A FLORAL TALE BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: ANOTHER BRILLIANT SCREENPLAY BOOK REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘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.’

Hippolytus: Help!Rape!

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:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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.

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE LAMIA. (1972) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong 2

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

THE LAMIA. (1972)

PUBLISHED IN NOVEMBER 2019 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

… her hands slowly slide upwards…

To her breasts…

And rest there for a moment…

Feeling the flesh of her perfectly formed bosoms beneath her dress…

Then her hands begin to slide upwards once more…

To rest upon the smooth incline of her throat…

Before continuing to slide upwards even further…

To her face…

Sliding, caressingly, over her cheeks…

As, with her thumbs,

She presses her eyes out from their sockets…

And lays them carefully on the bedside table…

I adored the story about how a sixteen-year-old Michael tried to sell his screenplay of The Lamia to the then thriving Hammer Studios, thinking that his Snake-Woman hybrid might be a nice addition to their stable of Draculas, Frankensteins, Wolfmen, Abominable Snowmen and other screen monsters. Thank you for your interest but it’s not for us at this time, came back the disappointing reply. Ah well. Them’s the breaks, sadly.

Of course, a few years later, Hammer made the hugely successful horror flick The Reptile, in which, if I’m not much mistaken, the monster is… you guessed it… a Snake-Woman hybrid. Sigh. Showbiz is indeed a hideous bitch-goddesssssss… Yes, the extra ssssssibilance is totally intentional, lol. Hisssssssss…

This story, by the by, can be found in the chapter entitled A History of the Screenplay in Michael’s latest luxurious film script book, The Lamia. Before we discuss the screenplay itself, I think you might get a kick out of Michael’s rather witty commentary on industry critics contained in the History chapter:

‘Most critics, in reality, are about as useful as wasps at a picnic and are best ignored. There’s no point in trying to swat them or they’ll only get angry. Put a critic on the defensive and they’ll sting you. All you can do is leave them to their own devices and hope they won’t crawl around on the food too much.’

Miaow…! Now where did I put the Raid…?

The Lamia is set in England in 1831, in and around the mansion home of the aristocratic Spencer family, the leading family in the otherwise poor district. We open on a homecoming, as the youngest son of the Spencer family, Jack, returns from a trip to Europe with his posh chum, Tristram Ryder.

As Jack’s father, local magistrate Sir Richard, his older brother Giles and his sister Ann are greeting the pair rapturously, however, they discover that their beloved Jack has brought more home from the Continent than a sun-tan and a few sticks of rock.

The main thing he’s brought back is a stunningly beautiful young Grecian woman called Helena Paxinou, a self-possessed creature he intends to marry who has Jack wrapped round her little finger. Although that’s nothing compared to the things that she could wrap around him, if she had a mind to… Ooops. I’ve said too much, lol.

Things in the village start to go awry pretty much from the time Helena Paxinou arrives in town.

There was a gypsy lad killed last night in the woods not far from here. They say it were done by someone in the village. The village says it were done by one of the gypsies’ own. Though the Constable says it were more likely to have been some wild animal.

Judging by the shocking state of the corpse, my money’s on the wild animal.

So far, from my initial examination of the body, I can only confirm that it was badly torn by enormous claws of some kind.

Jack’s sister Ann and his close friend Tristram each agree that there is something a trifle odd and unnerving about Jack’s new fiancée, Helena. And what kind of woman would order all the mirrors in her bedroom to be removed? I can imagine that a certain Dr. Van Helsing from a certain rather popular gothic novel would have plenty to say about people who don’t care to gaze upon their likenesses in the looking-glass…

Jack Spencer and Helena Paxinou are both keeping secrets from each other. On reflection, Helena’s is a million times worse. This is possibly the most graphically violent, graphically sexual of all of Michael’s screenplays that I’ve read and reviewed thus far.

If the film had been made, I’m not sure how far the film-makers would have been prepared to go with the scenes of physical and sexual torture. I definitely can’t imagine a certain tall, dark Prince of Darkness volunteering his nether regions for such indignities and appalling manhandling…!

Mindful of spoilers, I can only share a small amount of such graphic content here. This is one of the scenes involving Gammer (Grandma) Pilkington, an ancient and infirm crone from the village whose beloved grandson, Thomas, one of the Spencers’ groundsmen, has just fallen afoul of the terrible supernatural monster currently plaguing the area:

Gammer stumbles out of her room with a cry

And starts to crawl down the landing towards Thomas’s bedroom…

Crying out his name with a terrible desperation…

O.S. The unpleasant sound of what resembles suction…

It grows in strength as she nears the open door…

A gruelling, squelchy, sucking sound…

Well, bleurgh, lol.

It’s not all squelching and sucking, however. The wives of the Spencer family doctor, minister and solicitor provide plenty of light relief with their comic asides, their insatiable nosiness and their loudly-expressed opinions born out of pure ignorance. Here’s a snippet of a conversation I love:

Mrs. Ridgeway and the other wives are still gossiping, cheerfully.

Mrs. Armand, the doctor’s wife: Apparently, there were large bite marks on their necks.

Mrs. Cox, the minister’s wife: That is what carnal desire makes you do, so I hear.

Mrs. Ridgeway, the solicitor’s wife: Oh, I shudder at the very thought of such a gross act! Mr. Ridgeway would never dream of biting me in the neck! He would not dare!

Mrs. Cox: Men are such animals, Mrs. Ridgeway!

Mrs. Ridgeway: They are indeed, Mrs. Cox!

Mrs. Cox: It is why I thank the good Lord to have blessed me with a man of the cloth as a husband. It gives me such peace of mind, knowing Cyril’s holy work protects him from such impure thoughts.

Mrs. Ridgeway: As indeed with my own husband- being a solicitor…!

The ending is thrilling. Will Jack and the Spencer family discover the awful truth about Helena Paxinou before it’s too late? In a text filled with references to Greek mythology, who are ‘the filthy women,’ and are they the kind of broads you’d want at your stag or hen do? Will readers be able to ‘stomach’ the scene with The Rat in it? I’d advise an empty stomach before reading it, certainly!

I love the Hammer feel to this particular screenplay. There’s one tavern scene which absolutely calls for a jovial Michael Ripper to be behind the bar, dispensing the frothy, suds-topped pints along with the genial ripostes. And, of course, the feeling of impending horror and the atmosphere of encroaching dread is always in the background:

Above, in the night sky,

The dark silent shape of the screech owl circles…

Before disappearing into the blackness beyond…

Watch out for low-flying birds…

I will leave you with some words of wisdom of Mrs. Ridgeway’s for the women of today…

It is not fashionable for a young lady to have thoughts- especially of her own. She may be permitted to muse upon a subject from time to time but it would be most unbecoming were she to think about it. Who knows where that might lead?

And also with some invaluable words of Michael’s own from the History chapter:

Trust your soul. It is your voice. It is uniquely yours for the brief duration of your life. It will never be heard again for as long as Man survives. It is as sacred as your identity and who and what you are. Let it be heard in your work and let its truth echo out across countless generations. But let it be your voice and yours alone, because even the greatest ‘expert’ will never have sufficient expertise to be better than you at being you.

I couldn’t have put it better myself, if I’d tried for a thousand years.

FALCONFELL, MY SCARE LADY and THE LAMIA are all available to buy now. You can purchase them at either of these websites:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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