GANDHI. (1982) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

GANDHI. (1982) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH. WRITTEN BY JOHN BRILEY. MUSIC BY RAVI SHANKAR AND GEORGE FENTON.

STARRING BEN KINGSLEY AND ROHINI HATTANGADI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I keep this multi-award-winning movie with my Biblical epics, not because it has anything to do with Easter per se but because a film about someone who walks long distances in the sand and heat wearing only a loincloth and carrying a staff strikes me as being a very Biblically kind of thing to do. And if Mahatma ‘turn the other cheek’ Gandhi isn’t the person you know of in life who most resembles Jesus Christ, well, then, quite frankly, I don’t know who would be.

The film is three hours and three minutes long, and it has an all-star cast of fine Indian actors like Saeed Jaffrey and Om Puri, as well as a superb cast of ‘Old Guard’ English actors like Sir John Gielgud, Michael Hordern, Edward Fox, Richard Griffiths, Bernard Hill, John Mills, Nigel Hawthorne, Trevor Howard, James Cossins, Geoffrey Chater, Gerald Sim, Stanley Lebor and Ken Hutchison.

Geraldine James and Candice Bergen also star. Yes, these are both wimmin in a fairly top-heavy-with-men movie. Good for them! John Ratzenberger, aka Cliff Clavin from CHEERS, is an American actor who appears in de fillum. Daniel Day-Lewis is a British actor who also appears, but I could have sworn he was Irish and I’m absolutely gob-smacked to discover that he isn’t. I’m not lying, my whole life long I thought he was Irish. I wonder why?

Ben Kingsley, the lead actor, is a British actor who also happens to be of Indian extraction on his father’s side. He is absolutely fantastic as the mild-mannered, funny little man who brought independence to a nation of three-hundred-and-fifty million people, namely India.

He’s so like Gandhi that when I picture Gandhi, I see Ben Kingsley playing him. I want to be straight with you. In the course of my day, I probably wouldn’t be required to think of him that often but, whenever I do, I can assure you that it’s Ben Kingsley playing him that I think of.

And from whom did India gain her independence? Why, England, of course, a country which had no legal right to take over India in the first place, but try telling that to England, a country which was seemingly never happy in the old days unless it was colonising another country and bossing it about.

As an Irish person, I’m used to hearing other Irish people bemoaning the ‘eight hundred years of repression’ we ourselves have endured under English rule. How was it? Well, I didn’t experience it personally, but just imagine Moe saying to Homer in THE SIMPSONS about the ‘re-Neducation’ lobotomy he’s just received in a TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode: ‘It’s not so bad, Homer. They go in through your nose, then they let you keep the little piece of your brain they take out!’ (Holds up wriggly brain fragment in jar…!)

How did Mahatma Gandhi do this pretty big thing, anyhow? By a method called non-violent resistance or passive resistance. It didn’t always work, as violence frequently broke out between the British Empire and the Indian people who were trying to get the Empire to bog off, but it did work quite a bit of the time. When it didn’t, Gandhi would take to his bed on hunger strike, and soon the people of India would come to their senses and go back to seeing things Gandhi’s way again.

He started his protests for human rights in South Africa in 1893, when he was rudely and violently thrown off a train in that country for being an Indian person travelling in a first class compartment, even though he had a perfectly legitimate first class ticket on him which he’d sent for by post. By post…! Ah, God be with the days of snail mail and other such tortures, lol.

Anyway, Mahatma Gandhi was deeply disturbed by this injustice, and set about fighting a non-violent protest for rights for all Indian people in South Africa. For this he was beaten up by white policemen, thrown in jail and frequently threatened with jail, but he eventually made some headway, to the point where his own country, India, invited him to come home and help fight for her independence from the good old British Empire.

What could he do but say yes? He mounted his campaign, non-violently, of course, and galvanised millions of Indian people into rising up and following his lead. Strikes were held that brought the country to a standstill, British cloth was boycotted because it was putting Indian cloth-makers out of business, the Salt March was a protest against the British-imposed salt tax and Indians also fought, non-violently, against British landlords putting their rents up to cripplingly high, impossible-to-pay levels.

It’s hilarious in the film to see how much of a thorn he is in the sides of the high-up British toffs who rule over India. Sir John Gielgud as Viceroy Lord Irwin and Trevor Howard as Justice Robert Stonehouse Broomfield are as flummoxed as the rest of their peers when it comes to ‘what to do with Gandhi.’ Yes, you can imprison the dashed fellow for sedition, but you have to be careful not to make a martyr of him. He’s a national bloody hero to these people, you know. It’s a fine line…

On the other side of the coin, it’s chilling to see Edward Fox as the stiff-upper-lipped Brigadier General Reginald Dyer (the Butcher of Amritsar) who cold-heartedly orders his men to open fire on a peacefully protesting crowd in Amritsar in the Punjab, after first blocking off the exits to the large park or field. Watch Geoffrey Chater as a Government official asking Dyer: ‘And the fact that there were women and children in the crowd made no difference to you when deciding to fire?’

‘I don’t believe so,’ replied Dyer, stiff-necked.

It’d give you shivers down your spine to watch this, as far from being Britain’s finest moment as it would be possible to imagine.

The film, which covers the breaking up of India into two parts on Independence, India and Pakistan, and the death and funeral procession of Mahatma Gandhi, was super-duper successful. Just imagine Ralph Wiggum from THE SIMPSONS saying: ‘I heard ‘GANDHI’ came to the Oscars and it won all the Oscars and they had to close the Oscars…!’

It was the perfect film, actually, for Easter Monday this year, and my own DVD copy comes in a nice cardy-board box with four genuine lobby cards inside, which is lovely. Happy belated Easter, anyway, y’all. Soon be freewheelin’ it down to Halloween…   

ANGELA’S ASHES. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

THIS IS A RE-POSTING:

ANGELA’S ASHES. (1999) BASED ON THE PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING MEMOIR BY FRANK MCCOURT. DIRECTED BY ALAN PARKER.

STARRING EMILY WATSON, ROBERT CARLYLE, RONNIE MASTERSON, JOE BREEN, CIARAN OWENS, MICHAEL LEGGE, GERALD (FATHER TODD UNCTUOUS) MCSORLEY AND PAULINE (MRS. DOYLE) MCLYNN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Shure, the happy childhood is hardly worth your while.

‘A man who would drink the money for the new baby was beyond the beyonds.’

Fancying a good miserable time for myself on Easter Sunday night, after the chickens had been cooked and eaten and the crème eggs devoured, I put on ANGELA’S ASHES. This is one of the few Irish films I can stomach, as some of the rest of them are just too annoying or, quite frankly, not as good as their English or American counterparts. As I’m Irish myself, I’m allowed to say that, lol.

ANGELA’S ASHES is quite simply one of the best films ever made about the Miserable Irish Catholic Childhood, and fair play to author and school-teacher Frank McCourt (1930-2009) for turning his grim beginnings into a multi-million selling book and movie. Talk about making lemonade when life hands you lemons. That’s how you do it, Frankie lad, and more power to your elbow.

Anyway, if Frank McCourt is the hero of his own story, then the heroine must surely be his mother Angela, who put up with so much misery and poverty in her lifetime. Married to a feckless drinking man from the North of Ireland called Malachy McCourt (played by Robert Carlyle), her lot is to have and lose baby after baby (because of the high infant mortality rate for the poor of Limerick’s slums in the 1930s and 1940s) and to be barely able to feed the living ones because they have no money.

We first meet the family in America. They’ve emigrated there presumably to make a better life for themselves, but have to return to Angela’s family in Limerick when the Big Apple turns rotten and worm-infested for them. ‘We must have been the only family in living memory to be sailing AWAY from the Statue of Liberty,’ observes Frank the narrator ironically.

Limerick’s slums are already chock-full of desperately poor families. Frank and his brothers get mocked and taunted in school for wearing broken boots patched with the rubber from a bicycle tire. The family’s furniture comes from the St. Vincent De Paul Society, on the condition, seemingly, that they consent to being insulted and publicly demeaned by the members of the committee while queuing up to beg for it.

Dad is permanently out of work and, on the rare occasions when he’s in work, he drinks the wages and then loses the job for turning up late or not at all. Angela refers to him repeatedly as a ‘useless feck,’ and she’s not wrong there. Robert Carlyle’s character makes me so angry.

His sole contribution to the family seems to be getting Angela pregnant repeatedly, filling his sons’ heads with fairy stories he remembers from his childhood and drinking away every penny he ever gets his hands on, coming home pissed and incontinent offering his children ‘a penny to die for Ireland.’ When he conks out one night with his stupid selfish head practically in the piss-bucket on the landing, you can’t help feeling that he’s found his natural milieu.

Oh yes, he’s big on songs about the bould brave Fenian men and he boasts about having fought for Ireland during the War of Independence but, wouldn’t you know it, there’s no record of his ever having done military service so he’s not entitled to any pension.

He just makes me so mad. He has ‘loser’ and ‘sponger’ written all over him. He castigates Angela for going begging to the St. Vincent De Paul people or picking up coal off the street where it’s dropped off the coal-man’s cart (‘Have you no pride, Angela?’), but I don’t see him bringing in a wage for food and clothes for the kids he’s actively helped to create.

It’s almost a relief when he buggers off for good, off down the wet, waterlogged lanes where the McCourts have their tenement-style dwelling, to take the boat to England and never be heard from again, as far as I know. Frankie, played by three different actors in the three stages of his development, is the man of the house now.

We see Frankie in school, on the one hand being subjected to savage physical discipline and, on the other, being introduced to the joys of reading, a love he never loses. We see him going to the Lyric cinema- when he has the price of admission, and sometimes when he hasn’t!- to watch Westerns and old UNIVERSAL horror movies such as THE MUMMY, starring Boris Karloff. ‘He’s sticking his knife into that nice lady’s belly…!’

Frankie makes his First Holy Communion, for which he has to have his badly-behaved, sticky-uppy Protestant hair flattened down by his Granny’s spit, and his Confirmation. He develops typhoid and spends two months in hospital. He gets his first ever job as a coal-man’s apprentice, but has to jack it in because his eyes become super-irritated by the coal dust.

He works for the Post Office as a telegram boy and enjoys as a result his first ever sexual experience with a girl. He’s long since learned the forbidden art of ‘self-abuse,’ even though he knows full well that it makes the Virgin Mary cry.

He works for the local moneylender as a writer of threatening letters- one of the highlights being when he throws her ledger in the ocean- and every penny he makes, he puts into a Post Office Savings Account, otherwise known as his Going To America fund. Yes, that’s right. All wee Frankie McCourt wants to do is get back to the land of promise and plenty some day, where everyone has perfect teeth and a lavatory of their own. Oh joy unconfined, lol.

How can he bear to part with the rain, the misery, the hunger, the grinding poverty and the awful knowledge that his mother has to sexually satisfy her horrible cousin Laman Griffin if she wants to keep a roof over her childrens’ heads? Ah well. It’s a free country. Or maybe not…

There’s a brilliant jaunty soundtrack of ‘Thirties and ‘Forties music, lots of stunning rural scenes to ogle, and the cast is dotted with familiar faces from other Irish films and Irish soap operas, namely the now defunct rural soap GLENROE and on-going urban soap FAIR CITY. It’s like playing ‘Spot the minor Irish celeb…!’ Oh look, it’s your man from… And wasn’t your one in…? And there’s what’s-her-name from that thing, oh, you know the thing I mean, it was on last August Bank Holiday…!

The main person you’ll recognise should be Pauline McGlynn, aka Mrs. Doyle from clerical sitcom FATHER TED, as Frankie’s Aunty Aggie, Angela’s childless older sister. You can tell she has a heart of gold underneath the cranky, crabby exterior. Although, strangely enough, she doesn’t once try to give anyone tea…    

THE IRON LADY. (2011) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

THE IRON LADY. (2011) DIRECTED BY PHYLLIDA LLOYD. WRITTEN BY ABI MORGAN.

LOOSELY BASED ON JOHN CAMPBELL’S BIOGRAPHY, THE IRON LADY: MARGARET THATCHER, FROM GROCER’S DAUGHTER TO PRIME MINISTER.

STARRING MERYL STREEP, JIM BROADBENT, OLIVIA COLMAN, ANTHONY HEAD, MICHAEL HESELTINE, PIP TORRENS AND ANGELA CURRAN AS CRAWFIE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I didn’t grow up or ever live in Maggie Thatcher’s England, otherwise I mightn’t have bawled so hard at this rather emotional and sentimental depiction of the Iron Lady’s life and times.

Meryl Streep is fabulous, as always, as the woman who went from being a grocer’s daughter to Britain’s longest serving (in the twentieth century) and first ever female Prime Minister.

The story is told partly in flashbacks depicting Mrs. Thatcher’s ascent to power in the Conservative party, and partly in scenes from the ‘present day,’ about eight years after the death of her beloved husband, Denis, beautifully played by that old stalwart of the British screen, Jim Broadbent.

That places the action in 2011, two years before Margaret Thatcher died in 2013. (Did she see this film? It’s not particularly unflattering, but she may have been made uncomfortable at the scenes in which she was depicted as being not in her right mind, or in which her late husband appears.)

The bits from the present are very sad, hence me crying my eyes out for the old lady with dementia who talks to her deceased husband all the time because she’s actually seeing visions of him; it’s as if he never left. In these ‘present day’ clips, she is finally going through Denis’s clothes and other effects with a view to sending them to charity, never an easy thing to do.

This is what her daughter Carol thinks she should do, put away the past and get on with her life. Carol is left with the main care of her mother, though the elderly former Prime Minister has a staff who make sure she’s always ready- suited, pussy-bow-tied, made-up and coiffed- to be wheeled out for yet another appointment, such as another fancy dinner at which her opinions on current affairs are sought, or the unveiling of yet another portrait of her for posterity.

Carol Thatcher is one hundred percent present for her ageing mum, but, typically, it’s the deceased Denis and the absent son Mark, ensconced with his own family on the other side of the world, for whom the old lady pines day and night. What’s that they say? A daughter’s a daughter for all of her life; a son’s just a son till he gets him a wife…

Via the flashbacks, we see the Iron Lady (this very apt nickname came from the Russians) grappling with some of the major issues and incidents from her eleven years in office as the Prime Minister; the Brixton riot in 1981; the Miners’ Strike from 1984-1985; the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party Conference of 1984. Some despicable people obviously found the presence of so many Tories in the one place, including Maggie and Denis, to be just too irresistible.

Then there was the Falklands War in 1982. Men on both sides of the short but bloody conflict died, and poor Prince Andrew sadly lost forever his ability to sweat, but Maggie and her Brits seized those islands back from the pesky Argentinians, giving her the reputation of a leader with balls of steel, though she concealed them handsomely beneath her well-tailored blue skirt suits.

Her heyday was the 1980s. In the film, she is portrayed in the 1990s as something of an anachronism, squabbling with her ministers, in particular Geoffrey Howe, who resigned after one such public bollocking (yes, I could have said ‘dressing-down’ there but saying bollocking instead is keeping it real, man!).

She also insists that poor people should pay as much as rich people pay in the deeply unpopular Poll Tax, a tax for simply existing, as far as I can make out. She has no choice but to step down when she realises she’s lost the support of much of her cabinet for her draconian policies.

Comedy sketch show SPITTING IMAGE did very well out of her, and also out of her successor, the mild-mannered John Major. ‘The peas are good today, Norma.’ But it’s the sketch of Maggie and her cabinet out to dinner on one occasion that I’ll never forget. Maggie orders her meat course, and then the waiter asks her what about the vegetables?

‘They’ll have what I’m having,’ replies the Lady who is not for Turning.

Ouch…


 

AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY. (2016) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY. (2016) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY JEFF FEUERZEIG. MUSIC BY WALTER WERZOWA. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY RICHARD HENKELS.

STARRING LAURA ALBERT, BRUCE BENDERSON, DENNIS COOPER, PANIO GIANOPOULOS, WINONA RYDER, ASIA ARGENTO, BILLY CORGAN AND IRA SILVERBERG AS THEMSELVES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THIS REVIEW RE-POSTED IN JANUARY 2023.

A note from the author, Sandra Harris: Hi guys, I’m re-posting this review which I penned last September 2016 because, last night, something rather wonderful happened to me. I turned up at the Irish Film Institute here in Dublin to see acclaimed writer Laura Albert talk about her work after a special screening of  AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY, and see Laura I most certainly did.

We met quite by accident in the Ladies’ Toilet, yet another occasion on which I’m thrilled and infinitely thankful to have been born female, haha. She’s absolutely beautiful to look at, with a wicked sense of style, and she’s a really lovely person to boot. She was so generous with her time and more than happy to sign the four copies of her books I’d brought along with me. Yes, four…!

Actually, Laura enjoyed the story I told her of how my now grown-up daughter was sneakily reading her books in the early-to-mid ‘Noughties, and also watching the film THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS on the sly at a sleepover with a bunch of her teenaged chums, all without my knowledge, of course…!

I think I would have had a stroke on the spot had I known what my darling little girl was reading in her leisure time, haha. Now she’s an adult herself, we can talk about the books openly so it’s all good. Laura seemed tickled pink by this story of mother-daughter literary shenanigans.

Laura deserves all the success and happiness the future can bring her and I sincerely hope this happens for her. In the meantime, read the books and watch AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY. It’s a stunningly mesmerising watch and Laura is a character whom, I promise you, you’ll never, ever forget. Love and best wishes, Sandra Harris, film critic extraordinaire and a legend in her own lunchtime. Now read on… 

I’ve watched or read a lot of author biopics/biographies in my time, but this one- how do I put this?- stands out somewhat. To be blunt, it was possibly the most bizarre, outrageous and yet strangely compelling author story I’d ever come across.

I’d missed seeing it when it came out in the cinema over the summer this year (2016), so I was thrilled to get a chance to review it for its home release debut. Whatever you think of it, it’s the author movie not only of the year but, let’s face it, probably of the millenium. You’ll most likely never hear a story like this again, so let’s take a peep at what exactly this superb documentary film is trying to tell us.

Okay, where to start? My mind is still blown from watching the film. Okay, let’s focus. A few years ago, a friend of mine (I can now admit that it was my own daughter!) handed me a book and told me to read it. I did, and thought that THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS (2001) was a terrific but really harrowing read.

It was supposedly written by a young American male called JT (or Jeremiah ‘Terminator’) LeRoy, whose tragic back-story included child prostitution, drug addiction, homelessness, all kinds of physical and sexual abuse and even the dreaded HIV. (You’ll have noted my use of the word ‘supposedly’ there…)

He was brought up (or dragged up, if you prefer) by his single mother, a truck-stop prostitute or ‘lot lizard’ whose succession of boyfriends all used her little son for their own nefarious purposes. It’s a story to make your blood run cold, frankly.

JT LeRoy famously brought out two books which were absolutely huge at the time they were published. The one I read myself, THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS (2001), is a series of ten linked short stories narrated by the boy ‘Jeremiah’ and telling the story of his miserable life on the road with his prostitute mother.

Mom apparently was a real headwrecker who alternately showed the boy both love and abusive behaviour, while little Jeremiah just craved her love and even wanted to be like her. The scenes of abuse Jeremiah received at the hands of his mother’s boyfriends and also his ultra-religious, child-beating grandparents are hard to read. I admit freely that I nearly didn’t make it all the way to the end, though of course I’m glad now that I did.

SARAH (2000) is narrated by an unnamed boy who details his grim existence as the son of Sarah, a ‘lot lizard’ who works the truck-stops in West Virginia. Like the mother in THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS, she by turns rejects him and shows him affection. It’s a sad, sad story. I’m getting depressed just thinking about it.

Anyway, the thing about these two iconic books is that they were presented to the reading public as the autobiographical experiences of this shy, troubled young man, JT LeRoy, who only ever appeared in public heavily disguised in a blonde wig and huge visor sunglasses.

Celebrities flocked- and I do mean flocked- to his side, all anxious to take the reclusive author under their wing. Bono from rock group U2 (of course…!) was one of the first in the queue, armed with the apparently legendary ‘Bono Talk’ about the industry and the fickle, heartless Bitch-Goddess that is Showbusiness. Well, I wouldn’t know about that now, Ted…!

Courtney Love, BLONDIE‘s Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Shirley Manson, the front woman from the band GARBAGE, Billy Corgan from THE SMASHING PUMPKINS and Asia Argento, daughter of horror maestro Dario Argento, are all clearly shown in the documentary sucking up big-time to JT, the then shit-hot ‘It’ boy of the literary world. Heh-heh-heh. Celebrities, honestly! Such utter twats. I’m actually sooooo fucking embarrassed for them. The state of them.

Anyway, then comes the bombshell. Rumours begin to circulate that JT is not only not whom he claims to be, but also that he never wrote those two books at all and therefore couldn’t even lay claim to having had those terrible experiences that had people feeling so sorry for him.

News about ‘the biggest literary hoax of the century’ began to hit the news-stands. The two people closest to the so-called ‘JT LeRoy’ knew the answers that an outraged media and literary public were seeking but, the thing was, were they talking…?

This is such a fascinating story. My friend (okay, daughter!) who’d given me that book to read a few years back watched the documentary with me and she’s still fuming over the reveal of the author’s true identity. She’d never heard anything about it before and she was stunned, to say the least.

For her, it was probably a bit like finding out that, say, JK Rowling hadn’t written the Harry Potter books or that her childhood heroine Jacqueline Wilson hadn’t really penned those lovely books about the trials and tribulations of being the daughters of divorced parents, haha.

I’ll let you guys in on a little secret. I actually much prefer the real author to the impersonator (who really bloody annoyed me) and that’s a fact…! I think the film will be of interest to non-writers as much as writers. It’s a gut-wrenching human interest story of gender confusion, real child sexual and physical abuse and overwhelming feelings of being unloved and unwanted (feelings that many people can identify with) that, frankly, I think everybody should try to see. There now, enough from me. I’ve done my bit. Now you guys can go watch the fim and do yours…!


EMILY. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

EMILY. (2022) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY FRANCES O’CONNOR.
STARRING EMMA MACKEY, FIONN WHITEHEAD, OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN, ADRIAN DUNBAR, ALEXANDRA DOWLING, AMELIA GETHING AND GEMMA JONES.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Freedom of thought…’

This period drama-slash-biopic looks incredible on the big screen, which is where I saw it recently. It tells the story of Emily Bronte’s life before she wrote the book for which she is famous, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, the same tale of Cathy and Heathcliff’s doomed love which inspired Kate Bush’s magical, evocative and chart-topping song.

You don’t have to be a fan of the book to watch this film, I suppose, but it probably helps. I myself love the book, the song, the writer, the singer and the wild windy moors that inspired the whole shebang, so I was literally in writer-heaven for the two hours and ten minutes. Yep. It’s a long ‘un…! Brace yourselves…

Emily Jane Bronte (1818-1848) was an English novelist and poet. The film EMILY, written and directed by a female actor-director (it’s totally a woman’s film, though that doesn’t mean that men can’t enjoy it too!), concentrates on the period of Emily’s life when her Irish father Patrick Bronte, not a barrel of laughs by this account, at least, was serving as perpetual curate to the parish of Haworth in Yorkshire.

Emily, already a stunningly beautiful young woman when we meet her, spends her days writing poetry, making up stories for the amusement of her two sisters, Charlotte and Anne, and running wild on the moors in all weathers with her troubled alcoholic brother, Branwell, who is a painter on his good days.

Their mother is dead at this point, probably from bearing her husband six children, of whom only four are alive when we come in, in an era when women traditionally had a desperate time during childbirth and it weakened them forever after.

The sisters and Branwell miss their kind, gentle mother dreadfully. I’m not surprised. While their priest father isn’t overtly cruel or abusive, he’s still stiff and unbending and pious and there’s a lot of church and praying and being good and all that stuff that frequently doesn’t sit too well with young people.

Emily is thoroughly wild and undisciplined, unlike Charlotte and Anne who are much more genteel and lady-like, and I’m genuinely surprised her humourless father doesn’t try to marry her off to someone in order to curb her excesses.

I say try, because the spirited Emily, dubbed ‘the strange one’ of her family by the villagers, would surely have resisted to the death the notion of marrying for anything other than love…!

Emily and Branwell have such a close, intense relationship that I half-expected them to just slip into an incestuous kiss or two on the moors, or even the full monty. That’s not the way it goes, however, and Emily chooses for a love object her father’s new curate, Mr. William Weightman, played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR on Netflix.

Their affair is as wild and exciting as Cathy and Heathcliff’s as first. They make tumultuous love in an abandoned, ramshackle cottage on the moors and Emily, her long dark hair hanging loose and free as an excellent metaphor for her unfettered thinking and behaviour, is happier than she’s presumably ever been in her life.

Then something abominably unfair and wretched happens, and it’s after that that Emily settles down to write the book that makes her name. Did she have to endure the horrible cruelty of a doomed relationship herself before she could adequately write about one? Maybe. Everything happens for a reason, so they say, and maybe so did this.

The film gives the impression that Charlotte was jealous of Emily’s success in writing and publishing WUTHERING HEIGHTS, the gothic novel to end all gothic novels, and we see her getting stuck in to her own writing after Emily’s premature death from tuberculosis. Charlotte, as we know, penned JANE EYRE, another iconic book, and so, if she only knew it, she didn’t really have any reason to be jealous of Emily.

We clearly see both Emily and Charlotte being inspired to write by the moors outside their very bedroom windows. The moors are indeed a place where you could ‘roll and fall in green.’

Wild and desolate, they extend to the Brontes’ garden and takes in the church where their father is parish priest and the fabulous old graveyard. It would be so easy to be inspired to write by such a dream-like place. The scenes where it’s raining on the moors (that’s all of them, lol) are out-of-this-world gorgeous.

Unfortunately, the downside of living in such a place and time is the long list of diseases that can carry off a body in a twinkling, due to unsanitary conditions and lack of all the medicines that sadly haven’t been invented yet.

Cholera, tuberculosis, the consumption, for example, all those delightful ailments characterised by high fever and genteelly coughing up blood into a hanky before you expire, all skin and bone and huge tormented eyes, and have to be laid to rest pretty sharpish-like before you infect anyone else with your gross disease, eeuw!

Emma Mackey, who plays Emily, is a terrific actress and captures her subject’s conflicted essence really well. Gemma Jones- BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY and a million other things- portrays the Bronte sisters’ aunt, though I’m not sure which side of the family she represents. She’s seventy-nine, now, would you believe, and looks adorable in her sweet little bonnet and ribbony old lady things.

The film is actually a good choice for Halloween. There’s a sort of séance in it which puts the willies up all the sisters (though not in the way they’d like, I fancy, snigger), and WUTHERING HEIGHTS, while not classified as a ghost story as such, has more than enough that’s haunting in it to justify either reading or watching it in the season of the witch, when the veil between our world and the spirit world is at its thinnest. Enjoy.   

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 new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

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

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

LEGEND. (2015) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

LEGEND. (2015) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY BRIAN HELGELAND. BASED ON THE BOOK BY JOHN GEORGE PEARSON, THE PROFESSION OF VIOLENCE: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE KRAY TWINS. STARRING TOM HARDY, EMILY BROWNING, DAVID THEWLIS, CHRISTOPHER ECCLESTON, CHAZZ PALMINTERI, TARA FITZGERALD AND TARON EGERTON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is my second favourite screen adaptation of this true-life crime story, my favourite being the one with the Spandau Ballet twins in it, the 1990 one. This one has been described as more of a showcase for Tom Hardy in the dual lead roles of Ronnie and Reggie Kray than an accurate depiction of the gangster part of the story of their lives, but maybe that’s why I like it, because Tom Hardy is a bit of all right as Reggie Kray, the non-crazy twin, lol.

The twins were the leading players in London’s criminal underworld of the 1960s, and were known for the savage violence of their crimes. Ronnie was a paranoid schizophrenic, and is portrayed here almost as a comical, even genial, buffoon, as opposed to the more dangerously irrational and violent in his business dealings of the two brothers.

Ronnie was probably the most feared of the brothers for his unpredictability and the way that you never knew what mad, vicious thing he might do next. He was also homosexual, and is shown in this film as referring to his gay tendencies openly, even to business rivals, as opposed to keeping it as a sort of open secret amongst the gangster underworld, which was my previous understanding of the situation.

Reggie was more ‘normal,’ if you could describe either of the Kray twins as normal, and is shown here having a romantic relationship with Frances Shea, the sister of his driver, Frankie. Frances is stunningly beautiful but is physically and mentally ‘delicate,’ unable to cope with the brutal realities of her husband’s business. What happens to her after their marriage is of no real surprise to anyone, I would say.

The main landmarks of the twins’ grisly ‘career’ are all present and correct here; firstly, the murders of George Cornell and Jack ‘the hat’ McVitie, both indications that the Krays’ lives and actions were spiralling horribly out of control towards the end, and, secondly, their constant pursuit by Superintendent Leonard Ernest ‘Nipper’ Read, the police officer who was determined to take the Krays down.

It’s so ironic to think that the man who locked away the Krays for good should himself pass away from COVID-19 in April of 2020, very early into the pandemic that brought the world to a virtual standstill for about eighteen months. Of course, the poor guy was ninety-five at the time, a grand old age and a jolly good innings by anyone’s standards.

The twins’ relationship with their legendary doting mum, Violet, is barely touched upon in this film, unlike in the 1990 one when Violet is played by the magnificent Billie Whitelaw, a lady I like to imagine was as feisty in real life as the characters she played.

Maybe the director of LEGEND felt like that relationship had been sufficiently dealt with in film, and he wanted to concentrate on the relationship between the brothers and between Reggie and the exquisite but repeatedly-described-as-fragile Frances.

One gets the feeling here that Ronnie was his brother Reggie’s cross to bear, and a heavy enough one at that. In the one scene in LEGEND in which Violet does appear, she reminds Reggie warningly that ‘he’s still your brother,’ and that loyalty to him is paramount.

We all saw what happened to Frances, the one person that ever really came between them. The bonds of loyalty between the brothers, and from Reggie to Ronnie in particular, were too strong for any woman to ever sever…

I love the poor little terraced streets the Krays grew up in, and from where their mother saw no reason to ever move, as far as I know. In this film, they look exactly as I imagine they would have looked during Hitler’s Blitz. I love the nostalgic feeling these streets evoke in me, and I’m not even English…!

I want to fight them on the beaches and on the landing grounds and on the fields, streets and hills of our beautiful green land. I want to dance on the cobblestones of my local street and celebrate VE Day by kissing an American soldier and swapping romantic favours for nylons and bubble-gum and cigarettes.

It’s powerful stuff, this nostalgia. Really sweeps you away with it. I want to have a little American war baby and later go over to the States to try and find his father only to find I’ve been ‘ghosted’ more thoroughly than a single woman on Tinder today. No, wait, I don’t want that bit, lol. I went too far, as usual. I always do that!

By the way, David Thewlis (HARRY POTTER, THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS) portrays the Krays’ business manager Leslie Payne, who played a part in their ultimate downfall, and Taron ROCKET MAN Egerton is here also as Mad Teddy, Ronnie’s yes-man and rumoured lover. Welsh singer Duffy (MERCY, WARWICK AVENUE) also appears in the film as iconic club singer Timi Yuro.

Anyway, great film, and a great acting feat by the delicious Tom Hardy, who plays both brothers. And sometimes they’re filmed side by side as well, which really makes you wonder, how did they do that…? The film’s just dropped on Netflix (yes, I talk like that now!) and it would make great Saturday night viewing over the Bank Holiday. Enjoy.

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 new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

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.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/

HALSTON. (2021) THE NETFLIX MINISERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

HALSTON. (2021) DIRECTED BY DANIEL MINAHAN. BASED ON THE BOOK, SIMPLY HALSTON, BY STEVEN GAINES. EXECUTIVE CO-PRODUCED BY RYAN MURPHY.
STARRING EWAN MCGREGOR, REBECCA DAYAN, KRYSTA RODRIGUEZ, GIAN FRANCO RODRIGUEZ, VERA FARMIGA AND BILL PULLMAN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Reviews don’t matter.’

Wow. Ewan McGregor repeatedly has gay sex with big butch black men in this excellent biopic drama series from Netflix, and he seems to mainly be the passive receptacle partner each time, if you get my meaning. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just that it’s Ewan McGregor, you know? He was Obi-Wan Kenobi.

He’s just kind of the last person you’d expect to see being rogered senseless (from behind) by a big black dude in a carpark wearing assless leather chaps, or admiring a big black guy’s wang before, ahem, chowing down, one imagines. I genuinely don’t mean that to be offensive. It’s just that it’s Ewan McGregor, if you see what I mean!

Anyway, the fifty-one-year-old does a superb job in this five-part Limited Series as the gay fashion designer who became famous in the ‘Sixties for designing the dinky little pillbox hat worn by style icon Jackie Onassis to her husband John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.

He went on from there to design dresses and create perfume, and he became one of the biggest, most talented designers of his day, up there with Calvin Klein (his enemy, lol!), Ralph Lauren, Givenchy and Bill Blass.

He came from troubled beginnings in small-town America, with the kind of angry, unhappy father who battered his mother and became outraged at the least sign of ‘sissy-ness’ in his young son, such as when he’d come across the fashion drawings penned by the little boy. A young Halston first began designing hats to cheer up his mother, who absolutely loved his creations.

He shook the dust of his home-town off his feet in search of fame and fortune and instead surrounded himself with the gay man’s alternative ‘family’ of close friends, lovers and, sometimes, sycophants and hangers-on.

Jewellery designer Elsa Peretti was his first and favourite model. Liza Minnelli was his muse, model and best gal-pal. He designed her outfit for her wedding to producer and director, Jack Haley Jr.

Joe Eula was his illustrator and confidante and David J. Mahoney, played by Bill Pullman from INDEPENDENCE DAY and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, was the CEO of Norton Simon, to which company Halston signed a lucrative deal which gave him the space and protection to create his fabulous designs.

He was gay, as I believe I may have already mentioned, and often cruised the kind of places where you could get anonymous, no string attached sex, either paid for or for free. His long-time live-in lover was a Venezuelan-born wanna-be artist and window dresser called Victor Rojas, whose escort name was Victor Huge-O (Victor Hugo) on account of his massive, ahem, appendage.

Victor was desperately jealous of Halston’s success. He craved the recognition Halston had achieved for himself and his jealousy and bitterness caused many fights with the already stressed designer.

As you’ll see towards the end of this five-parter, Victor wasn’t exactly the best thing ever to happen to Halston. The gay community in America in the ‘Seventies and ‘Eighties all had a common enemy, and that enemy was called AIDS…

Halston was addicted to cocaine and booze as well as to cigarettes, rough trade and dangerous sex. It’s so funny when Liza Minnelli is packing to go away to rehab for her own addiction problems and Halston stares at her in bemusement before saying: ‘But where are you going, darling? Is it some kind of a tour, or something…?’ Someone clearly doesn’t understand the concept of rehab any more than he does that of abstinence…

Probably due to all the drugs and booze and excessive partying at Studio 54, Halston allowed his designing and business to suffer and go into a decline. He even ended up losing the use of his own name for design purposes, something for which I imagine he never forgave himself. He lost a lot of his friends as well, due to his bitchy, selfish and inconsiderate nature, which seemed to become more pronounced while he was high on drugs and alcohol.

Vera Farmiga, an actress you might be familiar with from her roles in the CONJURING movies, steals the whole show by at one point willingly placing Halston’s lover Victor Huge-O’s jockstrap over her face and breathing in the earthy aroma, but I’m not going to tell you why, lol. It’s just so gross.

Anyway, I just binge-watched the whole thing in more or less one sitting, give or take a few tea breaks. It’s compelling watching. I think it’s sad the way the kids of today don’t seem to know the name of ‘Halston’ the way they recognise Calvin Klein’s, for example.

Would they know the name of his favourite model’s any better, I wonder, as Elsa Peretti went on to become one of the hottest female jewellery designers of all time, with a collection of her pieces on permanent display at the British Museum. So many talented people, who should never be forgotten. This mini-series will go a long way, I feel, towards taking care of that.

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 new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

BLOW. (2001) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BLOW. (2001) DIRECTED BY TED DEMME. BASED ON THE 1993 BOOK BY BRUCE PORTER: BLOW: HOW A SMALL-TOWN BOY MADE $100 MILLION WITH THE MEDELLIN COCAINE CARTEL AND LOST IT ALL.
STARRING JOHNNY DEPP, PENELOPE CRUZ, FRANKA POTENTE, ETHAN SUPLEE, PAUL REUBENS, JORDI MOLLA, CLIFF CURTIS, BOBCAT GOLDTHWAITE, LOLA GLAUDINI, RACHEL GRIFFITHS AND RAY LIOTTA.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This portrayal of drug-taking and drug-dealing is nearly as sexy and glamorous as that achieved by Brian De Palma’s SCARFACE (1983). The format and narrative voice-overs are reminiscent of GOODFELLAS, and that movie’s lead actor, Ray Liotta, is here in person, not as the criminal this time but as the criminal’s Dad.

Now Ray Liotta himself is playing the over-worked ’50s/60s Pops who’s trying- and failing- to inculcate a certain values system, his own, into his son, but his son doesn’t even want to know. All the son sees is the lure and glamour of easy money, not caring a jot that when you live by the sword, you’re frequently called upon to die by it too. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? You’ll love this film, if you don’t already.

Johnny Depp plays real-life drug-dealer George Jung who, in the ’60s, grew up and moved from his home city of Boston, Massachusetts, to the beaches of California. Here he met and married his first beautiful wife Barbara and, together with his best mate from childhood, the rather fishily-nicknamed Tuna, became the go-to person on the beaches from whom to buy your pot. Marijuana. Mary-Jane. Weed. Grass. Whatever.

Greed seems to be George’s main problem. He goes into the weed business initially with a friend of Barbara’s called Derek Foreal, a fantastically camp, bitchy hairdresser who’s a hard-headed businessman underneath all the kitsch.

When George proves to have a really prodigious talent for selling drugs, however, the temptation to become America’s premiere importer of Colombian cocaine is too hard to resist. He meets Pablo Escobar, the Cocaine King, and goes into business with him and everything, with an introduction from George’s mate Diego Delgado, with whom he’s done some time in prison.

Prison, by the way, seems to serve as just some kind of crime school for guys like George. He admits himself that he went into prison with a Diploma in weed and came out with a PHD in cocaine. So much for rehabilitation, anyway.

The Colombian drug business is a freakin’ terrifying one. Life is cheap in Colombia, we’re told, and we see a man being murdered literally the instant the tall, moustached and outwardly charming Pablo Escobar hoves into sight. Yes, I admit, I was a little attracted to him here…!

The scene where George meets Pablo and works out a system of drug deals with him is like the scene in SCARFACE where Tony Montana does the same with Bolivian cocaine kingpin Alejandro Sosa. In SCARFACE during this scene, F. Murray Abraham as Omar Suarez meets a horrible death at the hands of Sosa’s henchmen. You do not fuck with these guys. Ever.

Things get really sexy and glamorous when George meets Mirtha, played by the most beautiful actress in the world today, Penelope Cruz. She was unbelievably gorgeous with Tom Cruise in VANILLA SKY.

Here, she plays the stunning fiancée of one of the drug-dealers George does business with. If it weren’t for the fact that George enjoys the dubious protection of Pablo Escobar himself, this guy would have gutted George like a fish for stealing his ho.

George and Mirtha have a tempestuous relationship. Mirtha is a bit like Michelle Pfeiffer’s Elvira Hancock character in SCARFACE. Beautiful, stick-thin, addicted to drink and drugs, empty inside but desperately trying to fill that void with glamour, danger and endless excitement.

They have a daughter together, Kristina Sunshine Jung, who’s the light of George’s life but, while he’s still dealing drugs, he’s only going to keep on letting her down.

When his friends Diego and Derek Foreal cut a separate drug deal together that leaves George with only the shaft, George decides to get out of the drugs business forever. Is it that simple? Can it be done? Or will the promise of just one more big deal lure him back in the game? Mirtha is not a cheap wife to keep, and she and Kristina are George’s responsibility.

When his millions of dollars accumulated from all the drug deals he’s made are literally stolen by the Panamanian government, George becomes desperate for cash. Should he pull off one last job? He owes Mirtha child support and alimony, and she’s making noises about keeping Kristina away from him unless he coughs up pronto. One more quick drug deal should do the trick. Shouldn’t it…?

Rachel Griffiths is great here as George’s awful Mum. She’s obsessed with money and the price of everything, and she’s mortified that her only son is a drug dealer for a living. ‘What are you looking at, Mrs. Gracie? Your son’s no prize!’

Ray Liotta as George’s Dad, however, loves his only son to bits and is prepared to maintain contact with him despite what George does for a living. The relationship between George and his Dad and between George and his daughter are the only two bright spots in George’s life.

I always feel really, really sorry for George at the end of the film because it’s Johnny Depp in a padded-out shirt to give him a paunch, but I need to sternly remind myself that George got himself into that pitiful position by selling drugs.

Drugs. The drugs that would have been ruining hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of peoples’ lives while George got richer and richer off the back of it. Everything that happened to him, he seems to have brought it on himself.

But oh my God, it’s a long-haired Johnny Depp in a padded-out shirt! Can’t I please just cut him a teensy-weensy break here…? Lol. It’s hard to feel contempt or disgust for anyone who’s played by the divine Johnny Depp.

The film has a fantastic ‘Seventies soundtrack. The songs they’ve chosen are perfect for montages, whether it be the taking drugs montages or the getting-rich-quick montages. Dontcha just love montages?

While watching the film for the first time back in about 2003, I had a kind of personal epiphany during Manfred Mann’s ‘Blinded By The Light’ and decided to actively turn my life around after a bad break-up.

That’s a really clear example of a song’s power to change someone’s life for the better. Well, it was mostly for the better. I kissed an awful lotta frogs during this period but it eventually led me to something wonderful so I can’t complain.

God, why are films about drug-dealers always so goddamned sexy? They glamorise drug-taking and drug-dealing and make you envy the lifestyle, the houses, the cars, the private planes and sunshine islands, the sexy consorts, the perks, the prizes, the rich pickings. But when you remember that all that’s at the bottom of it is human misery, human suffering and human degradation, it kind of puts things into their proper perspective.

It’s all built on sand, you see, and can collapse at any minute. It’s a house of sand and fog, lol. Please remember that when you sell your first bag of weed to a dopey stoned teenager. Now, preaching time is over. Watch this film. You’ll love 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 new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

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

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

ED WOOD. (1994) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ED WOOD. (1994) DIRECTED BY TIM BURTON. BASED ON ‘NIGHTMARE OF ECSTASY: THE LIFE AND ART OF EDWARD D. WOOD JR.’ BY RUDOLPH GREY.
STARRING JOHNNY DEPP, MARTIN LANDAU, SARAH JESSICA PARKER, PATRICIA ARQUETTE, LISA MARIE, JULIET LANDAU, BILL MURRAY, JEFFREY JONES AND MAX CASELLA.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’m glad to be able to put in a good word here for heart-throb American actor Johnny Depp, given the hard time he’s been getting in the press lately, with his good name being dragged through the mud and all that. This, in my humble opinion, is one of his best movies.

He’s really good at playing quirky oddbods like Ed Wood, the man sometimes deemed to be the worst film director of all time, and he imbues this performance with all the heart, charm and quirky (yes, again!) humour of which he is capable.

The film portrays budding ‘50s film director, Ed Wood, making basically two science fiction exploitation films, the first being Christine Jorgensen’s life story, filmed as I CHANGED MY SEX or GLEN OR GLENDA by the cross-dressing Ed Wood, the man with a passion for soft, angora sweaters nicked from his girlfriend Dolores. She’s played by Sarah Jessica Parker, of SEX AND THE CITY FAME. It’s not really Ed’s film, as he’s directing it for producer George Weiss, who’s putting up the dough.

The sex-change movie flops, even though Ed Wood has managed to cast his new best friend in it, the former horror actor Bela Lugosi. There’s a really touching relationship/friendship between the two men. Bela is the wise old mentor who’s lived through the golden age of UNIVERSAL horror and Hollywood and has many and varied opinions on things, while Ed Wood just laps up every word that falls from the old man’s lips.

They are teacher and pupil, mentor and mentee, uncle and nephew, even father and son. Ed is even the man Bela calls when he accidentally overdoses on the drugs to which he’s been addicted for years. I love when they’re sitting together in Bela’s mausoleum of a house, the two of them watching his old horror movies together with the two yappy little doggies in tow.

Ed then gets Bela to star in his own film, BRIDE OF THE MONSTER, with Bela attached to play the lead role, a mad scientist/doctor-type who wants to get his revenge on the world by unleashing a race of super-human beings on it, even though he never gets so far as to work on these superior beings, I believe. The movie is a critical and commercial flop, and causes people to riot in the cinemas. Never a good sign, that…

With backing from the church, of all people, the permanently optimistic and upbeat Ed sets out to independently make the film for which he’ll be forever remembered: PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, initially known as GRAVE ROBBERS FROM OUTER SPACE, but the Churchies didn’t dig it…

PLAN 9 will be the last movie ever to star horror legend Bela Lugosi. Footage of his final scenes are heart-breaking. Oh, how Bela had longed to be back in the movie-making business! Martin Landau won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his marvellously sympathetic, delicately nuanced portrayal of the has-been, washed-up actor, two phrases I dislike using in connection with possibly the best horror actor the world has ever seen. Karloff? Don’t say his name in front of Bela. Pah, Karloff!

PLAN 9 is a ludicrous mix of live action with stock cinema footage left over from other productions, props unashamedly nicked by Ed & Co. from other productions and home-made flying saucers incinerated on the set, and all shot at night so they could have the run of the studio and everything in it before the ‘real,’ ‘serious’ film-makers and crews start work for the day.

I adore Lisa Marie as Maila Nurmi, aka the wasp-waisted horror hostess Vampira, and George Steele as professional wrestler Tor Johnson, who each appear in PLAN 9. Bill Murray has a small but very funny part as Ed’s sardonic drag queen friend, and I love Jeffrey Jones as the Great Criswell, a psychic TV entertainer and friend of Ed’s who was known for making mostly wildly inaccurate predictions, lol.

Little Max Casella went on to play Benny Fazio in THE SOPRANOS, my favourite television show ever, and I love that Kathy O’Hara, Ed’s girlfriend after Dolores Fuller, is okay with Ed’s transvestism. He’s not a ‘fruit,’ by the way, he still likes sex with girls! It’s just that he likes to wear their clothes, too!

I really love the scene at the end where Ed and Kathy drive to Vegas in the lashing rain after the premiere of PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, the film for which Ed confidently predicts that he’ll be remembered. Oh, that we all could be as optimistic as Ed!

This is a great film about one helluva nice guy who deserves this loving tribute. Him and Bela too. I expect they’re up there together right now, Ed in fluffy pink angora, Bela in his Dracula togs, gabbing away and watching Bela’s old movies. Good on ya, guys. You’ve earned 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 new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

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

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

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY AND ROCKET MAN: A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY AND ROCKETMAN: TWO MUSIC FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. (2018) DIRECTED BY BRIAN SINGER AND DEXTER FLETCHER. STARRING RAMI MALEK AS FREDDIE MERCURY.
ROCKETMAN. (2019) DIRECTED BY DEXTER FLETCHER. STARRING TARON EGERTON AS ELTON JOHN.

I normally steer clear of mainstream movies but I watched these two based-on-real-life films in the run-up to the New Year, and they both completely blew me away, especially the QUEEN one, as I’ve been a fan of their music since the ‘Eighties. Both films follow quite similar trajectories.

Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar to Parsi-Indian parents, was obsessed with music from a young age and the start of the movie sees him talking his way to being the front man of QUEEN after one of their gigs as their earliest incarnation, SMILE.

The other members are a bit bemused by his posh accent and quirky dress sense, but there’s no denying his musical genius, the confident personality that seems to both attract and demand good things to happen and his fabulous singing voice.

Rami Malek gives an Oscar-winning performance as the QUEEN front man, and he’s so like him physically it’s hard to believe you’re not watching the actual Freddie Mercury.

When you hear those familiar million-selling songs issue from his lips while he’s at the piano or bursting out of the giant speakers when QUEEN is in concert, you’ll get chills down your spine every time, not to mention a quickening of the heartbeat in time to the music.

The movie shows us how Kenny Everett’s radio show prevented the magnificently theatrical, six-minute-long rock opera ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ from being just a footnote in musical history. Thank Christ for that. What a loss to music that would have been!

We also get to see QUEEN’s signing with John Reid, Elton John’s manager, Freddie’s destructive relationship with his gaslighting day-to-day organiser, Paul Prenter, and his relationship with girlfriend and best friend Mary Austin, who seems to have guessed that Freddie was fully gay before Freddie himself seems to have come around to the notion.

Reporters constantly badgered Freddie about his sexuality. They seemed to have been quite unscrupulous and callous about it as well, not caring whom they hurt as long as they got their story.

Freddie was left alone, except for his casual lovers and one-night-stands, while the other members of QUEEN married, had children and grew roots. He was deeply conscious of the gap between them in this respect, and it feels like he was desperately lonely, just as Mary had sadly predicted, a lot of the time.

Freddie’s relationship with the toxic Paul and his split from the band to embark on a solo career for a bit soured relations with the other members of QUEEN, who all look in the film exactly how they looked in real life. In the film, they reconcile for the charity event Live Aid, before which Freddie reveals to his fellow band members that he has contracted HIV, the forerunner to AIDS, the so-called ‘gay plague.’

Poor Freddie. He was so lonely. When he puts his hand over boyfriend Jim Hutton’s hand in his parents’ home on the day of Live Aid and says, his voice breaking, ‘Jim’s my friend,’ I bawled like a baby. I don’t care two hoots that the film is meant to be chock-a-block with historical inaccuracies. The emotional depth of Rami Malek’s stunning performance will remain with me till the day I die, it’s that good.

I wasn’t expecting ROCKETMAN to be anywhere near as good, but it came pretty close. Taron Egerton turns in an excellent performance as Elton John, born Reginald Dwight in Pinner, Middlesex, to Stanley and Sheila in 1947. He was brought up mainly by his mum and grandmother.

We see him in the film being extremely upset by his father, who seemed to be incapable of showing his son any love or affection, despite having handed down to him some of his own musical ability and inclinations.

The film covers his meeting with his lifelong song-writing partner, Bernie Taupin, and the absolutely toxic relationship he had with his manager and lover, John Reid, the same John Reid who managed QUEEN.

Elton was tortured, like Freddie, by horribly negative feelings about his homosexuality and fear of peoples’ reactions to his being gay. When he confesses his sexual inclinations to his mum in a heart-breaking scene, she coldly tells him that she’s known he was gay for years, but it means that he’ll never ‘be properly loved,’ a harsh pronouncement that leaves her son devastated, reeling from the pain and shock of his mother’s indifference.

Though he becomes an international superstar with songs such as CANDLE IN THE WIND, YOUR SONG, GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD and the eponymous ROCKETMAN, in his own words in the film, he’d fucked everything that moved, he’d taken every drug and pill known to man, and he’d even attempted suicide, in a dramatic swimming-pool scene covered by the film.

I personally think that, here, when he was trying to kill himself, he was just trying to be heard. He was sick and tired of being an endless meal ticket for the leeches and hangers-on whom celebrities routinely attract, and I don’t bloody blame him.

That scene where his mother, played by an unrecognisable Bryce Dallas Howard (M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN’s THE VILLAGE, JURASSIC WORLD), his nan (Gemma Jones from BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY) and some of their neighbours are flown in to his LA home for a few days or weeks of living entirely at Elton’s expense made me feel sick to my stomach. Feck the bloody Andersons’…! They don’t even look grateful for the immense privilege!

Elton was in a hell of his own and others’ making. In the end, he saves his own life by booking himself into a rehab and sticking it out. According to the end credits, he’s been sober and clean- and hopefully happy, with his husband David Furnish and their two sons- ever since.

It’s a powerhouse of a performance from Taron Egerton, although of the two films I prefer BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY because of the music and because of how it made me cry and want to cuddle poor Freddie and make things better for him. I love a nice cry, me.

It’d be great to see a film biopic of this nature made about David Bowie, say, or Prince or Madonna or Debbie Harry or any other of those great stars that we just don’t seem to grow any more. (STARMAN, PURPLE RAIN, MATERIAL GIRL and HEART OF GLASS, anyone?)

The more we do to remember and immortalise them now, the better it will be for our future generations of music lovers. Can you imagine a world in which none of these icons had ever existed? That’s right. Me neither.

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:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234