HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER. (1973) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER. 1973. DIRECTED BY CLINT EASTWOOD. WRITTEN BY ERNEST TIDYMAN. MUSIC BY DEE BARTON. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY BRUCE SURTEES.

STARRING CLINT EASTWOOD, VERNA BLOOM, MARIANA HILL, BILLY CURTIS, STEFAN GIERASCH AND GEOFFREY LEWIS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love my Westerns, spaghetti or otherwise. This film was shot in California but was heavily influenced by Clint Eastwood’s regular collaborator, Sergio Leone, he of decidedly spaghetti western fame.

Thanks to Leone’s DOLLARS trilogy (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY), Clint Eastwood was already an international cinema star with his own film production company, the Malpaso Company, by the time he made HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER.

It’s an excellent and entertaining revenge Western with a possible bit of a ghost story thrown in. No-one plays a Mysterious Stranger Who Rides Into Town And Does A Bunch Of Macho Stuff like Clint Eastwood does, and in this film he’s possibly at his most mysterious and macho, or at least the most so that I’ve ever seen him.

His ‘Man With No Name’ character was already well established by now. Clint had played him in each of the DOLLARS trilogy. Though he was given nicknames like ‘Joe’ or ‘Blondie’ or even ‘Boy’ in the trilogy, he essentially remained formally nameless and without an identity or back story.

We may find out the back story of characters like Colonel Douglas Mortimer (FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) or Tuco the Bandit (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY) but Clint’s character remains an enigma. He’s the ultimate Mystery Man, A Man Without A Past. We know nothing of his past or possible future, only his present.

Anyway, in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, Clint, again nameless, arrives in the tiny seaside mining town of Lago and immediately starts stirring things up big-time, putting the townspeoples’ backs up and having forced- or is it…?- sexual congress with what can only be described as… ahem… the town slut.

Within his first few minutes of landing in Lago, he shoots three men dead in self-defence and rapes a beautiful local woman called Callie Travers who deliberately singles him out and starts an argument with him. He decides to ‘teach her some manners’ by dragging her into a nearby barn and raping her. That’ll learn her, lol.

You see, I think she’s seeking out Clint’s attentions on purpose on account of he’s the best-looking man to arrive in Lago in many a day. And she looks like she’s enjoying herself to me. Sure, she cries ‘rape’ afterwards to save face but later in the film she joins Clint for dinner and goes to bed with him willingly, openly this time.

Of course, the feminists and the ‘me too’ brigade would be up in arms if such a thing happened in a film today but, back then, stuff like that happened all the time and no-one batted an eyelid.

Just like no-one bats an eyelid in Lago when Callie Travers runs around screaming ‘Rape! Rape!’ after the event in the barn. Some of the townspeople might even decide that that slut Callie got what was coming to her.

I’m a woman and I enjoy watching that scene and find it exciting. I don’t think it means I want to be dragged down a dark alley by a knife-wielding stranger and violated. I just think that Clint Eastwood was one of the handsomest film stars of all time and it’s exciting to watch him having rough sex with a woman in the rather Neanderthal style of the time, that’s all. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, lol.

Anyway, it turns out that the people of Lago need the super-tough, enigmatic Stranger a ‘hell’ of a lot more than he needs them. (See what I did there?) They need him, in fact, to protect them from a trio of lowlifes who are being released from prison in the near future and who are expected to be gunning for the people of Lago who’ve previously double-crossed them in a deal.

The deal apparently involved a previous Marshal of the town called Jim Duncan who, when he became a painful inconvenience to the townspeople, was bull-whipped to death on the main street of Lago by Stacey Bridges (Geoffrey Lewis, the grave-digger from SALEM’S LOT) and the Carlin brothers, Dan and Cole, the trio of degenerates.

Well, I suppose that in prison you have a lot of time to think, and it seems like most screen villains don’t waste a minute repenting of their sins and former lifestyles but only entertain thoughts of revenge. Fantasising about vengeance against the person or people who put them in jail is what gets them through their sentence. 

So now the trio of gurriers- that’s what we call lowlifes in Ireland- are riding to Lago to revenge themselves on the townspeople, who have plenty on their consciences themselves. They stood by and did nothing while a man, a fellow human being, endured an agonising death at the hands- and whips- of the three thugs. How can they live with themselves after what they did? A little too easily, it seems to me. 

The Stranger decides to stay and help out the undeserving citizens of Lago when the townspeople promise him that he can have anything he wants, free, gratis and for nothing, from any of the establishments in Lago.

He makes good use of their offer, partaking liberally of free wine and steak dinners while enjoying the willing company of Callie Travers, the blonde woman he ‘raped’ when he first landed in Lago. It’s not a terribly politically correct film, but then again, it probably wasn’t a terribly politically correct era for film-making, as we’ve already discussed.

The Stranger also has sexual congress with Verna Bloom as Sarah Belding, an unhappily married woman who at first appears to resist the Stranger’s advances but who then capitulates to his stubbly and no doubt ever-so-slightly malodorous charms.

Her husband, the hotel-keeper, is so useless and lily-livered that he stands by like a mouse and does nothing when he thinks that his wife, whom he presumably promised to love, honour and cherish till death do them part, is about to be raped by Clint. He doesn’t deserve a good strong woman like Sarah, the only person in the whole miserable town of Lago to speak out against the horribly inhumane death of Marshall Duncan.

The Stranger, aided and abetted by a dwarf called Mordecai, the only person he troubles to befriend in Lago and whom he has ‘promoted’ to the twin roles of Marshal and Mayor, wreaks havoc in Lago.

He forces the townspeople to paint every building in town bright red and paints the word ‘HELL’ over the town sign as an ominous welcome to the little gang of hoodlums. He trashes the town completely in the name of ‘helping’ them, and I think it’s because he figures they deserve it. They got away scot-free after the death of Jim Duncan, after all.

Anyway, the three lads eventually turn up and start shooting up the town but it’s not too long before Clint, at his enigmatic best, dishes out some good old-fashioned Wild West retribution with a little whip-action of his own.

“So, you guys all like whipping then, do you…?” he so easily could have said, though he doesn’t. “Well then, me buckos, let’s see how you like THIS…” Whip crack away, whip crack away, whip crack a-WAAAAAY and so on and so forth…

I love the character of the cowardly sheriff because he openly admits that he only got the badge by sort of default when Jim Duncan died. (That’s how Police Chief Wiggum in THE SIMPSONS got HIS badge…!)

I love the cowardly- and mercenary- town preacher too and I’m certain I’ve seen him in other films before in a similar role. I like the cowardly greasy barber with his comb-over as well. There are some great characters amongst the townspeople.

I love that Clint, who’s accused of being ‘cruel’ by the townspeople, is openly kind, decent and generous to the Native American Indians and the Mexicans in Lago. They’re treated like dirt by the townspeople who abuse them (the Indians) and make them do their dirty work for them (the Mexicans). What a rotten lot the townsfolks of Lago are. Clint should leave ’em all to rot in Hell…

You should watch this brilliant sort-of-spaghetti Western if you want to see Clint all bristly and manly and shooting up a storm with, as usual, one hand tied behind his back. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean. Hey, it works for me.

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

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FANGS AND FOREPLAY: THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF DRACULA: THE TRANSYLVANIA YEARS. BOOK 4- PART 1. AN EROTIC HORROR SERIAL BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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INTRODUCTION.

It is the year 1890 and Dracula and his entourage, having made the English village of Birney too hot to hold them, have decamped for safety to Dracula’s ancestral home in Transylvania.

Accompanying him are his beautiful wife Anna, their baby daughter Lucrezia and Anna’s faithful maidservant Valeria, the nude handmaidens and chief amongst their number, the gorgeous Glamara. Igor, the Count’s loyal Gate-keeper, and Dracula’s wickedly bewitching Cousin Carmilla, who is now the Count’s captive, are also present.

Given that the crumbling castle in darkest Transylvania is already occupied by the Count’s parents and his brothers and sisters and all of their servants, as you can imagine it looks certain to be quite the crush. Buckle your seatbelts, dear readers and fellow vampire enthusiasts. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride…

This book, as all the ‘ANNA’ books are, is dedicated to the late Sir Christopher Lee, whose performances in the HAMMER ‘Dracula’ films inspired every word of it. May he rest in peace… until he rises once more from the crypt in which he lieth…

FANGS AND FOREPLAY: THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF DRACULA: THE TRANSYLVANIA YEARS. BOOK 4- PART 1.

AN EROTIC HORROR NOVEL BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

The moon was full tonight, spectacularly so. Dracula, standing on the battlements of his ancestral home smoking a sneaky cigarette, almost felt as if he could reach out and touch it. He’d quite forgotten how beautiful and brilliant the moonlit nights could be here in Transylvania. The moonless nights, however, under cover of loving darkness, better suited his purposes.

He breathed in the cigarette smoke lovingly. With his wife Anna and her maidservant Valeria casting him filthy looks whenever he lit up indoors, he frequently found it expedient to retreat to the great outdoors to have his smoke in peace. Though what the world was coming to when a man couldn’t smoke in his own home- it wasn’t only the Englishman’s home that was his castle- he was sure he didn’t know.

As he effortlessly blew out an elegant series of perfect smoke rings, his mind drifted back to what he had heard of events in England after he and his entourage had decamped- hurriedly, it must be said- to Transylvania.

The pitchfork-and-torch-wielding villagers of Birney had raided Birney Castle mob-handed, only to find the coop deserted and the chickens all cunningly flown. They’d burned what remained of the castle to the ground, but that mattered little to Dracula.

What really annoyed him about the whole affair was that the villagers had discovered the existence in the overgrown castle grounds of the small disused chapel he’d been using as a charnel-house. Many of their missing village wenches had ended up in there, bloodless and minus their virginity- the few that still retained it, that was- after the Count had finished with them.

He’d ordered that lazy bastard of a Gate-keeper, Igor, on numerous occasions to clear the chapel of the bodies of the murdered women and bury them all deep in Birney Forest, in a place so remote and godless that no birds sang there and no humans ever ventured there. If anyone even knew about it, which the Count doubted.

But Igor had been remiss, terribly remiss, a mistake for which the Count had lashed him severely on his mis-shapen hump with his horsewhip, and the villagers had found the chapel and all its grisly contents, that overflowed out the door when it was opened.

The stench alone must have permeated the forest and the village for days and days. Even Dracula himself blanched and turned away when he caught a whiff of it, and Dracula was made of sterner stuff than all the villagers put together.

The grim discovery of the bodies had made it into the English newspapers and, for a while at least, that cold country had reverberated up and down with talk of vampires and she-bitches and banshees and the Un-Dead, who feasted on the blood and flesh of the living in order to stay alive, or should that be Un-Dead, themselves.

Dracula tsk tsk-ed and flicked his cigarette ash over the battlements. The publicity was most unwelcome. He couldn’t return properly to England now for at least a year, or at least till the heat had died down, thanks to all the ridiculous hoo-hah. Even Jack the Ripper, that notorious slayer of whores, hadn’t received as many press column inches as the unfortunate occupants of that bloody charnel-house.

It was bad enough that there were very few years left before that damnable Irishman Bram Stoker would write the book that would destroy Dracula’s privacy forever. The Count, possessed of a certain amount of foresight bestowed upon him at birth by an evil gypsy woman who’d gatecrashed his Satan-ing ceremony, had known about the Bram Stoker book for some time now.

He’d toyed with the idea of having the Stoker fellow meet with a nasty accident one night on the way home from the theatre where he was currently working, but the Count’s vanity, not to mention his curiosity, had thus far prohibited him.

He was curious, goddammit, about the book that would make the name of Dracula a deservedly household word across the world. Once leash that book upon an unsuspecting world and the name of Dracula would be known all down through the millenia to come. Maybe he’d let Stoker write the damned book and be done with it. Someone was bound to at some stage, anyway. It was only his due, after all.

A sudden stirring in his loins caused his gaze to slide downwards. Virginie’s tender ministrations were beginning to take effect. He stubbed out his smouldering cigarette on the castle wall and placed a hand on either side of the nude handmaiden’s blonde head, the better to steady her while he ejaculated into her red rosebud of a mouth.

Virginie- a misnomer if ever there was one- had given him great satisfaction since he’d abducted her from the Whitechapel brothel where she worked, a place where she’d had more cocks in her than were ever to be found in the busiest of English poultry farms. She was a vampire woman now, one of his harem, and one of the most skilled in bestowing oral pleasure, thanks to her earlier ‘training’ in her former ‘workplace.’

‘Good girl, Virginie, keep it up now, don’t stop,’ he urged her as he fondled her face and pretty little ears while still contriving to steady her head.

Her blue eyes flashed in answer and she redoubled her efforts to bring him the release he craved. The movements of her tongue and nimble fingers now pleased him greatly, and he shuddered right to the core of him as he climaxed.

‘It’s quite the slutty little whore you are, isn’t it, Virginie?’ he said as he removed his solid gold cigarette case from his breast pocket and extracted one for each of them.

‘Just the way you like me, Master,’ replied the whore complacently as she sat naked, curled up at his feet on the battlements, and enjoyed a puff on her cigarette.

Dracula made a mental note to administer a severe whipping to the woman for her insolence later, when he was feeling a bit more lively. For now, as he gazed down from the battlements of his castle at the dark and desolate countryside of his birth, he felt relaxed and almost happy. For now at least, it was good to be home.

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

HARD TIMES BY CHARLES DICKENS. (1854) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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HARD TIMES BY CHARLES DICKENS. (1854)

A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I loved this book when I had to study it in school, just like I loved every other book of Dickens’s when I read it. Does that make me unusual, being a female person who likes Dickens and now reads him voluntarily, for pleasure, and not just because I have to answer exam questions on him? I don’t know, all I know is that I dig him. His understanding of the social mores of his day are really quite extraordinary.

Not only that though, but he’s endlessly funny as well, especially when it comes to depicting characters who have a highly inflated sense of their own importance. Characters like Mr. Bumble, the ‘porochial’ Beadle in OLIVER TWIST, which I read for Christmas this year, or Mr. Bounderby in HARD TIMES. We’ll get to him- old Bounders- in a minute, lol.

First let me introduce you to a Mr. Thomas Gradgrind, one of the leading lights not only of HARD TIMES, but also of Coketown, the grim, smog-wreathed fictional industrial town in Victorian England where the novel is set. Here’s what Dickens says about Mr. Gradgrind:

‘Thomas Gradgrind, Sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over… With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, Sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all suppositious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind- no, Sir!’

It’s important to understand how pragmatically practical, hard, cold and fact-based is Mr. Gradgrind’s belief system, or else nothing that follows will make sense. He eschews all fun and fancy, supposition and wonder, and he brings up his two eldest children, Louisa and Tom, under the yoke of the same harsh belief system.

They may privately long for some fun and fancy, but they know better, much better than to ask for it. They would only be directed straight back to their studies of fact-based sciences and mathematics. They are steeped in ‘ologies,’ you might say. Biology and bacteriology and etymology and every other ‘ology’ you might care to name.

‘Run along and be something-ological directly,’ their invalid mother tells them when they become too tiresome. Mrs. Gradgrind, who recedes into her bundle of shawls when life becomes too much for her (as it frequently does), is completely unable to cope with or comprehend her husband’s strict belief system.

It goes over her head, she is baffled by it. She worries all the time, perhaps, that she ‘will never hear the last of it.’ It’s not until the very end of her days that she has the courage to question even slightly the wisdom of the fact-based upbringing that was forced upon her children by their father. If only she’d acquired the courage sooner…!

The aforementioned Mr. Bounderby- Josiah Bounderby of Coketown, by Jove!- is the best friend of Mr. Gradgrind’s and a prominent local landowner and business-owner in Coketown to boot. Abandoned by his mother at an early age, a fact he never tires of telling people, he was dragged up by the bootstraps by a harsh and uncompromising Life, which Life has made him The Man He Is Today.

Namely, made of stern stuff and not expecting to be fed venison with a gold spoon every five minutes, as is, apparently, the dearest, most heartfelt wish of the Coketown ‘Hands,’ the nameless, faceless underlings who run his textile mills and other businesses for him.

He’s a braggart and a boaster and a bluffer who makes a constant pretence of a humility he doesn’t really feel. He has his eye on Louisa Gradgrind, even though he’s a good thirty years older than her. When Mr. Gradgrind tells Louisa that she must take Bounderby for a husband, she shrugs and says why not? What does it matter, when nothing else does?

A life without fun, laughter, love and life in it is barely worth living so why not? Why not marry old Bounderby, when one rubbish life experience is exactly the equal of another? As I don’t care either way, she tells her father, I might as well do what you ask. The marriage takes place.

Mrs. Sparsit, an ancient, Roman-nosed lady distantly related to ‘the quality,’ a fact of which neither she nor Mr. Bounderby ever tire of reminding people, is Josiah Bounderby’s house-keeper. She has her own matrimonial plans in relation to Mr. Bounderby, and is therefore immeasurably pissed off when he marries the much younger and prettier Louisa Gradgrind.

Spiteful old Mrs. Sparsit is thrilled skinny- well, maybe not skinny, never that!- when a dastardly young hound by the name of James Harthouse starts work with Mr. Bounderby and immediately sets his cap at Louisa.

Mrs. Sparsit is a nasty, prying old biddy who’d like nothing more than to see Louisa brought low and she, Mrs. Sparsit, installed in the younger woman’s place as mistress of the Bounderby house and estate.

Louisa by now is nearly dead inside emotionally, having had all and any finer feelings- or even attempts at same- hammered out of her, first by her father and then by her dreadful posturing husband, with his endless fake humility and making out loudly and brashly that he’s a self-made man who dragged himself up out of the gutters by the thumbnails.

Bored out of his selfish, foppish skull, James Harthouse decides that the thing he wants most in the world is to see Louisa smile at him the way she does at her brother Tom, whom she adores and who also works for Mr. Bounderby. Not in the same capacity as the Coketown ‘Hands,’ of course, who toil in the mills every day like the workers from Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS, but in a more official, gentlemanly capacity.

Harthouse can’t stand Tom, incidentally. He calls him ‘the whelp’ and does nothing to dissuade him from descending ever further into a terrible maelstrom of gambling debts that will ultimately be the ruination of him. Harthouse is a pretty much disreputable character.

If he persists in his affair with Louisa Bounderby, a married woman, however unhappily, she’ll be ruined in the eyes of society forever. (You might think that that’s not a big deal nowadays but it was back then, especially for women.) And for what? Because this little jackanapes James Harthouse was bored and wanted a challenge? The bastard…!

Sissy Jupe, the young orphaned girl taken in by Mr. Gradgrind and initially raised according to that gentleman’s beloved ‘system,’ is the one ray of light in the grey and gloomy House Of Gradgrind.

Born and bred in a travelling horse-riding circus, Sissy is a girl of many unusual qualities. She even manages to bring out the one solitary teensy-weensy shred of conscience in James Harthouse, if you can believe that, and is of immeasurable help to Mr. and Mrs. Gradgrind and the poor lost Louisa.

You see, Thomas Gradgrind’s ‘system’ doesn’t have any more effect on Sissy than water off a duck’s back, luckily for the Gradgrinds. It doesn’t ‘take’ with her, you see, and because of that she’s able to lead at least three Gradgrinds, gently and delicately and so as not to seem like she’s leading them at all, out of the murky darkness of the ‘system’ and into the light.

Mithter Thleary With A Pronounced Lithp, if you please, is the owner and ringmaster of Thleary’s Travelling Thircus, and a great friend to Sissy and the Gradgrinds too, in the end. If this book had been filmed in the 1940s or the 1950s, the lovely cuddly character actor Miles Malleson would have been the perfect choice to play him.

Mr. Sleary puts one of Dickens’s main messages in a pretty neat nutshell. People need fun, and laughs and entertainment. They can’t be ‘allus a-working.’ And people are neither facts nor statistics, either, they’re people. 

How right he is. A happy, rested employee is a good employee. Mr. Sleary, for all his lack of any formal education, is streets ahead of the socially ‘superior’ Mr. Gradgrind in this particular matter.

Mr. Gradgrind isn’t a bad man at all, mind you, just severely misguided. When his beloved ‘system’ of facts and statistics collapses and he sees the results of it in his criminal son Tom and his broken daughter Louisa, he himself becomes a broken man.

I do love, however, when Tom, lately turned bank-robber and fugitive from the law, throws his father’s words back at him at the end. In a given period, x number of employees will steal from their employers. This being the case, when Tom himself turns round and steals from his employer, namely Mr. Bounderby, how can it be Tom’s fault?

The statistics speak the truth, don’t they? How can Tom help it if he’s just another statistic? This is one of the statistics once so beloved of Mr. Gradgrind, Superintendent of the School Board and responsible for filling so many little minds with the facts he craves. One gets the feeling that this grievously wounded gentleman won’t be relying on facts and statistics for solace and comfort in the future again.

It’s also hard on Mr, Gradgrind when he is confronted, in the form of Bitzer, ‘the light porter,’ with the very evidence of his ‘system-in-action.’ Have you no heart, he appeals to Bitzer, who is only too glad to rattle off the biological facts that go to prove that, undeniably present in his chest cavern, there beats the physical organ known as ‘the heart’ without which he wouldn’t be breathing and walking and talking and a-taking of ‘Young Tom’ here into custody, and surely Mr. Gradgrind, that well-known lover of facts, is aware of such a fact-based thing…?

Dickens brings in the Unions a lot as well and the poor wages and poor housing conditions of the Coketown ‘Hands,’ and indeed, their conditions are terrible. Unfortunately, however, I failed to like his main working-class hero, Stephen Blackpool, whose accent was drawn as being so thick that I could barely decipher it at times.

Plus he was a miserable git as well. So his wife’s an alcoholic miscreant who won’t give him the divorce he needs to marry Rachael, the real love of his life. Big whoop! We all have our troubles, our crosses to bear. Go out, have a few pints with friends and loosen up a bit. It’s not the end of the world.

I also disliked his mopey martyr of a girlfriend Rachael. Although I felt thorry- oops, I mean sorry!- for them both (ith thurprithingly hard to thop lithping once you thart!), I was much more interested in the actions and activities of the swells. The toffs. The big nobs. The gentry. The, as the Artful Dodger would surely put it, ‘Quali’y.’

Mr. Bounderby and Mrs. Sparsit are my favourite characters, and both long overdue for a come-uppance. How hard are the mighty fallen and all that. Dickens handles these come-uppances beautifully. Good on ya, Charlie. You da bomb.

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: OUIJA-BOARD. (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong younger

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: OUIJA-BOARD. (1989) 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

I absolutely loved this latest book of Michael Armstrong’s, OUIJA-BOARD. Michael, as the piece above taken from his website informs us, is actually making history by being the first scriptwriter to publish almost everything he’s ever written in book form. So the history he’s making is both cinematic and literary, and I’m thrilled to bits to be a part of it.

I usually begin these reviews with a brief recap of the books of Michael’s that I’ve read so far, all of which are available to buy direct from Michael’s own website and also from Michael’s publishers, the lovely people at Paper Dragon Productions.

The books all have gorgeous glossy covers and they’re greatly improving the look of my personal library, I must say. Thus far I’ve read, or should I say devoured in one sitting, the following works:

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1982), filmed in 1983, is my favourite of all of Michael’s marvellous scripts, and there’s a lot to choose from. It’s a wonderful ‘haunted house’ story, which I would have adored anyway on its own merits.

The fact, however, that it features horror icons Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine in the first and only film to ever star all four of them together, is the icing on an already terrific cake.

THE BLACK PANTHER (1976) was the name given to Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer whose abduction of wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975 was the subject of Michael’s controversial 1976 screenplay. The 1977 film was even banned for a bit but a change of heart by the British Film Institute saw it taking its rightful place amongst other important British films of the period.

Michael’s first movie was a short film called ‘THE IMAGE.’ (1964) It marked the first screen appearance of a certain David Bowie, who later went on to make flicks like THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, LABYRINTH and THE HUNGER.

Michael Armstrong had the pleasure, and it must have been a huge one, of directing Mr. Bowie first, though, and now the book of that script is also available to buy as part of Michael’s gorgeous collection.

GHOST TOWN (1969) is a terrific tongue-in-cheek Western comedy while A STAR IS DEAD (1977), another riotously irreverent comedy, was actually commissioned by Malcolm McLaren and intended to star The Sex Pistols in their screen acting debut. What a film that would have made!

BEELZEBUB (1984) is the story of a haunted computer that also would have made a great film and DEATH MASQUE (1988) is simultaneously an intellectual mystery thriller, a comedy and a social allegory, if you please. It contains the immortal words of operatic legend Anna Morenzi:

‘Always give the audience what it wants. Lots of T. & A. Never fails, dear: ‘Tits & Art.’ If they don’t like the show, at least give ’em something to drool over. Helps keep the snoring down.’

ESKIMO NELL (1975), starring Roy Kinnear and a ridiculously young and handsome Michael Armstrong in the flesh, is one of Britain’s most famous sex comedies. The dialogue is just so funny. Here are a few choice snippets:

‘I can’t do it, Benny, I just can’t do it! I’m just not capable of writing the first all-British pornographic Kung Fu musical western: least of all when three different girls and a drag queen all think they’re going to be playing the same part!’

‘Right then, the opening shot of the film is a big close-up of this bleedin’ great pair of tits…

but do it with integrity…’

‘Acting? Acting? You didn’t tell me I had to act! Listen, I don’t mind getting screwed but I’m not doing any of that acting stuff! What sort of a girl do you take me for?’

‘It’s all terribly wholesome family entertainment, like Hamlet… but nicer.’

‘Yes, but what’s my motivation for having an erection…?’

‘Oooooh, what lovely buns…!’

OUIJA-BOARD (1989) is a horror film-script that sadly never got made into a film, for reasons which Michael goes into, frankly and honestly, in the chapter entitled ‘THE HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY.’

It should serve as a cautionary tale to any budding young scriptwriters out there who still wear their rose-tinted glasses and think that everyone in the movie industry is as scrupulous as themselves…!

Michael admits himself that he wrote this script to a formula, the one that works so well for the horror movies we know and love and have been watching for years. It’s a deceptively simple formula that can be staggeringly effective.

You put a group of attractive young people in their twenties into a situation from which they absolutely can’t extricate themselves for a bit. In a ‘Cabin In The Woods,’ for example, on a weekend break from the city, and maybe their car’s broken down so they can’t go anywhere for the moment, or at least until the Park Ranger drives by on Monday morning to check on ’em. But by Monday morning, every last one of them could be stone-dead…

Throw in some booze and drugs, of course, to loosen everyone up a bit and lower their inhibitions, and make sure that several characters are wildly attracted to each other so that the chances of them having sex together are greatly improved. This beefs up the action no end, as any director worth his salt will tell you.

While all their guards and defences are down, a crazed serial killer will have no problem at all picking the horny young ‘uns off one by one, until no-one remains but the least slutty of the girls and maybe one guy, the guy she likes but thought was into the skank with the fake tits. And you can be sure that he was into her, at least at first. Until he found out that the skank with the fake tits is always the first to die…

In OUIJA-BOARD, we have a pair of young heart-throb teenage boy musicians, Brad Jackson and Li Lin, in a beach location filming a pop music video together. Also present are their three attractive backing singers, Sophie, Luanne and Marie. 

Then there’s Hugh, who’s directing the video, even though he’d rather be off directing an art-house movie somewhere and is only making this crappy video to pay the bills. I’m sure we can all relate. There’s also Larry, Brad’s manager, and Paul and Joe, two young cameramen. Debbie is Brad’s sort-of girlfriend.

Early on in the script, the young people- except for Debbie, who’s rightly nervous- all mess around with a ouija-board. Even though Sophie is initially the one who’s all for it, she gets scared quickly when the board makes it clear that it really, really wants to play games with the young folks. It also loves the words blood, death and danger. A good sign? You tell me…!

Sophie: ‘You see? It’s warning us. You start asking it things like that, you might attract the wrong kind of spirit.’

And:

Sophie: ‘I think we’re in touch with something real bad. I think we should stop.’

And:

Sophie: ‘They’re always looking for ways in, you know? To our world. That’s how people become possessed.’

And:

Sophie: ‘It’s all down to the vibrations our emotions give off. They all have different wavelengths and some of them can lay us open to- well, it’s like the radio- tuning into the wrong station.’

She’s bang on the money there. But remind us again, Sophie, why you wanted to fool around with the ouija-board in the first place? We all know the deal with ouija-boards by now. You might think you’re only trying to get in touch with your dear deceased old granny or Tweety the canary, who sadly departed this life when he mistook a pane of glass for the open air, but when you open that door to the Afterlife there’s no telling what kind of horrors you’re allowing in to your world.

A ghost is one thing, the ghost of someone who once lived, but if you attract the attention of a demon, something that’s never walked the Earth in human form, you are basically fucked. I learned this from demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren in James Wan’s THE CONJURING movies, lol. Who says you can’t learn anything from watching movies…?

Anyway, when something gory happens to Luanne as a direct result of the ouija-board session, Hugh and Larry decide that everyone on the team must move up to their mountain location and hang loose there while they, Hugh and Larry, take Luanne to the hospital. Larry comes out with what I can only refer to as Famous Last Words:

Larry: ‘There’s not much that can happen to them stuck on top of a mountain miles from nowhere.’

The demon unleashed by the young peoples’ unwise dabblings with the ouija-board of course follows Brad, Li Lin, Sophie, Marie, Debbie, Paul and Joe up the mountain, to the lodge where they’re supposed to be filming the mountainy parts of their pop video.

Oh Larry, you poor sweet fool! ‘There’s not much that can happen to them stuck on top of a mountain miles from nowhere.’ Are you FKM…? Killing this group of unsupervised high ‘n’ horny young ‘uns is going to be a piece of cake for the demon. The words shooting, fish and barrel come immediately to mind.

Brad, a cocaine addict, intends to spend this enforced sabbatical getting high and partying. Fair enough. With a blonde-haired-captain-of-the-football-team name like Brad, I guess he’s kind of morally obliged to.

Debbie wants to talk to Brad about Their Failing Relationship, but Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That. Marie wants to have sex with Li Lin, but there’s something pretty important she needs to learn about him first.

The sneaky Demon, meanwhile, has decided to confuse the issue by possessing first one and then another of the horny young ‘uns in turn, rather in the style of John Carpenter’s THE THING.

The killing scenes are gloriously gory (Now (s)he is cleansed from the squalor of the kill) as things go from seriously bad to much, much worse for the group of pop teens and their entourage abandoned, for the moment, to their own devices on the mountain-side.

When shit really starts going down, Paul the camera-man has kind of a Famous Last Words moment himself when he says:

‘Look… We’ll be okay. Nothing’s gonna happen to us just as long as we all stick together and don’t go wandering off on our own.’

Well, if everyone in horror movies paid attention to this little maxim, we’d have nothing good to watch. Thankfully, the dopes never do. Sophie, at whose door can be laid the blame for everything that’s gone wrong as the whole ouija-board thing was her idea, hits the nail on the head when she says:

‘It’s like it’s playing this horrible game with us. We’re its entertainment.’

Why don’t we ask the Demon itself what it wants…?

The Demon: ‘I want to play! Blood! Killing! I want to play!’

Can somebody please break out the travel Scrabble…?

OUIJA-BOARD and Michael’s other new book, THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER, are hot off the presses right now, direct from Michael’s own website and that of his publisher’s:

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

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. (1966) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Eli Wallach in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. (1966) DIRECTED BY SERGIO LEONE. MUSIC BY ENNIO MORRICONE. STARRING CLINT EASTWOOD, LEE VAN CLEEF, ELI WALLACH, ALDO GIUFFRÈ AND MARIO BREGA.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I’ve never seen so many men wasted so badly.’

This is the third film in Sergio Leone’s renowned triumvirate of spaghetti Westerns, the ‘DOLLARS’ trilogy. Preceded by A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965), it’s also the longest and most ambitious of the films and the only one to feature the American Civil War.

Clint Eastwood, who stars in all three films, made his name internationally in the ‘DOLLARS’ trilogy and introduces in them his famous character of ‘The Man With No Name.’ This is the laconic Man-Of-Few-Words who has such superlative skills as a gunfighter that he frequently can shoot at things behind him or to the side of him and get ’em bang-on. Even just by using his peripheral vision he’s a crack shot.

In THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, Clint teams up with Lee Van Cleef (Colonel Douglas Mortimer in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) as the ruthless Angel Eyes and Eli Wallach in his first and only ‘DOLLARS’ outing as Tuco. Clint is here known as ‘Blondie’ because of the sun-lightened highlights in his lovely thick head of brown hair.

Blondie and Tuco have an hilarious but rather unreliable scam going together at the start of the film. Tuco is the comic relief throughout the movie, but that doesn’t alter the fact that he’s also a desperate desperado of a villain and a thief and he’s ‘WANTED’ in several towns for his various outlawed shenanigans. And I do mean ‘WANTED,’ not just plain wanted, lol.

Here’s what they do, see? Blondie pretends to run Tuco into the Sheriff of the different towns where there’s a price on the foul-mouthed Tuco’s charming lickle head. Blondie collects a nice fat reward, often thousands of dollars.

Tuco is duly sentenced to hang by the denizens of the town. At the point of hanging, a strategically-placed Blondie shoots at the rope around Tuco’s neck and Tuco, already comfortably seated on a horse, lights on outta there a free man, later to share the spoils with Blondie. Then it’s onto the next town to commit the same delightfully ingenious fraud again.

There’s a lot that can go wrong with this scam, or possibly scam-ola. (THE SIMPSONS!) All it takes is for Blondie to get the sudden urge to scratch his ass or swat away a fly that lands on his face or for the sun to blind him at the wrong time, and Tuco is toast.

Not to mention the fact that the various towns in the Wild West were already able to communicate with each other via telegraph, mail coach, horse messenger and plain good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Word would surely have gotten around sooner or later that Blondie and Tuco were engaged in a scam of the scammiest order. But whatever, it’s a film…!

Anyway, Blondie and Tuco don’t trust each other as far as they could throw each other, despite the fact that they’re compelled to work together if they want to make a quick easy buck without resorting to honest, back-breaking labour. Which naturally they do. Honest, back-breaking labour both sucks and blows.

They’re frequently on the outs with each other or trying to kill each other, or threatening to, at any rate. It’s my honest belief that, when it comes to the crunch, they wouldn’t do it. There’s a grudging mutual liking there, despite themselves.

It’s during one of these ‘outs,’ however, that the two bandits learn from a dying man calling himself Bill Carson of the existence of two hundred thousand dollars worth of Confederate gold in a grave in a cemetery somewhere.

Ironically, Tuco only learns the name of the cemetery and Blondie only manages to find out the name on the gravestone. The pair are forced to work together, therefore, in order to pull off the biggest coup of their bandity lives.

Unbeknownst to the pair of them, though, Lee Van Cleef’s unscrupulous mercenary Angel Eyes character is also after this money. In order to find out its whereabouts, he’s already murdered a small family of peasants without any qualms and beaten a young prostitute half to death. Shame on you, Angel Eyes, you family-killer and prostitute-beater, you! As if their lives weren’t tough enough already.

The American Civil War is going on while all this is happening. Do Blondie’s comments about the terrible, pointless waste of life mirror the director’s own opinions? It’s certainly hard not to agree with Blondie when you see the carnage and the utter chaos that characterises this awful conflict.

Blondie and Tuco are trotting along happily on the way to the cemetery anyway, wearing some stolen grey uniforms of the South, when they see a regiment of grey-clad soldiers coming towards them.

Oh great, it’s the South, they think, relieved, until the dust of the desert road brushes off the soldiers’ coats to reveal them as the navy-blue-clad soldiers of the North. It’s a very funny scene, though, where Tuco is yelling yay, hurray for General Lee, etc., and then the soldiers turn out to be the enemy. Poor stupid Tuco…!

Angel Eyes is surprisingly a Union Sergeant in the regiment that captures Tuco and Blondie. His huge henchman Wallace (the magnificent Mario Brega in his third ‘DOLLARS’ outing) gives Tuco the most horrific-looking beating to get him to tell Angel Eyes where the loot is, quite literally, buried. Tuco gets his threatened revenge on Wallace later. ‘An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtì an leithreas, máis e do thoil e…?’

Blondie, Tuco and Angel Eyes have their inevitable three-way showdown in a wide-open space of suitably amphitheatrical proportions, to the accompaniment of Ennio Morricone’s marvellous music.

But not before Blondie and Tuco have done a big and much-appreciated favour for an exhausted and dispirited navy-blue-coated Captain (Clinton) of a regiment fighting the dreadful Civil War…

There’s a very touching scene where Blondie gives a dying young soldier a puff of his ever-present cigarette and wraps him in his good warm coat, taking only a poncho in return. Which suits both him and us perfectly, as we’re more used to seeing him so garbed.

So, who gets the precious moolah in the end? Blondie, Tuco or Angel Eyes? None of them? Or do they agree to a highly unlikely three-way split? Like I said, it’s highly unlikely. Lee Van Cleef is properly mean in this one too, unlike when he was Colonel Douglas Mortimer in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE.

Then, he was reduced to working as a bounty hunter by straitened circumstances and, of course, he had his own deeply personal reasons for wanting to kill the bandit El Indio, but here he’s motivated purely by greed. His moustache is slightly longer and darker too here, a sure sign of proper villainy, lol. Never trust a man whose moustache curls up slightly at the ends. You could live to regret it.

By the way, when I saw Ennio Morricone perform his greatest hits in Dublin’s 3Arena back in early 2015, I only went because I was absolutely convinced that it’d be his last hurrah. I’ll never get another chance to see such a living legend in person, I told myself.

He’s been back three or four times since then, lol, and he’s probably booked in for next year as well, making a total mockery out of my assumption that he was nearly ready to hang up his baton. I bet he’s doing it just to spite me…!

Anyway, when during this concert the orchestra struck up the opening bars to ‘THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY,’ a definite frisson of excitement rippled through the audience.

A thrilled culchie (a country person Up In Dublin For The Day, usually for some kind of All-Ireland sporting event) behind me was heard to remark to his companion: ‘Tish The Big One.’ You’re not wrong there, my country friend. You’re not wrong there.

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

THE STRANGER BESIDE ME. (2003) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

stranger beside me ted

THE STRANGER BESIDE ME. (2003) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY ANN RULE. DIRECTED BY PAUL SHAPIRO.

STARRING BARBARA HERSHEY, BILLY CAMPBELL AND MEGHAN BLACK.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

The book on which this made-for-TV film is based is far superior to the film, sadly, but then it would have been hard for any film to fully capture the sheer brilliance of Ann Rule’s true crime masterpiece. It’s no slur either on the sweet-faced Barbara THE ENTITY Hershey’s acting.

She makes a very nice Ann Rule and neatly captures the fact that Ann Rule was a lovely decent person who was put in a very awkward situation by her friend and co-worker, a certain serial killer by the name of Ted Bundy. What am I saying, awkward situation? It was a situation probably unprecedented in the history of true crime writing.

Ted had committed several murders in Seattle, Utah, Washington, Idaho and Colorado in ‘Seventies America, and former policewoman Ann, who wrote true-life crime stories for magazines for a living, was commissioned to write a book about the murders that would be finished only when the murderer was caught and convicted. If that ever happened, that is.

In her fabulous book THE STRANGER BESIDE ME, first published in 1980 and then updated in 1986 and 1989 (Ted was finally executed in 1989), Ann describes working nights as what we here in Ireland would call a ‘Samaritan’ but what the Americans referred to as working as a telephone crisis counsellor in a Crisis Centre.

Ted, a handsome young Republican law student who once worked on Governor Evans’s election campaign in Washington, worked right alongside Ann as a telephone counsellor. Students and other young people would phone in with their problems, just as people would phone the Samaritans over here if they were feeling suicidal, depressed or even just a little low.

Ann does a very good job in her book of describing the good feeling she and Ted would get when someone who was intent on committing suicide while on the phone to them was saved by her and Ted’s intervention. In the film you see them working as a team to save a life, so it must be said that Ted actually once used to save lives, rather than just snuffing them out forever.

Ted befriended hard-working single parent Ann and was fascinated by her work as a true-crime writer. He even asked to borrow copies of the detective magazines that carried her stories.

Ted would almost certainly have enjoyed reading about women who were beaten, raped, tied up and murdered, and if there were pictures too, well…! So much the better. He was in his element. This was exactly his area of interest. He lived for brutally hurting women.

Of course, Ann at the time didn’t have a clue that Ted was the mysterious faceless phantom who was spiriting pretty young college co-eds away from their lives and families forever. When she saw that the photofit pictures of the serial killer, who strangely enough was actually calling himself ‘Ted’ to his victims and potential victims, resembled her own friend Ted from the Crisis Centre, she told her friends on the police force.

She had always remained good friends with her buddies on the force and their tip-offs and inside information on criminal cases made good stories for Ann, who helped them out also whenever she was able to do so. It was a good strong symbiotic relationship that helped both sides.

Ann was unaware at the time that Ted’s then girlfriend, a young woman called Elizabeth Kloepfer whose whereabouts today are a total mystery, as far as I know, had had her own suspicions about her boyfriend’s frequent absences and was also trying to alert the police. Ted Bundy was about to become the Number One Suspect in a major murder case.

Ted was caught initially by a traffic cop, I believe, who was puzzled as to why an upstanding citizen with nothing to hide would be carrying around a rape kit and burglary tools in the boot of his car. In the film, Ann meets with Ted while he’s still free but under police surveillance, and he tries to persuade her that the charges against him are bullshit.

Ann has her suspicions, though, and she’s especially worried about the murders because her own daughter Leslie- with whom I’m friends on Facebook, thanks to the magic of the Internet!- was a teenager at the time and liked to go around doing as she pleased, as most teenagers like to do. There’s a bit in the film where Ted tells Ann categorically that Leslie will not, repeat not, be harmed by the murderer. Only a man who was the murderer himself could make a promise like that.

The film doesn’t have the same ambience of dark, lurking menace that Ann’s marvellous book contains. I was scared for weeks after reading Ann’s account of the terrible murders in the Chi Omega sorority house in Tallahassee, Florida.

Ted, who’d escaped from prison for the second time and was still on the run, gained access to the sorority house through a door with a faulty lock. He then bludgeoned two sleeping students to death and inflicted grievous bodily harm on two others. Unbelievable though it sounds, all the attacks were carried out and achieved within a matter of twenty minutes or less. No-one heard anything, and only one person saw anything.

Ann wrote the account so well that I felt like I was crouching there in the darkened stairwell myself, watching Ted run down the stairs and out the front door carrying the oaken club he’d used to bludgeon the sleeping girls. He was actually seen by one of the girls leaving the house.

The film doesn’t even come close to capturing the horror of that dreadful night. After Ted exited the Chi Omega sorority house, he attacked another woman in a nearby ground floor apartment. Posing as a fellow called Chris Hagen, he only had a few more weeks of freedom left before he was re-captured and incarcerated for good. For the good of the community at large, you might rightly add.

There was something about a cat too in Ann’s book (I’m a bit hazy on the details here), a cat who’d apparently sensed the terrible evil in the Chi Omega house on the day of the murders and done a legger for several weeks until he felt it was okay to return. And the bit about the girl who was in the bathroom that very night and had no idea that it was Ted’s footsteps she heard outside the closed bathroom door…! It gave me chills for days.

In the film, Ted apparently goes to his execution in the electric chair without having his head or legs shaved or his rectum packed with cotton wool as would have actually happened, but I suppose these are mere details.

I’m more disappointed with the total lack of atmosphere in the film, the total absence of any real horror in its depictions of Ted’s heinous crimes. Their Ted is kinda wrong too, his face is too long.

It’s still a good watch though, THE STRANGER BESIDE ME, although I stand by what I said. The book is better. The New York Times described it as follows: ‘As dramatic and chilling as a bedroom window shattering at midnight.’ They’re not wrong. Rest in peace, dear Ann. I wish I’d known you. You sound like one heck of a great lady.

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

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