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
 

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS (2015) AND THE FALL OF THE KRAYS (2016). A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS (2015) AND THE FALL OF THE KRAYS (2016). DIRECTED BY ZACKARY ADLER.
STARRING SIMON COTTON, KEVIN LESLIE, PHIL DUNSTER, DANNY MIDWINTER AND ALEXA MORDEN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. These two low-budget films, based on the true life stories of notorious British gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, claim to leave out the glamorisation of the twins’ stories and to leave us with the impression that its two subjects are nothing more than two truly nasty pieces of work. Well, job done, because both films are heavy going and the twins have no redeeming features in them whatsoever.

It’s not entirely realistic, however, because no-one is truly all bad, or even all good, for that matter. Even Hitler had his redeeming features. He loved dogs, especially his own bow-wow Blondi. He liked children, and the offspring of that charming couple, the Goebbels,’ doted on him and called him Uncle Adolf.

He was a vegetarian too, and even though I know that that doesn’t automatically make a person ‘good,’ if he’d been alive today he probably would have been to the forefront of the ‘save the earth by stopping eating meat’ campaign. Isn’t that a really weird thought…?

But the Kray twins in these two films just come across as thugs, brutish, humourless and incapable of feeling love or kindness, never mind mercy, towards any of their fellow men, or women.

Their mother Violet is not seen in the film except in brief, dialogue-less flashback, so we are not able to witness the twins’ adoration for her that the 1990 film, THE KRAYS, with Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp in the starring roles, deals with so well.

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS just shows us the twins beating people up for nearly two hours until eventually they pretty much run the criminal underworld in ‘50s and ‘60s London. There doesn’t seem to have been any crime in which they didn’t participate; protection rackets, arson, armed robbery, and, finally, murder. They leave behind them a trail of bloody and broken bodies, all casualties of their ferocious, overwhelming need for more and more power.

Ronnie, like in the superb 1990 film, is portrayed as the more violent and angry of the twins, the one that always goes too far and has to be pulled away by Reggie, who’s screaming things like, come away, Ron, leave him, he’s dead already! They allowed people to get into huge debt to them, and then mutilated or crippled them in retaliation.

Ronnie’s mental illness, his schizophrenia, is dealt with here. He did in fact finish his life in Broadmoor, the high security mental hospital, and would have been on medication, one presumes, till the end of his days. While he was at large, however, no-one, not even his beloved twin, could keep him in check.

It was his excesses, and his genuine feeling that he and his brother were ‘untouchable,’ that led to his carelessness and to his making the mistake of shooting people in front of witnesses.

Usually, witnesses to their crimes could be leaned on and ‘persuaded’ neither to testify against the Krays in court nor to single them out in identity parades, but every dog has his day and all good things, as they say, come to an end.

It was the tireless work of London copper Leonard Ernest ‘Nipper’ Read that eventually got the terrible twosome banged up for life, a long-time ambition of Read’s. It was the murders of George Cornell of the excessively violent Richardson gang, convicted gangster Frank Mitchell, whom the Krays sprung from Dartmoor Prison as a sort of mad, ill-advised publicity stunt, and finally of Jack ‘the Hat’ McVitie, that eventually ‘done for’ the brothers. Nipper has quite a big part in the second film.

Reggie marries his quiet, girl-next-door type girlfriend Frances Shea in the second film, but he’s so foul to her and her parents are so against the match that it all ends in tears, and more besides, for poor Frances.

She just didn’t seem to know the complexity of what she was getting in to. Ronnie was terminally jealous of his brother’s marriage and wife. Whatcha need anyone else for, Reg, when we got each uvver, was his answer to everything.

The only likeable people in the two films seem to be Dickie Baker, a member of the twins’ so-called Firm, and Lisa, the beautiful but slightly tragic escort/hooker. They look like they have a chance of happiness together at one stage, but they decide not to take it, for reasons best known to themselves. Sad. I love when she dryly calls him the Ghost of Christmas Past…! Cheeky but apt. Anita Dobson, by the way, of EastEnders fame, is back behind a bar here as the poor, put-upon bleached blonde pub landlady, Madge.

Well, there you go, anyway. The 1990 film, THE KRAYS, has real heart and we quite get to like the twins and empathise with them and their dear old mum, even though we know that the lads have done some really bad things.

Part of our empathy stems from the fact that the twins are played by the dreamy Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp from ‘80s British New Wave band Spandau Ballet, but it’s also a bloody good film as well. Here, the Krays’ close relationship with their mother, brilliantly played by Billie Whitelaw, has something almost of the mystical about it. Mother and sons are nearly supernaturally close, connected tightly forever through hearts and minds.

The women here are all such troopers too, such strong characters. They’ve survived Hitler and World War Two, they can make a few shillings feed everyone in the family for a week and they know what it’s like to be dodging blows from an unemployed and depressed alcoholic of a husband at closing time on Friday and Saturday nights. Such a great film. I thoroughly recommend it to your attention.

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS and THE FALL OF THE KRAYS, unfortunately, don’t come close to the 1990 film for heart, soul and characters we can empathise with. It makes the two brothers look evil, mentally deranged and just thoroughly unpleasant characters. There’s a good ‘Sixties soundtrack and you might find your nostalgia strings being plucked at the sight of ‘Sixties London, but there’s not a lot else to commend this gore-fest. Sorry…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

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

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

EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

zac-efron-as-ted-bundy

EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE. (2019) A FILM BY DOCUMENTARIAN JOE BERLINER.

BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE PHANTOM PRINCE: MY LIFE WITH TED BUNDY’ BY ELIZABETH KENDALL.

STARRING ZAC EFRON, LILY COLLINS, KAYA SCODELARIO, HALEY JOEL OSMENT AND JOHN MALKOVICH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘HACKSAW…’

‘What happened to her head…?’

‘Don’t wag your finger at me, young man!’

This film gets my seal of approval. What qualifies me to judge whether it’s any good? Well, you know the Milhouse Van Houten quote from THE SIMPSONS, ‘I knew the dog before he came to school?’ That’s me, lol. I was swotting up on Ted Bundy back in the mid-‘Noughties, long before the Cult Of Ted was experiencing its current magnificent rebirth, back when I was going through my ‘serial killer’ phase. Reading up on ’em, that is, not being one!

I read everything I could get my hands on about Ted, including his girlfriend Liz Kendall’s little book, ‘THE PHANTOM PRINCE.’ This was back when the book was out of print and hard to find. Now, given the wave of Ted-mania sweeping anew across the globe thanks to this film, I expect the books’s been re-printed in its billions with Zac Efron as Ted on the cover.

I also expect that Liz Kendall has penned a foreword, an afterword and an epilogue, just as crime writer Ann Rule regularly updated her famous book about Ted, THE STRANGER BESIDE ME, to include the ten-year appeals process and Ted’s eventual execution at the hands of the good folk at Florida State Penitentiary. If she hasn’t, well, then, I expect someone else has.

Now that we’ve established my credentials as an avid reader of Ted-lit, let’s talk about the film. It’s not really a film about the murders Ted committed, as Liz was unaware of these until quite late in the day. It’s a film about Liz’s life and relationship with Ted, as is the book, and charts their joint experiences from their first ever meeting in a Seattle college bar in 1969 to Ted’s execution for murder in 1989.

Liz couldn’t believe her luck, basically, that someone as handsome and charismatic as law student Ted should take an interest in her, a lowly office worker and single mother to a little girl. But Ted was interested, very interested indeed, and pretty soon the three of them, Ted, Liz and Liz’s daughter Molly (in the book she’s Tina) were a tight, compact little family unit.

Quite soon into the film, we start hearing about the disappearances and murders of attractive young women from Washington, Seattle, Utah, Oregon and Colorado, all the different places in which Ted has been living, in other words.

The women mostly all look alike, young, slim and pretty with long brown straight hair parted in the middle, but in the film we don’t hear about this, or whom Ted is really striking at when he picks up and destroys these virtual clones of each other.

Liz is as horrified as anyone else when Ted is arrested for these terrible crimes. In the book, she talks about his penchant for petty crime, for stealing and for unexplained disappearances of his own that she feels a bit ‘hinky’ about, as the Americans call it, but in the film it looks pretty much like it’s the first she’s hearing about Ted’s possible involvement in murder.

Zac Efron as Ted is superb. He’s captured the look, the charm and the charisma of the real Ted exactly. There’s even an uncanny physical resemblance between the two men when Efron is all ‘Ted-ded up’ in the wool cardigan with the heavy ‘Seventies lapels, or the tight yellow sweater Ted wore to the police line-up in which kidnap victim Carol Da Ronch recognised him out of several other men as ‘Officer Roseland.’ This being, of course, the phoney police officer who’d attempted to abduct her from the Fashion Place Shopping Mall on the pretext that her car had been broken into.

Let’s talk about Liz for a minute. Well played by Lily Collins, daughter of musician Phil Collins, she’s basically a mess from the time the news breaks about Ted to the end of the film. She smokes, she drinks, she hides herself away from life, her friends, and Ted, and her concentration at work suffers too. Well, it’s a lot to have going on, by anyone’s standards.

In the film, we see Liz trying to break away from Ted, trying to break up with him, even, but his protestations of undying love, fidelity and devotion are hard to say no to. Some of his letters to her are published in the book and he really, really had a way with words. She would have had to be superhuman not to be affected by his promises and metaphors.

The murders are not really depicted here, more alluded to, as it’s Liz’s story more than anyone else’s. We see her freaking out, understandably, each time Ted escapes from custody- twice he does this- and worrying herself sick in case he turns up on her doorstep. She even starts a relationship with a work colleague who seems to really care about her, but Ted keeps getting in the way. Every time she thinks she’s free and clear, up pops Ted.

I didn’t like the Carol Anne Boone character at all, the pushy woman who marries Ted in court and gives birth to his daughter while he’s still in prison. Not many people probably will, as she really seems to have blinkers on where Ted is concerned.

Even if she were faced with absolute irrefutable proof of his crimes, I genuinely don’t think it would have mattered to her. She wanted Ted and she set out to get him and she did get him, for what he was worth.

I daresay that even the most horrific crime scene photos and a signed confession from Ted himself, signed in his own blood, wouldn’t have made any difference to her ‘love’ for him. Why did I just apostrophise the word ‘love?’ No, of course I don’t doubt that she loved him. It’s just that the love of a woman for a man who kills women is a funny kind of love, isn’t it?

What this film really does well, whether or not it intends to, is to show how the groupie culture grew up around one of history’s most notorious serial killers. I think its main achievement will be to introduce a handsome young charismatic Ted to a new adoring generation of Ted-lovers, and they won’t care who he killed, raped or battered any more than the groupies from the ‘Seventies cared. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I think we know the answer to that.

My God, there’s real-life footage in the film of ‘Seventies groupies ooh-ing and aah-ing over Ted and saying things like, oh, a man that good-looking and intelligent couldn’t possibly be a KILLER…! It’s obvious that they’d date him in a shot if they had the chance.

They sat in the sweltering courtroom day after day, just waiting for a grin or a wink from Ted. Ted, of course, grandstanded and played to the gallery every chance he got, proving again and again the old adage that he who represents himself has a fool for a client.

I’m torn between thinking that these groupies are all just naïve fan-girls and wanting to elbow my way to the head of the Ted-love queue myself. It’s such a dichotomy. Why do women love men who kill, rape or beat women? I’m not qualified to answer that, but there are apparently whole books devoted to the subject. Maybe one of them has the answer to the sixty-four billion dollar question.

John Malkovich is good here as Judge Edward ‘Bless your heart’ Cowart, the guy who had no choice but to impose the death penalty on Ted after he was found guilty of the Chi Omega killings in Tallahassee, Florida in January 1978, during his second and last ever escape. (Florida State Penitentiary were adamant that Ted would not escape from THEIR facility…!) He’s the guy whose summing-up gave us the film’s rather clunky title, by the way.

Cowart was also the guy who rather strangely told Ted to ‘take care of yourself, pardner’ after he’d sentenced him to death. Tears flow down Ted’s cheeks as Cowart says that he, Ted, could have made a great attorney and that he’d love to have had Ted practising law in front of him but ‘you went a different way, pardner.’ Cowart comments on the shocking waste of human life he’d observed during the trial, and one gets the distinct feeling that he was including the ‘shocking waste’ of Ted’s own life as well.

The film shows clearly that Ted could have saved himself from the electric chair if he’d wanted to, by merely pleading guilty to the Chi Omega murders and attempted murders and the murder of twelve-year-old Kimberley Leach. Why he didn’t just plead guilty to save himself, I don’t know. Everyone knew he was guilty. Maybe he just couldn’t bear to have the world’s good opinion of him as a lovely young man altered.

In the film, we see the exact moment when Ted shows Liz his guilt for the first time. It’s a truly chilling moment. This is a terrific film, but it should probably come with a health warning for women, who are gravely in danger of falling under Ted’s spell when they view Zac Efron’s performance. Seeing his perfect ass in two nude shots won’t exactly help to put them off either, I’m afraid.

Another generation of groupies will emerge, as I said earlier. That will probably be the main long-term effect of this film. No doubt the egotistical Ted would be delighted to see how far his charisma, his power over people, over women, is able to stretch. I surely am the greatest trick in shoe-leather, he’s probably thinking right now from wherever he is.

A full thirty years after he was put to death in ‘Old Sparky,’ here we all are, still talking and thinking about him and wondering what makes him tick. Liz, I’m sure, was never able to forget him. She has her place in history now, anyway. I wonder what she feels about 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 Film-Making. 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

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