I saw this film first with a friend in an almost empty cinema back in 2002 and it was a terrific, spine-tingling experience. We clung to each other whenever the aliens were on-screen or just approaching. We giggled out loud at all the genuinely funny lines and we swooned together over the handsome manliness of Joaquin Phoenix. Oh, happy days…! I’ve nothing but good memories of this film so be warned, I won’t be saying anything bad about it in my review. Let the love-in commence…

Mel Gibson, whom I don’t actually fancy, strangely enough, even though half the female population of the world seems to, plays Graham Hess. He’s an ex-priest who stopped believing in God when his wife Colleen was killed in a car accident.

He lives in a fantastic old farmhouse surrounded by acres and acres of creepy cornfields. Just why are cornfields so gosh-darned spooky, anyway? I guess it’s because there could be literally anything hiding in their densely leafy depths. And, in SIGNS, there literally is…

Graham shares his home with his children Morgan and Bo and his younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), a disillusioned ex-baseball player who now works in a gas station. Seems like neither of the Hess brothers is doing the job he wants to be doing, then…

Some mighty strange s**t is going down in them thar cornfields. The Hess brothers wake up one morning to find that someone- or something- has carved enormous and perfectly symmetrical crop circles into their fields. This is never a good sign, if you’ll excuse the obvious pun.

They turn on the television to find that the same thing has been happening all over the world, in addition to crazy lights in the sky and bird-squashing forcefields and God knows what else.

It doesn’t take people too long to figure out what’s going on. Extra-terrestrials are coming, and they ain’t of the cute little E.T. Variety, either. They’re hostile. They want to ‘harvest’ the Earth and everyone on it.

The Hess family barricade themselves into their basement and await the arrival of the aliens, for whom the crop circles serve both as a means of navigation and also as a sort of preface to an invasion.

Father Mel Gibson and his flock of three wait it out in the creepy dark cellar during their long dark night of the soul, but who will be left standing when the morning comes…? Watch the film and see…

There are plenty of great scary scenes to watch out for. Father Mel Gibson in the cornfields at night while an alien ‘stalks’ him under cover of darkness. (‘Stalks…?’ See what I did there…?) Mel Gibson chopping off the fingers of the alien trapped in M. Night Shyamalan’s pantry. That’s right, the writer/director plays a small role in the film as the man who accidentally ran over Mel Gibson’s missus while asleep at the wheel. Not a great move, lol.

Then there’s the unexpected alien footage in the birthday party video-taping. There’s the horrible alien hand snaking under the front door while the Hess family hurry down to the basement. There’s the reflection of the alien in the television after he’s snatched up little asthmatic Morgan Hess. There’s the way that television coverage everywhere suddenly ceases and Father Mel Gibson, knowing that the alien invasion has begun, says ominously: ‘It’s happening…’

That part always unnerves me. It’s the knowledge that the end of the world may just be coming and no-one, not your town council or local politicians, not your government, no-one, is coming to your aid because no-one can. There is no-one to come. (Like in the movie NOSFERATU, when half the town is dead with the plague and the town council disbands, with the immortal words: ‘Run home! Bolt your doors and windows!’ And that’s the last we hear from them…) That’s the kind of thing that could happen and it scares me. Does it scare you…?

There’s a good bit of humour in the film too and, ultimately, a nice warm fuzzy feeling when we see that the family that battles extra-terrestrials together stays together. ‘Swing away, Merrill, swing away…!’

One thing that the film makes me wonder, though, is who chose the surname Hess for Mel Gibson’s character and family? Mel Gibson has been accused of anti-Semitism in the past in quite a big way (check on the Internet before you start accusing me of blasphemy!), and Hess is the surname of one of the top-ranking Nazis of all time. (Rudolf Hess, one of Hitler’s biggest toadies and the numbskull who was captured by the Allies when he flew to Scotland in 1941 supposedly to broker a peace deal between Germany and said Allies.) I’m just saying, y’all.

The character of the lady cop is a really good, solid one. She’s empathetic and compassionate but she gets shit done. The scene where she prepares Father Mel Gibson for his last ever conversation with his beloved wife is both moving and immensely powerful.

This is a highly enjoyable and entertaining film (although the ending was a tiny bit of an anti-climax). I know that I’m utterly biased because of the happy memories I have of watching this film in the cinema back in 2002, after having a lovely lunch in one of my favourite restaurants with one of my favourite people, but whatever, this is still a great scary film and you should definitely watch it. Don’t forget to wear your tinfoil hat when you watch it, though, because if you don’t they can read your mind, and you don’t want that. Do you…?


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

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





QUATERMASS AND THE PIT is a sequel to earlier HAMMER films THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT and QUATERMASS 2. It’s a terrific blend of horror and science fiction with absolutely top-notch acting from some great English actors thrown in for good measure.

Basically, what happens in it is that the London Underground is being dug up for the purposes of extending it. Tell me about it. A few years back, Dublin was all dug up to actual buggery as our LUAS lines were extended, slowly and painfully, across the city. The LUAS is kind of like our London Underground, except that it’s above ground. It’s the Dublin Overground, lol.

Anyway, the difference between our LUAS works and the excavations in the film is that, in the film, an ancient Martian spacecraft is discovered amongst the rubble, along with the remains of early human ancestors in excess of five million years old. That’s quite the archaeological find, naturally, or it would be if there wasn’t a dreadful sense of evil emanating from the discoveries in waves.

Professor Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Keir: Hammer’s BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS), who has uncovered a disturbing connection between the remains and pagan beliefs in the devil as related to the mythology of London, clashes with the military’s Colonel Breen on the matter.

Breen, an obnoxious autocratic snobbish type, refuses to believe that the spacecraft is anything but a Nazi missile left over from World War Two. Typical toff. Always bloomin’ thinking they know what’s best for everyone.

His narrow mind simply cannot conceive of anything as outlandish as an attempt by the Martians to colonise Earth millions of years ago. But war with the Nazis is something he knows and understands.

It’s tangible and can be quantified, calculated and put on a chart, followed and understood. Therefore, the spacecraft and ancient remains must have something to with those pesky Nazis.

Julian Glover, who plays Colonel Breen, and who also portrays the ill-fated Nazi officer Hermann Fegelein (Eva Braun’s brother-in-law) in the Alec Guinness film, HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS (1973), remarked of his role as Breen that he was ‘the obligatory asshole…!’

Barbara Shelley is wonderful as Dr. Roney’s assistant, Barbara Judd, the woman who has a kind of ‘shining’ thing going on with the spacecraft and the Martian remains. She’s a Hammer sex symbol for the thinking or discerning man, I always think, a class act, a real lady.

Okay, so her clothes don’t fall off her in every second scene like some of her fellow Hammer babes, but she’s drop-dead sexy nonetheless, even in a plain sweater and sensible knee-length skirt as she goes about her business here in QUATERMASS AND THE PIT.

However, if you do want to see her all sexed up and panting like a young one on her wedding night, then check out her performance in DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS after she’s been vampirised by no less a personage than the Count himself.

Or even her portrayal of Sonia in Hammer’s RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK, in which she plays a woman driven to the brink of insanity by her love for the manipulative but desperately charismatic Rasputin, played by Hammer leading man Christopher Lee. She’s top totty, like Joanna Lumley. A piece of classy crumpet, lol.

The scene in which Barbara Judd and Sladden, the drill operator, get caught up in a terrifying windstorm emanating from the newly-unearthed missile is probably the best and most nail-bitingly exciting one in the whole film, and that’s really saying something.

Poor old Sladden (Duncan Lamont: Hammer’s THE WITCHES and FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN) is just an ordinary workman. He just wants to collect his tool bag and go home to bangers and mash with the missus. He doesn’t ask to be so heavily influenced by the waves of malignity that wash off the old spaceship that he nearly loses his mind.

First he’s being blown out of the Underground and across the street, then whooshed unceremoniously down the road, through the old churchyard and into a chair in front of the local vicar, who is deeply alarmed by the workman’s demented ramblings about an alien race of insects, of all things…!

The scene where the good old British bobby gets freaked-out by the obviously nearby presence of evil in Hob’s End always gives me a chill too. ‘Hob used to be an old name for the Devil…!’ If those old tenements can put the willies up a solid, stolid, soundly chin-strapped British copper, then you won’t find me poking about them, that’s for sure.

Other great scenes include poor Dr. Roney’s ultimate act of heroism and bravery (oh, his poor little grim determined face as he moves closer, inexorably closer to his nemesis and a certain doom! He should get a medal for what he does.) and also the removal of the huge oozing grasshopper thingies from the spaceship for closer scrutiny in Dr. Roney’s laboaratory.

I watched this film on the big screen in 2016 in the Irish Film Institute, by the way, as part of a much-welcome folk horror film festival they were hosting that summer. Remember when we used to be able to do stuff like that without even thinking about it…? God be with the days. Truly, we didn’t know what we had till we lost it. Let’s just hope we bloody well get it back at some stage.

The film was introduced in person by novelist and film critic Kim Newman, whom some of you might recognise as having written for EMPIRE magazine. He’s always being asked to comment on different movies for the extra features you find on your DVD. He’s good-humoured, funny, a snappy dresser (love the weskits and the ponytail!) and is super-knowledgeable on the subject of films and cinema history.

Anyway, he turned up in the sweltering heat wearing a big wide-brimmed hat which would have been useful for keeping the sun off his bonce. I think we might have been having our summer that day…!


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

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


night of the big heat 1967



This is very similar to another Planet film I reviewed recently called ISLAND OF TERROR. It starred Peter Cushing on a remote island off the Irish coast with a lone pub on it, and he was trying to save the islanders (and also, I presume, the pub!) from a breed of artificially created monsters called silicates, who made a funny whirring noise and moved along the ground like the Blob from THE BLOB.

In NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are on a remote island off the Scottish coast with a lone pub on it, and they’re trying to save the islanders (and also, I presume, the pub!) from alien beings from another planet who make a funny whirring noise and move along the ground like the Blob from THE BLOB.

This film has tremendous heat in it as well though, a heat caused by the aliens which, if it’s allowed to continue, will turn Earth into a scorched wasteland like the planet Mars, and humans will no longer be able to survive on it. You can see, therefore, why the situation is somewhat pressing and why the aliens need to be eliminated post-haste.

At first, Christopher Lee, tall and dark and devastatingly handsome in his white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, dark slacks and professorial glasses, is the only person on the island who realises that there’s a problem. He plays Godfrey Hanson (Godfrey Handsome, more like!), a scientist with an abrupt and rude manner who’s staying at the island’s one pub. (Which is why it’s so crucial to save it from the aliens, lol.)

He strides around the island by day, being abrupt and rude and scientist-y, trying to find proof that the island is, in fact, being targeted by aliens. Everyone else just thinks he’s nuts at first, but the terrible increasing heat on the island, unheard-of for winter, gradually forces the islanders into a communal change of mind. The island itself is heating up, and if the islanders don’t want to end up as barbecue, they’d better start listening to crazy old Professor Hanson…

Peter Cushing plays the suave and sociable intellectual, Dr. Vernon Stone, who proves an ally of the right intelligence for Professor Hanson. Which is just as well, as I don’t know how much help the womanising novelist Jeff Callum will be.

Beefcake Jeff (not for me but I can see why some women would) and his wife Frankie (Sarah Lawson; THE DEVIL RIDES OUT) own the Swan pub, the village’s one inn, and this cheating bastard Jeff is carrying on a sizzling affair with his hussy of a secretary Angela Roberts, right under his wife’s nose.

Sexy saucepot Angela has come to the island against his wishes, but now she’s here I don’t exactly see him fighting her off. And his wife Frankie is a real diamond as well. It’s a clear case of going out for hamburger when you’ve jolly well got steak at home. Tsk tsk, Jeff.

And in the meantime, telephone wires are melting in the ever-increasing heat, the bottles containing the precious booze are exploding (nobody tell Homer Simpson…!) with the high temperatures and the villagers are going mad. How long before their eyeballs melt and their blood begins, literally, to boil…?

One villager in particular, Tinker Mason (Kenneth Cope; CARRY ON, MATRON and CARRY ON AT YOUR CONVENIENCE), previously of good character, is driven to commit a heinous rape by the sweltering heat. Let’s hope that, once again, a good clout around the ear-holes with a giant ashtray will bring a man hell-bent on crime to his senses before too much damage to virtue has been caused, heh-heh-heh…

If you encounter the aliens yourself, here’s what will happen. You will see a great light on a lonely road and be drawn to it. Your eyes will widen in horror. You’ll take a few steps forward, then draw back in terror, your arms in the air. You will scream at the top of your lungs as the blinding white light envelops you in its deadly heat.

The next time we see you, you will look worse than the pizza I accidentally left in the oven for an hour and a half when the proper heating time was seven minutes. In short, you will be cremated. Not happy? Sorry, but them’s the breaks. The film is called NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT, after all, not NIGHT OF THE MILD DISCOMFORT.

A poor old tramp is burnt to a crisp in this film. He looks like one of the tramps I used to read about in my beloved Enid Blyton books, one of those auld lads who used to ‘tramp’ the highways and byways of Britain in the good old days, living off the land and the goodwill of the folks who resided on it. Whatever happened to these poor old guys, anyway?

They adhered, of course, to a strict dress code: straggly long hair and beard, old torn mackintosh belted at the waist, several layers of grimy shirts and cardigans and, naturally, the shoes with the holes in the soles and that flapping effect at the front that no self-respecting tramp would be seen dead without. A wide-brimmed hat was optional, but only if the crown was completely missing. They kipped in hay-ricks and under hedges with a piece of straw in their mouths and told anyone who’d listen that this was the life for them.

They’d sniff around the bins of any given household and, in Enid Blyton’s THE FIVE FIND-OUTERS books, Pip or Larry or Fatty’s mum would give them a pair of old but still good shoes belonging to the man of the house. And if the auld lad was really lucky, he might be told to go round the back of the house to the kitchen door where Cook would give him a hot meal or a cup of tea. I presume this stuff doesn’t happen any more in real life. I really do wonder what happened to these staples of children’s fiction from the ’50s, the ’60s and the ’70s. Answers on a postcard, please.

Anyway, the ending of NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT kind of annoyed me. Handsome people who should have lived are shockingly permitted to die, and big cheating bastards, who should be spending eternity in the flames of hell with little devils poking them in the arse with red-hot pokers, are allowed to live. Grrr. It’s still a great film though, and very similar to ISLAND OF TERROR, lol. Catch it if you can. How does that song go again? Hey, it’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes…


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

You can contact Sandra at:




I watched this pair of little beauts back-to-back and they seemed to go really well together. Both black-and-white, they each feature a beefcake ‘Fifties male, complete with pointy-bosomed female counterpart (in a supporting role in every sense of the word, of course!), whose job it is to save the world (EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS) or the crew of his spaceship (IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE) from perils posed by creatures from Outer Space, and of course it wouldn’t be a spoiler to say that they each do a bang-up job.

The excellent stop-motion animation special effects in EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS were done by stop-motion animator extraordinaire Ray Harryhausen of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS fame. (Also CLASH OF THE TITANS, ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH, among others!)

When you see his name attached, you know the effects are going to be of top quality and in fact they are. When those naughty flying saucers are crashing into the various government buildings and monuments, you can tell by the way they’re crumbling to the ground that it’s the work of a certain Mr. RH. You guys know who I mean, right?

The film was inspired by the bestselling non-fiction book FLYING SAUCERS FROM OUTER SPACE by a chap called Major Donald Keyhoe. It features a newly-married husband and wife team (who haven’t even had time to consummate their marriage yet, I might add!)  battling against aliens in real, honest-to-goodness flying saucers that come in just the shapes and sizes we normally imagine them to so do.

The Saucer People attack the compound in which Dr. Russell Marvin- the beefcake- and his jiggly-bosomed missus Carol- as his secretary, of course!- are working on the American Space Programme. The Saucer People, to give them their due, hadn’t wanted to attack Skyhook, the base for the project, but it seems that the message saying that they wanted to come in peace was mislaid or misinterpreted somehow or reached the Earthlings too late.

This kind of incompetence is clearly the work of Dr. Marvin’s new wife-cum-secretary. He needs to put the dizzy wench over his knee and beat some efficiency into her with the flat of his hand, which I believe was perfectly legal and, in fact, encouraged, back in those days. She’ll certainly think twice before failing to correctly and swiftly interpret a message from Outer Space in the future, the wasp-waisted little hussy. Love the aliens’ metallic suits and the protective force field, by the way.

Anyway, talk about ‘take us to your leader…!’ After picking Carol’s Dad’s brains (quite literally), the aliens coolly announce that they want the Marvins to organise a conference of world leaders so that the aliens can negotiate their occupation-slash-takeover of Earth. Flamin’ cheek!

It’s up to the sex-starved Dr. Russell and his missus then to nobly and unselfishly delay their wedding night (and they’re so hot ‘n’ horny too!) so that they can figure out a way to stop these power-mad aliens from taking over the planet. It’s actually surprisingly easy to do. Putting the kybosh on the aliens, I mean. World leaders, take note for future reference, lol.

IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE is great fun altogether. It might even have been the inspiration for the screenplay of Ridley Scott’s phenomenally famous ALIEN film. A handsome captain of a space expedition to Mars is accused of murdering his crew members for a few lousy old tins of spam and kidney beans. (How come nothing nice ever comes in tins?) When you see the film, you’ll understand what I mean.

Anyway, this fella, this Colonel Edward Carruthers, claims that his fellow crew members were murdered by an Alien Life Form. A load of old poppycock and balderdash, right? Well, we’ll see, won’t we?

Now he’s being brought home to Earth from Mars by a new crew (well, he broke his old one, lol!), and he’s being watched constantly so that this new crew can find out if he was telling the truth about what happened to the last lot.

They very quickly discover that the beefy Carruthers was being straight up about the Alien Life Form. It seems like something rather nasty has managed to stow away on their dinky little nuclear-powered spaceship (it’s 1973 in the film, by the way) and It has every intention of doing to this crew what It did to the last.

It’s a somewhat vampiric creature, as it stays alive by absorbing the vital bodily fluids of its victims and leaves them as a dried-out shell, rather like what Imhotep the Mummy does to his victims in the first two terrific films in THE MUMMY series by Stephen Sommers. Sucking out their essence and so on. It’s a pretty icky business and the end result ain’t particularly photogenic.

In fact, the film was originally known as IT! THE VAMPIRE FROM BEYOND SPACE. The film-makers were right to change it, as audiences would have been expecting their vampire to be a suave, black-caped neck-biter with a sexy Hungarian accent and piercing eyes, and that would have been a different film altogether.

In fact, on exiting the movie theatres back in the day, there might even have been cries of: ‘There was no bleedin’ vampire in that fuckin’ film!’ and there would just have been too much confusion all round.

I personally think that the Creature here is cuddly and adorable, and that he looks like a cross between THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and Ray Harryhausen’s own marvellous handiwork in 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH. He’s violent and mean-minded, sure, but he’s a very misunderstood alien being. I think I could change him. Tame him. Save him. It’d take some time but I think I could do it. Then maybe he could save me, lol.

The beefy Carruthers, also misunderstood and accused of a crime he didn’t commit, does a lot of lovey-dovey hand-holding here with crew member Ann Anderson, who’s supposed to be the gal of the spaceship’s new boss, Colonel Ben Van Heusen. Ben is a dreamboat too, but maybe he doesn’t hold hands and gaze soulfully into a gal’s eyes the way Carruthers does.

By the way, if you think you recognise crew member Eric Royce, you’re right. The actor Dabbs Greer spent many years as the Reverend Alden in the super-popular television series, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE. (Did anyone else fancy Almanzo Wilder, or was it just me?) Dabbs Greer also played supporting roles in a bazillion other films and television series and he lived to be a respectable ninety, which is the age I’m expecting to live to myself.

I don’t know how I know this. I just have this very clear vision of myself at ninety, still quaffing wine and churning out books no-one reads every year, and still egotistically expecting everyone to agree with every word out of my denture-filled mouth or I’ll put ’em on my Enemies List. That list is getting awfully long. At some stage, we’re almost certainly gonna need a bigger boat…


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

You can contact Sandra at: