particular are hiding Ian and Myra’s grim secrets.

During a drunken conversation between Ian and David, Ian reveals that he has killed people in the past and, what’s more, that David has unwittingly stood on their graves out on the Moors. Dave doesn’t know what to believe at first. Then he decides that it’s all just big talk on Ian’s part as usual. He’s a boaster and a show-off, after all.

Dave changes his mind when Ian entices a young man called Edward Evans back to his and Myra’s council house which they share with Myra’s old grandmother. In front of Dave’s eyes, Ian murders Edward Evans with an axe. Afterwards, he coldly orders Myra and Dave to clean up the blood.

Dave, feeling like he’s in a nightmare, does what Ian orders him to do before stumbling home in the early hours of the morning, sick and frightened, to a sleeping Maureen.

In the morning, the terrified pair go to the police, which was a pretty brave thing to do on their part. Maureen was reluctantly ‘shopping’ her beloved sister, and Dave was risking the wrath of a man he was obviously very afraid of, that is, Ian. Their action was the catalyst that broke the horrible state of affairs that became known as the ‘Moors Murders’ case wide open…

Maureen and Dave can’t believe it when Ian and Myra are arrested for the murders of missing local young people Lesley Ann Downey, John Kilbride and now Edward Evans, whose body was recovered by the police in Ian and Myra’s council house the day after his brutal murder.

The bodies of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride were discovered buried out on Saddleworth Moors. George Costigan (Bob in RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO) is brilliant here as DCI Joe Mounsey, the careworn detective who never gave up hope of finding little John Kilbride and who, in fact, was the one to first uncover the little boy’s lonely resting place.

Ian and Myra were each sentenced to life in prison for these three murders. It wasn’t until much later that they confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and little Keith Bennett.

The latter had broken his glasses the day before he was murdered and so he went to his death not being able to see properly, a fact which haunted his poor mother and which makes his fate all the more devastatingly poignant.

The evil couple, who nicknamed each other Neddie and Hessie (Neddie after a character in THE GOON SHOW and Hessie after British pianist Myra Hess) were reviled for all time after the details of their heinous actions became known to the public.

The tape made by the couple of Lesley Ann Downey begging and pleading for her life and the pornographic photos they took of her did nothing to endear them to the courts. Their addiction to documenting their gruesome activities was at least part of their undoing.

It was even Ian and Myra’s habit to get all incriminating materials out of the house before they committed another murder, so if the police came round they’d find nothing out of the ordinary. The level of premeditation here is quite extraordinary.

They packed everything up into two suitcases which they placed in the left-luggage section of Manchester Central Railway Station. When the police found a couple of these ‘treasure-troves’ after Ian and Myra were arrrested, let’s just say that they now had a lot more evidence to go on…

Maureen and Dave, with another baby on the way, attempted to rebuild their own lives but the public wouldn’t let them forget who they were and the couple had a long way to go to find peace, if they ever did. They were hugely affected by the fallout from the Moors Murders.

Maureen did in 1980 of a brain haemorrhage, twenty-two years before her born-again Catholic sister Myra passed away in custody, the short peroxide blonde hairstyle, no longer her trademark, replaced by her own longish, natural brown hair.

Ian Brady lingered on till 2017, somewhat bearing out the old Irish saying that ‘you can’t kill a bad thing.’ The absolute secrecy surrounding his cremation and the scattering of his ashes in the sea will tell you just how reviled a person he remained even until after his death.

Maxine Peake does an excellent job here of portraying Myra, one of the most hated women in Britain ever. Not only does she look like her but she plays her as she apparently really was, surly, secretive, unco-operative and stand-offish.

The real Myra didn’t do herself any favours with her unhelpful, abrasive attitude towards the police, and certainly there was at least one set of parents of the Moors Murders victims who died without knowing where their child- Keith Bennett, the smiley-faced boy who broke his glasses- was buried. To this day I believe his remains are still somewhere out on the Moor.

This drama serial handles the explosive material with sensitivity and compassion. The film-makers are careful not to distress the parents and families of the victims any more than they already have been. Some of the relatives helped Neil McKay, the writer, with his research. It’s a grim subject, maybe one of the grimmest, but it needed to finally be told.

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