NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT. (1973) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

nothing night lads

NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT. (1973) DIRECTED BY PETER SASDY. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY NELSON KEYS. SCREENPLAY BY BRIAN HAYLES. STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, PETER CUSHING, DIANA DORS, GEORGIA BROWN, GWYNETH STRONG AND KEITH BARRON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an odd little curiosity of a film which I was thrilled to discover recently on DVD. It stars two of Britain’s most iconic horror stars, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, as well as the ravishing Diana Dors, one of that country’s most beautiful actresses ever.

I would have given the film a different title, as I’m not sure exactly what ‘Nothing But The Night’ refers to and it sounds a bit wishy-washy. Maybe it’s part of a quotation or something. Even something like ‘Island Of Terror’ or ‘Island Of Horror’ might have been a slight improvement. Weak as both suggested alternatives undoubtedly are, at least you’d know from the off what kind of film you were dealing with.

It starts off with a group of annoying schoolchildren on a bus. Was it their screechy rendition of ‘Ten Green Bottles Standing On A Wall’ that caused the bus driver to crash the bus and kill himself? Whatever it was, the bus driver is dead and the lead child, a girl called Mary, is hospitalised.

A doctor called Peter Haynes decides that she’s suffering from repressed trauma because she has repeated nightmares about fire. He enlists Peter Cushing, as his supervisor and the head pathologist of the hospital Dr. Mark Ashley, to help him get to the bottom of it. What can a pathologist do to help? Well, if Mary dies in a fire, I suppose he can perform the autopsy, lol.

Christopher Lee as a retired copper called Colonel Bingham then asks his friend Mark Ashley- yes, our pathologist- for help as well, because a good chum of his has died and Colonel Bingham suspects foul play. The chum who died was a Trustee of the Van Traylen Foundation, a foundation which runs an orphanage in Scotland, and three Trustees in all are dead by now in mysterious circumstances. That’s well suspicious, obviously.

By an incredible coincidence, Mary Valley, the fire girl (played by Gwyneth Strong, aka Rodney’s bird from ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES), is one of the Trustees’ orphans. Also, there were three more Trustees aboard the bus that crashed. Curiouser and curiouser, as they say.

Dr. Haynes is convinced that there’s more to Mary’s case than meets the eye. He gets involved with a sexy, supercilious reporter lady called Joan Foster, who thinks she knows it all and who is trying to re-unite Mary with her birth mother Anna Harb, and therein hangs an interesting tale. Could there be a story in it for Joan?

Played by Diana Dors in a messy red wig, Anna Harb is portrayed as a crude, common-as-muck ex-prostitute who spent ten years in Broadmoor and had Mary taken away from her for working as a prostitute while the child was in her care. That seems unfair, as clearly Anna Harb was only doing it so that she and Mary could eat, but whatever. The state (in most countries) has always been unfair to women.

Now Anna wants her child back but the Trustees are determined that this won’t happen. They whisk Mary from the hospital off to the island on which their orphanage is situated, leaving poor distraught Anna Harb with no choice but to follow her daughter to the island in secret.

Sir Mark and Colonel Bingham head to the island also, to investigate the deaths (suicides or murders?) of the three former Trustees. They are accompanied by Inspector Cameron, well played by Fulton Mackay (one of the stars of the sitcom PORRIDGE) with his brilliant Scottish accent.

What they discover on this isolated island would put you in mind of poor old Sergeant Neil Howie coming to Summerisle to investigate what he thinks is the case of a missing child in the 1973 mystery film THE WICKER MAN. What he discovers there is the stuff of nightmares, and Christopher Lee as the arrogant and aristocratic Lord Summerisle is the puppet-master expertly pulling the strings behind the nightmare.

Now the boot is on the other foot for Christopher Lee. Here, as the terribly English and upper-crust ex-copper Colonel Bingham, he experiences first-hand the terrors that the island holds for strangers and outsiders such as himself, while his chum Sir Mark unravels scientifically the exact truth behind what has been happening here on the mysterious island.

There’s at least one very gruesome death in the film, as well as a rather spectacular end scene involving Christopher Lee which, without giving anything away, made me want to yell at the screen: ‘Come on Chris, you’re Dracula, you’re Saruman, kick their asses! Knock ’em down! Flatten the little bastards! Are you gonna let them tread all over you like that?’ It felt rather demeaning to see him lying in the mud like that, but he was clearly overpowered, lol.

He looks so handsome too in his lovely hound’s-tooth jacket and beige overcoat (probably both his own), with that furry caterpillar of a moustache clamped to his upper lip for dear life. I prefer him without the moustache but it does make him look even more distinguished than usual. He’s more than manly enough to carry it off.

Peter Cushing looks and sounds immaculate here, as always, and the two leading men are so natural and easy with each other that it’s not at all hard to picture them being friends with each other in real life, two good mates who worked together and genuinely liked and respected each other. God bless ’em both. They were magnificent. Hope they’re resting in peace together now, the pair of ’em.

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, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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CRUCIBLE OF HORROR. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Crucilbe-Horror-1000-06

CRUCIBLE OF HORROR. (1971) DIRECTED BY VIKTORS RITELIS. STARRING MICHAEL GOUGH, SIMON GOUGH, JANE GURNEY AND YVONNE MITCHELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This psychological horror-thriller, also known as THE CORPSE and THE VELVET HOUSE, is a really dark film, and the darkest starring role Hammer actor Michael Gough (DRACULA, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA) probably ever had. He plays Walter Eastwood, a wealthy middle-aged financier who’s the very model of a prim and proper English businessman of the period.

He discusses stocks and shares and reads the financial news over breakfast with his son Rupert, who works alongside him in the family insurance firm. He likes listening to classical music and going hunting with his posh friends. He loves his guns. ‘Who touched my guns?’ His accent is pure cut-glass British toff and his behaviour, I am sure, is circumspect in every particular but one.

To his terrorised wife Edith, an artist, and his beautiful teenage daughter Jane, he is a monster. He controls their every move and watches them like a hawk, even going so far as to read their mail right in front of them. He controls the purse-strings too and gives Jane no pocket money whatsoever, which assures that her friends tire of her quickly as she never has any money of her own to pay her way.

Worse than this, however, he abuses Edith and Jane physically in the most savage of ways, whipping them with his riding crop when they fail to measure up to his exacting standards, which seems to be often.

Early on in the film, he whips Jane brutally for stealing the kitty from his precious golf-club, which she probably only pinched in the first place because he never gives her any money of her own to hang out with her friends, of whom he naturally disapproves anyway. What’s she meant to do?

Jane is a real looker and Walter’s whipping of her in her bedroom definitely seems to have a strong sexualised element to it. Even if he hasn’t raped her or misused her sexually before, he certainly seems obsessed with her and gets enjoyment from chastising her physically.

It will transpire later in the film that Edith, who seems so brutalised from her husband’s ill-treatment that she has become languid, vague and spaced-out (she will almost certainly be taking prescription sleeping pills and/or tranquilisers), has given the works of the Marquis de Sade to Jane to read. In order, presumably, to make Jane understand why her father behaves towards her the way he does.

Both women seem to have him pegged pretty much correctly as a sexual sadist. If I were Jane, I’d keep my bedroom door permanently locked, although it doesn’t seem like Walter Eastwood is the kind of man to permit his women-folk to lock him out in his own house. He thinks nothing of barging in when Jane is only half-dressed, either, although maybe that’s exactly the state of deshabillé he’s hoping to find her in.

No support whatsoever is forthcoming from Rupert, Edith’s son and Jane’s big brother. He seems to enjoy witnessing his father’s savage sarcasm and controlling behaviour towards Edith and Jane, and one wonders whether he will take his father’s place as the dominant male figure in the family when his father grows too old- or too dead- to do it.

The morning after the golf club money whipping, when poor Jane is barely able to walk from the severity of the injuries inflicted upon her, Mum whispers to her daughter once the men have taken leave of the breakfast table: ‘Let’s kill him.’ It’s the only way they can both be free of Walter and his psychological, financial and physical cruelty…

This bit reminds me of when Mandy and Beth Jordache in Scouser soap opera BROOKSIDE murdered Trevor Jordache in the soap in the early 1990s. Trevor, Mandy’s husband and Beth’s father, had inflicted years of brutal physical and mental abuse- and also the sexual abuse of his daughter Beth- on his little family and they were quite simply driven to the edge of despair by it.

It’s a long time ago now since this happened and even BROOKSIDE itself is now sadly defunct, but I think that Mandy and Beth decided to kill Trevor when he started sexually abusing Rachel, Beth’s younger sister. It was a bridge too far for the two women.

Either way, THE BODY UNDER THE PATIO was one of the most exciting and dramatic storylines ever attempted by a British soap opera and the part of Trevor Jordan was brilliantly played by Irish actor Bryan Murray.

I met Bryan Murray on the LUAS (our Dublin trains!) a few months ago and we had a nice chat about BROOKSIDE and he signed an autograph for me in the book I was reading at the time, which was THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, the 2008 book by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Which was nice, as yer man says on THE FAST SHOW…!

Anyway, things get a bit messy and confusing in CRUCIBLE OF HORROR once the decision has been taken by Edith and Jane to put an end once and for all to their terrible sufferings by offing Walter Eastwood, the fountainhead of all their misery. I do love the ending, though, it’s so deliciously black and grim and hopeless!

Rupert Eastwood is played by Michael Gough’s real-life son Simon. What must have been even odder for them both is that Jane is played by Simon Gough’s real-life wife Sharon Gurney. Michael Gough as Walter Eastwood had to pretend to lust after and get turned on by whipping his very own daughter-in-law, in other words…!

There’s a very funny flashback scene which I’m quite certain was added gratuitously by the film-makers, in which a naked, dripping wet Jane is hauled out of a lake and slapped around the place by Walter for skinny-dipping. It’s not funny that Walter’s being violent, but they didn’t have to include a nudie skinny-dipping scene, it’s purely for sexy kicks, lol.

The film is based on an old French movie called LES DIABOLIQUES which, if I describe the plot of same to you guys now, would be a spoiler as to how CRUCIBLE OF HORROR pans out. I haven’t seen LES DIABOLIQUES myself yet but I intend to dig it out. It’s a French psychological thriller from 1955 directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot starring Simone Signoret, by the way.

There’s a feeling of dread throughout CRUCIBLE OF HORROR because of the dreadful quality of life handed down to Edith and Jane by the tyrannical Walter, whom I must say is the worst, most evil movie-father I’ve ever encountered. And that makes him the best in my book, lol.

I would have given the film a different title as I’m not sure to what the titular ‘crucible’ refers (unless it’s the bowl that Jane… No, wait, I’ve said too much!), but that’s only nit-picking. I loved this film. Try and see it if you can at all.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

CRUCIBLE OF TERROR. (1971) A BRILLIANT BRITISH HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

crucible marcia

CRUCIBLE OF TERROR. (1971) DIRECTED BY TED HOOKER. STARRING MIKE RAVEN, JAMES BOLAM, MARY MAUDE, JUDY MATHESON, BETTY ALBERGE, JOHN ARNATT, RONALD LACEY, BETH MORRIS, MELISSA STRIBLING, KENNETH KEELING AND ME ME LAI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Let me immortalise you.’

‘He’s lit the furnace, you know.’

‘It’s a doll, Dorothy, a cheap ugly rotten plastic doll!’

‘To me, a beautiful woman is worth more than rubies.’

‘One thing I learned out East. Never underestimate the power of revenge.’

‘Tonight, I’m a man inspired. After all these barren years, you have inspired me.’

‘The power of evil is always stronger than that of good. If you ask me, it was pre-ordained.’

This is an absolutely fantastic British horror film from the period when British horror was at its finest. It stars Mike Raven (who also did I, MONSTER for AMICUS and LUST FOR A VAMPIRE for HAMMER) as Victor Clare.

Victor is a reclusive and bad-tempered painter-sculptor. He lives above an abandoned and supposedly haunted sea-side tin-mine in Cornwall, where a terrible accident years ago caused the mine to be shut down.

The accident isn’t really integral to the plot, it’s just a really cool place for a mad (sorry, didn’t I mention that he was stark raving mad, do please forgive the omission!) sculptor to have his workshop. He paints in the house but he has a forge in the mine for when he feels inspired to sculpt and immortalise the figures of beautiful female models in the bronze medium he favours.

His current gorgeous young hot artist’s model is the sultry but rather sulky Marcia, who is Victor’s lover as well as his model. You can’t really blame Marcia for being sulky, as she has a lot to put up with. The handsome devil-bearded black-clothed Victor is the worst kind of sexual predator, only barely on the right side of being an actual rapist.

All beautiful nubile young women are his prey. He feels entitled to harass them, feel them up, embarrass them with his sexually suggestive line of chat and bully them into posing naked for him. If they demur, he makes them feel bad for being so unsophisticated and unworldly as to have a problem with posing nude for an artist. I’m telling you, that’s what they’re like, all men. Gaslighters all.

He has ‘gaslighted’ his poor wife Dorothy into a state of dementia to the point where she has regressed back into her childhood, dressing her hair in girlish bunches and playing with dolls and cuddly toys.

He abuses her verbally, calls her old and ugly and yet he won’t give her a divorce, as her money has been what’s allowed him to live as he has done for all these years, not working a boring nine-to-five job but just concentrating on his art. Well for some…

Anyway, down to Cornwall from the big city come the seriously messed-up alcoholic Michael, Victor’s failure of a son, and an art dealer called John Davies (James ONLY WHEN I LAUGH Bolam in a Fu Manchu moustache).

Michael has stolen some pieces of art from his father, whom he loathes and detests at least partially for Victor’s foul treatment of Michael’s mother, but also because Victor makes him feel like shit about himself, and given them to John Davies to sell in his gallery.

The pieces have sold surprisingly well, the paintings and a stunning bronze sculpture of a naked woman that seems to draw men to her. John and Michael have made such a tidy profit that they’ve decided to drive down to Cornwall with their wives and beard the lion in his den.

That is to say, they’re going to go to Victor directly and ask him if he’ll agree to sell some of his stuff to them legitimately- as in, they’re not nicking it this time- so that John Davies can sell it on in his gallery and they’ll all make a neat profit, Victor included this time.

John’s beautiful young brunette wife Millie is targeted immediately by the lecherous wolf that is Victor. Pose for me, darling, he begs her from the moment she arrives in Cornwall.

She’s repelled by him, as well she should be, but he keeps on and on at her, even pursuing her through some dangerous sea-side cliff caves while her husband John is driving back up to town to get Victor Clare the money he’s demanding for his art.

John isn’t much of a husband to the beautiful Millie. He practically pimps her out to Victor, so desperate is he to keep Victor sweet and get his hands on some more of Victor’s artistic endeavours. Don’t you dare piss him off while I’m away, he warns his wife, who’s in severe danger of being raped by Victor, for all her husband gives a shit about it.

Mike’s marriage to his wife Jane is so unpleasant to witness. They hate each other. Jane even agrees to pose for Victor just to spite her hubby, whom she doesn’t respect one iota for his drinking and his inability to make anything out of himself. Unlike his father, who at least is a gifted artist, even if he’s a total shit and a sleazebag as a person.

Meanwhile, a cold-blooded killer is cutting a murderous swathe through the many inhabitants of Victor’s house for some reason and it’s also gradually becoming clear that Victor’s works of art, in particular his amazing sculptures, have their basis in the foulest of foul deeds. Is Millie, his current prey whom he’s most enthusiastically pursuing, next on the list for Victor Clare’s particularly deadly brand of immortalisation…?

The caves that run through the cliffs and lead to the house are amazing. The whole film has tons of atmosphere and the seagulls squawking and screeching over the cliff-tops made me think of THE WICKER MAN (1973), another fantastic British horror film that features cliffs and caves as well. Oh, and by the way, there’s a supernatural element to the film too in the shape of a haunted kimono from a flea-market. I’m just throwing that out there.

I like the military man Bill, the collector of strange Eastern military memorabilia, who’s been Victor’s friend and poor abused and cuckolded Mrs. Clare’s only champion for years.

The gorgeous Melissa Stribling (DRACULA, 1958) plays Joanna, one of art dealer John Davies’s backers, and she’s as lovely as when she first trembled in Count Dracula’s arms and raised her limpid, shining eyes to his before he bit down hard on her swan-like neck…

Eeeeeeeeh, I’ve made myself all excited now. I’ve got to go off and watch some DRACULA to calm myself down. In the meanwhile, you guys enjoy CRUCIBLE OF TERROR, the titular ‘crucible’ being a heavy bronze bowl of sorts used for nefarious purposes, as opposed to a place where men play snooker finals. It’s a fantastic film. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

And just to add that the marvellous actor Mike Raven, who was actually a sculptor himself in real life and who sadly didn’t make nearly enough films for us to remember him by, is buried in a grave he dug himself for himself. How freakin’ hardcore is that…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor