SEE NO EVIL: THE MOORS MURDERS. (2006) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

myra maureen

SEE NO EVIL: THE MOORS MURDERS. (2006) BASED ON TRUE EVENTS.

DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER MENAUL. WRITTEN BY NEIL MCKAY.

STARRING SEAN HARRIS, MAXINE PEAKE, JOANNE FROGGATT, MATTHEW MCNULTY, GEORGE COSTIGAN , SUSAN TWIST AND JOHN HENSHAW.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Does a dog have a soul…?’

This one originally aired on ITV over the course of two nights in 2006, and I’d say there was hardly a family in the whole of England and Ireland that wasn’t glued to it. I was watching it myself and I thought it was phenomenally well done, despite the horrific subject matter. Having re-visited it recently as a two-hour-and-seventeen-minute film, the impact was no less powerful.

It’s the story of the infamous Moors Murders as seen through the eyes of Myra Hindley’s younger sister Maureen, whom Myra called Mo or Moby and genuinely seemed to love, if such a cold-hearted woman could be deemed capable of love.

It’s 1963 and the death of her baby Angela Dawn with David Smith, her young husband, sees a distraught Maureen turning to her older sister Myra for comfort. A side-effect of Myra and Maureen’s spending more time together is that David Smith and Ian Brady are thrown together a lot too.

At first, David isn’t terribly keen on Ian, an egotistical show-off proud of his high intellect and the fact that he’s well-read. Ian loves an audience. He spouts a lot of nonsense about philosophy, relativism (whatever that is) and existentialism that goes right over Dave’s head at first. As it did mine, I must say.

Gradually Ian, with his narrow, pinched-looking nose and cruelly thin lips, gets inside Dave’s head. He gives Dave books to read by the Marquis de Sade, books that Ian has studied carefully himself along with books on Nazi ideology and Nazi atrocities.

Dave finds himself reading about the rape and physical abuse and torture of young women, but his wife Maureen tells him that she can’t understand how either he, Dave, or Ian for that matter, can get their kicks out of reading about men beating and/or raping women. We don’t know what Dave makes of all this but it’s pretty obvious how Ian feels on the subject.

Ian and David plan a bank robbery together, unknown to Maureen but not to Myra, who will drive their getaway car. (Ian doesn’t drive, you see.) They take guns out onto the nearby Saddleworth Moor for shooting practice.

The four young people, Ian, Myra, Maureen and Dave, spend a lot of time out on the beautiful wild Moors because it’s Ian’s and Myra’s favourite place. Maureen is heard to remark that she doesn’t know what they see in the cold, windy expanse of grass and muck.

I can certainly see the attraction of moors, they’re wild and windy and gloriously sort of primeval as in Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but these moors in particular are hiding Ian and Myra’s grim secrets.

During a drunken conversation between Ian and David, Ian reveals that he has killed people in the past and, what’s more, that David has unwittingly stood on their graves out on the Moors. Dave doesn’t know what to believe at first. Then he decides that it’s all just big talk on Ian’s part as usual. He’s a boaster and a show-off, after all.

Dave changes his mind when Ian entices a young man called Edward Evans back to his and Myra’s council house which they share with Myra’s old grandmother. In front of Dave’s eyes, Ian murders Edward Evans with an axe. Afterwards, he coldly orders Myra and Dave to clean up the blood.

Dave, feeling like he’s in a nightmare, does what Ian orders him to do before stumbling home in the early hours of the morning, sick and frightened, to a sleeping Maureen.

In the morning, the terrified pair go to the police, which was a pretty brave thing to do on their part. Maureen was reluctantly ‘shopping’ her beloved sister, and Dave was risking the wrath of a man he was obviously very afraid of, that is, Ian. Their action was the catalyst that broke the horrible state of affairs that became known as the ‘Moors Murders’ case wide open…

Maureen and Dave can’t believe it when Ian and Myra are arrested for the murders of missing local young people Lesley Ann Downey, John Kilbride and now Edward Evans, whose body was recovered by the police in Ian and Myra’s council house the day after his brutal murder.

The bodies of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride were discovered buried out on Saddleworth Moors. George Costigan (Bob in RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO) is brilliant here as DCI Joe Mounsey, the careworn detective who never gave up hope of finding little John Kilbride and who, in fact, was the one to first uncover the little boy’s lonely resting place.

Ian and Myra were each sentenced to life in prison for these three murders. It wasn’t until much later that they confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and little Keith Bennett.

The latter had broken his glasses the day before he was murdered and so he went to his death not being able to see properly, a fact which haunted his poor mother and which makes his fate all the more devastatingly poignant.

The evil couple, who nicknamed each other Neddie and Hessie (Neddie after a character in THE GOON SHOW and Hessie after British pianist Myra Hess) were reviled for all time after the details of their heinous actions became known to the public.

The tape made by the couple of Lesley Ann Downey begging and pleading for her life and the pornographic photos they took of her did nothing to endear them to the courts. Their addiction to documenting their gruesome activities was at least part of their undoing.

It was even Ian and Myra’s habit to get all incriminating materials out of the house before they committed another murder, so if the police came round they’d find nothing out of the ordinary. The level of premeditation here is quite extraordinary.

They packed everything up into two suitcases which they placed in the left-luggage section of Manchester Central Railway Station. When the police found a couple of these ‘treasure-troves’ after Ian and Myra were arrrested, let’s just say that they now had a lot more evidence to go on…

Maureen and Dave, with another baby on the way, attempted to rebuild their own lives but the public wouldn’t let them forget who they were and the couple had a long way to go to find peace, if they ever did. They were hugely affected by the fallout from the Moors Murders.

Maureen did in 1980 of a brain haemorrhage, twenty-two years before her born-again Catholic sister Myra passed away in custody, the short peroxide blonde hairstyle, no longer her trademark, replaced by her own longish, natural brown hair.

Ian Brady lingered on till 2017, somewhat bearing out the old Irish saying that ‘you can’t kill a bad thing.’ The absolute secrecy surrounding his cremation and the scattering of his ashes in the sea will tell you just how reviled a person he remained even until after his death.

Maxine Peake does an excellent job here of portraying Myra, one of the most hated women in Britain ever. Not only does she look like her but she plays her as she apparently really was, surly, secretive, unco-operative and stand-offish.

The real Myra didn’t do herself any favours with her unhelpful, abrasive attitude towards the police, and certainly there was at least one set of parents of the Moors Murders victims who died without knowing where their child- Keith Bennett, the smiley-faced boy who broke his glasses- was buried. To this day I believe his remains are still somewhere out on the Moor.

This drama serial handles the explosive material with sensitivity and compassion. The film-makers are careful not to distress the parents and families of the victims any more than they already have been. Some of the relatives helped Neil McKay, the writer, with his research. It’s a grim subject, maybe one of the grimmest, but it needed to finally be told.

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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SERGIO LEONE’S ‘ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST.’ (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

west jill face

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. (1968) DIRECTED BY SERGIO LEONE.

STORY BY DARIO ARGENTO, BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI AND SERGIO LEONE. STARRING CLAUDIA CARDINALE, HENRY FONDA, JASON ROBARDS, CHARLES BRONSON AND GABRIELE FORZETTI.

MUSIC BY ENNIO MORRICONE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘He not only plays. He can shoot too.’

‘Gonna be a beautiful town, Sweetwater.’

‘People like that have something inside. Something to do with death.’

‘Nothing matters now. Not the land, not the money, not the woman.’

‘How can you trust a man who wears both a belt and suspenders? Guy doesn’t even trust his own pants.’

‘He’s whittling on a piece of wood. I gotta feeling when he stops whittling, something’s gonna happen.’

Christ Almighty, I love cowboys. Hot sweaty cowboys in films like this one really do it for me. With their week’s growth of beard, tousled hair, cigarette-smoke-narrowed eyes and big fat holsters, they push all my buttons big-time.

I would not say no to being dragged by the hair into the nearest stable by a seasoned cowboy and shown the stuff that a real man is made of. Of course, they have a name for that type of thing nowadays (I believe it’s called being dragged by the hair into the nearest stable by a seasoned cowboy and shown the stuff that a real man is made of) but, oh wow, how glorious the Wild West must have been in some ways. You saw what you wanted and you just took it.

A woman, a homestead, a decent piece of horseflesh or a plate of beans. It was all the one to those dusty drifters, half-crazed with lust after many lonely nights on the trail of the lonesome pine, beating their meat in solitude to the music of the crickets.

Can this be the most magnificent Western, spaghetti or otherwise, ever made? God, yes. Set in the dying days of the old Wild West as we know it, it’s an epic battle between, not good and evil exactly but, shall we say, more a battle between bad-with-more-than-a-hint-of-good-thrown-in and evil, if you get me. Although of course everything seemed so black or white in the old days with not much in-between. No room for half-measures.

Claudia Cardinale, an absolute bombshell of a woman cast in the mould of Sophia Loren, Raquel Welch and Brigitte Bardot, plays Jill, a young woman who travels alone to the railroad town of Flagstone. Jill has hope in her heart. Jill is going to be looked after by a man from now on. No more nasty fending for herself in the cold cruel world. Nice work if you can get it, huh?

She’s expecting to be met off the train by Brett McBain, an older man with property whom she’s married the month before. After a lifetime of whoring in New Orleans, Jill is finally ready to settle down and embrace respectability.

But the entire McBain family, the father and his three children Maureen, Patrick and Timmy have been brutally slaughtered by the hired killer known locally as Frank. Frank works for crippled railroad mogul Mr. Morton.

Mr. Morton wants Brett McBain’s land, which is rich in water, a valuable commodity in such a dry, dusty desert town, but not only that. The railroad is expanding at a rate of knots and the McBain land is the ideal situation for a new station.

Mr. Morton wants Frank to scare the McBains’ away, but Frank is something of a hothead. No half-measures with Frank, see? A few well-placed gunshots and Jill’s lovely dream of married bliss goes up in smoke. Aw well, maybe respectability ain’t all it’s cracked up to be anyway, lol. Maybe Jill’s better off without it.

Henry Fonda is superb as the baddie Frank. Dressed in black, chewing tobacco constantly- a disgusting habit!- and always looking to increase his own cut of every pie, he’s probably the most evil character Mister Goody Two-Shoes Nice Guy Henry Fonda (TWELVE ANGRY MEN, THE WRONG MAN) has ever played.

Frank’s cold, calculating and cruel. He talks about killing Jill, the rightful heir now to the entire McBain fortune and therefore an obstacle to Mr. Morton’s acquisition of the precious land, even while he’s making love to her in a scene that always makes me hold my breath.

Such is his personal magnetism that Jill doesn’t even care about what he’s threatening her with. All the women love a bad boy, and hired gun Frank is as bad as they come.

Jill’s so weak at the knees she can’t even stand up straight and take umbrage when he says, while expertly caressing her naked body: ‘You like to feel a man’s hands all over you. Even if they’re the hands of the man who killed your husband.’ Swoon, Jill, swoon, what else is there to do?

Jason Robards plays Cheyenne, a local bandit whom Frank attempts to frame for the wholesale slaughter of the McBain family. Cheyenne fancies Jill too and she likes him but I think that this is more of a friendship thing in that he never tries to force himself on her. When he barges in on her at the McBain homestead, however, she naturally assumes that that’s just what he’ll do. Check out what she says to him:

‘You can throw me across the table and amuse yourself with me, and you can even bring in your men. No woman ever died from that.’ (I don’t think that’s strictly true, is it?) ‘And afterwards all it’ll take is a jug of boiling water and I’ll be exactly the same as I was before. Just with another filthy memory.’ Feisty little thing, ain’t she?

I love it when Cheyenne tells Jill as he’s leaving her kitchen, having partaken of her hot, strong coffee: ‘You know, Jill, you remind me of my mother. She was the biggest whore in Alameda and the finest woman who ever lived. Whoever my father was, for an hour or for a month, he must have been a happy man.’

In his own way there, he considers that he’s paying her a compliment. However, the #me too and #time’s up people would have a fit at some of Cheyenne’s later words to the buxom Jill. Referring to the railway workers and station builders working away right outside her door:

‘You don’t know how good it makes a man feel to see a woman like you. Just to look at her. And if one of them should pat your behind, just make believe it’s nothing. They earned it…!’ You know what, for once, I ain’t sayin’ nuthin’…

I’ve left Charles Bronson till last because he’s the coolest character in the film by miles. He plays a Mysterious Stranger who comes into town on the train with a view to finding Frank and wreaking revenge on him for unknown crimes Frank has committed in the past.

The Man says very little, but what he says counts. ‘Inside the coats were three men. Inside the men were three bullets.’ He’s the f**king coolest cowboy to ever wear shoe leather and have a leathery complexion to match. (Although in that red undershirt, I thought he bore an uncanny resemblance to Ralph Waite who played Pa Walton in THE WALTONS…!)

The Man plays his silver harmonica with an eerie expertise and before long, without his lifting a finger really because that’s how freakin’ cool he is, Jill is head-over-heels in love with him, Cheyenne the bandit is his friend for life and the normally confident Frank is running scared. He doesn’t know who the Mysterious Stranger is but he knows that he’s frightened of him.

The showdown between Frank and The Man is one of the greatest in cinema. They just don’t make ’em like that no more. The first ten minutes of the film too, by the way, is fantastic beyond words.

It’s like a complete short film in itself, the three dirty sweaty cowboys in the long coats known as ‘dusters’ waiting for the train and the one person they’re waiting for is revealed to be suddenly on the other side of the tracks, eerily playing his harmonica…

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is a fabulous film. With a knockout score by Ennio Morricone (I saw him perform live here in Dublin in 2015, by the way!) and the constant close-ups of craggy, unsmiling unshaven faces, it’s something that leaves a powerful impression behind it, unlike some other films which you may well forget the minute they’re over. This is one film you won’t forget in a hurry. This one, you’ll remember. It’s a killer of a film.

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 REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL (2018) and WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH (2017): TWO NAZI HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

Werewolves-of-the-Third-Reich2-1

THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL (2018) AND WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH (2017): A DOUBLE BILL OF TRULY WOEFUL NAZI HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I received both of these films as a birthday present recently and I had great craic watching them, despite the fact that they’re both awful, lol. THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL is apparently the third film in a trilogy, so somewhere out there, knocking around merrily as if they haven’t got a care in the world, are the two other films that spawned this unholy hell-child.

Based on a real doll, a doll that exists in real life and is said to be possessed of supernatural powers, it’s by far the worst film of my two birthday gifts. It’s a film of two halves. The first half actually promises to be good, believe it or not.

An obviously abused wife is fleeing from her sadistic husband in Nazi Germany. She’s bringing with her an old book said to possess the power to grant life to inanimate objects. Hitler has sent some of his most high-ranking Nazis to retrieve the book at all costs.

What does Hitler want it for anyway, the cheeky beggar? If he was hoping to use it to revive his floppy pecker, well, I don’t think the book performs actual freakin’ miracles, lol. From what I’ve read, he wasn’t exactly a sensation in the bedroom. Eva Braun must have died a very frustrated woman. Good job there were so many hot Nazis around…

Anyway, the abused wife, Eva von Hammersmark, is charming and feisty and the film might have been a bit better if it had concentrated more on Eva and her nasty hubby Joseph. However, we lose Eva at the end of the first half of the film when her car is hijacked by another nasty piece of work (she certainly seems to attract that type!) and she and her abductor end up at the isolated farmhouse of a very strange man indeed…

The second half of the film doesn’t seem to have anything at all to do with the first, and it’s virtually incomprehensible to boot. The ancient German toymaker responsible for creating Robert the Doll is aboard a train for some reason, fighting off Nazis with the help of his ventriloquist’s dummy, Robert. I think they’re all fighting for possession of the mystical book but don’t quote me on that. They could be doing anything at all, this bit’s such a mess.

WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH has garnered a number of truly stinking reviews, but I liked it much better than THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE STUPID WOODEN DOLL WHO LOOKS LIKE THE EVIL DUMMY FROM THE GOOSEBUMPS BOOKS.

 A group of four painfully American soldiers escape from the Nazis while they’re being carted off to military prison in Germany in World War Two. They wander deep into rural Germany, Hitler’s Third Reich, and end up stumbling upon something rather out of the ordinary.

It’s an SS medical experiment camp run by the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele and his, um, wife, Ilse Koch. She’s a big show-off cow who’s very anxious for the four (yes, four, maybe it was all they could afford, lol) prisoners at the camp to know her terrifying nickname, the Bitch of Buchenwald…

Here at the camp, Mengele, played by an actor who could easily double as Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s personal toady and Minister for Propaganda, is taking time out from experimenting on twins and making his infamous ‘selections’ on the arrivals ramp at Auschwitz.

He’s engaged on a top-secret mission for the Fuhrer, played by a man who looks like Scottish actor Robert Carlyle with ‘a perfectly square bit of black dirt’ painted onto him between his schnozz and his kisser. Mengele is perfecting a method that will turn regular Nazis into werewolf Nazis, so they’ll be just as vicious and bloodthirsty but just not quite as blonde, lol.

The Nazi chosen to go first in this terrifying experiment is the handsome young fella who’s been giving the horny, frustrated Ilse Koch the ride while Mengele’s been occupied trying to turn straw into gold, I mean Nazis into werewolves. Yes, Ilse is a passionate woman who needs to be loved and she’s been playing hide-the-salami with the film’s one good-looking Nazi, the clever girl.

Mengele has found out about his wife’s unwise infidelity and he’s deliberately chosen her lover for the furry face and scratchy fingernails out of spite and jealousy. And the lover can’t even refuse to do it because it’s for Hitler, haha, for Hitler and the Third Reich and you know how fanatical these guys were about doing stuff for Hitler and his precious Reich, lol.

Can Ilse save her sexy blonde lover from a fate pretty much worse than death? (Is being a werewolf worse than being a Nazi? I can’t even tell…!) Can ‘the Fabulous Four’ (those ‘Murican soldiers I mentioned earlier) manage to break into the camp and foil Mengele’s dastardly plan to win the war for Hitler with his unholy army of savage werewolf soldiers?

If you still actually care at this point, you might enjoy the fun ending and the promise of more films to come. Oh, and the end of the ROBERT THE DOLL movie promises, well, another ROBERT THE DOLL movie sometime in the future too, God help us all.

Maybe by then they’ll have a few more Nazi uniforms to go round and they might even have had time to iron out the plotholes in their concept. Who am I kidding? Even the mystical book couldn’t reanimate these turkeys, but I still enjoyed them- well, WEREWOLVES, anyway- and they’re only meant to be a bit of fun. Don’t y’all go taking ’em seriously now…

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

AUSCHWITZ: THE LAST JOURNEY. (2006) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

auschwitz last journey outside train

AUSCHWITZ: THE LAST JOURNEY (DER LETZTE ZUG). (2006) DIRECTED BY JOSEPH VILSMAIER AND DANA VAVROVA. STARRING GEDEON BURKHARD, LALE YAVAS, LENA BEYERLING, SIBEL KEKILLI, ROMAN ROTH AND LUDWIG BLOCHBERGER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Hey, don’t feed the animals…!’

This German language film is an absolute masterpiece, utterly compelling but undoubtedly grim viewing at the same time. It’s an historically and factually accurate depiction of the dreadful journey of one of the Holocaust trains transporting Jews to Auschwitz, as seen from the viewpoints of two or three specific little families or couples.

The journey starts at home, with the inevitable tramp of booted feet on the quiet streets outside in the middle of the night. Then it’s ‘Open up, it’s the Gestapo!’ and the terrified Jews, the last few Jews left in Berlin, have only five minutes to pack their things and get downstairs to the waiting trucks and lorries.

They’re allegedly being taken to a ‘place of safety,’ because there are too many Allied bombs falling on the city. A likely story. The viewer knows that the Nazis are simply rendering Berlin ‘Juden-frei’ or ‘Jew-free’ as a ‘gift’ to Hitler for his birthday. If I may be permitted a little levity (anti-Nazi, that is, not anti-Jew!) here, what happened to the notion of giving someone a voucher and letting them pick out their own present?

At the train station, a calm voice over the tannoy tells the seven hundred Jews leaving Berlin for Auschwitz (although they don’t know that yet) not to panic. If they board the trains in a nice orderly fashion, they’ll be provided with the food and drink that will sustain them throughout the journey. This doesn’t sound so bad, the waiting crowds tell themselves.

Some children question why they’re to travel in cattle cars when they’re not cattle, they’re people, but their mothers hush them and remind them that, after all, it’s wartime. Some of the Jewish men, suspecting correctly where they’re being taken, resolve even at this stage to work together to escape the trains once they’ve boarded.

Once the doors to the train have been bolted and the Jews are ‘safely’ aboard, all pretence at politeness on the Germans’ part will cease and the Jews will realise that they’ve been duped. Though they still haven’t been told precisely where they’re going, they can guess. Now will begin the most horrific journey of their lives, and even then it’s still not as bad as their awful destination.

One hundred people crushed into one cattle car. One bucket of water for them all to share, and no food except what they’ve managed to bring themselves. Another bucket for toilet purposes. Men, women, old people, children and babies all steaming in the heat and breathing the same foul, fetid air. One tiny barred window and a locked and bolted door.

The Jews are deemed to need so little care once they’ve been securely locked inside the cattle cars that the Nazi powers have given the job of commander to a young boy of barely twenty, an Oberleutnant Crewes.

This baby-faced Nazi, however, is already full of the poison and cruelty inculcated into him by his elders, so the Jews needn’t expect any mercy from this quarter. As the train stokers say: ‘These young ones are full of this whole Aryan race shit, as if the Virgin herself had personally whispered it into their ears.’

Conditions inside the cattle car quickly become unbearable as the train trundles rather than hurtles its way through Hitler’s Germany, the countryside of his Third Reich, to Auschwitz in Poland.

There are long delays too, for example when they have to sit back and allow precedence to the trains filled with German soldiers rushing to the Front, and another time while a gallows is being built to hang a group of partisans and leave them hanging, as a grim warning to all who see them.

During these interminable delays, the cry is all for ‘Wasser, bitte!’ as the occupants of the cattle car beg for a little water to ease their raging thirst. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t. They hand their valuables out the window to the train operatives in return for water and a bit of bread. They’ll lick the water up off the floor of the cattle car if they have to.

Let’s meet our main protagonists. Henry and Lea Neumann, a handsome young couple, are here with their young daughter, a remarkably clever and brave little girl called Nina, and their baby son David.

Albert Rosen and Ruth Silbermann are a young engaged couple who are so in love with each other it’s lovely to see. Ruth has a lot of character and guts and she’ll make Albert, a former jeweller, a marvellous wife, a wife he can be proud of.

Jakob and Gabrielle are an elderly couple, devoted to each other and with balls and chutzpah to spare. Jakob has been a comedian and entertainer all his life. When the Gestapo and the sinister man in the trenchcoat give him five minutes to pack his most valuable possessions, he brings his collection of jokes and the tuxedo he wears to perform in.

Gabrielle is his pianist. She has as much courage as the diminutive Jakob who, before this awful train journey happened, tried to persuade his beloved to emigrate to America. She refused to leave him, however, so now they’re both here.

The staunchly good-humoured old couple use their talents and entertainment skills to try to keep up morale in the stifling cattle car, in which people are already dying of dehydration and shock and everyone’s stripped down to their underwear in the intense heat.

Henry and Albert are the two men who try to engineer escape from the train of certain death. If they don’t manage it for anyone, then this train will one day pull up at Auschwitz.

There’ll be barbed wire, attack dogs, endless shouting and doing everything ‘on the run’ the way the Nazis preferred it. There’ll be the infamous ARBEIT MACHT FREI, which might just as well read ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE, as in the workhouses of old.

There’ll be ‘men to the left, women and children to the right’ and grey-faced Sonderkommandos pulling and pushing them into the correct lines before the Nazis get angry. The new arrivals might see the chimneys that are kept alight night and day and belch out smoke and a peculiar-smelling ash round the clock.

Some of the new people may have heard of these chimneys and their grisly purpose. ‘It can’t be true,’ they tell themselves as they look up, wide-eyed. ‘How can it be true? It doesn’t make any sense, the Nazis destroying their own workforce!’

If it sounds like hell to the reader, well, one can’t even imagine what it was like for the people who were brought here. The film’s ending is one you won’t forget for a long time. It’s even sadder than the little vignettes of our main protagonists’ former happier lives which are cleverly interspersed throughout the film.

I’m not one to preach but, if ever a film could represent a cogent argument against racism, then this film would have to be it. Every time I watch it, it makes me feel ashamed of my nice cushy life in one of the so-called ‘civilised’ countries. And you’ll certainly never waste a drop of water in your life again after seeing this. I guarantee it.

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

SIR ALEC GUINNESS IN ‘HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS.’ (1973) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

hitler the last ten days

HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS. (1973) DIRECTED/SCREENPLAY BY ENNIO DE CONCINI. STARRING SIR ALEC GUINNESS, SIMON WARD, JOHN BENNETT, BARBARA JEFFORD, JULIAN GLOVER, MARK KINGSTON, JAMES COSSINS, JOSS ACKLAND, DIANE CILENTO, ANGELA PLEASENCE, ANDREW SACHS AND DORIS KUNSTMANN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The heart of Germany has ceased to beat. The Fuhrer is dead.’

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister For Propaganda.

While Bruno Ganz in DOWNFALL (2004) is my favourite screen Hitler of all time, Sir Alec Guinness (BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS) is utterly magnificent here as the funny little man with the toothbrush moustache who reduced his country- Germany- and capital city of Berlin to ruins and rubble after one of the worst wars the world has ever known.

Seen through the eyes of a young adjutant who brings Hitler rare good military news in the bunker and has the dubious pleasure of being invited to stay till the end, it’s the story of Hitler’s last days in the underground bunker of reinforced concrete in the grounds of the Reich Chancellery.

Sir Alec is marvellously made up to resemble the Fuhrer. It’s eerie how much he looks like him. He’s got the mannerisms down to a T as well and the pomposity that Hitler displayed when treating the bunker inmates to one of his interminable monologues. It’s so funny the way they all had to stand around smiling politely and pretending to be interested in every word that fell from their Fuhrer’s lips.

Towards the end, we know from history that Hitler gave up discussing the war he knew to be lost, and instead rambled on endlessly about the care and training of dogs, his favourite subject, and the evils of smoking, another of his favourite soapbox topics.

Eva Braun, his mistress, had to have a sneaky fag on the sly in order not to upset the Fuhrer, and then stuff her face with mint leaves to get rid of the smell. As if the smell of mint wouldn’t arouse as much suspicion, lol. Smokers never learn.

Doris Kunstmann does an excellent job as Eva Braun, Hitler’s mistress for fifteen or so years whom he only married on the last day of his life. She was careful to always epitomise Hitler’s ideal notion of German womanhood, ‘charmingly feminine’ in traditional German dress with nothing in her pretty little empty head but thoughts of nail polish and dressing up.

In the bunker, as in the film, Eva has little enough to do but change her hair and outfit every five minutes. She’s Hitler’s Little Helpmeet, always there to soothe his worried brow or massage the weight off his troubled shoulders. What does she get from him in return?

Precious little, as far as one can see. He doesn’t give her his name until the day before they both die, and she was looked down on and denigrated much of the time. It must have hurt like hell when Magda Goebbels got to act as Chief Woman In Hitler’s Life on important occasions while Eva Braun was tucked away upstairs like an embarrassment.

Speaking of Magda Goebbels, the chap playing her husband Joseph looks uncannily like Hitler’s rather sinister, club-footed Minister for Propaganda. He was basically Waylon Smithers (THE SIMPSONS) to Hitler’s Mr. Burns, toadying for the older man, laughing at all his little jokes and being the yes-man that was the only kind of companion Hitler could tolerate.

The film is pretty much accurate in the way it portrays the last days of the Third Reich as seen from the bunker. The daily military briefings continued more or less right to the end, with Hitler screaming blue murder from behind his desk at his Generals when they failed to deliver the miracles he wanted. Which, towards the end of the war, was frequently.

It’s almost like watching a madman at work when he tries to move his various armies around the map from point A to point B, with never a thought for the fact that these armies were already mostly decimated by the Russian and American armies who by then were encircling Berlin like a crowd of hipsters round a coffee-stall at a craft fair.

The campaign was over, the war was lost but Hitler still pored over his military maps, when he wasn’t off in his wonderfully satisfying daydreams of turning the Austrian city of Linz into the cultural capital of the world once the war was over. It was all pie-in-the-sky, like so many of Hitler’s promises, ambitions and dreams. He had pretty much lost touch with reality by this stage.

Angela Pleasence, Donald’s daughter, has a cameo here as a member of the Hitler Youth who comes to the bunker while the whole of Berlin is under fire, including the Reich Chancellery. She’s come to collect a box of signed photographs of Hitler to give to the Hitler Youth as a reward/incentive for going into battle against the Russians and Americans.

Battle, and they’re only children! But the way Hitler dismisses their almost guaranteed deaths as an inevitable by-product of war is cold and chilling. These kids have parents and families and pets and lives and potential. By what right does he order all this to be thrown away?

And what good will a signed photo of his ugly mug, or even half-a-dozen Iron Crosses, be to a pre-teen boy or girl who’s facing down the barrel of a Russian or American gun…? There’s really no answer to that question, is there?

Diane Cilento, who plays the sexy schoolteacher Miss Rose in THE WICKER MAN (1973), portrays gutsy flying ace Hanna Reitsch here. She arrives at the bunker with her injured colleague General Von Greim and we quickly establish two things.

One, she has no regard whatsoever for Eva Braun and can’t believe that her beloved Fuhrer would waste his time on such an empty-headed little floozy and two, she is a fanatical National Socialist and an ardent Hitler-lover in particular.

She adores Hitler and wants to die in the bunker with him but Hitler has just made the badly-injured von Greim head of the Luftwaffe and so, for now, they will continue to have responsibilities above-ground, far from this stifling, claustrophobic Kingdom of the Moles that the bunker has become.

Some of the things that Hitler says in the film positively beggar belief. When going through his papers, trying to decide which of his things to burn or keep, he declares that he wants photos of himself to survive, as he doesn’t want to be misrepresented in pictures and art the way Jesus Christ had apparently been. To even mention himself in the same breath as Our Lord…!

Of course, we all know how he felt about the Jews. The way he talks about them here, talking about ‘stamping them out,’ he makes them sound like insects or a type of annoyingly treatment-resistant vermin you’d need a particularly strong poison to kill. He says these things so casually, even off-handedly, that it serves to make them all the more abhorrent and shocking to the viewer.

The end is done very well here. We have first of all the off-camera betrayals of Goering and Himmler, Hitler’s closest ‘friends,’ if you could call them that, and the execution of Fegelein, Eva Braun’s sister’s husband, whom Hitler decides has betrayed him also. Hitler can’t cope with all these defections, these terrible shocks to his rapidly failing system.

There are the discussions on the best way to kill oneself in order that one does not fall into the hands of the dreaded Russians. Joseph Goebbels and his wife will poison their six children, who are here in the bunker with them, with the help of Dr. Stumpfegger, the bunker’s doctor-in-residence. They will then kill themselves.

Hitler will shoot himself in the temple like a good German soldier and Eva Braun will take poison, as she doesn’t want to leave a disfigured corpse. The least of her worries, I would have thought, especially as her own and Hitler’s remains were cremated in the garden of the Chancellery outside the entrance to the bunker after they were dead.

Andrew Sachs, better known as Manuel the Spanish waiter from British sitcom FAWLTY TOWERS, plays the very nervous man who marries Hitler to Eva Braun, and who has to ask a coldly furious Hitler if he’s of pure Aryan blood without any defects in his family line. Dressed in black as if for a funeral, a nervous and tearful Eva Braun begins her short married life by starting to write her name as ‘Eva Braun’ in the register instead of ‘Eva Hitler.’

Brilliant bit-part actor James Cossins (THE ANNIVERSARY, FAWLTY TOWERS, SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM) has a cameo role in the film as a Nazi telling an amusing anecdote in the bunker corridor while holding a brandy and a cigar. How terribly jolly, lol.

The film is interspersed with some genuinely harrowing footage of the damage and destruction wrought by the war to both human beings and the German landscape. The footage is ironically placed throughout the film, for example, when Hitler is praising his cook Constance Manziarly for the fact that cream has always been plentiful in the bunker, we see real black-and-white footage of people scrabbling in the streets for any bits of food they could find because they were, quite simply, starving to death. While the bunker inmates quaffed good liquor and stuffed their faces with the contents of the bunker’s full larders…

The score is filled with the rousing operatic music Hitler loved. Bases on the book ‘HITLER’S LAST DAYS: AN EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT’ by bunker survivor Gerhard Boldt, this is Sir Alec Guinness’s best-ever performance, in my opinion, and you should try to see this fantastic film before you die. It’s just that good. It may not be the nicest story ever told but it’s certainly one of the most compelling. Watch it…

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

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

BASIL RATHBONE AND NIGEL BRUCE IN THE SHERLOCK HOLMES FILM COLLECTION: 1939-1945. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

house of fear

BASIL RATHBONE AND NIGEL BRUCE AS SHERLOCK HOLMES AND DR. WATSON IN A COLLECTION OF FOURTEEN SUPERB OLD FILMS FROM 1939-1945: BASED ON THE BOOKS BY SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

These fourteen marvellous old films will always be my favourite of all films. I lapped them up as a teenager desperate to escape the drudgery of school and exams. Back then, of course, I had to watch ’em on television as and when they came up, which was probably infrequently. Now, in this blessed age of DVD and Blu-Ray, I have my own little box-set and can view the films whenever I choose. Which is often, lol.

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce work so well together as Holmes and Watson. Holmes has of course a superior intellect but also a deep fondness and affection for the sometimes bungling but unswervingly loyal Watson. Either one of them would die for the other, that’s how deep this fondness goes.

There’s a small cast of regulars too, such as Dennis Hoey as Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard, whose rivalry with Holmes is tempered with a genuine feeling and respect for the great detective. He’s good for a laugh but he usually gets his man in the end, albeit with much prompting from Sherlock Holmes.

Mary Gordon, who was privileged to unwittingly give old Frankie’s Monster a helping hand out of the burned-out ruins of the old mill in the second Universal FRANKENSTEIN film, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), is marvellous as Holmes’s and Watson’s long-suffering landlady, cook and housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson.

She’s had to put up with a lot, the poor old dear. Clients and villains coming and going to and from Holmes’s book-lined rooms at 221B Baker Street in London at all hours of the day and night, some of them with murder in mind. The assassination of one Sherlock Holmes, to be precise.

Then there’s the bullet-holes with which Holmes is known to ‘adorn’ her ‘beautiful plaster’ walls, and the fact that you can take food and drink to the detective but you can’t necessarily make him partake of it.

‘See that he drinks a drop, will you?’ she begs the rotund and loveable Dr. Watson, who laughingly replies: ‘I will, my dear,’ while knowing full well that there’s only a slim chance that Holmes won’t be rushing off to solve a mystery before the steam has even vanished from the breakfast kippers.

Sherlock Holmes’s old adversary, some would even say nemesis, Professor Moriarty, is played variously by Lionel Atwill, George Zucco and the coldly chilling Henry Daniell. Holmes needn’t expect any mercy from that quarter, although the one-upmanship between the two, who are not without a little vanity, is often hilarious.

‘No doubt everything I have to say has already crossed your mind,’ Henry Daniell as the slippery Professor comments quietly but firmly in THE WOMAN IN GREEN. ‘And no doubt my answer has already crossed YOURS,’ retorts Holmes, equally firmly.

See what I mean? Their intellects are both so superior that they don’t even need to have a conversation in order to have a conversation. They’re too smart for their own good, lol. And each is as stubborn as the other.

‘I’ll not rest until I see you hang for the Finger Murders,’ Holmes tells his old enemy a moment later in the same movie. ‘And I tell you,’ Moriarty replies a little later on, ‘that I shall never stand upon the gallows.’ Well, I guess that that’s that, then…!

There’s a whole host of actors (and actresses) who regularly appear in the films as butlers, cabbies, policemen, customs officials and criminals. These would include: Holmes Herbert, Alec Craig, Olaf Hytten, Vernon Downing, E.E. Clive, Miles Mander, Halliwell Hobbes, Gavin Muir, Paul Cavanagh, Gerald Hamer, Ian Wolfe, Harry Cording, Arthur Hohl, Frederick Morlock, Montagu Love, Leyland Hodgson, Reginald Denny, Sally Shepherd and even John Carradine.

If I’ve left anyone out, please feel free to contact me and let me know. I’d like this list to be as comprehensive as possible. One of the many fascinating things about these lads (and ladettes!) is that many of them were born in the 1890s, like Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce themselves, or the 1880s or even the 1870s. That they’ve all, without exception, gone to their eternal reward saddens me more than I could ever tell you.

Evelyn Ankers (Universal’s THE WOLFMAN with Lon Chaney Junior), Hillary Brooke, Eve Amber, Patricia Morison, Ida Lupino and Gale Sondergaard all take turns as the eye candy in the films, although the phrase ‘eye candy’ doesn’t do justice to the passion and style with which they play their parts. It almost implies ‘dumb,’ although these gals are anything but.

All beautiful, all dressed in the most magnificent ‘Forties furs and jewels with elaborate hats or hairstyles (except for Evelyn Ankers in THE VOICE OF TERROR and THE PEARL OF DEATH, she’s meant to be from the lower classes, lol), some play helpless females throwing themselves on Holmes’s mercy and others play stone-cold villains.

Holmes treats all of the ladies he encounters with the same courtesy and respect, making the innocent ones feel safe and the criminals like they’ve finally met someone who could match them, move for move, in the elaborate chess game of catch-the-murderer.

Dr. Watson, of course, is an incorrigible flirt and brightens up considerably when he’s in the company of an attractive woman. He tends to forget all else, however, when he’s entranced by the sight of a shapely ankle or a Cupid’s-Bow of a lipsticked mouth, leading more than once to Holmes having to pull his (Dr. Watson’s) chestnuts out of the fire for him.

‘I’m sorry, Holmes,’ mumbles a shame-faced and chastened Watson after he’s screwed up yet again. ‘Never mind all that,’ replies his friend and mentor generously. ‘The game’s afoot, and I shall need you!’ ‘Will you, Holmes, will you really?’ says a much brightened Watson. Then it’s all ‘Grab your hat and coat, Watson!’ and out the door and down the stairs they rush, Watson grumbling nineteen to the dozen once more about Holmes’s peremptory manner.

The two of them rub along very nicely together in their smoky shared rooms at 221B Baker Street, filled with the fug of Holmes’s perpetual tobacco, stored in the toe of the Persian slipper, and the eternal scraping of Holmes’s bow across the violin he loves to play. Yes, as a roommate I’d say he wouldn’t be the easiest to live with. Kudos to Watson for putting up with him.

Watson’s something of a writer too, as well as a retired medic, and whenever one of his accounts of his and Holmes’s adventures appears in THE STRAND magazine, he couldn’t be more pleased.

Not even Holmes begging him to be more fact-oriented and scientifically logical in his accounts and less lurid can’t blight his pleasure. Something tells me, however, that Holmes is somehow secretly pleased with being thus lauded and celebrated. He’s only human, after all, and we all have our little vanities.

What I now propose is to quickly synopsise each of the fourteen films in one or two sentences, including a highlight or notable moment for each. All made between 1939 and 1945, the exact years of World War Two, several of them even allude to the War and to Hitler and his naughty Nazis. In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SPIDER WOMAN, you even get to shoot the big dictators of the war ‘right where their ‘earts ought to be!,’ implying of course that they lack them. Hearts, that is.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES sees attractive young actor Richard Greene taking top billing as Sir Henry Baskerville, but Holmes is the real star as he figures out the mystery behind the sudden and violent deaths of so many of Sir Henry’s ancestors.

Highlight? Holmes disguised as an old beggar and mortally offending a disgusted Dr. Watson with his peddler’s prattle…!

Like THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is the only other film set in the Victorian era. It’s top hats, frock-coats, gloves and canes at the ready as Holmes tries to find the connection between a terrified young woman (played by Ida Lupino) and the imminent arrival of a precious jewel at the Tower of London.

Highlight? The evil Moriarty chiding a butler over the death of a plant while a mournfully eerie tune plays from behind a closed door…

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (bom-ba-ba-bom!) helps the revered detective to foil a nasty Nazi plot to invade Britain and bring it under the dreadful aegis of the Third Reich.

Highlight? The gorgeous Evelyn Ankers as Kitty, exhorting her fellow Englishmen and women to help Mr. Holmes by going out and about to discover the true meaning of the word ‘Christopher…’

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON sees Holmes again attempting to foil the Nazis by keeping a certain scientist, Dr. Tobell, and his invaluable bomb-site safe from Hitler’s sweaty grasp.

Highlight? Holmes’s decidely unbecoming brushed-forward hairstyle, for one, and then he and Moriarty politely discussing ever more imaginative ways for Moriarty to murder the captive detective once and for all. Stop giving him ideas, Holmes! For Chrissakes, he’s trying to bloody well kill you, after all. No need to make it so easy for him.

In SHERLOCK HOLMES GOES TO WASHINGTON, Holmes doesn’t do a Mister Smith but instead foils an international spy ring that’s going mad trying to locate a secret document which, if it falls into their enemy hands, could be disastrous to England.

Highlight? Holmes playing the part of a fussy, know-it-all antiques collector in order to beard the lion in its den. The thing to remember about this one is that the person who has it (the document) doesn’t know he has it…

SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH has always been one of my favourites in the series of films. The creepy old Musgrave Manor, now a rest-home for convalescent soldiers run by Dr. Watson MD, is unaccountably the scene of several brutal murders. Is the key to the whole ghastly affair tied up in the mish-mash of ancient words known as The Musgrave Ritual…?

Highlight? The murderer’s confession down in the damp old crypt and also Watson’s dilly-dallying on the stairs with the convalescent soldier, each of them undecided for several minutes as to whether to go up the stairs, come down the stairs or go outside and risk being shot by the copper on duty. Vernon Downing, who plays the soldier Clavering, also features in THE SPIDER WOMAN and is a very interesting actor about which, sadly, little is known.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SPIDER WOMAN is one of the best films in the series. Insurance policies, a series of highly-publicised ‘pyjama suicides,’ a killer spider and a suspiciously familiar-looking Indian gentleman called Rajniv Singh all feature as Holmes tries to best a feminine mind that’s nearly as sharp as his own. And that’s saying something, let me tell you.

Highlight? The marvellous Gale Sondergaard as Adrea Spedding doing her hilariously fake-as-f**k Mother India act, and also the genuine grief and sense of loss of Inspector Lestrade when he thinks that the great detective has drowned on a fishing holiday to Scotland.

‘Why didn’t you go in after ‘im?’ he berates the devastated Dr. Watson. ‘I wasn’t there, I tell you!’ replies the poor doctor, choked with grief. ‘And neither was he. He was gone, I tell you, he was gone…’

And then, enter the funny little postman, the one who thinks that ‘Sherlock ‘olmes was nothing but a’ old ‘erring-gut…’ Don’t worry, Watson won’t let him away with such shocking blasphemy…!

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE PEARL OF DEATH is an absolute cracker of a film. Holmes has his work well and truly cut out for him trying to solve a string of horrible murders, in which the victim is each time found ‘with his- or her- back broken, in a litter of smashed china…!’ The whole thing holds a chilling ring of familiarity to Holmes, but the beast he thinks might be responsible for such grim deeds is dead, isn’t he? Isn’t he…?

Highlight? Without a doubt, Rondo Hatton as The Creeper, or ‘the Oxton ‘orror, I calls him,’ as Detective Lestrade so succinctly puts it. The Creeper gave me nightmares when I was a kid. ‘Go to the room at the top of the stairs. You know what to look for. If you should happen to meet Dr. Boncourt… pay him your respects…’

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SCARLET CLAW is another humdinger of a movie. The little town of La Morte Rouge in Canada (yes, Canada!) is living up to its rather gruesome name as a seemingly supernatural killer strikes its victims randomly and without reason, leaving them in a terrible state with their throats torn out. But Holmes and Watson don’t really believe in the supernatural. ‘No ghosts need apply,’ remember? They rather sensibly decide to look for the killer amongst the living instead…

Highlight? Dr. Watson falling in the various bits of boggy marsh…!

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUSE OF FEAR, an insurance agent begs Holmes to investigate why the members of ‘a most singular club,’ situated in an ancient pile called Drearcliff House (the clue’s in the name, folks!), are being killed off one by one. ‘No man goes whole to his grave.’ Is a pouch of tobacco going to be the key that will unlock this complex mystery for the great detective?

Highlight? Dr. Watson again, this time fighting off imaginary assailants in the dead of a dark rainy night while he’s supposed to be ‘protecting’ the surviving members of the Good Comrades Club. You might as well ask the cat…

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN PURSUIT TO ALGIERS sees the famous detective escorting a king in danger back to his home country while unravelling the mystery of why a beautiful woman is afraid of her life of the contents of her own music-case. And to think it all starts with a humble plate of fish and chips…

Highlight? Dear old Dr. Watson singing ‘You take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll get to Scotland afore you.’ It fair warms the cockles, does that.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN THE WOMAN IN GREEN is a tale of murder and mesmerism, blackmail and missing digits as Holmes and Moriarty come face-to-face in Holmes’s rooms to discuss, of all things, Moriarty’s extremely cheeky idea for a nice pension plan for himself. It’s a case of Holmes’s will against Moriarty’s as Holmes gets to the bottom of the Finger Murders…

Highlight? Dr. Watson ‘paddling’ in the ‘brook’ with only one shoe and sock removed because ‘the other leg is waterproof…!’ The cheek of that hypnotist fella. Humph.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN TERROR BY NIGHT sees our chums hunting down a jewel-thief on a moving train while a killer picks off the passengers like ducks in a row. We have a coffin with a false bottom, a teapot-thief and a man who’s not whom he pretends to be. ‘Curry? Filthy stuff, I never touch it…!’ Can Holmes find the killer and the thief before they reach their destination…? And is there any chance of a cup of tea on this bleedin’ train?

Highlight? Dr. Watson in fine form as he quizzes the passengers ‘as a representative of the law,’ only to find that some of them don’t take too kindly to people who aren’t in fact policemen sticking their noses into other peoples’ private business. And it was Holmes himself who set him up for this fall. For shame, Holmes.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN DRESSED TO KILL features the most dazzling of all the femmes fatales to show up in this series of films. She’s extremely anxious to get her hands on a little old music box in the collection of one of Watson’s old school friends, the endearingly named Stinky, and she’s not too fussy about how she gets it…

Highlight? Stinky entertaining the femme fatale. Her furs and jewels are to die for. But little old Stinky, however charming he may be, is punching way, way above his weight with this single-minded beauty. Quite frankly, he has more chance of getting Dr. Watson and Holmes to agree to a threesome…

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed Holmes off in his serialisation of the story in the STRAND magazine, there was such an uproar that he was obliged to bring the legendary detective back from the dead. Of all the fictional characters ever created, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most enduring. Long may he flourish in our minds and in these wonderful old films.

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:

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