FAWLTY TOWERS. (1975-1979) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

fawlty cast

FAWLTY TOWERS. (1975-1979) WRITTEN BY JOHN CLEESE AND CONSTANCE BOOTH. STARRING JOHN CLEESE, CONSTANCE BOOTH, PRUNELLA SCALES, ANDREW SACHS, BRIAN HALL, BALLARD BERKELEY, GILLY FLOWER AND RENEE ROBERTS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Hello, Fawlty Titties…!’

‘Papers arrived yet, Fawlty?’

‘However did they win?’ (WW2)

‘I know English. I learn it from a book…!’

‘That’s Brahms, dear. Brahms’ third racket…!’

‘He try to see girl in room! She make him crazy.’

‘Do you by any chance wear A HEARING AID…?’

‘This is exactly how Nazi Germany got started…!’

‘Celery, apples, walnuts, grapes. In a mayonnaise sauce.’

‘A gin and orange, a lemon squash and A SCOTCH AND WATER PLEASE…!’

‘Right, well I’ll go and have a lie-down then. No I won’t; I’ll go and hit some guests.’

This is one of Britain’s best ever situation comedies. Consisting of two series’ each comprising six thirty-minute episodes, it originally aired on the BBC in 1975 and 1979. Set in a Torquay hotel, the concept was based on a real-life experience John Cleese had while staying in a real-life hotel as part of the Monty Python crew.

He and his then wife Constance Booth were so enchanted by the rude behaviour and hostile attitude of hotelier Donald Sinclair towards his guests that, when the chance came to write and star in their own sitcom, they knew exactly what they wanted to write about. That’s right, an animal preservation centre in North Africa, lol. No, silly, a badly-run hotel owned and managed by the rudest hotel manager in Britain. Welcome to Fawlty Towers…

John Cleese plays Basil Fawlty, owner of a small hotel in Torquay. A man with pretensions of grandeur who’s obsessed with the notion of social climbing, he’s been sadly disappointed by his life and his marriage to the efficient but bossy and annoying Sybil (Prunella Scales). He takes his frustrations out on the hotel guests and the long-suffering staff, Polly, played by his then-wife Connie Booth, and Manuel, played by the late Andrew Sachs.

Basil is forever sniping at Sybil- ‘You’re always refurbishing yourself!’– but Sybil is well able for him. ‘Do you really think that a beautiful young lady like this would be interested in an ageing, brilliantined stick insect like you?’ Theirs is a marriage based on nagging and resentment. Each of them wishes they’d done better but, for better or worse, they’re stuck with each other.

Sybil gets things done quietly and efficiently, even if she is ‘always refurbishing herself,’ while Basil complicates things in a manner worthy of a Frank Spencer, a Father Ted or a Victor Meldrew.

He covers up his many cock-ups by telling ever more elaborate lies, and then the lies grow legs and spiral out of control until Basil is in a hopeless muddle. He usually drags his staff Polly and Manuel down into the mire with him.

And it’s usually Sybil over whose eyes he’s trying to pull the wool. She rules Basil with an iron fist inside an iron glove- yes, I said iron twice!- and she has strict rules about gambling and looking at other women. Or should I say, about not doing either of these two things, lol, under any circumstances.

Polly is the sensible waitress and chambermaid. She saves Basil’s arse more than once. She’s good at her job and is fond of the hapless Manuel, the waiter, and tries to shield him, not always successfully, from Mr. Fawlty’s wrath.

Manuel is from Barcelona in Spain, speaks only limited English and misunderstands even the most basic of instructions. Basil gives him a terrible time, excusing Manuel’s shortcomings to the guests by saying: ‘I’m sorry, he’s from Barcelona…!’

Permanent guests at the hotel include the marvellous old British Major Gowen, a delightful relic of World War Two who at times still thinks he’s fighting the Germans. Whatever you tell him, he’ll have forgotten in seconds. It’s guaranteed. Miss Ursula Gatsby and Miss Abitha Tibbs are two lovely elderly ladies whom Basil thinks are completely dotty.

In the episode entitled A TOUCH OF CLASS, Basil’s crashing snobbery comes to the fore as he lavishly welcomes to the hotel a certain Lord Melbury, played by Michael Gwynn (VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED).

He fawns over the toff in the usual sycophantic manner he reserves for doctors and the aristocrats of the world, everyone he considers to be a cut above the usual ‘rubbish we get in here.’ When Lord Melbury turns out to be not quite whom he says he is, Basil will only have himself to blame…

In THE BUILDERS, we see Basil using Mr. O’Reilly’s cut-price but vastly inferior construction company to carry out repairs to the hotel while he and Sybil take a short break away. This is strictly in contravention to Sybil’s direct instructions. Sybil wants Basil to use Mr. Stubbs’s outfit, because even though they cost a little more, they’ll do the job properly.

But as usual, Basil thinks he knows best. He’s a cheapskate as well as a snob, so he goes with O’Reilly, played by Irish actor David Kelly. Let’s just hope they’re using an iron girder and not a wooden one, eh?

Basil has a curiously closed-minded but maybe typically British attitude to, ahem, sex. In THE WEDDING PARTY, he flees the attentions of a flirtatious Frenchwoman and mistakes an innocent family get-together at the hotel for a sexual free-for-all. Naturally, he makes a total arse of himself and grudgingly complies when Sybil tells him he has to put right his mistake.

Although when a young man is looking for a chemist that’s still open for business in the late evening, maybe one can’t help but make the same mistake that the uptight, strangely moralistic Basil Fawlty makes, lol.

In THE HOTEL INSPECTORS, Basil makes another series of near-fatal faux pas when he mistakes both a humble but extremely fussy spoon salesman (Bernard Cribbins) and an outboard motors salesman (James Cossins) for the hotel inspectors that have been spotted plying their trade in the various hotels around town.

Basil wastes valuable time licking these two gentlemen’s boots when, as Sybil could have told him, just a little common courtesy to every guest, regardless of social status, would have seen him right. This episode has some brilliant quotes:

‘The wine has reacted with the cork and gone bad!’

‘I thought Boff was a locale…!’

‘You were RUDE, Mr. Fawlty, I say RUDE…!’ 

‘No, it would NOT be possible to reserve the BBC2 channel from the commencement of its (the TV programme’s) beginning to the termination of its ending, thank you so much…!’

GOURMET NIGHT sees Basil’s lovely specialist evening of classy gourmet dining ruined by a drunken chef. ‘He’s soused… the herrings! He’s potted… the shrimps! He’s smashed… the eggs… in his cups… under the table…!’

Basil’s ham-fisted attempts to put things right see his unreliable old jalopy getting ‘a damned good thrashing’ (SpecSavers, anyone?), Manuel wearing a cooked duck as a slipper and a quartet of local aristocracy being forcefully treated to an impromptu variety show courtesy of Manuel, Polly and Sybil. ‘Fancy putting no riff-raff…!’

THE GERMANS is a classic episode that’s actually given rise to the phrase ‘Don’t mention the war!’ A party of Germans arrive at the hotel only to be baited horribly about their country’s part in World War Two by a concussed Basil.

Who or what has concussed him? Why, it was the moose, of course. Who else? ‘You naughty moose!’ And let’s not forget: ‘Don’t mention the war! I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it alright.’

In COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS, Basil- or should that be K.C. Watt?- combines the forbidden joys of betting (‘That’s right, dear, that particular avenue of pleasure has been closed off to me.’) with trying to deal with the most disagreeable old lady guest. She’s extremely hard of hearing and dissatisfied with everything in the hotel.

‘I mean, what do you expect to see out of a Torquay bedroom window? Sydney Opera House, perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? A herd of wildebeest sweeping majestically (across the plains)…?’

In THE PSYCHIATRIST, Basil freaks out when he discovers that the titular psychiatrist is staying at the hotel. Fiercely unwilling to be ‘analysed’ and found wanting, his attempts to remain strictly innocuous in the shrink’s eyes fail disastrously when he thinks that a heavily- medallioned and hairy-chested guest has smuggled a woman into his room, contrary to the strict rules of the hotel. ‘There’s enough material there for an entire conference.’

WALDORF SALAD is another hilarious classic episode. Basil runs afoul of a rich American businessman with an overpowering personality when he reveals he doesn’t know how to make a Waldorf salad, the businessman’s starter of choice. Erm, this letter explains everything…

By the end of the episode, the businessman has riled up the other guests into a state of mutiny against the hotel’s habitually shoddy service. When Basil huffily quits the hotel and returns as a ‘guest,’ what else would he be requiring for his breakfast-in-bed but a ‘Waldorf salad, washed down with lashings of hot screwdriver…?’

THE KIPPER AND THE CORPSE sees Basil tearing madly around the hotel trying to hide the corpse of a guest who’s died in the night. Why all the secrecy? Well, Basil thinks that the hotel’s breakfast kippers are what’s done for the rather anaemic-looking Mr. Leeman, and he’s afraid that the hotel will be ruined if word gets out. Let’s hope that Geoffrey Palmer, playing a doctor who really wants his sausages, can shed some light on the situation…

In THE ANNIVERSARY, Basil’s pitiful attempts to pretend to Sybil that he’s forgotten their fifteenth wedding anniversary lead to Sybil’s storming out of the hotel just as her surprise anniversary party is supposed to kick off. Basil tried to be too clever and now he’s got to pay the price for his little ‘joke.’

Roger the shit-stirring guest thinks that ‘they’ve had a row and she’s refused to come down,’ but Sybil’s not even in the hotel. So who’s that in Sybil’s bed then, waving and nodding and smiling like the Queen, with puffy thighs and foaming mouth and severe laryngitis? Well, to quote Roger again, ‘who wants to go to something fun when you can come to one of Basil’s dos?’ Floor-crisps, anyone? Una Stubbs co-stars in this one as Roger’s wife.

BASIL THE RAT is particularly close to my heart because we keep Syrian hamsters, which are real, genuine bona-fide hammies, unlike Manuel’s so-called ‘Siberian hamster,’ which has a tail and is clearly a giant rat, lol. Real hammies do not have tails. This fact is indisputable.

He’s cute, though, is Basil the Rat, only the Health Inspector might not think so when the furry little fella turns up in the biscuits during an extremely important inspection of the hotel… 

FLOWERY TOWELS is not at all politically correct by today’s standards. There’s blatant sexism in it, strong violence against a Spanish waiter, a slight touch of homophobia and rather a load of casual racism as well. The latter two mostly come courtesy of Major Gowen, an otherwise immensely lovable character.

He says the things he does because it was probably acceptable to do so at the time, but of course now times have changed. Nowadays, of course, you couldn’t say things like ‘you’re the rat inspector’ without being peppered full of buckshot by the PC Brigade…!

I wonder if people hold Fawlty Towers festivals the way they hold Father Ted festivals? People would pay good money, I’m sure, to stay in a mock-up version of Fawlty Towers and be grossly insulted by their hotel manager and receive poor service during their stay. That’s a good business idea for anyone with the wherewithal to set it up. I might even stay there myself sometime. I’ll bring my own batteries though…

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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HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S 1982 SCRIPT-BOOK REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

house shadows papa and victoria

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: THE SCREENPLAY. (1982) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘Room for every nightmare… A nightmare in every room…’

The opening passage is lifted directly from Michael Armstrong’s own website and I think it describes his work better than I ever could, but I’ve been asked to say a few words myself in promotion of this fantastic new collection of books that he’s putting out, therefore I will now proceed to say several. Words, that is. Give me an inch and I’ll almost certainly take a mile. I’m a pushy broad and, anyway, there’s actually a lot to say about the man and his works.

Michael Armstrong (there’s a really cute photo of him on the back covers of all the books) is the screenwriter/director behind a load of films that you guys probably already know quite well. Some of you may even know his name already but, for others, this may be your first time hearing it.

Unlikely, as this rather prolific and obviously hard-working fella’s been penning film scripts for over fifty years, but you never know. Some folks who’ve been on Mars since the turn of the last century may need to be filled in on all the developments in the film industry since they’ve been ‘off-planet,’ so to speak…!

So, if you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

Michael Armstrong’s writing is an absolute treat to read. Reading the pictures he paints with his words, as it were, is not much different to seeing them played out in front of you on the cinema screen.

I read the script of HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS on a dreary Monday morning when I was supposed to be doing boring housework. It was a more than acceptable alternative, I can assure you.

While I was reading it, I first amused and then annoyed the hell out of the family members present by constantly bursting out with: ‘They actually say this in the film! This is in the film, and this is in the film, and Christopher Lee actually DOES this in the film!’ And so on until they threw the book at me. The book and several cushions and a plastic sheep to boot. I said no more from then on, humph. I sulked royally and kept my additional (m)utterings to myself.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, the film-script book of which features a darling haunted house on the cover, wasn’t just a great slice of ‘Eighties horror hokum. It had the distinction of being the first and, as it turned out, the only film to ever feature the four greatest horror icons of all time all together, namely, the aforementioned Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and John Carradine as well. Horror royalty, every last one of ’em.

There was a great supporting cast starring alongside the lads as well, people like Desi Arnaz Jr., Sheila Keith, a smashing horror icon in her own right, and Julie Peasgood, you know, ‘er off BROOKSIDE. She played Fran Pearson in the early ‘Nineties.

I loved a nice bit of Brookie, I did, on a Sat’day afternoon back in the day. Eatin’ me dinner while the Omnibus was on the telly, like. I’m imagining these words in a Scouser accent, by the way, so you’d better be too, or I’ll ‘ave ta tell ya to do one, as it were. Quaite.

Anyway, Michael based his marvellous screenplay on the 1913 novel, SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE by the curiously named Earl Derr Biggers. (Incidentally, he was the writer of the Charlie Chan detective novels, so obviously he loved a good juicy mystery.) It’s the story of a young American novelist who holes up at the titular Baldpate Manor to speed-write a book in order to win a bet with his agent.

Baldpate Manor is in fact a magnificent old Welsh mansion that’s supposed to be deserted, the perfect oasis of peace in which to do some serious writing. Supposed to be deserted. In fact, it ends up being more populated than the post office on dole day, and the baffled novelist will have a hell of a job getting any writing at all done with all the famous faces popping up there continuously to distract him from his goal.

The script may have been based on someone else’s novel, but the little tributes and homages and nods in it to various other iconic horror movies like PSYCHO and THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER are all Michael’s idea and no-one else’s. His writing really sets a scene for the reader too. Here’s a passage in which the novelist, Kenneth, and the damsel-in-distress Mary (‘er off Brookie), are entering the fabulous old dining-room of Baldpate Manor:

‘They enter the dining-room and stare in amazement.

The enormous room is brilliantly illuminated by candles.

The long polished table is formally laid out: cut-glass and silver, sparkling royally.

By the fire: GRISBANE and VICTORIA and the mysterious figure of SEBASTIAN; a slight, gaunt-faced man in his sixties, wearing a wing collar and a dark suit.

The three of them are gathered in a conspiratorial huddle. They break quickly, like naughty children caught out. KENNETH stares in amazement at the scene before him.’

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: PAGES 73-74.

I don’t know about you guys, but I can totally picture that scene in my mind’s eye. I’m moving now to the scene where the motley crew enter Roderick’s room for the first time. I won’t tell you just yet who Roderick (perhaps I should say ‘Wodewick?’) is but, after reading these lines from the script, I reckon you’ll be bursting to know.

‘A silence hovers over the room as they move slowly about, looking in amazement at its bizarre sights: clues to Roderick’s warped mind.

A toy fort on the floor, laid out as for a savage battle…

Scores of soldiers scattered around as though dead; all horribly mutilated,

The aftermath of an imagined massacre.

MARY gives an involuntary shudder as she spies in the corner of the room…

Piles of small animal bones neatly arranged into heaps,

Skeletons of dead rats and mice…

Hundreds of tiny white bones glinting in the candlelight:

Tiny white bones picked clean.

KENNETH glances behind him to notice the back of the bedroom door…

Down which enormous scratch marks can be seen…

Indicating the powerful fury of strong fingernails having clawed deeply

Into the dark oak wood.

VICTORIA indicates a narrow panel at the bottom of the door.

VICTORIA: I’d slide food into him through there… every night…

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: PAGES 105-106.

Cripes! Fair sent a shiver down my spine, that did, when I read it there in black and white. It’s every bit as effective as the corresponding scenes in the film, if not more so. Sometimes, when you read something really chilling, your mind works overtime visualising the scene and you do a better job yourself than the film-maker, almost.

It looks like Kenneth, the successful writer from America, isn’t going to get much work done in good old Baldpate Manor over this particular weekend. When the house is at its fullest, it contains the grim-faced Papa Grisbane and his daughter Victoria (Sheila Keith), his two sons Lionel (Vincent Price) and Sebastian (Peter Cushing), the posh rich property developer Mr. Corrigan (Christopher Lee) and the warring young couple (played by Louise English and Richard Hunter) who’ve lost their way while hiking.

Then, of course, there’s Kenneth the writer himself and also the blonde and bubbly Mary, his publisher Sam’s secretary. At least, that’s who she says she is, anyway. Sam the publisher (Richard Todd) even makes an appearance at Baldpate Manor at one point, and then there’s also the ever-present, rather sinister shadow of Roderick Grisbane.

Roderick (Wodewick!) is the one strangely absent family member who appears to have slipped through the rather gaping cracks in the family infrastructure somehow. And yet he’s tied up inexplicably in the reasons for the family’s converging upon Baldpate Manor on this particular night, this grim anniversary for which only the Grisbanes know the grisly reason.

What horrors lie behind Roderick’s stoutly locked bedroom door in the upper floors of the ramshackle old manor house and, once they are revealed, can the Family Grisbane withstand the after-shocks? Not to mention where all this intense Grisbane family stuff leaves Kenneth and Mary, the two truly innocent bystanders? Or are they? Truly innocent, I mean? I wouldn’t bet on it, dear readers. I wouldn’t bet on it…

In the extra features on the DVD of HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, Michael Armstrong reminisces fondly, alongside ‘er offa BROOKIE, about the making of the film. He talks so passionately and enthusiastically about it that it’s lovely to see. He comes across as the kind of guy who’d sit chatting to you in the pub about films till the cows come home, or the landlord calls time, whichever comes first.

So that’s it, anyway. I’ve said way more than the few words I was asked for but whatevs, it was an interesting subject and I enjoyed myself. Michael’s books can be purchased through his website and from Paper Dragon Productions, Michael’s publishers, and they’d make the perfect present for film buffs and students of cinema everywhere. I’m keeping mine for myself, however. Ain’t no-one but me getting their hands on these babies…!

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS. (1983) SCREENPLAY BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG. FILM REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

House shadows big 4

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS. (1983) DIRECTED BY PETER WALKER. PRODUCED BY MENAHEM GOLAN AND YORAM GLOBUS. SCREENPLAY BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG. BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE’ BY EARL DERR BIGGERS. MUSIC BY RICHARD HARVEY.

STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, PETER CUSHING, VINCENT PRICE, JOHN CARRADINE, SHEILA KEITH, JULIE PEASGOOD, DESI ARNAZ JR., RICHARD TODD, LOUISE ENGLISH AND RICHARD HUNTER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘Room for every nightmare… A nightmare in every room…’

Aw, I love this marvellous old gothic horror-comedy film, famous for starring four of the most iconic horror legends of all time. Namely, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine, the daddy of Bobby, Keith, Bruce and David and the founding member of what you might like to call the Carradine acting dynasty.

The screenplay was penned by Michael Armstrong, a screen-writer whose luxurious script-books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing over the last year or so. As the blurb above says, he’s actually publishing his entire screen-writing output in physical book form, and the books are utterly gorgeous. As I think I’ve remarked in another review of his work, they’re greatly improving the look of my personal library.

The film itself was shot in Rotherfield Park, an absolutely fabulous manor house in rural Hampshire in England. It’s the ‘House Of The Long Shadows’ all right, lit by guttering candles, furnished with all manner (all manor?!) of wonderfully gothic bits and pieces and riddled with tunnels and secret underground passages and tower bedrooms atop the winding staircases without which no self-respecting haunted house would be seen dead, as it were.

It’s the perfect setting for this darkly comic murder mystery movie set in Wales, in the house known as ‘Baldpate Manor’ to the taciturn locals. The film-makers, in fact, couldn’t have found a better, more atmospheric place in which to weave their cinematic web of lies, intrigue, deceit, betrayal, a little bit of lust and a giant dollop of honest-to-goodness tongue-in-cheek humour. It’s a film well worth your time and effort.

The four horror greats ham it up wonderfully as members of an ancient aristocratic family known as the Grisbanes. They’ve all converged on the magnificent old mansion house in the middle of a terrible thunderstorm to commemorate a grim and grisly deed that took place in the house forty years ago on this very night. It turns out to be a momentous family reunion…

John Carradine (1906-1988) plays the oh-so-prim-and-proper English paterfamilias, complete with one of those terrific old velvety smoking caps with the tassels hanging down from them that you don’t see anymore.

Despite the fact that, as we see in the film, he’s actually committed a rather dreadful crime, he’s a real stickler for the more pettifogging rules and regulations regarding manners and etiquette. He even calls other men ‘Sirrah!’ when he’s giving ’em a bollocking, lol. How posh is that?

His two sons Lionel and Sebastian are played by Vincent Price (1911-1993), who camps it up as theatrically as only he could do (‘I have returned…!), and a touchingly old-looking and humorously-lithping Peter Cushing (1913-1994).

He calls his brother Roderick his bwother Wodewick! According to the film’s back-story, Peter Cushing came up with the idea of the ‘lithp’ himself and the screen-writer Michael Armstrong was delighted with the actor’s little improvised bit of characterisation.

Christopher Lee (1922-2015), as handsome and as forbidding as Count Dracula himself, plays an upper-class property developer called Mr. Corrigan who has gate-crashed the Grisbanes’ grisly commemoration dinner for reasons of his own.

Cult horror actress Sheila Keith (1920-2004), she of FRIGHTMARE fame, does a top-notch job of playing Victoria, the only daughter of the Grisbane family. In her stiffly-starched black dress and severe hairstyle, she’s straight out of the Victorian era and therefore utterly perfect in the role. She’s known heartache in her time too, has Victoria. ‘He DID love me, I know he did! We were to be married! Oh, Ashley, Ashley…!’ Shades of GONE WITH THE WIND, much?

Desi Arnaz Jr., himself of good Hollywood stock, plays the American writer who holes up at Baldpate Manor for a couple of days to write a completed gothic novel and thereby win a bet with his agent. A twenty-thousand-dollar bet, to be precise, and most definitely not to be sniffed at.

I’ve often longed to be able to speed-write summat myself, only to be faced with the indisputable fact that I’m more of a literary marathon-runner than a sprinter. Still, you know what they say. Slow and steady wins the race.

Julie Peasgood, the blonde actress from long-running Scouser soap opera BROOKSIDE (I used to live for it!), is cast as the essential love interest. In the lovely ninety-minute documentary that accompanies the long-awaited DVD release of this cult horror-comedy, she acknowledges how absolutely lucky, lucky, lucky she was to have been included in the one and only film project ever to have involved these four horror greats. Damn right she was lucky, lol. It was the experience of a lifetime by anyone’s standards and only a handful of people were privileged enough to receive invites, as it were, to the party.

The film, directly or indirectly, references a load of other films in an affectionate homage, everything from PSYCHO to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, from GONE WITH THE WIND (see above) to James Whale’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE. 

Not to mention just about every horror picture ever made that featured a revolving bookcase leading to a secret tunnel by which the killer could freely roam about gaining access to every room in the house and all his hapless victims, too.

The murders are terrifically gruesome and grisly and the plot twists really do come thick and fast. So much so, in fact, that to this day I still don’t understand the very final plot twist, the one that comes just as the film is ending. Never mind, though. It doesn’t really matter.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS is a superb piece of horror memorabilia that every collector should own. The four horror legends have great fun sending each other- and themselves- up, to the point where they’re almost parodying themselves and their old horror roles, and the fun they’re having really does show.

What a labour of love. What a smashing souvenir to have of a wonderful old era of film that can never come again, what a perfect- and permanent- reminder of those golden days. Watch it and love it. How could any of us horror fans do otherwise…?

Michael’s books can be purchased through his website and from Paper Dragon Productions, Michael’s publishers, and they’d make the perfect present for film buffs and students of cinema everywhere. Here are the direct links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

If you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

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 WICKER MAN. (1973) BRITAIN’S BEST HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

wicker man chop

THE WICKER MAN. (1973) DISTRIBUTED BY BRITISH LION FILMS. SCREENPLAY BY ANTHONY SCHAFFER. INSPIRED BY DAVID PINNER’S 1967 NOVEL ‘RITUAL.’

PRODUCED BY PETER SNELL. DIRECTED BY ROBIN HARDY. MUSIC BY PAUL GIOVANNI. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY HARRY WAXMAN.

STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, BRITT EKLAND, INGRID PITT, DIANE CILENTO AND EDWARD WOODWARD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Welcome, Fool. You have come of your own free will to the appointed place. The game’s over.’

‘Oh Sergeant. You’ll just never understand the true nature of sacrifice.’

‘Come. It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man.’

‘Here comes the chopper to chop off your head…’

‘And now for our more dreadful sacrifice…’

‘We carry death out of the village!’

‘That’ll make you sleep, my pretty Sergeant.’

This is a superior cult horror film by anyone’s standards. It’s deemed by many to be the best British horror film ever made- I concur- and legendary actor Christopher Lee is said to consider his performance as Lord Summerisle in the cult movie to be his finest. I graciously concur once more.

Mark Kermode, esteemed and delicious film critic, loves this film. Ditto moi-même. If I sat here for a thousand years, I couldn’t think of anything derogatory to say about the film, so yes, my review will be nothing more than a great big love-in, lol. Read on if that’s your thing.

Flawless performances by a superior cast make for mesmerising viewing. Edward Woodward of CALLAN fame plays Sergeant Neil Howie, a straight-laced, upright Christian police officer who travels to the nearby Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate a report of a missing child called Rowan Morrison from an anonymous source.

To the tune of ‘Corn Rigs’ by Paul Giovanni, Howie flies in the police seaplane over the bit of sea separating the Scottish mainland from Summerisle. (The movie was filmed in Dumfries in Scotland.) The green and rocky land looks like it hasn’t been inhabited since the time of the Druids. You immediately get the sense that something special- and dreadful- is going to happen here.

The old lads who greet Howie at the harbour are just brilliant. I wonder if they were actors or locals, some of which might well have been. ‘Have you lost your bearings, sir?’

Howie passes the photo of Rowan Morrison around amongst them and they hem-and-haw and reach into inside pockets for spectacle cases and say they’ve never seen the ‘gerril’ before in their lives, before eventually admitting that they do have a May Morrison on the island. She ‘keeps the Post Office in the High Street.’ ‘That’s not May’s daughter, though…!’

The motherly May Morrison does indeed preside over the Post Office-cum-sweet shop, whose window is filled with chocolate March hares and curious-looking cakes baked to commemorate God-knows-what kind of strange celebrations.

May is adamant that the girl in the picture is not her daughter and her ‘real’ little daughter Myrtle says that Rowan is, in fact, a hare, who ‘has a lovely time. She runs and plays in the fields all day long.’

The people of Summerisle are a mighty strange bunch in general and immediately set about leading poor old Sergeant Howie on a merry dance/wild goose chase. He is fed any number of conflicting snippets of information about Rowan Morrison, the supposedly missing child, which frustrate him no end and eventually cause him to doubt the veracity of anything he is told by these weird, insular people.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Howie is bewildered and befuddled by the apparent lack of any morals or good Christian values on the heathen island of Summerisle. Men and women engage openly in a sexual free-for-all that mortifies and horrifies the virginal Sergeant.

Men and women copulate openly on the village green at night. In the Green Man pub, where Howie is billeted for the duration of his fateful two-night stay, the regulars sing bawdy songs like ‘The Landlord’s Daughter,’ which are simply peppered with outrageous sexual innuendo.

Virginal young men are sent to the bedroom of Willow McGregor, the actual landlord’s daughter, for sexual deflowering and initiation. Gently now, Johnny! No-one, not the villagers, not even Alder McGregor, her gnome-like little father, bats an eye at such flagrantly unabashed conduct.

You see, the islanders on Summerisle worship what they call ‘the old gods,’ the gods of the sun and the gods of the sea and the goddess of the fields, and they don’t attend any kind of church services, even supposing they had any working churches in which to hold them. Their churches are in ruins and their grounds allowed to run wild. ‘Minister?’ repeats the Old Grave-digger-Gardener incredulously, before lapsing into mad fits of laughter at Howie’s ignorance.

There is a deliciously pagan feel to the film that quite simply transports the viewer back a thousand years to more primitive, godless ancient times. Young women, under the supervision of Miss Rose the school-teacher, dance naked around open fires in the hopes of being made fertile. (‘They do love their divinity lessons…’)

Schoolchildren- Miss Rose again!- are taught to ‘venerate the penis’ because that is the source of all life. Makes sense, I suppose, but do they have to rub it in like that? The islanders are encouraged to ‘appease’ their gods with sacrifices in order to ensure a plentiful harvest of apples, the main source of industry and income on Summerisle.

Howie has a big spat with Miss Rose about the way the schoolchildren are taught such things. She succeeds in completely bamboozling him with her skilful double-talk and innuendo and the clever way she has of never fully answering any of his questions. He becomes quite frustrated with her, and she’s not the only islander to so flummox him.

The people in the pub, as well as the good folks down at the school, swear they’ve never seen hide nor hair of a person called Rowan Morrison. The Old Grave-digger-Gardener says that the piece of skin hanging over one of the graves is ‘the poor wee lass’s (Rowan’s) navel-string,’ and ‘where else would it be but hung on her own little tree?’ The doctor who filled out Rowan’s death certificate says she was ‘burnt to death, like my lunch will be if I stand here talking to you.’

So, does Rowan Morrison exist or does she not? Do the villagers know her or not? Did she die or did she not? Is she buried somewhere or is she not? Howie rightly feels like he’s going insane. Everywhere he turns, he finds conflicting information. Come to that, did last year’s crops fail or did they not? And what does that have to do with the missing girl?

Christopher Lee puts on a show-stopping performance as the devastatingly handsome and aristocratic Lord Summerisle, lord of all he surveys and unquestioned leader of his people.

He is perfectly supported by three beautiful blonde females in the shape of Diane Cilento as Miss Rose, Ingrid Pitt as the Librarian and Britt Ekland as Willow McGregor. Ask Britt what she thought of the weather in Dumfries during the shooting of the film, by the way. Go on, ask her!

Lord Summerisle, tall and wild-haired and obviously sexually charismatic, condones all the naked dancing-over-fires and sexual permissiveness on the island. ‘Have these children never heard of Jesus?’ a horrified Howie demands of him.

Howie is quite simply flabbergasted by all the ‘fake biology’ and ‘fake religion’ and the bizarre Celtic paganism he observes going on around him. He won’t get any joy from Lord Summerisle. Jesus? ‘Himself the son of a virgin, impregnated, I believe, by a ghost.’ The strait-laced Howie nearly explodes with anger.

You’ll find out exactly what Lord Summerisle thinks of Howie’s devotion to the Christian religion in his monologue- ‘I think I could turn and live with animals’- outside Willow’s bedroom window while the snails are copulating.

This scene was butchered for the original theatrical release and Christopher Lee was rightly angry about this because the lazy, languorous, almost sensuous movement of the snails on the stalks exactly mirrors those of Willow and Ash Buchanan and is a metaphor for their off-camera coupling, which we hear but don’t see.

Lord Summerisle’s grandfather was the man who, in Victorian times, first grew the famous Summerisle apples on the island, availing himself of the handy soil conditions and the warm Gulf Stream to do so.

He was also the man who brought back ‘the old gods’ to the people, the gods of nature, and now Lord Summerisle carries on the tradition with all the gusto of his male ancestor. Nature is acting up, is she, getting all pissy? Chuck her a sacrifice. A chicken, a keg of ale, a human being, depending on the severity of the crisis.

Are you beginning to see where this is going? The horror mounts as the all-important Mayday celebrations approach and, by the time Sergeant Howie finally discovers exactly why he’s been summoned to Summerisle, the viewer is staring wide-eyed at the screen, appalled both at the poor man’s fate and at the knowledge that he’s not the first to which such things have happened and he may not even be the last.

The lead actors and actresses are wonderful, but the villagers are all so memorable too. The mighty Oak, who thrusts and dry-humps behind the petite blonde Willow during the pub rendition of ‘The Landlord’s Daughter.’

The harbour-master who from the outset proclaims himself as completely untrustworthy. The gentle, mild-mannered little Apothecary, who can’t remember if the ‘gerril’ in last year’s harvest festival was Rowan or not.

The hairdresser, whose blank but smug stare at Howie during his house-to-house search proclaims that she knows way more about Rowan Morrison than she’s letting on. Broome, the laird’s smirking manservant. The schoolteacher, who sings lewd songs about procreation to his pupils.

And, of course, we have the head-wrecking May Morrison herself, who might or might not be party to the terrible fate in store for her daughter, Rowan. If she’s even May’s daughter, that is. Howie still doesn’t know.

I can’t finish without mentioning Willow’s Dance, the one that’s designed to seduce the sexually uptight Howie, who’s still a virgin, if you please, despite the fact that he’s engaged to a nice wee girl from his church called Mary. ‘She’ll spend more time on her knees in church than on her back in bed…!’ That’s only the postman’s opinion, of course, lol. You don’t want to listen to him.

Howie is sorely tempted by Willow’s wild naked dancing. ‘How a maid can milk a bull, and every stroke a bucketful…’ He suffers agonies of temptation, in fact. Britt Ekland, whose Scandinavian accent was dubbed in the film, apparently only agreed to being topless in this iconic dance scene, but a body double was used for the lower body without her knowledge. To this day, she won’t sign photos of that other woman’s ‘big fat ass…!’

My favourite scenes? Howie in the deserted and decaying churchyard, fashioning a rough cross out of two sticks, watched by a breastfeeding young mother. Christopher Lee expertly playing a few bars of piano music while Miss Rose’s girls jump naked over the fire.

Howie doing his house-to-house search and ‘accidentally’ coming upon the truly beautiful Ingrid Pitt in her bath. Lord Summerisle prancing and cavorting down the road in his Cher wig and Laird-issue sneakers as if he were born to do it.

The swordsmen cavorting in the final, dreadful procession. Britt and Ingrid ‘anointing’ a shell-shocked Howie with their long hair. The first terrible sighting of You-Know-Who. The singing and swaying at the end. The huge structure collapsing into the sea while the blazing red sun goes down.

A word about the fabulous, fabulous music. Performed by the specially-formed folk-rock group Magnet, it’s seriously sexy and complements the action beautifully. I’m being totally serious when I say that I can never hear the opening strains of ‘Gently, Johnny’ without wanting to rip all my own clothes off and engage in the wildest, hottest, most primeval sexual activity imaginable with Christopher Lee. Ahem. Just watch the film. You’ll see what I mean…

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

OLIVER TWIST. (1948) A MOVIE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

fagin

OLIVER TWIST. (1948) BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY DAVID LEAN.

STARRING ALEC GUINNESS, ROBERT NEWTON, KAY WALSH, HENRY STEPHENSON, FRANCIS LOFTUS SULLIVAN, MARY CLARE ABSALOM, DIANA DORS AND JOHN HOWARD DAVIES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘It’s the old story… no wedding ring…’

Okay, so we’re probably all agreed that Lionel Bart’s 1968 musical version of this story is the best one. Wonderful songs like FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD, CONSIDER YOURSELF, YOU’VE GOT TO PICK A POCKET OR TWO, I AM REVIEWING THE SITUATION and OOMPA-PAH have been belting out of peoples’ tellies every Christmas for the last fifty-odd years. It’s a flawless film, the kind of film that gives musicals a good name.

But this 1948 re-telling of the Dickens classic is a proper corker too, even if the cast doesn’t burst into full-throated song every five minutes, lol. Its opening scenes are magnificently atmospheric in a dark brooding kind of way and deal with a subject that’s only implied in the musical version, that is to say, the arrival of Oliver’s beautiful young mother at the workhouse across the moors in the middle of a thunderstorm.

She’s already in labour and in terrible distress, both physically and emotionally. She gives birth to the child in the company of an ancient crone and a doctor, then ‘takes one look at ‘im (Oliver) and promptly dies,’ as the marvellous Harry Secombe as Mr. Bumble informs us in the musical version.

She is wearing an expensive locket that would lead to her highborn identity- and her child’s- being uncovered and to Oliver’s being restored to his wealthy and caring blood relatives, if it were brought to the attention of the proper authorities.

But the locket is unfortunately stolen by the old crone who attends the miserable workhouse birth, and so Oliver is brought up ‘on the parish’ like any other wretched orphaned waif. Poor kid.

Francis Loftus Sullivan was born to play a beadle. He’s brilliant here as Mr. Bumble, the workhouse official who places Oliver Twist with the undertaker Sowerberry after Oliver draws the short straw, asks for more chow at dinner-time and gets ejected from the workhouse after due consideration by the gluttons- sorry, by the gentlemen- of the Board.

The apprenticeship at the undertakers’ goes tits-up when Oliver runs afoul of Noah Claypole, Mr. Sowerberry’s nasty little assistant. A very young blonde-bombshell-in-waiting Diana Dors plays Charlotte, the Sowerberry’s slatternly maid, by the way. She’s already a beautiful woman, though this role’s not quite as glamorous as some of her later ones…!

Oliver, as we all know by now, runs away to London and falls in with Fagin the Fence, the vile receiver of stolen goods and corruptor of London’s youth, and his little band of pickpockets, cut-throats and thieves. Alex Guinness does a top job as Fagin, the Jewish miser whose huge hooked nose, straggly beard and voluminous rags all proclaim him to be a scoundrel of the first water.

He sends his boys, the Artful Dodger and Charlie and all the lads, out into the metropolis each day- ‘Cheerio but be back soon!- to rob and pilfer wallets, jewellery, silk handkerchieves and whatever other gew-gaws and fol-de-rols the toffs of London might be carrying about their exalted persons. He sells on the stuff and keeps most of the proceeds for himself, the scallywag.

When the green-as-grass and scrupulously honest Oliver is taken out for the first time with the Artful Dodger and Charlie and he sees them robbing an old gentleman, Oliver gets the blame and finds himself up before the Beak or Magistrate. And no, a Beak ain’t a bird’s mouf…!

The old gentleman who was robbed, however, a courtly old toff called Mr. Brownlow, is kindly disposed towards the sick and ill-treated Oliver and takes him home to live with him. It’s a strange but fortuitous ‘twist’ of Fate- lol- that will eventually lead to the discovery of the truth about Oliver’s true parentage.

Fagin and his band of villains and thieves, including the housebreaker and all-round bad guy Bill Sykes and his girlfriend Nancy, are all up in arms about Oliver’s new circumstances. What, Oliver taken? This is a disaster!

What if he peaches, blows, squeals, snitches on the gang and reveals their names and whereabouts to the law? They’d all be for the drop. (This is how they described the jolly process of being hanged.) ‘If the game were up with me, Bill, I fear it would be up with a great many more besides, and it would go rather worse with you than it would with me…’

Fagin puts the fear of God into Bill Sykes. Bill resolves to get the troublesome Oliver back at any cost, even though the kindlier and more compassionate Nancy, with a heart as big as all-outdoors, would prefer to leave the poor child where he is. One day, the couple see Oliver out walking by himself, running an errand for Mr. Brownlow. It’s only a matter of minutes before he’s back in the clutches of the gang and the die is cast…

The marriage of the pompous but not entirely heartless Mr. Bumble to the horrible Mrs. Corney, the self-serving, cold-hearted auld Bitch-With-A-Capital-B who runs the older folks’ workhouse, is both a source of mirth and terror.

Imagine ending up in a marriage as awful, as abusive and utterly joyless as this one. ‘If that’s what the law believes, then the law is an ass! The law is a bachelor, and the most I would wish for it is that its eyes would be opened by experience, Sir. By experience!’

Poor Nancy shares the same fate as the Nancy in the musical version, but it somehow seems grimmer and more dreadful here in stark black-and-white. There’s a very poignant moment when, after the terrible deed is done, Bill Sykes is looking round their bedroom at all the little things that were Nancy’s, her hairbrush and perfume bottles and powder puffs and her side of the bed.

There is something very poignant about someone’s belongings after they’ve passed on. Remember Vera Duckworth fondling dear old Jack Duck-Egg’s spectacles after his death in CORONATION STREET? The whole of Britain and Ireland were reaching for their hankies…!

The book goes one better and portrays Bill Sykes as being most dreadfully haunted by the ghost of the murdered woman after he does what he does. He flees to the countryside after the murder but is so tormented, both by what he’s done and also by the spectral sightings that chill his blood, that he ends up returning to the city, hue-and-cry or no hue-and-cry. Better the devil you know, eh, Billy Boy…?

I love the scene in the film where Nancy’s talking in secret with Mr. Brownlow on the very steps that lead down to the mighty Thames, while the Artful Dodger is concealed, listening for all he’s worth, just around the corner. This super-atmospheric scene is also in the book, though not in the musical version.

Want to hear some random facts about the 1948 film? Kay Walsh who plays Nancy was married to David Lean, the director. David Lean also directed the superb 1946 film version of Charles Dickens’s ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS,’ starring John Mills as Pip, Valerie Hobson (THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, WEREWOLF OF LONDON) as Estella and Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham.

Mary Clare Absalom who plays the awful Mrs. Corney was an absolutely stunning beauty in her youth, and was also a stage actress and silent movie star. Kathleen Harrison, Mrs. Sowerberry, also plays the charwoman Mrs. Dilber opposite Alastair Sim in the superb 1951 film version of SCROOGE. 

The film’s producer, Robert Neame, was the father of Hammer actor Christopher Neame, who plays Johnny Alucard, Dracula’s little bitch, in DRACULA AD 1972, opposite Christopher Lee. Hattie Jacques from the CARRY ON movies has a cameo role here as a singer in the Three Cripples tavern.

Finally, Alec Guinness’s performance and make-up as Fagin caused great offence in certain circles, especially the outrageously oversized hooked ‘Jewish’ nose, because it was all thought to be desperately anti-Semitic. Not a cool thing to be accused of in the very recent aftermath of the Holocaust, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

John Howard Davies makes a great Oliver, just as good as if not better than Mark Lester from the musical version. This black-and-white version is overall of terrific quality and the equal of the musical, but you just can’t beat those familiar old songs. All together now: ‘As long as ‘e needs me…’

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

 

FANGS AND FOREPLAY… THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF DRACULA- 3 EROTIC HORROR NOVELLAS BY SANDRA HARRIS FREE TO DOWNLOAD FROM TODAY UNTIL FRIDAY!!!

sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris

public domain anna vampire

BOOK ONE: So, you thought that the Victorians just spent their time quietly drinking tea and genteelly repressing their innermost desires, did you? Well, you were WRONG! The household of the wealthy Carfax family is a hotbed of deliciously deviant carnality and vampire sex. The beautiful Lady Anna Carfax is abducted by none other than Count Dracula himself and is treated to the sexual awakening of a lifetime, or should that be undead-time…? The rest of the Carfax family, servants definitely included, are in and out of each others’ bedchambers like rats up the proverbial drainpipe. Even Sherlock Holmes and Jack The Ripper make an appearance in this shockingly scandalous paranormal sex-and-spanking romp set in Victorian times. It’s inspired by the late great Christopher Lee’s smoulderingly sexy performance as Count Dracula in the Hammer Horror films, and you’d have to be undead from the neck up to miss out on…

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THE DARK (2018) and WHISPERS (2015): A PAIR OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

whispers catherine

THE DARK (2018) and WHISPERS (2015): A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I watched these two modern horror movies back-to-back yesterday and, while I enjoyed the break and found them both entertaining enough, they’ve got a few flaws as well that kept me from enjoying ’em wholeheartedly.

THE DARK would have been better called ‘THE DEVIL’S DEN,’ as that’s the part of the forest in America where the action all takes place. That’s not really a flaw though, just a matter of opinion, lol.

A lot of horror movies today have such generic, similar-sounding titles that it actually makes them hard to find when you go to look for them online. That’s one major grouse I have with the horror films of today.

Like, how many movies are called THE WOODS, INTO THE WOODS, BEHIND THE WOODS, WHAT’S IN THE WOODS?, DON’T GO IN THE WOODS, STAY OUTTA THE WOODS, I TOLD YOU NOT TO GO NEAR THE WOODS, THE DARK WOODS, IF YOU GO DOWN TO THE WOODS TODAY, THE HAUNTED WOODS, CABIN IN THE WOODS, CABIN IN THE HAUNTED WOODS and so on. Makes ’em very difficult to Wikipedia. Film-makers, take note…!

Anyway, THE DARK is the story of a kidnapper called Josef, who takes an abducted boy called Alex into the woods that locals say is cursed by the vengeful ghost of a girl who died near there years before.

The kidnapper expertly locates an old abandoned house in the woods with which he seems to have a connection, but we never find out what that is, disappointingly. Instead, he gets himself bumped off straightaway by the so-called ‘entity’ that haunts the woods.

A bond forms between the kidnapped boy Alex and the teenage girl who’s been living in the grotty old abandoned house, the girl that locals say is the ‘ghost.’ She’s been living rough in the house, eating whatever scraps of food she can scrounge and drawing dozens of pictures of scary faces, for which she’d need to have an endless supply of art stuff, but let’s gloss over how come she’s so well-equipped in the artistic department, shall we, when she hasn’t got two cents to rub together…?

Both kids have been horrifically physically abused by the grown-ups in their lives, to the point where their ruined faces are actually hard to look at for too long. We never find out why Josef the Kidnapper has done what he’s done to poor Alex, which is a huge swizz. And what exactly was he intending to do with him when he got him alone in the cabin? Maybe it doesn’t exactly bear thinking about.

Mina’s back-story- that’s the wild girl- is shown in graphic detail in flashback and it’s truly terrible. Terrible what’s been done to her, that is. The film seems to have many plotholes, though, that do detract from your enjoyment of it, and the ending leaves you with more unanswered questions than one of Ireland’s many tribunals. Yes, yes, that money was only resting in your account, I’m sure, lol. I believe you, thousands wouldn’t. Verdict on THE DARK? Unsatisfactory and hard to stomach.

WHISPERS is gorgeous to look at because the film-makers have had the use of the most magnificent country house and grounds to film in. The plot, however, is all over the place. It’s supposed to be the story of a young couple, called Catherine and Harvey Caldwell, who’ve lost their daughter and who’ve come to the countryside to grieve and work on their failing marriage.

All that makes perfect sense, or would if the film-makers hadn’t put in this mad bit in the beginning from when the woman of the couple was supposedly a child. She has a ‘painted harlot’ for a mother and an eccentric madwoman for a granny. (You’ve heard of LOVE IN AN ELEVATOR? Now meet GRAN IN AN (unexplained) ELEVATOR…!)

The child appears to be evil, or to have an evil doll. Either way, a small boy is murdered in his bath, and only the little girl and her decidedly odd, affection-shunning Granny attend the funeral. Who is this boy and why- and by whom- was he killed? It’s never explained.

Now Catherine (played by former Page 3 stunna Keeley Hazell), the little girl, is all grown up and married to Harvey, who looks like he might be Danny O’Donohue from The Script’s slightly uglier brother.

In the magnificent country house where they’re meant to be recuperating from the death of their daughter, Catherine keeps hearing her child’s voice and one of the rooms keeps turning into a nursery, complete with lavish crib, whenever she walks into it.

The husband wants them to get over their grief together and make their marriage work, but Catherine’s too far gone down the road of paranoia and despair. A Little Grudge Girl- a girl in a white shift with long black hair covering her face- is everywhere in the house, locking Catherine in the wine cellar and generally being menacing. Who the bloody hell is she? Is she the evil spirit of Catherine’s ratty, tatty childhood doll that got destroyed? Damned if I know.

When, oh when, will film-makers stop bringing the Little Grudge Girl into every single horror film they make? I’m so sick and tired of seeing these Girls trudge silently, head-down, lank hair trailing like the hems of their white nighties, between the rooms of a house and looking out of windows. As a horror movie trope, it’s well worn out by now. It doesn’t even really work any more.

And when, by the way, will it be possible once more to watch a horror film that doesn’t have kids in it? It seems like there are kids in every single bloody horror film that comes out nowadays.

The girls are all cute and over-sexualised, with long brownish-blonde hair and red rosebud mouths and the boys aren’t much different. They all have long floppy hair too and full, over-emphasised lips, just like the girls. Lay off the kids, will ya, guys, and give the horror genre back to the adults who are old enough to stay up after the watershed to watch the damn films…? 

Simon and Sasha, friends of Catherine’s husband’s, come to stay at the house for a bit. Which is odd, because weren’t the Caldwell couple supposed to be recovering from their grief together, alone and in peace? Why the feck would you invite friends to stay at a time like that? Especially such high-maintenance friends as Simon and his sexy supermodel of a significant other.

Simon has an hilarious spiv moustache and his foreign totty girlfriend Sasha, played by Barbara Nedeljakova from HOSTEL, is an absolute knockout. She has huge lovely boobies and the director, a woman if I’m not mistaken, gets lots of great shots of her in the pool in her bikini.

There are loads of lovely shots in the film, of the two women who are undoubtedly stunning-looking wearing different lovely dresses, and also of the house and the fabulous grounds that surround it. There’s a lot more style than there is substance in the film, not to mention plotholes through which you could drive a whole convoy of trucks.

Still, the film’s got the house and the grounds, a smashing end twist, a psychiatrist with an accent you’ll have great fun trying to decipher and, above all, it’s got Sasha’s Glorious Titties. He who is tired of Sasha’s Glorious Titties is tired of life, and is furthermore a man I should not care to know. Sasha’s Glorious Titties, we totally salute you. Over and 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