Storytelling Exercise: Character Analysis – by Melissa Donovan… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

on Writing Forward: Characterization may be the single most important element of storytelling. The characters move the plot forward through their actions and dialogue. Readers connect emotionally and intellectually with a story by empathizing with, relating to, or even feeling a sense of opposition to the characters. It is often through sympathetic characters that readers […]

Storytelling Exercise: Character Analysis – by Melissa Donovan… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

Writing Down the Knowns — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog

By Krista Varela Posell Before the pandemic, I hadn’t published anything in three years. I don’t even think I even finished writing a single essay that entire time. I had not one but two book manuscripts that had stalled out. Major life events kept me from writing regularly: my mother’s dementia diagnosis, the death of […]

Writing Down the Knowns — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog

THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. (1964) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. (1964) DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY ROGER CORMAN. DISTRIBUTED BY AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. BASED ON TWO SHORT STORIES BY EDGAR ALLAN POE: THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, AND HOP-FROG. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY NICOLAS ROEG OF ‘DON’T LOOK NOW’ FAME.
STARRING VINCENT PRICE, HAZEL COURT, PATRICK MAGEE, JANE ASHER, DAVID WESTON, NIGEL GREEN AND JOHN WESTBROOK.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an excellent addition to Roger Corman’s body of work based on the writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Some people back in the day considered it a bit too ‘arty,’ and Corman himself admits that it is quite arty, but it’s artistic in a gorgeously-coloured, lush way, the way all Corman’s Poe adaptations are equally fabulous to look at.

Vincent Price as the evil Prince Prospero is probably wickeder than he’s ever been before, except maybe as the Witchfinder General in the film of the same name. He’s a really mean customer, that Matthew Hopkins. Prince Prospero gives him a good old run for his money, though.

Prince Prospero is the ruler of a mediaeval village back in the time of the plague and the Black Death, terrible or non-existent sanitation and general all-round misery and privations for those who weren’t princes, basically. It’s the period of history I’d least like to go back to, if I had a time machine. All those boils and weeping open sores and poop flowing unchecked down the streets and what have you, eeuw…

Prospero, a jaded Satanist, lives in his fancy castle above the village and spends his time amusing himself with the debauched antics of his equally jaded courtiers. It’s not a very useful or productive existence, living just to sate oneself with gluttonous feasting, degrading and deviant sexual practises and other kinky perversions. Oooh-er. Crikey, where do I sign up…?

Prospero abducts a beautiful, innocent young girl called Francesca from the village and is thrilled with the thought of initiating her into the evil mysteries of his devil-worshipping ways. He also throws her boyfriend Gino and her father Ludovico (played by hunky character actor Nigel Greene) into his dungeons, where people are tortured and ill-treated for no other reason than Prospero’s pleasure.

Juliana, Prospero’s conniving and very jealous mistress, is tasked with having the ravishing and pure-minded Francesca cleaned up and instructed in the ways of the court. Prior to Francesca’s arrival on the scene, Juliana has been hesitating about taking the last few steps that will turn her into a true Bride of Satan and Prospero’s wife and partner in crime and evil for all eternity, but now that she has competition for the Prince’s heart in the form of this red-headed, naive beauty from the village, she decides she’s ready to take those steps. On her own pretty little head be it, I say…

In the meantime, the plague known as the Red Death- in the film, the Red Death is represented by an actual person- has come to the village. Prospero delights in battening down the castle hatches and leaving the villagers to their terrible fate, and amuses himself with planning a fabulous masked ball, at which no-one will be allowed to wear red.

At the ball, Prospero’s evil sidekick Alfredo experiences a fiery come-uppance at the hands of Hop-Toad, the court jester. Also, a mysterious cloaked figure in red turns up at the ball, despite Prospero’s strict instructions to the contrary. No-one is to wear red at this shindig, remember?

Intrigued and slightly uneasy, Prince Prospero follows the figure in red, with Francesca by his side, through the coloured rooms of his castle. He thinks the fellow might be an emissary of Satan’s, here to give him his reward for all the years of faithful wrong-doing. I wouldn’t be in such a hurry to catch up with the hooded guy in red if I were him…

The cloaked figures in different colours have always given me chills a little bit. Imagine if the world really was ruled by such supernatural beings with almighty powers, and the future of mankind could be read in the cards like it is in the film. To them, we mortals would be no more than chess pieces on a board. Fair give you the willies, it would.

The danse macabre at the close of the film is a magnificently grim ballet, and Vincent Price seems like he’s loving every second of it. He really throws himself into it, and pirouettes in deadly desperation with the best of them. Great film, great acting, great sets and costumes. Ten out of ten for THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH. Poe would be proud.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

HOUSE OF WAX. (1953) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

HOUSE OF WAX. (1953) DIRECTED BY ANDRÉ DE TOTH. BASED ON A SHORT STORY BY CHARLES S. BELDEN AND THE 1933 FILM, MYSTERY AT THE WAX MUSEUM.

STARRING VINCENT PRICE, CAROLYN JONES, PHYLLIS KIRK, PAUL CAVANAGH, DABBS GREER AND CHARLES BUCHINSKY, AKA CHARLES BRONSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

(WRITTEN IN 2016, IN PRE-PANDEMIC TIMES!)

This film is a fantastic horror classic starring legendary horror maestro Vincent Price. I had the great pleasure of watching it recently on the big screen at Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema. The film was in 3-D and I’ve honestly never been happier to sit in the dark for ninety or so minutes wearing a pair of ridiculous oversized glasses that cut into my poor little ears and nose.

Vincent Price is superb as always as Professor Henry Jarrod, who spends his days lovingly crafting wax sculptures whom he thinks of almost as his children, he loves them so much. He specialises in aesthetically-pleasing historical figures and considers his Marie Antoinette to be the pièce de resistance of his magnificent collection. And rightly so, if you ask me. She’s a proper little corker.

His business partner Matthew Burke is more concerned with the figures on their balance-sheets than with the stunning figures moulded by Jarrod, however. He wants Jarrod to sculpt more sensational pieces that could form the basis of a Chambers Of Horrors-style exhibition and bring more paying customers into their premises. Jarrod is naturally repulsed by the idea and refuses point-blank.

I don’t personally see anything wrong with the idea of a Chamber of Horrors. We have one here in Dublin in our little wax museum with Hannibal Lecter in it and Buffalo Bill from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, as well as Dracula (modelled on Christopher Lee in the Hammer films) in his coffin and Freddie Krueger from the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movies.

I’d love to see a Jack the Ripper waxwork set against a Victorian backdrop, or any other famous serial murderers either from real life or from films; Dr. Crippen, say, or John Christie, the Rillington Place murderer, Burke and Hare, the infamous body-snatchers, or even- thinking outside the box here!- Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary. She supposedly retained her legendary youth by bathing in the blood of virgins, whom she obviously had to murder first. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London probably features some of these lads.

People love a good scare, and they’re more than willing to pay for it if it’s good enough. That’s why we buy horror DVDs and books and true-life crime magazines, and why we go to a Chamber of Horrors or, in the old days, to a travelling freak exhibition or for a ride on the ghost train at a funfair. Although I’m on Vincent Price’s character’s side overall, I kind of see where Matthew Burke is coming from too, wanting to make a few bucks out of a horror show.

Burke is even more desperate for money than Jarrod realises, however. He sets fire to the museum, nearly killing poor Jarrod in the process. Jarrod survives, but he is horrifically disfigured from trying to save his precious creations.

The scene where the wax figures are melting in the terrific heat from the fire is so powerful that it’s one I’ve remembered from my childhood. It’s, quite simply, unforgettable. Unforgettable and so very sad. Those poor wax figures…! They didn’t deserve that horribly gruesome end.

Fear not, gentle readers. The Wax Museum rises again, under the direction of Jarrod once more, but it is a Jarrod with crippled hands who is unable to sculpt the way he used to. His deaf-mute assistant, Igor, played by a young and deliciously muscular Charles Bronson, does the work for him now, following his employer’s instructions, of course.

The Wax Museum, oddly enough, has a new feature, one that is welcomed with positively blood-thirsty glee by the punters of early twentieth century New York. It now features a Chamber Of Horrors, something Jarrod always maintained he wanted no truck with. The juicy crimes and sensational recent events that the public crave can now be seen here, recreated painstakingly in waxen sculptures.

The Chamber Of Horrors even carries, strangely enough, a waxwork likeness of Jarrod’s former business partner, Matthew Burke, who apparently committed suicide, or did he…? Was Burke actually murdered by a mysterious cloaked and disfigured man who then made his death look like a suicide…? I’ll never tell.

And I certainly won’t tell you that Burke’s gold-digging fianceé, Cathy (played by Carolyn Jones, once wed to television producer Aaron Spelling and who starred as Morticia Addams in the original black-and-white television series of THE ADDAMS FAMILY), was murdered soon afterwards and then her body disappeared from the morgue.

Tsk, tsk. If I tell you that, then I might as well tell you that Cathy’s friend, Sue Allen, who herself has been pursued by the same cloaked and disfigured man we mentioned earlier, visits the Wax Museum and is deeply disturbed to observe that Jarrod’s Joan Of Arc bears more than a passing resemblance to her dead friend, Cathy…

This film is great fun. The sets and costumes are all spot-on and Charles Bronson is terrific- and dangerously sexy- as Jarrod’s new right-hand-man, Igor. You might recognise the stiff-upper-lipped Paul Cavanagh, who plays art critic and Egyptologist Sidney Wallace, as having acted in three of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films, made between 1939 and 1945.

Also, you’ll surely know the actor portraying the energetic sergeant Jim Shane from having also played the Reverend Alden in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE for years in the 1970s. He and Dr. Baker were the mainstays of the town of Walnut Creek, along with storekeeper Nels Oleson and upstanding local citizen, Charles ‘Pa’ Ingalls.

A great musical score by David Buttolph adds to the creepy atmosphere and Vincent Price was born to play the creator of the Wax Museum who is driven insane by the unfortunate circumstances in which he finds himself.

The film got bad reviews at the time, but for the life of me I don’t know why. It’s a much better film than the original early talkie on which it’s based, MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM from 1933. This movie features some excellent screaming from Fay Wray of KING KONG fame, but sadly not much else. I didn’t like it half as much as the 1953 re-make, and that’s the truth.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THE BUNKER. (1981) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE BUNKER. (1981) BASED ON THE BOOK BY JAMES P. O’DONNELL. STARRING ANTHONY HOPKINS, SUSAN BLAKELY, CLIFF GORMAN AND PIPER LAURIE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The war is lost.’

‘We are surrounded by corpses.’

‘What might have been, Speer…’

‘The Third Reich is about to collapse.’

‘All of the children are going to die…!’

‘If the enemy wishes to destroy us, why help them?’

‘We have chosen death, to remove the threat of removal or surrender.’

‘No-one has the right to tie the fate of the German nation to his own personal destiny.’

‘The war is not lost. The war is not lost! The war will never be lost! I will defeat them all. I will defeat the entire world!’

This is a long one now, as the actress said to the Bishop, so be warned. I loved this made-for-television film adaptation of Hitler’s last weeks and days in the Bunker, the little underground kingdom in the nearly ruined gardens of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin where the doomed German dictator ended his life and reign of terror simultaneously.

Anthony Hopkins was brilliant as Hitler, as you might expect, because Anthony Hopkins doesn’t do anything by half-measures, but what really fascinated me here was the timing of the gradual emptying out of the bunker as the Russians came ever closer to taking Berlin and ending the Second World War, the worst war in the history of the world.

At first, when Hitler first descends in January 1945 to its murky depths, life in the Bunker is relatively civilised. Hitler takes tea at four every day with his secretaries, Gerda Christian and Traudl Junge, and Constance Manziarly (played here by Pam St. Clement, aka Pat Butcher from EastEnders!), his treasured cook.

He loves her because she is able to create both the bland vegetarian diet he prefers but also the home-made cakes for which he has a weakness. O-ho, so somebody likes cakes, eh…? Lol.

Constance is unswervingly loyal to the Fuhrer. ‘No matter what happens, Adolf Hitler will never die,’ she says in the film, and also: ‘The Fuhrer’s birthday in this place! How did we ever come to this? How did we ever come to this place?’

Hitler (in real life but not in this film) treats his captive female audience to the long boring monologues for which he is notorious, speeches about dogs (his dog Blondi has puppies while in the Bunker), his vegetarianism (which caused him to suffer excessive flatulence, and I’m sure the ladies would have noticed!) and the evils of smoking.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda and head toady and boot-licker, is present full-time in the bunker at this stage. So too is Martin Bormann, one of Hitler’s top men, Otto Gunsche, Hitler’s personal adjutant, Rochus Misch, the guy who works the all-important switchboard, getting messages in and out of the Bunker, and Hitler’s personal doctor, Dr. Theodor Morell. He pops in and out frequently, administering the highly unorthodox injections and (allegedly!) the cocaine eyedrops that keep the dictator going.

The situation conferences around the big table to discuss the progress of the war take place daily, and Hitler’s generals, Guderian, Keitel, Jodl & Co. are either issued with wholly impractical orders or bawled out publicly for not having carried out the last batch of wholly impractical orders.

Hitler in the last days of the war is moving armies around on his little maps that no longer exist, because they’ve been wiped out by the Russians, but he keeps up his outward insistence that the tide could still turn in Germany’s favour.

These situation conferences become more and more stressful for all concerned. Towards the end, when time has lost all meaning and no-one in the Bunker any longer keeps to a schedule, they could start at 1am and go on till morning.

Hitler frequently loses his temper with his generals, whose failure to win the war for him feels like a betrayal, and his screaming fits are legendary. You can’t have a Hitler film without the little guy with the funny moustache and the queer hairstyle throwing a good old screaming fit in it.

In the last few weeks and days of April 1945, when even Hitler knows that the war is lost, things become incredibly tense and gripping to watch. Hitler’s staff beg him to leave the Bunker and flee to the relative safety of his mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden, in Bavaria. He’s adamant that he won’t leave Berlin, however.

His long-term mistress Eva Braun has joined him in the Bunker by this stage, and even her forced air of desperate oh-look-how-frightfully-gay-we-all-are has had the shine well and truly worn off of it. She won’t leave Berlin either, however, or her Fuhrer. Whatever fate is mapped out for her Adolf, she will share it, even unto Death.

She gives an expensive fur stole of hers to one of the secretaries. ‘Think of me when you wear it,’ she trills gaily. Hmmm. Even for the secretaries, who survive the war, there won’t be any opportunities to wear that fur stole for a while.

Albert Speer, Hitler’s pet architect and the Minister for Armaments, features heavily in the film. Knowing now that their dreams of rebuilding Germany together after the war are as dust in the wind, Hitler puts Speer in charge of his despicable ‘scorched earth’ policy: destroying what’s left of Germany so the Russians won’t get their hands on it. Not just bridges and military installations, but houses and shops and farms and factories. This is what Hitler says: ‘Believe me, when we take our leave, the earth will tremble. The planet will go up in flames.’

The German people will have nothing left to live on when this detestable policy has been carried out. That was probably partly what Hitler wanted all along, to take everything with him when he himself went out in a blaze of glory, like in Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods or the Götterdämmerung he’d always admired and wanted for himself and Germany. 

Also, the German people had let him down, hadn’t they, by not going all out to help him win the war, so maybe they didn’t deserve to live on after he did. What a mindset. I’m fucked so all you lot are fucked as well. It seems like a pretty typical Hitlerian mentality to me.

Luckily for the German people, Speer, who claims in the film, somewhat dubiously, that he’d planned to kill Hitler himself at one point in order to stop the dictator from implementing his scorched earth scheme, in the end only pretends to Hitler that he’s been carrying out this disastrous policy.

He doesn’t believe that the fate of Germany should be tied inextricably to that of one sick and twisted individual, and, in that at least, ‘the Nazi who said sorry’ is right. He confesses to Hitler what he’s done as he’s leaving the Bunker and saying goodbye to his former Fuhrer forever, but Hitler is too far gone to give a shit by then.

Speer, by the way, seems to have had a well-developed sense of self-preservation. ‘Speaking for myself,’ he says at one point, ‘I intend to outlive the Third Reich.’ And he did, by a whopping thirty-six years, even if twenty of those were spent in Spandau Prison.

Poor Hitler. His health is wrecked, his friends- look at Goering and how he’s betrayed his former friend and leader!- are deserting him right and left, his bezzy mate Himmler has actually crawled into bed with the Allies, his trademark glossy black locks are as grey as a badger’s arse now and his lovely dream of the Thousand Year Reich is in ruins.

Oh, and Eva Braun’s pregnant sister Gretl’s husband, Hermann Fegelein, has been caught trying to scarper without permission and is now paying for his crime by being left to dangle on a meathook. (Other film versions have Fegelein being shot.) What’s to live for now?

The Bunker inmates can be divided into those, like Speer, who choose to leg it while Hitler is still alive, and those who hang on till the bitter end. These include Eva Braun, Hitler’s adjutant Gunsche, his toady Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda and their six children. These are all living in the Bunker by this stage, as is Rochus Misch the transmissions technician, Constance Manziarly the cook (who was never seen or heard from again after the war) and the secretaries.

On the night before their joint suicide, Hitler marries Eva Braun. The next day, they say goodbye formally to their remaining acolytes, and then they retire forever to bite into cyanide capsules (previously tested on Hitler’s beloved dog, Blondi), and Hitler also shoots himself in the head for good measure.

He won’t let himself be captured and hung upside-down and naked in the town square, which is what has happened to his crony Mussolini, the Italian dictator, and Mussolini’s missus. ‘They (the Russians) are not going to cage me and exhibit me in a zoo!’

Otto Gunsche carries the bodies outside, then sets them on fire as per Hitler’s wishes. Magda Goebbels poisons her six children with cyanide capsules, then allows her husband to shoot her dead outside in the garden before in turn shooting himself.

With the bigwigs gone, it’s every man for himself. It’s the moment when the musicians playing ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ on the Titanic pack up their instruments, wish each other well in a gentlemanly fashion and then scramble desperately for a place on a lifeboat.

The Bunker descends into chaos as Gunsche, the secretaries, Martin Bormann and assorted others pack up and try to make it through the Russian lines to the British armies, who don’t seem to be as terrifying to the Germans as their Russian counterparts.

The secretaries paint lipstick spots on their faces to give themselves the appearance of smallpox. ‘Do you want to be raped (by the Russians)?’ one says to the other. Her terrified friend promptly yanks the lippy out of her hands…!

When even the loyal and dutiful Rochus Misch eventually leaves his post and the final transmissions squawk their contents to the empty air, there’s a definite feeling in the Bunker that the fat lady has well and truly warbled her last note. Johannes Hentschel, the mechanic, is the last man in the film to leave the underground tomb.

The Bunker is empty, the Fuhrer is dead, Berlin is in ruins, the war is lost and the Russians are knocking- none too politely- on the doors of the Reich Chancellery. Years and even decades in Russian prison camps await some of those fleeing from the Bunker.

What ghosts would haunt the eerily silent corridors of the Bunker today, if it still existed, which of course it does not? Hitler is supposed to have told an underling, a young man, that his spirit would remain on duty within its walls for all eternity, keeping an eye out for those pesky Russians.  

A pretty pathetic story, probably not true, but I still wouldn’t have ever wanted to be down there alone in those days after the war ended when the Bunker was dark, waterlogged and filled with the flotsam and jetsam of all those disappeared lives.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THE RIPPER. (2020) A NETFLIX MINI-SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE RIPPER. (2020) NETFLIX. DIRECTED BY JESSE VILE AND ELLENA WOOD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This four-part true crime documentary mini-series was released in December 2020, and it tells the story of the serial killer known as ‘the Yorkshire Ripper.’

He was named for his Victorian counterpart, ‘Jack the Ripper,’ who became infamous for killing and horribly mutilating five (maybe more, but definitely five) prostitutes in the overcrowded and notoriously poor and crime-ridden area of Whitechapel, London in the ‘Autumn of Terror,’ otherwise known as the autumn of 1888.

The press christened both serial murderers with their ‘catchy’ nicknames, each of which sold newspapers. The true identity of Jack the Ripper was never discovered, although there was a list of suspects as long as your arm. For a long time in the mid-to-late ‘Seventies, the people of England despaired of the Yorkshire Ripper ever being brought to justice either.

The Yorkshire Ripper, who turned out to be Bradford lorry driver Peter Sutcliffe, murdered thirteen women in the West Yorkshire and Manchester areas between 1975 and his eventual capture, quite by accident, really, in early 1981.

He also attacked another ten women (at least) who survived his cowardly hammer-and-knife assaults, and, who knows, there may have been more we never knew about. Quite the charming customer, eh?

The mini-series focuses on the police investigation to catch the man dubbed ‘the Yorkshire Ripper.’ It was an investigation which spanned several years and generated so many files jam-packed with bits of paper that concrete pillars were needed to prop up the room in the police station that contained them. Nowadays, of course, it’d all be done on computers, but computers were very much in their infancy back then.

The investigation engendered more cock-ups than the police generally like to admit to, and the public were privy to most of them. Because the odious little killer’s first few victims were prostitutes, the police assumed that the murderer must be a prostitute-hater and also that the only women in danger from him were prostitutes.

This theory was sorely tested when schoolgirl Jayne MacDonald was murdered in 1977. So, the Ripper was killing ‘innocent’ women now, was he, and not just prostitutes? The police actually used the term ‘innocent women’ to describe the non-sex-worker victims, something they’ve had to quite rightly apologise for in recent years.

The public were no less derogatory themselves, though, and were quite voluble on the subject of Jayne MacDonald’s being on a whole different level to the prostitutes who were killed: ‘She weren’t in their category at all,’ said one housewife who was interviewed.

No offence is meant here to poor Jayne MacDonald and her heartbroken family. A victim is a victim is a victim. But prostitutes, and not just prostitutes, but any ‘good-time’ girl or woman who went out late at night drinking and dancing without the ‘protection’ of a man, was seen to be ‘asking for it.’ No wonder women everywhere were up in arms.

Bruce Jones, who played much-loved cabbie Les Battersby in Manchester soap opera CORONATION STREET in the Noughties, was interviewed in this Netflix documentary because he actually found one of the victims himself, something I hadn’t known until I watched this programme. Jean Jordan was found on waste ground, with one of the most important clues of the whole investigation in her handbag… a brand-new five-pound-note, given to her by her killer as the price of a quickie…

The police had only a few clues to go on: tyre marks, a boot print, this five-pound-note. Peter Sutcliffe was actually interviewed three times about the five-pound-note and a whopping nine times overall, but he managed to give the investigating officers satisfactory alibis each time.

Except, that is, for the time he was seen by Andrew Laptew, one of the officers on the case. Laptew had a ‘hinky’ feeling about Sutcliffe after visiting his Heaton home, but when he brought up Sutcliffe’s similarity to the many Ripper ‘photo-fits’ to a superior officer, he was unceremoniously shut down.

Letters and a cassette tape purporting to be from the Yorkshire Ripper proved to be no more than nails in the coffin for George Oldfield and Ronald Gregory, then Assistant Chief Constable and Chief Constable for West Yorkshire respectively.

They both put their complete trust in these items, particularly the tape in which the ‘Ripper’ talks with a Geordie, or Newcastle, accent. This led them up the blind alley of only suspecting men who spoke with a Geordie accent, leaving the real killer, Sutcliffe, free to kill three more women and attack a further two.

A million pounds was spent on an advertising campaign to catch the Ripper on the authority of Ronald Gregory. The prize exhibits were the letters (the killer’s handwriting?) and the tape (the killer’s voice?). This campaign was probably the biggest and most shocking waste of time and money in police history.

And then one night in January 1981, a couple of humble coppers on the beat spot a bloke and a prostitute up an alley together in a car which turns out to have dodgy number plates, and decide to wander over to have a shufty. The rest, of course, is history. In the heel of the hunt, it was good honest coppering ‘what done for’ the Ripper.

This is a pretty good documentary that should bring the crimes of this evil but highly ordinary little man to a new generation of crime buffs. The investigation was rough on the police, and rougher still on the women of England and the victims and their families.

Women were told by the police to stay off the streets at night. Women wanted a curfew imposed on men. The killer was a man, wasn’t he, not a woman? The police didn’t take seriously some of the women who came forward to report that they’d been attacked by a man in a similar manner to the Ripper victims. Shambles, much?

The police, Oldfield and Gregory and Co., moulded the facts to fit the theory instead of the other way around. It mightn’t have mattered so much, if women’s actual lives hadn’t been so much at stake the whole way through.

And meanwhile, everyone was so busy looking for a monster with horns and a tail that the real killer, a painfully ordinary little runt with a Jason King moustache and a job driving a lorry, was able to wreak havoc in the red light districts of Leeds and Bradford, among other places, and escape detection for nearly six years. Lessons were learned, but, sadly, too late for some…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

MEAN GIRLS. (2004) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MEAN GIRLS. (2004) DIRECTED BY MARK WATERS. PRODUCED BY LORNE MICHAELS. BASED ON THE 2002 SELF-HELP BOOK, QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES BY ROSALIND. SCREENPLAY BY TINA FEY.

STARRING LINDSEY LOHAN, TINA FEY, RACHEL MCADAMS, LACEY CHABERT, AMANDA SEYFRIED, LIZZY CAPLAN, DANIEL FRANZESE, JONATHAN BENNETT, RAJIV SURENDRA, TIM MEADOWS AND AMY POEHLER.  

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Gretchen, stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen!’

I actually bought the non-fiction self-help book on which this cult film is based for my own daughter when she was in secondary school, which is what we Irish call high school.

QUEEN BEES AND WANNABES is a great book about the cliques amongst girls in high school, the bitching and bullying they can engender and the terrible damage they can do to the fragile psyches of young girls.

It’s an American book dealing specifically with American teenage girls and American schools, so not everything in it applied to us Irish, but it was still an interesting read. Girls are girls the world over, right?

The film became a cult phenomenon so big words can’t really do it justice. It’s like THE CRAFT without the Ouija boards. It’s Mariah Carey’s favourite film. It’s been the subject of tweets from the Whitehouse. People quote from it all the time.

Even I was quoting from it without realising it, talking about ‘making fetch happen’ while being unaware that this brilliantly lame-o expression came from this massively well-known, super-funny and wickedly bitchy teen comedy.

Here’s the 411, y’all. The naturally beautiful Lindsay Lohan plays Cady Heron, a teenage girl going to school for the very first time in her life. Prior to now, she’s been living in Africa with her botanist parents and being home-schooled, so attending an American high school for the first time ever is a massive culture shock for poor Cady.

She initially befriends weird goth girl Janis Ian and the ‘almost too gay to function’ Damien Leigh, a flamboyant, music-loving Gay Best Friend type. Cady is glad to have some nice friendly people to talk to.

They explain the baffling hierarchy of school cliques to her, and warn her to steer clear of ‘the Plastics,’ a select trio of pretty and popular girls to whom appearances are everything and ‘loyalty’ is a thing presumably only ever mentioned in tandem with the word ‘card…’ Good one, huh? That’s my own, lol, it’s not a movie quote, don’t steal it now!

The Plastics give the word ‘shallow’ a whole new meaning. They think of nothing but their looks and live their lives by a Bible of ridiculous rules, like you must wear pink on Wednesdays and you can only put your hair in a ponytail once a week, or you can’t sit with them to eat lunch in the school canteen.

When school Queen Bee and leader of the Plastics, Regina George, takes a surprising interest in Cady, however, Janis, who’s clearly been bullied by Regina before, urges Cady to reciprocate.

If they have someone ‘on the inside,’ Janis reckons, they can take down the Plastics and revenge themselves on Regina, Gretchen and Karen for previous slights. But they’ve reckoned without the old adage, ‘oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive…’

Firstly, the kids don’t reckon on Cady falling head-over-heels in love with the uber-bitchy Regina’s ex-boyfriend Aaron Samuels. (Regina mightn’t want him, but you can bet your bottom dollar she won’t want Cady to have him either. Shut up!)

Neither do they reckon on Cady coming to like Regina and wanting to properly be her friend, or on Cady practically re-making herself in Regina’s image and becoming as shiny and hard as any darned Plastic. And they certainly don’t reckon on the infamous ‘Burn Book’ and the trouble and hurt it can cause to their fellow students. And teachers…

Tina Fey is terrific as Miss Norbury, the teacher who tries to explain to the girls that by constantly dissing each other and calling each other sluts and whores, they’re only making it easier for men to do the same. She’s so right.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love men, but if women came together in a tight-knit community and formed a united front against men’s nonsense- you know the kind of nonsense I mean; sexual harassment, sexual violence, grooming of minors, sex trafficking, etc.- then maybe men wouldn’t get away with as much stuff. They might even think twice before they attempt the stuff, which would be bloody wonderful.

Excuse me if I’m being unusually feminist. I’ve spent the Bank Holiday weekend watching SURVIVING R. KELLY and JEFFREY EPSTEIN: FILTHY RICH on Netflix, and I’m still queasy in my stomach at the thought of what rich and powerful men are allowed to get away with just because of that money and power. They’re able to buy a whole network of enablers and facilitators who can help them to keep the whole circus going and all the juggling balls in the air, among other things.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Miss Norbury. She’s good for a few drugs too, if that’s your fancy, lol. I really like Tim Meadows as Principal Ron Duvall, who fancies Miss Norbury (that’s grool, right?) but feels all at sea when it comes to dealing with the nitty-gritty of the teenage female psyche. ‘I can’t help it if I have a heavy flow…!’

The Asian mathlete rapper dude, Kevin Gnapoor, is a freaking legend, and I love Amy Poehler (does she remind anyone else of Beverly D’Angelo?) as Regina’s wildly delusional mom, who tries waaaay too hard to be ‘down with the kids.’ ‘Can I get you kids anything? A drink? A condom? Let me know…!’

You may recognise Cady’s father as the actor Neil Flynn, by the way. He played the Janitor in SCRUBS and the dad in comedy series THE MIDDLE, which was kind of a less funny version of MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE.

Anyway, MEAN GIRLS is a film that should probably be shown anywhere teenage girls (and boys?) are being educated together. It’s witty, smart, funny and full of iconic, much-memed moments, but there’s a bit of a bite under all the froth. Watch out for it.

   AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

AIRPLANE! (1980) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

AIRPLANE! (1980) DIRECTED BY JIM ABRAHAMS, DAVID ZUCKER AND JERRY ZUCKER. BASED ON ZERO HOUR! BY ARTHUR HAILEY, HALL BARTLETT AND JOHN CHAMPION.

STARRING ROBERT HAYS AND JULIE HAGERTY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘This is Captain Oveur, over.’

‘And don’t call me Shirley…’

‘Excuse me, Miss, I speak jive.’

‘That’s strange. Jim never vomits at home.’

‘Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?’

‘Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?’

This is an excellent ‘spoof’ comedy film, which parodies some of the great disaster epics of the ‘Seventies and lets the air out of ‘em a little bit. Some of the jokes, punchlines and visual gags will be as familiar to you as your own name by now.

Certainly, when I re-watched it last night after a gap of about ten years, I was able to recite a lot of the lines without much difficulty. While it may never again be as funny to you on subsequent watches as it would have been on your first, it’s still pretty damned funny and well worth a second or third or even fourth look.

The plot is two-fold. There’s an airline disaster, first and foremost. A plane takes off from Los Angeles to go to Chicago. During the flight, however, numerous passengers as well as the pilot and his co-pilots all become desperately ill with food poisoning after eating the fish course for dinner.

The ‘automatic pilot,’ a blow-up dummy called Otto, is deployed to fly the plane for the moment, but someone human is going to have to land that baby in Chicago or there’s gonna be a major accident in the air. Added to which, the sick passengers need urgent, on-the-ground medical attention or they could die.

Leslie Nielsen as the hilariously deadpan Dr. Rumack and Julie Hegarty playing the beautiful stewardess Elaine Dickinson scour the plane to see if they can find someone- anyone- qualified to bring this big bird down safely.

Dr. Rumack: ‘We need to get these people to a hospital or they could die.’

Elaine: ‘Oh my God, a hospital! What is it?’

Dr. Rumack: ‘It’s a big building with doctors and nurses in it, but that’s not important right now…’

Very funny. They do one or two other gags using this one as a template, and it makes me laugh every single time. Anyway, Elaine knows perfectly well, however, that there’s only one man on board who can do this job, and this is where the second plot, the romantic one, kicks in with a vengeance.

Elaine’s boyfriend Ted Striker, played by the handsome Robert Starman Hays, is a passenger on the doomed plane, but Elaine has just broken up with him because he just can’t get over the trauma he endured as a fighter pilot in the war- it doesn’t say which war- when he was the cause of several of his fellow officers meeting their fiery deaths in the air. Ted’s on the plane to try to convince a reluctant Elaine to take him back, despite his flaws, but he’s steered cleared of planes generally since the war.

Dr. Rumack and Elaine manage to convince the nervous Ted, now working as a taxi driver- a nice safe earthbound job- to fly/land the plane. He’ll have the telephone help and guidance of Lloyd Bridges’ character Steve McCroskey in the air control tower, and also Robert Stack’s Capt. Rex Kramer, an old nemesis of Ted’s. Can Ted step up to the plate and be the man that both Elaine and the passengers and crew need him to be? Well, we’ll see, won’t we? There’s a helluva lot riding on this one safe landing…

There are some terrific visual gags that you’d need to see to properly appreciate, such as the two stewardesses dragging the bodies of the sick pilot and his two sick co-pilots down the aisle of the plane while the passengers’ attention is momentarily diverted elsewhere; Elaine giving Otto a ‘blow-job’ in the cockpit after which they both need a cigarette, and the queue of heavily armed passengers lining up to each ‘help’ this one hysterical woman to calm down and get a hold of herself. It’s pretty funny stuff.

I like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a real-life basketball player, as co-pilot Roger Murdoch (‘Roger that, Roger!’), and also Lorna Private Benjamin Patterson as the singing air stewardess who doesn’t want to die an old maid. (‘Well, at least I have a husband,’ says Mrs. Hammen smugly. What a bitch!)

The flashbacks to Ted and Elaine getting together are really funny; Elaine aping the movements of the stabbed man on the dance floor, thinking he’s just grooving to the beat like her, and also Ted’s John Travolta bit to the disco music of the Bee Gees, are both brilliant. Ditto the way the whole bar gets up en masse and starts disco-dancing when the music changes. The film is a-gag-a-minute solid gold comedy classic. Don’t y’all miss out on seeing it…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: