I absolutely love this dark little gem of a film, from the Golden Age of British Horror, which most people agree was 1959-1966. Peter Cushing gives an immaculately controlled and polished performance as Dr. Robert Knox, a sort of Dr. Frankenstein character but located in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1828.

He’s a renowned anatomist who lectures young college lads who want to be doctors, and he does everything he can to advance the cause of modern medicine. Doctors and medical students are only legally permitted to dissect corpses who were either suicides, or criminals, in life and have been cut down from the gallows after death or released from a hospital mortuary.

But Knox is not scrupulous about where his cadavers-for-dissection-and-learning have come from. In the interests of medicine, he’ll take them anywhere he can get them. In the film, he gets them from William Burke and William Hare, two horrible grave-robbers or ‘resurrection men,’ men who steal the corpses from their very graves and flog them to doctors for at least five guineas apiece.

When demand for the corpses exceed the legal supply, that’s when Burke and Hare get the idea of resorting to murder most foul in order to keep Dr. Knox in the stiffs he so desperately craves. That’s also when the stakes are considerably raised for Dr. Knox.

If it’s clear as day that a man has been murdered without benefit of law when he arrives in corpse form at Dr. Knox’s dissecting rooms and the said doctor turns a blind eye, pays for it and says ta very much, that makes Dr. Knox an accessory to murder. And they were very tough on crimes like murder in those days…  

Burke is a grotty, grotesque and greedy little man, well suited to murder, and his end on the scaffold in the film rather eerily overshadows the real life death suffered by the actor George Rose in May of 1988. Hare is superbly portrayed by Donald Pleasence, who’s probably best known for playing Dr. Loomis in John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN movies. But Dr. Loomis ain’t never been this messed-up…

Pleasence gives an excellent performance, truly one of his best, even though this film doesn’t seem to be terribly well known. His obsequious behaviour to Dr. Knox and his betters would make your hair curl, and the manic little dance he performs while his colleague murders someone? That would send a shiver up your spine, portraying sheer manic insanity the way it does. Or a mania, if you will. See what I did there…?

The other stand-out performances in the film come from, firstly, George ‘Hammer Horror’ Woodbridge as a fellow medic and member of the Medical Council, no less. He is outraged at Dr. Knox’s disregard for the disrepute into which he’s knowingly bringing their honourable profession, by associating with dirty grave-robbers like Burke and Hare.

Secondly, we have the beautiful Billie Whitelaw, known for her superb appearances in THE OMEN (1976) and THE KRAYS (1990), playing a feisty Scottish prostitute. Mary Patterson falls for one of Dr. Knox’s medical students, Chris Jackson, and Chris falls pretty heavily for her too.

But you can’t put an exotic bird like Mary Patterson in a cage, even a gilded one. Is the relationship between Mary and Chris doomed, as doomed as one of the doctor’s favoured ‘fresh’ and ‘juicy’ cadavers? Let’s hope it doesn’t end up on one of his slabs, or rolled in the brine…

I love Esma Cannon as poor old Aggie, the old dear murdered by the repulsive and immoral Burke and Hare. You might remember her as Hattie Jacques’ diminutive little helper, Flo Sims, in CARRY ON CABBY (1963), and in fact she appeared in several other CARRY ON movies as well, being the excellent comedy actress that she was.

Melvyn Hayes, famous for playing Gunner ‘Gloria’ Beaumont in sitcom, IT AIN’T HALF HOT, MUM, appears here as a mentally disabled boy known generally as Daft Jamie, who meets his end courtesy of our resident pair of ghouls, Burke and Hare. ‘Oh, get me out of this green hell, I’m going out of my mind…!’ Talk about Amateur Night in Dixie…

This film is exquisite. Immaculate acting, gorgeous dark and shadowy sets and terrific costumes. I don’t know why it’s not better known. A fantastic all-star horror cast as well, in Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, whom I beg leave to state is Mr. Cushing’s equal in performing his craft of acting to perfection, and the marvellously fiery Billie Whitelaw. Go out of your way to find it and watch it. It’s just sheer quality.

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:
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from POOLBEG BOOKS:


5 Fun Things About Being An Indie Author — Sara Flower Kjeldsen Writes

Being an indie author is fun. Yes, it has its challenges and yes, writing is hard work. Still, it’s hard to deny the perks we get from publishing our own work. Whether you’re fully on board with realizing how fun it is or you’re feeling the struggle, I hope this post helps remind you why […]

5 Fun Things About Being An Indie Author — Sara Flower Kjeldsen Writes





This is an American AIDS drama by the man who directed musical romantic comedy GREASE in 1978, and, in fact, his female lead, Olivia Newton-John, appears in IT’S MY PARTY as one of the quite large cast of characters.

It’s based on true-life events, ie, the death of director Randal Kleiser’s lover, Harry Stein, from AIDS, and the farewell party he threw when he himself was ‘checking out,’ as they call it in the film.

The party in the film is thrown by Nick Stark, brilliantly played by Eric Roberts, who is actually Julia Roberts’s handsome older brother. Nick is a gay, HIV-positive architect and designer, just like the real-life Harry Stein.

When he discovers that he has the disease known as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, a disease that in only a few days will result more or less in the rotting of his brain and the loss of his vision and mental faculties, Nick decides that he’s had enough. He’s going to commit suicide while he still has the ability to do so.

First, though, he hosts a two-day party for his family and friends, all of whom know his plight. His parents, estranged from each other but not from their beloved son, are top of the guest list, along with his deaf sister Daphne, ably played by Marlee Matlin. Nick’s best gal-pal, Charlene Lee, played by Margaret Cho, is also present.

Olivia Newton-John and Bruce Davison play a married couple who are either relatives or very close friends of Nick’s. Their son Andrew, gay too and unsure of himself, already sleeping with his own boyfriend, idolises Nick and is devastated by his plan to ‘check out’ early. But Nick’s made his mind up.

The way he sees it, in a few days he’ll be a blind ‘vegetable’ with memory loss who won’t be able to control his own bladder. He doesn’t want to live through that, if you could call it ‘living.’ His diagnosis of PML means he only has a few months at the most to live anyway. He wants to die now, tomorrow, when all his guests have left.

Christopher Atkins, famous for starring in THE BLUE LAGOON alongside a teenaged Brooke Shields, plays Jack, one of the pals who’s come to say goodbye. Roddy McDowall portrays a guest called Damian who doesn’t believe in suicide and tries to talk Nick out of it. No dice, though.

Another guest is played by Sally Kellerman, who was the original Major Margaret ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan in Robert Altman’s movie, M*A*S*H, about a military hospital, a role famously taken on by Loretta Swit in the series that followed on from the movie. It’s kind of an all-star cast, this.  
Bronson Pinchot, better known for playing Eastern European immigrant Balki Bartokomous in popular American sitcom, PERFECT STRANGERS, from 1986-1983, does a brilliant job of playing Nick’s gay best friend, Monty Tipton.

Monty has been HIV-positive for eight years himself, so he knows what it’s like to live with the fear of AIDS. You’d never know he had a thing wrong with him, however, as he’s bright and lively and full of quips, bitchy witticisms and movie quotes. He gives a right tongue-lashing to Nick’s ex-lover, film director Brandon Theis, who reluctantly turns up at the party because Charlene has invited him and not Nick.

Nick was devastated when Brandon kicked him out of their shared home the year before, because Brandon basically couldn’t handle Nick’s HIV-positive diagnosis. He was scared stiff, that’s the beginning, middle and end of it, and he broke his promise to Nick to stay with him forever because of that fear. Now Nick is about to die and Brandon is riddled with guilt and love for his ex-lover. Will Nick be angry he’s here, or glad to see the love of his life one last time…?

The film is full of the grim, macabre black humour gay men with AIDS or who have friends with AIDS seem to use. Stuff like:

‘It’s your funeral, babe…!’

‘I wouldn’t be seen dead in those colours.’

‘Oh, why don’t you fuck off and die already?’

‘It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to…!’

Stuff like that. We witness the earlier death-by-suicide of a friend of both Nick’s and Brandon’s, and Nick’s treatment of the corpse and the situation is irreverent in a way that probably only another gay man with AIDS would be allowed to get away with. I hope I myself am not being irreverent when I say that it’s almost like some kind of club that excludes everyone else who’s not an official member, albeit a club that no-one, literally no-one, ever asked to join…!

Everything’s a huge big joke and no-one’s allowed to cry except Nick’s mom, Amalia, who is in bits over her son’s near demise. That cry of pain she gives when Brandon carries Nick off to the bedroom to let the pills he’s swallowed take effect is heart-rending. I cried at that bit myself. It’s a very sad movie, with a very sad subject. You would cry too if it happened to youuuuuu…!

Who wants to ever be in that position of having to decide to kill oneself because the future has shrivelled up and withered in front of you? No-one, of course. And there’s a big difference between saying you’re going to kill yourself and actually doing it.

What must that ‘this is it’ moment feel like, knowing that after all your talk and planning and wondering, it’s finally happening…? Would there be an awful moment of regret, of wanting to change your mind and go back, and what if it was too late? I can’t even imagine being in that situation, can you?

Here’s another grim thought, courtesy of my brain. Being Catholic and both God-and-law-fearing (I can’t help it, it was bullied into me at school AND at home!), I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if the movie continued on past the death of Nick…

Is it illegal to commit suicide/assisted suicide in America? Would the people who physically helped him to do it, like Brandon, be accused of complicity in an illegal act? Would the bystanders?

When the police are called out to this sudden death, can whoever’s there to let them in tell the truth and say it was deliberate and there was even a party with music, food, drink and presents to celebrate it, or would they have to pretend they just came over and found the deceased, well, deceased…? I don’t know.

Great film, anyway, bit over-long, available to watch on YouTube, but you’ll need a ton of hankies to get through it…!


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:

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

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

Sorting Explained in 3 Easy Steps! — Mariah Brewer

In honor of spring-cleaning season, I present you all with “Sorting Explained in 3 Easy Steps!”Here, I’ll talk about what sorting is, how to sort, and where to find inspiration for organizing. If you’ve been struggling with everyday life and writing because of the daily messes in your life, here are 3 easy tips to help you start organizing.So give it a read, and get to sorting!

Sorting Explained in 3 Easy Steps! — Mariah Brewer





This iconic period drama was the perfect viewing choice for Mother’s Day. Filled with fabulous elaborate hairstyles, huge, even more elaborate hats, gorgeous dresses and magnificent old houses with eye-popping gardens and surrounds, it seems to glide its way sedately from its beginning to its conclusion, with occasional hiccups caused by the hidden passions simmering beneath the breasts of the characters.

It starts off in Edwardian England (1901- 1910; after Victoria!) with Helena Bonham-Carter, whose hair was surely born to play this type of role, portraying the younger of two respectable orphaned sisters, the Misses Schlegel (she’s Helen!).

Helen and her older sister, Margaret, live quietly and genteelly together in a London apartment with their somewhat delicate younger brother, Tibby. They have German antecedents and are deeply intellectual and enthusiastic about all things cultural. They are not rich, but they are comfortably off and do not need to work.

When we first see Helen, she’s making, then breaking, an engagement to Paul Wilcox, whose father, Anthony Hopkins as Henry Wilcox, is a millionaire. Helen’s older sister, Margaret, beautifully played by Emma Thompson, later befriends Henry Wilcox’s invalid wife, Ruth Wilcox (Vanessa Redgrave), as the Wilcoxes have leased a flat across from the Schlegels.

Ruth Wilcox comes to grow very fond of the chatty younger woman who brightens her declining days. When she hears that the Schlegel sisters will soon be homeless due to an expiring lease, she leaves a house she owns, the beautiful and charming Howards End, to Margaret Schlegel in her will.

Margaret never gets to hear about it, however, as the Wilcox family, horrified by Ruth’s leaving family property to an ‘outsider,’ close ranks and burn the piece of paper on which the dead woman’s last wish is scribbled in her dying hand. And that, as far as the Wilcoxes are concerned, is that. And yet, oh, what a complex web we weave, when first we practice to deceive…!

The Wilcoxes and the Schlegels, it seems, are meant to have their destinies entwined. When a smitten Henry Wilcox proposes marriage to Margaret, she accepts immediately. But Henry is keeping secrets from Margaret, and not just the one about how he and his family have deliberately kept her rightful inheritance, Howards End, from her. Will loose lips sink those bobbing ships, or will Margaret remain blissfully oblivious…?

Helen, meanwhile, an intellectual blue-stocking who will probably end up chained to the railings of the Houses of Parliament for the woman’s right to vote or being force-fed in the infirmary of a women’s prison for the same cause, has befriended a lowly clerk called Leonard Bast. Leonard, married to Jacky (of dubious background but with a heart of gold) is anxious to improve his circumstances in life, along with his mind.

With a little help from posh, self-important millionaire toff Henry Wilcox, Helen and Margaret, two do-gooders always ready to meddle in the affairs of the lower classes, unintentionally cause poor Leonard Bast to become unemployed.

Desperate for work, he pounds the streets, but to no avail. He (not unnaturally) turns to Margaret, who is now engaged to Henry Wilcox, for help. But his and Jacky’s unexpected appearance at Evie Wilcox’s posh society wedding sets off a chain of events that none of them could have foreseen…

The class difference, and the emphasis on class, is so obvious it runs like a steam choo-choo throughout the film. The notion of the two Basts starving to death in their meagre flat because two nosy, meddling self-indulgent do-gooders with a romanticised notion of poverty think they know best what Leonard should do in his career is just horrific.

And the notion that the sisters or even Henry Wilcox himself should help them is instantly dismissed as balderdash by Henry, because: ‘The poor are poor and that’s sad, but it’s just the way it is.’ Clearly, old Henry is unfamiliar with the notion that things can be improved if enough people try to improve them, and also that with great power comes great responsibility…

These Merchant-Ivory films are so dreamy, delicate, elegant and evocative of a certain era and a certain type of Englishness, I always feel like I’m viewing them through a veil of the finest mist and time.

The two lads, James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, made forty-four films together, twenty-three of which were scripted by the German-born Jewish writer, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, whose works they favoured, along with the writings of Henry James and E.M. Forster, who penned HOWARDS’ END in 2010.

Here are a few of the faces you might expect to see in a Merchant-Ivory production: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth (I say, is it raining men again?), Maggie Smith, James Wilby, Rupert Graves, Natasha Richardson and Ralph Fiennes, as well as Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, who went on to star in the sublimely beautiful movie THE REMAINS OF THE DAY in 1993. Helena Bonham-Carter herself had her own breakthrough hit in the Merchant-Ivory production of A ROOM WITH A VIEW in 1985.

Anyway, HOWARDS’ END is a gorgeous, luxurious film filled with flowers and rolling acres of greenland and the most splendid hats and female accessories and accoutrements. A good shawl was an investment for life in those days. Must dig mine out and start wearing it again. Who knows, I might start a trend…


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:

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

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




I liked this film, although I didn’t love it. What I do love is the comic pairing of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, etc.), two of the funniest and cleverest comedy writers and actors of this generation. SHAUN OF THE DEAD is a horror comedy classic that I now re-watch every Halloween, and HOT FUZZ is pretty damn funny too.

The on-screen friendship between the two lads, Pegg and Frost, just has so much affection, fun and a deep, genuine love for each other and their subject material in it. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by their relationship and obvious passion for their craft and the horror and sci-fi genres.

My personal opinion is that they should both just make horror and/or sci-fi comedy films with each other till the end of time. They’re both so boyishly likable and lovable as well. It’d be hard not to feel a connection with them.

In PAUL, Pegg and Frost play Graeme Willy (they can’t resist a bit of schoolboy humour, these lads) and the writer Clive Gollings respectively. They are two British comic book and science fiction enthusiasts who travel to ‘Murica to attend the annual San Diego Comic-Con, the biggest of its kind in the world.

They’re basically just playing themselves, which is adorable. They are delighted to meet there the writer Adam Shadowchild, who apparently has penned a fuck-ton of great sci-fi books with largely terrible titles.

After leaving the convention, the two lads decide to go on a road trip through the Southwestern US to take in various sites where UFOs and aliens are supposed to have crash-landed over the years. Area 51, Roswell, etc.

Imagine their pants-pissing shock (we’re looking at you, Clive Gollings!) when a fellow traveller through the isolated desert roads turns out to be a bona fide alien called Paul (Paranoid Alien Ultra Life Force), who’s escaping from the Feds and needs a ride…

Paul is cheeky, fast-talking, sarcastic and quippy and he loves his pistachio nuts, his weed and his booze. Graeme and Clive agree to drive him across country to the spot where his mothership will be waiting to take him home, even though Clive in particular is extremely nervous about being anally probed. After Paul assures him that that belief is totally false (‘What’s an ass gonna teach me? What can I learn from an ass?’), the lads set about driving him in their rented RV to his destination.

On their way, they pick up a one-eyed Christian Fundamentalist female, Ruth Buggs, who has the hots for shy little Graeme and literally can’t wait to shake off the shackles of her Bible-thumping upbringing. Graeme sure isn’t gonna put up a fight…!

The road trip buddies are pursued the whole time by the ‘Men In Black,’ the guys who work for the government and who try to persuade you that you didn’t see nuthin’ when you report having spotted a blazing light in the night sky and a strange, circular-shaped craft alight in the desert that one time you thought you’d walk home from ‘Shit-kickers’ ‘cause it was such a nice balmy evening. The Feds are being strongly urged by an unknown someone referred to as ‘the Big Guy’ to catch that damn alien or else…

The film is an homage mainly to all the Steven Spielberg science fiction, action and adventure and alien films that Frost and Pegg would have adored in their youths: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, ET: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, INDIANA JONES and the Daddy of ‘em all, JAWS. Smile, you son of a bitch…!

Other shows and films get a look-in too though: THE X-FILES, LORENZO’S OIL (don’t ask, lol), STAR WARS, STAR TREK, the ALIEN movies, THE INVINCIBLES and some other stuff which I forget, but you’ll have great craic playing ‘spot the reference,’ I assure you.

Sigourney Weaver as the kick-ass Feds boss, ‘the Big Guy,’ had this to say to Graham Norton on her appearance in the film: ‘It’s a love letter to sci-fi fans. I jumped at the chance to be in it. To find a comedy that also pays homage to sci-fi is a dream come true.’ Frost and Pegg must have been thrilled to get Hollywood and horror film royalty like Ms. Weaver to star in their film. She packs quite a good punch, too!

My personal favourite cameo appearance is from Blythe Danner, mum of Gwyneth Paltrow, but we won’t hold that against her…! We won’t hold FUTUREWORLD (1976) against her either, the pretty awful sequel to the amazing WESTWORLD (1973). She didn’t write it, after all!

Anyway, in PAUL, she plays a woman called Tara Walton whose life was shattered by a sighting of Paul sixty years ago that also killed her beloved dog. (Her childhood scenes will recall Cary Guffey as little Barry Guiler, leaving his house in the dead of night in CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. Oh, that poor little boy, all alone in the dark with the aliens, who could forget it?)

Paul stops off to apologise to Tara on his way to the mothership, and she’s gracious enough to forgive him. She’s got a bit of kick-ass left in her own bag of tricks, too, which is good to see, as she floors ‘the Big Guy’ with a killer punch.

I must say that it’s really great to see older ladies like Blythe Danner, Olwen Fouere (the latest TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE film) and Jamie Lee Curtis in the new HALLOWEEN movies getting prominent roles as strong women in big films in the last decade. It’s heartening to know that life doesn’t automatically end these days at forty, fifty or even sixty…!

Devil’s Tower National Monument features in the movie too. If you think you recognise it, that’s because you totally do. Just try to imagine it sitting on a plate at the dinner table and made entirely from mashed potatoes and you’re there…!

PAUL is good sweary fun, and it makes a good buddy movie-slash-road trip film with the added bonus of an extra-terrestrial twist, although there were whole swathes of time during the car chases where I definitely nodded off, as I find cock-sucking car chases so titty-flapping boring, if you take my meaning.

It’s a serviceable enough addition to the Pegg-Frost canon of collabarations, though not its best because SHAUN OF THE DEAD will always be that. Enjoy it, though, for what it is, and have yourselves a thoroughly ball-squeezing, titty-sucking evening now too, y’all…

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

WRITING THROUGH HARD TIMES -writing activities for emotional healing

Edwina Shaw


When the going gets tough, writing helps. From an early age I discovered that writing helped me make sense of the world, or at least helped me understand it better. Many writers are driven in the same way. We write to get thoughts in order, or discover the truth of our feelings about a situation. 

Over the past several years I’ve been working with Forgotten Australians who have suffered more trauma than most of the rest of us put together. Together we’ve figured out ways to use writing, and in particular fiction, to harness the power of the imagination to bring comfort and healing to the stories of our pasts and bring in lighter energies for our futures. Transforming victims into superheroes!

We are often driven to write after the loss of someone we love, not just to try and make sense of their loss but also to leave some…

View original post 879 more words



Okay. I’ll keep this short enough as so much has already been said about this iconic gangster film set in America in the ‘Twenties and ‘Thirties. It’s one of Sergio Leone’s masterpieces- he’s the King of the Spaghetti Westerns, as if you didn’t know- and it’s visually stunning, it’s got a fantastic score by Ennio Morricone and a top-notch cast and it’s very, very long. It clocks in at three hours and forty minutes.

There is a shorter version, I believe, but it would simply feel butchered to your average devoted Sergio Leone fan, and the director himself doesn’t care for it. The best way to watch it is in its entirety, with a nice bottle of vino to wet your whistle, on a night you’re free for approximately four hours. Then just relax, sit back and enjoy a masterclass in acting and directing of the kind you don’t often see nowadays…

Robert de Niro plays Noodles and James Woods portrays Max, two little Jewish wannabe-thugs living on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the second decade of the twentieth century. The streets are old, some practically derelict and teeming with Jews selling their wares and developing businesses such as barbering, shoe-and-boot-mending, and selling religious items, books and leather-work, to name just a very small few.
With three pals, Noodles and Max start off committing crimes for a local gang boss by the name of Bugsy, but by the time they’ve grown facial hair, they’ve formed their own little tight-knit gang of street hoodlums and petty criminals. Max and Noodles are firm friends for life, the kind only something monumental can put asunder.

Noodles loses his virginity early to a local girl called Peggy, a rough-and-ready type who will accommodate all comers for a plate of free dessert. His real interest lies with Deborah, though, the sister of one of his friends, Fat Moe, who runs Moe’s Bar. Yeah, like in THE SIMPSONS, lol.

Deborah is a beautiful but uppity young lady with upwardly mobile notions of being a dancer and actress in Hollywood, whom Noodles brutally rapes when they are both adults, because he can’t stand the fact that she ultimately chooses Hollywood over marriage to him. How very dare she…?

The first ninety minutes portray the five lads, Noodles, Max, Cockeye, Patsy and Little Dominic, building up their burgeoning crime empire on the Lower East Side. Noodles goes to prison for several years, however, for killing the gang boss Bugsy after Bugsy shoots their youngest member, Dominic, who then dies in Noodles’ arms. ‘I slipped, Noodles…!’

When Noodles comes out of prison, he and his gang are all adult men. It’s 1930, and his old gang have all become Prohibition millionaires from supplying local bars like Fat Moe’s with illegal liquor. This film has the distinction of being considered one of the best Prohibition movies ever made, if not the very best, in case I forgot to say that.

I love all the Prohibition stuff, all the jazz music, the Speak-easies and the Irish-American cops raiding some bars to see if anyone’s drinking anything stronger than lemonade, and turning a blind eye to others they probably have shares in. It was a very colourful and exciting time, certainly for us today looking back on it and watching films about it.

A diamond heist brings the sexually masochistic sometimes-hooker Carol into all their lives. Then the end of Prohibition spells the death of the gang’s bootlegging success; what should they do next…? Max comes up with the idea of robbing the New York Federal Reserve Bank.

Noodles and Max’s new moll, Carol, both agree that Max must have lost his mind. A heist like that would never work. It’s certain suicide for all concerned. Can his friends stop him from throwing away his one wild and precious life like it’s yesterday newspaper? Or has Max’s fate already been decided by the gods…? Take nothing at face value, folks…

The story is told in a non-linear fashion that will drive some viewers to distraction. The story hops back and forth between Max and Noodles as tough, fit, sexually vigorous young men to Noodles in the late ‘Sixties, returning to Fat Moe’s and his other haunts from wherever he’s been for years and years in answer to a pair of very strange invitations. One is an invite to visit a certain memorial in a certain cemetery, which might just offer a key to a past mystery. The other is to a party at a politician’s home…

I don’t like the ending, with the garbage truck. I’ve heard there’s an alternative, with a single gunshot being heard offscreen, which I think would have worked better. Still, that’s only a small point. A small point, but mine own, lol.

The fabulous musical score was composed by Ennio Morricone, but the pan-flutings of a Romanian musician called Gheorghe Zamfir, who also did the haunting musical score for the 1975 Australian horror film PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, just elevates it even more into the realms of unforgettable film soundtracks than it already was.

There now, I’ve gone on for much longer than I meant to, and after me saying I was going to keep it short and everything. There’s a lot to say about such a long film, though. And, anyway, I really wanted to do it justice, which I hope I have.

It’s perfect viewing for a quiet Bank Holiday night, and there’s a bit of humour in it as well, for example, in the baby-swapping and in the, erm, the identity parade of, um, cocks. No, for once the real thing, not the feathered kind. Could Number Three please step forward and turn to the left? I think that eye might have winked at me before. I just need to see it again…  

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



This HBO made-for-television drama-based-on-real-events is an effective and chilling account of the AIDS story; how the disease first started turning up in scared gay males in the San Francisco area, then gradually amongst haemophiliacs and people recovering from surgery who had unknowingly been given contaminated blood products.

The film focuses mainly on the doctors and scientists working flat out to discover the exact nature of the virus, because they can’t find a cure for it or devise a test for it until they find out what it is.

It’s very similar to the way that COVID-19 suddenly appeared in China in 2020 and started killing people before spreading to the world at large and causing it to close down for virtually two years. The scientists got to work on it and, relatively quickly, established how it was spread, how we could avoid getting it, how we could test for it and, eventually, how we could vaccinate against it.

COVID-19 affected people of all ages, skin colours, genders and nationalities. Everyone pulled together to find a cure and fight this awful disease. There was no stigma attached and no shame- well, not much; I heard there was some– in testing positive for it. It was just rotten bad luck and everyone wished you well. AIDS was a little different…

Throughout the film we’re looking at now, it’s highlighted that the then Ronald Reagan administration was reluctant to release funds- funds urgently needed for defence!- to pay for research into a disease that was initially seen as a ‘gay plague,’ a ‘gay cancer’ or GRID; GAY-RELATED IMMUNE DISEASE. The Reagan administration is portrayed as unwilling to properly ‘see’ the gay community and acknowledge the devastation AIDS was causing amongst them.

The God-Botherers had a field day with AIDS. It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, remember? Gay men had brought down the wrath of God on themselves for having sex with other men. AIDS was the price they had to pay. Why should anyone feel sorry for them? They brought it on themselves.

By the way, anyone finding themselves short on compassion for AIDS sufferers need do no more than Google images for Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a terrible skin cancer that became widely associated with AIDS in the 1980’s. You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.

The scientists in America seemed to be in competition with the scientists in France to find out what kind of virus they were dealing with. I’m not sure if all the fighting and arguing over who came up with it first and all the patent-pending stuff delayed the discovery and distribution of treatments and medicines, but it might well have done.

And politicians argued with the activists and argued with each other over budgets and the wording of bills and whatnot and, in the meantime, hundreds of gay men died, sometimes agonisingly, sometimes alone, and always before their time. ‘I’m thirty-two years old and I’m dying…!’ And the band played on, in other words…

There’s a super-famous cast that includes Matthew Modine as an epidemiologist who once worked on the Ebola virus in Africa and now spearheads the HIV/AIDS research for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Ian McKellen plays a Gay Rights/AIDS activist and congressional aide who gets the virus. B.D. Wong plays his younger lover, Kico.

Alan Alda portrays Dr. Bob Gallo, the main American scientific researcher fighting with the French scientists for ‘ownership’ of the virus. Musician Phil Collins plays the owner of one of the gay bath-houses that were all shut down when it was discovered that they probably contributed hugely to the spread of the virus.

Other famous faces include Steve Martin in a straight role, as the brother of an AIDS victim who rigidly hid his gay persona from friends and family. Anjelica Huston, Lily Tomlin, Saul Rubinek, Swoosie Kurtz, Glenne Headly and Richard Masur also appear.

My favourite cameo by far is by Richard Gere, an actor I don’t normally rate too highly, but he’s brilliant in this. He plays a handsome young choreographer who gets the virus. He’s in his doctor’s office, answering intimate questions about his sex life, and he looks out the window onto the street.

The Gay Pride Halloween Parade is passing by. A figure dressed as the Grim Reaper, all in black with a skull face and complete with scythe, looks directly up at him before passing by. Richard Gere shivers and murmurs to himself: ‘Party’s over…’  I got chills all over.

I also greatly admire the scenes with the gay French-Canadian flight attendant who was initially regarded as ‘Patient Zero’ for AIDS in the United States. He’s there in the doctor’s office, going, what’s all this AIDS stuff got to do with me, I’ve only got skin cancer, before adding that he couldn’t in a million years remember the names, never mind the addresses and telephone numbers, of all the men he’d slept with. Though he’s handsome and debonair and jauntily moustached, there’s something desperately, desperately sad about him. You know he’s going to be dead very soon.

Bobbi Campbell, an AIDS activist and the 16th person in San Francisco to be diagnosed with Kaposi’s Sarcoma, an early form of AIDS diagnosis, is another real-life tragic figure in the film. He talks so bravely about fighting the virus with everything he’s got, but a quick glance at Wikipedia reveals that he too died in 1984, the same year as our real-life flight attendant.

Elton John sings his ‘The Last Song’ over real-life footage of a candlelight vigil and march in San Francisco, and then a montage of familiar and beloved faces, including Anthony Perkins, Rudolf Nureyev, Freddie Mercury, Brad Davis, Liberace, Magic Johnson, Rock Hudson, Halston, Denholm Elliott and Robert Reed.

Other well-made AIDS films/dramas include AN EARLY FROST (1985), starring Aidan Quinn, and the drama mini-series INTIMATE CONTACT (1987), with Daniel Massey and Claire Bloom in the lead roles.

Such a horrible disease, and so many victims robbed of life way too soon. So much courage in the face of a terrible adversity. We have various treatments now to lengthen life but still, I think, no cure. I don’t even know how to sign off today, so I’ll just say that I’ll see you when I see you. Mind yourselves and stay safe.


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:

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

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