A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE PATRICK STEWART ONE! (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge patrick stewart scared

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE PATRICK STEWART ONE! (1999) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY CHARLES DICKENS. WRITTEN FOR TELEVISION BY PETER BARNES. DIRECTED BY DAVID JONES. STARRING PATRICK STEWART, RICHARD E. GRANT, SASKIA REEVES, DOMINIC WEST AND JOEL GREY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Patrick Stewart does a terrific job as Ebenezer Scrooge in this made-for-TV version of the timeless Christmas tale. No matter how many versions I see, and there are quite a few knocking around, I never get tired of watching this story of festive cheer and redemption unfolding on the screen before me.

Patrick Stewart makes for a very fit and trim-looking Scrooge, a Scrooge whose bearing is noble rather than stooped and bent-over and who looks as if he might just be able to run after you- and catch you!- if you endeavoured to pull an Artful Dodger on him and pinch his wallet or pocket handkerchief right out from under his very nose. This is no decrepit or dilapidated Scrooge. This is a Scrooge in top physical form, a Scrooge to be reckoned with. He’s still a miserable git, though.

Anyway, it’s Christmas-time once more, Christmas Eve in fact, and a full seven years ago tonight since the demise of one Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s business partner and the only person he could really call his friend.

Scrooge, the renowned miser and whizz-kid down at the Stock Exchange, is in his office as usual, grumping and bitching at his humble clerk Bob Cratchit about how much coal he’s putting on the fire. Scabby or what?

Richard E. Grant plays the servile but good-natured family man Bob Cratchit. I was surprised by this bit of casting because I was fully expecting him to be playing Scrooge’s posh nephew Fred but no, he’s playing Bob and they’ve even blacked up his gnashers to make him look like a proper povvo from Dickensian times. Realistic, I have no doubt, but somewhat off-putting, if I may say so.

Bob and his equally black-toothed Missus have six hungry chilluns atween ’em. Which only goes to prove the long-held opinion that there wasn’t much to do of an evening before the invention of the telly. Scrooge only pays Bob a measly fifteen bob a week, which is nowhere near enough to keep his six scraggy urchins in Playstation games and iPhones and whatnot. Better call CHILDLINE…!

Still and all, though, the Cratchits are determined to celebrate Christmas together no matter how poor they might be. Unlike mean old Mr. Scrooge, who’s busy screaming abuse at the child carol singers and telling the gentleman charity collectors looking ‘to make some slight provision for the poor at this time of year’ to bugger off. Bah humbug indeed.

While Bob runs gleefully home to his family at close of business on Christmas Eve, Scrooge returns home to his gloomy chambers alone. Here he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley. Jacob, wrapped in ‘the chains he forged in life,’ the lock-boxes and money-bags that were his stock-in-trade while he lived, has a terrible message of hope and despair for his old mucker.

Change your money-grubbing, miserly ways, you greedy old bastard, is the message in a nutshell. If you don’t start loosening the purse-strings and making the welfare of mankind your business tout de suite, you’ll end up like me, Jacob Marley, doomed to walk abroad for all eternity without the power to intervene where you see misery, hunger and poverty!

It’s a pretty clear and chilling message, but Jacob can’t be sure that it’s penetrated Scrooge’s thick skull. Three ghosts will be coming, he warns Scrooge before he takes his leave of the frightened old miser, to make sure that the message to ‘change’ really gets through. Expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one…

As we all know by know, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future do come to see Scrooge and, through little vignettes from his own past, present and future, show him the error of his ways.

Joel Grey, who positively sparkled as the wickedly bitchy and lecherous MC in CABARET some two-and-a-half decades earlier in CABARET, is lacklustre and as flat as a pancake here as the Ghost Of Christmas Past. I hate slagging him off when he was so mesmerisingly good in CABARET, but his heart’s clearly not in this role here.

Scrooge, of course, ends up changing his miserly ways and becomes ‘a man who knows how to keep Christmas well.’ He befriends Bob, raises his salary and vows to help Bob and his hungry family in the future. Bob thinks his master’s gone mad, of course, but he’ll go along with the madness as long as it means a few more shillings in the family coffers.

Scrooge also eats large helpings of humble pie round at his nephew Fred’s place, where Fred is entertaining his guests at Christmas dinner. Fred is the child of Scrooge’s dead sister Fanny (tee-hee, fanny is a rude word!), the one person in the world who truly loved Scrooge and thought there was some good in him.

Why Scrooge wasn’t kinder to poor good-natured, warm-hearted Fred for this reason from the start is a mystery, unless it was the case that Fanny (snigger!) died giving birth to Fred and that’s why he’s hated Fred all this time.

In some versions, we hear that this is the exact same reason for Scrooge’s father disliking his son and forcing him to live at school all year round. In other words, Scrooge’s mother died birthing him and Scrooge’s father wanted nothing to do with the boy.

Having been treated like this himself by his own father, it’s surprising that Scrooge would have behaved the same way towards his nephew. It’s a very harsh and unfair way of going on, isn’t it?

The child can’t be blamed for the demise of the mother, heart-breakingly sad and unfortunate as that is. In any case, Scrooge now determines to be the best uncle to Fred he can possibly be, so all’s well that ends well.

Except that Scrooge now owes Dominic West’s Fred about thirty years worth of back-payments in Christmas and birthday book-tokens, lol. I can’t imagine that Scrooge would have gifted any young’un with the cash to heedlessly fritter away on penny candy and saucy French postcards, can you? Not while they could have been doing something useful with the money.

You’ll see one or two recognisable faces in the cast. Ian McNeice (NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER!) plays Scrooge’s first employer, dear old Mr. Fezziwig, he of the fat wife and equally plump daughters.

It will be very hard to marry off all three of these hefty lassies unless old Fezziwig can give each of ’em an equally hefty dowry to sweeten any potential marital deal. I’m just saying. I’m genuinely concerned for the romantic futures of these three comely heifers, lol.

Liz Smith (THE ROYLE FAMILY) is perfectly, beautifully cast as the cackling old Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s ancient charwoman-housekeeper, and Celia Imrie, from every English film ever made, or so it would seem, is suitably ringleted and corseted as one of Fred’s rather frivolous Christmas dinner guests. They do love their silly games, Gawd bless ’em every one.

And Gawd bless Mr. Scrooge too who, from this day forward, will be ‘the founder of the feast’ in a properly meaningful way. This will be my last Scrooge review for Christmas 2018 (I’ve finally run out of Scrooges to review, can you believe it!), so I’m glad to be going out on a high note with this one.

Patrick Stewart makes a top-notch Scrooge. And Tiny Tim, lightly roasted, makes a more than acceptable turkey substitute in a pinch. I’m only surprised that none of his hungry relatives ever thought of it before, to be honest. Tuck in while it’s hot, folks…

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

GOODFELLAS and CASINO: A DOUBLE BILL OF MOB MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

goodfellas2

GOODFELLAS (1990) and CASINO (1995): A DOUBLE BILL OF MOB MOVIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’ve been watching mob movies all Christmas. It might seem like a funny time of year to be watching movies about gangsters and the Mafia, but when else during the year would you have the time to relax and enjoy such long and intense works of cinematic art while scoffing mince pies and the yummy contents of entire selection boxes? Yet again, we have enough mince pies left over from Crimbo to set up a small confectionery shop. Why do I never learn from the mistakes of previous years?

Anyway, so far this Yuletide season, I’ve watched the GODFATHER trilogy in its lengthy entirety and chased it down with SCARFACE, GOODFELLAS and CASINO, the latter two of which we’ll be looking at today. GOODFELLAS and CASINO were both directed by Martin Scorsese and the screenplays were written by Nicolas Pileggi and Martin Scorsese jointly.

GOODFELLAS, based on a true story (and on the non-fiction book WISEGUY by Nicholas Pileggi), looks at the life and career of real-life mobster Henry Hill, brilliantly played by the handsome Ray Liotta.

Encompassing three decades of life in the Mafia, we see Henry rise through the ranks of his local mob- so local they were handily encamped across the street from his childhood home!- to go from humble messenger boy in the ‘Fifties and Swinging ‘Sixties to one of his crew’s biggest earners in the ‘Seventies and ‘Eighties.

His mob boss is the enigmatic man-of-few-words Paul Cicero (Paul Sorvino) and his two closest chums in his crew are Jimmy ‘The Gent’ Conway and Tommy DeVito. Jimmy is played by Robert De Niro. He’s a criminal mastermind for whom robbing is a joy and a pleasure and a way of life, not just a chore. He and Henry pull off many successful heists together.

Tommy DeVito (a magnificent Joe Pesci) is a headcase, a nut-job, a psychopath. He’s such a loose cannon that I would have considered him a liability myself, but in the Mafia that’s probably a flippin’ badge of honour, lol.

He shoots his gun off with as much regularity as his big fat mouth, as Spider the barman (Michael Imperioli from THE SOPRANOS) and Billy ‘Go get your fuckin’ shine-box!’ Batts, played by Frank Vincent (Phil Leotardo from THE SOPRANOS), each find out to their cost.

Remember the scene where Henry, Jimmy and Tommy stop off at Tommy’s sweet old Mom’s house in the middle of the night to borrow a shovel to bury Billy Batts? She makes them a full ‘Mob Mom’ dinner and berates Tommy for not having found a suitable girl to settle down with yet and, the whole time she’s talking, a severely battered Billy Batts is outside in the trunk of their car, banging away with his feet trying desperately to attract someone’s attention.

Billy Batts is a ‘made man,’ however, a fully paid-up Mafia guy who’s supposed to be untouchable except by Mafia family heads who have to ‘sit down’ properly and give official permission for anyone to ‘whack’ him or otherwise bump him off. This act of brutal violence by Tommy will cost Tommy dearly, if he but knew it, the cocky little fuck, lol.

Henry marries Karen (Lorraine Bracco from- you guessed it- THE SOPRANOS; she plays Tony’s shrink, Dr. Jennifer Melfi), a previously well-behaved Jewish girl who loves the Mafia lifestyle as much as Henry loves it himself.

The clothes, the furs, the jewels, the ready cash, the drugs, the guns, the star treatment everywhere they go, the ‘respect,’ which really means fear, with which everyone treats them, she digs it all. As Henry himself says: ‘For us to live any other way was nuts.’

Of course, she has a lot of shit to put up as well, as a Mafia wife. Henry’s out most nights with his mob friends, drinking and gambling or pulling off heists. When he’s not with his mates, he’s sleeping over with his ‘goomar’ or girlfriend Janice Rossi at the nifty little apartment he’s bought her. All Mob guys have a goomar as well as a wife. It’s just the way it is.

Mob guys also tend to go to jail for years at a time and, while it might be comfortable enough inside for them, with their vintage wine and lobsters packed in ice and their gourmet meals every night, the wives are the ones who are stuck at home, minding the kids and waiting for their criminal hubbies to come out. But this is the life they chose, remember?

A fantastic soundtrack from the times that were in it and electrifying performances from the leads make this one of the best Mob movies ever made. Samuel L. Jackson is in it briefly as an underling who screws up the one job he’s given to do and Tony Sirico, who plays Paulie Walnuts in THE SOPRANOS, has a small role as a mobster who hangs around Tuddy Cicero’s restaurant near the start of the film.

You can imagine therefore that, when THE SOPRANOS was being made, a whole load of the cast would have been able to say, aw, d’you remember all the fun we had when we were making GOODFELLAS…?

And all the cast members who weren’t in GOODFELLAS were probably all like, fucking hell, not GOODFELLAS again, do they ever stop going on about that fucking movie? Huh, just because they were in it and we weren’t, they think they’re so great…!

CASINO is based on the non-fiction book CASINO: LOVE AND HONOUR IN LAS VEGAS by Nicholas Pileggi. It sees Robert De Niro portraying Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein, a Jewish professional gambler who knows everything there is to know about gambling and handicaps and related stuff.

He’s the head of the Tangiers Casino empire in Las Vegas because he’s such an expert on gambling and there’s a load of really in-depth stuff about gambling in the movie which I’m gonna gloss over because I know nothing about gambling. I bought a LOTTO ticket for New Year’s Eve but that’s strictly as far as I go.

Sam’s life is greatly complicated by two people. One of these is his beautiful wife Ginger, played to perfection by Sharon Stone, an actress for whom I don’t normally care much but she’s brilliant in this.

Sam marries her even though he knows she’s a casino hustler and good-time girl who’s been in love with her old pimp Lester (James Woods) since Lester ‘discovered’ her at age fourteen. I think we can all work out what that would have involved.

I love looking at all of Ginger’s fabulous outfits, jewellery and ever-changing hairstyles. (Long and blonde, good; short ginger mullet, bad!) She’s a mess, though, and clearly not suited to matrimony and motherhood.

She continues seeing Lester, drinking too much and taking drugs while she’s married to Sam, much to Sam’s disappointment because he really does seem to care about her, unlike some gangster husbands.

The worst thing she does, apart from running off with her’s and Sam’s daughter to be with Lester the Loser, is tying their frightened child to the bed before sneaking off by herself to be with Lester. Sam loves Ginger to bits, though, which is why he keeps taking her back after she screws up.

The other person complicating Sam’s life is his boyhood friend, dangerous Mobster (is there any other kind?) Nicky Santoro. Nicky, played by Joe Pesci, is pretty much the exact same character as Pesci’s Tommy in GOODFELLAS, a loose cannon and trigger-happy hothead who has the bad taste to sleep with Ginger behind Sam’s back. (Incidentally, Nicky’s sidekick in this film is Frank Vincent, Billy Batts from GOODFELLAS.)

Ginger refers to Nicky as her ‘new sponsor.’ Somehow I don’t think she’s talking about her new AA sponsor, whom she can call if she’s ever tempted to drink booze. Ginger is the kind of woman who’ll always need a man to bankroll her (and Lester’s) bad habits.

She and Lester come as a package, see? He’s had her all to himself and has conditioned her to believe his bull-crap since the age of fourteen. That’s a very hard habit to break.

The extreme violence in this film is bone-chilling. The scene in the cornfield always upsets me, it’s so vicious. And the guy who gets his head put in a vice which, if squeezed enough, will pop out his eyeball, that’s a heavy scene too.

The thought of all those holes in the desert where so many ‘secrets’ lie buried is a grim one. I learned a few things about burying my enemies from this film, though. Always have your hole pre-dug.

Don’t be bringing a corpse out into the desert and have to start to digging your hole there and then. That’s a good forty-five minutes of your time during which any Tom, Dick or Harry can drive by and say, whatcha digging a hole for? Pre-dug, people, pre-dug. That’s the secret to a good burying. Use it wisely.

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

THE GODFATHER TRILOGY REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

godfather family

THE GODFATHER TRILOGY. BASED ON THE BOOK BY MARIO PUZO. DIRECTED BY FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA. MUSIC BY NINO ROTA.

STARRING MARLON BRANDO, ROBERT DE NIRO, AL PACINO, JAMES CAAN, ROBERT DUVALL, JOHN CAZALE, TALIA SHIRE, MORGANA KING AND DIANE KEATON. ©

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse…’

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the first two films in this trilogy are two of the finest movies ever made, while the third is a great big steaming pile of doggy doo-doo. I must confess to subscribing whole-heartedly to this opinion.

The trilogy concerns the Corleones, a family of Italian-American Mafiosi (it’s the plural of Mafioso, look it up if you don’t believe me!) whose fountainhead, Vito Corleone, travels from his native Italy to America in the early years of the twentieth century to avoid being murdered by the same Mob Don who’s killed the rest of his family. Will he come back one day to avenge his slain family? You bet he will.

Vito Corleone is destined for a kind of greatness. Over time, and due largely to his own grit and determination, he becomes a Mob Don himself, known as ‘the Godfather,’ whose power is far-reaching and whose displeasure can set grown men to trembling and gibbering like a gathering of maiden aunts at a funeral.

THE GODFATHER (1972) opens with the wedding of Don Vito’s daughter Connie to a man found for her by her big brother Sonny. The lavishness of this wedding and the effusive grovelling of the guests towards their hosts shows us exactly how rich and powerful are the family whose fortunes we are following.

Don Vito is taking requests in his study, as he is bound by an unwritten law to grant any favours begged of him on his daughter’s wedding day. By the end of these scenes, we are already in awe of this man who rules his empire like a particularly skilled puppet-master.

The film’s logo is the words THE GODFATHER, with a single hand above the written words pulling the strings that denote puppetry. Marlon Brando plays Don Vito magnificently. It’s one of his finest ever roles.

Sonny, the eldest son and the heir to his father’s throne, is a hard-living hothead who can’t control his temper. Tom Hagen is the Don’s adopted son, and the family lawyer. No member of the family can take a whizz without Tom’s checking first to see if it incriminates the family in any way, lol. And if it does, then they’d damn well better hold it in. Family first at all times.

Fredo is the Don’s weedy little loser son, who’ll be bypassed in any handing-down of power that takes place in the family. Connie is the Don’s only daughter, a woman drawn to men who are bad for her. Michael, the criminally handsome youngest son masterfully played by Al Pacino, is the son who, by the end of the first film, has taken over from his father as the head of the family.

Married first to the beautiful Appollonia, then to Diane Keaton’s whingy Kay, Michael is a ruthless cool thinker who shows little emotion and would cut off his own right arm and throw it away if it offended him. He seeks revenge mercilessly against the enemies of ‘the family,’ as his father did, and shows no compunction about being the assassin himself if needs be.

THE GODFATHER plays out against a backdrop of some of the most iconic scenes, phrases and snatches of dialogue in cinema history. The horse’s head in the bed. ‘Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.’ ‘You know my father? Men are coming here to kill him.’ Michael coming back from the restroom in the Italian restaurant with a bullet each for two of the family’s enemies.

Sonny beating up Connie’s husband in a scene parodied by THE SIMPSONS in the episode of the popular animated show entitled ‘THE STRONG ARMS OF THE MA.’ Sonny’s terrible come-uppance: ‘Look how they massacred my boy. I don’t want his mother to see him this way.’

The Moe Green special, otherwise known as a bullet in the eye while you’re half-nekkid, getting a massage. Marlon Brando with the orange wedge in his mouth, running up and down the garden for the amusement of his grandson. ‘Don’t ask me about my business, Kay.’

Shutting the door on Annie Hall, as Moe Szyslak comments in the episode of THE SIMPSONS called ‘MOE BABY BLUES.’ This is where he’s enacting scenes from THE GODFATHER for the delectation of Baby Maggie Simpson, who thoroughly enjoys Moe’s efforts at thespianism.

THE GODFATHER: PART TWO (1974) is the story of Michael Corleone’s blood-soaked reign as the Don of the family. Scenes of his activities are interspersed with scenes from Don Vito Corleone’s early years, the Marlon Brando character from his arrival at Ellis Island in America in 1901 through his rise from nothing to become the Don of the most powerful Mob family in America.

Robert De Niro plays the young Vito in the same exactly right way as Al Pacino plays Michael. Both characters are as economical with words and actions as each other, and coldly ruthless when it comes to despatching their enemies. The young Vito is hungry for power. He starts out living in a tenement with his wife, and ends up as Don Corleone. You don’t get to that point without breaking a few eggs along the way.

The way he deals with the nasty Don Fanucci is compelling to watch. (Again, Don Fanucci was parodied in the ‘Don Homer’ scene in THE SIMPSONS, where we see Homer drooling excitedly over the prospect of ‘organised crime.’ ‘That’s a nice-a donut…!’) Anyway, once Don Fanucci is out of the picture, the way is clear for Vito Corleone to become the boss of his own neighbourhood, and that’s only the beginning for the Family Corleone.

Meanwhile, back in modern times, Michael is attending committee hearings designed to incriminate him as the head of the Mafia family known as the Corleones. Naturally, he denies everything and points to his record as a hero in WW2 as evidence that he loves his country. He’s also in Cuba taking care of the business interests he has there with Hyman Roth.

Michael has survived an attempt to assassinate him in his own bedroom at his heavily-guarded family compound (apparently not heavily enough), but it’s left a nasty taste in his mouth as he suspects a family member may have had a hand in the shooting incident. But which one?

The errant family member is safe from Michael’s wrath as long as Mama Carmela Corleone lives but, as soon as this esteemed materfamilias pops her clogs and is laid out with her still-fine bosoms pointing proudly northwards, all bets are off.

‘You’re nothing to me now. You’re not a brother, you’re not a friend.’ (Again parodied by THE SIMPSONS with Fat Tony speaking the words to a ferret who’s wearing a wire…!) Then: ‘Hail Mary Full Of Grace…’ and a single gunshot like a crash of thunder in the silence of the lake.

Michael’s marriage to Kay is in shite order by this time. Little Miss Prissy Pants is doing a Carmela Soprano and getting all precious suddenly about her husband’s ‘business,’ the same business that’s kept her living in comfort and style for the last few years. Bit late now to be questioning how the goose manages to keep on laying those golden eggs, Missus.

When she admits to Michael that something he thinks was an unfortunate Act of God was, in fact, a deliberate act of defiance on Kay’s part, he socks her in the kisser and cuts her out of his life forever. Or so he threatens, anyway. Just wait till we start talking about THE GODFATHER: PART THREE (1990), which, in fact, we’ll do right now.

It has the same director and some of the same cast as the first two movies in the trilogy, yet it’s somehow not cast in the same mould as these two fine films. Michael is much older now physically, which couldn’t be helped, but the rest of it just seems all wrong. It has a much different tone and atmosphere to the first two films. There’s much less atmosphere, for one thing.

Michael is all smiley and chatty now in his old age, desperately trying to legitimize all his business interests and accepting honours from the Church for his philanthropism. He’s even making the odd wisecrack, which the old Michael- or should that be the young Michael- would never have dreamed of doing.

On a positive note, he does utter the immortal words: ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in,’ but otherwise the dialogue in the film overall is a bit wooden and the acting clunky and heavy-handed.

Michael’s all over Diane Keaton- Kay- like a rash now too, which is not very believable given what happens between them in the second film and the fact, also, that Kay now dresses like a man in mens’ slacks, jackets and shoes and has a bad perm.

The way Michael carries on now, anyone would think he was trying to woo her away from her new lawyer hubby. Has old age really softened him up to that extent? Like I said, it’s not exactly believable.

Michael has a grown-up daughter now whom he adores, Mary, played by Sofia Coppola (recognise the name?), and a son who prefers singing opera to going into the family business.

Michael’s lawyer brother Tom Hagen is now deceased, and Michael’s new brief is a perma-tanned George Hamilton as BJ Harrison. The new heir to Michael’s throne is his brother Sonny’s illegitimate son, Vincent, by his mistress Lucy.

Played- or should I say overplayed- by Andy Garcia, Vinnie fancies his cousin Mary Corleone and Mary loves Vinnie but Michael’s all, like, stay away from my baby, you little hood. If Vinnie wants to be the new Don, he’d better comply with the wishes of the man who intends never to accept him as a son-in-law, but poor little Mary will be heartbroken.

Bridget Fonda (SINGLE WHITE FEMALE) has a cameo in this film as a journalist skank who sleeps with Vinnie. She feels out of place here to me, like she was a poor choice for the film.

Much more interesting is the inclusion of dear old Fat Tony (THE SIMPSONS again!) himself, Joe Mantegna, as Vinnie’s enemy Joey Zasa. If I had five bob for every time Joey Zasa’s name gets mentioned in the film, I’d be able to put another storey on my house.

No fewer than two Popes get iced in this film, and there’s a load of stuff about Archbishops and the Vatican that I don’t find altogether interesting. I don’t like it either when Michael confesses his sins to a priest and bawls like a baby over ’em. Jeez Louise. If this is what a sense of your own mortality can do to you, well, you can keep it. It’s certainly ruined this movie.

All three films like to intersperse scenes of a huge important ceremony or event, like a Baptism of a child or the debut performance of Michael and Kay’s son in the opera CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, with scenes of the enemies of the Corleone Family being brutally slaughtered. The sense of drama and feelings of high tension are achieved really well.

The whole trilogy constitutes a massively important chunk of cinema history. Most people consider these (PARTS ONE and TWO, anyway) to be the best Mob movies ever made. They’ve been parodied to death and referenced reverentially in, amongst other shows, THE SIMPSONS and THE SOPRANOS, the hit HBO Mob drama in which Sylvio Dante ‘does’ Michael Corleone to great acclaim for his chums at the BADA BING: ‘Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.’

He’s not half bad at it, either. Ooops, sorry, my mistake. I forgot that you should never tell anyone outside the Family what you’re thinking. I’ll keep my opinions to myself next time then, shall I? It’ll be hard but I think I can manage it. Just about…

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

NATIVITY! and NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER! A DOUBLE FESTIVE MOVIE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

nativity 2

NATIVITY! (2009) and NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER! (2012) BOTH FILMS DIRECTED BY DEBBIE ISITT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I watched these two films as a double bill on Christmas Eve, and they weren’t half as excruciating as I was expecting ’em to be from what I’d heard, lol. In fact, my son and I were laughing out loud at times at the implausible but warm-hearted and well-intentioned silliness of it all.

In NATIVITY!, the original film, Martin Freeman (THE HOBBIT and about a million other things) plays an unhappy primary school teacher called Paul Maddens. He’s unhappy because his lovely bubbly blonde girlfriend Jennifer has left him and buggered off to Hollywood to become a film producer. ‘Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach primary.’

Now he’s embittered, cranky and seemingly incapable of having any fun. The kids in his class are definitely suffering under his tense and rigid play-everything-by-the-book rule. He’s become a bit of a Scrooge, frankly.

Paul is horrified one morning at Assembly when the headmistress of St. Bernadette’s, Mrs. Bevan (played by Pam Ferris), announces that he, Paul Maddens, is to take charge of the school Nativity play this year.

This will possibly be Mrs. Bevan’s last year as the Head, and her dearest wish before she retires is to have St. Bernadette’s take the five-star-review for their Nativity play from local critic and super-bitch Patrick Burns (‘That’s why they call ’em ‘Burns’ Victims…!”), played by Alan Carr. (Ricky Tomlinson from THE ROYLE FAMILY cameos here also as the local Lord Mayor.)

Normally the five-star-review goes to Oakmoor, the local posh school, whose Nativity is run by Gordon Shakespeare, Paul’s old friend from drama school and his fiercest rival. No pressure then, Paulie my man.

Paul is horrified at the thought of having to shoulder this new challenge/burden/responsibility/millstone, but never fear, Mrs. Bevan has lined up some help for him…

This help comes in the form of overgrown-schoolboy-type Desmond Poppy (played by Marc Wootton), Paul’s new classroom assistant who just so happens to be Mrs. Bevan’s nephew. Mr. Poppy is much more interested in playing the fool and having fun than helping the children to buckle down and learn anything.

Mr. Poppy is excited beyond measure at the thought of the Nativity play, especially when he overhears Paul boasting- lying- to his rival Gordon Shakespeare about how Jennifer, Paul’s old girlfriend who’s now a bigshot Hollywood producer, is coming to the Nativity play at St. Bernadette’s with a big fancy Hollywood camera crew.

This lie grows legs and is all over the school and, indeed, the town by lunchtime. Paul is in a quandary. He can either tell the truth about how there is no Hollywood production team coming to see the Nativity play, thereby making the school famous, and devastate the kids and their parents, or he can bloody well get on the blower to Jennifer in Hollywood and try to make it happen. Of course he can do that. It’s not like he’s still hopelessly in love with her or anything…

NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER! is much funnier, I feel. Mrs. Bevan has not retired, and the fun-loving Mr. Poppy is still in situ. This time around, he’s terribly excited about ‘A SONG FOR CHRISTMAS,’ a talent show for schools that’s taking place in Wales this Christmas.

Mrs. Bevan says that they can’t take part because St. Bernadette’s has neither the time, the talent (cheek!) nor the transport to manage it. But since when have rules and regulations ever stopped the ebullient Mr. Poppy from doing exactly what he pleases? He throws himself into the singing auditions in true Simon Cowell-style, and before long he and the pupils of Class Seven have a song for the show.

One of the many flies in the ointment is the new Class Seven teacher Donald Peterson, played by Scottish heart-throb David DR. WHO Tennant. (Mmmmmm, David Tennant…!)

As a new teacher, Donald Peterson is anxious to play-everything-by-the-book and if Mrs. Bevan says that there’s to be no show, which she most assuredly has done, then that’s that.

So how come he suddenly finds himself aboard a presumably stolen amphibian bus full of eager kids, being driven to Wales by the irrepressible Mr. Poppy, who knows as much about navigation, child safety and the rules of the road as he does about the flippin’ Periodic Table?

Mr. Peterson is beside himself with rage and anxiety. He’s got a pregnant wife at home who’s due to give birth at any time, and Mr. Poppy has chucked his (Donald’s) phone out the bus window so now he has no way of contacting her. Nice one, Mr. Poppy…

The journey to Wales becomes utterly unbelievable at times. We’re expected to believe that a class full of kids, two adult males (Mr. Poppy and Mr. Peterson) and a donkey and a baby (don’t ask!) can casually climb up and down mountains that experienced hikers who’ve been planning for months would find hard to do. Just do what I did and say to yourself: It’s a film. These things happen in films…

A SONG FOR CHRISTMAS is hilarious and deliciously bitchy. Class Seven is not only up against their old enemy, Gordon Shakespeare and his little coterie of poshos from snobby Oakmoor, but against Roderick Peterson as well.

Roderick is the world-famous conductor who just so happens to be Donald Peterson’s identical twin brother (also played by David Tennant) and their father’s favourite, more successful son. There’s obviously a lot at stake here.

The songs in the contest are funny and witty and Angel Matthews, the celebrity soprano-cum-presenter, is an utter bitch who quite obviously fancies the terrifyingly ambitious Roderick Peterson, who represents St. Cuthbert’s School. (‘Inhale success, exhale doubt.’) Well, he’s even more of a bitch so they ought to complement each other nicely.

So, does Mr. Peterson win the contest and grab back some of his self-respect from the father (played by Ian McNeice) and brother who’ve spent his lifetime trying to erode it? Can the two brothers ever be friends after all the animosity and hostility that’s come between them in the past, and that their father has clearly encouraged in order to spur them into further competing with each other? It’s a surprisingly common method of parenting but not one, I fear, that yields the sweetest results.

Does Mr. Poppy keep his job after the Head finds out what he’s done? Can St. Bernadette’s come out on top for once? The kids certainly deserve it after the journey they’ve made, but will they be disqualified for breaking nearly all the rules of the contest? We’ll see…

The crowds of people arriving at the contest in their droves for St. Bernadette’s reminds me of CLOCKWISE. This is a comedy film starring John Cleese about the headmaster of an ordinary comprehensive school who’s travelling to a much posher school to give an address during a headmasters’ conference. CLOCKWISE is a genuinely witty and funny film. Watch it if you can.

The kiddie actors are great in both NATIVITY! films, by the way. There’s an especially cute little boy called Bob (played by Ben Wilby) who Wilby (will be!) a very good actor when he grows up.

NATIVITY! and NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER! aren’t exactly on a par with CITIZEN KANE but they’ll keep the kids busy- and in fits of laughter- while you peel the sprouts this Christmas. Job done.

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

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. (1946) THE CHRISTMAS CLASSIC REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

its_a_wonderful_life_still

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. 1947. BASED ON THE SHORT STORY ‘THE GREATEST GIFT’ BY PHILIP VAN DOREN STERN. DIRECTED BY FRANK CAPRA.

STARRING JAMES STEWART, DONNA REED, HENRY TRAVERS, THOMAS MITCHELL, GLORIA GRAHAME, BEULAH BONDI, H.B. WARNER AND LIONEL BARRYMORE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Attaboy, Clarence…!’

‘I got a punch on the jaw in answer to a prayer a while ago.’

‘My mouth’s bleeding, Bert! Whaddya know about that?’

‘Merry Christmas…!’

What can I say about this cinematic offering that hasn’t already been said? God only knows! It’s a gorgeous fairytale of a film that has been topping ‘BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES’ lists for nearly seventy years now.

Everyone knows it. Most people, I’m guessing, love it. Maybe some people hate it. I know some people who refuse to watch it because they think it’s ‘too soppy.’ You certainly can’t get the festive season started without it. So what’s it actually all about…?

It’s the story of George Bailey, played by James Stewart at his All-American best and handsomest. George has spent his whole life in picturesque American small town, Bedford Falls, though his dearest wish is to travel the world and have adventures. Fate intervenes time and again, however, to prevent George from following his heart. Could Fate possibly have a reason for so doing? We’ll find out…

When George’s beloved father dies from a stroke, George is obliged to stay in his home-town and run the Baileys’ Building And Loan. This is the business Mr. Bailey Senior set up so that the people of Bedford Falls could someday buy their own homes and not have to live in the slum dwellings owned by Mr. Potter, the town’s richest man and a regular Scrooge/Mr. Burns-type.

Mr. Potter owns everything in Bedford Falls except for the Baileys’ Building And Loan and, man, doesn’t it gall him! He’s tried every trick in the book to get his hands on this surprisingly successful little family concern.

There’s an awful lotta love in Bedford Falls for this little financial institution. Not only is it run on decent family values of honesty and hard work, but it also provides the locals, as we’ve just noted, with a choice, a choice not to live in Mr. Potter’s exorbitantly-priced slum houses. This choice is crucial for the people of the small town and they appreciate that the Bailey family have given it to them. 

Mr. Potter tries to make a grab for the Building And Loan when Pa Bailey dies, but George steps in to stop him. Mr. Potter then tries to bribe George with twenty thousand bucks a year and the promise of European travel to bring George over to his way of thinking, but George holds firm. It’s a real ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ moment, though.

All that’s really left for the mean, immoral and scurrilous old Mr. Potter to do, aside from fuming privately about his loss, is to wait for George to fuck up in some way, to put it bluntly, and see if he can acquire the Building And Loan that way. He gets his chance one gorgeous snowy Christmas Eve.

Bedford Falls looks a pretty as a picture under all that snow. It looks just like a winter wonderland from a Christmas card. George’s Uncle Billy is en route to the town bank to lodge eight grand of the Bailey’s Building And Loan’s money before close of business today. Should be simple enough to do, right?

When George’s Uncle Billy loses eight thousand dollars of the Building And Loan’s money, however, and the police are called in, George is so distraught and fearful of the shame and disgrace about to befall him that he contemplates suicide. He wishes, in fact, that he’d never even been born. Next comes the trippy part. Pay attention now…

After a series of painful misadventures that only serve to bolster George’s notion that things would have been better for everyone if he’d never been born, an elderly angel called Clarence is sent down from Heaven to help him.

His mission? To show the despairing George just what the lives of his friends and family would have been like had George never been born. And guess what? That’s right, you guessed it. It turns out that everyone he knows would have been a lot worse off for not having known George, who is the kindest and most generous man you could ever meet in a day’s walk, as we say here in Ireland.

I always get annoyed, though, when I see that Mary Hatch, George’s loving and endlessly loyal wife, would have been doomed to a sexless, repressed and colourless life as the town’s spinster librarian if George hadn’t been around to ‘save’ her.

She had other suitors, hadn’t she? Why couldn’t she have married Sam ‘Hee-Haw’ Wainwright and had loads of sex and kids with him? I just don’t see why she has to turn out like the very model of someone’s maiden aunt just because some guy wasn’t there to save her from it. Very sexist, that is, very sexist indeed. It just irks me, that’s all. 

I love Gloria Grahame as the feisty Violet Bicks. Not quite as soft and genteel as the more fortunate Mary Bailey, Violet is a woman who’s had to fight and struggle for her place in life. I also love that Ellen Corby, the Grandma from THE WALTONS, has a small role in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE as the little woman who only wants seventeen-fifty from the kitty at the Baileys’ Building And Loan.

Anyway, when George sees all that Clarence has to show him, he decides that he wants to live after all. Clarence lets him go back home to his wife and children, who are waiting for him with the most marvellous news.

Yes, it appears that at George’s house, a Christmas miracle has occurred. Everyone in Bedford Falls has rallied round the Baileys with enough of their hard-earned cash to make up the shortfall and then some.

Then good old Sam Wainwright, George’s old schoolfriend who’s now become something of a millionaire at business, comes through for George as well and things are all hunky-dory and tickety-boo once more. 

The Building And Loan is saved and so is George. Clarence the Angel gets his wings at last and we nod off in front of the telly with a surfeit of turkey and plum pudding inside us. Aw, isn’t it a wonderful life after all…? Of course it is. Just ask George Bailey. He knows…

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

CRUCIBLE OF HORROR. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Crucilbe-Horror-1000-06

CRUCIBLE OF HORROR. (1971) DIRECTED BY VIKTORS RITELIS. STARRING MICHAEL GOUGH, SIMON GOUGH, JANE GURNEY AND YVONNE MITCHELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This psychological horror-thriller, also known as THE CORPSE and THE VELVET HOUSE, is a really dark film, and the darkest starring role Hammer actor Michael Gough (DRACULA, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) probably ever had. He plays Walter Eastwood, a wealthy middle-aged financier who’s the very model of a prim and proper English businessman of the period.

He discusses stocks and shares and reads the financial news over breakfast with his son Rupert, who works alongside him in the family insurance firm. He likes listening to classical music and going hunting with his posh friends. He loves his guns. ‘Who touched my guns?’ His accent is pure cut-glass British toff and his behaviour, I am sure, is circumspect in every particular but one.

To his terrorised wife Edith, an artist, and his beautiful teenage daughter Jane, he is a monster. He controls their every move and watches them like a hawk, even going so far as to read their mail right in front of them. He controls the purse-strings too and gives Jane no pocket money whatsoever, which assures that her friends tire of her quickly as she never has any money of her own to pay her way.

Worse than this, however, he abuses Edith and Jane physically in the most savage of ways, whipping them with his riding crop when they fail to measure up to his exacting standards, which seems to be often.

Early on in the film, he whips Jane brutally for stealing the kitty from his precious golf-club, which she probably only pinched in the first place because he never gives her any money of her own to hang out with her friends, of whom he naturally disapproves anyway. What’s she meant to do?

Jane is a real looker and Walter’s whipping of her in her bedroom definitely seems to have a strong sexualised element to it. Even if he hasn’t raped her or misused her sexually before, he certainly seems obsessed with her and gets enjoyment from chastising her physically.

It will transpire later in the film that Edith, who seems so brutalised from her husband’s ill-treatment that she has become languid, vague and spaced-out (she will almost certainly be taking prescription sleeping pills and/or tranquilisers), has given the works of the Marquis de Sade to Jane to read. In order, presumably, to make Jane understand why her father behaves towards her the way he does.

Both women seem to have him pegged pretty much correctly as a sexual sadist. If I were Jane, I’d keep my bedroom door permanently locked, although it doesn’t seem like Walter Eastwood is the kind of man to permit his women-folk to lock him out in his own house. He thinks nothing of barging in when Jane is only half-dressed, either, although maybe that’s exactly the state of deshabillé he’s hoping to find her in.

No support whatsoever is forthcoming from Rupert, Edith’s son and Jane’s big brother. He seems to enjoy witnessing his father’s savage sarcasm and controlling behaviour towards Edith and Jane, and one wonders whether he will take his father’s place as the dominant male figure in the family when his father grows too old- or too dead- to do it.

The morning after the golf club money whipping, when poor Jane is barely able to walk from the severity of the injuries inflicted upon her, Mum whispers to her daughter once the men have taken leave of the breakfast table: ‘Let’s kill him.’ It’s the only way they can both be free of Walter and his psychological, financial and physical cruelty…

This bit reminds me of when Mandy and Beth Jordache in Scouser soap opera BROOKSIDE murdered Trevor Jordache in the soap in the early 1990s. Trevor, Mandy’s husband and Beth’s father, had inflicted years of brutal physical and mental abuse- and also the sexual abuse of his daughter Beth- on his little family and they were quite simply driven to the edge of despair by it.

It’s a long time ago now since this happened and even BROOKSIDE itself is now sadly defunct, but I think that Mandy and Beth decided to kill Trevor when he started sexually abusing Rachel, Beth’s younger sister. It was a bridge too far for the two women.

Either way, THE BODY UNDER THE PATIO was one of the most exciting and dramatic storylines ever attempted by a British soap opera and the part of Trevor Jordan was brilliantly played by Irish actor Bryan Murray.

I met Bryan Murray on the LUAS (our Dublin trains!) a few months ago and we had a nice chat about BROOKSIDE and he signed an autograph for me in the book I was reading at the time, which was THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, the 2008 book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Which was nice, as yer man says on THE FAST SHOW…!

Anyway, things get a bit messy and confusing in CRUCIBLE OF HORROR once the decision has been taken by Edith and Jane to put an end once and for all to their terrible sufferings by offing Walter Eastwood, the fountainhead of all their misery. I do love the ending, though, it’s so deliciously black and grim and hopeless!

Rupert Eastwood is played by Michael Gough’s real-life son Simon. What must have been even odder for them both is that Jane is played by Simon Gough’s real-life wife Sharon Gurney. Michael Gough as Walter Eastwood had to pretend to lust after and get turned on by whipping his very own daughter-in-law, in other words…!

There’s a very funny flashback scene which I’m quite certain was added gratuitously by the film-makers, in which a naked, dripping wet Jane is hauled out of a lake and slapped around the place by Walter for skinny-dipping. It’s not funny that Walter’s being violent, but they didn’t have to include a nudie skinny-dipping scene, it’s purely for sexy kicks, lol.

The film is based on an old French movie called LES DIABOLIQUES which, if I describe the plot of same to you guys now, would be a spoiler as to how CRUCIBLE OF HORROR pans out. I haven’t seen LES DIABOLIQUES myself yet but I intend to dig it out. It’s a French psychological thriller from 1955 directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot starring Simone Signoret, by the way.

There’s a feeling of dread throughout CRUCIBLE OF HORROR because of the dreadful quality of life handed down to Edith and Jane by the tyrannical Walter, whom I must say is the worst, most evil movie-father I’ve ever encountered. And that makes him the best in my book, lol.

I would have given the film a different title as I’m not sure to what the titular ‘crucible’ refers (unless it’s the bowl that Jane… No, wait, I’ve said too much!), but that’s only nit-picking. I loved this film. Try and see it if you can at all.

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

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. (1992) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

muppets scrooge

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. 1992. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY BRIAN HENSON. MUSIC BY PAUL WILLIAMS. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY CHARLES DICKENS.

STARRING MICHAEL CAINE, STEVEN MACKINTOSH, MEREDITH BRAUN, ROBIN WEAVER, KERMIT THE FROG, THE GREAT GONZO, RIZZO THE RAT, MISS PIGGY, FOZZIE BEAR, SAM THE EAGLE, ROWLF THE DOG AND KERMIT’S NEPHEW, ROBIN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The years performed their terrible dance.’

The Marleys were dead, to begin with… This is, quite simply, the best Christmas movie ever made. It’s a top-notch reworking of the Charles Dickens’ classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, in which Ebenezer Scrooge, the meanest man in Christendom, is visited on Christmas Eve by Three Spirits who show him the error of his ways.

Michael Caine is superb as Scrooge, the Victorian moneylender who’s so mean he wouldn’t give you the steam off his piss, as we say here in Ireland. He underpays his employees, he’s a horrible uncle to his nephew Fred and he gives short shrift to the gentlemen who come collecting for charity on Christmas Eve.

He only lets his workers, among them Bob Cratchit, brilliantly played by Kermit The Frog, have Christmas Day off work because there won’t be any other businesses open to do business with. Tsk, tsk. What a cantankerous old skinflint.

Bob is glad to be rid of him when close of business finally arrives on Christmas Eve because Bob, along with his wife Emily and their four children, twin girls Belinda and Bettina (the living image of their mother Emily, played by Miss Piggy!) and two boys, Peter and the ailing Tiny Tim, do know how to keep Christmas well. Which is more, much more, than can be said for Mr. Scrooge. Humph.

Scrooge goes home alone to his cold, dark gloomy chambers. From the moment he sees the face of one of his long-dead business partners, Jacob Marley, materialise superimposed over the front door knocker of his house, he gets an uneasy feeling that tonight isn’t going to be like most nights. And by Jiminy, he’s dead right!

Statler and Waldorf, the two incorrigible old jokers who sit up in their box at the Muppet Theatre every night and gleefully heckle the performers, turn up to his chambers first as the ghosts of Scrooge’s deceased business partners, Marley and Marley.

Wearing the terrible ‘chains they forged in life,’ the two auld lads try to convince Scrooge that living for his cashboxes the way he does is the way to end up in hell, chained for all time to the things you mistakenly thought were important in life. They don’t have much luck. Scrooge is going to need more convincing.

Next, the Three Spirits, the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future, whose ghoulish coming was foretold by the shades of Marley and Marley, arrive bang on schedule on Christmas Eve night.

They give the terrified Scrooge what for, showing him what a miserably lonely child he was in his youth, how he is scorned and shunned by all in the present, and how little he’ll be missed on his death.

Scrooge, as we all know, repents his tight-fisted ways and pays festive visits to both his gobsmacked nephew Fred and the impoverished Cratchit family, who are delighted to see that he comes bearing gifts.

One of my favourite scenes is where Bob Cratchit, an amiable man who only sees the good in people, tries to get his wife Emily to join him in drinking a toast during Christmas dinner to ‘Mr. Scrooge, the founder of the feast.’ 

She nearly becomes apoplectic with rage, saying things like: ‘Founder of the feast indeed!’ and ‘If he were here, I’d give him a piece of my mind and I hope he’d choke on it…!’ She doesn’t have quite the rosy-eyed view of the world that her husband has, and I don’t blame her.

While Bob is out at work, she’s the one who has to feed her family out of fresh air and find clothes for them and heat their freezing little icebox of a house. She also has to watch her youngest child, Tiny Tim, grow steadily weaker for the want of good food, a bit of warmth and the right medicines.

The wife of a rich Victorian banker may have been able to lie on her chaise-longue all day, pale and languid, but the wives of poor men were up against it all right. It’s no wonder that the spirited Emily Cratchit, fiercely loyal to her husband who busts his hump daily for Scrooge for tiny wages, would dearly love to ‘Hi-yah!’ Ebenezer Scrooge into the middle of next week. You go, girl.

The songs are fantastic, every single one of them an unforgettable Christmas classic. This is a great karaoke film because you and your whole family can sing along as loudly as you like to the tunes, especially if you have the subtitles and therefore the words.

There are some genuinely spooky and atmospheric scenes in Scrooge’s dark, cold old chambers as he awaits the arrival of the spectres. The Ghost Of Christmas Future is particularly grim. I think he’d put the willies up most people, this fella.

The atmosphere of love and togetherness in the Cratchit household, despite their poverty and Tiny Tim’s imminent death, would bring a tear to the eye of the most hard-hearted viewer. They have a sense of family that’s most fitting for the time of year, but that you can imagine sustains them right through the rest of the year as well. And yet they’re not too sickly-sweet, like the Waltons, lol. Bob’s genuine warmth and Emily’s feistiness and fierce protectiveness of her family sees to that.

The film is chock-a-block with typical Muppet comedy too, as you might expect. The Great Gonzo playing Charles Dickens is an inspired piece of casting, and Rizzo the Rat makes an adorably funny sidekick to the great nineteenth-century novelist. It’s the perfect Christmas film and a wonderful tribute to the season that the Victorians are credited with, if not inventing, exactly, then at least putting their own stamp on it.

Let’s not forget either, though, that it’s ultimately a horror story, involving the visitation by ghosts of a man who seriously needs to change his miserly ways. And change them he does, in the many versions of the story committed to celluloid. Could this even be the most often-told ghost story of all time…?

I don’t know, but what I do know is that this little film is top of my Christmas movie-list every single year without fail. It’s a heartwarming, brilliantly-scripted classic. What else can I say about it? Just watch it for yourself. You’ll see what I mean. But make sure you try to get an early night first, okay? After all, there’s only one more sleep till Christmas…

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

THE THREE SCROOGES: THREE FILM VERSIONS OF CHARLES DICKENS’ ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge alastair sim

THE THREE SCROOGES: A TRIPLE FESTIVE FILM REVIEW OF CHARLES DICKENS’ 1843 NOVELLA: A CHRISTMAS CAROL. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

A CHRISTMAS CAROL- 1951. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY BRIAN DESMOND HURST.

STARRING ALASTAIR SIM, GEORGE COLE, PATRICK MACNEE, MERVYN JOHNS, KATHLEEN HARRISON, HERMIONE BADDELEY, MICHAEL HORDERN, MILES MALLESON, HATTIE JACQUES, ERNEST THESIGER AND GLYN DEARMAN.

DISNEY’S A CHRISTMAS CAROL- 2009. DIRECTED BY/CO-PRODUCED BY/ SCREENPLAY BY ROBERT ZEMECKIS.

STARRING JIM CARREY, GARY OLDMAN, COLIN FIRTH, BOB HOSKINS, CARY ELWES, FIONNUALA FLANAGAN AND ROBIN WRIGHT PENN.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL- A MUSICAL VERSION- 2004. DIRECTED BY ARTHUR ALLAN SEIDELMAN.

STARRING KELSEY GRAMMER, JENNIFER LOVE HEWITT, JANE KRAKOWSKI, JESSE L. MARTIN, GERALDINE CHAPLIN AND JASON ALEXANDER.

I guess I’d better get something straight right from the start. My favourite film version of Charles Dickens’ super-popular Christmas book will always be the one with The Muppets and Michael Caine in it, the 1992 version.

Michael Caine is the best he’s ever been, playing the famous miser who gets taught a stern lesson by three spirits on Christmas Eve a long time ago, and Jim Henson’s iconic puppets really help to drive home the message of Christmas to the viewers, who will all be in floods of tears by the end. Whaddya mean, speak for myself? I am speaking for myself, haha.

But just because I have a favourite movie version of the perennial Christmas phenomenon (trust me, it’s a freakin’ phenomenon!) doesn’t mean that there aren’t a load of other brilliant film adaptations out there too. I’ve picked out three great ones for us to look at today, all telling the same basic story but in different ways.

Does everyone know the story? It’s been filmed umpteen times and parodied about as often, so there’s probably not a soul alive today who hasn’t seen some version or another of Dickens’ probably most commercially successful work.

It’s true that if Dickens were alive today, he’d surely be able to retire on the immense royalties and the film rights that derive from this book alone. A CHRISTMAS CAROL would be his pension plan, in the same way that the song MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY would be for the band SLADE or I WISH IT COULD BE CHRISTMAS EVERY DAY for WIZZARD. Sure wish I could get me some of that yearly Crimbo action…!

Anyway, Ebenezer Scrooge is an old moneylender living alone in gloomy chambers in pre-Victorian London. He is notoriously mean and heartless to the clerks who work for him and to the poor families who are obliged to borrow money from him.

To the rich fat-cat businessmen with whom he consorts, he’s a joke and a figure to be despised and pitied. His stinginess and penny-pinching are legendary throughout London. Not something you want to be known for, really, is it?

Things change forever, however, when Scrooge is visited by three spirits one lonely Christmas Eve. Well, it’s four spirits, really, as he receives a visit from his long-dead business partner Jacob Marley initially, Marley serving to kind of pave the way for the Big Three who’ll come along later as foretold.

The three spirits, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, show Scrooge terrifying visions from his, well, you know, past, present and future that serve to scare the miserliness out of him forever. He does a complete about-face and, from that night forward, it was always said of him that ‘he was a man who knew how to keep Christmas well.’ Oh, the wonderful quotable quotes!

Alastair Sim is superb as the crotchety Scrooge in the 1951 film. He plays literature’s most famous miser in a wonderfully understated but utterly realistic way. This is quite a grim version, and the bit where the charlady Mrs. Dilber (a fine performance from actress Kathleen Harrison) boasts about taking down the dead Scrooge’s bed-curtains and stripping the corpse of its nightshirt would really put the willies up you.

‘Bed curtains? Do you mean to say that you took ’em down, rings and all, while ‘e’s a-lyin’ there…?’

The bit at the end, though, where Scrooge puts things right with the poverty-hardened old biddy would gladden your heart. Alastair Sim is almost maniacally happy as he gallivants about, delighting in his second chance, and the shock on Mrs. Dilber’s face is a sight to behold.

Especially when he does an impulsive handstand while wearing only his nightshirt and she gets to witness wiv ‘er own two eyes the wondrous image of his meat and two veg in all their unclothed glory. Not exactly a vision for a respectable woman to be seeing, now is it?

Funny though, lol, to see Mrs. Dilber’s utterly horrified face. She finks ‘e’s gone stark staring mad, she does. She wouldn’t be at all surprised if the men in the white coats came for ‘im and carted ‘im off ter Bedlam.

Miles Malleson (a much-loved Hammer Horror actor) is a superb choice for the role of Old Joe, the mercenary scallywag who buys the bed-curtains from Mrs. Dilber for a good price because he’s always had a ‘soft spot for the ladies.’ Harrumph.

George Cole, star of MINDER in his later career, has a heartbreaking scene in this film as the younger Scrooge with a lovely full head of dark curly hair. Attending his beloved sister Fan’s deathbed, he leaves before she can extract a very important promise from him. His premature leave-taking leads Scrooge to make the same kind of mistake his own father made with him, Scrooge, and it will take a long, long time to put right.

Ernest Thesiger (THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE OLD DARK HOUSE) has a cameo role here as the undertaker who is waiting to see to Jacob Marley’s corpse even before the old fellow’s breathed his last. 

‘Ours is a very competitive business, you know.’ 

Hattie Jacques (the CARRY ON films, SYKES the comedy series) also has the briefest of cameos (now you see her, now you don’t) as Mrs. Fezziwig, the buxom wife of Scrooge’s first employer. She looks lovely and young in her dusky-pink dress, dancing with her husband and laughing her head off in the spirit of the season.

I myself have a colorised version of the film that came free with the now defunct NEWS OF THE WORLD and was introduced by the actor Patrick MacNee, who actually has a small part in the film. While the colour is lovely and muted and not at all garish, I imagine the black-and-white version to be even more atmospheric.

All those marvellous scenes where the snow is falling silently on the quiet Victorian streets! Just imagine seeing ’em in black-and-white. It’d be really something. This Alastair Sim version of the film is the one I feel most captures the Victorian feeling of Charles Dickens’ wonderful old book. The shops, the lights, the snow, the housewives scurrying along with their baskets and bonnets, rushing to grab a Christmas goose before they’re all sold out; it’s like stepping into another world.

The DISNEY version from 2009 is surprisingly good, surprisingly grim and surprisingly scary. I know one or two adults who freaked out when Jacob Marley’s long-dead jaw broke free from its cloth confines and flapped about like a pair of ladies’ bloomers on a clothes-line in a gale-force wind. If anything, it seems that death and dying were even grimmer in Victorian London than they are today. Shudder. 

Scrooge’s house and bedchamber are terrifyingly dark and shadowed and Jim Carrey, an actor I don’t otherwise care for over-much, does an outstanding job as the voice of the miser. Imagine his fear when he’s interrupted by the ghost of his former friend and business partner while he’s huddled over his meagre supper on that fateful Christmas Eve:

Scrooge: ‘Speak comfort to me, Jacob!’

Jacob Marley: ‘I have none to give.’ 

Heh-heh-heh. Tough titties, in other words.

The animation in this version is fantastic. I myself love the way that the characters closely resemble the actors who are voicing them. For example, Scrooge’s nephew Fred is played by Colin Firth and he not only sounds like Colin Firth, he’s the spitting image of him too, which is kind of funny. 

The rotund and cheerful Bob Hoskins is the rotund and cheerful Mr. Fezziwig, who gives the best Christmas parties in London, and Gary Oldman plays the quiet Bob Cratchit in whose breast hides a terrible suffering. Maybe the words ‘Tiny Tim’ might ring a bell with you guys?

All the good quotes are in there too, everything from: ‘There’s more of gravy than of grave about you!’ and ‘If they are going to die then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population!’ to ‘These are the shadows of the things that have been; that they are what they are, do not blame me.’

Oh, and don’t forget ‘It’s a poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every 25th of December’ and ‘The spirits have done it all in one night; of course they have, they can do anything they like!’ Such brilliant lines, and all infinitely quotable.

I’ve even heard some people say that this DISNEY version of the film is the most accurate re-telling of the story they’ve seen. Whether it is or it isn’t, it really is surprisingly good, and everyone in my family always bursts out laughing when Scrooge actually steals the pennies off of the deceased Jacob Marley’s eyes with the words that just about sum up his utter stinginess:

‘Tuppence is tuppence!’

The musical version starring Kelsey Grammer is surprisingly good fun too. The songs are great craic altogether and the man we’re probably more used to seeing as Frasier Crane from both CHEERS and FRASIER and as the voice of criminal mastermind Sideshow Bob from THE SIMPSONS does a splendid job as the legendary meanie.

Scrooge makes the huge mistake in this version of throwing away the love of a well-tasty Jennifer Love Hewitt as Emily, a top bird the likes of which you probably didn’t get too many chances with in Victorian London.

He also refuses to help his former employer, the aforementioned Mr. Fezziwig, he of the simply splendiferous Christmas bash, when old Fezziwig’s business is in trouble. Given the kindness shown to Scrooge by old Fezziwig and his plump wife, this refusal to help old friends does not reflect Ebenezer in the best of lights, sadly.

I like this version too because it gives us an insight into what very obviously caused Scrooge’s terrible miserliness with money and his deathly fear of poverty. It’s probably no wonder that he turned out as he did but still, there’s such a thing as taking things too far, you know. He might do well to remember that, the little dickens…!

This version has a sexy blonde scantily-clad Ghost Of Christmas Past in it, by the way, who was leg-bombing away to beat the band a good decade before Brad Pitt’s gorgeous missus Angelina Jolie cottoned onto the trend.

The various Ghosts Of Christmas Future have been scaring the manners into kids since the cinema was invented, and I myself have always loved the Ghost Of Christmas Present, who never drops in without bringing enough festive food with him to feed an army. Now that’s the kind of guest you want round your gaff of a dark and dreary Christmas Eve. 

‘Come in and know me better, man!’

Well, that’s it. Only six days left till Christmas Day, 2018. Better go and get some provisions in. Do you happen to know if the poulterer’s in the next street still have the big prize turkey in their window? They do? How marvellous! I’ll just nip round and get it for Christmas dinner. It looks like it might be pretty heavy, though. Fuck it anyway. I’ll just shop online like I always do…

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

DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. (1965) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

dr_terrors_house_of_horrors chris hand

DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. (1965) MADE BY AMICUS PRODUCTIONS. PRODUCED BY MILTON SUBOTSKY AND MAX ROSENBERG. WRITTEN BY MILTON SUBOTSKY. DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS.

STARRING PETER CUSHING, CHRISTOPHER LEE, MICHAEL GOUGH, DONALD SUTHERLAND AND KATY WILD. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is one of the brilliant anthology films created by Amicus, the brainchild of Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg. Amicus were Hammer’s rivals, but they were actually pretty much every bit as good as Hammer. They were certainly terrific at doing deliciously creepy little portmanteau films like this one.

There’s also THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD, starring Christopher Lee and Ingrid Pitt; TALES FROM THE CRYPT, in which a stunning young actress called Joan Collins gets chased through her house by an evil Santa Claus on the night before Christmas; and its follow-up THE VAULT OF HORROR. This one features brother-and-sister actors Daniel Massey and Anna Massey in a tale of vampires who terrorise a small town after dark. ‘THEY come out at night…’

Most of these films begin with a small group of random people, who don’t know each other to begin with, all coming together in the same place. TALES FROM THE CRYPT features a bunch of folks who’ve come to see a tourist attraction.

THE VAULT OF HORROR features five middle-aged businessman whose elevator has conspired to bring them to a particular room in their office building which they didn’t know existed before today. While they wait for the stalled lift to work again, the fun happens…

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD is the story of various people who have all consecutively rented the same isolated house in the country, and in DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS we have five gentlemen who all share the same railway carriage together.

They don’t really have those any more, do they? Railway compartments for five or six people, I mean. (Maybe just for the Queen and her mates.) I’ve never been in one but I would have loved to travel that way, by private carriage that you could lock with a bed in it for overnighting. Such luxury!

Now you have to sit on the public seats like everyone else, breathing in the foul, fetid cough-and-cold germs of your fellow passengers and listening to their music (if you can hear it, it’s too loud!) and inane mobile phone conversations. Bring back the old days, I say!

Anyway, Peter Cushing as the mysterious and enigmatic Dr. Schreck (it means terror in German; remember Max Schreck as Murnau’s Nosferatu in 1922?) is the common denominator that brings the five male travellers together in DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS. When Dr. Schreck, the sixth and final passenger to enter the carriage, is revealed to have a deck of tarot cards about his person, it excites considerable comment amongst the other men.

Pish-posh, what utter tosh! There’s no such thing as reading peoples’ futures from a silly deck of cards, you’re off your bleeding trolley! This is the opinion of one of the men, Christopher Lee’s character Franklin Marshall, the esteemed art critic.

He is utterly sceptical and scornful of Dr. Schreck’s profession, calling the soft-voiced man with the foreign accent a charlatan, a spoofer and other unflattering names intended to convey disbelief. He’s quite rude to the fellow, in fact.

You’re entitled to your own opinion, concedes Dr. Schreck with a mild smile, but nonetheless I bet you guys that these cards can accurately predict all of your futures, care to take a chance and let me do a reading for each of you? He refers to his cards as his ‘House of Horrors,’ by the way.

The men are doubtful at first, but then one chap, a Mister Jim Dawson, agrees that it might be a bit of a lark. Dr. Schreck dutifully shuffles the cards after Mister Dawson has tapped ’em three times. It’s all part of the ritual, see?

We see a vignette then in which Dawson, an architect, travels to a house on an island in the Hebrides on which he has already done some work for the owner Mrs. Biddulph, an attractive middle-aged widow.

She lives alone in the house except for the staff, an old man called Caleb and his grand-daughter Valda, played by the actress Katy Wild who will be familiar to fans of Hammer’s brilliant horror film THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN.

She- Mrs. Biddulph- apparently now wants some major structural work done on the house to accommodate her husband’s collection of artefacts pertaining to… well, I forget what. Something, anyway. Fair enough. Mister Dawson duly gets to work.

During the course of these structural alterations, an ancient coffin is unearthed buried in the walls of the house’s equally ancient cellar. It’s the resting place of a chap from the Olden Days called Cosmo Valdemar (what a magnificent name, sounds very Vincent Price-ish!) who was murdered by an ancestor of guess who’s…?

You’ll never believe this but Cosmo Valdemar was murdered by an ancestor of Mister Dawson’s, the very architect who’s charged with doing up the house now. The house, in fact, was once Mister Dawson’s family home before it was sold to Mrs. Biddulph and he grew up there. It’s a bit of a coincidence but there it is. Maybe that’s why Mrs. Biddulph gave Dawson the job of fixing up the house in the first place, because he knew the joint so well, see?

Anyway, it was a bad move on Dawson’s part to disturb the earthly remains of Cosmo Valdemar, who figures that now is a good time to avenge himself on the conveniently in-situ descendant of the man who killed him. Poor old Dawson is a sitting duck all right, but is there more to the legend surrounding Cosmo Valdemar than he’s aware of…?

‘Something came out of that coffin tonight. Something evil and strange…’

The next one is short but fun, and resembles nothing so much as a kind of miniature version of sci-fi movie THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS. A family consisting of a Mum, a Dad, a little girl and a playful and curious dog called Rusty, return from a holiday to realise that the vine growing at a ferocious speed on the side of their house has a mind of its own.

It’s a carnivorous mutation along the lines of a Venus Fly Trap, in fact, only much, much worse and more aggressive. When Man’s Best Friend is found strangled to death by the malicious vine, much to the distress of the family, the scientists are called in. They’ll really need to be on fire, however, to defeat this murderous freak of nature…

‘A plant like that could take over the world…’ 

There’s a sentence you don’t hear every day.

In the next vignette, a really annoying jazz musician called Biff Bailey, who seemingly never listens to the advice he’s given, travels to the West Indies with his band for a gig. They love the local calypso music. It conjures up images of tall, frosty-cold drinks with umbrellas in them on the beach. We could all use some of that this time of year.

Anyway, Biff in particular gets super-excited when a local musician fills him in on the strange and frenzied goings-on that occur when the natives are performing one of their voodoo dances. Biff unwisely decides to spy on one such session, where the native girls are alleged to strip off most of their clothing and get really uninhibited, if you get my drift.

He doesn’t see too many titties, but he’s certainly very taken by the wild music they’re performing so frenziedly, so he starts scribbling down the musical notes. He doesn’t take it too seriously when the chief warrior bellows at him:

‘YOU WROTE DOWN THE MUSIC OF THE GREAT GOD DEMBALA? IF YOU STEAL FROM HIM, THE GOD WILL BE REVENGED!’

It’s just a load of old native superstition and codswallop and mumbo-jumbo, right? Wrong, so wrong. When Biff returns home to good old Blighty, he finds that he’s accidentally brought a little bit of the West Indies home with him. And I don’t mean the venereal disease he’s almost certainly picked up as a result of the fraternisation he’s undoubtedly engaged in with the native ladies, the dirty fecker.

The next story is my favourite one because it’s got Christopher Lee in it. He plays the snobby and superior art critic Franklin Marshall, the guy who’s openly sceptical of Dr. Shreck’s profession.

Remember this? ‘Foretelling the future with a pack of cards? What rubbish!’ The narcissistic and unbearably pompous Franklin is nonetheless publicly pressured into tapping the magic deck of cards three times to bring forth a reading…

When he is bitterly humiliated by artist Eric Landor (Michael Gough: DRACULA, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) and a really cute monkey- yes, I said monkey!- Franklin Marshall, now a laughing stock in his own profession and a nervous wreck to boot, decides to take his revenge.

(Never mind that Eric Landor only does what he does to pay back Franklin for publicly eviscerating his work!) But vengeance turns to a nightmare when a series of terrifying events cause Franklin to take his eyes off the road. Could Eric Landor possibly have had a ‘hand’ in it…?

Finally, a ridiculously handsome and young-looking Donald Sutherland plays a doctor called Bob Carroll who has just brought his new French bride Nicole to his New England home.

When an outburst of vampirism seems to take place shortly after Nicole’s arrival, can the disturbed new hubby trust the opinions of the local medic, Dr. Blake, who seems to be suspiciously well up on his vampire lore? A bit too well up, I’d say…

There’s a bit at the end that ties up all the loose ends and the five men find out what fate really has in store for them. Beware the haunted tarot cards of the mysterious Dr. Schreck. They don’t call him Dr. Terror for nothing.

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/SandraAutho

WHITE ZOMBIE. (1932) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

white zombie bela closeup

WHITE ZOMBIE. (1932) BASED ON THE 1929 NOVEL BY WILLIAM SEABROOK, THE MAGIC ISLAND. DIRECTED BY VICTOR HALPERIN AND PRODUCED BY EDWARD HALPERIN.

STARRING BELA LUGOSI, MADGE BELLAMY, JOHN HARRON, ROBERT W. FRAZER AND JOSEPH CAWTHORN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is such a marvellously atmospheric old horror movie, starring Bela Lugosi who was still fresh from his success as UNIVERSAL’s DRACULA (1931). He looks young, extremely handsome, charismatic and devilish here as the white Voodoo Master of Haiti who puts a spell on a beautiful young woman on whom he has personal romantic designs. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The beautiful young woman in question is a blonde ‘Twenties bombshell called Madeleine Short, and she’s come to Haiti to marry her fiancé Neil Parker, who’s already there for some reason. I think he has a plantation there. On the boat over to Haiti, she meets a rich young man called Charles Beaumont who’s determined to befriend the young married-couple-to-be for reasons known only to himself.

On the coach-ride to Mr. Beaumont’s plantation, the young couple pass a funeral party that is burying the deceased in the middle of the road. This is to deter anyone who might have a mind to steal the corpse and turn it into one of the ‘undead,’ explains their Haitian coachman matter-of-factly. And, speaking of which, here come a party of these eerie ‘undead’ rascals right now!

The coachman whips up the horses to a frenetic degree.

‘What the hell are you playing at, driver?’ demands Neil irately. ‘We might have been killed!’

‘Or worse, Mister Neil,’ replies the coachman sagely, ‘we might have been CAUGHT…!’

Apparently, Haiti is swarming with these ghouls, who once walked the earth as human beings but whom the most nefarious black magic has raised up from the dead and turned into mindless zombies who work night and day in the islands’ sugar-cane mills. What a life, or should I say what an un-life…?

Mr. Beaumont is a wealthy plantation owner and it soon becomes clear that he’s fallen madly in love with the gorgeous Madeleine, with her huge doe eyes, Clara Bow lips and short blonde ‘Twenties hair.

She’s the very image of a ‘Twenties babe, despite the fact that we’re now in the ‘Thirties. The fashions here are very much still of the ‘Twenties. It gives the whole production the look of a silent movie and, as I’m a huge fan of silent movies, that’s no bad thing in my opinion.

In fact, the film would have worked very well as a silent movie. There’s kind of minimal dialogue in it anyway and the fantastic music score would have been ideal for a silent horror flick.

There’s a long stretch of the film at the end, the bit where Neil is fighting off the zombies by himself, where there’s little or no dialogue and the music is extremely dramatic. You could easily imagine yourself to be watching a terrific old silent movie at this point.

Mr. Beaumont wants to stop the marriage between Madeleine and Neil. He seeks out Bela Lugosi’s evil Voodoo Master, a white creator of zombies with the fantastically memorable name of ‘Murder Legendre,’ to help him. He wants the marriage stopped, but when he realises that the Voodoo Master’s method of doing it is to turn Madeleine herself into one of these ‘living dead’ zombies, he freaks out.

When the Voodoo Master in turn works a spell on Beaumont to immobilise him while he, Murder Legendre, claims Madeleine for his own, the situation becomes desperate. Can Neil rescue the lovely Madeleine from Murder’s evil clutches and, whether he can or he can’t, what will happen now to poor zombified Mr. Charles Beaumont, himself a rich plantation owner but who is now under one of Murder’s terrible spells?

Is he doomed for all time to slave in the Voodoo Master’s mills as one of the undead? And why am I calling him ‘poor’ Mr. Beaumont? If he hadn’t tried to break up Madeleine and Neil in the first place, none of this stuff would now be happening…! He’s only got himself to blame but still, being a zombie is probably a lot less exciting than it sounds.

The bit where Beaumont meets Murder Legendre in the Voodoo Master’s sugar-cane mill is quite chilling. Not only has the VM turned hundreds of once-living people into mindless zombie workers for profit (they work long hours for no pay and never quibble about anything because they can’t), but he’s also turned a specific coterie of them into his own personal group of bodyguards.

‘See these lads here?’ he tells the horrified Beaumont with his trademark evil Bela Lugosi smile. ‘These all used to be my enemies. This one here used to be my master.’

Beaumont is clearly shocked.

‘What happens if the spell you put on them is ever broken?’ he asks nervously.

‘Why, then they will tear me to pieces,’ says Bela matter-of-factly, still smiling. ‘So that can never be allowed to happen…’

By the way, here are some random facts about the film. The film was savaged by the critics upon release for the very things I love about it, the slightly hammy acting and the silent movie look and feel of the thing. The critics were nuts. This is possibly the best zombie movie ever made. Certainly it was the first full-length one.

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE from 1943 has the same dark, shadowy atmospheric look and feel to WHITE ZOMBIE. It’s an excellent film as well, though with a slightly more modern feel to it because it’s a full decade older.

Rob Zombie’s metal band WHITE ZOMBIE took their name directly from the film and they wouldn’t have done that unless they thought it was the coolest movie ever, which it is, so take that, moronic critics. I still can’t believe they dissed this film.

The huge stone tower or cliffside castle where the zombified Madeleine is being held prisoner is actually a painting. It’s just like a black-and-white version of the fabulous painted castles in Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations for AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. It’s a gorgeous castle, very atmospheric-looking and quite like something out of the 1931 UNIVERSAL DRACULA too.

The two little maids assigned to care for Madeleine are scared to brush her hair because they know she’s one of the undead. They’re also too afraid to run away because the wicked and cunning VM will find them and turn them into zombies too. It’s quite a creepy no-win situation in which they find themselves.

Madeleine looks like a medieval princess when she comes out onto the balcony with that long dress on her with the low-slung belt around the waist. If her hair was several feet longer, she’d make a great Rapunzel. She’s the perfect damsel in distress, waiting patiently in her medieval tower to be rescued. There ain’t nothing remotely proactive about this dame. 

I’m not sure, though, why Neil is in such an all-fired great hurry to snap her out of the vacant, glassy-eyed zombified state she’s in. At least while she’s checked out like this, she won’t be nagging him to change his socks or get up from the sports on the telly to put the bins out. Some blokes clearly don’t know they’re born.

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