PEEPING TOM. (1960) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

PEEPING TOM. (1960) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY MICHAEL POWELL. WRITTEN BY LEO MARKS.

STARRING CARL BOEHM, ANNA MASSEY, MOIRA SHEARER, MAXINE AUDLEY, MICHAEL POWELL, COLUMBA POWELL AND MILES MALLESON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

(Severe Warning: Written early on in my reviewing days and chock-a-block with spoilers!!! It’s virtually all spoilers, so read on at your peril and don’t come complaining to me, lol.)

Mark Lewis is a very, very naughty boy. Do you know what he does? Can you guess? You’ll never guess, so I suppose I’ll have to tell you, just this once. He murders women, but that’s not all.

He also likes to film their final moments, and the terror on their faces as he stabs them in the throat with a nasty spike that sticks out of his camera… That’s a new one, isn’t it? I bet you haven’t heard that one before.

He’s not just committing these atrocious deeds willy-nilly, however. Certainly not. He had an exceptionally messed-up childhood. Yes, yes, I know we all did, but Mark’s was more messed-up than most.

His father, a writer of dreary scientific tomes, filmed Mark constantly throughout his formative years. What’s wrong with that, you say? Nothing wrong with keeping a record of your son’s childhood. Is there…?

No, no. You don’t understand. Scientist Professor Lewis filmed his son’s reactions to the most sinister and inappropriate situations, like his mother’s death and subsequent burial, and having his father deposit a lizard in his bed without warning. Now do you see…?

Professor Lewis was one sick dude- you can take that to the bank- and he’s pretty much wholly responsible for his son Mark’s turning out the same way.

Mark has become a ‘scoptophiliac,’ a voyeur, a Peeping Tom, someone who gets pleasure out of watching someone else who is unaware that they are being watched.

The technical, textbook definition of a Peeping Tom is ‘a person who derives sexual pleasure from secretly watching people undressing or engaging in sexual activity.’

However, Mark Lewis in this film just seems to like filming people in general, and their reactions to things in particular, just like his own father did. Although Mark still suffers from a paraphilia, or sexual disorder, ie, voyeurism, we are not aware that he is thinking about sex the whole time he’s filming people. He is getting excited, however, so maybe that’s the same thing.

Anyway, he’s never seen without his camera. He’s made a career out of his passion. He works as a focus-puller for a film studio, and on the side he shoots so-called ‘glamour’ pics for a seedy Soho newsagent. Nudes, and so on.

The scene where a ‘respectable’ middle-aged, obviously married man (Hammer’s Miles Malleson) comes into the newsagent asking to see the shopkeeper’s ‘views’ and the shopkeeper produces a book of nudie photos from under the counter for the man to choose from is hilarious. Hilarious in the sense that that was how they did porn in the Fifties…! Nowadays porn is freely available at the touch of a button. Back then, you had to take what you could get.  

Mark murders a hooker, a two-bit stand-in actress/dancer from the studio where he works and a stunning blonde nude model he was meant to be photographing. He films all three of their agonised deaths and watches the films back afterwards in his flat.

I think it’s safe to say that he masturbates while watching them and they’re how he attains his climax. I’d even venture to say that, without the stimulus of the voyeurism which is his particular paraphilia or sexual disorder, he might find it difficult or even impossible to ejaculate. I’m guessing, therefore, that, in such a situation, he’d have to fantasise about the voyeurism or a voyeuristic situation in order to achieve a successful conclusion, as it were.  

He even attempts to murder the blind mother of his sort-of girlfriend, Helen, but he can’t quite go through with it. His sort-of girlfriend, Helen, played by the fantastically watchable Anna Massey (Alfred Hitchcock’s FRENZY, 1972, the story of another paraphiliac serial murderer!) lives in the flat underneath Mark’s one with her mother, in the house bequeathed to Mark by his father.

Helen, a writer of children’s stories, seems to have fallen pretty heavily for Mark’s extreme shyness and his blonde good looks. Mark’s quite taken with her too, to the point where he chooses to kill himself rather than Helen when she works out that he’s a psycho-killer extraordinaire and the local constabulary are banging his door down over the death of the actress, whose body he stuffed in a trunk in the studio where he works.

The film was savaged by British critics when it first came out for its shocking content (very different from what they’d come to expect from Michael Powell of A MATTER OR LIFE AND DEATH fame), but today it’s seen as something of a classic. Rightfully so, in my humble opinion.

It’s grim and it’s grisly and it won’t exactly cheer you up when you’re feeling down- well, not unless you’re seriously warped in the mind, lol- but if you’re looking to watch a film that’s intelligent, frightening and almost poetic in its execution, then watch this one. More Hitchcock than Hitchcock himself, it’s a goodie and a stand-out in its genre. Enjoy…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

THE DEVILS. (1971) KEN RUSSELL’S MOST CONTROVERSIAL FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

devils 2 leads

THE DEVILS. (1971) PARTLY ADAPTED FROM ALDOUS HUXLEY’S 1952 NON-FICTION BOOK ‘THE DEVILS OF LOUDUN’ AND PARTLY ADAPTED FROM THE 1960 PLAY ‘THE DEVILS’ BY JOHN WHITING.

DIRECTED BY KEN RUSSELL. SETS BY DEREK JARMAN. SCORE BY SIR PETER MAXWELL.

STARRING OLIVER REED, VANESSA REDGRAVE, DUDLEY SUTTON, GEMMA JONES, GEORGINA HALE, MURRAY MELVIN, MICHAEL GOTHARD, CHRISTOPHER LOGUE AND GRAHAM ARMITAGE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is such an incredibly intense film that I generally find I’m holding my breath practically the whole way through it, even though such a feat probably isn’t medically possible. It’s like an assault on the senses, with the fantastic period costumes, the disconcerting (excuse the pun) musical score and the way that, just when you think director Ken Russell surely can’t go any further, he then goes and does exactly that.

The story is set in France in the seventeenth century, and it’s based on actual events, which would kind of blow your mind to think about it. It features Oliver Reed in one of his finest roles. He plays Father Urbain Grandier, chief cleric in the heavily walled town of Loudun. He’s a rogue of a priest who unwittingly becomes the centre of one of the biggest witchcraft cases France has ever known.

He’s a womanising lecher of a priest, who has sex with and even impregnates his prettier female parishioners, then he abdicates all responsibility towards them. ‘And so it ends.’ Then he meets the rather plain, ordinary Madeleine, whose mother has just died horribly from the plague that runs rife through France, and he decides he’s in love, real pure love, for the first time in his whole decadent, dissolute life.

If he were just an ordinary womanising priest, I don’t suppose it would have become much of an issue in seventeenth century France. But Grandier was somewhat of a controversial figure politically as well, even though religion and politics supposedly don’t mix very well. Here’s the deal as I’ve interpreted it.

Cardinal Richelieu at the time wanted to knock down the heavy fortifications of Loudun, and thereby put a stop to its system of independent government and the possibility of a Protestant uprising.

He wanted Loudun and other similarly-governed places to stop ruling themselves independently of the monarchy, and he felt that knocking down their fortifications and leaving them defenseless would accomplish this.

Father Grandier, however, refused to allow this to happen by getting the townspeople to stand firm against any such notion. He maintained that, in Loudun, Catholics and Protestants lived harmoniously side by side, without any pesky uprisings at all, and that they needed their fortifications to protect them from marauders. Moreover, the King himself had said that Loudun could keep her walls. So there, lol.

Therefore, Grandier was a big thorn in the side both of Cardinal Richelieu, and also of Baron de Laubardemont, the official he’s sent to Loudun to knock down the walls. They feel powerless to move against Grandier, who’s so popular in the town. What they need is to get rid of him, but how? Then into their laps lands the gift of a lifetime… a tailor-made excuse to rid themselves of the troublesome priest…

The lead female character, chillingly played by Vanessa Redgrave, is Sister Jeanne of the Angels, head nun of the local convent. Poor Sister Jeanne. Her head is permanently to one side because of a dreadful hump on her back. She constantly shuffles about on her knees in the narrow, claustrophobic confines of the convent and this has the effect of making her personality seem as stunted, deformed and twisted as her physical person. I see her as a figure deserving of pity, yes, but a little creepy too.

Underneath the habit (and the hump), Sister Jeanne is a normal woman with normal, human lusts and sexual appetites. Sometimes these will out, even if you try your hardest to repress them. She has a huge crush on Father Grandier, whom she’s never seen, but the legend of the sexually dynamic and charismatic priest that precedes him wherever he goes is enough for her to hang her hopes on.

A perceived slight from the genuinely unwitting Father Grandier leads the horribly frustrated Sister Jeanne to accuse Grandier of a terrible crime. In comes the church’s leading exorcist, the handsome blonde could-easily-have-been-a-rock-star Father Barre, to get to the truth (let’s not say ‘the bottom,’ please!) of the shocking matter…

What follows is certainly shocking. The scenes of orgy and exorcism, torture and sheer brutality-for-brutality’s-sake are hard to watch. Father Barre believes in putting on a good show, and the farcical spectacle attracts viewers from all over France.

Father Mignon cuts a frightening figure all in black with his pudding bowl haircut, Baron de Laubardemont is in his element, strutting about the place shouting, and King Louis XIII is shown to be a disgustingly decadent and trivial character, with no more real feeling for his subjects than for one of the grapes peeled for him by his lackeys.

Underpinning it all is the magnificent performance of Oliver Reed as the poor tortured Father Grandier, who once played fast and loose with the feelings of all women, but who now believes he really, truly loves a woman, which love has brought him closer to God and shown him the meaning of love and life for the first time in his thirty-something years.

What he undergoes in the name of ‘Christ,’ no man deserves to go through. This film will stay in your mind for a long time after you watch it. And rightly so, because it’s surely Ken Russell’s and one of Britain’s finest.

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

STRAW DOGS. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

straw dogs

STRAW DOGS. 1971. BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE SIEGE OF TRENCHER’S FARM’ BY GORDON M. WILLIAMS. DIRECTED BY SAM PECKINPAH. STARRING DUSTIN HOFFMAN AND SUSAN GEORGE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Jesus. I got ’em all.’

‘Rats is life, Mr. Sumner, sir.’

Every man has a breaking point.

‘They were practically licking my body.’

‘This is where I live. This is me. I will not allow violence against this house.’

This is the kind of film that has the power to disturb you long after you’ve watched it. It’s one of my all-time favourites. It was banned from home viewing for a time, it’s that controversial. David Sumner, masterfully played by Dustin Hoffman, is a mild-mannered American mathematician who relocates with his young wife Amy to the remote Cornish farmhouse near the village of Wakely where Amy grew up.

The secretive, close-mouthed and mysterious locals look askance on them from the get-go. Even though Amy was once one of their own, she went away to America to live and has now returned with a husband so alien to them that he might as well waggle his antennae at them and say ‘nanu-nanu.’

They laugh openly at everything he says and does, and they sneer at him behind his back too, while ‘sir-ring’ him to death in a pseudo-servile fashion to his face. You don’t belong here, they’re telling him with ever sneer, every snipe, every sarcastic remark.

Amy is beautiful, sexy, vibrant, the kind of woman whom mild-mannered mathematicians probably don’t end up with all that often. Unless you’re Professor Frink from THE SIMPSONS, lol. Hoyvin glayvin…!

From the moment she appears on screen, sashaying down the main street of the village, braless in a tight white top with her nipples making a guest appearance of their very own, it’s hard not to take your eyes off her. One immediately gets a strong sense that the weedy little David Sumner has his hands full with her.

Everything about Amy screams exaggerated sexuality. Every man in the village wants to have sex with her, even if they already have, back when she lived there before with her father. (Looking at no-one in particular, Charlie Venner…)

Janice Heddon, a teenage girl from the worst family in the village (her father Tom, played by the superb Peter Vaughan, is nothing but a lawless alcoholic thug), tries to ape Amy’s easy, overt sexuality and it later becomes her downfall.

Amy and David’s marriage is clearly a troubled one. She passive-aggressively tries to provoke him every day into being the kind of man she really wants him to be, ie, a brutal he-man like Charlie Venner, who’s not averse to using his fists on women as well as men, but David Sumner, mild-mannered astral mathematician, won’t rise to the bait, which makes her desperately unhappy.

She flirts with and prick-teases the locals to ease her boredom and her feelings of dissatisfaction with David, and then complains when they react by having a good old stare at her unfettered boobies. She has every man in the village in a right old tizzy over her lustrous blonde locks, huge eyes thickly fringed with dark lashes and slim, sexy figure in mini-skirts and boots.

David and Amy have hired a group of these locals to fix their garage roof for them. They are a motley crew of deviants and inbred-seeming undesirables, as indeed half the population of the village appears to be. Big, blond and brawny Charlie Venner seems to have a past sexual history with Amy. He looks at her as if he’d like to devour her whole. They have considerable chemistry together.

Norman Scutt is just plain sleazy. Chris Cawsey, the giggling rat-catcher, is probably the most repulsive of the bunch. (‘Don’t call me Len, you little prick! I’m a bishop!’) While working on the roof, all four men, including one of Tom Heddon’s sons, watch Amy’s comings and goings intently.

She says they make her uncomfortable but if she’s so uncomfortable, her hubby David points out, and as we mentioned ourselves before, why doesn’t she put on a bra…? You can’t go around without one, he says, and expect that kind not to stare. Hmmm. No comment from me here. I’m just the reviewer, I ain’t here to judge.

The air of threat and menace that underlies the whole first half of the film begins to manifest itself materially with the anonymous killing and stringing up of Amy’s cat. Then David is conned into going with Cawsey, Scutt, Venner and their gigantic friend Philip Riddaway on a duck-shooting expedition. While he’s off pumping our poor feathered friends full of lead, Charlie Venner pays Amy a clandestine visit back at the farmhouse.

He loses no time in exercising his physical and sexual mastery of her. He proceeds to slap her around the place and then rape her brutally. Or does he…? I mean, is it still rape when the woman is saying ‘no’ with her mouth but screaming ‘yes, yes, yeees…!’ with her body? Because that’s what Amy is doing. It’s a hard one to figure out. Is Amy being raped or are she and Charlie simply re-igniting old flames hot enough to barbecue steak on…? You’ll have to watch the film for yourself to decide that one.

What happens next is a lot less ambivalent. Charlie looks up from his sexual endeavours to find himself staring down the barrel of Norman Scutt’s shotgun. Scutt, who has doubled back from the shooting party, motions silently for Charlie to move over and let him, Scutt, have a go at Amy, as it were. The fear and disgust in Amy’s face and voice when she looks up and sees that it is Scutt and not Venner who is having sex with her from behind are undoubtedly genuine.

Hubby David doesn’t find out about the rapes but he fires the men, nonetheless, both for yanking his chain over the whole shooting-party thing and also because they’re just thoroughly unpleasant characters to have knocking around the place. No argument from me there.

We’re getting to end-game now. During the annual church social, local sex-offender Henry Niles accidentally kills a young girl, Janice Hedden, daughter of the friendly neighbourhood violent drunk, Tom Hedden. When David and Amy accidentally run over the fleeing Henry Niles in their car, David brings him back to Trencher’s Farm until he can get hold of the doctor.

An angry and liquored-up mob, led by Venner, Scutt and Cawsey, descend on the farmhouse, baying for the blood of Niles. David won’t hand Niles over to the angry mob. They’ll beat him to death, he tells Amy, who’s all in favour of giving Niles up to the self-styled vigilantes. But David has a conscience. This is not how civilised people behave. He refuses to let the other men dictate to him. When he makes his position clear to them, the gloves come off and the game is most definitely on.

What happens next has to be seen to be believed. Maybe if I tell you that the film is based on a book from 1969 called THE SIEGE OF TRENCHER’S FARM by Gordon M. Williams, you’ll get an idea of where things go from there. (Except for the siege, the film is nothing like the book. The film is a million times more exciting. The book never even had a rape in it!)

Suffice it to say that, after the most unimaginable bloodbath that leaves no fewer than six men dead, the lives of the people of Wakely village may never be the same again. It’s so weird, but Amy spends most of the film urging David to react to things like a man, ie, to lash out when people insult or offend him or his wife. When he finally does what she wants, it’s because he wants to, and for no other reason. Let’s hope she’s finally happy, the spoilt little hussy.

This is such a powerful film that no review could ever really do it justice. I just hope that you won’t take my word for it and that you’ll watch it for yourself as soon as you can. Believe me, it’ll be worth it. As for the whole is she, isn’t she…? question, answers on a postcard, please…

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

AND SOON THE DARKNESS. (1970) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

and soon the darkness

AND SOON THE DARKNESS. (1970) SCREENPLAY BY BRIAN CLEMENS. DIRECTED BY ROBERT FUEST. STARRING PAMELA FRANKLIN, MICHELE DOTRICE, JOHN NETTLETON AND SANDOR ELES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is exactly the kind of super-atmospheric 1970s British chiller I adore. It reminds me very much of ASSAULT (1971), aka IN THE DEVIL’S GARDEN, starring James Laurenson and featuring Lesley-Anne Down in her debut role. In it, a serial killer-slash-rapist terrorises the students of a girls’ college situated near a creepy forest.

In AND SOON THE DARKNESS, two pretty little English nurses from Nottingham taking a cycling holiday in northern France are terrorised in a similar fashion by an unknown assailant, and the film becomes a bit of a who-dunnit in that we have at least four plump, juicy, positively succulent suspects to choose from.

The two girls are Jane, played by Pamela Franklin (from THE INNOCENTS (1961) with Deborah Kerr), who actually looks as French as French can be with her chic bobbed brown hair and the little blue scarf knotted jauntily about her neck, and Cathy Mercer.

Cathy, a luscious blonde with long hair and a delectable figure, is portrayed superbly by none other than Michele Dotrice. Michele went on to experience television immortality for playing Betty Spencer, the long-suffering wife of the accident-prone Frank Spencer (Michael Crawford) in the hugely successful sitcom, SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM.

Jane and Cathy are, as I said, cycling through northern France on their holidays. Jane seems to be enjoying the fresh air and the scenery, but Cathy is bored to death with the empty roads, the wide-open spaces and the lack of hot night-spots. Or night hot-spots, if you prefer.

They are being followed at a distance by a strikingly attractive dark-haired French male on a moped, and having a good time with this stranger, to whom she’s never addressed so much as a word, would be much more the flirtatious Cathy’s idea of fun than endlessly cycling along these deserted French roads till her butt grows numb.

The two girls argue about this very subject. Cathy decides to mutiny and she downs tools- ie, her bicycle- and proceeds to lie down to sunbathe in a little clearing by some woods at the side of the road. You might as well bugger off, she tells Jane, if you’re so eager to keep cycling all bloody day. Me, I’m stoppin’ ‘ere! Ooooooh Betty…! You never made a worse decision.

Jane gets the hump and cycles off, stopping for a drink outside a really crappy café down the road a bit. After a while, she grows uneasy and decides to go back for her friend. But Cathy is gone. So is her bicycle, her backpack and the knickers she draped over the bushes so that they could dry in the sunlight. Jane doesn’t know what to think.

Thanks to a British woman who lives in the area and works as a teacher, she knows that a young tourist girl was murdered hereabouts only two or three years ago. More than just murdered, the British woman tells her with a snooty, disapproving face that can only mean that the girl was raped as well. It was a sex murder. But it was the girl’s own fault, of course, the woman is quick to point out, for being ‘alone on the road…’ Well, Jane is ‘alone on the road’ now. And so was her missing friend, Cathy…

Jane is starting to dread that something awful, something unthinkable, has happened to Cathy. The feeling of dread, for me, begins building up in this film right from the start, when you first see the two girls, cycling two abreast (cycling to a breast, tee-hee-hee) on a foreign country road.

Nothing but miles of open road and open sky. There is as much capacity for horror in wide-open spaces as there is in cramped basements and dusty attics, and this film portrays that really, really well. I mean, when there’s nobody around for miles and miles it can be nice and peaceful, sure, but it also means that there’s no-one around to come to your assistance if you get into trouble. The suspense and tension here just keep on being ratcheted up, until our jangling nerves are in shreds and we want to screech, tell us who it is already!

It’s one of those films that portrays not only sexy, half-dressed young women (come on, just LOOK at those short shorts!) in peril but also the holiday-maker in distress. Jane is careering around madly, looking for someone to help her find her friend, and she keeps coming up against both the language barrier (her French is barely functional) and also the difficulties inherent in trying to impress upon bored policemen who don’t speak your language that there really is a missing girl. Pamela Franklin’s face, like that of Michele Dotrice, is just so incredibly expressive. I’d give ’em both Oscars just for their brilliant facial expressions alone.

Hungarian actor Sandor Eles as the smoulderingly sexy Paul Salmont is just fantastic. Is he evil or does he really just want to help out Jane, a damsel in some very obvious distress? Frankly, I wouldn’t care how evil he was, he’s so devastatingly good-looking, and so super-cool too in his sunglasses and with his little moped tightly clamped between his brown-trousered thighs, lol. Hold me, he commands Jane. Phwoar! He wouldn’t have to ask me twice.

Locations of note? The little clearing by the woods at the side of the road where Cathy decides to have her nice lie-down, and the derelict caravan park. It’s not exactly Tom and Pippa’s homely, wholesome family-run caravan park from Antipodean soap opera HOME AND AWAY, is it? What horrors will we find there? God alone knows.

The scene at the edge of the woods reminds me of the five minutes at the beginning of another superb old British horror film called THE APPOINTMENT (1981). A schoolgirl called Sandie is making her way home from school by way of… you guessed it… a short-cut through the woods. It’s the last thing she ever does. It’s terrifically spooky.

Woods can be perilous, as well we know. As can going abroad on holiday to a place where you don’t speak the language, and the three inhabitants of the one village you pass all seem so inbred as to make the guys in that fine example of French extremity cinema, THE ORDEAL, look like models of deportment and sanity. The moral of the story? Forget your foreign holidays and bloody well stop at home. End of.

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

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

 

YIELD TO THE NIGHT. (1956) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

diana yield glamour

YIELD TO THE NIGHT. (1956) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY JOAN HENRY. DIRECTED BY J. LEE THOMPSON. STARRING DIANA DORS. MICHAEL CRAIG, HAMMER ACTOR MICHAEL RIPPER AND YVONNE MITCHELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a superb film, if you can bear the unrelenting bleakness. I love bleakness in movies, so I happily got stuck in and wallowed in it, lol. And I adore La Dors, the woman they dubbed ‘the English Marilyn Monroe,’ but whom I personally love much more than I ever loved Marilyn. There’s just something so real, so human, about Diana Dors, something that makes her feel like so much more than just a fabulous pin-up girl.

In this film, she gives a career-best performance as Mary Hilton, a shop-girl under sentence of death for murdering her lover’s lover. The story is similar to the real-life Ruth Ellis’s, although it’s not meant to be based on it. In the sweltering heat of July 1955, the year before YIELD TO THE NIGHT premiered, Ruth Ellis became the last ever woman in England to be hanged.

Opinion was divided on whether or not Ruth should have been put to death. There was no doubt that she murdered her lover, David Blakely, as she walked right up to him outside an English pub on Easter Sunday evening and shot him, pretty much point-blank, several times.

There were mitigating circumstances, however, that were not really taken into account when sentence of death was passed: David’s infidelity and extreme physical violence towards Ruth, the miscarriages and abortions she’d had while she was with him, including one miscarriage she’d had a few days before the shooting.

The balance of Ruth’s mind was shot to hell at the time of the murder, yet the judge decided to hang her anyway, as the concept of ‘diminished responsibility’ had not yet become part of British law. It was a sickening end to a tragic story, and a disgusting blot on the copybook of so-called ‘British justice.’

It also looks highly likely that another man in Ruth’s life had given her the newly-oiled and fully loaded gun and urged her, in her altered state of mind, to kill David, but this aspect of the case was not thoroughly enough investigated in time for the verdict.

The whole trial, therefore- and its outcome- was something of a farce. Ruth was raced to the gallows in Holloway Women’s Prison with unseemly haste, and there hanged by Albert Pierrepoint, a ghoulish figure indeed in British criminal history. (He has the necks of murderers John Christie and Neville Heath to his credit in addition to Ruth’s.) What kind of man volunteers to hang people, women as well as men? I don’t care if his father was the hangman before him and it ran in his family.

In YIELD TO THE NIGHT, blonde bombshell Diana Dors is sublime as Mary Hilton, a stunningly beautiful shop-girl who falls in love with an impoverished musician called Jim, who is not at all worthy of the lovely Mary and her overwhelming love. In time, however, Mary grows to realise that Jim has lost interest in her and is seeing an older, presumably wealthy woman called Lucy Carpenter.

The film centres around Mary’s detention in prison in the days and weeks before her execution. Just like in Ruth Ellis’s case, the condemned cell has a locked door in it, a door without a handle, that leads to the execution chamber beyond. Even if Mary were ever inclined to forget about her forthcoming death for a blissful moment or two, how can she with this door literally at the foot of her bed? It’s like a kind of emotional torture, isn’t it, surely?

Mary is treated as well as can be expected in the condemned cell, just like Ruth Ellis was in hers. Both their final days were a rigidly controlled and timetabled round of meals, exercise in the prison yard (separate from the other prisoners), baths, cocoa at bedtime and regular visits from the governor, the prison chaplain and doctor, their lawyer when requested, and any friends and family whom they might wish to come.

Mary is upset by the visits of her younger brother Alan and her mother. It kills her to see Alan, no more than a boy, trying unsuccessfully to cope with the enormity of the situation. Her useless ex-husband Fred, a true nonentity of a figure, only annoys her with his visits and meaningless babble about love. Where was he when Mary was crippled with love for the dysfunctional Jim, and going through the torture that led her to kill Lucy in so-called ‘cold blood?’

The light remains on in the condemned cell around the clock, and there are two female prison officers in the room with Mary at all times. Prisoners under sentence of death must be closely watched in case they feel like committing suicide and cheating the hangman.

The prison guards are all lovely to Mary though, knowing to what she’s been condemned. They invite her to join in their games of chess and cards and they chat and have a nice smoke together, even though the wardens are forbidden from smoking by the prison rules. It becomes a nice little friendly conspiracy between Mary and her wardens, something to smile about.

Mary, like Ruth Ellis, says she’s not sorry for what she’s done. Ruth Ellis was adamant that she wanted to die (‘an eye for an eye, a life for a life’) and go to ‘join David.’ I don’t think Mary wants to die, however, as she nearly jumps out of her skin every time she hears the kindly female governor tap-tapping down the corridor, possibly carrying a reprieve from the Home Office, and possibly not.

A sympathetic prison visitor and activist for prison reform called Miss Bligh meets with a sullen, obviously depressed Mary and tells her that, if she accepts what’s coming, if she in effect ‘yields to the night,’ the sentence of death will become easier to bear.

But Mary is dead-eyed and hopeless; can she take Miss Bligh’s very good advice on board, or will she shuffle resentfully and disbelievingly to the room of execution in her shapeless prison dress and slippers, a plaster on her poor blistered foot caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes?

The film does an excellent job of portraying the boring, tedious soul-destroying days and weeks leading up to an execution. It’s a big strain on the officers too, some of whom really like Mary and might have their own views on capital punishment that don’t happen to coincide with the law’s more stringent ones.

If Mary stays calm, the governor tells her, it will make things easier all round, for Mary herself as well as the prison staff who, after all, are ‘only doing their job.’ Routine is key, too, to keeping things on an even keel. There’s an awful lot to be said for it, and I mean that sincerely.

If things were perpetually in chaos and everyone was rushing around weeping and wailing and tearing their hair out, it wouldn’t be much use to anyone. Keep calm and carry on, as the famous slogan on my tea mug goes.

Poor tortured Mary, plagued by bad dreams, marks off the days on her calendar with a feeling of dread. Maybe she believes that they won’t hang a young woman who has only committed what some folks would refer to now as a ‘crime of passion,’ then not yet recognised by the British justice system, which by the way was made up in those days mostly of rich, highly educated white upper class males. Don’t be so sure, dear Mary. After all, they hung Ruth Ellis, didn’t they…?

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

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