WRONG TURN. (2021) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WRONG TURN. (2021) DIRECTED BY MIKE P. NELSON. WRITTEN BY ALAN B. MCELROY AND BASED ON ‘WRONG TURN’ BY ALAN B. MCELROY.
STARRING CHARLOTTE VEGA, MATTHEW MODINE AND BILL SAGE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. I love all these ‘WRONG TURN’ movies to bits. This one is what’s known as a franchise re-boot, I think, and it was hugely entertaining. I don’t think I was bored at all during the one hour and fifty minutes it was on.

It’s sort of a ‘WRONG TURN’ for the digital age, which I thought might put me off, but strangely enough it didn’t. It’s ‘MIDSOMMAR’ meets ‘THE HILLS HAVE EYES,’ combining a weird cult with the usual inbred and terrifying mountainy folk we’ve come to expect from this kind of film.

Matthew Modine plays Scott Shaw, a concerned dad trying to find his daughter Jen, who seemingly went missing recently while hiking with some college friends along the Appalachian Trail.

According to Wikipedia, this trail is a marked hiking route about 2,200 miles long which extends from Georgia to Maine in the Eastern United States, and is said to be used by about two million tourists a year. Popular trail.

The viewers quickly find out what happened to Jen and her five mates. First, they wind up in the kind of old ‘Confederate’ town in Virginia where some of the older folks still retain the mores and morals, customs and mind-sets of a much earlier time. This often means that the community is rife with racism, sexism and homophobia.

The little group of six college students rouse a lot of suspicion and contempt in the town. Jen, the lead girl and a student of the arts who is unsure of what to do with her life, is an all-American white girl who is dating Darius, a black guy.

That’s frowned upon by the townspeople, as is the gay relationship and ethnicities of Gary and Luis. Gary is an Indian chap (not a native American Indian) and Luis is of Hispanic origin.

Milla and Adam, a trainee doctor and app developer respectively, are just an ordinary white American couple. Clearly, the film-makers couldn’t think of a way to make them into some kind of a minority, lol.

Anyway, the six students head off happy as Larry on the self-guided trail, but tragedy strikes when the group take a ‘wrong turn’ in search of an old civil war fort and one of their number is horribly killed.

The remaining five students decide that they need to get back to civilisation and safety straightaway, but the unseen presence on the mountain that’s been dogging their footsteps since they arrived in town has other ideas. Nasty, painful, dangerous and horrible ideas…

I love the idea of the mountainy cult known as ‘the Foundation’ that actually pre-dates the Civil War. You’d expect them to be as racist as the townspeople, so it’s a pleasant surprise, if a tad confusing, when it turns out they’re not. They’re no saints, though, and what they have, they hold. Remember that…

They have such evil reputations for murdering and torturing outsiders that even the townspeople are scared to death of them and won’t go near their hunting grounds, which are lethally equipped with booby-traps.

The sheriff and the townsfolk prefer to act like the strange, spooky mountainy folks just don’t exist, which is why they- mostly- elect not to help Jen’s distraught dad Scott when he comes looking for his missing daughter.

I don’t mind the bear costumes, but I’m not sure why the culties have to talk in weird Scandinavian-type accents, though. I loved the cult leader, Venable, whom I nicknamed ‘Poppa Bear,’ not just because of the bear costume, but also because he’s exactly the type of burly, beardy middle-aged bloke I go for now. I would have volunteered for ‘wifey duties’ in a heartbeat, and you wouldn’t have needed to force me either, lol, but that’s just me.

The violence in the film is pretty shocking. It seems to be the fashion since ‘MIDSOMMAR,’ a sort of modern day re-imagining of THE WICKER MAN, to portray in horror movies of this nature the complete obliteration of the human head and face, and this film has that kind of thing in spades. It also has the horror movie trope of the ‘lost and found’ shed, filled with the backpacks and dead cell-phones of legions of murdered tourists.

I liked that we find out what happened to Jen in her life ‘post-Foundation,’ but I can’t help feeling that she’s going to have a lot of explaining to do to the authorities after that ending. Still, that’s not our problem, I guess.

I’d love to see more films in the re-booting of this excellent franchise, although it’d be a challenge to come up with a better premise than this one. If the film-makers do run out of ideas, I for one would be happy enough to go back to basics with the cannibalistic hillbillies from the backwoods. Now there’s an idea that just never gets old.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

NORTH AND SOUTH: THE EPIC MINI-SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

orry george

NORTH AND SOUTH: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION. (1985, 1986 AND 1994) BASED ON THE BOOKS BY JOHN JAKES. STARRING MAINLY (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) THE DELICIOUS PATRICK SWAYZE, BUT THERE MIGHT POSSIBLY BE SOME OTHER PEOPLE IN THERE TOO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is what I’m talking about. This is what I call a mini-series. A superb romantic and historical epic, it’s based on the three whopping great doorstops of books by John Jakes which must have set this guy up for life, they were so popular, probably mostly because of the mini-series.

Broadly, NORTH AND SOUTH, LOVE AND WAR and HEAVEN AND HELL tell the story of, respectively, the lead-up to America’s Civil War that set brother against brother and friend against friend; the Civil War itself; and then the grim, often depressing period of Reconstruction that followed the war and takes us a bit into cowboy-and-Indian times as well.

More specifically, though, the books and mini-series tell the story of two families, the Hazards and the Mains, who find themselves on opposing sides of the war when it kicks off in 1861. And, more particularly again, it’s the tale of two men from these families, George Hazard and Orry Main, who form lifelong friendships at Westpoint military college, but their friendship is tested in many ways over the years both because of the war and the fundamental differences between their families, the differences that started the war in the first place.

The Mains own a huge cotton plantation in the Deep South. They are filthy rich, live lovely gracious lifestyles characterised by fabulous elaborate dresses for the women and mint juleps and political chit-chat on the lawn for the men. They have lovely accents and call everyone ‘suh,’ as in, ‘Suh, I say, suh, I fear that your necktie offends me and I demand satisfaction, suh!’

The demanding of satisfaction might be preceded by a harmless but infinitely insulting glove-slap to the kisser. If you don’t come back with the appropriate response, you’ll certainly be branded a coward for life, and who wants that…?

The Mains are like the O’Haras and the Wilkeses from GONE WITH THE WIND. Despite their being much more enjoyable to watch than the duller Northerners or ‘damn Yankees,’ to use the correct historical term, they have one major flaw. They keep slaves, black slaves without whom they could not run their precious cotton plantations, from which comes all their money.

The Mains of South Carolina pride themselves on treating their slaves fairly and nicely, but when a man can be hanged or branded with fire on the face for trying to run away from his ‘owner,’ then you know there’s a problem with the whole damn system. People are human beings, not cattle. Even cattle themselves don’t deserve to be treated like that.

And the poor female slaves are having the shit raped out of them as well by the white overseers like the horrible Salem Jones. What do the plantation owners do about this? They neither know nor care about it, my friends.

The term ‘Gone With The Wind’ referred to the ‘Southern way of life,’ gracious, easy-going, privileged, cultured, genteel and all the rest of it, disappearing for ever in the Civil War, trampled underfoot by dusty, nasty Yankee boots. But a way of life that has so many basic human rights violations as its bedrock could never be permitted to exist indefinitely.

Orry’s mother, played by SPARTACUS actress Jean Simmons, spends a lot of time in the film mooning over photo albums that represent this lost way of life. She’s mourning its loss, weeping for it night and day, but, again, that way of life was based on slave-owning and the slaves doing all the work while the Southerners sat around, being genteel in their fabulous mansions. Again, how could this last…?

The Hazards up North (Pennsylvania) make their money, not from genteel cotton, but from vulgar industry, in the form of Hazard Iron. On the plus side, they don’t use slave labour to run their factories for them for nothing.

George (played by James Read) and Orry clash continually on the issue of the Mains using slave labour, and it causes such contention between them that they have to agree to disagree on the touchy subject and steer clear of it if they want to remain friends.

The dreamy Patrick Swayze plays the handsome and dashing Orry Main, the typical courteous, gallant, chivalrous Southern gentleman who would never permit a lady to step through a puddle while he had a coat to spread across it first. But he also owned slaves. Unfortunately, we can’t forget about that.

Orry is desperately in love with Madeline Fabray La Motte, played by English beauty Lesley-Anne Down. Madeline has been married off by her father to the abusive Justin La Motte, brilliantly played by David Carradine of the Carradine acting dynasty.

Justin is a brutal slave-owner, who revels in the violence he’s allowed to get away with just because he’s a rich white Southern male slave-owner. He hits Madeline, he whips his slaves and he wants Virginia to secede from the Union, the one bit of the Civil War I always find hard to understand. I think it’s a bit like Britain leaving the EU, but you might want to check up on that for yourselves, lol.

Orry and Madeline have a super-exciting, super-sexy secret affair for donkey’s years behind Justin’s back, during which time Orry never so much as looks as another woman and positively lives for their sexy-time trysts in the old abandoned church. Justin uses that same church for his dalliances with slave-girls. If the old deserted church gets any busier, some sort of booking or queuing system will have to be worked out.

George, meanwhile, is stuck with goody-goody Constance (Wendy Kilbourne: MIDNIGHT CALLER with Gary Cole), whose dreadful ‘Oirish’ accent on the show attracted a fair amount of ridicule at the time. PS, Guess who married each other after meeting on the set? You guessed it; James Read and Wendy Kilbourne, lol!

George’s brother, Stanley (Jonathan Frakes: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION), has lovely eyes but he’s fiddling the books at Hazard Iron with the help of his ball-breaking wife, Isabel, who is played by a different actress in each of the three segments.

George’s brother Billy (he morphs from Cary Guffey, who played little Barry Guiler from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, 1977, into Parker Stevenson from THE HARDY BOYS in the second segment) marries Orry’s milksop sister Brett, which proves to be extremely problematic once the war kicks off, as their families are each on different sides.

George and Orry have one very interesting sister apiece. Orry’s sibling Ashton (Terri Garber) is a great character. She would sell her whole family down the river for a diamond necklace. She’s a total social-climbing, money-grabbing bitch who marries for social advancement but carries on a sizzling affair with Elkanah Bent (Philip Casnoff) behind her politician husband’s back.

Bent is a short man with a Napoleon complex (Say ‘I am a military genius, you can’t kill me!’ in a Southern accent!) who has been Orry and George’s bitter enemy since their Westpoint days. Check out Bent’s duel with Orry at Westpoint. Bent doesn’t have a prayer against a bona fide Southern gentleman, much to the amusement of those present. Orry’s lovely floppy hair in this section deserves a credit all of its own. Guess who just stepped out of a salon…?

Anyway, the evil Bent won’t rest until he’s created the ’empire’ for himself he knows he deserves. He uses Ashton to help him achieve this, and if he can take down Orry Main at some point along the way, so much the better.

Bent is pathologically jealous of Orry for his wealth and his sense of Southern entitlement, and his hatred for Orry twists and contorts his judgement till he can’t even see straight, never mind think things out rationally and logically, so you just know he’s gonna come a massive cropper in the end.

George’s sister Virgilia (Kirstie Alley: CHEERS) is an Abolitionist, someone who wants to free the slaves. Her marriage to a handsome slave called Grady (‘You wants to lay with me, don’t you?’) causes great embarrassment to her family, and her disastrous affair with the oily Congressman Sam Greene (David Ogden Stiers) will see poor Virgilia finally come to the end of her rope. Well-meaning but ill-fated, that’s our Virgilia. Terrific character, though.

NORTH AND SOUTH had a terrific theme tune and really long credits featuring little drawings of the characters, and it gave old Hollywood greats such as Jean Simmons, James Stewart, Robert Mitchum and Olivia De Havilland (if you thought she was old THEN, lol…!) another stab at the brass ring.

Erica Gimpel (Coco from FAME) and Forest Whitaker both play slaves. Linda Evans, Krystle Carrington from DYNASTY, and Johnny Cash both have cameos, as do Morgan Fairchild (Chandler’s bitchy mother from FRIENDS), Peter O’Toole, Robert Wagner, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Kelly and Nancy Marchand (Tony’s Ma from THE SOPRANOS).

It’s truly a magnificent sweeping epic, romantic and historical, and you accidentally pick up a fair bit of info about the Civil War as well. Hal Holbrook (THE FOG, THE SOPRANOS) plays Abe Lincoln for the North, and Lloyd Bridges is Jefferson Davis for the South. All the famous Generals from both sides- Sherman, Grant, Lee, etc. – get a look-in too. Grey uniforms bad, blue uniforms good, in a nutshell, is another way of looking at it, lol.

The battle scenes used real Civil War re-enact-ers, who must have been (excuse vulgarity) jizzing themselves big-time at the thought of acting out all the well-known battles for a big prestigious mini-series like this. I bawled my eyes out when Lee surrendered to Sherman in such a staunch, dignified manner, because that scene is so genuinely moving, but then I remembered about the slaves and I hardened my heart…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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

Eli Wallach in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

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

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

D.W. GRIFFITH’S ‘THE BIRTH OF A NATION.’ (1915) ‘THE MOST RACIST FILM OF ALL TIME’ REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

birth elsie captive

THE BIRTH OF A NATION. (1915) DIRECTED BY D.W. GRIFFITH. BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF THOMAS DIXON JR. STARRING LILLIAN GISH, HENRY WALTHALL, MIRIAM COOPER, MAE MARSH, RALPH LEWIS, GEORGE SIEGMANN, WALTER LONG, JOSEPH HENABERY AND RAOUL WALSH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’d heard before I ever watched this film that it was possibly the most racist movie ever made, in its depiction of African-American people in America in the time of their Civil War. Having watched the film, I can definitely concur, lol.

Do you know what it reminds me of? A couple of summers ago, I watched a German anti-Semitic movie from the 1940s called JŰD SUSS, in which Jewish people were represented as scruffy bearded moneylenders with big hooked noses, sly dispositions and an insatiable greed for money.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION does pretty much the same to black people, and it glorifies that most racist of organisations, the Ku Klux Klan, an organisation that was birthed during this period right along with the titular nation.

There are even written disclaimers before the movie comes on that basically say, Oh, we’re not being racist or offensive to any one race, we’re just telling it like it happened back then. It’s the truth, so y’all can’t have a go at us for telling the truth. Humph.

Well, the film-makers can’t prevent us viewers who are living in these thankfully more enlightened times for having our own opinions either, so there. If we want to consider THE BIRTH OF A NATION the most racist thing before that wall to keep out ‘dem pesky Mexicans’ that Donald Trump promised to build during his election campaign, then we can. Can I get a ‘Harrumph…?’

The plot is so similar to that of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), that other huge sweeping Civil War drama (from which I derived literally everything I know about the ‘Murican Civil War, lol), that it seems likely that Margaret Mitchell got at least some of her ideas about writing a Civil War epic from watching THE BIRTH OF A NATION.

GONE WITH THE WIND is a much glossier chocolate-boxy production, however, with the racism milder and more tastefully presented. It is the big stunning Hollywood depiction of the famous War, after all.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION, while beautifully shot and exquisitely presented, is much more warts-and-all in its depiction of the racism, or should I say the shockingly bad and thoroughly unsporting behaviour of the freed black slaves after the Civil War ended. Tut tut…

There’s only one use of the controversial ‘n’ word in the film, and that’s used by a black ‘Mammy’ to another black servant of whom she disapproves. The word ‘Aryan,’ which I thought had been coined by Hitler and which I didn’t realise was in use as far back as 1915, is used once, and in the exact context in which Hitler would have used it too.

There are two wealthy, privileged families, the Camerons and the Stonemans, in the film. Before the Civil War starts, the two families are the best of friends and travel back-and-forth frequently to visit each other.

Once the War begins, however, they find themselves on opposing sides. The Camerons are as ‘Southern’ as it gets, their whole demeanour and appearance simply screaming mint juleps on the lawn and pistols-at-dawn to get ‘satisfaction’ for a real or imagined slight. The Stonemans are on the side of the North.

The Cameron parents send out three sons out to fight for the glorious Cause. I think they thought it’d all be over by Christmas. I genuinely don’t think they expected to lose that war or that only one of their three sons would ever come home. Talk about a wake-up call.

The son that survives the war is Colonel Ben Cameron, known affectionately as ‘the Little Colonel.’ He’s been in love with Stoneman’s beautiful ringleted daughter Elsie since he first saw her portrait as a particularly charming miniature.

When she finally meets him after he’s been injured in the fighting, it’s love at first sight for her too. Which is awkward, as the several years of Reconstruction that happen after the war ends won’t really see any major reconciliation between the defeated South and the victorious North. Their families are basically still enemies, in other words. Capulets and Montagues, with the pair of star-crossed lovers in the middle.

Halfway through the movie, which by the way clocks in at a whopping three-and-a-quarter-hours long, a certain assassination of major historical importance takes place in a theatre, of all places.

It’s only when this happens that the film’s infamous racism starts kicking in. Prior to this, it was mainly a film about the Civil War, with some really well-done scenes of battle and fighting which are pretty much incredible for the time.

But once the man known as ‘the South’s best friend’ is out of the picture, the American political scene descends into a sort of chaotic free-for-all. The Southerners are deeply, deeply chagrined when the ‘Negroes’ or ‘darkies’ are given the vote and are encouraged to use it to vote the South’s ‘oppressors’ into power. Well, you just try resisting the tempting promise of ‘forty acres and a mule,’ lol.

What seems to be portrayed in the film is a sort of reverse racism perpetrated against the white people by the black people. White people are disenfranchised, shoved off the pavement, chained up and ridiculed by the newly-freed ‘blacks,’ who are shown to be at least as eager for revenge against their former masters as they are to have the right to vote conferred on them.

We see faithful black servants, who still want to remain with and serve the families who previously ‘owned’ them, being rounded up and monstrously ill-treated by the freed ‘blacks’ for not being loyal to the new order.

They’re not allowed the freedom of choice about what they want to do next, they’re just castigated roundly for wanting to stay with their white ‘families.’ Well, striking out on your own can be scary. Maybe they feel safer where they are, especially the older people.

Ben Cameron, the one remaining son of the Camerons and the chap that’s in love with his enemy’s daughter Elsie, gets the bright idea of forming the Ku Klux Klan after seeing some local kids messing about with some bed-sheets. This is the organisation that means to put those uppity ‘blacks’ and ‘carpetbaggers’ firmly back in their place. 

Pretty soon the local black population of Piedmont- that’s where they all live- is being terrorised by white-hooded riders too cowardly to show their faces or take direct ownership of their actions.

The most haunting and chilling scenes in the film are similar to those in GONE WITH THE WIND when Scarlett O’Hara, now married to a big girl’s blouse called Frank Kennedy whose lumber business she’s taken over for her own, drives her carriage through the ‘Shanty-Town’ occupied by freed black people, who are portrayed as reprehensible ne’er-do-wells in the film. She does this against the advice of the people around her. Who cares about any possible danger, she clearly thinks to herself, when I’ve got lumber to sell…?

Scarlett may not care a snap of the fingers for her own honour, but there are certain men in her life who do, very much so, in fact. After Scarlett is attacked by one of the black inhabitants of this Shanty-Town, a posse of able-bodied men is speedily gotten up and they go out to the Shanty-Town to clean up the cesspit it’s apparently become. One of these men never comes home at all, and another one nearly doesn’t make it back in one piece…

In THE BIRTH OF A NATION, the youngest sister of Colonel Ben Cameron, he of the Ku Klux Klan, wanders off alone to play by the Spring when she’s been expressly ordered to stay away from there, presumably because it’s dangerous in its isolation from the rest of the town.

There, Flora the sister is pursued by a black man called Gus, who’s already been presented as evil to the viewer, who has ‘ideas above his station’ now. Because black people are now allowed to ‘inter-marry’ with white people, Gus has the idea that the pretty little ringleted Flora is up for grabs. Flora is petrified and runs for her life through the woods…

I won’t tell you how this episode ends for Flora, or for Gus, but if the word ‘lynching’ were to spring unbidden into your mind, well, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark. These are some very chilling and unforgettable scenes.

The period costumes in THE BIRTH OF A NATION are absolutely stunning, especially the women’s dresses, hats and parasols. Even their hair, of which they have masses and masses, is beautifully dressed. Even though the film is black-and-white, you can tell that the costumes are even more detailed and glamorously gorgeous than their Technicolor counterparts in GONE WITH THE WIND.

A couple of miscellaneous items now for y’all to peruse. Not all the black characters in the film are played by black actors and actresses. Rather, they are played by white people gotten up in ‘blackface,’ with the big white lips and everything, a process used back then which would be completely unacceptable today. Apparently, D.W. Griffith had his own reasons for so doing…

Finally, here’s a snippet you don’t get from the film. I learned from the booklet that comes with the film that D.W. Griffith’s earliest memory is of seeing his father ‘jokingly’ threaten an elderly black servant- who’d once been his slave- with a sword, and over a too-tight haircut, of all things. Hmmm. It might all have been a big hilarious jape to Paw Griffith, but I doubt if the old black man who thought he was about to breathe his last was wetting his britches with laughter.

The ending of THE BIRTH OF A NATION is undoubtedly ridiculously racist, and the sudden unexplained appearance of Jesus Christ is like something that Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels might have dreamed up for one of his little anti-Semitic newsreels. If you have to blink and rub your eyes and look again, don’t worry too much about it. I did too…!

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