MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: ROBIN HOOD. (1977) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

michael armstrong book trio

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

ROBIN HOOD. (1977)

PUBLISHED IN 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

Did’st thou hear the one about the minstrel who bought his wife a musical chastity belt and then couldn’t find the right key?

Robin: So, thou would’st join me in Sherwood Forest?

Will Scarlett: Well, we can either go there or back to my place. I’m not fussy.

Robin: And can’st handle a weapon, good Will?

Will Scarlett: I’ve never had any complaints so far.

Robin: Then thou art most welcome to come live with me in merry Sherwood.

Will Scarlett: Well, there’s no need to get that involved, is there? I mean, a quick one in the bushes’ll do me fine.

Everyone loves a nice bit of Robin Hood. He cuts such a romantic figure, doesn’t he, in his green tights and tunic and the jaunty little hat with the feather in it, swashbuckling his way with sword and bow and arrow through Sherwood Forest, with of course his faithful Ye Olde Merrie Men at his side.

Errol Flynn is probably most people’s idea of a favourite screen Robin Hood (1938 with Olivia De Havilland, Claude Rains and the magnificent Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisborne), and I agree that he made a terrific Robin Hood, but me, I always fancied the arse off Michael Praed from the ’80s TV series ROBIN OF SHERWOOD, featuring the fabulous theme tune, Robin, The Hooded Man, by Irish band Clannad.

He had such beautiful long mullety hair, this Robin, and I always felt that I was much better suited to him than that ginger-haired long drink of water they cast opposite him as Maid Marian. Humph. I wanted so badly to do a Miss Piggy on her every week. Hi-yah…! Heh-heh-heh.

The latest script-book of screenwriter, actor and director Michael Armstrong’s to roll off the presses at his publishers,’ PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS, is a fantastically funny spoof of Robin Hood, surely as thoroughly English a subject as Chaucer’s CANTERBURY TALES or Shakespeare’s plays about the English Kings, two of which figure in Ye Olde Tale of Robin Hood. Here’s how Michael’s Narrator opens the story:

‘Tis merry England in ye twelfth century. Upon ye royal throne sitteth good King Richard ye Lionheart. It wath a time of much trouble and strife for ’twas a country torn betwixt two peoples: ye Saxons and ye Normans. But a far greater shadow was looming up o’er ye horizon- ye Saracens had gotten Jerusalem. And so it was that good King Richard called for a crusade; a call which stirred the very heart of his people; responding in that manner so typical of ye British man when facing a national crisis…’

So, the bumbling, somewhat thick-as-a-plank King Richard goes off to fight the Crusades- I’m never quite sure why it’s any of his business but never mind, lol- and rather unwisely leaves his treacherous brother John to keep his throne warm for him in his absence:

Richard: Brother John, into thy hands do I entrust this fair land of England. Rule wisely over her till I return.

John: Don’t you worry about a thing, Dickie. You just stay out there as long as you like and have yourself a good time. Get a nice suntan, fight a few battles, all that sort of thing. No need to rush back.

Then, a bit later during their goodbye scene:

Richard: Dear brother John- ever so honest and true. How it comforts me to know I’m leaving England in safe hands. Keep up her high moral standards, brother, and don’t drop ’em for anyone.

Well, of course it would suit the snake-in-the-grass John perfectly well if Richard never came back, as he quite fancies the throne for himself, the dastardly sneak. Backed up by the oily, unctuous Sheriff of Nottingham, his toady, he plans to cripple the peasants of England with more taxes and tariffs (Prince John: Right! Right! Screw ’em for every penny!- Dirty rotten peasants.) and to grab all the power of the throne and the crown for himself.

Egged on and even manipulated by the Sheriff, he also intends to marry the lovely Maid Marian to the truly odious man-beast, Sir Guy of Gisborne, one of their minions, so that they can claim her father’s wealthy estate. Marian, of course, is madly in love with Robert of Locksley, aka Robin Hood, who now robs from the rich to give to the poor, so she won’t be one bit happy about that. No-one likes a forced marriage.

Meanwhile, Robin Hood, already an outlaw with a price on his head, is gathering to himself a little band of followers who are prepared to back him up in his attempts to shaft the soldiers and tax collectors of Prince John’s and the Sheriff’s at every opportunity.

Still known as Robert of Locksley, he’s also trying to come up with a suitable name for himself and his men. Here’s a conversation he has with Allan A Dale, MC of a local nightclub and Bella Stark, the sexy hostess of same:

Allan: Er… Robert?… Robbie, love… let me get this straight. You say you’re going to rob the rich?

Robin: You got it!

Allan: So far I like it. Great idea!… It’s the next bit I didn’t quite follow?

Robin: I rob from the rich and give it to the poor.

Allan: Give it to the poor… yes. That’s the bit I don’t quite-

Robin: Look, it’s very simple. The money I steal from-

Allan: Yes, yes, the stealing bit I understand. It’s the giving away part that I don’t get.

Bella: Is it some kind of tax dodge?

Robin: No, no. Listen- I live in Sherwood Forest and get myself a band of men together-

Allan: You’re gonna form a band? Robbie, you’ll need proper representation.

Robin: Not that kind of band. I’ve told you what we’re gonna do. Robert Fitzooth and his Merry Men! Sounds good- huh?

Allan: Fitzooth, Fitzschmutter! What’s the difference? It’s a lousy name. What kind of bookings are you going to get with a name like that? It’s gotta be something that’ll grab the attention. Something that’ll really stand out on a ”Wanted” poster. Something like Clint Travolta or Dustin de Niro.

Bella: Dustin de Niro and his Merry Men?- For a hood who’s robbing people?

Allan: Hood! That’s it! Dustin de Hood!

Shirley: Sounds like he’s running a car cleaning agency.

Robin: What’s wrong with my own name?

Allan: Robert?- Too old-fashioned. The kids’ll never go for it.

Bella: Well, if he’s gonna be robbing people and he’s a hood- why not call him Robbing Hood?

Allan: Robbin’ Hood! That’s it! Robin Hood!

They got there in the end…! This book, even more so than the others, is jam-packed with hilarious puns and one-liners and witticisms, many of them pertaining to the culture of the day (the late 1970s) because, as every good writer knows, spoofs set in Ye Olden Times are funnier when you bring in characters and situations and slang from Ye Moderne Times. (Think Blazing Saddles!) The scenes where Prince John is watching DALLAS and KOJAK on the ‘television’ are especially funny.

And the characters in ROBIN HOOD are frequently breaking the fourth wall and saying things like: ‘How come Errol Flynn (or Basil Rathbone) never had these problems?’ (That was Robin.) With so many plays-on-words and general merriment on nearly every page, the book zips along at a rip-roaring pace. Here’s a touching meeting between the two romantic leads:

Marian, on her balcony: Oh, Robin, Robin, wherefore art thou, Robin?

Robin: I’m down here behind the bushes.

Oh, the beautiful, painfully doomed romance of it all! And later, in the same scene:

Robin: And now, sweet Marian, ’tis time I headed back to leafy Sherwood. Methinks the cock hath already risen.

Marian: I’m bloody sure it did, you randy sod!

Snigger. Such delicious naughtiness. I love it. Anyway, Robin gathers to himself his crew, as I said, in the form of Much Jr., the disturbingly flatulent Stutely, the outrageously camp Will Scarlett, Little John (a super-cool black guy formerly known as Akunt-Akunta; this wicked pun has its ‘roots’ in a popular television series of the day), Friar Tuck the Flasher (‘During Communion, it wasn’t just the wafer he’d stick in your mouth.’) and Allan A Dale, his PR guy:

Allan: Ah, Robin, love- the very man I wanted to see. I need to get your okay on these. (He hands Robin a green tunic, on the front of which is printed his picture. Robin looks at it, bewildered.)

Robin: Er- great. What is it?

Allan: Official Robin Hood T-shirts. We’re planning to put them on the market by the end of the week along with horse and cart stickers and these ‘I’m merry and proud of it’ badges.

Then:

Allan: I’m telling you, Robbie, you’ve become the hottest thing since King Arthur and Camelot. I’ve even had NBC on, wanting exclusive video rights to your next robbery.

Robin Hood is now the biggest thing since the Beatles. The cult of Robin Hood makes  Beatlemania look like a fassing pad. I mean a passing fad. Excuse my Spoonerism. The teeny-boppers love Robin. In between signing autographs and working on firming up the Robin Hood brand, how will he ever find the time to enter the evil Sheriff of Nottingham’s archery contest, specially rigged to catch Robin the outlaw? Here’s what the contest’s News commentator has to say about it:

NEWS COMMENTATOR: And now we’re taking you over to Centre Court for live coverage of ye olde archery contest and this- the first match of the day- is between the number one seed, John Muckyrow of ye yet to be discovered United States-

(And a John McEnroe lookalike stands there, unloading a veritable arsenal of longbows from neat little zipper-bags.)

NEWS COMMENTATOR: -and Bjorn Bouf of Sherwood Forest, seeded 1,642.

(Which proves to be none other than ROBIN; no longer dressed in a Harlequin costume but now sporting a perky little Wimbledon tennis outfit in Lincoln Green. Their respective names appear on the scoreboard while the archery version of ball-boys crouch down in readiness.)

So now, the game is on. Will Robin come up to the mark? Will he get the girl, having first to rescue her from the clutches of the ape-like Sir Guy of Gisborne? Will King Richard come back and foil Baldrick’s- I mean, the Sheriff’s- cunning plans for world domination?

There’s loads more to come before the finale, including an hilarious torture scene, an even more hilarious scene in which Prince John’s castle is attacked by a very, very small army, a scene straight out of MACBETH and an unintentionally funny and prophetic reference to… ahem… Jimmy Saville. Ahem. I’ll get the eye-wash so you can pretend you didn’t read that bit, lol. Share it around now. The eye-wash, I mean.

Anyway, even JAWS himself makes an appearance in this, the funniest and wittiest of all Michael Armstrong’s script-books to date. It’s like MONTY PYTHON meets BLACKADDER meets MAID MARIAN AND HER MERRY MEN (Baldrick’s absolutely marvellous TV series on this exact subject!). Would I advise that you buy it? Verily, forsooth and, erm, loads more Ye Olden Times talk. Run and get it now. You’ll bloody well love it.

E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL, THE MAZE and ROBIN HOOD are available to buy now from Michael Armstrong’s website and also from his publishers, Paper Dragon Productions. Don’t waste any time. Go get ’em!

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE MAZE. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong book trio

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

THE MAZE. (1968)

PUBLISHED IN 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

Screen-writer, actor and director Michael Armstrong has written some absolutely cracking horror screenplays. Some were made into films, such as THE DARK (1960), MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) and HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1982).

This last film, as well as being a rollicking great horror romp, has the distinction of being the only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

Some of his other screenplays, for one reason and another (showbusiness is a fickle and fluctuating mistress!), never made it onto the big screen, unfortunately for the public. These include the fantastic GHOST TOWN (1969), a comedy Western; BEELZEBUB (1984), the story of a haunted computer that would have made a terrific ‘Eighties horror movie; DEATH MASQUE (1988) and OUIJA-BOARD (1989).

Directors have been making films about ouija-boards for the last couple of decades now, but Michael Armstrong was one of the first, if not the first, to realise the potential of the humble ouija-board to be the subject of a major horror film.

Now, on to- or should I say into- THE MAZE (1968), a screenplay cut in the same mould as the excellent BEELZEBUB, GHOST TOWN and the aforementioned OUIJA-BOARD. I enjoyed it every bit as much as the screenplays of Michael’s (I can call him that; we’re great pals…!) that came before and after. I bet you guys can’t guess what it’s about, lol…

I’ll be kind and give you tons of clues. First off, we have a handsome young celebrity footballer fella called Bob Harding. Bob’s agent tells him one day that he’s positively got to go to this classy shindig on some dude’s private island, because the press will be there and a ton of other celebrities as well (‘-movie stars, pop, fashion- it’s a media coup!’), and this will be the perfect opportunity for Bob to grab some quick easy publicity.

What can Bob do but say yes? When he’s picked up at a Maltese airport by a handsome young Greek chappie called Alexis, who works for the island-owning millionaire, the pair have the following rather disturbing exchange:

Bob: This island we’re going to- I tried finding it on the map but it didn’t seem to exist. Does it have a name?

Alexis: No name. It isn’t on the map.

Bob: So, how far is it off the mainland?

Alexis: Far enough. Dr. Seresion likes privacy.

Okay. A mysterious island that’s not on any map, miles from anywhere, owned by some creepy-sounding doctor dude? (Remember THE ISLAND OF DR. HIBBERT from THE SIMPSONS?) I’d have turned the boat round and headed for home at this point, but dopey Bob has seemingly never watched that episode of THE SIMPSONS, lol.

Once on the island, he’s chauffeured by Alexis and Maurits, another hot Greek dude, to the magnificent palace of Dr. Seresion. The palace stands in beautiful, idyllic grounds with the following amenities: flower, rock and water gardens; tennis courts; croquet lawns; swimming pools and other sporting facilities; two theatres- one open-air, a butterfly house, a maze and a pagoda. See how the maze just sneaked in there, all innocent-like? Heh-heh-heh.

The rather sinister Dr. Seresion greets Bob and his other celebrity guests with the following speech. I’ve put in capital letters the sentence I feel to be the most portentous. The guests don’t seem to notice the undercurrents of menace running through the welcome speech, but then maybe I’ve seen more horror films than these guys have:

‘So, it is as fellow members of Mankind that I shall welcome you to my island. MAY YOUR YOUTH AND YOUR ENERGIES FILL IT WITH THE LIFE IT HAS SORELY CRAVED OVER THE YEARS. For that I welcome you- and wish you an enjoyable and fulfilling stay here.’

The guests include Bob, an obnoxiously brash and pushy journalist called Rowena and her photographer Mike, a young pop star called Brian who’s sweet on Rowena (unfortunately for him; she’s a total bitch!), a young heart-throb actor by the name of Simon and a ravishing young actress, Jenny Raine, who confounds expectations by not leaping into bed with every male starlet who looks at her twice. A woman of principles, eh? Curiouser and curiouser…

The press, as personified by Rowena, don’t come off very well in the screenplay at all. Here’s what Jenny thinks of Rowena and her ilk:

‘That’s what Ro and the rest of her species offer us: instant celebrity- ‘Be nice to me, do what I want, say what I want you to say and, if I feel like it, I’ll make you into a sexual icon to be worshipped and adored by millions.’

Jenny, a thoughtful and insightful woman, has this to say on the subject of her and Bob’s so-called ‘celebrity’:

‘And there we all are- society’s golden calves with more money than sense- hiding behind giant egos frightened someone’ll suddenly find out we’re not really divine at all… just pathetically mundane like everyone else.’

She’s rather an extraordinary woman, is this Jenny. I certainly hope she makes it to the end of the story. Some people don’t, you know, because there’s a serial killer loose on the Island of Dr. Hibbert (sorry!) who seems to be hell-bent on bumping off the famous guests.

But why? And who is it? And is it anything to do with the sound of underground drumming that’s been bothering some of the guests? Are The Rolling Stones secreted somewhere on the island, giving impromptu concerts to the moles and the fishes?

There’s also the titular maze, of course, ‘enormously tall, perfectly trimmed hedges eerily floodlit in the darkness.’ Nothing bad could ever happen in a maze, I hear you say. Don’t you believe it. There was a maze in THE SHINING, wasn’t there? The maze on the island seems to have almost a sentience about it, like it’s a living, breathing thing. Let’s hope that it never gets… gulp… hungry… and… eeek… needs f-f-f-feeding! Yikes, Scoob, let’s get outta here…!

Guests are disappearing and no-one is exactly sure where or why. An enormous shrine to the mother of Dr. Seresion, the mother he never knew, is discovered in a fabulous pagoda on the island. Dr. Seresion maintains ‘the island has no secrets’ but, the deeper you get into both the book and the island, the more you are disinclined to believe him.

Alex and Maurits, ‘Dr. Seresion’s creatures,’ who ‘grovel to do his bidding’ but don’t have humps and a snaggle-tooth apiece, haha, are at pains to reassure the guests that everything on the island is all nice and normal, but surely even the more cerebrally challenged among their number can read the writing on the wall…?

Now, I don’t want to give you any spoilers, but I’ve decided to share one maze-related passage with you which I found particularly frightening and atmospheric:

His head is surrounded by leaves on four sides

As he endeavours to breathe through the encompassing foliage-

One arm becomes twisted behind his back,

As the leaves press around his body

Like the tightening coils of a large snake-

Pathetically he struggles to free his legs-

Arms…

And still they continue to press in on him…

Slowly squeezing…

And crushing his body…

Compressing it…

And smothering his face…

Blocking his ability to breathe in or out…

The leaves are inside his mouth-

Twigs slowly skewering into his eyeballs-

Piercing into his ears-

Trickles of blood…

Seep through the tightly packed leaves…

I won’t go any further with this passage, but it’s the stuff of nightmares. The maze stands silently in the moonlight. All is quiet. Yeah well, all is quiet now, sure, but there are times when it’s all go in there, trust me.

The ending is truly terrifying. Stephen King himself couldn’t have done a better job. It’s put me right off going into mazes, anyway. Not that I’ve been in many. In point of fact, I’ve been in none, and I’m not too sure if we have any here in Dublin, but even if we did, I wouldn’t be tempted anywhere near them. Too leafy for me…

So here you are giving shelter to the local looney. All terribly Hitchcock and noire. So, now what? Do you both get handcuffed together and run around the windswept countryside trying to learn the secret of the thirty-nine hedges?

Come to bleed me some more, daddy dearest?

The maze!- I know what’s at the centre!

I have to be kept alive… for the maze.

It’s coming for us! It’s coming!-

THE MAZE, E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL and ROBIN HOOD (see illustration) by Michael Armstrong are available to buy now from:

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS. E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL. (1972) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong younger

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

‘E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL.’ (1972)

PUBLISHED IN 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

You may have heard me mention this up-and-coming young fella before, this Michael Armstrong fella whose career as a film director and screenwriter is currently being immortalised in the form of some of the most beautiful books I’ve ever owned, books of all the screenplays he’s ever written, and he’s written a lot of screenplays. His productivity over the years puts most other writers to shame, and writers hate being put to shame, you can take that from me…! It makes us edgy, and we’re on edge enough of the time as it is.

Whether they were made into films or not, the screenplays are all being transformed into gorgeous books by Michael’s publishers, Paper Dragon Productions, and they really are the perfect present for film buffs of all ages. Well, not exactly all ages, lol. Some of ’em are a little blue…! Here are the films for which he’s penned the screenplays:

THE DARK- 1960.

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

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

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.

Impressed much…? Thought so, heh-heh-heh. Now to E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL, the title of which you’ll see contains the acronym ENSA. What was ENSA? There’s a definition in the book’s Glossary Of References which will do perfectly nicely for our purposes, and here it is:

ENTERTAINMENTS NATIONAL SERVICE ASSOCIATION: Popularly known as ENSA; it was an organisation set up in 1939 by Basil Dean and Leslie Henson to provide entertainment for British Armed Forces personnel during World War Two. Infamously, quality of the shows varied considerably due to an insufficient number of good professional artistes to accommodate the number of shows required by the troops spread out fighting across Europe. As a consequence, ENSA became inundated by substandard acts and eager untalented amateur performers to such an extent that the troops created the acronym E.N.S.A. as ”Every Night Something Awful…!”

In other words, you’d be praying for a Bob Hope, a Marlene Dietrich, a Vera Lynn or a Glenn Miller, but you’d end up with some bozo playing the spoons. Still, I’m sure every act, no matter how amateur, gave it their very best shot and I’d personally maintain that any entertainment, however dodgy, is better than none at all. There was a bloody war on, after all. What right did anyone have to be picky…?

‘E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL’ (1972) is the hilarious story of one such company of wartime entertainers. Headed by flaming queen Ivor Short, they’re putting on a variety show for the lads called ‘Red, White And Blue,’ whether the troops want them to or not, and it’s bound to be Fab. U. Lous, darling. (Channelled my best Craig Revel Horwood from Strictly there…!) Or is it…? I think you already know the answer to that, readers.

There’s a really funny bit in the beginning where someone’s travelling to a top secret army camp in the New Forest and needs to ask directions from a local farmer and the farmer says: ‘But if it be the secret army camp you’re after?- That’s along there- about half a mile. You can’t miss it. You’ll see their sentries hiding behind the trees.’ So much for army confidentiality, anyway.

French heart-throb and international singing star Pierre Lamorisse, the main attraction of Red, White And Blue, is aghast to find that the English soldiers in this ‘top secret’ army camp don’t even have real weapons. I just have to include here the genuinely funny exchange between Pierre and one of the soldiers:

Soldier: Sorry, sir, I didn’t recognise you. I wouldn’t wander too far away, if I was you- just in case one of us mistakes you for an invasion force in the darkness.

Pierre: Oh yes… thank you. I wouldn’t want to get shot.

Soldier: Oh, no fear of that, sir. We ‘aven’t got real rifles- and even if we had, we ‘aven’t any bullets for ’em. No, all the real stuff’s over with our boys abroad. (He holds up his ‘rifle’ to show Pierre.) Not bad, is it? Looks like the real thing from a distance. Yeah, they’re makin’ ’em at Pinewood Studios; churnin’ ’em out, they are- tanks an’ all.

(Pierre stares at him in complete amazement.)

Pierre: Tanks?

Soldier: Only the outsides, mind you. Yeah. Make ’em out of hardboard, they do… spot of paint- looks all right from a long way off. Get a few ‘undred of ’em wheelin’ about on the cliffs makes old Jerry think twice about invadin’.

Pierre: But if they do invade, what will you fight them with?

Soldier: Well… we could always bash ’em over the ‘ead with one of these. They’re good and solid. You feel that. (He hands Pierre the ‘rifle’ to feel the weight.)

Pierre: It’s just wood.

Soldier: Yeah, but feel the quality. That’s good quality wood, that is. Jerry gets one of them round his mush, he’ll soon give up, I can tell you. Anyway, best be gettin’ back to my rounds. Can’t be too careful, you know. There’s spies everywhere, so we’re told. Been a right pleasure talking to you, sir. Have a nice night.

(And moves off as Pierre quickly calls after him:)

Pierre: Excuse me-?

(The soldier returns, so that Pierre can hand him back his ‘rifle.’ The soldier gives a rueful grin.)

Soldier: I’m always forgetting where I put it.

Talk about a Carry On…! However did England win this war anyway…?

Anyway, the company of entertainers includes the above-mentioned Pierre; Ginger, an attractive singer and femme fatale with a string of broken relationships behind her who just might be the perfect woman for Pierre, if they both but knew it; Bertie Rich, a jaded comedian who feels more dead than alive; Marilyn, a faded blonde bombshell whom Michael Armstrong envisoned being played by Diana Dors if the script had been made into a film (excellent choice, by the way); Constance, an older married lady with a theatrical repertoire, who never realises when she’s boring people (she also never uses the Horne when she’s performing); and Madam Merlin, aka Priscilla Clipthorpe, a lady magician (or should that be magicienne?) who never travels without her two bunny wabbits. It’s a motley crew but a good one.

Here’s what happens when French Pierre questions why he has to wear an Arabian Nights costume:

Pierre: Ivor, this is stupid. Why do I have to wear this?

Ivor: It’s part of a themed medley, sweetie: an exotic Arabian Nights fantasy… Ginger’s Scheherazade, I’m the cruel Sultan, the girls are my wives, Jack’s the Golden Slave and you’re a singing eunuch.

Pierre: Eunuch? What is that? I don’t get it.

Ivor: Neither did they, petal.

Bah-dum-tish, lol. This company of elite entertainers must travel abroad to a top secret destination (so secret not even the ship’s crew know where they’re going!) to dazzle their fighting boys abroad with their expertise and chutzpah. I love when Ivor says to Sally: Take it from the top again- and Sally dear, do try to make her sound more like an innocent young virgin and less like Gracie Fields? Heh-heh-heh. Lovely woman, Gracie Fields. Immensely talented.

Here’s what Bertie tells Madam Merlin to describe his feelings of jadedness and ennui:

Forgive me, dear girl, but after you’ve died in front of as many audiences as I have, you eventually cease to regard yourself as a living being anymore. Then: Actually, it was on the eve of my fiftieth birthday that I realised I was dead. Had been for some time, in fact. Just never really noticed it before.

Poor Bertie. And they say that showbusiness is glamorous… The main thing is that the show must go on, as the old showbiz motto goes. But can the show really go on when the troupe is in Rome but their band and props have somehow ended up in Norway? And why does everyone burst out laughing when Constance bursts forth with the song, O, for the wings of a dove?

What prompts Ivor the director to say: I know, to most people, I’m just a funny old queen but even funny old queens have feelings? There are some really touching moments amongst the comedy and quickfire one-liners which Michael Armstrong fires off with the ease of someone doing something they find really easy, lol. Good metaphors are not always readily available, even to a quicksilver brain like mine own. Michael Armstrong would probably have found a good one.

The troupe at least have each other, but what about the troops? Note the rather clever play on words there. Here’s the exchange between a sergeant and a young lieutenant when the ENSA party bus hoves into view of a little European village, where a garrison of soldiers is stationed like a sitting duck:

Sergeant: Think it could be some kind of enemy trick, sir?

Young Lieutenant: Worse, Sergeant. I think it’s ENSA…!

Sergeant: Oh, my God! Better warn the men, sir.

Young Lieutenant: Quite. Carry on, Sergeant.

Carry On, indeed…! All joking aside, folks, on page 192, you’ll find a scene that’ll show you the true worth of ENSA (popular as it may be to poke fun at them) to exhausted, demoralised soldiers far from home who just want to see their families again. I cried buckets at this scene, and you will too.

Can Pierre get to the root of Ginger’s commitment phobia and seeming inability to be faithful to one man? On page 236, he finally nails it. Will Marilyn get her man, or will she retreat gracefully from the arena so that the dreamily swoonsome Fabio can be with the woman he really loves? No woman’s that generous and big-hearted, surely? By the way, do you guys know what the words MINAS TERRESTRAS mean, because ENSA sure don’t…! And finally:

‘And here we have it!… A spectacular musical revue called Red, White & Blue… Ivor Short and Company: Jack Adair, Ginger Lawrence, Sally Meadows, Bertie Rich, Marilyn Turner, Constance Blythe with Speciality Madam Merlin and special guest star, Pierre Lamorisse. Acting understudy and ASM, Edith Nightingale. Band: Billy Rainbow & His Big Band. Touring Company- Category B.’

E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL, in addition to THE MAZE and ROBIN HOOD, is available to buy now from Michael Armstrong’s website and his publishers, Paper Dragon Productions. Don’t waste any time. Go get ’em!

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

By the way, Sherlock Holmes had his Irene Adler and Mr. Spode from Bertie Wooster his ‘Eulalie.’ If you ever want to see a grown man cry like a little girl, you have but to whisper one word into Michael Armstrong’s shell-like… Ryman…

See you guys next time!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S SCREENPLAYS: THE DARK. (1960) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

horror house jill

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘THE DARK.’ (1960) PUBLISHED IN 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

Some of my regular readers might have heard me mention a certain Michael Armstrong, a screenwriter and film director whose luxurious script-books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing over the past eighteen months or so, according as they roll off the presses at Michael’s publishers, PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS. If you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

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

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

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.

PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS are not only publishing the screenplays of Michael’s that got made into films, but also the ones that didn’t, for one reason or another. He’s written a load of horror movie scripts, some of which were extremely progressive and before their time, for example, BEELZEBUB, the story of a haunted computer which could have- should have- been made into a fantastic horror film, and OUIJA-BOARD. Of course, nowadays every second horror film-maker does a ouija-board film, so I’ll just point out that Michael wrote his script in 1989, people. 1989, while the hot-shot directors of today were still in nappies…! Check out some of my favourites quotes from THE DARK:

‘The moon’s full. Let’s hunt for ghosts.’

MADGE: ‘How the hell did I ever get talked into coming here?’

CHRIS: ‘Because you’re like the rest of us, dear. Bored with life.’

‘Maybe the house’ll catch fire again… I like fire.’

Something curved flashes: The sharp blade of a kukri.

‘We get rid of the body. Act as though we didn’t even know that he’d been- that this had happened.’

‘He was there!- He came out of that room!- He saw me and he beckoned!- He was covered in blood!’

‘Madmen are affected by the moon, aren’t they? The moon to me isn’t anything horrid, though… It’s beautiful… You know?… Maybe because I’ve always been afraid of the dark… and the moon gives me light when it’s dark.’

THE DARK (1960) is a script along the same lines as BEELZEBUB and OUIJA-BOARDIt’s the script of a slasher film penned long before slasher films were even popular, and it was deservedly made into a film by Tigon British Film Productions and American International Pictures in 1968/9, although the production was definitely what you might call ‘troubled.’

You can read all the gory, behind-the-scenes details in Michael’s book, you scurvy gossip-mongers, you! Michael directed this one himself, by the way. He was super-young when he did it and I’m guessing that he knew even long before this point just exactly what he wanted to do with his life. It’s good to have that clear sense of direction early on, ba-dum-tish…

The film was re-titled prior to release as THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR in the UK and HORROR HOUSE (USA). To be brutally honest, although both of these new titles are perfectly fine, Michael’s own title suits the script better because he was calling it ‘THE DARK’ for a very particular reason, which you’ll see for yourselves when you read the book.

THE DARK is the story of a bunch of no-good young ‘uns in Swinging Sixties’ London, some of them creative types like artists, singers and songwriters. They’re young, bright, rich (well, some of ’em are), beautiful (again, some of ’em are!), bored and looking for what used to be called kicks. Thrills. Spills. You know the type of thing. Fun.

They have sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, but all that’s not enough for them, the greedy young ‘uns. They want more. More what, I hear you ask? Well, more excitement, I suppose, as if the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll weren’t enough for most people. The beautiful people are like that, of course. Always looking for more. And they usually get it too. ‘Cause they’re beautiful, d’uh…!

They’re like the Bright Young Things in Hammer’s DRACULA AD 1972, Caroline Munro and Johnny Alucard and the rest, who hold a Satanic ceremony in a deserted ruined church in London and end up bringing Count Dracula back from the dead. Which was exactly Johnny Alucard’s intention, but of course his dopey chums don’t know that and they get a helluva fright, especially Caroline Munro who’s stuck right there in the firing line.

But it proves the point that kids who already have sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll do sometimes turn to black magic, the occult and the dark arts for that little something extra when they’ve grown tired of everything else in their lives. It’s the next step up on the ‘kicks’ ladder, as it were. The kids in THE DARK are no exception. One of them, Chris, says about another one of their member, Sheila:

‘I think she’s seen every horror film that’s ever been made.’

To which Sheila promptly replies:

‘Well, they’re such fun. I like monsters… They amuse me. I think being frightened is fun.’

Thank you, Sheila! You’ve hit the nail on the head there. We all think being frightened is fun. Why else would we read books like this or watch films like THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR? Because we want a good old fright, that’s why. I personally think it’s because it takes our minds temporarily off our own crappy little lives, haha. Later on, Chris says of Sheila:

‘The way you relish blood, Sheila, anybody’d think you were a vampire.’

To which she (jokingly?) replies:

‘Yes, well, you’d better watch out next time I give you a love-bite, then.’

The kids jump at the chance to drive out into the countryside in the middle of the night, in the middle of a party, just because one of them says he knows of an old deserted house that might be haunted.

In my day- harrumph!- the party was the party, and was plenty good enough for us. Just like in my day, we didn’t get expensive goody-bags to take home after a party because we’d just been to a fucking party. That WAS the party. Harrumph again!

The cars draw up outside the house;

An old dilapidated building; huge and sinister.

Then:

They enter the room…

Where there are still pieces of old furniture,

Even torn curtains hanging.

Most of the glass in the windows is broken

And there has been a vague attempt at boarding them up.

A great deal of damage obviously the result of hooliganism.

If this house isn’t haunted to buggery, I’ll eat my… well, I’m not a hat person but I’ll eat something, anyway. A large slice of chocolate cake, maybe. There’s some in the cupboard. Anyway, Richard, the guy whose idea it was to come to this house in the first place, tells us a bit about the house’s history:

‘Apparently, the family who owned this house were all bumped off one dark night. One of them went mad, for some reason, and killed all the rest.’

Then, a little later:

‘The story goes that one dark night, one of the sons- for no apparent reason- went raving berserk and hacked his entire family to death.’

Oooooooooh. Shades of THE AMITYVILLE HORROR here and the Ronald DeFeo murders, a full decade and a bit before they happened too so we know that Michael came up with the idea himself and wasn’t inspired by the Amityville phenomenon. Another girl, Sylvia, states clearly her opinion of the house:

‘I can feel an evil presence here. There’s an aura about the place.’ Also: ‘That house is evil. I could feel it. It’s evil.’

And Richard adds, after informing us that the abandoned old mansion is now supposedly the property of an aged cousin of the deceased owners who now lives in a mental home (that’s nice and cheerful, innit?), that the place is ‘the house of the dead.’ So now we know…

It’s not altogether surprising when one of the young ‘uns is brutally murdered while the kids are holding their makeshift séance in the obviously haunted house. But when Chris makes the stunning discovery that ‘the (front) door’s still bolted,’ it clearly means that the calls are coming from inside the house…!

Lol, it doesn’t mean that, but it does mean that whoever killed the murder victim is still in the house. It could even be one of them and, as they can’t find another perpetrator when they search the house, it means that it probably is one of them.

So how do they cope with this staggering knowledge? Well, I can totally assure you that they do all the wrong things and get themselves into such a tangled muddle that it’s hard to see how they can ever get out of it, which is exactly what you want from a horror movie.

There’s a wonderful scene set in the British Museum, a place which I’ve always wanted to visit. It sounds so atmospheric and spooky, with the weight of thousands of years of history inside its walls. I want to visit it even more now that I know that they have stamp rooms and literary rooms as well as the Egyptian rooms. They’d better still have those, lol. They’d jolly well better not have changed anything in the last sixty years or else. Or else what? Well, I’ll just be very pissed off, that’s all.

All kinds of sexual tensions and forbidden attractions are simmering away below the surface as well, as couples come together and break apart with all the frequency you might except from a large mixed group of horny young ‘uns in their twenties. There’s some gorgeous writing in there too which is brilliantly evocative of the atmosphere Michael tries successfully to create:

The shadows loom like gigantic veils… Draped over the walls.

The sky is slashed with clouds.

The house stands alone; Bathed in the moonlight.

You can really see the house standing there, can’t you, all dark and brooding and evil, like in THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, where whatever walked there, walked alone…? You see the house in your mind’s eye and then you immediately know that some really bad shit is going to go down in there. How could it not, in a house that’s obviously so chock-full of bad mojo and as malignant as a particularly persistent cancerous tumour? 

There are some fantastic full colour and black-and-white movie poster photos towards the back of the script-book which will be invaluable to the collector of movie memorabilia, and the book itself- or indeed, any or all of the books- would make a wonderful gift for any film buff or movie lover. As usual, all the books are available to buy from Michael’s own website and his publishers, PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS. So, until next time, for God’s sake don’t go in the house…!

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S 1982 SCRIPT-BOOK REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

house shadows papa and victoria

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: THE SCREENPLAY. (1982) 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

‘Room for every nightmare… A nightmare in every room…’

The opening passage is lifted directly from Michael Armstrong’s own website and I think it describes his work better than I ever could, but I’ve been asked to say a few words myself in promotion of this fantastic new collection of books that he’s putting out, therefore I will now proceed to say several. Words, that is. Give me an inch and I’ll almost certainly take a mile. I’m a pushy broad and, anyway, there’s actually a lot to say about the man and his works.

Michael Armstrong (there’s a really cute photo of him on the back covers of all the books) is the screenwriter/director behind a load of films that you guys probably already know quite well. Some of you may even know his name already but, for others, this may be your first time hearing it.

Unlikely, as this rather prolific and obviously hard-working fella’s been penning film scripts for over fifty years, but you never know. Some folks who’ve been on Mars since the turn of the last century may need to be filled in on all the developments in the film industry since they’ve been ‘off-planet,’ so to speak…!

So, if you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

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

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

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.

Michael Armstrong’s writing is an absolute treat to read. Reading the pictures he paints with his words, as it were, is not much different to seeing them played out in front of you on the cinema screen.

I read the script of HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS on a dreary Monday morning when I was supposed to be doing boring housework. It was a more than acceptable alternative, I can assure you.

While I was reading it, I first amused and then annoyed the hell out of the family members present by constantly bursting out with: ‘They actually say this in the film! This is in the film, and this is in the film, and Christopher Lee actually DOES this in the film!’ And so on until they threw the book at me. The book and several cushions and a plastic sheep to boot. I said no more from then on, humph. I sulked royally and kept my additional (m)utterings to myself.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, the film-script book of which features a darling haunted house on the cover, wasn’t just a great slice of ‘Eighties horror hokum. It had the distinction of being the first and, as it turned out, the only film to ever feature the four greatest horror icons of all time all together, namely, the aforementioned Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and John Carradine as well. Horror royalty, every last one of ’em.

There was a great supporting cast starring alongside the lads as well, people like Desi Arnaz Jr., Sheila Keith, a smashing horror icon in her own right, and Julie Peasgood, you know, ‘er off BROOKSIDE. She played Fran Pearson in the early ‘Nineties.

I loved a nice bit of Brookie, I did, on a Sat’day afternoon back in the day. Eatin’ me dinner while the Omnibus was on the telly, like. I’m imagining these words in a Scouser accent, by the way, so you’d better be too, or I’ll ‘ave ta tell ya to do one, as it were. Quaite.

Anyway, Michael based his marvellous screenplay on the 1913 novel, SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE by the curiously named Earl Derr Biggers. (Incidentally, he was the writer of the Charlie Chan detective novels, so obviously he loved a good juicy mystery.) It’s the story of a young American novelist who holes up at the titular Baldpate Manor to speed-write a book in order to win a bet with his agent.

Baldpate Manor is in fact a magnificent old Welsh mansion that’s supposed to be deserted, the perfect oasis of peace in which to do some serious writing. Supposed to be deserted. In fact, it ends up being more populated than the post office on dole day, and the baffled novelist will have a hell of a job getting any writing at all done with all the famous faces popping up there continuously to distract him from his goal.

The script may have been based on someone else’s novel, but the little tributes and homages and nods in it to various other iconic horror movies like PSYCHO and THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER are all Michael’s idea and no-one else’s. His writing really sets a scene for the reader too. Here’s a passage in which the novelist, Kenneth, and the damsel-in-distress Mary (‘er off Brookie), are entering the fabulous old dining-room of Baldpate Manor:

‘They enter the dining-room and stare in amazement.

The enormous room is brilliantly illuminated by candles.

The long polished table is formally laid out: cut-glass and silver, sparkling royally.

By the fire: GRISBANE and VICTORIA and the mysterious figure of SEBASTIAN; a slight, gaunt-faced man in his sixties, wearing a wing collar and a dark suit.

The three of them are gathered in a conspiratorial huddle. They break quickly, like naughty children caught out. KENNETH stares in amazement at the scene before him.’

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: PAGES 73-74.

I don’t know about you guys, but I can totally picture that scene in my mind’s eye. I’m moving now to the scene where the motley crew enter Roderick’s room for the first time. I won’t tell you just yet who Roderick (perhaps I should say ‘Wodewick?’) is but, after reading these lines from the script, I reckon you’ll be bursting to know.

‘A silence hovers over the room as they move slowly about, looking in amazement at its bizarre sights: clues to Roderick’s warped mind.

A toy fort on the floor, laid out as for a savage battle…

Scores of soldiers scattered around as though dead; all horribly mutilated,

The aftermath of an imagined massacre.

MARY gives an involuntary shudder as she spies in the corner of the room…

Piles of small animal bones neatly arranged into heaps,

Skeletons of dead rats and mice…

Hundreds of tiny white bones glinting in the candlelight:

Tiny white bones picked clean.

KENNETH glances behind him to notice the back of the bedroom door…

Down which enormous scratch marks can be seen…

Indicating the powerful fury of strong fingernails having clawed deeply

Into the dark oak wood.

VICTORIA indicates a narrow panel at the bottom of the door.

VICTORIA: I’d slide food into him through there… every night…

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: PAGES 105-106.

Cripes! Fair sent a shiver down my spine, that did, when I read it there in black and white. It’s every bit as effective as the corresponding scenes in the film, if not more so. Sometimes, when you read something really chilling, your mind works overtime visualising the scene and you do a better job yourself than the film-maker, almost.

It looks like Kenneth, the successful writer from America, isn’t going to get much work done in good old Baldpate Manor over this particular weekend. When the house is at its fullest, it contains the grim-faced Papa Grisbane and his daughter Victoria (Sheila Keith), his two sons Lionel (Vincent Price) and Sebastian (Peter Cushing), the posh rich property developer Mr. Corrigan (Christopher Lee) and the warring young couple (played by Louise English and Richard Hunter) who’ve lost their way while hiking.

Then, of course, there’s Kenneth the writer himself and also the blonde and bubbly Mary, his publisher Sam’s secretary. At least, that’s who she says she is, anyway. Sam the publisher (Richard Todd) even makes an appearance at Baldpate Manor at one point, and then there’s also the ever-present, rather sinister shadow of Roderick Grisbane.

Roderick (Wodewick!) is the one strangely absent family member who appears to have slipped through the rather gaping cracks in the family infrastructure somehow. And yet he’s tied up inexplicably in the reasons for the family’s converging upon Baldpate Manor on this particular night, this grim anniversary for which only the Grisbanes know the grisly reason.

What horrors lie behind Roderick’s stoutly locked bedroom door in the upper floors of the ramshackle old manor house and, once they are revealed, can the Family Grisbane withstand the after-shocks? Not to mention where all this intense Grisbane family stuff leaves Kenneth and Mary, the two truly innocent bystanders? Or are they? Truly innocent, I mean? I wouldn’t bet on it, dear readers. I wouldn’t bet on it…

In the extra features on the DVD of HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, Michael Armstrong reminisces fondly, alongside ‘er offa BROOKIE, about the making of the film. He talks so passionately and enthusiastically about it that it’s lovely to see. He comes across as the kind of guy who’d sit chatting to you in the pub about films till the cows come home, or the landlord calls time, whichever comes first.

So that’s it, anyway. I’ve said way more than the few words I was asked for but whatevs, it was an interesting subject and I enjoyed myself. Michael’s books can be purchased through his website and from Paper Dragon Productions, Michael’s publishers, and they’d make the perfect present for film buffs and students of cinema everywhere. I’m keeping mine for myself, however. Ain’t no-one but me getting their hands on these babies…!

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS. (1983) SCREENPLAY BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG. FILM REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

House shadows big 4

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS. (1983) DIRECTED BY PETER WALKER. PRODUCED BY MENAHEM GOLAN AND YORAM GLOBUS. SCREENPLAY BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG. BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE’ BY EARL DERR BIGGERS. MUSIC BY RICHARD HARVEY.

STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, PETER CUSHING, VINCENT PRICE, JOHN CARRADINE, SHEILA KEITH, JULIE PEASGOOD, DESI ARNAZ JR., RICHARD TODD, LOUISE ENGLISH AND RICHARD HUNTER.

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

‘Room for every nightmare… A nightmare in every room…’

Aw, I love this marvellous old gothic horror-comedy film, famous for starring four of the most iconic horror legends of all time. Namely, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine, the daddy of Bobby, Keith, Bruce and David and the founding member of what you might like to call the Carradine acting dynasty.

The screenplay was penned by Michael Armstrong, a screen-writer whose luxurious script-books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing over the last year or so. As the blurb above says, he’s actually publishing his entire screen-writing output in physical book form, and the books are utterly gorgeous. As I think I’ve remarked in another review of his work, they’re greatly improving the look of my personal library.

The film itself was shot in Rotherfield Park, an absolutely fabulous manor house in rural Hampshire in England. It’s the ‘House Of The Long Shadows’ all right, lit by guttering candles, furnished with all manner (all manor?!) of wonderfully gothic bits and pieces and riddled with tunnels and secret underground passages and tower bedrooms atop the winding staircases without which no self-respecting haunted house would be seen dead, as it were.

It’s the perfect setting for this darkly comic murder mystery movie set in Wales, in the house known as ‘Baldpate Manor’ to the taciturn locals. The film-makers, in fact, couldn’t have found a better, more atmospheric place in which to weave their cinematic web of lies, intrigue, deceit, betrayal, a little bit of lust and a giant dollop of honest-to-goodness tongue-in-cheek humour. It’s a film well worth your time and effort.

The four horror greats ham it up wonderfully as members of an ancient aristocratic family known as the Grisbanes. They’ve all converged on the magnificent old mansion house in the middle of a terrible thunderstorm to commemorate a grim and grisly deed that took place in the house forty years ago on this very night. It turns out to be a momentous family reunion…

John Carradine (1906-1988) plays the oh-so-prim-and-proper English paterfamilias, complete with one of those terrific old velvety smoking caps with the tassels hanging down from them that you don’t see anymore.

Despite the fact that, as we see in the film, he’s actually committed a rather dreadful crime, he’s a real stickler for the more pettifogging rules and regulations regarding manners and etiquette. He even calls other men ‘Sirrah!’ when he’s giving ’em a bollocking, lol. How posh is that?

His two sons Lionel and Sebastian are played by Vincent Price (1911-1993), who camps it up as theatrically as only he could do (‘I have returned…!), and a touchingly old-looking and humorously-lithping Peter Cushing (1913-1994).

He calls his brother Roderick his bwother Wodewick! According to the film’s back-story, Peter Cushing came up with the idea of the ‘lithp’ himself and the screen-writer Michael Armstrong was delighted with the actor’s little improvised bit of characterisation.

Christopher Lee (1922-2015), as handsome and as forbidding as Count Dracula himself, plays an upper-class property developer called Mr. Corrigan who has gate-crashed the Grisbanes’ grisly commemoration dinner for reasons of his own.

Cult horror actress Sheila Keith (1920-2004), she of FRIGHTMARE fame, does a top-notch job of playing Victoria, the only daughter of the Grisbane family. In her stiffly-starched black dress and severe hairstyle, she’s straight out of the Victorian era and therefore utterly perfect in the role. She’s known heartache in her time too, has Victoria. ‘He DID love me, I know he did! We were to be married! Oh, Ashley, Ashley…!’ Shades of GONE WITH THE WIND, much?

Desi Arnaz Jr., himself of good Hollywood stock, plays the American writer who holes up at Baldpate Manor for a couple of days to write a completed gothic novel and thereby win a bet with his agent. A twenty-thousand-dollar bet, to be precise, and most definitely not to be sniffed at.

I’ve often longed to be able to speed-write summat myself, only to be faced with the indisputable fact that I’m more of a literary marathon-runner than a sprinter. Still, you know what they say. Slow and steady wins the race.

Julie Peasgood, the blonde actress from long-running Scouser soap opera BROOKSIDE (I used to live for it!), is cast as the essential love interest. In the lovely ninety-minute documentary that accompanies the long-awaited DVD release of this cult horror-comedy, she acknowledges how absolutely lucky, lucky, lucky she was to have been included in the one and only film project ever to have involved these four horror greats. Damn right she was lucky, lol. It was the experience of a lifetime by anyone’s standards and only a handful of people were privileged enough to receive invites, as it were, to the party.

The film, directly or indirectly, references a load of other films in an affectionate homage, everything from PSYCHO to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, from GONE WITH THE WIND (see above) to James Whale’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE. 

Not to mention just about every horror picture ever made that featured a revolving bookcase leading to a secret tunnel by which the killer could freely roam about gaining access to every room in the house and all his hapless victims, too.

The murders are terrifically gruesome and grisly and the plot twists really do come thick and fast. So much so, in fact, that to this day I still don’t understand the very final plot twist, the one that comes just as the film is ending. Never mind, though. It doesn’t really matter.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS is a superb piece of horror memorabilia that every collector should own. The four horror legends have great fun sending each other- and themselves- up, to the point where they’re almost parodying themselves and their old horror roles, and the fun they’re having really does show.

What a labour of love. What a smashing souvenir to have of a wonderful old era of film that can never come again, what a perfect- and permanent- reminder of those golden days. Watch it and love it. How could any of us horror fans do otherwise…?

Michael’s books can be purchased through his website and from Paper Dragon Productions, Michael’s publishers, and they’d make the perfect present for film buffs and students of cinema everywhere. Here are the direct links:

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

If you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

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

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

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.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER. (1961) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER. (1961) PUBLISHED IN 2018 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

Some of my regular readers might have heard me mention a certain Michael Armstrong, a screenwriter and film director whose luxurious script-books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing over the past eighteen months or so, according as they roll off the presses at Michael’s publishers, PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS. If you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

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

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

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.

PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS are not only publishing the screenplays of Michael’s that got made into films, but also the ones that didn’t, for one reason or another. Of the scripts that didn’t make it onto the screen, I can’t wait to read THE KINKY DEATH-WISH OF VERNON SLIM (1967) and THE CURSE OF TITTIKHAMON (1977). I also strongly urge Michael to keep looking for the missing script entitled THE PUSSY CAPER (1975). I want, no, need to read that script…!

Anyway, THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER was penned in 1961 when Michael was still a teenager. A teenager with a burning urge to write, however, and who’d already watched enough films on TV and at the cinema to have amassed an extraordinary degree of knowledge around how they work, and also a healthy amount of cynicism regarding the way that Hollywood tries so hard to sell us various images and concepts.

Even the dedication is cynical, lol. The book is dedicated to ‘ALL THOSE OF US WHO STILL BELIEVE IN GREEN-COATED SANTA CLAUS BEFORE HE WAS MARKETED AS RED-COATED SANTA CLAUS AND SO NO LONGER EXISTED IN OUR IMAGINATIONS.’

Now, I’m not quite old enough to be able to recall the green-coated Santa to mind but I do remember someone telling me once that the image of the red-coated Santa Claus was first sold to us as an idea by the gigantic COCA-COLA corporation.

This means that our image of Santa didn’t come from Charles Dickens or evolve organically from a traditional Victorian fairytale but came directly from a massive, world-guzzling franchise.

From what I know of the world today, that sounds about right. Depressing, but right. Who came up with the idea of putting a Christmas tree in your home during the festive season? Probably it was SNICKERS or CHANEL NO.5 FOR MEN. I wouldn’t be surprised.

The screenplay tells the story of Peter Brent, ‘a sensitive young man in his early twenties’ who teaches Art. His students are ‘terribly influenced by Chagall’ and also, in a word, terrible. He’s depressed in his job and wants nothing so much as to direct a film using a script he’s written himself. He’s writing the script at the moment and he has high hopes for it.

He doesn’t get much support from his family. Here’s what his Dad Reg Brent thinks about his son’s proposed career in movies:

‘Anyway, what do you know about film directing? You’ve got to be old and have worked your way up before they’ll let you do that sort of thing. They don’t have young film directors. They’re all of ’em at least my age and upwards. I mean, look at Alfred Hitchcock. He’s no spring chicken. You’re wasting your time having all these wild ideas.’

Here’s what Peter’s Nan and his Mum Millie think about Peter’s big dreams of stardom:

Nan: ‘I say, Millie, I got two loaves from the bread man this morning. I got two large brown because Reg, here, won’t eat white. He won’t eat white, you know, so I had to get two large brown.’

Millie: ‘Oh Mother, you know I told you to get a large white.’

Nan: ‘Well, Millie- see here, Millie-‘

They both shout over each other. Peter rises and leaves.

Heh-heh-heh. So funny. Anyway, Peter moves out of his parents’ house and gets himself a swanky new girlfriend, a wanna-be actress called June Marlowe, and an ant-eater for a pet whom he calls Jack The Ripper because he- Jack, that is- loves tearing things like floorboards to shreds.

Unfortunately, Peter finds himself in the unenviable position of having to re-write his script from scratch when his Mum chucks it out while tidying his room, along with some comic books she deems him too old for at his age. It’s every nerd’s nightmare, is that. And I actually shuddered when she says in an offhand fashion about his script:

‘Well, if it’s something you need, I daresay you can always type it out again. It was only writing.’

IT WAS ONLY WRITING…? Jesus Christ, Ma, get a grip.

Speaking of Dickens, which we were earlier, I love Peter’s new landlady, Mrs. Gloom, Elderly Lady Of This Parish. Straight out of Dickens she is, like Mr. Bumble the Beadle, the holder of ‘porochial’ office responsible for naming Oliver Twist and blighting that lad’s youth with fear and hunger. I do love a bit of Dickens. His insight into the social problems of his day was, quite frankly, staggering in its accuracy.

Anyway, Peter tries to tout his screenplay idea round various film production studios like COLUMPIA and the RUNK ORGANISATION. Initially, he’s not terribly successful. I think he needs to work on his pitch:

‘I’ve written a screenplay- or rather- I HAD written one until my mother thought it was rubbish and threw it away- but I should be able to write it again because, luckily, I can remember most of it. So, if I could just see someone who-‘

Oh dear. I’ve been trying to tempt agents and publishers myself lately with my recently-penned, Zeitgeist-tapping-into and social-awareness-raising chick-lit novel and, believe me, you have got to have your pitch- and your shit-together if you’re to even have a hope of attracting someone’s attention.

Peter and June while away some time at the cinema. Michael says himself in the chapter entitled A HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY that ‘the screenplay abounds with parodies of cinematic clichés of the day and the world of screen advertising.’ 

He’s not wrong there, by Jove. There’s a wickedly merciless parody of the Walt Disney nature documentaries of the day between pages 80 and 90 that you absolutely have to read. It’s too long to include here but trust me, it’s bloody hilarious.

After a ton of Union-related problems and other mishaps, Peter eventually wangles a meeting with film producer Milton Kronowsky (lol, can you tell who he’s meant to be ’cause I totally can!) under false pretences.

Unfortunately, the meeting is scheduled for the exact same time that Peter is meant to be in court with his ant-eater Jack The Ripper answering a charge of causing a public disturbance. Can Peter pull a ‘Robin Williams in MRS. DOUBTFIRE’ and be in two places at once or will he need a little assistance?

Will Milton Kronowsky agree to make Peter’s movie? Will Mrs. Gloom, Elderly Lady Of This Parish, ever get the rent which is that good lady’s due and there’s no point saying it ain’t…? Will Jack The Ripper get to live out his days comfortably in an ant-filled paradise?

Will the hugely hilarious and highly hyperboled hullaballoo at Claridges’ be the ruination of Peter and June and Peter’s dreams of movie stardom? Or will it be the gateway to a whole new lease of life? You’ll have to read this wonderful book to find out, folks, and now stay tuned for these messages:

‘So, for a supremely satisfying pair of underpants: wear Snugjoy…’

A LARGE PAIR OF SUPER-IMPOSED UNDERPANTS FILLS THE SCREEN…

‘Snugjoy satisfies suddenly, satisfies supremely.’

Um, yes. Quaite…

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor