PLATINUM DREAMS. (1984) THE SCREENPLAY BOOK BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

PLATINUM DREAMS. (1984)

PUBLISHED IN 2021 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

My readers will be well familiar with Michael Armstrong by now, if they weren’t already. He is, of course, the famous British director and screen-writer who wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring a young David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970. A gruesome but frighteningly real depiction of eighteenth century witch-burnings.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

That’s quite an impressive back catalogue, isn’t it, and that’s only a fraction of the screenplays Michael has penned over the years. As with all screen-writers, a few scripts are bound to fall through the cracks the odd time and not get made into films. This, sadly, was the case with PLATINUM DREAMS, the screenplay I want us to have a closer look at today.

As Andrew Porter, a good friend of Michael’s, says in his excellent foreword to the book, ‘Michael’s first task with PLATINUM DREAMS was to expose and satirise the hypocrisies of Hollywood- the platitudes hiding between the façade of show business glamour- the dream that is, in reality, no more than a mirage.

‘And the characters he created, similar to those in Fellini’s classic, LA DOLCE VITA, were doomed to live this pretence, prisoners of their hopeless ambition, eventually succumbing in a downward spiral of self-destruction…’

Cheerful, innit, lol. Michael himself, in the section of the film script book entitled A History of the Screen Play, says the following about his lead character Diane: ‘It was written to expose her interview, in hindsight, as a chilling and dangerous set of evasive platitudes hiding behind the façade of a glit & glam show business that, in reality, is no more than a mirage created to sell product…’

Let me explain what Michael means about ‘her interview’ in the lines above. PLATINUM DREAMS has a female protagonist- hear, hear!- called Diane Hayden. Diane is an attractive young English secretary to a minor music mogul.

She has no intention of remaining a humble PA forever, however. She wants to be the mogul, not just the assistant to a mogul. She’s fiercely ambitious, and she’s even prepared to be ruthless if she has to be.

She tries to advance in the company she works for, Centaur Records, but her progress is blocked every which way by the glass ceiling. In other words, the male executives progress up the ladder while Diane is patted on the head and told to be a good little quiet secretary and, look, here’s a nice bunch of flowers to keep you sweet, darlin’.

Diane explodes. She quits her job, breaks up with her boyfriend- after telling him unceremoniously that she was faking it pretty much the whole time- and catches a flight to Los Angeles on Centaur Records‘s tab. She doesn’t even tell her parents that she’s leaving. When they finally find out about it, it’s already a fait accompli.

Diane makes it big, really big, in the music industry in the City of Angels. Throughout the book, there are snippets of her being interviewed by a major showbiz magazine. (That’s the interview Michael is referring to above.) She’s quizzed about her life and her meteoric rise to the top, but the answers she gives are not the real ones.

She puts a glossy spin on everything and sanitises it, saying how lovely and polite and civilised everything was when we know from the rest of the narrative that her rise to fame was excruciatingly painful and head-wrecking and mired in drugs, booze, aimless thrill-seeking and sex with all the wrong people. (Erm, where do I sign up, please…?)

Not to mention the fact that you seem to have to kiss your values goodbye when you’re clawing your way to the top in an industry like the music business, in a city like Los Angeles, where all that glitters is almost certainly not gold. It’s much the same in the film and television industry and the modelling business as well, I imagine, though I’m no expert on the high life, haha.

Diane: ‘Money, sex, drugs and movies. Aren’t there any other topics of interest in this town…?’ That’d be a ‘no,’ love…

The story takes us through Diane’s relationships with the various men who populate her life as she goes on her journey to find fame, money and success in L.A. There’s Mel, a ‘lecherous ex-junkie songwriter,’ in Diane’s own words.

There’s a very funny bit where Diane is telling the interviewer how ‘spiritual’ Mel was, and how their relationship always remained ‘a purely professional one,’ on account of his wife and all. It was just all innocent fun and good hard honest graft.

What’s so funny is that her words are sandwiched in between two scenes where we clearly see Diane and Mel rutting like wild boars on the Apocalypse. There are many examples of this hilarious inter-slicing in the screenplay, and it’s just one of the many reasons it would have worked so well as a movie. Even in the book, though, you can actually see the irony…!

Anyway, then there’s the Jewish plastic surgeon with an extremely interesting background, Jerry Golba, who would be happy to make Diane his ‘kept woman,’ but Diane wants more than that. We get an insight here into the women who use Jerry’s services as a plastic surgeon, the ageing but rich women who will go to extraordinary lengths to ‘keep young and beautiful.’

One such woman tells Diane: ‘I say, if you’ve got imperfections, get ‘em fixed. Guys out there don’t go looking for women with imperfections. Ain’t that the truth?’ If it is the truth, then it’s curtains for the ninety-nine-point-nine percent of us with so-called imperfections…!

Jerry himself says of the ‘self-delusion and pretence’ that holds Los Angeles in a stranglehold: ‘It’s what I call the L.A. ‘disease’- a state of mind similar to being stoned. You lose track of what’s real and what’s an illusion.’ And of the lights of L.A. itself: ‘They’re nothing but bright lights, Diane. They may look pretty at night but they soon lose their glitter in the daylight.’ And ain’t that the truth…?

Finally, there’s Bobby, a very good-looking teenage gay guy with whom Diane has what could be termed a strange and unhealthy relationship. Things happen between them sexually that might have been called ‘rape’ had a man been doing them to a woman.

But Diane seems obsessed with Bobby, even though his much older millionaire lover, Paul Farrell, strongly disapproves and fears losing Bobby to this sexually aware and sophisticated English woman.

It’s a bizarre set-up, but it’s probably no more bizarre than any of the other sexual shenanigans that go on in the city of ridiculously lavish parties and anything-goes-as-long-as-you’re-young-and-beautiful-and-having-fun. I just despair of where it’s all going to end, that’s all…

I love the bit about the Charlie Manson-style ‘Children of the Avenger’ cult murders. Okay, yes, lol, I’m a ghoul, all right? Even though it’s gruesome and violent possibly beyond anything I’ve read before, I still loved it. I also love but kind of abhor the clear message the screenplay sends out that everyone in this city is disposable and no-one is irreplaceable.

For example, a guy who stars in a crime drama gets killed in the book. We’ll never forget him, everyone solemnly vows. Will the series he stars in be scrapped? Will it f**k. Here’s what someone in the ‘industry’ says: ‘Aw, they’ll find a way. Shoot round it like they always do. Use a double. Whatever. A few re-writes, no-one’ll miss him. Insurance’ll cover it. No big deal. Get their accounts department on it, they’ll probably even turn it into a tax loss.’

So much for ‘we’ll never forget him…!’

I’ll leave you with the following quote from Diane:

‘It’s all about winning, here. And if you’re not a winner, you’re some kind of lesser human being…. In Los Angeles, everyone comes- not to be the best at anything- but to be rich and famous- because that’s what making it’s all about.’

And so much for: ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul…?’

PS, if you happen to meet Michael on the street some day, ask him from me if he’s got a female Rambo yet, he’ll know what it means…!

You can buy this book and all of Michael’s other books as well at the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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:

ORPHANAGE. (1980) THE SCREENPLAY BOOK BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

ORPHANAGE. (1980)

PUBLISHED IN 2021 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

This fantastic screenplay was intended to be written along the lines of the humongous ‘sleeper’ hit of the era, FRIDAY 13TH, and, yes, there are certainly loads of ‘killings’ in it, but, Michael being Michael, he actually put some great believable plot in there as well and gave one or two of his characters some genuinely heart-rending back stories and life issues.

And, knowing what we know nowadays regarding pretty much every state institution ever, from Mother & Baby Homes and industrial schools to children’s homes and Magdalen Laundries, it’s not difficult to imagine traumatic starts in life and horrific emotional scarring for all the poor kids who find themselves living in a state orphanage through absolutely no fault of their own.

The plot is set in an English orphanage, not an Irish one, by the way, and, thankfully, the kids aren’t being abused by the staff like they might have been over here, but, as it’s horror fiction, the protagonists do have a rather pressing problem of their own to deal with, namely a slasher-cum-paedophile killer who cuts a murderous swathe through their numbers like… well, I was going to say like a knife through butter but that’s not very original, is it? Think of something that’s very effective at cutting that’s not a knife and we’ll use that instead, lol.

Michael Armstrong, by the way, is the famous British director and screen-writer who wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring a young David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970. A gruesome but frighteningly real depiction of eighteenth century witch-burnings.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

I’ve said this before, I know, but Michael Armstrong’s writing is an absolute joy to read. Reading the pictures he paints with his words is actually not much different to seeing them played out in front of you on the cinema screen. ORPHANAGE is particularly vivid. You’ll enjoy it, I promise you, although I must warn you all that the subject matter is very, very dark and some people just won’t be able for it.

We are all of us orphans in one way or another. All of us alone, isolated, looking for someone to hold onto, to love- and all of us are frightened of that shadow, that terrifying something, forever lurking just out of sight; that unexpected moment of death. It is the only thing in the world of which we can be certain; that it will always be there waiting to strike when we least expect it…

You know that guy? He’s sent the police this letter saying he’s going to do a whole load of murders next time. It was on the news.

The girl steps from a bus and crosses the road to start across some wasteland; a shortcut to her home…

Oh, horror films don’t frighten me. It’s when things are real… I mean, that’s different, isn’t it?

It doesn’t take long- especially if I cut through the woods…

Come and meet some of the kids, why don’t you? Mike is the hero, a teenage boy struggling with the twin unexploded bombs of the murder of his mother and his confusion regarding his sexuality.

Mike really likes an older guy called Brandon, but we don’t know yet if Brandon swings that way… Mike is someone with whom we can truly empathise, a decent young fella just trying to cope with the rotten curve-balls life keeps chucking at him.

‘I keep trying to fit in with the others but- all I really want to do is run away and curl up in a cave somewhere far away where no-one can ever find me.’ Poor Mike.

Terry is a bully, and, in particular, Mike’s very own special personal bully. The scene in which Terry forces Mike to act out some particularly graphic scenes from the book they’ve been studying in school, LORD OF THE FLIES, made me want to call Childline, and no kidding. Terry makes Mike’s life a misery, but Mike’s life is already tough enough. Someone should really put Terry back in his box.

‘Right! We’ve caught the pig! Now we do like they do in the book: we’re gonna stick him! Stick the pig and make him squeal! Make him wriggle! Stick him and kill him!’

 The little bollix, seriously.

Jan is a young black girl and she’s kind of Terry’s girlfriend. The scene involving their disastrous attempt at sex puts me in mind of Rachel screaming the following at Ross in FRIENDS: ‘It IS a big deal, it DOES matter and it DOESN’T happen to everyone…!’ Yeah, I think we can all guess what she’s talking about there, lol.

On the serious side, if Jan stays with Terry in the long-term, she’ll have a baby every year and a shiner every Friday and Saturday nights, and you can take that to the bank. Maggie is Jan’s younger, not-as-streetwise friend whom Terry delights in taunting.

Joey, an adorable five-year-old with obvious emotional problems and an unbreakable attachment to his teddy bear, is the kind of character that would just break your heart. He needs a mammy so much, and the one thing he doesn’t need is to be parted from his beloved teddy bear before he’s ready.

Anyway, one fateful night, the boss of the children’s home and his female co-worker go off to have dinner with someone who might possibly donate some much-needed cash to the home.

This makes it easier for the sick paedophile-killer who’s been stalking the home- and the kids- to gain access to the building… and the children who live in it… (Shades of Ted Bundy in the sorority house in Tallahassee, Florida, in 1978 here.)

The killer’s hand selects a knife with a serrated edge to the blade…

By the way, taking the short-cut home through the woods has never done any character in a film any good. Two of my favourite but possibly little-known movies from the early ‘Seventies can attest to this: THE APPOINTMENT and ASSAULT. In ORPHANAGE, there are some fantastically atmospheric scenes set in the woods in which characters get an overwhelming sense of impending doom.

There is someone else out there… in the darkness of the woods…

The screenplay puts me in mind of so many grisly things and serial killers. Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper. The original Jack the Ripper and his letters to the constabulary. Ted Bundy, as I said, and any serial killer in the movies who’s ever skulked through a darkened dormitory in the dead of night with murderous intent.

The two above-mentioned films, THE APPOINTMENT and ASSAULT, but also a film about a children’s home and several mysterious deaths called NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT, featuring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Diana Dors. Another film too, entitled WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. ‘Have you checked the children…?’ 

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m locking my bedroom door tonight and sleeping with the lights on…

By the way, all of these gorgeous glossy script books of Michael’s feature a chapter called: A HISTORY OF THE SCREEN PLAY. I always make a point of reading these because they usually contain hilariously funny anecdotes, cautionary tales and interesting snippets of showbizzy-type gossip from when Michael was actually sitting down to pen the film script in question. Read the one in ORPHANAGE and you’ll find out why Michael says: ‘That left me broke and stranded in Paris.’ Broke and stranded in Paris, lol. That’s such a writer thing to be…!

 You can buy this book and all of Michael’s other books as well at the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

Joey continues drawing closer…

Every step taking him nearer to the open doorway…

His teddy bear…

And the waiting killer…

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:

MARK OF THE DEVIL. (1970) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


MARK OF THE DEVIL. (1970) DIRECTED BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG. PRODUCED BY ADRIAN HOVEN. SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG AND ADRIAN HOVEN.
STARRING HERBERT LOM, REGGIE NALDER, OLIVERA VUCA, GABY FUCHS, UDO KIER, INGEBORG SCHONER, ADRIAN HOVEN AND HERBERT FUX.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely love this film, but, if I tell you that vomit bags were issued to movie patrons during screenings of it in America, it might give you a teensy-weensy clue as to how violent and stomach-churning it can be at times. If you’re of a nervous or wobbly disposition, I strongly suggest you refrain from viewing it.

If, however, you’re like me and thoroughly enjoy a good witch-burning movie from the late sixties/early seventies, you’ll absolutely bloody love it. When a horror film starts with nuns being raped, you know it’s time to usher the kids up to bed, hunker down and open the wine. Some seriously adult stuff is about to go down…

The original screenplay was for a film entitled THE WITCH-HUNT OF DOCTOR DRACULA, the brainchild of producer Adrian Hoven, which (sadly?!) never got made. Instead, hot young British director Michael Armstrong was invited on board and he turned the film into pretty much the best witch-finding film ever made. It even out-witch-finder-ed Michael Reeves’s WITCHFINDER GENERAL from 1968 starring Vincent Price, and that’s a cracking film.

Although the finished product is a top-notch horror film, the production was troubled from the start. All the juicy, funny and even at times outrageous behind-the-scenes gossip can be found in Michael Armstrong’s gorgeous glossy screenplay book, MARK OF THE DEVIL, currently for sale from Michael’s own website and from his publishers, Paper Dragon Productions. I’ll pop links in at the end.

The film itself is unforgettable. Set in a village in seventeenth-century Austria, it begins with the local witchfinder, a hideous-looking villainous murderer called Albino, capturing the aforementioned nuns and one monk and sentencing them to death for allegedly practising witchcraft.

Without a shred of proof, a hint of a formal indictment or a ghost of a proper trial, I might add. But that’s just the way they did it back then. The nuns and monk die horribly, but that’s only the beginning of the viewer’s nightmarish trip back in time to witch-burning Europe.

Back in those days, you could accuse someone of witchcraft if they’d pissed you off even slightly or if you fancied taking their cow or pig for yourself. It seemed like all you had to do was point the finger and an angry mob would form behind you, baying for the ‘witch’s’ blood. Remember Homer in THE SIMPSONS? ‘I accuse Goody Flanders…!’

And these are only the locals. When the Church-and-state-appointed Witchfinder trundles into town in his carriage (which may have been used by a real witch-finder back in the day; filming was done in an Austrian castle which contained a genuine torture chamber and real, authentic instruments of torture), things are about to get a whole lot worse. Oh yes, they can get worse…!

The horrible local witchfinder Albino has accused a beautiful young barmaid called Vanessa Benedict of being a witch. Why? Because she won’t have sex with him and fights off his attempted rape of her, and who would blame her?

He’s a vicious, murdering thug who enjoys raping women and hurting people of either sex. He gets immense satisfaction out of pricking her with his infamous ‘witchfinder’s needle,’ looking for the so-called ‘Devil’s mark.’

Vanessa is brought before the ‘court’ of the new witchfinder in town, the stern Lord Cumberland, well played by Herbert Lom. Vanessa is thrown in jail to await the preparation of the formal indictment against her, much to the distress of Count Christian von Meru, Lord Cumberland’s young apprentice witchfinder.

The divinely handsome Christian (oh God, those beautiful eyes!)  is madly in love with the busty Vanessa and she with him, but Lord Cumberland advises Christian to put aside the temptations of the flesh and concentrate on ridding the world of the evils of witchcraft.

But Christian has extremely high ideals and morals, and when one fateful day he sees his adviser and mentor Lord Cumberland commit an act that no decent man of the cloth would ever so much as contemplate, he finds himself terribly torn, torn between his love of Mother Church and his love for Vanessa, a real human female who can fill his life with love, warmth and laughter. Which will he choose, and what will it cost him…?

The Austrian scenery- the mountains, the lakes, the rolling green hills- is stunning to look at (the hills are certainly alive), and I love the score as well. The film is most famous- or should that be notorious- for its torture scenes, and the reputation is warranted, I tells ya, warranted. Don’t you be telling me it’s not warranted. And if you tell me you think the film’s depiction of torture is too graphic, I’ll just say this: it all happened that way in real life, didn’t it…?

Poor beautiful Deirdre von Bergenstein and the young Baron Daumer experience the full benefits of Lord Cumberland’s dubious hospitality. What’s on the menu? Well, the thumbscrews, the rack, whipping, both on the body and on the soles of the feet, a special chair with nails sticking up out of it for the posterior and, for Deirdre, something so disgusting and terrible that vomit bags had to be issued alongside your cinema ticket back in the day. And some of them were actually used for that exact purpose, as well. By the way, I thought the water torture guy was getting off lightly at first, but, by the time we’d witnessed his total mental degeneration, I wasn’t so sure…

The film does an excellent job of showing us exactly why witch-finding was so popular back in those days. The Church benefited by confiscating the property and riches of any wealthy noblemen- or women- they accused of witchcraft.

The prisoners might escape with their lives if they signed their estates over to the Church, and if they refused to do so, they were burned as witches and the Church nicked their stuff anyway. Win-win, but not for the poor victims. Talk about a cast-iron, Church-and-state-sanctioned excuse for raping and pillaging. Disgusting.

I love Herbert Fux as Jeff Wilkins, the witchfinder’s heavy. He carries out the torture with such gusto! You don’t often get to see a man enjoying his job so much. Gaby Fuchs is wonderful too as the poor brutalised Deirdre, and Udo Kier and Olivera Vuco as Christian and Vanessa make an exceedingly good-looking couple. Does their story have a happy ending? You’ll have to watch this controversial cult classic to find out, folks. But keep those vomit bags handy, just in case…    
  
You can buy all of Michael’s screenplay books at the following links:
 
http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk
http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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:

MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) THE SCREENPLAY BOOK BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

MARK OF THE DEVIL. (1970)

PUBLISHED IN 2020 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

The witch-hunting film that was made from this screenplay we’re about to discuss was one of the most controversial releases of all time. I watched it recently, but, due to the horrifically realistic torture and mutilation scenes, I was watching it with my legs tightly crossed, my hands clamped firmly over my mouth, my ankles wrapped around each other and my eyes shut, lol, that’s how frightening it is. No part of the body goes unmutilated. No wonder vomit bags were issued at the box office along with your cinema ticket back in the day. I can’t really imagine getting through the movie without one…

MARK OF THE DEVIL started life as a screenplay called THE WITCH-HUNT OF DOCTOR DRACULA, penned by Adrian Hoven, an Austrian actor, film director and producer. Both he and his son Percy actually have small roles in MARK OF THE DEVIL, which is what the screenplay became when Michael Armstrong was invited on board the project as one of Britain’s most bankable, up-and-coming young directors, having just made THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR (1969).

Michael virtually re-wrote the entire script, also changing the title to a much snappier one, and then he filmed the whole shebang under difficult circumstances in a fabulous old castle in Austria that contained genuine implements of torture from the actual age of witch-hunting, a few hundred years or so ago. Michael Armstrong turned this film into a success story that out-box-officed Michael Reeves’ WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), probably the Big Daddy of the witch-hunting films.

What were the difficult circumstances, I hear you ask? Well, how much time ya got, lol? There were language barriers amongst the multi-lingual cast and crew, everyone else spoke German but poor Michael, the sound equipment went AWOL and a certain Adrian Hoven, backed up by some of the crew and very obviously put out not to be making DOCTOR DRACULA, placed obstacles in Michael’s path at various stages.

Sometimes, Herr Hoven would even film things without Michael’s permission or cut some of Michael’s work without so much as a by-your-leave. In particular, a fabulous scene Michael intended to put at the end of the film was brutally chopped out, and I personally think that it would have been the perfect nightmarish ending for the movie. But don’t worry, anything that was left out of the film is in the screenplay, and you can read it at your leisure in the comfort of your own home when you buy the book.

Wikipedia politely maintains that ‘Producer Adrian Hoven and director Michael Armstrong disliked each other intensely and often argued over the slightest of things,’ but if you want the full low-down on just how hard it was for Michael to get the job done with Hoven’s constant interference, read the chapters entitled A HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY and THE 1970 FILM in the book. Michael personally debunks some myths about the film in a manner both painfully honest and wickedly bitchy. Not to be missed, seriously. A moment’s silence for DOCTOR DRACULA…? No? Okay, moving on…

‘In the name of our beloved master, the Prince, I hereby proclaim that an attack by the powers of darkness has been sent against us. Be warned: the Devil is everywhere and can tempt any one of you so, wherever the hand of the Prosecutor points- you must not hesitate to follow.’

‘… and that this person has confessed before God to have committed sacrilege four times in the eyes of our crucified Lord for which he is sentenced to lose four fingers of his right hand and be tarred and feathered before being set loose to be chased through the streets like an animal until he falls dead.’

‘For such blasphemies you shall first be stretched on the rack till you confess that this child is really the Devil’s. Then you shall have your tongue torn from your head by the roots! Next?’

‘She’s the one who had intercourse with the Devil on Goat’s Mountain! He took her to his den in the guise of a little donkey, and there they fornicated all night long!’

‘Having confessed practising witchcraft in the sight of God, both prisoners have been condemned to death by burning.’

‘It’s so lovely here. This is my truth!- What I can touch and feel. It’s wonderful! Don’t you feel it?’

‘Can you only see through his eyes? Can you be so blind?’

‘We must never weaken in performing God’s work.’

‘I couldn’t find the Devil’s mark, my lord.’

Picture the scene, a primitive little town in Austria in the Middle Ages. Largely illiterate, uneducated and superstitious peasants and yokels caught in the stranglehold of Mother Church. If the Church says that this woman or that man is a witch, well, then, we’d better burn them at the stake, but not before we torture them to within an inch of their lives first to get a ‘confession’ of witchcraft out of them. Never mind that, under hideous torture, a person will confess to being a fan of Showaddywaddy’s music in order to get the pain to stop.

This screenplay does an excellent job of showing us why the Church was so gung-ho for witch-burning. They could confiscate the estates and monies of any nobleman so accused, and they could rape and abuse terrified young women by threatening them with being burned at the stake if they refused to submit to unwanted sexual attentions.

Albino in the screenplay is not a churchman, but he’s as bad as one. He’s the self-appointed local witch-finder and he’s a really nasty, ugly-looking and sadistic character. He accuses a beautiful, feisty young barmaid called Vanessa Benedict of being a witch when she, not unnaturally, refuses his sexual advances. She is thrown in jail and brought before the ‘court’ of Lord Cumberland, the official state-appointed witchfinder who has just arrived in town.

Christian to Albino on Lord Cumberland: ‘He’s been sent here by your Lord and Master, the Prince, and entrusted with the difficult task of tracking down and punishing all the witches in the region.’

Lord Cumberland supplants Albino as the town’s head witch-burning guy, much to Albino’s disgust. The only difference between them, however, is that Albino is an ignorant peasant and Cumberland an educated, wealthy aristocrat with the might and riches of the Church behind him. In terms of sadism, however, they are very much equally matched.

Cumberland is attended by his apprentice, the extraordinarily handsome Count Christian Von Meru, who is secretly in love with Vanessa and she with him. The charges against Vanessa, as dreamed up by Albino, are utterly ludicrous: ‘She’s ridden in the Sabbath. She is a witch. She’s mixed frogs and toads with her own blood… to poison Lord Cumberland.’ It seems like you could make up any old gobbledy-gook about a supposed ‘witch’ and the local simpletons would lap it up. The script really emphasises this aspect of those terrible times.

Poor Christian. He loves Vanessa with all the strength and compassion of his young man’s heart. But Cumberland has been ‘like a second father to him.’ Christian is committed to helping his boss to ‘free the world from all evil.’ How can the two things be reconciled?

And won’t Christian have to realise sooner or later that Cumberland has massive feet of clay- and a limp willy to boot- and is advocating torture, cruelty and unlawful murder in the name of a diabolically corrupt Church? Absolute power has corrupted absolutely in Cumberland’s case. Can Christian find the courage to be his own man, and, just as importantly, the man Vanessa needs him to be right now…?

The torture of poor, poor condemned Deirdre von Bergenstein made me feel weak and sick to read about it. It might be quicker to tell you what wasn’t done to her, haha. All the implements of torture you’ve ever heard about, like the rack and thumbscrews and the Witch-finder’s infamous pricking needle, are in here, plus a few you probably haven’t, like myself.

What is done to Deirdre in the script just before her burning at the stake is possibly the main reason for the vomit bags that were handed out at screenings of the film in America. Just be warned, that’s all.

Poor old Baron Daumer and the nobleman who gets the water torture are equally to be pitied. Well, almost. You can practically smell the corruption oozing from the words Cumberland utters to Baron Daumer:

‘Sign everything over to the Church and I promise you your life- otherwise I must denounce you as a sorcerer and have you executed.’  

There are some gorgeous stills from the film, both in full colour and in black-and-white, in the screenplay book, which would make a fantastic gift for fans of the movie. You can buy this one and all of Michael’s other books as well at the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I’ll leave you with two of the scariest, most chilling lines from the script:

Christian: ‘But, then… where does safety lie?’

Cumberland: ‘There is no safety! Anywhere!’

You said it, Pops…

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: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE.’ (1976) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE. (1976)

PUBLISHED IN 2020 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

VOICE: Emergency. Which service do you require?

Miss Friggin, an elderly lady: Police. There’s a sex maniac outside.

I remember once watching a brilliant old film of Buster Keaton’s, in which Buster’s character goes out one day to play a nice relaxing game of golf and ends up on the gallows, about to be hanged.

I forget the name of this film but, if you read the film-script book of Michael Armstrong’s hilarious sex comedy, ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE, like I just have, you’ll probably be able to work out why I connected the two oeuvres in my mind…

Derek: How anyone can turn a simple visit to a police station into a low-budget British sex comedy, I do not know …!

We first meet the titular private dick, Bob West, after he’s just delivered what used to be known as a jolly good seeing-to to a married woman, Gretchen Prentiss, whose husband’s out working nights.

Milkman: Morning, Mr. Prentiss. You’re up early?

Mr. Prentiss: Up early? I’m on nights this week.

Milkman: I bet the wife doesn’t like that?

Mr. Prentiss: Doesn’t seem to bother her.

Well, now we know why, lol. Why would she be lonely when she has Bob West, private dick, to keep her company? Although, to be brutally honest, Bob is not so much a private dick as the assistant to a private dick.

His boss, Judd Blake, is the one who really gets all the perks, the life of luxury and excitement … cocktails in St. Moritz, intrigue in Morocco, South of France on the yacht then straight off in a private jet to some dangerous assignment in South America or Tangiers …

Bob is understandably jealous of his suave, sophisticated boss. He works his way through secretaries like a chain-smoker. Judd Blake is handsome, debonair, middle-aged, elegant and vain, and, boy, doesn’t he know it.

Judd to the gauche, socially awkward Bob: Think yourself lucky you’re working for the biggest dick in the business. That says it all … But then one fine day, Judd and his latest secretary sweetie go away for a bit and Bob is unexpectedly left holding the reins.

Judd: Cases, Robert … cases.

Bob’s face instantly lights up.

Bob: Do you want me to handle them while you’re away?

Judd: No. I want you to take them down to the car.

The screenplay is chock-full of hilarious lines like that. Judd is adamant that Bob keeps his nose out of any ‘cases’ which may arise. He’s to hold the fort and take messages and that’s about it. But Bob has other ideas, especially when a gorgeous broad called Laura Sutton comes in to the office looking for help and mistakes Bob for his boss. Laura is a real hot tamale.

Laura: Let me explain. I used to be a professional model- fashion model. To be honest, I lived a pretty wild life, Mr. Blake … Until I met Ashley … Ashley Dotrice. It was love at first sight. The fact that he was eighty-seven and a multi-millionaire with a bad heart condition had nothing to do with it, naturally.

Oh, naturally. You can’t argue with love at first sight. Laura has a little problem, however. A nasty rotten anonymous blackmailer is threatening to scupper her lovely plans to inherit the now deceased Mr. Dotrice’s massive estate.

Will Mr. Blake please help her to see off the blackmailer so she can inherit her ancient lover’s millions without having to keep looking over her elegant shoulder? Bob, now cast ineluctably in the role of Judd Blake, Private Eye, eagerly agrees to help the stunning model in distress …

Laura invites Bob (still thinking he’s Judd Blake, his boss) down to Ashley’s rural seat, the rather sinister-sounding Grimsdyke Manor, to see what’s what. The house is chock-a-block with relatives and aged retainers.

There’s Craddock, the rusty old butler, and Zelda, the busty maid. There are Ashley’s two daughters: Medea, a tall, exotically attired woman with green hair who fancies herself as a bit of a psychic (I see the mark of death upon you), and Violet, step-mother to the well-endowed Clarissa and wife to spanking enthusiast Sydney Burke.

Violet: … We have a lovely house in Esher. Sydney built it. He’s a building contractor. Remember that block of flats that fell down last year? That was one of his.

So much for Sydney …! Anyway, Bob is determined to uncover the identity of Laura’s dastardly blackmailer and prove himself as big a dick as Judd Blake any day. Even if he has to bonk, screw, roger, diddle, fiddle, poke, pork, fondle, caress, ride, bump and grind, hump or jump the bones (did I leave any out?) of every female from Land’s End to John o’ Groats to do it. Well, or thereabouts …!

Sally, a desperate housewife: Then there’s the dustman. We’ve been working our way through ‘Emmanuelle’ in the mornings, then into the high-heeled boots and Gestapo uniform for a quick bit of ‘The Night Porter’ with the window cleaner. It helps liven up the day.

I’ll say it does. And then there’s Jane: Tell me, is it getting harder? Ahem. And as for Little Willy: Another man came and jumped up and down on Mummy last week. I’ll bet he did …!

The humping and jumping of bones Bob can do with one hand tied behind his back. But I doubt if he was prepared for his lovely, farcical sex comedy of errors and mistaken identity to turn into a proper, Agatha Christie-style murder mystery along the way:

Bob: What about the police? I mean, you can’t just go around the place hiding dead bodies when you feel like it. There’s laws about that sort of thing.

Laura: Nobody need know. There’s an old chalk quarry only a few miles from here. He wouldn’t be discovered for days.

Well, well, well. The plot definitely thickens. Bob’s time as Judd comes to an hilarious climax in a spot of cross-dressing:

Stage Manager: I thought we were only booking four girls? Who’s the big ugly one in the middle?

Who indeed? I’ll give you three guesses. By the way, here’s a riddle for y’all. Why did the private dick stab himself in the balls with a fork? Because it’s in the plot, that’s why, silly!

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE was filmed in 1976 with two of my absolute favourite actresses of the period, the fabulous Diana Dors and Suzy Kendall, in the cast-list. Harry H. Corbett from STEPTOE AND SON also starred, as Sydney the Spanker. The film script book, along with Michael’s other beautiful film books, are all available to buy now from the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I’ll give internationally famous superstar Lisa Moroni the last word:

‘You know, ever since I was a little girl- you know? I’ve had secret fantasies about dicks.’

Haven’t we all, Lisa lovey, haven’t we all … ?

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘MUTANTS.’ (1967) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

MUTANTS. (1967)

PUBLISHED IN 2020 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I absolutely adored this sort of science fiction mystery thriller, penned by legendary screen-writer Michael Armstrong a few years after he himself holidayed in Venice, in the same area which he writes about in the screenplay.

His youthful exploits there nearly cost him his life on more than one occasion (just boyish high jinks, folks, nothing to see here, move along, lol), so I’m guessing the holiday had a profound effect on him, enabling him to write MUTANTS so easily and quickly, and with such feeling and a genuine sense of being there in the moment the action is taking place.

The story of why it didn’t get turned into a film, despite its massive potential and the fact that Michael had originally intended the main male role to go to iconic rock star David Bowie, star of his debut film, THE IMAGE, is told with honesty and poignancy in the chapter of the book entitled A HISTORY OF THE SCREEN PLAY.

In which, I must add, he also gives a stunningly familiar-seeming description of A Writer’s Insecurity and our general feeling that every word we’ve ever written is not fit to use as toilet paper with which to wipe Saddam Hussein’s arse, to gloriously misquote Bridget Jones in that terrific first film. You don’t mind, do ya, Bridge love…?

These books would make a fabulous Christmas present for the film fan in your life, by the way. If you’re strapped for cash, you can just buy one or two (or three!), but if you’re feeling flush, why not go for the full monty? The books come with gorgeous glossy covers and more film industry know-how and gossip inside than you can shake a stick at. I positively treasure my own copies.

EXT. VENICE NIGHT.

The sea-water splashing against the quayside-

Against the sides of moored gondola …

The pools of water on the streets …

Puddles reflecting the city’s antiquity …

Desolate now …

Barely a sound now …

Old …

So very, very old …

Now we move to a Venice beach in the late ‘sixties, which I’m guessing was a rather cool place to be. Not cool in the temperature sense, of course, as it’s pretty damn hot in the book and the sun presents as a fiery, unusually red ball in the sky.

Cathy Hinton and her older brother David are on holiday in the area, as are their two chums, Ann and Nick, who are boyfriend and girlfriend. They’re all camping at the exact site at which Michael himself once stayed as a penniless drama student on his holliers from the RADA, a place called Punta Sabioni. It’s across the lake from Venice proper, and it’s obviously cheaper than staying in one of the beautiful city’s posh hotels.

While on the beach one day, the quartet of youngsters attract the attention of a fellow English tourist, a Sarah Thornton whom Michael describes as ‘an attractive, over-dressed woman in her late forties, trying to look older.’

She immediately, and rather pushily, insists on taking the four under her obviously mature, cougar-ish wing, treating them to expensive meals, suites in the hotel where she’s staying and nights filled with champagne and laughter.

She has no family of her own and the day on which she introduces herself to them is allegedly her birthday, plus she’s got oodles of dosh and she’s paying for everything, shelling out money hand-over-fist, so the teens kind of feel like, well, if she wants to do all that for them, let her do it. They’re being shown a glimpse of the high life without having to pay a penny for it.

Sarah: Oh … well, maybe for tonight, you should stay over here? There’s plenty of space in my hotel room. I have a suite. You’d be more than welcome to stay the night- and that way we don’t have to break up the party … right?

The two boys exchange another glance, and grin back, ruefully.

Sarah beams back at them.

She has what she wanted.

What’s in it for this strange older woman who’s gone out of her way to become a feature in the youngsters’ lives? Well, the first thing she wants is David, who’s still in school and only about seventeen years old. She gets him blind drunk- on Sarah’s champagne, they all get blind drunk- and seduces him, the dirty cougar!

Sarah: You’re a beautiful child … so very young, so very, very beautiful. Are you glad you met me?

David’s younger sister Cathy can see the dangers of David getting involved with a woman who’s old enough to be his granny, but naturally David, thinking with his willy and not his head, is oblivious. Who cares, he says nonchalantly? Loads of young blokes hang out with older birds. Where’s the harm?

Sarah says some pretty far-out things. Like: You see that stretch of water over there? Well, it’s very, very deep- just that section; like an enormous black hole dug out of the sea. They once sent divers down to find out just how deep it was but they never came back and no one’s tried to find out since.

Shudder. Like the Marianas Trench in the west of the Pacific Ocean. The deepest oceanic trench there is. God knows what’s down there. Have you ever heard it said that we know more about what’s in outer space than we do about what’s in our oceans? I’d well believe it. In the meantime, our four young holiday-makers continue to swelter under a sun of an unnaturally red colour…

The last third or thereabouts of the book deals with What Happened To Poor David. I’m giving nothing away, but I will challenge you to find the Frankenstein moment in the script. A loving nod, I’m guessing, to the films Michael would have adored as a child and then a young man starting out in his career.

Okay, you’ve twisted my arm. Here’s a teensy-weensy hint of what’s to come, but don’t tell anyone I told you or I’ll send the boys round. Ah, I’m only kidding. There are no boys.

People everywhere are screaming;

Running away in alarm-

And that’s positively all I’m giving you. It’ll be well worth the suspense, I promise you.

MUTANTS is available to buy now at the following web addresses, along with other books in the Michael Armstrong collection. Get out your wallets, lads. Don’t be stingy now…!

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

Man: It’s extraordinary the way they can move separately when they grow or expand outwards...

I just want it all to stop … so we can go home. I want to go … home … I’m so scared. I just want to go home.

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘DELIVER US FROM EVIL.’ (1969) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL. (1969)

PUBLISHED IN 2020 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘… but I guess you knew I’d come back once we were both older.’

‘I’ve run things far too long to see them jeopardised by anyone- including you! The past’s the past, Nikki! What happened is over; gone! This whole neurosis about your childhood- it’s all in your head! That’s all!’

‘Blackmail? How can you accuse me of that when you know why I’m really here… that I’ve finally come back for you after all these years!’

Downstairs …

The darkness of the hall …

The empty rooms …

The stairs …

Upstairs …

The closed bedroom doors …

Silence.

I’ve been reading and reviewing Michael Armstrong’s gorgeous glossy-covered film script books for about three years now, and, next to HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, I actually think DELIVER US FROM EVIL might just be my favourite, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute.

But for those who might not yet know (what’s the weather like up there on Pluto, by the way? Not too inclement for the time of year, I hope!), HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, the screen-writer’s addition to the canon of ‘Old Dark House’ movies, is one of Michael’s most well-known films.

Not just because it’s brilliantly written and full of terrific comic turns and horror movie references that’ll make you feel very pleased with yourself for spotting them, but because it’s the only film ever made that features horror icons Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all under the one roof, so to speak.

Incidentally, former BROOKSIDE actress Julie Peasgood, who has penned the foreword to DELIVER US FROM EVIL (all the forewords are written by movie industry insiders, including ME; I did the one for SCREAMTIME!), was the sexy blonde love interest in HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS.

Her co-star was Desi Arnaz Jr.. He played an American writer who agreed to hole up in the titular ‘House’ for a weekend, in order to speed-write a novel and thereby win a bet with his literary agent. But he didn’t, of course, reckon on the fact that four of the greatest horror actors on the planet were going to drop by and grievously interrupt him…!

Anyway, now we move onto DELIVER US FROM EVIL. Like Julie Peasgood, I devoured it in one sitting, because it’s just so easy to read (all the books are supremely reader-friendly) and a fantastically gripping storyline. It’s the story of the beautiful young Nikki Wynter, a woman who’s had rather more of a traumatic childhood than most of us can lay claim to …

Nikki: ‘If- if Mommy ever got better … if they ever let her out of that place …?’

And, later … Doctor: ‘You’re still worried it’s hereditary, aren’t you?’

Heh-heh-heh. The plot reminds me a little bit of John Carpenter’s fantastic serial killer horror film from 1978, HALLOWEEN. In this movie, a man who murdered his teenage sister when he was a little boy escapes from the mental institution in which he’s been incarcerated for years and returns to his hometown, where he immediately starts stalking a teenage babysitter and her unfortunate group of friends.

(Did I ever tell you that I met John Carpenter back in October 2016 when he played the music from his films live at Vicar Street in Dublin? Well, I say I met him, and I WAS there, but it’s probably closer to the truth to say that I glimpsed a teensy bit of his black jumper from my seat near the back while hundreds of big hairy male John Carpenter fans, every one of them wearing black movie T-shirts and holding up phones, blocked all but a tiny percentage of my view. Bastards, lol.)

Anyway, Michael’s story, which, incidentally, was penned nearly a whole decade before the release of HALLOWEEN, sees the return into Nikki’s life, not of an escaped mental patient, but of someone whom you’d imagine would have an even tougher time materialising back in someone’s life than an escaped lunatic.

All the lunatic has to do, if horror movies have taught us anything, is to slip his and his fellow inmates’ sleeping pills into the cup of tea or coffee of the orderly in charge of the ward. Wait a few minutes, then bada-bing bada-boom, Bob’s your uncle and a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse and so on.

But to come back from where Nikki’s unwelcome visitor has been, well, I can’t even imagine what you’d have to do. At the very least, the paperwork you’d have to fill out …!

After her horrific start in life, Nikki is now a rich privileged heiress to the fortune of her deceased adoptive parents, the Wynters. The action moves from a New York tenement in the ‘Fifties to Nikki’s swish villa in Nice in 1967.

Nikki’s adoptive parents are now dead and gone, and she has no-one to look out for her but her devoted boyfriend Ben Anderson and the family solicitor, Howard Doyle.

One fateful night, as they say, she goes for a solitary walk on her very own private beach, the lucky cow!

The twilight before dark …

A half-real, half-unreal world …

In which Nikki stands, deep in her own thoughts.

She moves further along the beach …

Enjoying the seemingly timeless solitude and the stillness …

Only the sound of the waves soothingly caressing the beach.

She glances back-

To see a figure approaching her some distance away;

Indistinct in the fading light.

Nikki turns

And tries to make out who it is in the onrushing darkness-

The figure draws nearer to her

Across the darkening and deserted beach.

Nikki struggles to make out his features-

This is the beginning of Nikki’s nightmare. And I don’t mean the nightmare of having some peasant trespassing on your personal beach, possibly just yards from where your own private yacht is moored. God knows, I’ve had terrible trouble with that type of thing myself. And don’t even talk to me about servants …! Can’t anyone starch a collar properly nowadays?

I mean the nightmare of knowing that someone who couldn’t possibly be there is nonetheless standing right in front of you on a darkened beach at night. And they don’t have any intention of going away now they’re back. And that’s all I’m going to say, even though my fingers are itching to type more. And more and more and more, lol.

DELIVER US FROM EVIL is a cracker of a story that would have played so well on the big screen had it been filmed. It would make a fantastic Christmas present for the film fan in your life, as indeed would any of Michael’s collection of gorgeous film-script books. DELIVER US FROM EVIL and all of Michael’s books are available to buy from the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘REGIONS OF DARKNESS.’ (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

REGIONS OF DARKNESS. (1971)

PUBLISHED IN 2020 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘Demons are our bad desires that have been suppressed.’ Sigmund Freud.

‘Within every human being, suppressed deep in his sub-conscious, lie the impulses of his own demonic origin. They are latent, always unwholesome and intensely horrific.’ Geoffrey Harding.

Simone looks at the closed door, half-hidden in the shadows at the end of the corridor…

I love REGIONS OF DARKNESS, originally intended to be one half of a Michael Armstrong/Hollywood horror movie double bill along with his screenplay THE LAMIA, but unfortunately this idea never came to fruition, for reasons you can read about in A History of the Screenplay in the REGIONS OF DARKNESS film script book. The book is out now from Michael’s publishers, Paper Dragon Productions.

I also love that screen-writer Michael Armstrong researched his screenplay by boning up, if you’ll excuse the rather obvious pun, on the works of that shy, retiring character known to history as Donatien Alphonse Francois, the Marquis de Sade.

De Sade’s oeuvres abound with graphic depictions of sexual fantasies involving violence, often extreme violence, sado-masochism, rape, sodomy and other, erm, things like that. Not the type of thing you’d read aloud to a blind and infirm aged aunt, in other words, not unless said aged aunt had been quite the swinger in her youth. Ahem.

Just to say, incidentally, that graphic depictions of sexual fantasies involving violence, often extreme violence, sado-masochism, rape, sodomy and other, erm, things like that, are also to be found in REGIONS OF DARKNESS, but naturally, here, none of it is gratuitous and is all done purely for the sake of art and the furtherance of story. Ahem again. Naughty Michael Armstrong…

This is the creepy tale of a beautiful young Frenchwoman called Simone Rangod, who comes from France to live in a gorgeous but spooky English country house where she has been engaged by a Mrs. Alice Harding to work as an au pair.

Alice Harding’s three sons, who all still live with her, are grown-up and not likely to need tucking into bed with a bottle of warm milk and a re-telling of Peter Pan, so Simone can take it that she’s here to help with the housework and not with the rearing of the sons, Peter, Roger and Eric Harding.

That’s not to say that the sons are oblivious to her not inconsiderable Continental charms. Eric, in particular, the widowed Mrs. Harding’s adopted son, takes a shine to Simone and she to him. She leaps willingly into Eric’s bed, but it’s not long before Simone is asking herself some pretty serious questions.

Why does Eric never leave the house? (Eric: I never leave the house.) Why do his mother and brothers keep such a close eye on him? Why is one half of the mansion closed off? (Okay, that could genuinely be just a housekeeping issue, but still…?)

Why do the family still set a place at table for the deceased paterfamilias, and why, in general, do they act as if Geoffrey Harding, the dad who died, is still alive when he’s, erm, not? ‘Sometimes, the way they all carry on, you’d think he was still alive.

Why are his paintings so gruesome, depicting nightmarish scenes of torture and cruelty the way they do? Was Geoffrey Harding, Esquire, sick in the head or what? Does this upcoming snippet of conversation shed any light?

Alice: My husband was a painter…

She notices Simone’s face, as she stares at the collection of ghoulish paintings.

Alice: He never seemed interested in doing landscapes or bowls of fruit like most artists.

Simone stops by one wall, on which hang portraits of young men interspersed with several nightmarish faces.

Alice: He met Austin Spare once- the painter- who got him interested in atavism.

Simone: Atavism?

Alice: … It’s to do with discovering one’s previous existences. My husband actually wrote a book on it called: THE DEMON IN MAN- hardly a bestseller but if you’re interested I can lend you a copy- provided you’ve got a strong stomach and don’t frighten easily?

Simone: Thank you, but I think these paintings will give me enough nightmares already…

Demons, eh? The plot thickens. And the more Simone tries to find out things about the Hardings and her beloved Eric, the murkier things appear. Doors open and close in the house, but no-one’s there when Simone goes to investigate. Demonic-looking faces peer in at her from the windows.

Eric’s self-portraits (yes, he’s an artist like his adopted Pops, Geoffrey Harding) are almost more horrific than his father’s…

Simone: … Why are they all so cruel?

Eric: Then that’s me. It must be. Through painting each one, I discover more and more about myself.

Simone: They’re like his (Geoffrey’s) paintings … They’re just like his paintings.

Eric: He taught me …

A shiver just ran through me there when I re-read that bit. Shades of Dorian Gray, much? Shades of M.R. James too, later on, when the young rent boy encounters the dust-sheets in the deserted part of the house doing that thing that sheets in ghost stories do. Here’s another snatch of conversation between Simone and Eric:

Simone: Eric, tell me? What is it you dream about that’s so frightening?

Eric: Myself … my previous existences, the torment of my soul … my death

Okay, so, either he’s a giant narcissist, who could benefit from going out into the world a bit and seeing that there are other things out there to obsess on besides himself, or a raving lunatic. I’ll give you just one more clue to the mystery that’s unravelling chez Harding, and it’s Peter’s answer to Simone’s question, what is atavism?

Peter: It’s a way of tracing back all your previous existences … earlier existences … back to the point of pre-human consciousness … to the time of creatures that were half-human, half-beast … and then even earlier … to our very beginnings. And that’s when he (Geoffrey Harding) found the source within those dark secret regions of his sub-conscious.

Well, I’ve said too much. This is another terrific, atmospheric story from Michael Armstrong that would have made a great horror film. I know that Michael had his own ideas as to whom he would have cast in the roles of Eric and Simone, but I’ve had a couple of brainwaves too.

For Eric, Shane Briant, a posh blonde frilly fellow best known for his performances in four Hammer horror films, including one aptly called DEMONS OF THE MIND, in which his frilliness and incestuous brain-sickness know practically no bounds.

A Hammer actress for Simone, a beautiful Frenchwoman called Yvonne Monlaur, whose sexy accent would charm ze birds from ze trees, and no fooling. I wonder what Michael would make of my two choices?

I love his own choice of the legendary Diana Dors for the part of Mrs. Ellesmere, the astonishingly well-read cook and charwoman to the Hardings: I like a bit of Dostoyevsky now and again. Doesn’t take so long to read as Tolstoy…!

REGIONS OF DARKNESS is available to buy now at these links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘Let us speak of unwholesome things. Let us speak of our inner desires and private fantasies; our secret impulses. For a vision of hell, look into the deepest regions of your own being.’

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

A FLORAL TALE BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: ANOTHER BRILLIANT SCREENPLAY BOOK REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

A FLORAL TALE. (1971)

PUBLISHED IN 2020 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘Its (the play’s) jokey attacks on literary pretentiousness gave me the idea of turning it into a send-up of sixties European cinema and the current pretentious critical acclaim in which it wallowed.’

Hippolytus: Help!Rape!

Fairy Mustard-Blossom: Ooooh, ‘eckythump! She’s gone and suffocated in there! (and, later…) I think there must be something up with this wand… probably needs servicing.

Adonis to Persephone: Go back to your husband, Persephone. I’m sure he’d be pleased to see you once in a while.

Aphrodite to Persephone: What a total lack of pleasure to see you here, dear Persephone.

Hippa, on being a nymph: Unfortunately, quite a few of us do tend to get raped by the gods from time to time…. (and) Sometimes they turn themselves into animals to do it.

Hera to Echo the nymph: According to Artemis, you’ve been molested by a fairy?

Artemis the Hunter to Actaeon, a mortal and a playwright: You know, Actaeon, if you ever gave up all this silly writing nonsense and devoted yourself to my Hunt instead, I’d make you my favourite huntsman of all time. No-one can handle a shaft the way you do.’ (Writer’s note: What’s that, Artemis? Should he ‘re-train’ as a huntsman because his job in the Arts is gone forever due to COVID-19…?)

A FLORAL TALE is an absolute whopper of a screenplay from the Michael Armstrong collection of published works. Unfortunately, it was never made into a film (read THE HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY), but it makes for fantastic reading in the comfort of your own home. And he wrote it when he was only a young fella, as well, which is astonishing, given how complex and learned is the subject matter (Greek mythology).

It’s 390 pages of terrifically good value, containing not only the very funny screenplay (another of Michael’s unbeatable parodies; his specialised subject is definitely ‘The Send-up’), but also about a hundred pages of the most fantastic artwork for free as well; drawings and sketches of costumes and characters drawn by Michael himself with a view to attracting investors to the screenplay back in the day.

Set in Greece in mythological times, but with a definite flavour of present-day materialism, greed and immorality thrown in for good measure, it’s the story of Fairy Mustard-Blossom, a fairytale fairy based on a real person. (‘She was inspired by an extraordinary girl I knew who was the perfect actress to play her: a wonderful Lancashire comedienne I’d recently met called Veronica Doran.’)

Fairy Mustard-Blossom has been deprived of her wings because she keeps ballsing up the wishes she grants to people. They will be returned, the Fairy Queen graciously informs her, once you have granted a wish that will lead to a Happy Ever After ending.

Easier said and done for the less-than-sylph-like lass with the strong Northern England accent and a distinct penchant for screwing up everything she puts her hand to. Kind of a reverse Midas touch, which is quite apt as Midas, the mythical hoarder of gold, turns up in the story too.

Fairy Mustard-Blossom, as you might imagine from my description of her clumsy though well-meaning ineptness, creates havoc amongst the cast of thousands in this epic Greek mythology-traditional fairytale crossover.

As I’d studied the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece and Rome in Classical Studies in school (my favourite subject, due to the presence of a gorgeous telly hunk called Michael Wood in the various documentaries the teacher screened for us; phwoar…!), I felt quite smug as I recognised their names in the screenplay: Zeus, the boss of all the gods; Hera, his suspicious Missus; Aphrodite, the goddess of love and bonking; Dionysus, the god of having yourself a good old knees-up; Hermes, the gofer of the gods, and so on and so forth.

In addition to gods and goddesses, the cast is peopled with nymphs (affiliated, I presume, with Gambollers Anonymous), satyrs (Michael writes some very biting satyr, as you know), mortals, titans, classical Heroes like Heracles, who famously goes into ‘labour’ twelve times, of which the shit-shovelling in the Augean stables is the only one I ever remember without prompting, and then, of course, there’s good old Fairy Mustard-Blossom herself, who always likes to lend her services, usually with disastrous consequences, wherever a soul in need presents itself.

Everyone in the cast is either having sex with someone, or trying to. Many characters are pining away for love of other characters, who barely know that they exist, and the pain of their unrequited love can lead them to do some crazy things.

Theseus, for example, loves his new wife Phaedra, but she only has eyes for the gigantic bulge in the crotch area of Theseus’s son, Hippolytus, who himself suffers agonies of love for Hyacinthus, a gorgeous young man friend who spurns him as a lover.

Hyacinthus digs Apollo and Apollo digs him, but Hyacinthus also attracts the terrible and most definitely unwanted attentions of Zephyrus, which storyline culminates in a most harrowing fate for the poor lad down the line.

Echo the nymph loves Narcissus, but Narcissus is initially frightened to death at the thought of being intimate with someone else, before deciding ultimately that the person he really loves is… himself. Pyramus loves Thisbe and Thisbe loves Pyramus, but pesky politics gets in the way of their dream, and, in any case, there’s a spy in the house of love…

Orpheus and Linus are rock stars, and millions of teenage fans want to have sex with them. Orpheus loves Eurydice, however, although their relationship is about to hit a sticky patch.

Clytie loves Apollo but he’s otherwise engaged, and Zeus loves anything he can get his god-like mitts on, basically. Witness this exchange between him and the rolling pin-wielding Missus, aka Hera, queen of the gods:

Zeus: I keep telling you, my dear! I’ve not been trying to seduce anyone- let alone a virginal nymph!

Hera: You really expect me to believe that? After the rape of Europa?

Zeus: I told you that wasn’t me, either! It was a white bull!

Hera: Everybody knows it was you! You even admitted it after she bore you three sons- and if that wasn’t bad enough, you then had another go at the poor girl in the shape of an eagle!! So don’t expect me to believe you’ve never tried it on as a pantomine fairy! (She slaps his face and storms off…)

Poor Zeus. He just can’t catch a break. Highlights of the screenplay include Eurydice’s ‘celebrity funeral,’ at which virgins are sacrificed as if they’re taking part in a television reality show. Here, the commentator is talking to a young virgin:

Commentator: Tell me, are your parents here today?

1st Virgin Youth: They’re in the audience over there, somewhere.

Commentator: I’m sure they’ll be feeling very proud when they see you up there being sacrificed.

I also love the storyline involving Prometheus, the Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans, and who’s now advocating a kind of free, independent thinking that’s got Zeus & Co. all hot under the collar.

The gods don’t want people thinking for themselves; they just want mindless obedience from the masses and the unquestioning adoration they think is due to them. You know what gods are like.

Anyway, I love the way that Prometheus is at one point made to appear as a Hitler-type character (the torchlight processions and adulation from the crowd) and, at another, as Jesus himself (the loaves and fishes thingymabob).

Prometheus’s storyline culminates in one of the funniest lines in a book which is already chock-a-block with killer one-liners and intellectual in-jokes, such as a bunch of cheerleaders for Heracles claiming that they’d ‘go into labour for Heracles any day…!’ Here’s the Prometheus one:

You don’t expect all this violence at a flogging…!

I also love this one:

Home owner: I did try to get my hands on a cloak of invisibility, but they’re quite hard to find…!

You’ll also learn the (floral) myths that lie behind the naming of various flowers such as Hyacinth and Narcissus, but don’t worry, Michael’s aim is to entertain, not beat you over the head with facts, lol. He’ll be so gentle with you that you’ll barely noticing you’re being educated too…!

A FLORAL TALE is available to buy now at these links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

Eeee…! I never had this trouble with Puss in Boots…!

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

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE LAMIA. (1972) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong 2

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

THE LAMIA. (1972)

PUBLISHED IN NOVEMBER 2019 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

… her hands slowly slide upwards…

To her breasts…

And rest there for a moment…

Feeling the flesh of her perfectly formed bosoms beneath her dress…

Then her hands begin to slide upwards once more…

To rest upon the smooth incline of her throat…

Before continuing to slide upwards even further…

To her face…

Sliding, caressingly, over her cheeks…

As, with her thumbs,

She presses her eyes out from their sockets…

And lays them carefully on the bedside table…

I adored the story about how a sixteen-year-old Michael tried to sell his screenplay of The Lamia to the then thriving Hammer Studios, thinking that his Snake-Woman hybrid might be a nice addition to their stable of Draculas, Frankensteins, Wolfmen, Abominable Snowmen and other screen monsters. Thank you for your interest but it’s not for us at this time, came back the disappointing reply. Ah well. Them’s the breaks, sadly.

Of course, a few years later, Hammer made the hugely successful horror flick The Reptile, in which, if I’m not much mistaken, the monster is… you guessed it… a Snake-Woman hybrid. Sigh. Showbiz is indeed a hideous bitch-goddesssssss… Yes, the extra ssssssibilance is totally intentional, lol. Hisssssssss…

This story, by the by, can be found in the chapter entitled A History of the Screenplay in Michael’s latest luxurious film script book, The Lamia. Before we discuss the screenplay itself, I think you might get a kick out of Michael’s rather witty commentary on industry critics contained in the History chapter:

‘Most critics, in reality, are about as useful as wasps at a picnic and are best ignored. There’s no point in trying to swat them or they’ll only get angry. Put a critic on the defensive and they’ll sting you. All you can do is leave them to their own devices and hope they won’t crawl around on the food too much.’

Miaow…! Now where did I put the Raid…?

The Lamia is set in England in 1831, in and around the mansion home of the aristocratic Spencer family, the leading family in the otherwise poor district. We open on a homecoming, as the youngest son of the Spencer family, Jack, returns from a trip to Europe with his posh chum, Tristram Ryder.

As Jack’s father, local magistrate Sir Richard, his older brother Giles and his sister Ann are greeting the pair rapturously, however, they discover that their beloved Jack has brought more home from the Continent than a sun-tan and a few sticks of rock.

The main thing he’s brought back is a stunningly beautiful young Grecian woman called Helena Paxinou, a self-possessed creature he intends to marry who has Jack wrapped round her little finger. Although that’s nothing compared to the things that she could wrap around him, if she had a mind to… Ooops. I’ve said too much, lol.

Things in the village start to go awry pretty much from the time Helena Paxinou arrives in town.

There was a gypsy lad killed last night in the woods not far from here. They say it were done by someone in the village. The village says it were done by one of the gypsies’ own. Though the Constable says it were more likely to have been some wild animal.

Judging by the shocking state of the corpse, my money’s on the wild animal.

So far, from my initial examination of the body, I can only confirm that it was badly torn by enormous claws of some kind.

Jack’s sister Ann and his close friend Tristram each agree that there is something a trifle odd and unnerving about Jack’s new fiancée, Helena. And what kind of woman would order all the mirrors in her bedroom to be removed? I can imagine that a certain Dr. Van Helsing from a certain rather popular gothic novel would have plenty to say about people who don’t care to gaze upon their likenesses in the looking-glass…

Jack Spencer and Helena Paxinou are both keeping secrets from each other. On reflection, Helena’s is a million times worse. This is possibly the most graphically violent, graphically sexual of all of Michael’s screenplays that I’ve read and reviewed thus far.

If the film had been made, I’m not sure how far the film-makers would have been prepared to go with the scenes of physical and sexual torture. I definitely can’t imagine a certain tall, dark Prince of Darkness volunteering his nether regions for such indignities and appalling manhandling…!

Mindful of spoilers, I can only share a small amount of such graphic content here. This is one of the scenes involving Gammer (Grandma) Pilkington, an ancient and infirm crone from the village whose beloved grandson, Thomas, one of the Spencers’ groundsmen, has just fallen afoul of the terrible supernatural monster currently plaguing the area:

Gammer stumbles out of her room with a cry

And starts to crawl down the landing towards Thomas’s bedroom…

Crying out his name with a terrible desperation…

O.S. The unpleasant sound of what resembles suction…

It grows in strength as she nears the open door…

A gruelling, squelchy, sucking sound…

Well, bleurgh, lol.

It’s not all squelching and sucking, however. The wives of the Spencer family doctor, minister and solicitor provide plenty of light relief with their comic asides, their insatiable nosiness and their loudly-expressed opinions born out of pure ignorance. Here’s a snippet of a conversation I love:

Mrs. Ridgeway and the other wives are still gossiping, cheerfully.

Mrs. Armand, the doctor’s wife: Apparently, there were large bite marks on their necks.

Mrs. Cox, the minister’s wife: That is what carnal desire makes you do, so I hear.

Mrs. Ridgeway, the solicitor’s wife: Oh, I shudder at the very thought of such a gross act! Mr. Ridgeway would never dream of biting me in the neck! He would not dare!

Mrs. Cox: Men are such animals, Mrs. Ridgeway!

Mrs. Ridgeway: They are indeed, Mrs. Cox!

Mrs. Cox: It is why I thank the good Lord to have blessed me with a man of the cloth as a husband. It gives me such peace of mind, knowing Cyril’s holy work protects him from such impure thoughts.

Mrs. Ridgeway: As indeed with my own husband- being a solicitor…!

The ending is thrilling. Will Jack and the Spencer family discover the awful truth about Helena Paxinou before it’s too late? In a text filled with references to Greek mythology, who are ‘the filthy women,’ and are they the kind of broads you’d want at your stag or hen do? Will readers be able to ‘stomach’ the scene with The Rat in it? I’d advise an empty stomach before reading it, certainly!

I love the Hammer feel to this particular screenplay. There’s one tavern scene which absolutely calls for a jovial Michael Ripper to be behind the bar, dispensing the frothy, suds-topped pints along with the genial ripostes. And, of course, the feeling of impending horror and the atmosphere of encroaching dread is always in the background:

Above, in the night sky,

The dark silent shape of the screech owl circles…

Before disappearing into the blackness beyond…

Watch out for low-flying birds…

I will leave you with some words of wisdom of Mrs. Ridgeway’s for the women of today…

It is not fashionable for a young lady to have thoughts- especially of her own. She may be permitted to muse upon a subject from time to time but it would be most unbecoming were she to think about it. Who knows where that might lead?

And also with some invaluable words of Michael’s own from the History chapter:

Trust your soul. It is your voice. It is uniquely yours for the brief duration of your life. It will never be heard again for as long as Man survives. It is as sacred as your identity and who and what you are. Let it be heard in your work and let its truth echo out across countless generations. But let it be your voice and yours alone, because even the greatest ‘expert’ will never have sufficient expertise to be better than you at being you.

I couldn’t have put it better myself, if I’d tried for a thousand years.

FALCONFELL, MY SCARE LADY and THE LAMIA are all available to buy now. You can purchase them at either of these websites:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com