MONSTER: THE JEFFREY DAHMER STORY. (2022) A NETFLIX SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

DAHMER: THE JEFFREY DAHMER STORY. (2022) CREATED BY RYAN MURPHY AND IAN BRENNAN.
STARRING EVAN PETERS, NIECY NASH, RICHARD JENKINS, MOLLY RINGWALD, MICHAEL LEARNED AND PENELOPE ANN MILLER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Set your faces to stunned admiration, people, because this is the best piece of television I’ve seen all year, and it’s been a good year for television. It’s the Jeffrey Dahmer story in series form, and it’s a terrific achievement on the part of Ryan everything he touches turns to gold Murphy and his screen-writing team.

The acting is superb, the story-telling is the right mix of the gruesome and the sympathetic, the era of the early ‘Nineties is perfectly re-created and Evan Peters as the serial killer is just so good as the murderer with the adorably cute grin and occasional quirky sense of black humour.

This is the only Netflix series I’ve seen so far that I’ve been seriously tempted to re-watch again from the beginning as soon as it ended. I’m actually sad that I’m not watching it any more, that’s how compelling it is.

Ready for some plot now? ‘Course you are, lol. The past is expertly blended in with the present as we see Jeffrey Dahmer growing up as a shy, awkward, somewhat weird lonely kid from Milwaukee who doesn’t really care about school or making friends or getting a head start in life.

His home-life is what one might delicately refer to as a shit-show. His mother Joyce doesn’t seem to want to be married with children; she pops pills, threatens suicide constantly and does everything in her power to be mentally if not physically absent from her husband and Jeff.

She screams and throws things and brandishes a knife at her husband in front of a traumatised Jeffrey, and she finally walks out on her family, taking her other child with her, when Jeff is about eighteen. Jeff misses her, crazy and out-of-control as she is, and takes to drinking heavily and mooning round the house, aimless and depressed, in her absence.

Richard Jenkins as the father, Lionel Dahmer, is superb. He’s the person who inadvertently sparks off Jeff’s interest in dissecting body parts. In Jeff’s youth, his father shows him how to cut up the roadkill they find on their car journeys together. If he had the slightest idea where that was going to lead to, he might have thought twice about involving his son in such a gory activity.

Lionel’s marriage to Joyce is in a terrible state. He walks out on Joyce a lot during Jeff’s childhood because of Joyce’s erratic behaviour, and is already married to the kindly and supportive Shari (played by the marvellous Molly Ringwald) by the time Joyce walks out on the Dahmer family for good.

Dad really, really loves his gormless-acting son, the golden-haired Jeffrey, and is genuinely concerned about the adult Jeff’s burgeoning alcoholism, his almost complete lack of a work ethic and seeming inability to get on with people and make friends.

He pushes Jeff into a community college and then, when that fails, into the army. When that fails too, it’s a case of ‘You’re moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air!’ For auntie and uncle, read Grandma; he moves in with his grandma, Lionel’s elderly mum, in West Allis, Wisconsin, after college and the US Army have both bombed, and terrorizes her with his strange behaviour.

Grandma is a quiet, God-fearing Church-going woman, and Jeffrey’s behaviour quickly becomes unacceptable to her. His alcoholism, compulsive lying and swearing, his occasional outbursts of violence, and, worst of all, the constant parade of young black or Latino men he brings back home with him at night to do God-knows-what-with. She’s deeply uncomfortable about what this last thing might say about her beloved grandson’s sexuality.

When Grandma interferes with what he’s trying to do with these men (drug, kill, dissect and even preserve bits of them), Jeffrey gets angry and there’s a moment there when I genuinely fear for Grandma’s life. You’ll literally never believe who plays her; Michael Learned, who once upon a time used to portray the mother in a little-known American television programme called THE WALTONS

Between 1978 and 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer kills and dismembers seventeen mostly black young men and boys. He commits necrophilia and cannibalism and preserves a number of body parts for his own amusements.

He seems to prefer to have sex with dead or incapacitated males, as he doesn’t like his sexual partners to move around too much or take the initiative. He gets a bad reputation around the gay bathhouses for being a man who drugs and rapes his partners.

Niecy WHEN THEY SEE US Nash is fabulous as Glenda Cleveland, the black single mother living next door to Jeffrey Dahmer in the Oxford Apartments, his last address before his imprisonment. Can you imagine living next door to him? He’s the original Neighbour from Hell.

Through the vent that connects their two apartments, she hears the fighting and shouting as Dahmer subdues his victims, and the sawing and hammering noises he makes as he cuts them up. She also smells the foul odours of the decomposing bodies.

The police don’t come out smelling of roses in this case. Glenda calls them numerous times to report the highly suspicious noises and stench coming from Jeff’s apartment, but Jeff just trots out the old ‘Oh, I left out some meat and it went bad’ excuse and the cops just thank him and apologise for disturbing his evening…!

The cops really mess up when a young Laotian boy, Konerak Sinthasomphone, Dahmer’s youngest victim, is trying desperately to escape Jeff’s clutches and very nearly makes it. Jeff turns up and is so convincing in his assertions that Konerak is his ‘boyfriend’ that the police actually return the young man to Dahmer’s custody, leaving a horrified Glenda looking on, barely able to believe their stupidity, and also their willingness to accept the word of a white man over that of anyone black or Asian or Hispanic.

This is such a good television series; I honestly can’t commend it enough. Well done to Ryan Murphy and his team. I can’t wait to see who they’re giving the ‘magic treatment’ to next…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/

ROOTS. (1977) THE MINI-SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ROOTS. (1977) HISTORICAL DRAMA MINI-SERIES BASED ON ‘ROOTS: THE SAGA OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY’ BY ALEX HALEY.
STARRING LEVAR BURTON, JOHN AMOS, LESLIE UGGAMS, BEN VEREEN AND GEORG STANFORD BROWN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I watched this multi-award-winning and ground-breaking mini-series over Christmas and New Year, and was blown away by its great scope and depth of feeling. As the book on which it’s based says, it’s the saga of an American family, but, as the book title doesn’t say, the family in question is black and not white.

The series traces their multi-generation-spanning history from 1750, in which the head of the family is born a free man in Africa, to the aftermath of the American Civil War which freed the slaves, but didn’t exactly equip them with a blueprint for how to live after they’d been freed. The Ku Klux Klan also feature.

Kunta Kinte is born in the Gambia, in West Africa, in 1750, to a tribe of proud Mandinka warriors. He has a loving mother and father and grandparents, and, when he becomes a teenager, has no more to worry about than whether or not he’ll pass his manhood trials, a rite of passage for all young men that determines whether or not they can move into their own huts as fully fledged men and take a wife. I think it’s true to say that Kunta Kinte loves his life and embraces and accepts its many challenges.

Just after he finishes his all-important manhood training, he is captured by American slave traders while out alone one day, looking for some wood to make a drum for his little brother, and brought over to American to work on the rich white men’s plantations. He was stalked as if he were a wild animal and brought, chained and terrorised, to the waiting ship, The Lord Ligonier.

That hellish three-month journey, in which the captured slaves were chained to bunks while in a prone position, covered in their own vomit from the constant sea-sickness, was probably the part of the series that had the most profound effect on me.

I felt outraged on behalf of the free black people wrongly taken from their homes to work as slaves and harvest the white men’s crops and cotton, etc., in America. It was appalling to witness.

I even felt outraged to see Ralph Waite, aka the virtuous Pa Walton of THE WALTONS, as a seasoned slave overseer on this boat, encouraging the captain, played by Ed Asner, to rape young black women to provide himself with a night-time ‘belly-warmer.’ It was truly disgusting and distressing to watch, so, for the people to whom it actually happened, well, I can’t even begin to imagine.

Kunta eventually arrives in the Deep South of Northern America, and lives as a slave for the rest of his days. It takes him a long, long time to give up on his dreams of being a free man, and the cruel plantation overseer and catchers of runaway slaves have to whip him savagely and chop off part of his foot in order to ‘cure’ him of the desire to run away.

He probably gives up on his dream of someday being free again when he and his wife Belle, a fellow slave, have their one child, a daughter, Kizzy. At last, Kunta has something to stay put for. He teaches his daughter about Africa and all the old ways that the cruel overseers would have them forget.

Kunta and Belle love this little girl with all their hearts and souls, and one day have to endure the agonising pain of watching her be sold off to another plantation owner, one of the worst misfortunes that could befall a slave. Families were separated if it suited the owner, causing untold anguish for those sold, and those who remained behind to mourn.

Owners varied from understanding enough to brutally cruel, like Missy’s new owner, Tom Moore, brilliantly played by Chuck Connors. He rapes her on her first night away from her loving parents, and fathers her child, Chicken George, whom she adores.

But separation and pain await this mother and son too. Kizzy sadly doesn’t live to see her beloved son George, raised on tales of Africa and words of the Mandinka language (ko means fiddler, and kamby bolongo a river), leading his family into what amounts to their ‘promised land,’ a patch of land he acquires in Tennessee as a free man after that war to end all wars, the American Civil War.

You’ll see any number of familiar faces in the show, including: Sandy Duncan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Reed, Brad Davis, Cicely Tyson, Lorne Greene, Scatman Crothers, George Hamilton, Maya Angelou, O.J. Simpson, Gary Collins, Ian McShane, Doug McClure and Louis Gossett Jr. It’s a case of spot-the-famous-face, which is always terrific fun, for me, anyway.

It’s a fantastic cast with great acting, great sets and great dialogue, but the message is, hopefully, what we’ll remember the most, and that is: that no man has the right to enslave another, and we are all born- or should be born- free and equal to one another.

Based on the true story of author Alex Haley’s own family, this is a saga that everyone should watch, or kids should watch and study in Irish schools. It’s on a par, is it not, to what the Nazis did to the Jews in the Holocaust…?

Whole swathes and tribes of people who’d never done anyone any harm were wrenched from their families, jobs, homes and homelands and brought somewhere halfway round the world against their will to serve the misguided purpose of a stronger, so-called ‘civilised’ people who wrongly thought that might meant right. ROOTS should be watched by everyone who’s not old enough to have seen it first time around. Lest we forget…

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:

NATIONAL TREASURE. (2016) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

NATIONAL TREASURE. (2016) BASED ON OPERATION YEWTREE. DIRECTED BY MARC MUNDEN.

STARRING ROBBIE COLTRANE, JULIE WALTERS, TIM MCINNERNY, KATE HARDIE, SUSAN LYNCH AND ANDREA RISEBOROUGH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I really enjoyed this sex crime courtroom drama TV series, although it made me feel sick as times, based as it is on the police investigation into Jimmy Savile, which dredged up a fair few other little fishies in its net as well.

Robbie Coltrane (HARRY POTTER, CRACKER, FROM HELL with Johnny Depp) is superb as ageing comedian and television star, Paul Finchley. He’d be cast in the same mould as some real life comedians like, say, Bruce Forsythe, Les Dawson and the like. Paul’s star is now on the wane, and his TV duties have dwindled to presenting- we’ll assume- a fairly crappy, if popular, daytime quiz show called Smuggle.

When we meet him, he’s presenting a Lifetime Achievement Award to his own former comedy partner, Sir Karl Jenkins, an event which sticks in his craw more than he lets on to the people around him. After twenty or thirty years at the top of his telly game, Paul Finchley is now washed-up, a has-bean, old hat, a Z-list celebrity, while sycophants and his close friends presumably make sure to keep telling him he’s ‘a national treasure.’

It’s at this point that Paul is charged with raping a woman called Rebecca Thornton in the ‘Nineties, over twenty years ago. When this becomes known, several more women come forward with similar allegations, although some of these subsequently fade away again and only two end up coming to court. The woman with the first complaint, a one-time fan-girl of Finchley’s, and Christina Farnborough, the Finchleys’ former babysitter.

‘They think I’m Jimmy fucking Savile,’ Paul groans at one point.

No doubt the men whose names were on the cops’ hit-list after the revelations about Jimmy Savile felt, as Paul Finchley did, that they were the victims of a witch-hunt, but there does seem to have been a culture of ‘big stars get everything they want’ in the TV stations back in the day. Women were disposable and not as important as the big- male- stars of the day, and how they felt about things didn’t really come into it at all.

The series goes to great lengths to show us the affects of these allegations on the Finchley family. Finchley himself is shell-shocked, but steadily maintains his innocence. His and his wife Marie’s adult daughter, Dee, was a mess to begin with.

She lives in a halfway-house for women with drug and addiction problems. Her two children live with their dad at the moment, and there’s some suggestion that she may lose them to him for good if she can’t get her act together.

We keep seeing flashbacks of her and her dad together in her childhood, and Dee seems to be trying to remember whether or not he sexually abused her. Her mum, Marie, warns her at one point not to ‘go there,’ as they have enough troubles to be going on with.

A word about Marie, brilliantly played by Julie Walters. Marie is outwardly the perfect wife and mother, devoted to her family and standing by her man all the way. She’s doing that thing where she’s supporting Paul in public, and going to court with him and everything, but looking daggers at him in private, banning him from the marital bed and acting like he’s, well, Jimmy Savile, and like he’s disgraced and shamed the family.

She’s had this one-sided arrangement with Paul all their married life, an arrangement which suits only Paul, which is why I call it one-sided. He is a serial philanderer/adulterer, addicted to having affairs and one-night-stands. Even now, in his mid-sixties and walking with a cane, he has sex with prostitutes.

The arrangement is this. As Marie is unable to stop him from straying, he can sleep around as much as he likes, as long as he’s honest about it and tells her about it. She then ‘forgives’ him, but I bet he’s had to pay for his sins with holidays and new kitchens and bathrooms and designer wardrobes over the years. Carmela Soprano in THE SOPRANOS received plenty of such ‘guilt gifts’ throughout the course of her marriage to mob boss, Tony Soprano, in the hit HBO TV series of the same name.

It’s a most unsatisfactory arrangement. Marie’s soul-destroyed by all the cheating, so much so that she’s thinking of seeking consolation with Paul’s old comedy partner, Tim McInnerny as Karl, who’s always fancied her. Whatever happens, whether Paul is found guilty or not guilty, it doesn’t look like he’ll have much of a marriage to come back to.

The two women accusing Paul of rape are treated shabbily in court, as you might except. Even in real life, women like this are frequently seen as gold-diggers. Oh, the man’s rich and famous, eh? Well, then, obviously this bird’s after a nice big pay-out, whether through the courts or for selling her story to the newspapers!

This is a terrific drama, well acted and very of the moment, what with all the accusations of sexual misconduct flying around the globe today. Every month, someone new seems to get ‘cancelled’ for political incorrectness or charged with actual sexual abuse of people they encountered- or targeted- in the course of their successful careers. It’s a depressing thing to think about. Great drama, though. Watch it if you can.

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 THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS. (1996) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


THE THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS. (A 1996 CBS MINI-SERIES.) DIRECTED BY KEVIN JAMES DOBSON. BASED ON THE BOOK BY COLLEEN MCCULLOUGH. STARRING RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN, AMANDA DONOHUE AND MAXIMILIAN SCHELL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This made-for-television mini-series supposedly fills in the gaps left by the original mini-series, the phenomenally successful THORN BIRDS. In the original show, Meggie Cleary and the long-time love of her life, the handsome Fr. Ralph de Bricassart- yes, he’s a priest!- make love for the first time. Then, the action rather frustratingly cuts to ‘nineteen years later’ in the plot, when Meggie has two grown-up children; a daughter, Justine, by her husband Luke, and a son, Dane, by her beloved Fr. Ralph.

In THE MISSING YEARS, we start off when Dane is about ten and Justine a year or two older. Meggie left her he-man husband, sheep-shearer and cane-cutter extraordinaire Luke O’Neill, before Dane was born, because he promised her love and an equal marriage and then fecked off to cut cane and hang out with his boozy, womanising mates. All this while Meggie languishes with a family who need a housemaid. Quite the comedown for the lovely daughter of the Cleary clan, masters of Drogheda!

Now, Meggie is back home on the family ranch of Drogheda with her two children. Luke O’ Neill comes back, after all these years, at rather an opportune time. That part of Australia has been experiencing a two-year drought, and the ranch is desperately in need of a man about the place. Luke promises to give Meggie everything she’s been ‘missing’ in the way of love and affection and sex all these long, lonely years, and Meggie succumbs. She’s only human, after all.

Her kids in particular are delighted. Justine, who has never really had her mother’s love because she’s ‘only’ Luke’s child, is hostile to Meggie and absolutely determined to become a daddy’s girl straightaway. Dane, who thinks he’s Luke’s son, is happy too to suddenly have a dad, though his desire to be a Catholic or ‘mick’ priest doesn’t sit well with his he-man ‘father.’ Wonder where he gets his priestly leanings, lol…?

Meanwhile, we see how Fr. Ralph has helped Jews to escape the wrath of Hitler during World War Two, even going so far as to shelter them in the underground caves beneath the Vatican. He behaves heroically and selflessly and gets no thanks from his superiors for it.

Remember the way Fr. Ralph and the Church somewhat dubiously inherited Mary Carson’s millions and the estate of Drogheda in the original mini-series? Well, now, for using Drogheda money to help the Jews, Fr. Ralph is ‘banished’ by the Church to Australia once more, supposedly to hold talks with the Australian government about taking in some of the displaced victims of the war.

Not much in the way of politics gets done as Fr. Ralph is enmeshed once more in his love for the beautiful and feisty Meggie Cleary and hers for him. Fr. Ralph’s being back in Oz bodes ill for the touching re-union of Meggie and Luke, and both Luke and Justine are furious to see him back there, taking up all of Meggie’s time and thoughts.

A really dirty custody battle ensues over the one child Meggie would be truly devastated to lose. She could get her son back in an instant by proclaiming to the world at large whose boy Dane really is, but not even Ralph knows this fact. Also, Ralph’s career as an Archbishop would be ruined by the stunning revelation. Who does Meggie love more, and who will she choose to save, Dane… or Ralph…?

Richard Chamberlain is the only actor from the original mini-series who appears in THE THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS. Rachel Ward as the original Meggie is replaced by Amanda ‘get your kit off’ Donohue, so for this reason I was expecting the sex scenes to be practically x-rated, lol.

But no, surprisingly the show keeps its lovely romantic-rather-than-smutty feel, with the love scenes taking place this time around in an isolated cabin in the Australian outback rather than on the dreamy shores of Matlock Island, where the besotted pair first made the wild, passionate love that resulted in a son, Dane.

Fr. Ralph has a pretty sweet deal going on for himself in this show, as in the original. Much as I love- and fancy him- as a character, he led poor old Mary Carson on something rotten, and used her legacy, the legacy which was rightfully meant for the Cleary family, Mary’s true relatives, to better himself and climb the ladder of success in his precious Church.

He’s kept Meggie on a string for years, enjoying her adulation and her hero-worship and even her body, but always pulling away from her in the end, saying that he loves God more than he loves her. How that must have stung Meggie, but there’s nothing much she can do about it. The heart wants what the heart wants, allegedly.

This 1996 show was criticised for its many inconsistencies and deviations from the original plot, but we’re not going to get into these inconsistencies here. They’re fun to spot when you watch it, though! It’s a different big house and ranch too, as the ‘sequel’ is filmed in Australia and not in California, where the original was made.

There’s no topping the original mini-series for romance and sheer romantic pain and longing, but I feel that this second mini-series holds its own, after a ropey start. It becomes really exciting once the whole Meggie-Luke-and-Ralph love triangle kicks off, and the fist-fight between Luke and Ralph is genuinely entertaining and nail-bitingly enjoyable to watch. Luke, damn you, you had it coming…! Enjoy the ‘sequel,’ if for no other reason than you get to hear Henry Mancini’s dreamy score again.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

THE THORN BIRDS: MINI-SERIES. (1983) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


THE THORN BIRDS. (1983) DIRECTED BY DARYL DUKE. BASED ON THE 1977 BLOCKBUSTING BOOK BY COLLEEN MCCULLOUGH. THEME MUSIC BY HENRY MANCINI.
STARRING RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN, RACHEL WARD, BARBARA STANWYCK, JEAN SIMMONS, BRYAN BROWN, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, RICHARD KILEY, MARE WINNINGHAM, PHILIP ANGLIM AND KEN HOWARD.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely loved this sprawling mini-series set in the Australian outback, on a massive old ranch called Drogheda built by originally Irish settlers. In Ireland, we would pronounce this word as, phonetically, ‘Droh-hedda,’ but the characters in the film make the ‘g’ hard and pronounce it as ‘Drog-eeda,’ a sound painful to the genuinely Irish ear, lol. You’d think they’d have consulted an actual Irish person regarding the pronunciation of this very Irish word, but how-and-ever…

On the one hand, it’s the story of the Irish Cleary family, headed by Paddy, who come from New Zealand to live on Drogheda in the early 1920s, as caretakers and labourers for Paddy’s older, millionaire sister, Mary. Mary is played by one of the queens of the old movies, Barbara Stanwyck.

It’s a hard, relentless life in New South Wales, with the weather and the unforgiving terrain constantly chucking curveballs at anyone brave enough- or crazy enough- to try to make a living there, and the arrogant, manipulative Mary never lets the Clearys forget who owns the land and the house and who controls the purse-strings.

Paddy is a plain honest labouring man who married the aristocratic, unsmiling Fiona- Jean Simmons- when she was knocked up and desperate. She spends the whole series looking down her nose at everything that goes on and bearing with an air of martyrdom the hardships and privations of her life with Paddy. She loves her sons, especially Frank, that wee cuckoo in the nest, but her youngest child and only daughter Meggie doesn’t get so much as a look in.

Don’t worry about Meggie, though, folks. She’s not doing too badly. She has something I never had as a child, and that’s her very own pet priest, the swoonsomely handsome and charismatic priest with the romantic name, Fr. Ralph de Bricassart, played by Richard Chamberlain. This is the main storyline of the four episodes, the theme of forbidden love.

Fr. Ralph is the padre to their neck of the woods in New South Wales. From the moment the pair set eyes on each other when Meggie comes to Drogheda at the age of about ten, a bond is formed between them that not even God himself can put asunder, even though the ancient Mary Carson has eyes for the priest herself and is savagely jealous of his relationship with Meggie.

Fr. Ralph is bewitched by the feisty, lonely little Meggie from the start, and she’s thrilled to have someone so kind and, it must be said, devastatingly good-looking, to dance the attention on her that she never gets from her parents. Paddy is just too busy, and Fiona doesn’t care about her daughter anywhere near as much as she cares for her sons, especially her eldest, Frank.

What’s a daughter, anyway, she muses later in the show, but a younger version of herself who’ll make all the same mistakes and endure all the same hurts and suffering as she did, because the life of a woman- in those days at least- is all pain and suffering and not a whole hell of a lot else.

When Meggie is a child, Fr. Ralph keeps her dangling on a string like a little adoring puppet, probably because it’s great for his ego. He gives her a million mixed messages along the way, like, I do love you, Meggie, but of course I can’t marry you, because I’m married to God. A great cop-out for the holy man, and it never fails to unsettle and confuse Meggie.

But when Meggie grows into the beautiful, ballsy woman she eventually becomes and starts demanding real, grown-up love things like sex and a proper relationship and even marriage, Fr. Ralph finds it a lot trickier to come up with reasons why they can’t be together, usually falling back on his love of God and the Church to keep the red-blooded but frustrated young woman at bay, while never releasing her altogether from his thrall. Bit dog-in-the-manger, that.

But Meggie won’t be messed about forever. She even flounces off to Queensland and endures a horrible marriage to the sheep-shearing, cane-cutting emotionally constipated he-man Luke O’Neill- played by Bryan Brown- to show Fr. Ralph just how ‘over’ him she is. You’re fooling no-one, Meggie Cleary O’Neill…

Eventually, the love and physical attraction between Meggie and her padre will be denied no longer. It overflows in a long-overdue explosion of honest-to-goodness lust on a beautiful desert island, after which time the pair will never be the same again. It’s a time for decisions, for making one’s mind up, for putting one’s money where one’s mouth is. Who will Ralph choose, his God, or his Meggie…?

Parallel to the love story is the almost meteoric rise of the ambitious Fr. Ralph up through the ranks of Mother Church, thanks to a legacy of doubtful morality. Christopher Plummer is witty and wise as Archbishop Vittorio, Ralph’s mentor in no less exalted a place than the Vatican itself.

The clever, all-seeing Archbishop has designs on the Papacy and he plants the seeds of a similar ambition in Ralph. If Ralph was still just a humble and unknown cleric in the Australian outback, it might be easier to leave the priesthood for Meggie, but now he has the fabulous materialistic trappings of a religious career in Rome to lose if he decides to give up everything for love. Is it a case of I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that…?

The beautiful legend of the actual ‘thorn-bird,’ probably made up, is so poignant it had me in floods of tears. Summer is the perfect time to watch this epic and awesome mini-series with the gorgeous theme tune by Henry Mancini. It’s got hardships, privations, outback fires and wild boar attacks on the one hand, and civilised Greek theatre, sex on the beach and Kissing the Archbishop’s Ring on the other. Lol.

It’s only rated 12s, as there’s no nudity or swearing in it, so you can watch it with- most of- the family, and, if you’re looking to end July in a glorious blaze of doomed romance, it’ll do the job perfectly.

Plus, as a nice little bonus, it features some serious members of Hollywood royalty in it too, the stars of such classic films as DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE ROBE, SPARTACUS and THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Ideal for those lazy, hazy post-lockdown days…

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:

SPACED. (1999-2001) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


SPACED. (1999-2001) DIRECTED BY EDGAR WRIGHT. CREATED AND DIRECTED BY SIMON PEGG AND JESSICA STEVENSON. STARRING SIMON PEGG, JESSICA STEVENSON, NICK FROST, MARK HEAP, KATY CARMICHAEL AND JULIA DEAKIN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a very British sitcom, of both the satirical and surreal kind, about a group of twenty-somethings who have watched a huge amount of television and films and played an enormous number of computer games in their time. Ditto their creators. It’s only just come to my attention, twenty-odd years after its conception, and I’m glad it has.

I really enjoyed it and found it entertaining, except where they were basing storylines on things I hadn’t personally watched and didn’t care for, like ROBOT WARS. Also, believe it or not, I don’t much dig the whole STAR WARS franchise, although I did laugh at the bits where Simon Pegg’s character had been traumatised by the ‘90s trilogy of prequels, was it, that kicked off with THE PHANTOM MENACE. I know a lot of die-hard fans had trouble accepting Jar Jar Binks into the STAR WARS family.

Oh, and I hated the bits of SPACED that were all about guns and paintballing and masculine pursuits like that, although I loved the character of Mike, who’s in the Territorial Army and positively lives for guns and tanks and military manoeuvres and such-like. But let’s go back and start at the beginning, shall we? I’ve heard that that’s a very good place to start…

Simon Pegg (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, WORLD’S END, PAUL) plays Tim Bisley, an occasionally unemployed graphic artist who works in Bilbo Baggins’s comic book shop. Bilbo is played by Bill Bailey, by the way, the co-star, along with Dylan Moran, of the superb BLACK BOOKS which came along shortly after SPACED.

Tim is very boyish-looking and even more boyish in manner. All he really wants to do is go on the Play-station with Mike, his best buddy who’s in the TA’s, and simulate battles with him, whether on the computer or physically, on and around the couch.

Mike is played by Nick Frost, by the way, Pegg’s partner in the Cornetto trilogy of movies, and he- Mike- once stole a tank while in the TA’s and tried to, ahem, invade Paris. Yes, I said Paris, and, no, I don’t know why…

Tim puts Mike and their comic-book-and-movie-related conversations and re-enactments ahead of anyone or anything else in his life, and yet he’s still surprised when his girlfriend Sarah dumps him for his supposed friend, Duane Benzie. Duane is a real man, as opposed to Tim’s very obviously still-a-boy-and-likely-to-remain-so-unless-he-gets-some-kind-of-rude-awakening persona.

Maybe Sarah doesn’t want a boyfriend who takes recreational drugs until he hallucinates and puts skateboarding and science fiction conventions ahead of her in the pecking order. I can’t say I blame her. There comes a point in every woman’s life when she needs a man, a real man, and not a lad who wants to make a working robot to impress his mates more than he wants to be with you

Daisy Steiner, played by comic genius Jessica Stevenson (THE ROYLE FAMILY, BLACK BOOKS), is an unemployed wanna-be writer living in a squat when she meets Tim by chance in a café. Tim is homeless now too after being dumped by Sarah, so the two of them, Tim and Daisy, decide to get a flat together, which would solve their immediate housing problems.

They end up pretending to be a ‘professional couple’ in order to rent a flat owned by their new landlady, Marsha Klein, a game old gal who’s got two ex-husbands and a bit of a wild past life under her belt. She hasn’t too much to do these days and so takes a keen motherly interest in the lives of her tenants.

Marsha has a bolshy teenage daughter called Amber whom we never properly meet, and she’s (Marsha) a chain-smoking alcoholic who’s almost certainly had sexual relations with Brian, her younger lodger; he’s a conceptual artist who specialises in painting his own angst, lol, and possesses very little in the way of social skills.

Marsha is probably my favourite character, next to Daisy. She’s been there and done that- just ask Mick Jagger and the lads!- and wouldn’t mind finding a little love again before she’s tossed unceremoniously onto the romantic scrapheap, as happens to us all at some stage. Could love in fact be right under her nose, in the form of a certain Mike…?

Daisy and Tim quickly settle into their new surroundings. They get an adorable Scottie dog called Colin, Mike is round all the time calling for his soulmate Tim to come out and play, and Daisy’s shallow fashion victim bezzie mate Twist falls for Brian, much to poor Marsha’s distress.

Tim gets fired from his job at the comic book store for refusing to accept THE PHANTOM MENACE into the STAR WARS franchise, and Daisy also becomes unemployed after writing a few pieces for magazines. She wants to be a writer, but she can’t seem to just get her arse in that chair in front of that typewriter (typewriter???) and bloody well write something.

I feel her pain, lol. I’ve hardly typed a word myself since this wretched heatwave began. Any excuse to bunk off. First it was the pandemic, then it was the American presidential election, now it’s the ruddy heat, haha. What will it be next? Global warming…? Could be, could be…

Tim gets a new girlfriend called Sophie, but, typical bloke that he is, he fails to notice the feelings that Daisy clearly has for him, bubbling away just under the surface of her bright ‘n’ breezy exterior.

Will he see what’s so obviously right under his nose, or will he blow it and just stand by and watch Daisy as she slouches sadly off to Colwyn Bay to a job she doesn’t want, because she thinks there’s no future for her at the house in Meteor Street…?

The series is bursting with references to films and popular culture, everything from PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK to THE SHINING, from THE ROYLE FAMILY to TRAINSPOTTING, from THE MATRIX to, of course, the much-mentioned STAR WARS and all its bright shiny constellations, including THE PHANTOM MENACE and the despised Jar Jar Binks, lol. Some references I didn’t get because I’m not a bloke who spends his life playing computer games or reading graphic novels, but the ones I got I loved.

The familiar faces you might recognise popping up as one-off characters include Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith from THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN, Ricky Gervais, David Walliams, Bill Bailey- him that won STRICTLY COME DANCING in 2020!- Kevin Eldon and, of course, Peter Serafinowicz as the deliciously deeply-voiced Duane Benzie. Remember when he talked Fran to orgasm in BLACK BOOKS once? He’s one of those blokes about whom it is said that they could recite the phone book and birds would find it sexy…

SPACED is a lovely warm nostalgic comedy with some very clever writing from two people who clearly love films and the horror genre, and, quite honestly, it livened up an exceptionally dull week in this rather confusing post-Covid (or, are we post-Covid yet?) world we’re inhabiting at the moment.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m taking my entertainment where I can get it these days. Every day could be your flamin’ last. So head off to Meteor Street and see who’s about. At the very least, there’ll be a bottle of something cold and wet standing open…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

FRANK SPENCER IN ‘SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM.’ (1973-1978) EPISODE GUIDE BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

frank spencer beret

FRANK SPENCER IN ‘SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM.’ (1973-1978) WRITTEN BY RAYMOND ALLEN. STARRING MICHAEL CRAWFORD AND MICHELE DOTRICE.

EPISODE GUIDE BY SANDRA HARRIS (AND SON!). ©

‘I’m a man…!’

‘Ooooooooh, Betty…!’

‘I’ve had a bit of trouble.’

‘They were a family of slippers.’

‘The cat’s done a whoopsie in my beret.’

‘I’ve been very worried about the coal shed door.’

‘He don’t go to work, he just goes to interviews…!’

‘It’s alright, darling, it’s just Daddy breaking something!’

‘That’s Jessica Spencer’s son. Nobody don’t love the Spencers. They just keep out of their way!’

‘I didn’t want to join the brain-drain, Betty, but the way things are going, the sooner my brains are removed the better.’

Frank Spencer, one of television’s most ‘trying’ characters (‘Betty, no-one’s more trying than me!’) is instantly recognisable in his tight ‘Seventies slacks (not too tight please, I’m a married man…!), wimpy tank-top, ‘Humphrey Bogart raincoat’ and trademark beret.

Frank is a young married man, who’d have gotten ahead in life long ago if it hadn’t been for all the ‘harassments’ he’s had to endure. Was it Frank’s fault that the bedroom floor is no more, or that the coal shed door has inexplicably gone missing? ‘I’ll put a bit of wood across it!’ says Frank sheepishly. ‘It had a bit of wood across it!’ wails Mrs. Fisher, Frank’s mother-in-law. ‘It was called a door…!’

Series One:

Episode One: THE JOB INTERVIEW: Frank’s interview for the position of bathroom fittings door-to-door salesman goes horribly wrong when he banjaxes the firm’s lift, gives the manager Mr. Lewis a nervous breakdown and gets trapped under a bookcase. Hammer Horror beauty Linda Hayden co-stars as a pretty secretary and Betty, Frank’s wife, thinks that Frank’s new suit makes Frank look like ‘one of them,’ much to Frank’s outrage. His greatest fear in life is being taken for ‘one of them…!

Episode Two: GEORGE’S HOUSE: This is my son’s second favourite episode of this series. Frank and Betty spend time at Betty’s posher brother George’s house just as a major industrialist is coming to view the gadget-filled abode with a view to putting in a big order to George’s company. Frank gets his slippers stuck in the U-bend of the toilet but that’s only the start of his troubles. Can Betty deal with ‘the Frank matter’ before the big industrialist notices that anything’s amiss…?

Episode Three: LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR: Frank’s poorly mother-in-law is in need of a doctor. But why call a doctor when a script-writer lives just next door? A charge of breaking-and-entering into his own house ought to round off Frank’s day nicely…

Episode Four: HAVE A BREAK, TAKE A HUSBAND: Frank and Betty have a second honeymoon at a little boarding-house run by Mr. Bedford. Betty’s uncharacteristic ‘failure’ to pack a lino knife has catastrophic results for their bedroom’s furnishings. The wardrobes are all on the move and a suit of clothes just might contain a ‘message from the other side’ as Frank does his best to keep his demolition work under wraps.

‘Put that over there! It can go out in the morning…’

Episode Five: THE HOSPITAL VISIT: Frank’s been coping poorly while Betty’s been in the hospital. Now that she’s been ‘done’ (‘we’ve all been ‘done’ in this ward!’), he’s keen to get her home as soon as possible. Does anyone have a trolley handy?

Hospital visitor to Frank: ‘I’m here to see my wife, are you?’

Frank: ‘I don’t think I know her…!’

Episode Six: THE PSYCHIATRIST: Frank attempts to convince a head-shrink that he is, in fact, a failure. Several traumatic reminiscences later, and the head-shrink is inclined to agree with him whole-heartedly. Frank wears his failure like a badge of honour and, in fact, he seems rather pleased to have it confirmed. He’s a failure…! Well, his old Auntie Dingle could have told him that…

Episode Seven: THE EMPLOYMENT EXCHANGE: This is one of my personal favourites. The bad-tempered Mr. Hooper at the Labour Exchange bets the enthusiastic new manager of the Exchange that he can’t find the eternally job-seeking Frank Spencer a job that he can hold down for a week. One bucket of sudsy slop water later and they might all be on the dole again… Edward Hardwicke (Dr. Watson to Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes) guest-stars here as the pessimistic Mr. Hooper.

Frank: ‘I’ll pay for any damage.’

Mr. Bradshaw:’That machine cost three million pounds!’

Frank: ‘I’ll work nights…!’

Series Two:

Episode One: CLIFFHANGER: Will Frank’s limited knowledge of the mating habits of chickens be any help to him at all when he and Betty are suspended terrifyingly over the edge of a cliff in the loaner car from Frank’s new job? I suppose he could always tell her to ‘pullet…’

Episode Two: THE RAF REUNION: He’s half-blinded, half-deafened and disorientated, with flat feet and a tendency to get trapped in wardrobes during kit inspections. Could Frank Spencer be the greatest airman ever to march on Her Majesty’s socks? Let’s just say that he’s ‘one of the few all right…’

‘Couldn’t I just have THE DEATH OF NELSON?’

Episode Three: THE PUBLIC RELATIONS COURSE: This is another one of my favourites. Mr. Watson’s lovely residential Public Relations course is ruined by Frank’s inability to desist from ordering beans for dinner. Still, as Mr. Watson is seemingly ‘a parasite prostituting his talents to hoodwink the people,’ he probably had it coming. James Cossins (THE ANNIVERSARY, FAWLTY TOWERS) co-stars.

Episode Four: FRANK AND MARVIN: Frank’s got to perfect his ventriloquism act if he’s to earn enough money at the holiday camp to keep Betty in the carrots she’s suddenly developed a fierce craving for. But Marvin’s head is missing and so, apparently, is Frank’s ability to sing songs ‘the kids of today’ want to hear. Maybe Frank’s ‘Vesuvius’ will go off with a bang and liven things up a bit… Christopher Timothy (ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL) co-stars as Roy.

Episode Five: FATHERS’ CLINIC: Frank nearly goes off with ‘one of them’ by accident while looking for the maternity clinic. Don’t worry though, he gets there in plenty of time to aggravate the doctor giving the class and possibly maim him for life as well. Meanwhile, ‘Auntie Betty’s in the family way’ and a spot of recreational roller-skating leads to Frank’s ‘shopping’ for the baby a lot sooner than he’d intended…

Episode Six: THE BABY ARRIVES: After many, many, many false alarms, Betty’s ‘contradictions’ have started and the big day is finally here. Frank is mistaken for a pervert while he hangs around the nurses’ station looking for someone to ‘come outside with me for a minute’ and the family priest, Father O’Hara, is all at sea in the little matter of stolen kippers. At least the baby will be here at the end of it all. Trouble is, is she an Horatio or a Sidney…?

Series Three:

Episode One: MOVING HOUSE: Frank and Betty have to move to another council estate as Frank’s little ‘alterations’ to their first home have left it unsafe for occupation. After being humiliatingly ‘oiled and lubricated in all my personal areas,’ Frank finally reaches his new abode. A shared ‘cock-stop’ leads to an angry confrontation with his new neighbour, Mr. Lewis, and it won’t be the last by a long shot. Frank is set to be a boil on Mr. Lewis’s backside for the foreseeable future. Milton Johns (‘standing there in your semi-detached council trousers!’) and Glynn Edwards co-star.

‘Fear not, Mr. Lewis, your troubles are over, I am beneath you!’

Episode Two: WENDY HOUSE: Columbo pays a visit to the Spencer household but he’s lacking his trademark overcoat and quizzical expression. What gives? Well, as long as the egg foo-yung doesn’t get cold, we’ll be alright. An insurance claim for the furniture damaged in transit on the way to the new house falls disappointingly short of Frank and Betty’s expectations. Good job Frank’s got his woodwork class, eh? A sticky situation arises after the class, however, that sees Frank on his knees in front of a lady that most definitely isn’t his wife. Whatever will Betty say? Richard Wilson (ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE) co-stars.

Episode Three: SCOTTISH DANCING: Frank worries that Betty might be having a ‘highland fling’ with the oily Mr. Quincy from next door. Will a bit of canvassing for a political candidate take Frank’s mind off things? As long as he doesn’t ‘fall down’ during a display of traditional Scottish dancing, he might just get away with his dignity, never mind his ‘trouble,’ intact. Jean Boht (BREAD) co-stars.

Episode Four: MEN AS WOMEN: All the doctors of Frank’s acquaintance have suddenly turned transvestite and Frank can’t understand it. There’s a letter from Australia and Frank gets to demonstrate his taste for international cuisine:

‘I am a little Dutch girl, done up with paint and powder. I’m here to please, with Edam cheese, and half a pound of Gouda…!’

Episode Five: KING OF THE ROAD: Frank’s job as a motorcycle courier of some rather dodgy ‘holiday snaps’ leads to him defending himself in a British court of law on an obscenity charge. The Judge’s patience wears thin as Frank calls an array of witnesses, from the beleaguered Mr. Rumford of the Employment Exchange to the cinema usherette who delivered him at the pictures during the Blitz. Will Frank get sent down? It might be quicker to just send him home… Gretchen Franklin (Ethel from EASTENDERS) co-stars as the cinema usherette.

‘I do have some court experience. I won my last case…!’

Episode Six: AUSTRALIA HOUSE: After failing in his elocution lessons (‘Harry’s hoop is hanging in the hall…!’), Frank runs afoul of the Chief Migration Officer whose permission he needs to start a new life Down Under with Betty as a shepherd on his Grandfather Spencer’s sheep-farm. One broken chair arm and a pair of busted spectacles later, poor Mr. Lawrence, the CMO, is willing to agree to anything just to get rid of him. Frank displays his gas-fitting know-how just in time to end the final series with a decided bang… (‘That’s the best I can do for the moment…!’) Edward Hardwicke co-stars once more.

Betty: ‘Frank, your Grandfather’s been washing his long johns in the bathroom again!’

Frank, perplexed: ‘Well, what’s wrong with that?’

Betty: ‘I was in the bath at the time…!’

Well, that’s Frank anyway, folks. A right dozey heir-sole if ever there was one, lol. I’ll leave you all with one of his Mum’s little titbits:

‘I will not linger at your door,

Away I have to race.

But I can tell you wish me well

By the look that’s on your face…!’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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