BASIL RATHBONE AND NIGEL BRUCE IN THE SHERLOCK HOLMES FILM COLLECTION: 1939-1945. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

house of fear

BASIL RATHBONE AND NIGEL BRUCE AS SHERLOCK HOLMES AND DR. WATSON IN A COLLECTION OF FOURTEEN SUPERB OLD FILMS FROM 1939-1945: BASED ON THE BOOKS BY SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

These fourteen marvellous old films will always be my favourite of all films. I lapped them up as a teenager desperate to escape the drudgery of school and exams. Back then, of course, I had to watch ’em on television as and when they came up, which was probably infrequently. Now, in this blessed age of DVD and Blu-Ray, I have my own little box-set and can view the films whenever I choose. Which is often, lol.

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce work so well together as Holmes and Watson. Holmes has of course a superior intellect but also a deep fondness and affection for the sometimes bungling but unswervingly loyal Watson. Either one of them would die for the other, that’s how deep this fondness goes.

There’s a small cast of regulars too, such as Dennis Hoey as Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard, whose rivalry with Holmes is tempered with a genuine feeling and respect for the great detective. He’s good for a laugh but he usually gets his man in the end, albeit with much prompting from Sherlock Holmes.

Mary Gordon, who was privileged to unwittingly give old Frankie’s Monster a helping hand out of the burned-out ruins of the old mill in the second Universal FRANKENSTEIN film, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), is marvellous as Holmes’s and Watson’s long-suffering landlady, cook and housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson.

She’s had to put up with a lot, the poor old dear. Clients and villains coming and going to and from Holmes’s book-lined rooms at 221B Baker Street in London at all hours of the day and night, some of them with murder in mind. The assassination of one Sherlock Holmes, to be precise.

Then there’s the bullet-holes with which Holmes is known to ‘adorn’ her ‘beautiful plaster’ walls, and the fact that you can take food and drink to the detective but you can’t necessarily make him partake of it.

‘See that he drinks a drop, will you?’ she begs the rotund and loveable Dr. Watson, who laughingly replies: ‘I will, my dear,’ while knowing full well that there’s only a slim chance that Holmes won’t be rushing off to solve a mystery before the steam has even vanished from the breakfast kippers.

Sherlock Holmes’s old adversary, some would even say nemesis, Professor Moriarty, is played variously by Lionel Atwill, George Zucco and the coldly chilling Henry Daniell. Holmes needn’t expect any mercy from that quarter, although the one-upmanship between the two, who are not without a little vanity, is often hilarious.

‘No doubt everything I have to say has already crossed your mind,’ Henry Daniell as the slippery Professor comments quietly but firmly in THE WOMAN IN GREEN. ‘And no doubt my answer has already crossed YOURS,’ retorts Holmes, equally firmly.

See what I mean? Their intellects are both so superior that they don’t even need to have a conversation in order to have a conversation. They’re too smart for their own good, lol. And each is as stubborn as the other.

‘I’ll not rest until I see you hang for the Finger Murders,’ Holmes tells his old enemy a moment later in the same movie. ‘And I tell you,’ Moriarty replies a little later on, ‘that I shall never stand upon the gallows.’ Well, I guess that that’s that, then…!

There’s a whole host of actors (and actresses) who regularly appear in the films as butlers, cabbies, policemen, customs officials and criminals. These would include: Holmes Herbert, Alec Craig, Olaf Hytten, Vernon Downing, E.E. Clive, Miles Mander, Halliwell Hobbes, Gavin Muir, Paul Cavanagh, Gerald Hamer, Ian Wolfe, Harry Cording, Arthur Hohl, Frederick Morlock, Montagu Love, Leyland Hodgson, Reginald Denny, Sally Shepherd and even John Carradine.

If I’ve left anyone out, please feel free to contact me and let me know. I’d like this list to be as comprehensive as possible. One of the many fascinating things about these lads (and ladettes!) is that many of them were born in the 1890s, like Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce themselves, or the 1880s or even the 1870s. That they’ve all, without exception, gone to their eternal reward saddens me more than I could ever tell you.

Evelyn Ankers (Universal’s THE WOLFMAN with Lon Chaney Junior), Hillary Brooke, Eve Amber, Patricia Morison, Ida Lupino and Gale Sondergaard all take turns as the eye candy in the films, although the phrase ‘eye candy’ doesn’t do justice to the passion and style with which they play their parts. It almost implies ‘dumb,’ although these gals are anything but.

All beautiful, all dressed in the most magnificent ‘Forties furs and jewels with elaborate hats or hairstyles (except for Evelyn Ankers in THE VOICE OF TERROR and THE PEARL OF DEATH, she’s meant to be from the lower classes, lol), some play helpless females throwing themselves on Holmes’s mercy and others play stone-cold villains.

Holmes treats all of the ladies he encounters with the same courtesy and respect, making the innocent ones feel safe and the criminals like they’ve finally met someone who could match them, move for move, in the elaborate chess game of catch-the-murderer.

Dr. Watson, of course, is an incorrigible flirt and brightens up considerably when he’s in the company of an attractive woman. He tends to forget all else, however, when he’s entranced by the sight of a shapely ankle or a Cupid’s-Bow of a lipsticked mouth, leading more than once to Holmes having to pull his (Dr. Watson’s) chestnuts out of the fire for him.

‘I’m sorry, Holmes,’ mumbles a shame-faced and chastened Watson after he’s screwed up yet again. ‘Never mind all that,’ replies his friend and mentor generously. ‘The game’s afoot, and I shall need you!’ ‘Will you, Holmes, will you really?’ says a much brightened Watson. Then it’s all ‘Grab your hat and coat, Watson!’ and out the door and down the stairs they rush, Watson grumbling nineteen to the dozen once more about Holmes’s peremptory manner.

The two of them rub along very nicely together in their smoky shared rooms at 221B Baker Street, filled with the fug of Holmes’s perpetual tobacco, stored in the toe of the Persian slipper, and the eternal scraping of Holmes’s bow across the violin he loves to play. Yes, as a roommate I’d say he wouldn’t be the easiest to live with. Kudos to Watson for putting up with him.

Watson’s something of a writer too, as well as a retired medic, and whenever one of his accounts of his and Holmes’s adventures appears in THE STRAND magazine, he couldn’t be more pleased.

Not even Holmes begging him to be more fact-oriented and scientifically logical in his accounts and less lurid can’t blight his pleasure. Something tells me, however, that Holmes is somehow secretly pleased with being thus lauded and celebrated. He’s only human, after all, and we all have our little vanities.

What I now propose is to quickly synopsise each of the fourteen films in one or two sentences, including a highlight or notable moment for each. All made between 1939 and 1945, the exact years of World War Two, several of them even allude to the War and to Hitler and his naughty Nazis. In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SPIDER WOMAN, you even get to shoot the big dictators of the war ‘right where their ‘earts ought to be!,’ implying of course that they lack them. Hearts, that is.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES sees attractive young actor Richard Greene taking top billing as Sir Henry Baskerville, but Holmes is the real star as he figures out the mystery behind the sudden and violent deaths of so many of Sir Henry’s ancestors.

Highlight? Holmes disguised as an old beggar and mortally offending a disgusted Dr. Watson with his peddler’s prattle…!

Like THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is the only other film set in the Victorian era. It’s top hats, frock-coats, gloves and canes at the ready as Holmes tries to find the connection between a terrified young woman (played by Ida Lupino) and the imminent arrival of a precious jewel at the Tower of London.

Highlight? The evil Moriarty chiding a butler over the death of a plant while a mournfully eerie tune plays from behind a closed door…

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (bom-ba-ba-bom!) helps the revered detective to foil a nasty Nazi plot to invade Britain and bring it under the dreadful aegis of the Third Reich.

Highlight? The gorgeous Evelyn Ankers as Kitty, exhorting her fellow Englishmen and women to help Mr. Holmes by going out and about to discover the true meaning of the word ‘Christopher…’

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON sees Holmes again attempting to foil the Nazis by keeping a certain scientist, Dr. Tobell, and his invaluable bomb-site safe from Hitler’s sweaty grasp.

Highlight? Holmes’s decidely unbecoming brushed-forward hairstyle, for one, and then he and Moriarty politely discussing ever more imaginative ways for Moriarty to murder the captive detective once and for all. Stop giving him ideas, Holmes! For Chrissakes, he’s trying to bloody well kill you, after all. No need to make it so easy for him.

In SHERLOCK HOLMES GOES TO WASHINGTON, Holmes doesn’t do a Mister Smith but instead foils an international spy ring that’s going mad trying to locate a secret document which, if it falls into their enemy hands, could be disastrous to England.

Highlight? Holmes playing the part of a fussy, know-it-all antiques collector in order to beard the lion in its den. The thing to remember about this one is that the person who has it (the document) doesn’t know he has it…

SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH has always been one of my favourites in the series of films. The creepy old Musgrave Manor, now a rest-home for convalescent soldiers run by Dr. Watson MD, is unaccountably the scene of several brutal murders. Is the key to the whole ghastly affair tied up in the mish-mash of ancient words known as The Musgrave Ritual…?

Highlight? The murderer’s confession down in the damp old crypt and also Watson’s dilly-dallying on the stairs with the convalescent soldier, each of them undecided for several minutes as to whether to go up the stairs, come down the stairs or go outside and risk being shot by the copper on duty. Vernon Downing, who plays the soldier Clavering, also features in THE SPIDER WOMAN and is a very interesting actor about which, sadly, little is known.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SPIDER WOMAN is one of the best films in the series. Insurance policies, a series of highly-publicised ‘pyjama suicides,’ a killer spider and a suspiciously familiar-looking Indian gentleman called Rajniv Singh all feature as Holmes tries to best a feminine mind that’s nearly as sharp as his own. And that’s saying something, let me tell you.

Highlight? The marvellous Gale Sondergaard as Adrea Spedding doing her hilariously fake-as-f**k Mother India act, and also the genuine grief and sense of loss of Inspector Lestrade when he thinks that the great detective has drowned on a fishing holiday to Scotland.

‘Why didn’t you go in after ‘im?’ he berates the devastated Dr. Watson. ‘I wasn’t there, I tell you!’ replies the poor doctor, choked with grief. ‘And neither was he. He was gone, I tell you, he was gone…’

And then, enter the funny little postman, the one who thinks that ‘Sherlock ‘olmes was nothing but a’ old ‘erring-gut…’ Don’t worry, Watson won’t let him away with such shocking blasphemy…!

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE PEARL OF DEATH is an absolute cracker of a film. Holmes has his work well and truly cut out for him trying to solve a string of horrible murders, in which the victim is each time found ‘with his- or her- back broken, in a litter of smashed china…!’ The whole thing holds a chilling ring of familiarity to Holmes, but the beast he thinks might be responsible for such grim deeds is dead, isn’t he? Isn’t he…?

Highlight? Without a doubt, Rondo Hatton as The Creeper, or ‘the Oxton ‘orror, I calls him,’ as Detective Lestrade so succinctly puts it. The Creeper gave me nightmares when I was a kid. ‘Go to the room at the top of the stairs. You know what to look for. If you should happen to meet Dr. Boncourt… pay him your respects…’

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SCARLET CLAW is another humdinger of a movie. The little town of La Morte Rouge in Canada (yes, Canada!) is living up to its rather gruesome name as a seemingly supernatural killer strikes its victims randomly and without reason, leaving them in a terrible state with their throats torn out. But Holmes and Watson don’t really believe in the supernatural. ‘No ghosts need apply,’ remember? They rather sensibly decide to look for the killer amongst the living instead…

Highlight? Dr. Watson falling in the various bits of boggy marsh…!

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUSE OF FEAR, an insurance agent begs Holmes to investigate why the members of ‘a most singular club,’ situated in an ancient pile called Drearcliff House (the clue’s in the name, folks!), are being killed off one by one. ‘No man goes whole to his grave.’ Is a pouch of tobacco going to be the key that will unlock this complex mystery for the great detective?

Highlight? Dr. Watson again, this time fighting off imaginary assailants in the dead of a dark rainy night while he’s supposed to be ‘protecting’ the surviving members of the Good Comrades Club. You might as well ask the cat…

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN PURSUIT TO ALGIERS sees the famous detective escorting a king in danger back to his home country while unravelling the mystery of why a beautiful woman is afraid of her life of the contents of her own music-case. And to think it all starts with a humble plate of fish and chips…

Highlight? Dear old Dr. Watson singing ‘You take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll get to Scotland afore you.’ It fair warms the cockles, does that.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN THE WOMAN IN GREEN is a tale of murder and mesmerism, blackmail and missing digits as Holmes and Moriarty come face-to-face in Holmes’s rooms to discuss, of all things, Moriarty’s extremely cheeky idea for a nice pension plan for himself. It’s a case of Holmes’s will against Moriarty’s as Holmes gets to the bottom of the Finger Murders…

Highlight? Dr. Watson ‘paddling’ in the ‘brook’ with only one shoe and sock removed because ‘the other leg is waterproof…!’ The cheek of that hypnotist fella. Humph.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN TERROR BY NIGHT sees our chums hunting down a jewel-thief on a moving train while a killer picks off the passengers like ducks in a row. We have a coffin with a false bottom, a teapot-thief and a man who’s not whom he pretends to be. ‘Curry? Filthy stuff, I never touch it…!’ Can Holmes find the killer and the thief before they reach their destination…? And is there any chance of a cup of tea on this bleedin’ train?

Highlight? Dr. Watson in fine form as he quizzes the passengers ‘as a representative of the law,’ only to find that some of them don’t take too kindly to people who aren’t in fact policemen sticking their noses into other peoples’ private business. And it was Holmes himself who set him up for this fall. For shame, Holmes.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN DRESSED TO KILL features the most dazzling of all the femmes fatales to show up in this series of films. She’s extremely anxious to get her hands on a little old music box in the collection of one of Watson’s old school friends, the endearingly named Stinky, and she’s not too fussy about how she gets it…

Highlight? Stinky entertaining the femme fatale. Her furs and jewels are to die for. But little old Stinky, however charming he may be, is punching way, way above his weight with this single-minded beauty. Quite frankly, he has more chance of getting Dr. Watson and Holmes to agree to a threesome…

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed Holmes off in his serialisation of the story in the STRAND magazine, there was such an uproar that he was obliged to bring the legendary detective back from the dead. Of all the fictional characters ever created, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most enduring. Long may he flourish in our minds and in these wonderful old films.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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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TARTAN ASIA EXTREME PRESENTS: KOMA. (2004) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

koma

TARTAN ASIA EXTREME PRESENTS: KOMA. (2004) A HONG KONG HORROR-THRILLER DIRECTED BY LO CHI-LEUNG. LANGUAGE: CANTONESE. STARRING ANGELICA LEE, KARENA LAM, LEE SINJE AND ANDY HUI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Crawls under the skin and stays there.’

VARIETY.

This is kind of an odd one. I really liked and enjoyed it but that’s not to say that there aren’t loopholes in it or places where the plot, frankly, verged on the ever-so-slightly nonsensical. It’s the story of Ching, a beautiful, privileged rich girl whom we first see getting pissed at a friend’s wedding. Fair enough, lol. We’ve all been there…

Ching, however, gets spectacularly pissed and goes for a wander by herself through the hotel where the wedding’s being held. She discovers two things. A strange woman in a coat and high heels walking in the hotel’s deserted upper corridors, and a naked, nearly dead woman who’s just woken up in a bath of ice. With one kidney missing…

Then the fun really starts. The strange woman in the coat and high heels turns out to be Ling, whom it is revealed has been sleeping with Ching’s boyfriend, a good-looking doctor fellow called Wai. Ling is as pretty as Ching though sort of sturdier where Ching is very obviously delicate and too thin, for reasons we’ll discover later.

Ling is as poor as Ching is rich and her mother is a comatose invalid in the hospital, the only person in the film who could be said to be in an actual ‘koma.’ At first accused of complicity in the kidney murders, Ling is quickly declared by the police to be cleared of any involvement. But she did sleep with Wai and even borrow money from him for her mother’s care, so it looks like poor Ching has been taken for a right mug.

Ching also can’t rid herself of the niggling feeling that Ling is evil and intends her real physical harm, aside from merely bonking Ching’s boyfriend and getting money out of him that should be spent on gifts for Ching, by rights, and on his future with Ching. Ching has an horrific dream in which she sees Ling coming for her at night with a scalpel. A scalpel for harvesting a nice, fat juicy kidney…

The kidneys bit reminds me of the time in THE SIMPSONS that Grandpa Simpson needed a new kidney because Homer wouldn’t let him stop for a whizz on the long journey home from the Wild West village, the one with all the prostitutes, lol. ‘Hello, sweet cheeks!’

Homer is eventually talked into giving Grandpa one of his own kidneys but then he gets scared and runs away, finding himself on the Ship of Lost Souls with a motley crew of extremely strange people. But not before togging himself out in some sharp nautical threads purchased from an emporium for sea-faring men: ‘I’m fleeing in shame and I’d like to look my best…!’

Anyway, in the most ridiculous and unbelievable scene in the whole film, Ching is saved from the evil kidney-harvester by none other than Ling, a tiny slip of a girl not much bigger than Ching herself. You’ll have to suspend disbelief for this bit…!

Ching is eternally grateful to Ling, but Ling’s savage jealousy of Ching’s wealth and beauty- and let’s not forget that Ching also has Wai, he’s a dubious prize but both women seem to love him- won’t allow her to be properly friends with Ching. It seems like Ling the Friend is even deadlier and more malicious than Ling the Enemy, so either way, Ching is screwed. Isn’t she…?

As I said, this is a really entertaining Asian horror film, if you don’t mind a few mad plot twists. Probably the scariest thing about it is the very real kidney-and-other organs harvesting business it brings to the forefront of our minds.

Imagine, for a paltry few grand, someone could try to steal your kidney or, even worse, mine. Okay, fine. What can’t be cured must be endured. Just let me run a few gallons of wine through there first…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

komakoma

DOUBLE INDEMNITY. (1944) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

double indemnityDOUBLE INDEMNITY. (1944) DIRECTED BY BILLY WILDER. SCREENPLAY BY BILLY WILDER AND RAYMOND CHANDLER. FROM THE NOVEL BY JAMES M. CAIN.

STARRING FRED MACMURRAY, BARBARA STANWYCK AND EDWARD G. ROBINSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I killed him for the money. And for a woman. I didn’t get the money, and I didn’t get the woman.’

Walter Neff, insurance agent.

You can tell from the writing credits (Wilder, Chandler, Cain) just why DOUBLE INDEMNITY is one of the best and darkest film noir thrillers ever made. And the performances don’t exactly suck either.

On the contrary, they shimmer and steam with tension and desire all the way through. Not just with sexual desire, although there’s plenty of that, but with the desire to enrich oneself financially while simultaneously ridding oneself of the millstone around one’s neck, a husband who’s outlived his usefulness. It’s the old, old story, isn’t it?

Fred MacMurray, a fine handsome slice of ‘Forties beefcake, plays Walter Neff, an insurance agent who finds himself one afternoon in the lavish home of bored housewife Phyllis Dietrichson, portrayed here by Barbara Stanwyck. Walter doesn’t mind that her husband, the wealthy breadwinner to whom he would have pitched his sales spiel, is out. He couldn’t care less about the husband once he claps eyes on the wife.

Phyllis, the second wife of this Dietrichson fella, is stunningly beautiful, and don’t she just know it? Her glossy blonde hair falls in artlessly silky rolls and waves, her make-up is flawless and she dresses to seduce, with bling and cling wherever you choose to look.

Walter is immediately smitten with her. The sight of the slim, slinky gold chain winking expensively around one elegantly crossed ankle is his undoing. Bam! He’s in love, head-over-heels in love, and the attraction is mutual.

The conversation turns to murder surprisingly quickly. Walter initially walks out on Phyllis when he susses out that she wants to take out a whopping insurance policy on her cruel, abusive husband, then arrange a little ‘accident’ for the unfortunate man shortly afterwards.

But it doesn’t take long for the spider to lure the fly back into her parlour, which smells heavily of honeysuckle. ‘Murder smells like honeysuckle,’ I betcha ya didn’t know that. The fly takes the bait.

The stage is set for the demise of Mister Dietrichson. The two conspirators concoct a plan that has always seemed to me to be needlessly complex and dangerous. Too much could go wrong. Too much does…

Why does Walter do it? He loves her, of course, and he desires her more than he’s ever desired any woman in his life before. The money is not to be sniffed at either. But there’s another reason. It’s almost a matter of pride with him.

He’s an insurance agent, right? Day after day, he sits in his office reading fraudulent claims put in by people who think that they can fiddle their insurance. Walter and his boss Keyes, played by Edward G. Robinson in magnificent form, know every single trick in the book. Hell, they wrote the goddamned book.

Walter quite fancies the idea of being able to use his eleven years of inside knowledge to pull off the ultimate fool-proof insurance scam. But there’s no such thing as the perfect murder. And Walter always knew that Keyes would worry and worry at this case from the moment he got the bit between his teeth. Keyes can smell a fraud a mile off.

What Walter doesn’t know is that Dietrichson’s daughter Lola, between whom and Phyllis there is no love lost, has some rather disturbing information on Phyllis. It might just shed some light on the character of the woman whom, after all, Walter barely knows. It concerns Dietrichson’s first wife and the manner in which she died…

The sexual tension between the two leads is palpable. The swift, snappy quickfire dialogue they utter in their first few scenes together is a sheer delight to watch. It positively crackles with electricity. It was written by men who knew their stuff, goddammit.

double indemnitydouble indemnitydouble indemnityWhen Walter and Phyllis first sleep together in Walter’s apartment on a gorgeously rainy night, you’ll see no more than the aftermath of Phyllis adjusting her blouse and Walter smoking on the couch with his shoes off, but it’s as suggestively sultry as if you’d seen them actually engage in sexual intercourse.

Of course, they knew how to do things back then. These old ‘Forties thrillers were masterful at showing without telling, if you know what I mean. A fierce embrace and the music rising to a powerful crescendo was all they needed back then to imply mind-blowing, life-changing sex, the kind of sex you’ll remember for the rest of your days.

Those were the good old days, huh? And DOUBLE INDEMNITY is one of the best examples of its genre, one of the finest of all the film noir thrillers. If you haven’t already seen it, go and find it and watch it. It’ll weave its magic on you too. I say let it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

FEAR IN THE NIGHT and STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING: A DOUBLE BILL OF HAMMER HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

straight on till morning peterFEAR IN THE NIGHT and STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING: A DOUBLE BILL OF HAMMER HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

FEAR IN THE NIGHT. (1972) DIRECTED, PRODUCED AND CO-WRITTEN BY JIMMY SANGSTER. STARRING RALPH BATES, JUDY GEESON, JOAN COLLINS, JAMES COSSINS AND PETER CUSHING.

STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING. (1972) DIRECTED BY PETER COLLINSON. PRODUCED BY MICHAEL CARRERAS. STARRING RITA TUSHINGHAM, SHANE BRIANT, JAMES BOLAM AND KATYA WYETH.

‘Second star to the right, straight on till morning…’

I love, love, LOVE these two films, which I recently watched back-to-back courtesy of my lovely new twenty-one film Hammer Horror boxset. Yes, I know that I’m late to this party but I’ve always liked to make a spectacular entrance, lol.

It’s both ironic and apt that I should have chosen these two horror movies to go together. I hadn’t a clue when so doing that they’d been released together as a double bill back in the day, a double bill I would have adored to see on the big screen. The theme of both films revolves around female hysteria and mental fragility so they do actually sit really well together.

As it is, I was nearly incoherent with excitement at having brilliant new Hammer films to watch. New to me, that is. And at first I thought that FEAR IN THE NIGHT couldn’t be topped, so fantastic was it. Until I saw STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING, that is

FEAR IN THE NIGHT sees the darkly attractive Ralph Bates (THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA) playing a school-teacher called Robert Heller, who has just married a woman he’s known for only a few weeks. Nothing like a whirlwind courtship, eh?

Peggy, who works as a carer to an elderly woman before her marriage to Robert, is blonde, pretty but possibly a bit dim. She also has some unresolved mental issues. Robert must really love her to have taken her on as his wife, with all her mental and emotional baggage, eh…?

The night before Peggy is to leave her job and go to live with Robert, she is attacked in her flat by a seemingly one-armed man dressed in black. This isn’t a good omen, surely.

The police aren’t called because the doctor and Peggy’s elderly charge both agree that poor Peggy’s been under a lot of strain lately. That’s tantamount to saying that she’s imagining things, isn’t it…? Not terribly complimentary, anyway.

The newly-weds are going to live in a nice chalet or lodge-house on the grounds of the posh boys’ boarding-school where Robert works. Term hasn’t started yet and the school is empty of snobby little schoolboys when Peggy takes a tentative look around it by herself.

Well, she’s not quite by herself. She bumps into Michael Carmichael, the school’s headmaster, played by Hammer royalty Peter Cushing. He unnerves her by asking her to let down her pretty blonde hair, an intimate request that it would be more appropriate for a husband to make than a complete stranger, surely. Peggy is glad to get away from him.

If Michael Carmichael has unnerved her, then his wife Molly, played by a young-looking and glamorous Joan Collins, sets her teeth on edge with her patronising, bitchy and rather bossy treatment of Peggy.

Well, she is a headmaster’s wife after all and probably used to bossing people around, but this headmaster’s wife is a glossy, brittle super-bitch whose artificial veneer of hospitality doesn’t fool Peggy. Which is funny, because Peggy, as we see later, is exceptionally easy to fool. She’s malleable, pliable, vulnerable, impressionable and a prime target for ‘gaslighting…’

To her absolute horror, Peggy soon discovers that her one-armed attacker has followed her here to her safe little country abode. Robert has serious fears for her mental state.

Is Peggy crazy, or is there something nasty and sinister going on in this supposedly empty boarding- school? Is the school really as empty as we’re meant to believe? These are questions to which we’ll need answers before the curtain comes down on the final act…

All the four leads are excellent but I also loved the inclusion of James Cossins here as the doctor who looks Peggy over after the first attack by the, um, one-armed bandit, lol. He co-starred in THE ANNIVERSARY as one of Bette Davis’s messed-up sons, the cross-dressing one, and he’s given memorable performances also in SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM and FAWLTY TOWERS.

In SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM, he plays a man giving a course on Public Relations. All good so far, except that one of his pupils is the socially inept and accident-prone Frank Spencer. Suffice it to say that he’ll need time off after he’s given his course to have his Frank-induced nervous breakdown.

In FAWLTY TOWERS, Mister Cossins plays the man who sells outboard motors for a living but whom Basil has mistaken for the dreaded Hotel Inspector. ‘The wine has reacted with the cork and gone bad.’ The relief felt by Basil when he realises that he’s got the wrong man- yet again- is positively palpable. James Cossins is excellent at playing that type of well-spoken posh bloke.

STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING, its title taken from childrens’ fairytale PETER PAN by J.M Barrie, blew me away completely. Rita Tushingham plays Brenda, a young woman who writes fairy stories for fun and whose head is permanently in the clouds. She could even have mental problems or be delusional. She’s not quite the full shilling by a long stretch.

Her behaviour at the start of the film is bizarre. Though she’s not pregnant, she tells her Mum that she is and that she’s off to London to find a father for her baby. Cuckoo…! She gets a job in a boutique and moves into a flat-share with one of her co-workers, the beautiful party-girl Caroline, and even goes to her first party, dressed of course like Ma Ingalls, lol.

A small dog is the means by which she meets and moves in with Peter, a stunningly good-looking, languid blonde hippy-ish type who lives in a fancy apartment and swans about doing nothing all day, or so it seems.

He’s seemingly independently wealthy and doesn’t need to work. At least, he’s got a drawer full of cash and he won’t say where it comes from, which is odd and even a little suspicious. It’s hard to imagine him working at anything, anyway. He’s just too damned languid…!

They’re an unlikely pairing, but Peter sees something in the Plain-Jane Brenda that strikes a chord within him. She’s not beautiful like he is but for some reason he’s okay with this. This is what he wants from a woman right now. He re-christens her ‘Wendy’ to his Peter (as in Peter Pan) and they sit around telling each other fairy stories. Ever so languidly, of course.

One of Peter’s stories, in particular, should make the dozey Brenda want to run for the hills but Brenda believes she’s finally found a man she can have her longed-for baby with. Astonishingly, Peter says he’s agreeable to fathering this kiddie but Peter is as mad as a box of frogs.

There’s no two ways about it. He’s damaged goods and his grip on reality is tenuous to say the least. It’s even more fragile than Brenda’s, and she’s a fruit-loop. What has happened to the divinely attractive Peter to send him off his rocker like that? The key is in the story he tells, the one that Brenda fails to interpret correctly.

How can one broken, mentally unsound person cure another? They can’t, of course. The pair can only enable each other to fulfil the worst of their potential until irreparable damage has been done. Peter and Brenda are on a collision course to disaster. Will anyone be left standing after the crash…?

Both these films kept me gripped right till the end, especially STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING. The friend with whom I watched both films said that she didn’t know that Hammer made horror movies that weren’t about Dracula, the Mummy or Frankenstein’s Monster and she kept expecting Christopher Lee to pop in, fangs and cape and all. Well, anyone who knows me knows that I’d be all in favour of that, lol.

Anyway, we both absolutely loved these tense, taut and infinitely atmospheric psychological horrors. Perfect specimens from the Hammer vault of terror and suspense. Marvellous viewing for whenever you feel the need for the icy-cold, clammy fingers of Death on your shoulder…straight on till morning peterstraight on till morning peter

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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 GEORGE FORMBY FILM COLLECTION. (1941- 1946) REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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THE GEORGE FORMBY FILM COLLECTION. (1941-1946) DIRECTED BY MARCEL VARNEL AND STARRING LANCASHIRE’S OWN GEORGE FORMBY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Rediscover the magic of ‘The Ukelele Man’ himself- George Formby- with seven of his very finest films!

George Formby was Britain’s biggest box-office star when he moved to Columbia Studios to make these seven fabulous comedy musicals- full of hit songs and packed with daft and inspired comedy in the true Formby style!

Finally released from the film vaults and digitally remastered for optimum sound and picture quality, these seven films are now available to own for the very first time in one very special DVD boxset!’

SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT.

‘Eeeeeeeeh, it’s turned out nice again, ha’nt it…?’

My teenage son and I went out specifically to look for George Formby films after hearing him singing his wonderful comic song ‘I’m leaning on a lamp-post on the corner of the street in case a certain little lady passes by’ on a gorgeous CD called WARTIME MEMORIES, which I’ve been listening to since Christmas.

And why was I listening to a CD called WARTIME MEMORIES, you might ask me? Well, I watched CASABLANCA on Christmas Eve on Irish television, all by myself in the deepening gloom, and ever since then I’ve craved as much ‘Forties music as I can get my hands on. Anything ‘Forties, really. Music, films, memorabilia and whatever else is out there.

We found this seven-film boxset in one of our favourite places to buy movies and music, and set about watching ’em with the diligence and enthusiasm of a mouse who finds himself unexpectedly alone with a wheel of Brie.

It’s as good an introduction to the films of this special little funny man as ever you’re likely to find, so if you’re thinking of getting to know the movies of George Formby yourself, you could do a lot worse. Eeeeeeeeeh…!

George Formby (1904-1961) is the undisputed star of all seven films. With his gormless, pleasantly toothsome face and the trademark wide grin, he sings and jokes his way through the scripts in much the same way each time.

He’s never a rich posh toff, he’s always a working-class stiff (usually called George!) trying to make ends meet, but it doesn’t bother our George at all that he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Whatever the weather, George is always in a good mood and as nice as a cake made of pie (Ned Flanders, THE SIMPSONS) to everyone he meets.

If he gets bullied by bigger, tougher men, he might get knocked about but he’ll always get back up. He’s got an unerring sense of justice and fair play, he loves his country dearly and would punch any traitor on the nose for daring to say a bad word against his beloved England.

As these particular films were mostly made during the Second World War, you’ll find George preparing to fight the Nazis in a few of them. There are jokes against Hitler, Goering and Goebbels in them specifically and the patriotism in them would do your heart good. Eeeeh, they would at that…!

There’s a certain kind of England conjured up in each film that’s mostly gone now, an England of cheeky little scamps shouting the news of the day on street corners as they sell their papers, sailors home on shore-leave with the words ‘loose lips sink ships’ ringing in their ears and war savings bonds on sale everywhere you look to aid the war effort.

Bobbies still had chin-straps and said ‘Now you just come alonger me’ to suspicious characters or rum-looking coves, going to the pictures cost next to nothing (you need to take out a bank loan these days for a night out at the flicks!) and it was common practice to hide behind the sofa when the landlord came calling for the rent.

And don’t forget the blackout curtains and the little evacuees and the air-raid sirens and the nights in the bunkers while Hitler’s Luftwaffe droned relentlessly overhead. Women drew stocking seams down the backs of their legs because real nylons were rare. Oh, happy days…!

There aren’t many folks alive today who remember this tumultuous era first-hand but we know that, as straitened as circumstances often were back then, people always had their lovely memories of the time. Maybe some of your Great-Grannies and Great-Grandads even went to see George Formby at the pictures and have good memories of so doing. Eeeeeeh, i’n’t life grand…!

George sings three, four or even five songs in each of the films, often accompanying himself on his beloved ukelele, and here’s something else about the films. You wouldn’t take George for a ladies’ man, would you, but in every single movie he gets the girl of his dreams with only a modicum of effort, and you know what little belters those ‘Forties dames were.

Of course, he was the star and the star always gets the girl. Or does it just go to show you that nice guys don’t, in fact, necessarily always finish last? George hasn’t a bad bone in his body, he’s a tad goofy-looking and if a woman came onto him he’d be just as likely to run off shrieking ‘Mother!,’ but the nice girlies all love our Georgie. ‘Well, I’ll go to our ‘ouse…!’

Let’s have a quick run-down of the seven films on the boxset before we finish. In SOUTH AMERICAN GEORGE (1941), George’s coincidental resemblance to an opera singer (without being able to sing a note of opera!) leads him into a situation where he can help a lovely lady out if he’ll just play the part of the absentee opera singer for a bit. That’s if he doesn’t get his head blown off by some rum coves first…!

MUCH TOO SHY (1942) is an hilarious romp and mine and my son’s favourite film in the boxset. George, a handyman and artist who designs the film posters for the local cinema, takes an art class to teach him to give the womens’ heads he draws fabulous bodies to go with their free-floating craniums. But when some scandalous nudie pictures of local ladies mysteriously turn up in the papers, bodies an’ all, guess who gets the blame…!

This one features comedian Jimmy Clitheroe as George’s wise-beyond-his-years little brother. ‘Show me a woman and I’ll show you trouble…!’ Fans of the CARRY-ON movies will be thrilled to see a ridiculously young-looking Charles Hawtrey in this one as a ‘brother brush’ of George’s, and our favourite comic song, ‘I’m Delivering The Morning Milk’ is in it too.

GET CRACKING (1943) is a full-on, all-out World War Two film that sees the hapless George joining the LDF or LOCAL DEFENCE VOLUNTEERS. While he cares for a little girl evacuee and builds his own honest-to-God tank in his spare time out of odds-and-ends, he has great fun also trying to get one over on a rival LDF platoon. The enemy is Hitler, George! Wouldn’t it be better if you rival LDF chaps joined forces? It’s just a thought…

BELL-BOTTOM GEORGE (1944) is another war film that sees George joining the Navy in a case of mistaken identity, while dating a pretty WREN and accidentally cracking a spy ring that the British government has been trying to track down themselves.

George has always wanted to be in the Navy though. Maybe his efforts in uncovering the spy ring and entertaining the troops with his little ukelele might be enough to gain him admission? We’ll see what the man whose uniform he’s wearing has got to say about that…! Charles Hawtrey is here too, plus the world’s oddest-sounding crickets.

HE SNOOPS TO CONQUER (1945) sees George working as a lowly tea-boy for the corrupt Tangleton local council. When he’s tasked with surveying the entire population of Tangleton as to their working and living conditions, George does a thorough job of it.

So thorough, in fact, that he accidentally unmasks the local councillors for the lying, pocket-lining rats they are and exposes the terrible disparity between rich and poor in post-war Tangleton. Eeeeeh, some of the films have a nice bit of social commentary in ’em an’ all, you know, lol.

George also gets entangled (in Tangleton) with a wacky toff inventor and his attractive daughter in this one, and the excellent comic song ‘If You Want To Get Your Picture In The Press, You Must Be Different, Some Kind Of Way’ is here too.

I DIDN’T DO IT (1945) sees George set off to the Big Smoke to pursue a career on the stage with his recitations and comic songs, only to find himself accused of the murder of a rich man in the same boarding-house.

The way George innocently lands himself in trouble with the police with his unfailing honesty is so funny here, and the back-story of the murder is really exciting, reminding me of old German silent movie star Emil Jannings in VARIETÉ.

GEORGE ON CIVVY STREET (1946) sees a hopeful George being debriefed and finally sent home from the war. He’s looking forward to running the old family pub again, in its charming rural location, and hooking up once more with the girl he more than likes.

But she owns a rival pub, you see, and now it’s run by scurrilous individuals who want to see George out of business. Will they succeed in their fiendish plan? This one includes a naughty, wholly unforeseen strip-a-gram that had myself and my son in stitches.

Most of the songs contain the sauciest of sexual innuendo that saw George in trouble with the BBC back in the day. I understand that crotchety old Auntie Beeb wasn’t at all impressed with ‘Me Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock,’ which unfortunately doesn’t feature on the boxset.

There’s still more innuendo here than you can shake a stick at, though, so enjoy a sly little giggle at these genius songs. George is probably looking down in approval, grinning his big toothy grin as he lovingly fingers his ukelele. Eeeeeeh, careful now, you cheeky fast cat…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

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THE BIG SNOW OF 2018: A THOUGHT (JUST THE ONE, I SWEAR!) FROM SANDRA HARRIS. ©

snowdogThe snow is thick on the ground here now and the blizzard is supposed to start around four. Like all Irish people the minute an ’emergency’ rears its ugly head, I will be watching the 5.30 News, the 6 o’clock News and the 9 o’clock News to catch any weather updates. When I venture out, I will smile wryly at everyone I meet, including strangers, in a way that suggests we’re all in this together. In the future, I will refer to this week as ‘The Big Snow Of 2018’ and I will bore younger people who weren’t born yet with anecdotes about how hazardous it was. At times like these, I really love being Irish.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

snowdoghttps://twitter.com/SandraAuthor