BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ. (1928) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

berlin mieze franz

BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ. (1928) A NOVEL BY ALFRED DŐBLIN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘There is a mower death yclept.’

This book is considered to be the magnum opus-slash-masterpiece of Alfred Dőblin’s. Dőblin was a German writer and doctor who, having come from Jewish stock and with, understandably, plenty of reasons to be apprehensive, fled Germany in 1933 when the Nazis came to power, only returning in 1945 when the war was over.

His great work BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ was made into a fifteen-hour movie by iconic director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who was a huge fan of the book. This epic piece of cinema originally aired as a German miniseries on German television in 1980. I bet it absolutely smashed all the TV ratings for that year.

Clocking in at a spectacular nine-hundred minutes, it watches like a mini-series, divided up into digestible blocks of one hour approximately, with credits coming at the start and finish. So you needn’t fret that you don’t have the time to watch a fifteen-hour movie. If you prefer, of course, you could just read the book…!

I won’t deny that it’s a tough read. I found it rough going at times and I really had to push myself to keep at it. Dőblin’s style of writing in it, with long passages of what feels like stream-of-consciousness and the way you frequently can’t tell who’s saying what as he doesn’t differentiate between the quotations, has been compared to James Joyce’s in ULYSSES. I’m so glad I persevered with it though. Perseverance brings its own rewards.

It’s the story of Franz Biberkopf, a working-class man who, when we meet him first, is just being released from Tegel prison after a four-year stretch for manslaughter. He has battered his live-in girlfriend to death with a kitchen implement (that’s not as humorous as it sounds…!), thinking that she was about to leave him.

Now he’s done his time and you’d think he’d be glad to be free, but poor Franz is disorientated, discombobulated and generally all of a flutter to be at liberty once more to come and go as he pleases.

I say ‘poor Franz’ because he’s such a likeable character from the start. He’s an Everyman, as it were, an ordinary working stiff who’s had a bit of bad luck, you might say. I’d say it was very bad luck for the woman he killed, but how-and-ever…!

His first experiences as a free man are worthy of note. A ginger-haired and ginger-bearded Jewish man who helps him up when he falls down in the street tries to tell him a story, some sort of parable maybe, and Franz later refers to this man and his Jewish companions as friends of his.

In only a very few years time, of course, Hitler will have come to power and Jewish people such as this man will find their rights to walk freely on the public streets severely curtailed. For now, however, the bewildered Franz is probably just grateful for the human contact, for the chance to ‘ground’ himself once more on the Jewish guys’ sitting-room floor.

Shortly after getting out of Tegel, Franz goes to visit a middle-aged but still attractive blonde woman called Minna whom he knows from before. Once he’s established that she’s alone in her apartment, he rapes her and gives her a black eye and some finger-marks around her throat as well, for good measure. This is how Franz likes his sex, by the way, rough and ready.

We see that Franz later compensates her for the rape by bringing her some aprons to replace the one he apparently messed up. We also discover that this woman, Minna, is the- probably older- sister of the poor unfortunate Ida. The women of that family have surely been sorely wronged by Franz Biberkopf.

So much, anyway, for his fervent promises to only ‘go straight’ from now on. Of course, in his mind, that probably just means going straight in a business sense. It clearly doesn’t include sexual battery, which Franz may not even consider to be a crime at all.

Franz seems to find it ridiculously easy to pick up women. He’s not described as being particularly good-looking, but he’s big and burly, confident and obviously an alpha male type, to whom any broken or damaged women will flock like z-list ‘celebrities’ to the opening of an envelope.

Speaking of which, Franz quickly finds himself a live-in girlfriend in Lina, a nervous Polish woman who almost certainly has a troubled past and some kind of inner sadness. She regards herself as being in the Last Chance Saloon when it comes to bagging a man, and is pathetically grateful for Franz’s attentions. The relationship doesn’t last, however.

Before Lina exits stage left forever, though, she introduces Franz to a family friend called Otto Luders. Franz and Luders go into the business of selling shoelaces together door-to-door in the big old blocks of apartments near the titular Alexanderplatz.

It’s not a great job, obviously, that of door-to-door shoelace salesman, but good honest work in Germany at that time was hard to come by. The country was by then in the grip of a massive depression. The words ‘unemployment’ and ‘inflation’ are synonymous with the Germany of the day.

That’s one of the reasons Hitler and the Nazi party were able to grab power in 1933. They saw what was happening in the country and they promised the voters ‘Arbeit Und Brot,’ or work and bread, which was all that men like Franz were asking for.

By this stage, Hitler had already written his notorious book MEIN KAMPF and been released from Landsburg Prison for his part in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. Both the SA (Sturm Abteilung) and the SS (Schutz Staffeinel) had been formed by this stage and Joseph Goebbels already had responsibility for Propaganda within the growing Nazi Party. Within five short years, Hitler would be Chancellor of Germany and the rest, as they say, would be history.

Luders and Franz have a major falling-out, anyway, which leaves Franz shaken and down one business partnership. Then, out of the blue, the despondent Franz is offered a job by a man in a pub. Isn’t that the way it so often happens? The man in the pub is satisfied, for his part, that Franz is a ‘true German.’ ‘Germany for the Germans,’ after all, and none of your Commie Reds or Jews or any of that. Hmmm.

So, what exactly is this new job? Franz is now the latest street vendor, if you please, of the VOLKISCHE BEOBACHTER, a real-life anti-Semitic newspaper. It was the official newspaper of the NSDAP or Nazi party from 1920 until 1945. On his first day of work, Franz is presented with the armband he’s meant to wear while he’s working. On the armband is a swastika…

This job doesn’t last long. Franz is once more on the unemployment line with about half the men of Germany for company. He devotes his time to boozing and engaging in complicated affairs with women, who are irresistibly drawn to Franz’s big, strong rough-and-ready maleness. His ex-girlfriend Eva, with whom he still remains ‘friends with benefits’ and for whom he used to pimp, offers Franz sexual, financial and emotional support whenever it’s needed. It’s well for some.

When Franz finally comes out of the drunken stupor into which he falls after the Luders fiasco, he meets an ugly poisonous man in the pub (where else?) called Reinhold. Reinhold is a cowardly shit who persuades Franz to take first one, then another, of his own mistresses off his hands because he’s tired of them and doesn’t want the hassle of breaking up with them himself, if you can believe that.

Franz is happy to oblige and has many a happy hour getting the most out of the two comely enough exes, Franze and Cilly, before Cilly (Cilly by name and silly by nature, huh?) ends up back with the odious Reinhold. Well, she’s a grown woman. She can make her own decisions. And her own mistakes…

Another consequence of Franz’s ill-fated association with Reinhold costs him dearly. Reinhold is a gangster whose boss, Pums, takes a liking to Franz and involves him in a ‘job’ they’re pulling off. Franz isn’t much cop at being the gang’s ‘lookout’ and he loses his right arm when he’s pushed out of a moving car by Reinhold during the burglary they’re carrying out.

Franz, the big cheery ‘hail fellow well met’ character who always tries to bounce back when he’s down, makes jokes about his amputated arm but we get the impression he’s not as okay about the loss of it as he makes out. Well, how could he be?

He probably feels like half a man now, working at shit jobs like being a carousel barker (he’d be the guy who shouts ‘roll up, roll up!’ and gets people into/onto the attraction) that don’t require a man to have two arms. He spends a lot of time moping around his apartment with only his faithful prostitute-lover Eva and her boyfriend/john/ pimp Herbert for company.

And there’s always the booze. Franz and the booze go back a long way. Now he’s talking to it like it’s an old friend which, in a way, it is. Franz, no longer a young man and now he’s physically disabled to boot, is clearly lacking direction. 

He meets a sneaky little crook called Willy in the pub (that’s where he meets everyone!) and decides to join with him in his dirty little stolen goods business. Wanna buy a watch? You know the type of thing. Franz obviously feels it’s about all he’s able for at the moment, with just the one arm. Talk about a slippery slope, though.

Whatever happened to the oath he swore when he came out of prison to only ever go straight again? It looks like Franz feels like there’s not much point in keeping his oath anymore. Going straight is for schmucks, right? Guy never got rich going straight.

We know ourselves that there’s more to life than getting rich but maybe Franz is tired of being dirt-poor, one of those Between-The-Wars forgotten men. We don’t know anything much about Franz’s record in World War One but we do get to read about the hilarious moment when he decides to buy an Iron Cross replica to account to people for his missing arm, the cheeky liar…!

Franz is on the verge of another life-changing moment but he doesn’t know it yet. Eva thinks he needs a new woman to raise his spirits, among other things, lol. The resourceful Eva’s already found someone she deems suitable, although why she’s fixing Franz up with someone who might be a threat to herself, Eva, is a mystery to me.

Her gift to Franz is a beautiful, shy much younger woman called Sonia, whom Franz christens ‘Mieze.’ He falls for her immediately because of her looks and her sweet, gentle disposition. She falls for him too, though he’s at least twenty, twenty-five years older than her.

She’s clearly looking for a father figure- she even dresses like a little girl and talks like a little girl and wears little-girly pink ribbons in her hair- and there’s no need to analyse why an older man is attracted to a beautiful younger woman. They go for walks in the woods together and she buys him a canary. It’s love all right.

The money Mieze makes from working as a prostitute certainly comes in handy. She immediately accepts Franz as her new pimp. Why should Franz work when he has Mieze’s earnings? Why indeed? He’s a very liberal man when it comes to sharing his woman around. However, it would appear that even Franz Biberkopf has his limits.

Mieze is being paid for sex by a rich older man and Franz has no problem whatsoever with that because the money she makes goes to him. When Mieze is daft enough to admit her attraction towards the rich older man’s good-looking young nephew, however, Franz proves that he’s still a big man by beating the living daylights out of her with his one remaining hand and choking her half to death. Shades of Ida…

Mieze is spared Ida’s fate by the intervention of the odious Reinhold, who is suspiciously close at hand that very night. After the savage beating, Franz expresses guilt and shame- only verbally, mind you- and a loving Mieze forgives him immediately. She pours oil on the troubled waters and smooths everything over with her customary docility.

I personally think that she has deeply masochistic tendencies. She doesn’t react at all like you’d expect a battered woman to react after an assault. Instead, her beatific, almost martyr-like manner as she holds ‘her Franz’ to her again tells us a lot about Mieze, who’s even allowed Franz to change her name, a deeply personal thing about her, from Sonia to Mieze.

I think her behaviour tells us that she’s severely damaged after her upbringing and her life as a prostitute, which can’t all have been plain sailing and rich benefactors. I also think it tells us that she won’t live to see forty, the way she’s going. Will she die at Franz’s hands, a death I could swear she’d almost relish, or does the fickle finger of Fate have something else in mind for her? Let’s move swiftly on…

Franz who, by the way, bears no ill-will against Reinhold for the whole amputated arm thing, makes the mistake of formally introducing Mieze to his partners-in-crime, including Reinhold, down at the bar where they all hang out.

She has an instantaneous powerful effect on Franz’s old friend Meck, who thinks her beautiful, and also on Reinhold, whom she’s met once before but not formally, that is, when he was pulling her out from under Franz before Franz killed her the way he did Ida.

Meck and Reinhold both think that she’s much too good for Franz, and they’re each jealous that Franz has managed to pull such a pretty young thing who’s clearly devoted to him. The spiteful, if not downright evil, Reinhold is determined that he’ll get his mucky paws on the lovely Mieze’s body, and before too much more time has elapsed.

He sneakily orchestrates some alone time for himself and Mieze, all behind Franz’s back, of course. Why doesn’t he just ask Franz straight out if he can sleep with the girl for a few Deutschmarks? After all, Franz doesn’t mind pimping her out for a few quid.

Reinhold takes her to the Freienwalde, the forest in the gorgeous rural area where she is accustomed to sometimes walk with her beloved Franz. Poor silly Mieze’s fate is immediately sealed. What happens to her at Reinhold’s hands is sad, grubby and shockingly inevitable, given her profession, her damaged psyche and her vulnerability.

When Franz finds out, he goes temporarily insane and is taken to Buch Mental Hospital, where he is force-fed by doctors who are stumped by his insanity and intent on keeping him alive to face the hangman’s noose if it turns out that Franz is responsible for what happened to Mieze, as the police seem to think.

If only Franz had broken from the disgusting evil Reinhold, the snake in the grass who not only cost Franz his arm but who has now taken away from Franz, his so-called friend, the only precious thing Franz had left in his life.

If only Franz had had the strength to sever the unhealthy, unholy alliance between himself and the dangerous criminal Reinhold. Will he ever see that Reinhold has feet of clay and is perhaps the worst thing that’s ever happened to him? Reinhold, Pums, the whole gang, it’s all poisonous and polluted. It was a bad day for Franz Biberkopf when he fell in with them.

Will the odious Reinhold ever pay for his crimes? And can Franz ever rise again after this latest body-blow sees him come face-to-face with Death Himself? Well, that, folks, is the sixty-four-million dollar question. Read Dőblin’s wonderful masterpiece of the Weimar Republic for yourself and find out.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. (1940) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

phila wedding

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. (1940) BASED ON THE 1939 PLAY OF THE SAME NAME BY PHILIP BARRY. DIRECTED BY GEORGE CUKOR. STARRING KATHARINE HEPBURN, CARY GRANT, JAMES STEWART, JOHN HOWARD, RUTH HUSSEY AND HENRY DANIELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Billed as ‘a sophisticated romantic comedy,’ THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is just that, a romantic comedy about- and possibly even for- rich, connected people. No peasants may apply, lol.

Not everyone watching it will be able to relate to Tracy Samantha Lord’s elegant swimming pool-and-tea-in-the-conservatory lifestyle, and I suppose not everyone watching it will sympathise with her haughty, aristocratic fault-finding manner which presupposes that no-one, husband or lover, will be able to live up to the almost excruciatingly high standards she’s set for herself. And, most importantly, for other people as well. On the other hand, she’s played by Katharine Hepburn and it’s a good strong performance, so I say just relax and go with the flow…

Beloved American actor James Stewart plays Macaulay Connor (I nearly wrote Culkin there!), a promising young newspaper writer who fancies himself as the next Ernest Hemingway, with his short-story-writing and his big literary dreams.

He’s disgusted, therefore, when his Editor Sidney Kidd, played by Henry Daniell- here for once in a non-villainous role- orders him to Philadelphia to cover the society wedding of the year, that of wealthy socialite Tracy Lord to a chap called George Kittredge.

What am I, some kind of shitty gossip columnist, he wails to his Editor but it’s no dice. Off to Philadelphia he must obediently trot, if he wants to keep his job, that is. As the accompanying photographer Elizabeth Imbrie points out, they’ve all got to eat, haven’t they, and for that they need jobs. I daresay that even the great Ernest Hemingway himself had to boil the odd egg and butter the odd slice of toast to go with it in order to stave off the hunger pangs.

When Macaulay, known to his friends as Mike, and Liz get to the Lord estate, they’re a bit bedazzled by all the grandeur. Liz (who, by the way, is head-over-heels in love with Mike but he’s too thick to know it) rather politically incorrectly remarks that she half expects to see ‘picaninnies’ floating around the place.

No doubt what she means by this is that the Lord house, with its ‘south parlour,’ resembles nothing so much as a modern-day Tara-from-GONE WITH THE WIND-style plantation.

The gangly reporter Mike, sorry, serious writer Mike, who’s already actually published a book of his short stories, is a little out of his depth amidst such obvious wealth and position. Liz is none too comfortable either, although she implies she’d swap places with Tracy Lord in a heartbeat.

Tracy herself is polished, sophisticated and able to greet the two newshounds with a professional ease that contains no real warmth. It’s born of years of practice and means little in terms of sincerity.

Mind you, she resents deeply that it was her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), who managed to insinuate the pair of journos from SPY magazine into the Lord house in the first place. Now they’re staying in her home to cover her wedding- a little blackmail goes a long way- and there’s nothing she can do about it.

Tracy and Dexter split up two years earlier when Tracy could no longer tolerate his drinking and he was no longer willing to put up with her Little Miss Perfect holier-than-thou attitude.

He blames her for his drinking, saying that the worse she behaved to him the more he drank. Talk about seeking to blame others for your own failings. If he’d gone to AA at all, they might have taught him to ‘own’ his own drinking and take responsibility for it, the creep.

Tracy and Dexter fought like cat and dog and they eventually broke up. Tracy’s annoying younger sister Dinah gleefully recounts how Dexter ‘socked’ her sister in the kisser before he left- and she even expresses a hope that he might do it again some day- but don’t worry folks. He didn’t actually hit her, he merely shoved her so that she fell over. Well, that’s all right then.

There’s still a major spark between the pair though. Dexter- and indeed Macaulay- are both wondering what the hell the spirited Tracy is doing getting married to the undoubtedly worthy but undoubtedly stodgy and rather dull George Kittredge.

He’s not of Tracy’s ‘class,’ you see, and he doesn’t know how to ride properly or even to wear jodphurs properly like a proper rich person. Oh dear, how shocking. Tracy needs someone she can spar with, not this dull older man who’ll probably be in bed by nine-thirty with a cup of cocoa and a lurid paperback thriller, the closest he’ll probably come to experiencing any real thrills himself. Miaow…!

Tracy is intrigued by Mike, who’s becoming more smitten with Tracy by the hour, much to poor Liz’s distress. Tracy checks out Mike’s book from the local library and falls in love with his words. What’s someone who can write like that doing covering a society wedding for SPY magazine, she demands to know. It’s clear she’s never had to work for her own living.

There’s a lot of talk amongst the men in the film, including Tracy’s own father, of Tracy’s being like a cold, untouchable statue of a goddess who doesn’t have any real human feelings and is utterly devoid of the milk of human kindness.

They imply she’s not a real human being at all, just a perfect automaton without any faults or human frailties. She’s accused of having no understanding of, or patience with, these human frailties and human imperfections that other people have but she apparently doesn’t.

Tracy is hurt by these assertions, especially coming from her father who is a randy philanderer who has hurt Tracy’s mother immeasurably with his dalliance with a dancer. Tracy, seemingly, has forced her mother to live up to her own exacting standards by kicking the Dad out, which he certainly deserves but it makes Mrs. Lord desperately unhappy.

Maybe Tracy’s standards are okay for Tracy herself, but not for everyone. Maybe she shouldn’t try to impose them on other people? Is that the lesson she’s supposed to learn in this highly popular and successful ‘comedy of re-marriage…?’

So, who does ‘Red’ wed, in the end? The rather judgemental George Kittredge, who at the end of the film pronounces that Tracy’s ‘class’ are on the way out and good riddance to every man Jack of ’em?

The starstruck Macaulay Connor, who’s too stupid to know that he has a good woman in love with him already in the form of photographer Elizabeth Imbrie, who’s obviously had to fend for herself in a way that the uber-privileged Tracy never has?

Or will it be the dashing C.K. Dexter Haven, the gadabout yacht designer who was Tracy’s first real love and the man she drove away with her criticisms and her overbearing attitude that holds that she’s right and everyone else is wrong…?

Personally I feel like Tracy, who must be worn out from uttering all that sparkling dialogue in Katharine Hepburn’s trademark haughty voice, could benefit from some time alone to work out how she really feels about each man, but what do I know? I’m just some schmuck.

The stage is set, as it were. The wedding guests are already seated, the pastor is ready with his ‘Do you, Tracy Samantha Lord, take this man to be thy awfully wedded etc.,’ and the pianist has already struck up the first few familiar bars of the Wedding March.

Tracy has clearly got to marry someone, in order to give the guests the show they’ve come for. Which man will it be? Will it be one of our Big Three, or is there even a fourth suitor possibly waiting in the wings? (There isn’t. That’s just some red herring I threw in to stir things up.) Well, watch out anyway, folks. Here Comes The Bride…

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 RIVERMAN. (2004) A SUPERB TRUE-LIFE SERIAL KILLER MOVIE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

riverman bundy georgann

THE RIVERMAN. (2004) DIRECTED BY BILL EAGLES. BASED ON ROBERT KEPPEL’S 2004 BOOK THE RIVERMAN: TED BUNDY AND I HUNT FOR THE GREEN RIVER KILLER. STARRING CARY ELWES, BRUCE GREENWOOD, SAM JAEGER, KATHLEEN QUINLAN, SARAH MANNINEN AND DAVE BROWN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘That guy’s sure a piece-a work. Talking to him’s like having a slug crawling over your face.’

Florida State prison officer about Ted Bundy.

This is a fantastic film. It’s a film initially about the Green River Killer, otherwise known as blue-collar worker Gary Ridgway, the American murderer who killed so many prostitutes in the 1980s and 1990s that he had ‘a hard time keeping ’em straight,’ as he said himself.

It turns out then to be a film about the relationship between criminology professor Bob Keppel and Ted Bundy, a certain serial killer whose name you might know, and that’s when the film goes from being already very good to bloody brilliant. Let’s start at the beginning and see how things pan out.

Dave Reichert is the promising young detective who’s just been assigned the post of lead detective on the case of the Green River Killer in ‘Eighties America. The killer is known as the Riverman because so many of his victims’ bloated corpses ended up in or the banks of the mighty Green River. He operates in the Seattle-Washington area.

Dave Reichert himself discovered one of the bodies. He literally stumbles over the heavily decomposed remains on the overgrown river bank while investigating the case of another victim found floating in the Green River.

The Riverman only kills prostitutes, and often only very young ones at that. The girls are vulnerable, desperately impoverished and frequently under-aged runaways who are estranged from their families. It’s very hard to keep tabs on girls like that. If one goes missing, who’s to say whether or not she’s been abducted and murdered or simply packed a bag and moved on?

Even if someone reports such a girl missing because, say, she doesn’t phone home on her birthday or Christmas one year like she’s been accustomed to doing, it’s hard to imagine the police doing much more than making a note of her name and promising to keep an eye out for her.

How would you even begin to look for such a girl, who could have hitch-hiked a lift with some trucker and been several States away by the time the investigation into her disappearance gets underway?

The killer, of course, was counting on either this lack of interest on the part of law enforcement or the difficulties the cops faced in tracking down the missing girls. Their problems were his opportunities, as it were.

Dave Reichert is stumped, anyway, as to who’s killing these girls and dumping them in the river or on the river banks or in the most depressing, deserted stretches of waste ground known rather gruesomely as ‘dump sites.’ The killer himself referred to them as ‘clusters.’

Sometimes the horrible smell of decomposing flesh might alert a passer-by to the existence of something terrible in the bushes or behind the pile of rubble. More often than not, the corpse would turn up in the Green River, floating silently along all bloated and discoloured.

The killer treated the Strip where the prostitutes would ply their trade as his own personal playground or ‘supermarket’ for roughly two decades before he was finally collared in 2001. He more or less ran amok and there was nothing, really, to deter him for long.

The guy who plays Gary Ridgway in the film is exactly right for the role. He captures precisely the ordinariness, the sheer nothingness of this little weasel of a guy who played God with the lives of so many women for so long. The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, was another such nondescript loser, with a boring blue-collar job and a so-so marriage, whose wife knew nothing of his crimes.

Anyway, Dave Reichert calls in Robert Keppel to help him to find the killer. Bob Keppel, a professor of criminology at the University of Washington, was a member of the Task Force responsible for tracking down Ted Bundy.

Ted, of course, was the handsome, charismatic law student-cum-serial killer who in the 1970s murdered several women in America, usually beautiful young college co-eds with long straight hair parted in the middle to resemble a woman he’d once loved who had rejected him.

For a long time, Ted’s victims simply disappeared into thin air. A college girl would go to sleep in her bedroom in her sorority house while her sorority sisters slept in their own rooms all over the house and, by the next morning, she’d be gone. How had he done it without alerting anyone to his presence in the house?

Or maybe a college girl would set out to walk home late at night from her boyfriend’s fraternity house to her own sorority house and she’d never get there. Even though there’d be just a short walk between the two buildings, somewhere along that short walk Ted had found her and spirited her away with him forever.

Once, he’d even removed two women, separately, from a crowded National Park of picnickers and sun-worshippers on the same day and brought them both to a hideout in the woods where one of them was forced to watch him murder the other. One of them had her bicycle with her, which vanished into thin air also, just like its owner.

Then, high on a cold lonely mountain, some remains were finally found. The manhunt for the man who actually told his victims he was called ‘Ted’ was one of the biggest America had ever known.

The police even had a photo-fit that closely resembled Ted and Ted’s friends would tease him about how much he looked like this man that the whole of the American police force was trying to catch.

I think it was the first time too that American law enforcement came up against a serial killer who travelled across various State-lines to hunt his prey. Now that everyone had their own transport, a killer could be in one State in the morning and in another in the evening. It made the job of law enforcement that much more difficult than, I suppose, in the days of travel by a horse and cart.

Anyway, when the then-incarcerated Ted Bundy, on Death Row in Florida State Prison at the time for only a fraction of the crimes he’d actually committed, found out that his old Nemesis Bob Keppel was on the case of the Green River Killer, he wrote to Bob at his family home asking Bob to come and see him. What was Ted offering? Insight, he claimed, into the mind of a serial killer. It was too good a chance for Bob to turn down.

Bob’s wife Sandie goes ballistic, though, when she sees the letter with Ted’s name and address on the outside of it. How did this man find out where we live? Are you seriously going to let this evil man back into our lives, after all the trouble he caused last time? Burn his letter, burn it! I don’t want anything of his in this house! Bob, you must be out of your mind if you’re considering getting mixed up with him again!

You couldn’t really blame the wife. The men and women on the Ted Bundy Task Force ate, slept and breathed Ted for weeks, months and even years, presumably leaving Bob little time for his wife and three young children.

On the other hand, I assume she knew what job her husband did when she married him. If his job is to help track down serial killers, then that’s his job. A lot of little families like hers end up making sacrifices for the ‘greater good.’

Bob and Dave go to Florida State Prison to see Ted, brilliantly played by Cary Elwes (THE PRINCESS BRIDE, the SAW franchise). Ted, even heavily guarded on Death Row, is still sarcastic, constantly sneering, constantly goading Bob.

He’s arrogant, haughty, desperate to show off his superior knowledge of the serial killer’s mind, desperate to prove that, even locked up as he is, he ‘still matters.’ He’s still important. He’s still a big wheel down at the cracker factory. (THE SIMPSONS!)

Ted has little insight really into the mindset of the Green River Killer, so Bob wisely uses the time to find out more about Ted’s own criminal activities. Ted is initially cagey but the closer he gets to his execution date, the more information he coughs up, thinking it might land him another stay of execution, which it doesn’t.

Bob learns a lot from Ted. He learns that full possession and control of the woman and, afterwards, her corpse, are the things that help Ted to ‘get his rocks off,’ to use Ted’s own words. Once she’s inside that car, that VW Bug, she’s his. To do with as he wishes. Just get them in the car. Ted will do the rest.

Ted would return many times to ‘his’ corpses to spend time with them and have sex with them till, presumably, they became too heavily decomposed. One can almost imagine that he would love to have lived with them in his house, if such a wild aberration had been permissible by law.

I’ve watched a few of the ‘Ted’ movies and they’re all really good, but none is as good as the five-minute segment in ‘THE RIVERMAN’ which shows us the terrible fate of pretty college co-ed Georgann Hawkins, the girl with the Spanish test in the morning.

The night-time bits see Ted pouncing and making off with his prey, but the bit in the cold sharp light of morning, the bit in the woods on the isolated mountain when an exhausted, satiated Ted is returning to his car really tells us so much more.

Did he drive home then to sleep for the whole day? What did he normally do after a kill? Did he wake up in the evening after hours of a dead sleep, starving with the hunger, and go and see his girlfriend Liz for a bite to eat with her and her daughter?

Did he have sex with Liz that night while re-living in his mind what he’d done to Georgann or the other women he took and killed? Did he smile to himself as memories of that night on the cold, lonely mountain or other similar nights came back to him? Ted took many of his secrets to the grave with him. Some things about him we’ll never know.

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

A IS FOR ACID and THE BRIDES IN THE BATH: A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY TRUE-LIFE MURDER MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

acid

A IS FOR ACID (2002) and THE BRIDES IN THE BATH (2003): A DOUBLE BILL OF TRUE-LIFE MURDER MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I remembering watching both of these murder movies when they were first on television- ITV, I think- back in 2002 and 2003. I remember also being utterly fascinated by them both, voyeuristic little ghoul that I am.

In particular, I never forgot Martin Kemp in THE BRIDES IN THE BATH yelling the following at one of his many bigamous ‘wives’: ‘You’re my wife, and if I want you to take a hot bath, then you’ll damn well take a hot bath!’ Crikey, take it easy, Mister Hygiene Police. Mind you, his apparent fastidiousness arose, not out of an over-riding passion for cleanliness, but out of a passion for murder…

Let’s start with THE BRIDES IN THE BATH then, as it appears we already have. Martin Kemp, the heart-throb from ‘Eighties New Romantic band Spandau Ballet, plays George Joseph Smith (1872-1915), a man who used and abused women cruelly for personal profit.

With his piercing blue eyes, handsome face, chin dimple (this is Martin Kemp I’m describing now, not George Joseph Smith!) and decent physique, he approached lonely single women in just-post-Victorian England and made them fall in love with him. He had all the charm and all the chat, so that bit was ridiculously easy for him.

It was easy too for him to bigamously marry these women, despite the fact that he had a wife sitting at home waiting for him in his unsuccessful antiques shop. He simply used aliases.

Once he’d married the women, he became the rightful owner of any money or property they had, or he’d take out life insurance policies on them, payable to him in the tragic event of the wife’s death. Then he’d make his wives take a bath with the door unlocked…

How he got away with it so often is staggering. Why were there no marks of violence on any of the bodies, when surely there must at least have been bruising round their ankles where he held them so tightly until they drowned? But no, he did this and got away with it three times before anyone thought to put two and two together.

He used the same modus operandi with each of the murdered wives. He’d marry ’em, move to a new area with them and then bring in the local doctor and tell him he was ‘worried’ about his wife, in an attempt to have a diagnosis of epilepsy or nervous hysteria or something brought in. This was so that then, when he went on to murder this wife for financial gain, he could call in the doctor and say things like, Oh my God Doctor, I was afraid of something like this! What a creep.

Martin Kemp is terrific as the cold, heartless George Joseph Smith. Mind you, he’s a great actor anyway. He was in EastEnders for several years and he also played one of the Kray twins with his real-life twin brother Gary in the superb film THE KRAYS, co-starring the magnificent Billie Whitelaw as their adoring mother.

I didn’t care much for the giant moustache he sports in THE BRIDES IN THE BATH but it was the style of the time, like wearing one of those long-legged stripy bathing costumes when you went to the seaside.

Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter’s Uncle Dursley) plays Smith’s barrister, Sir Edward Marshall-Hall, a man who seems to dislike his client and who almost certainly thinks Smith is guilty as hell of the heinous crimes of which he’s been accused. I wouldn’t say he was all that sorry to see Smith hang for his sins.

Tracey Wilkinson (yes, you DO recognise her; she was prison officer Di Barker in smashing prison drama BAD GIRLS) does a great job as Smith’s long-suffering ‘real’ wife Edith, and even then she finds out at the end that she too was married bigamously to Smith, as he’d wedded someone else before her in 1898. What a bastard!

‘Oh, but he keeps coming back to me,’ she bleats rather pitifully in the face of all the evidence of Smith’s bigamy. ‘Surely that means he loves me?’ Not necessarily, love. He needs a base, that’s all, somewhere to return to when the heat’s on or he needs to lie low or regroup his resources.

It’s a bit like running back to your Mammy when you’re tired and sick or you need to retreat from the world for a bit and you know she’ll look after you. It’s not the same as loving someone properly, not at all.

Smith, in a way, treated Edith worst of all, although he didn’t kill her. Instead, hers was the Death Of A Thousand Cuts, as she sat at home waiting for him for weeks, even months, on end while he was off marrying other women and killing them for their money and calling it his ‘work.’ This was the highly dubious ‘business’ of which she knew nothing. Was she better off not knowing? It’s hard to say.

There’s a funny bit- well, it’s funny in a gruesome way- when Smith’s boarding-house landlady is reading in her newspaper about the execution of infamous wife-murderer Doctor Crippen. At that exact moment she’s reading the news article, water from the on-going murder of Smith’s then-wife is actually dripping down onto the newspaper from the bathroom above. The irony is rather delicious.

Another Martin takes centre-stage now, Martin Clunes, as we take a look at A IS FOR ACID. Clunes plays John George Haigh (1909-1949), the ‘Acid Bath Murderer’ who killed people by dissolving them in a bath of acid because he’d heard that acid removed all traces that there’d even been a person there in the first place.

Without a body, he’d heard, there could be no conviction for murder. Corpus delicti, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, it was the remains of the people he killed that convicted him, the remains that the acid didn’t dissolve: the body fat, the gallstones (eeuw!), the dentures, the bit of a foot. So much for acid, anyway.

Just like our old friend George Joseph Smith’s case was trail-blazing in that it allowed evidence from other similar deaths to be heard during the prosecution of one particular murder, so was Haigh’s case ground-breaking.

It was one of the first in which forensics played a huge part. Forensics was all the police had to go on, pretty much, so Haigh might even have been the first murderer to have been convicted on the basis of forensic evidence alone.

Smith and Haigh were similar in other ways too. Smith quoted poetry at his women and he had a fondness for Tennyson. Haigh was very cultured also. He played classical piano well and performed pieces by such musical luminaries as Bach when he was asked for his party piece.

Haigh killed for love. Love of money and love of self, that is. In the film A IS FOR ACID, he kills six people for his own financial advancement. He was a born conman with several convictions for petty fraud.

He murdered his old chum Donald McSwann to gain control of McSwann’s properties and lucrative business, and then he killed Donald’s gentle elderly parents to avoid detection. What a cowardly weasel.

His modus operandi was probably a little less finessed than Smith’s. He claimed to be an inventor and an engineer and, in fact, he did tinker about with a few ideas. He’d invite the person he wanted to kill round to his workshop, then he’d either shoot them or bash them over the crown with a crowbar. Then into the vat of acid they’d go, maybe still alive for all we know. What a grisly, miserable end to meet.

After the McSwann family massacre, he murdered Archie and Rose Henderson (The awful Rose is played by Celia Imrie), a doctor and his wife, so that he could take charge of their financial affairs.

But Rose’s brother is deeply suspicious of Haigh. When he is able to connect Haigh to the disappearance and possible murder of an elderly rich woman living where Haigh does, at the Onslow Hotel, he contacts the police. They pay a long-overdue visit to Haigh’s workshop…

Haigh is quiet, polite and charming. But his mind has been somewhat of a gory bent since childhood, and he tells the cops that he thinks he’s a vampire. His wacko parents, members of a religious sect known as ‘the Plymouth Brethren,’ have been telling him since he was born that the three of them are part of something called ‘God’s Elect.’ No wonder Haigh feels like he has the power of life and death over the people he meets.

His devoted girlfriend Gillian (Keeley Hawes) is so smitten with the tall, amiable Haigh that she goes round to Haigh’s parents’ house after Haigh has been hanged and spouts mealy-mouthed platitudes like: ‘Oh no, he didn’t suffer at all at the end!’ Well, that’s a blessing, at any rate. We’d sure hate for the man they called the Acid Bath Murderer to suffer when he was facing Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s last hangman…!

Anyway, these are two top-notch British crime dramas that you’d hugely enjoy if you’re into serial killers, which most of us horror movie fans probably are. There’s a glamour and excitement about serial killers that draws us to them but, when you watch films like this, you do get to see the killers as they really were.

And what were they really? Just small-minded, petty little men who killed defenceless women and pensioners for a few measly quid and thought they were great big men for so doing. Anyway, kudos to The Two Martins. A job well done there, lads. A job well 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

CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

chitty childcatcher

IAN FLEMING’S (Yes, THAT Ian Fleming…!) CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. (1968) DIRECTED BY KEN HUGHES. MUSIC AND LYRICS BY RICHARD M. SHERMAN AND ROBERT B. SHERMAN. SCREENPLAY BY ROALD DAHL AND KEN HUGHES.

STARRING DICK VAN DYKE, SALLY ANN HOWES, ADRIAN HALL, HEATHER RIPLEY, GERT FROBE, ANNA QUAYLE, LIONEL JEFFRIES, JAMES ROBERTSON JUSTICE, ROBERT HELPMANN, BARBARA WINDSOR AND BENNY HILL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Aw, this family musical is a real Christmas cracker, or a cracker for any other time of the year you care to name as well. I remember watching this during childhood Christmases and being terrified by the evil Child-Catcher, enchanted by the real-life ‘dolls’ performing at the awful Baron Bomburst’s birthday and mildly annoyed by the repetitive nature of the theme song, lol. Here’s the deal, anyway.

The oddly-named Caractacus Potts (we’ll call him Pottsy here!) is a crackpot English inventor in either the late Victorian era or the early Whatever-Came-After-That era. He’s tolerably good-looking- not hideous, at any rate- and he’s a widow with two perfect little pre-teen Aryan youths for children. Well, excuse me but could they be any blonder?

Jemima and Jeremy are allowed to skip school and run wild around the English countryside dressed in rags, while their inventor father spends hours closeted in his laboratory tinkering about with the mechanics of yet another Truly hare-brained scheme. See what I did there? Their cut-glass accents can be a tad irritating (Oh Deddy Deddy, we DO love you so and all that type of thing) but they’re basically good kids, just badly in need of a mother. And a bath and a square meal.

A potential mother hoves into view in the form of the beautiful and divinely-dressed Truly Scrumptious, a wealthy young local lady who almost runs the young’uns down in her splendiferous motorised vehicle. She’s horrified to see the children dressed like ragged urchins and endangering themselves and the public on the good decent English highways and byways.

She comes home with the children to give Pottsy a piece of her mind. Why aren’t these children at school and so on and so forth. Pottsy sends her away with a flea in her ear. Mind your own business, young lady, these are my children and I’ll sorely neglect their moral and educational upbringing as I see fit or words to that effect. Now be off with you at once, young woman, or I’ll turn you into, erm, marzipan. That’s it, marzipan. Harrumph!

The gorgeous young lady turns out to be Truly Scrumptious of the wildly successful Scrumptious Family Sweetie Emporium, however, and the daughter of its wildly eccentric owner. (Not as wildly eccentric as Pottsy’s father, however, who can’t forget the time he was a soldier- and a brigadier’s batman- in India.)

This is awkward for Pottsy as he’s just invented a new sweet he wants to flog to Poppa Scrumptious, a stick of whistling candy that has the family dog’s seal of approval. Woof woof! Truly generously gives Pottsy tips on how to handle her brusquely-mannered father and, from then on, a beautiful friendship is born and Truly and the Potts family are as thick as thieves together.

Truly and Pottsy are deeply, truly attracted to each other. The attraction on Pottsy’s part is simple to understand, as Truly is a stunning bit of stuff who wears fabulous dresses and likes to be independent and speak her mind, which quality makes men thinks that chicks are feisty, see? Men love feisty women, or so I’m told. They never seem to like it when I get feisty…

The attraction that Pottsy holds for Truly is obvious too. There isn’t a woman alive who wouldn’t be drawn to a lonely widower with two lovely motherless children. Her desire to be a mother to the sproglets and a comfort and a helpmeet to their poor dear father is simply overwhelming. It over-rides all other desires.

Let’s just hope that Pottsy makes a better husband than he does an inventor. His Automatic Hair-Cutting Machine that leaves the user looking like that guy out of The Three Stooges is worse than Homer Simpson’s make-up gun that shoots women in the face with their daily requirement of cosmetics. CARRY ON star Barbara Windsor features in the hair-cutting section as the little blonde bombshell girlfriend of the poor bastard being so brutally barbered.

Danger strikes the little quartet, anyway, Pottsy and Truly and the kiddiewinks, when the awful Baron Bomburst of the little European monarchy of Vulgaria decides he wants to get his royal mitts on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This is the old vintage car lovingly restored by Pottsy at the kids’ behest. Oh Deddy Deddy please, you’ve got to save our precious automobile from the knackers’ yard and all that jazz.

Two nutty emissaries of the Baron’s kidnap Pottsy’s Dad and spirit him away in a hot-air balloon. They mistakenly believe him to be his son Caractacus, the eccentric British inventor whose magical car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is able to float and fly.

Pottsy, Truly and the kids duly hop into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and fly to Vulgaria to save Grandpa Potts from a grisly fate at the hands of the Baron. Vulgaria is a very strange Kingdom indeed where no children are allowed because the Baron’s wife, the Baroness, is afraid of the sticky-fingered little blighters.

All the Kingdom’s children have to live in a gloomy underground cavern and the Child-Catcher, the terrifying but brilliant star of the whole shebang, is the guy who’ll catch any new kiddy-winks who turn up in town and sling ’em int’ chokey.

He captures Jeremy and Jemima neatly in his net with his blood-chilling cries of ‘Lollipops! Get your free lollipops and ice-cream here, and all free today, and not a penny to pay…!’ Kids are such dopes, lol. Imagine falling for that line. Oldest trick in the book, that is.

One good shove and they’re in the van, off to some place grim and grey from which they’ll never escape and, more importantly, from where their precious Deddy Deddy can’t spring ’em. (We hope, snigger. Serves ’em right, the headstrong, wilful brats. Maybe a spell in the Child-Catcher’s van will teach ’em that the world’s not their own personal bloody playground. Humph.)

So now Pottsy and Truly have a mammoth task on their hands. They have to rescue both Grandpa, who by now is gloriously immersed in growing ‘the roses of success,’ and the nippers from the Baron’s Guards, and then get themselves and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the hell out of Vulgaria before ze wicked Baron has them killed and made into cushion-covers.

And some would say that they now have a moral obligation to help the captured children and the oppressed downtrodden inhabitants of Vulgaria as well, now that they’ve seen what goes on there.

And especially as Pottsy has already crooned his Hushabye Mountain ditty to the kids in the underground cavern and given ’em a semblance of hope. You can’t sing that at ’em and then just bugger off with a ta-ra then, chuck. It wouldn’t be right.

Benny Hill the comedian is excellent as the Toymaker who can only make toys for the spoiled-brat Baron now that all the children of Vulgaria are imprisoned. My favourite bit of the film, next to the scary Child-Catcher scenes, is when Truly and Pottsy perform for ze Baron on his birthday as real-life, life-sized dolls. I always loved Truly’s song the best. ‘What do you see, you people gazing at me? You see a doll on a music box that’s wound by a key.’ She makes a Truly Beautiful Doll.

When Pottsy reacts the wrong way near the end of the film to the kids’ suggestion that he marry Truly, I always want to bonk him on the head with one of his stupid inventions. What a wuss.

The woman’s been to hell and back for him and his rugrats and he’s balking at the idea of marriage. You dope, Caractacus. She’s gagging for a ring. Give the lady what she wants. It’s simpler in the long run to just surrender now. You know she’ll get you in the end…

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 SOUND OF MUSIC. (1965) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

sound of music

RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S THE SOUND OF MUSIC. (1965) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ROBERT WISE. BASED ON THE MEMOIRS OF MARIA VON TRAPP. MUSIC AND LYRICS BY RICHARD RODGERS (MUSIC) AND OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN THE SECOND (LYRICS).

STARRING JULIE ANDREWS, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, RICHARD HAYDN, PEGGY WOOD AND ELEANOR PARKER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,

Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens,

Brown paper packages tied up with strings,

These are a few of my favourite things.

………………………………………………….

When the dog bites and the bee stings

And I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favourite things

And then I don’t feel so bad.’

The sight of a nun with a guitar gives me the willies, straight up. Reminds me of Fourth Year in secondary school when Sister Assumpta, nicknamed ‘Stumpy’ for her lack of height inches, tried to teach me to play the guitar after school. After only two lessons, I was expelled forever from these after-school jamborees for Crimes Against Music. Well, we can’t all be good at everything. Music’s loss was writing’s gain, lol.

Anyway, there’s a nun with a guitar in the multi-award-winning THE SOUND OF MUSIC, set in the last days of the 1930s. Her name is Maria, she’s wonderfully played by Julie Andrews and she’s a source of constant frustration to the other nuns in the convent. Let’s just say she’s a little, well, different.

She sings all the time, not just in church, she’s late to everything- except meals- and she’s as scatty as a dotty old professor of physics who wastes a morning looking for the spectacles that were on his head the whole time.

Furthermore, she’s always up in the hills where she was brought up, singing and twirling and twirling and singing and generally acting like she’s taken leave of her remaining senses altogether.

The kindly and extraordinarily understanding Reverend Mother of this lovely little convent in Austria is convinced that Maria is not quite ready to take her final vows as a nun. She thinks that Maria hasn’t quite made up her mind what she wants to do with her life and she thinks that the girl might benefit from a spell back out in the world outside the convent walls once more.

With this in mind, she sends Maria to the Salzburg home of one Captain Von Trapp, a widowed and much decorated sea captain who is in urgent need of a governess for his seven children. Maria will be this governess. Off she duly repairs to the Captain’s magnificent abode.

She’s immediately struck by the tall, handsome and autocratic bearing of the Captain (Christopher Plummer), but she’s less impressed by the rather cold, super-regulated way that he treats his children as if they were little sailors under his command at sea. They march instead of play, they wear uniforms instead of normal kiddy clothes and they jump to attention when the Captain blows his shrill whistle.

Where’s the love? Where’s the heart? Where’s the music, the singing and dancing and, God forbid, the fun? The Captain does love his children very much but he seems unable to show them this love. Certainly it’s hidden beneath layers and layers of strict, in fact rigid, naval-style discipline, timetables, constant drilling and whistles. Always with the whistles.

Maria sets out to bring the heart, the music and the fun back to the sad Von Trapp household. Such things have been practically banned from the household by the Captain, because they remind him of his late wife and the pain of his bereavement.

That’s all well and good for Georg (inexplicably pronounced not as George but as Gay-org with two hard ‘g’s), but it’s surely a bit unfair on his children, isn’t it? After all, they lost their mother, didn’t they? Should they lose everything else that’s good and nice and fun in life as well?

The children, ranging from sixteen-going-on-seventeen-year-old Liesl to five-year-old Gretl, with Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta and Marta in between, all adore Maria and are more than willing to help her to restore the fun and games to their heretofore excessively regimented lives. With Maria encouraging them, they play to their hearts’ content, they sing and dance and run and climb trees and fall in the lake and get filthy dirty and soaking wet as kids are meant to do.

The Captain, though he won’t admit it, is enchanted by Maria, by the way she dispenses with rules and silly whistles and just whole-heartedly throws herself into loving the children and being there for them in a way that previous governesses were unable to comprehend.

There’s an immediate attraction between the two adults that quite flusters Maria and flummoxes the Captain. Who knows if they’d have ever done anything about it if it hadn’t been for a fly in the ointment in the form of the marriage-minded Baroness Schraeder? Marriage-minded for herself and the Captain, that is, not for Maria and the Captain, goodness me no. This one’s purely all out for Number One. 

The Baroness is the Captain’s girlfriend at first and then his fiancée. The children and Maria are deeply unhappy at the thought of the Captain marrying the Baroness. She’s blonde, attractive, uber-sophisticated and super-rich, but she’s cold and superficial also and probably older than the Captain.

She knows very little about children (‘Have you ever heard of a marvellous invention called boarding school?’ she says slyly to family friend Uncle Max) but her worldly-wise eagle eyes spot immediately the mutual attraction between Gay-org and the couldn’t-be-less-sophisticated-if-she-tried Maria. I love it when the Baroness says to Maria:

‘Come on now love, we’re both women, who are ya kidding? Let us not pretend that we don’t notice it when a guy is making eyes at us.’ Or words to that effect…!

The Baroness isn’t the only fly in Gay-org and Maria’s ointment. It’s the time of Nazism and the Third Reich and Hitler has just Anschlussed Austria to Germany, much to the seeming delight of most of the Austrian populace. Well, they lined the streets of Austria cheering for Hitler’s troops and they carpeted the Nazis’ path with flowers, didn’t they?

Anyway, Gay-org is at least one Austrian who is virulently opposed to Nazism and he’s brave enough to speak his mind on the subject. When, by virtue of his status as a naval war hero and his naval expertise, he’s given an important commission in the navy of the Third Reich, he finds himself with only two hard choices.

He can accept the commission for the sake of his family’s safety, but to go along with Nazi beliefs and ideology would sicken his stomach. Or he can throw the commission back in Hitler’s (represented locally by Gauleiter Herr Zeller) face and risk bringing the wrath of the powerful Third Reich down on his own and his childrens’- and Maria’s- heads. What to do? Richer men than he, who might have thought they were safe by virtue of their position, probably fell afoul of Hitler’s terrible regime…

The scenery and the songs are to die for. The hills are alive with the sound of music indeed. I love the clever lyrics and puppetry of ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ and I cried my eyes out when Gay-org sang ‘Edelweiss,’ with the poignant last line of ‘Bless my homeland forever,’ at Uncle Max’s precious folk music festival.

The Reverend Mother is an absolute boss when she belts out ‘Climb every mountain’ in an effort to show Maria that sometimes you have to work really fucking hard for what you want, lol. You go, girl.

It’s sad when Liesl’s childhood beau Rolph has morphed into a fully-fledged-and-indoctrinated member of the Hitler Youth, and the scenes in the beautiful Abbey crypt are nail-bitingly tense.

I only saw this film properly, from beginning to end, for the first time yesterday, but it’s going on my Christmas to-watch-every-year list from now on. All together now: ‘Doe, a deer, a female deer, ray, a drop of golden sun…!’

The Von Trapp Children:

Liesl: Charmian Carr.

Friedrich: Nicholas Hammond.

Louisa: Heather Menzies.

Kurt: Duane Chase.

Brigitta: Angela Cartwright.

Marta: Debbie Turner.

Gretl: Kym Karath.

Did any of ’em grow up to have eating disorders or take their clothes off for nudie mags or porn flicks? Hang on, I’m looking ’em all up now…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

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FRIEND REQUEST. (2017) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

friend request

FRIEND REQUEST BY LAURA MARSHALL. (2017) PUBLISHED BY SPHERE.

BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

For a long time there, way back in the mid-Noughties, I read nothing but thrillers. I devoured the writings of Patricia Cornwell with her heroine Kay Scarpetta, and also the works of Karin Slaughter, Lisa Gardner, Nicci French and Sophie Hannah, all women because man thrillers are booooooring, lol. I stopped reading them then for a while, going back to my beloved chick-lit and historical biographies. Everything comes in cycles, phases.

Now, FRIEND REQUEST by Laura Marshall, her debut novel as it happens, has persuaded me to dip my dainty hoof back in the thriller-pool once more. The title drew me first and foremost. FRIEND REQUEST? Like the movie UNFRIENDED, it was clearly a novel about Facebook. I bloody love Facebook, even if I don’t get to spend as much time on it as I’d like, ie, twenty-four-seven.

It’s one of those ‘I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER’-type scenarios, where an adult female is plagued by the memory of what she and another friend did to a girl in school a quarter of a century before, and then the memory becomes so much more than just a memory when it appears like she’s being stalked by the actual girl they bullied.

Which would be bad enough, I suppose, to have your past come back and bite you in the ass like that, but when the girl you tormented is supposed to have died all those years ago, well then, it’s suddenly a much more frightening situation. Here’s the deal.

Louise is a single mum in her early forties. Living in London, divorced from Sam whom she’s known from her school days and slaving away at her own interior decorating business, her main aim in life is to be a good mum to her and Sam’s four-year-old son, Henry. But Louise is not exactly happy in herself even though, to an outsider, she might appear to be.

Something that happened at her school-leaving party twenty-five years ago has positively haunted Louise ever since. It involves another girl, a girl called Maria Weston, who died that night and has, presumably, been as dead as a doornail ever since. As is usually the case with death, as I’m sure you’ll agree. However, Maria may not be as dead as she’s appeared to be for all these years…

One day Louise, a Facebook addict because Facebook is understandably an important social outlet for women with children and/or busy careers, receives a friend request from a Maria Weston. The Maria Weston? How can it be? Maria’s been dead since the night of the Leavers’ party. Hasn’t she?

Then an invitation arrives on Facebook for Louise, an invitation to a school reunion for the Class of ’89. That’s the year Louise left school and Maria left this life, supposedly.

Terribly nervous but unwilling to stay away, either from the reunion or from her murky past (a bit like probing incessantly with your tongue at a loose tooth), Louise makes contact through Facebook with the glamorous, flirtatious Sophie, her bitchy ‘best friend’ from those long-ago school days.

Sophie knows what Louise did to Maria, because Sophie did it too. They’re both to blame, both in it up to their tonsils. Both women are going to attend the reunion. And so is someone else. Someone else who knows that what happened to Maria Weston couldn’t have been ‘just an accident’ and who is determined to make the guilty parties suffer as Maria must surely have suffered before she died.

Louise and Sophie haven’t a clue how close they’re sailing to the wind. Will either of them survive the ‘reunion’ of the Class of ’89 and- just a thought- who exactly organised this reunion, anyway? How come it’s a woman that Louise has never heard of, a woman she knows for a fact was never in school with the rest of them…?

I just loved this book, although Louise was such a frustrating character. She tells so many lies to disguise her part in what happened at the Leavers’ party that she’d need a full-time secretary to keep track of ’em.

If she just once told the bloody truth, the awful guilt and misery of the last twenty-five years could have been alleviated somewhat but oh no, why tell the truth when you can complicate things with a series of lies, each more convoluted and baffling than the last? Well, you know what they say. ‘O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive…’

I loved the character of Esther, the girl who was a social outcast at school but who now has surpassed all of her school bullies and left ’em far behind with her handsome hubby, brilliant legal career and presumably better-looking, smarter nicer children, heh-heh-heh.

She can quite justifiably raise the middle finger of her right hand at her school bullies now and say, whatcha think of me now, bitches, am I hot or what? I hated Polly because she reminds me of a woman I know whom I can’t stand.

The book really captures the supreme bitchiness and sheer nastiness of teenage girls in school. It’s no wonder some girls are driven to contemplate suicide. The way the plainer or dumpier or swottier girls are treated by the so-called ‘popular’ girls is so cruelly insidious that it can make a girl feel like she’s not fit to live. Anyone who’s in any way different can come in for ostracising, exclusion, teasing, little- or not so little- jibes, body-shaming or fashion-shaming, name-calling, the whole works.

It’s so wrong, especially as half the time all that ‘popular’ means is quite simply skank, anyway. Will drop knickers in exchange for the class ring of the captain of the football team and so forth. Giant sluts, in other words. Screw ’em. They totally aren’t worth your time and effort.

This is the only kind of thriller I will read from now on. Written by a woman about women, plenty of human interest and just the right amount of technology in the form of social media, not technology-heavy like the boring man-thrillers I mentioned earlier. I’m glad I took a chance on FRIEND REQUEST. 

If Laura Marshall in the future writes a series of detective novels featuring a detective with a ridiculous name (Cormoran Strike, what’s that about, JK Rowling?) who has to solve ever more bizarrely convoluted crimes, I shall bow out gracefully, but FRIEND REQUEST hits exactly the right spot. I can read thrillers again, now that they’ve been made accessible by this kind lady scribe.

Laura Marshall is a very good writer, by the way. The plot is paced just right with all the twists and turns coming at pretty much exactly the right time. I’m guessing that she’s a big Alfred Hitchcock fan, as I am myself, and the only thing I was disappointed by in the book was the fact that more wasn’t made of the upstairs neighbour, Marnie.

At one point, after she went mysteriously quiet, I was convinced that Marnie had been killed or otherwise removed and that someone else- a very menacing someone else- had taken her place as the occupant of the upstairs flat. Ah well. You can’t win ’em all.

Laura Marshall’s writing is easy to read and effortlessly faultless in grammar and sentence structure. She even uses the words ‘nascent’ and ‘opprobrium’ in their correct context, which annoyed me no end, lol. Huh. Uppity writer.

Who does she think she is, anyway, with her big words and her fancy plot-lines and her keen insight into the bitching that goes on between teenage girls and the strict hierarchical structure that sees the rich pretty girls, the skanks and the whores all jostling for position at the top of the ladder while the fatties, the swots and the goths occupy the lowest rung? You know what? I think I’ll send Miss High-and-Mighty Laura Marshall a friend request…

THREE LITTLE LIES by Laura Marshall is out now.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor