MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.
A FLORAL TALE. (1971)
PUBLISHED IN 2020 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’
‘Its (the play’s) jokey attacks on literary pretentiousness gave me the idea of turning it into a send-up of sixties European cinema and the current pretentious critical acclaim in which it wallowed.’
Fairy Mustard-Blossom: Ooooh, ‘eckythump! She’s gone and suffocated in there! (and, later…) I think there must be something up with this wand… probably needs servicing.
Adonis to Persephone: Go back to your husband, Persephone. I’m sure he’d be pleased to see you once in a while.
Aphrodite to Persephone: What a total lack of pleasure to see you here, dear Persephone.
Hippa, on being a nymph: Unfortunately, quite a few of us do tend to get raped by the gods from time to time…. (and) Sometimes they turn themselves into animals to do it.
Hera to Echo the nymph: According to Artemis, you’ve been molested by a fairy?
Artemis the Hunter to Actaeon, a mortal and a playwright: You know, Actaeon, if you ever gave up all this silly writing nonsense and devoted yourself to my Hunt instead, I’d make you my favourite huntsman of all time. No-one can handle a shaft the way you do.’ (Writer’s note: What’s that, Artemis? Should he ‘re-train’ as a huntsman because his job in the Arts is gone forever due to COVID-19…?)
A FLORAL TALE is an absolute whopper of a screenplay from the Michael Armstrong collection of published works. Unfortunately, it was never made into a film (read THE HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY), but it makes for fantastic reading in the comfort of your own home. And he wrote it when he was only a young fella, as well, which is astonishing, given how complex and learned is the subject matter (Greek mythology).
It’s 390 pages of terrifically good value, containing not only the very funny screenplay (another of Michael’s unbeatable parodies; his specialised subject is definitely ‘The Send-up’), but also about a hundred pages of the most fantastic artwork for free as well; drawings and sketches of costumes and characters drawn by Michael himself with a view to attracting investors to the screenplay back in the day.
Set in Greece in mythological times, but with a definite flavour of present-day materialism, greed and immorality thrown in for good measure, it’s the story of Fairy Mustard-Blossom, a fairytale fairy based on a real person. (‘She was inspired by an extraordinary girl I knew who was the perfect actress to play her: a wonderful Lancashire comedienne I’d recently met called Veronica Doran.’)
Fairy Mustard-Blossom has been deprived of her wings because she keeps ballsing up the wishes she grants to people. They will be returned, the Fairy Queen graciously informs her, once you have granted a wish that will lead to a Happy Ever After ending.
Easier said and done for the less-than-sylph-like lass with the strong Northern England accent and a distinct penchant for screwing up everything she puts her hand to. Kind of a reverse Midas touch, which is quite apt as Midas, the mythical hoarder of gold, turns up in the story too.
Fairy Mustard-Blossom, as you might imagine from my description of her clumsy though well-meaning ineptness, creates havoc amongst the cast of thousands in this epic Greek mythology-traditional fairytale crossover.
As I’d studied the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece and Rome in Classical Studies in school (my favourite subject, due to the presence of a gorgeous telly hunk called Michael Wood in the various documentaries the teacher screened for us; phwoar…!), I felt quite smug as I recognised their names in the screenplay: Zeus, the boss of all the gods; Hera, his suspicious Missus; Aphrodite, the goddess of love and bonking; Dionysus, the god of having yourself a good old knees-up; Hermes, the gofer of the gods, and so on and so forth.
In addition to gods and goddesses, the cast is peopled with nymphs (affiliated, I presume, with Gambollers Anonymous), satyrs (Michael writes some very biting satyr, as you know), mortals, titans, classical Heroes like Heracles, who famously goes into ‘labour’ twelve times, of which the shit-shovelling in the Augean stables is the only one I ever remember without prompting, and then, of course, there’s good old Fairy Mustard-Blossom herself, who always likes to lend her services, usually with disastrous consequences, wherever a soul in need presents itself.
Everyone in the cast is either having sex with someone, or trying to. Many characters are pining away for love of other characters, who barely know that they exist, and the pain of their unrequited love can lead them to do some crazy things.
Theseus, for example, loves his new wife Phaedra, but she only has eyes for the gigantic bulge in the crotch area of Theseus’s son, Hippolytus, who himself suffers agonies of love for Hyacinthus, a gorgeous young man friend who spurns him as a lover.
Hyacinthus digs Apollo and Apollo digs him, but Hyacinthus also attracts the terrible and most definitely unwanted attentions of Zephyrus, which storyline culminates in a most harrowing fate for the poor lad down the line.
Echo the nymph loves Narcissus, but Narcissus is initially frightened to death at the thought of being intimate with someone else, before deciding ultimately that the person he really loves is… himself. Pyramus loves Thisbe and Thisbe loves Pyramus, but pesky politics gets in the way of their dream, and, in any case, there’s a spy in the house of love…
Orpheus and Linus are rock stars, and millions of teenage fans want to have sex with them. Orpheus loves Eurydice, however, although their relationship is about to hit a sticky patch.
Clytie loves Apollo but he’s otherwise engaged, and Zeus loves anything he can get his god-like mitts on, basically. Witness this exchange between him and the rolling pin-wielding Missus, aka Hera, queen of the gods:
Zeus: I keep telling you, my dear! I’ve not been trying to seduce anyone- let alone a virginal nymph!
Hera: You really expect me to believe that? After the rape of Europa?
Zeus: I told you that wasn’t me, either! It was a white bull!
Hera: Everybody knows it was you! You even admitted it after she bore you three sons- and if that wasn’t bad enough, you then had another go at the poor girl in the shape of an eagle!! So don’t expect me to believe you’ve never tried it on as a pantomine fairy! (She slaps his face and storms off…)
Poor Zeus. He just can’t catch a break. Highlights of the screenplay include Eurydice’s ‘celebrity funeral,’ at which virgins are sacrificed as if they’re taking part in a television reality show. Here, the commentator is talking to a young virgin:
Commentator: Tell me, are your parents here today?
1st Virgin Youth: They’re in the audience over there, somewhere.
Commentator: I’m sure they’ll be feeling very proud when they see you up there being sacrificed.
I also love the storyline involving Prometheus, the Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans, and who’s now advocating a kind of free, independent thinking that’s got Zeus & Co. all hot under the collar.
The gods don’t want people thinking for themselves; they just want mindless obedience from the masses and the unquestioning adoration they think is due to them. You know what gods are like.
Anyway, I love the way that Prometheus is at one point made to appear as a Hitler-type character (the torchlight processions and adulation from the crowd) and, at another, as Jesus himself (the loaves and fishes thingymabob).
Prometheus’s storyline culminates in one of the funniest lines in a book which is already chock-a-block with killer one-liners and intellectual in-jokes, such as a bunch of cheerleaders for Heracles claiming that they’d ‘go into labour for Heracles any day…!’ Here’s the Prometheus one:
You don’t expect all this violence at a flogging…!
I also love this one:
Home owner: I did try to get my hands on a cloak of invisibility, but they’re quite hard to find…!
You’ll also learn the (floral) myths that lie behind the naming of various flowers such as Hyacinth and Narcissus, but don’t worry, Michael’s aim is to entertain, not beat you over the head with facts, lol. He’ll be so gentle with you that you’ll barely noticing you’re being educated too…!
A FLORAL TALE is available to buy now at these links:
Eeee…! I never had this trouble with Puss in Boots…!
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
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.