ANGELA’S ASHES. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

angela the 3 franks

ANGELA’S ASHES. (1999) BASED ON THE PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING MEMOIR BY FRANK MCCOURT. DIRECTED BY ALAN PARKER.

STARRING EMILY WATSON, ROBERT CARLYLE, RONNIE MASTERSON, JOE BREEN, CIARAN OWENS, MICHAEL LEGGE, GERALD (FATHER TODD UNCTUOUS) MCSORLEY AND PAULINE (MRS. DOYLE) MCLYNN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘A man who would drink the money for the new baby was beyond the beyonds.’

Fancying a good miserable time for myself on Easter Sunday night, after the chickens had been cooked and eaten and the crème eggs devoured, I put on ANGELA’S ASHES. This is one of the few Irish films I can stomach, as some of the rest of them are just too annoying or, quite frankly, not as good as their English or American counterparts. As I’m Irish myself, I’m allowed to say that, lol.

ANGELA’S ASHES is quite simply one of the best films ever made about the Miserable Irish Catholic Childhood, and fair play to author and school-teacher Frank McCourt (1930-2009) for turning his grim beginnings into a multi-million selling book and movie. Talk about making lemonade when life hands you lemons. That’s how you do it, Frankie lad, and more power to your elbow.

Anyway, if Frank McCourt is the hero of his own story, then the heroine must surely be his mother Angela, who put up with so much misery and poverty in her lifetime. Married to a feckless drinking man from the North of Ireland called Malachy McCourt (played by Robert Carlyle), her lot is to have and lose baby after baby (because of the high infant mortality rate for the poor of Limerick’s slums in the 1930s and 1940s) and to be barely able to feed the living ones because they have no money.

We first meet the family in America. They’ve emigrated there presumably to make a better life for themselves, but have to return to Angela’s family in Limerick when the Big Apple turns rotten and worm-infested for them. ‘We must have been the only family in living memory to be sailing AWAY from the Statue of Liberty,’ observes Frank the narrator ironically.

Limerick’s slums are already chock-full of desperately poor families. Frank and his brothers get mocked and taunted in school for wearing broken boots patched with the rubber from a bicycle tire. The family’s furniture comes from the St. Vincent De Paul Society, on the condition, seemingly, that they consent to being insulted and publicly demeaned by the members of the committee while queuing up to beg for it.

Dad is permanently out of work and, on the rare occasions when he’s in work, he drinks the wages and then loses the job for turning up late or not at all. Angela refers to him repeatedly as a ‘useless feck,’ and she’s not wrong there. Robert Carlyle’s character makes me so angry.

His sole contribution to the family seems to be getting Angela pregnant repeatedly, filling his sons’ heads with fairy stories he remembers from his childhood and drinking away every penny he ever gets his hands on, coming home pissed and incontinent offering his children ‘a penny to die for Ireland.’ When he conks out one night with his stupid selfish head practically in the piss-bucket on the landing, you can’t help feeling that he’s found his natural milieu.

Oh yes, he’s big on songs about the bould brave Fenian men and he boasts about having fought for Ireland during the War of Independence but, wouldn’t you know it, there’s no record of his ever having done military service so he’s not entitled to any pension.

He just makes me so mad. He has ‘loser’ and ‘sponger’ written all over him. He castigates Angela for going begging to the St. Vincent De Paul people or picking up coal off the street where it’s dropped off the coal-man’s cart (‘Have you no pride, Angela?’), but I don’t see him bringing in a wage for food and clothes for the kids he’s actively helped to create.

It’s almost a relief when he buggers off for good, off down the wet, waterlogged lanes where the McCourts have their tenement-style dwelling, to take the boat to England and never be heard from again, as far as I know. Frankie, played by three different actors in the three stages of his development, is the man of the house now.

We see Frankie in school, on the one hand being subjected to savage physical discipline and, on the other, being introduced to the joys of reading, a love he never loses.

He makes his First Holy Communion, for which he has to have his badly-behaved, sticky-up Protestant hair flattened down by his Granny’s spit, and his Confirmation. He develops typhoid and spends two months in hospital. He gets his first ever job as a coal-man’s apprentice, but has to jack it in because his eyes become super-irritated by the coal dust.

He works for the Post Office as a telegram boy and enjoys as a result his first ever sexual experience with a girl. He’s long since learned the forbidden art of ‘self-abuse,’ even though he knows full well that it makes the Virgin Mary cry.

He works for the local moneylender as a writer of threatening letters- one of the highlights being when he throws her ledger in the ocean- and every penny he makes, he puts into a Post Office Savings Account, otherwise known as his Going To America fund. Yes, that’s right. All wee Frankie McCourt wants to do is get back to the land of promise and plenty some day, where everyone has perfect teeth and a lavatory of their own. Oh joy unconfined, lol.

How can he bear to part with the rain, the misery, the hunger, the grinding poverty and the awful knowledge that his mother has to sexually satisfy her horrible cousin Laman Griffin if she wants to keep a roof over her childrens’ heads? Ah well. It’s a free country. Or maybe not…

There’s a brilliant jaunty soundtrack of ‘Thirties and ‘Forties music, lots of stunning rural scenes to ogle, and the cast is dotted with familiar faces from other Irish films and Irish soap operas, namely the now defunct rural soap GLENROE and on-going urban soap FAIR CITY. 

It’s like playing ‘Spot the minor Irish celeb…!’ Oh look, it’s your man from… And wasn’t your one in…? And there’s what’s-her-name from that thing, oh, you know the thing I mean, it was on last August Bank Holiday…!

The main person you’ll recognise should be Pauline McGlynn, aka Mrs. Doyle from clerical sitcom FATHER TED, as Frankie’s Aunty Aggie, Angela’s childless older sister. You can tell she has a heart of gold underneath the cranky, crabby exterior. Although she doesn’t once try to give anyone tea…

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, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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THE WANNSEE CONFERENCE. (1984) A CHILLING NAZI VISION REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

wannsee reinhard

THE WANNSEE CONFERENCE. (1984) BASED ON TRUE EVENTS. WRITTEN BY PAUL MOMMERTZ. DIRECTED BY HEINZ SCHIRK. STARRING DIETRICH MATTAUSCH AND GERD BÖCKMANN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is one of the best, if the absolute grimmest, of all the Nazi films I’ve ever seen. It’s as good as DOWNFALL (DER UNTERGANG), the gripping story of Hitler’s last days in the bunker under the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, while the Russian army were less than a few miles away and their bombs and explosions shook every building in Berlin to its foundations.

It’s so realistic, THE WANNSEE CONFERENCE, that every time I watch it I feel like I’m watching a piece of found footage, that this is what actually happened, that this is exactly what happened when some of the Nazis’ top personnel got together at this luxurious villa in Wannsee in Berlin to discuss the finer details of what came to be known as ‘The Final Solution’ to the so-called ‘Jewish Question.’

Only one copy of the ‘minutes’ of the meeting survived the war, and it is from this that the dialogue is derived. The dialogue is of necessity fictionalised, but it comes from an extremely true place, as it were.

The purpose of the meeting was threefold: to thrash out the details of the Final Solution; to ensure the co-operation of the various Nazi government departments, who were represented at the meeting, in the carrying out of the Final Solution; and, finally, to decide who or what constituted a Jew, and therefore should be included in the Final Solution.

The meeting, which had been delayed a bit by America’s entry into the war after Pearl Harbour happened in December 1941, took place at the beautiful private villa in Berlin at the behest of the Reichsfuhrer-SS, otherwise known as Heinrich Himmler, one of Hitler’s ‘bestest’ men.

It was Hitler’s wish that the German Reich and all her occupied territories should be made ‘Juden-frei’ or ‘free of Jews,’ and Hitler’s wish was ‘Heini’s’ command. Hitler rarely troubled himself with the finer details of any of his policies, unless it was for the grandiose pie-in-the-sky model cities and buildings he intended to create after the war, which of course never happened. There was no ‘after the war’ for Hitler.

But the worse things became for Germany in the war, the more he immersed himself in these blueprints for mad projects that would never get done. It was obviously his chosen form of escapism, something in which he could retreat when the going got tough.

The onerous tasks pertaining to the Final Solution were left to his top men, who in turn sub-delegated the job to underlings and so on and so on until the job was done. Hitler and Himmler both envisioned a kind of ‘combing’ movement that ‘swept’ Europe ‘clean’ of Jews from left to right and vice versa, the way you’d go through a child’s hair with a fine-tooth comb during an epidemic of what we used to call ‘unwelcome visitors.’

Himmler delegated the job of making Germany and her occupied territories ‘Juden-frei’ to his pet toady, Reinhard Heydrich, tall, blonde, perfectly ‘Aryan’-looking and so cold he’d make the icy winds that blew around the glacier that proved the Titanic’s downfall feel like a gentle Caribbean breeze. The actor who portrays him here is so like I imagine the real Heydrich to be that it’s actually scary. No, scratch that. It’s terrifying.

The Nazis invited to this conference sit around a long polished table in their highly decorated uniforms, gorging themselves on delicious finger food, fine cigars and fancy cognacs while they hammer out the details of the Final Solution. As the star-struck secretaries in the reception areas outside the conference rooms put it, ‘there’s a lot of top brass here today.’

Hitler gets ‘heiled’ more times than you can shake a stick at. Facts and figures are thrown around while the various personnel report to Heydrich how ‘Juden-frei’ the areas under their personal responsibility have become or are hoped/intended to become in the near future.

Maps of occupied Europe are displayed to the room, with little coffins on them indicating the places where large numbers of Jews have already been killed. It’s shocking to the viewer, these little coffins, but the attendees don’t even bat an eyelid. The coffins are only used to represent Jews, after all, and not real people.

No-one wants to be found wanting in the presence of ‘Heini’s’ little pet, Reinhard Heydrich, regarded by many historians as one of the main architects of the Holocaust. Hitler dubbed Heydrich ‘the man with the iron heart.’ In other words, he has a swinging brick where the command central of his emotions and feelings is meant to be.

It is openly admitted here amongst these men, maybe for the first time, that the Jews whom they intend to send to ‘labour camps in the East’ are in fact destined for the dreaded ‘special treatment’ or ‘sonderbehandlung’ in the occupied areas of Poland known as ‘the General Government.’

No words stronger than this ‘sonderbehandlung’ will ever be put down on paper for fear that they might incriminate themselves, but here, amongst themselves, it is safe to admit such things out loud, even in the presence of the female secretary who’s taking the minutes and the waiters who serve them with their cognacs and canapés. Those cocky gits. The top brass, I mean, not the waiters.

The process of getting the Jews to the ‘labour camps in the East’ is discussed step-by-step with cold practicality. ‘Israel’ and ‘Sarah,’ their derogatory names for the male and female Jew, will obediently sign over their property to the Reich and hand the keys of their dwelling(s) over to the designated Nazi officials.

Then, carrying one suitcase and the paltry sum of no more than fifty marks- which will all be stolen from them at their destination anyway- they will board a train (most likely a cattle train) to ‘the East’ in a quiet and orderly fashion.

The destination will be one or other of the various concentration camps (Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, Mauthausen, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Belzec) and, at the end of the road, they’ll find the gas chambers and crematoria waiting silently for them.

Gas? Some of the men around the table, one in particular, pale a little at the mention of the gas. Either they didn’t know about it prior to today, or it just slightly offends their delicate, fastidious sensibilities to be hearing such nitty-gritty details.

Some people, the so-called ‘mental defectives’ and the disabled mostly, have already been put to death by means of travelling vans into which they would be piled and then killed by exhaust pipe, in much the same way that a person would commit suicide by sitting in their car with the exhaust running.

People grew to know in time that these vans heralded death for some. This is one way of doing it. But the downside of this method is that you can only kill a handful of people at a time. It’s slow and cumbersome, too slow and cumbersome.

Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz whose post-war memoirs provide us with one of our most valuable documents of World War Two, gets a mention here then. He apparently ‘swears by Zyklon B,’ the pellets of insecticide that have been proven capable of murdering large numbers of people at a time.

The Jews are ushered into an ‘undressing room,’ where they are told to remember where they put their stuff for afterwards. This lulls them into a false sense of security, making them think that there will be an ‘afterwards.’

Once they are locked securely into the gas chambers, an SS man- it was always an SS man- will nip up sharpish onto the roof of the building and drop the pellets of Zyklon B in through an opening.

It could take several minutes for the gas to take full effect and the hundreds- or thousands- of people inside the room to die. There could be shouting and screaming for several minutes after the doors are locked. Victims could be observed through a peephole in the door.

Then the Sonderkommando, the concentration camp prisoners tasked with doing this horrible, horrible job that the SS themselves didn’t want, enter the room with gas-masks on to cart the bodies off to the nearby crematorium for burning.

The sights that would await them when those doors were opened were truly terrible. With blood, faeces and urine dripping from every orifice and their heads sometimes twisted on backwards with the pain and fear of what they’d undergone, the corpses were shocking to behold. Some members of the Sonderkommando might have to take pliers and remove the gold teeth from the mouths of corpses, surely the job straight from the jaws of hell itself.

Every so often, the members of the Sonderkommando would be themselves murdered and replaced by other prisoners. They were never left alive for long. The SS didn’t want people who knew so many of their grisly secrets to be walking around free, free to tell everyone they met about what they’d witnessed and experienced in the death camps.

At the conference, a lot of time is spent debating the ‘half-Jews’ and ‘quarter-Jews,’ and how exactly you determine whether someone is one or the other and how you then treat them. Previously, Jews married to Aryans or who had been married to Aryans but were now widowed had been exempt from ‘Sonderbehandlung,’ but now there’s talk of a clean sweep, of cutting all the ‘bacteria’ out of the diseased organism for good, for the good of the organism. This analogy from the plant world comes courtesy of one Adolf Hitler, by the way. Have you read MEIN KAMPF yet? Great cure for insomnia.

It’s a bit like a privileged gentleman’s club, this conference. Whenever any Nazi official proposes something particularly bloodthirsty for the Jews, most of the others rattle and bang the table with their fists and make approving, ‘hear, hear’- type noises, while swilling their pricey cognacs and smoking their fat cigars.

‘Why should our chaps die at the front while Israel and Sarah swan off to a holiday resort?’ one official says of the concentration camps. Well, Israel and Sarah will soon know the real meaning of work, the Nazis say, as the plan for any able-bodied Jews is forced labour and for them to be worked literally to death.

Another man is worried about whether he will lose his Jews- his free labour, he means- to the camps, as he needs them for his armaments factories. Why import and pay foreign workers, he says, when you can get the Jews for nothing? He’s delighted to hear that he can hold onto his slaves, at least for now.

The main player here, even more than Heydrich himself, who shamelessly chats up the pretty secretary (What’s WRONG with her, by the way? Has she no womanly feelings of compassion for the victims of genocide under discussion, or is she only interested in landing herself a man, preferably a high-ranking Nazi officer?) in front of everyone present and who expects a ripple of sycophantic laughter every time he cracks a little joke, is probably Adolf Eichmann. He’s the ‘numbers’ man and Heydrich’s so-called ‘Jew specialist’ or ‘Jew expert.’

He’s the un-extraordinary ‘petty bureacrat’ or pen-pusher about whom German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt made her remarks referring to ‘the banality of evil.’ This was while Eichmann was on trial for war crimes in Israel in 1961, after being snatched from Buenos Aires by the Israeli group Mossad. He’d been hiding in South America since the war, having escaped from Europe via the ‘ratlines’ used by escaping Nazis for that exact purpose.

‘I was only a tiny cog in the Nazi killing machine,’ was his catch-cry during his trial, after which he was hanged for his crimes. This was how he liked to minimise his actions but we know that he attended this milestone conference. We know that he was one of the main Nazis responsible for organising the Jews onto those cattle trains that would take them to those mythical ‘labour camps in the East.’

A monster doesn’t always have to look like a monster, and be actually caught in the act of grinding children’s bones to make his bread, to have been responsible for the atrocities with which he’s charged. Eichmann is certainly a case in point for this particular argument.

He’s the Nazi who infamously said that when he died, he’d jump into the pit of hell with glee, happy in the knowledge that he had put six million Jews down there with him. Here, he’s certainly a fussy little bureaucrat, kissing Heydrich’s butt and pulling figures out of his sleeves and demonstrating his intimate knowledge of ‘The Jewish Question.’

I just want to bring one more conference attendee to your attention. There’s a portly, jowly official called Dr. (he has a degree in law) Rudolf Lange present, a young enough Nazi who was largely responsible for Latvia’s Holocaust. He’s another one who likes to get a laugh for his actions.

He falls asleep at one point, probably rendered dozey by all the cognac he downs at the meeting, and glories in the laugh this generates amongst his colleagues. To fall asleep while the details of the deaths of millions of people are being worked out seems irreverent, to say the least.

He’s brought his beloved German shepherd dog Hasso along to the conference with him because Hasso ‘needs a vacation.’ The inference here is that the dog is treated better than the Jews under discussion at the conference. He’s a great dog also, apparently, for ‘sniffing out Jews’ from their hiding places ‘in the latrines’ or ‘up chimneys.’ The film ends with Lange throwing a ball or a stick for the dog.

The whole film is an exercise in ‘show, not tell.’ The meeting unfolds in real time and a certain amount of knowledge on the part of the viewer is assumed. No character sits down and says to his colleagues: ‘Now, folks, as we all know, this is World War Two and Germany is about to start losing the war in a big way,’ and so on.

The discussion is all highly practical, to the point and cold and calculating, and Heydrich advises the report-givers to ‘be brief’ as his time is valuable and his cool blonde Aryan presence is required elsewhere.

The pragmatic and bureaucratic way in which the subject is gone over is frightening. If Eichmann typified for Hannah Arendt ‘the banality of evil,’ then surely this conference taken as a whole is an example of the pettifogging, bureaucratic mind-numbing and also terrifying minutiae of evil. Could this type of thing ever happen again? Well, all it takes is for good men to do nothing…

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, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE STRANGER BESIDE ME. (2003) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

stranger beside me ted

THE STRANGER BESIDE ME. (2003) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY ANN RULE. DIRECTED BY PAUL SHAPIRO.

STARRING BARBARA HERSHEY, BILLY CAMPBELL AND MEGHAN BLACK.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

The book on which this made-for-TV film is based is far superior to the film, sadly, but then it would have been hard for any film to fully capture the sheer brilliance of Ann Rule’s true crime masterpiece. It’s no slur either on the sweet-faced Barbara THE ENTITY Hershey’s acting.

She makes a very nice Ann Rule and neatly captures the fact that Ann Rule was a lovely decent person who was put in a very awkward situation by her friend and co-worker, a certain serial killer by the name of Ted Bundy. What am I saying, awkward situation? It was a situation probably unprecedented in the history of true crime writing.

Ted had committed several murders in Seattle, Utah, Washington, Idaho and Colorado in ‘Seventies America, and former policewoman Ann, who wrote true-life crime stories for magazines for a living, was commissioned to write a book about the murders that would be finished only when the murderer was caught and convicted. If that ever happened, that is.

In her fabulous book THE STRANGER BESIDE ME, first published in 1980 and then updated in 1986 and 1989 (Ted was finally executed in 1989), Ann describes working nights as what we here in Ireland would call a ‘Samaritan’ but what the Americans referred to as working as a telephone crisis counsellor in a Crisis Centre.

Ted, a handsome young Republican law student who once worked on Governor Evans’s election campaign in Washington, worked right alongside Ann as a telephone counsellor. Students and other young people would phone in with their problems, just as people would phone the Samaritans over here if they were feeling suicidal, depressed or even just a little low.

Ann does a very good job in her book of describing the good feeling she and Ted would get when someone who was intent on committing suicide while on the phone to them was saved by her and Ted’s intervention. In the film you see them working as a team to save a life, so it must be said that Ted actually once used to save lives, rather than just snuffing them out forever.

Ted befriended hard-working single parent Ann and was fascinated by her work as a true-crime writer. He even asked to borrow copies of the detective magazines that carried her stories.

Ted would almost certainly have enjoyed reading about women who were beaten, raped, tied up and murdered, and if there were pictures too, well…! So much the better. He was in his element. This was exactly his area of interest. He lived for brutally hurting women.

Of course, Ann at the time didn’t have a clue that Ted was the mysterious faceless phantom who was spiriting pretty young college co-eds away from their lives and families forever. When she saw that the photofit pictures of the serial killer, who strangely enough was actually calling himself ‘Ted’ to his victims and potential victims, resembled her own friend Ted from the Crisis Centre, she told her friends on the police force.

She had always remained good friends with her buddies on the force and their tip-offs and inside information on criminal cases made good stories for Ann, who helped them out also whenever she was able to do so. It was a good strong symbiotic relationship that helped both sides.

Ann was unaware at the time that Ted’s then girlfriend, a young woman called Elizabeth Kloepfer whose whereabouts today are a total mystery, as far as I know, had had her own suspicions about her boyfriend’s frequent absences and was also trying to alert the police. Ted Bundy was about to become the Number One Suspect in a major murder case.

Ted was caught initially by a traffic cop, I believe, who was puzzled as to why an upstanding citizen with nothing to hide would be carrying around a rape kit and burglary tools in the boot of his car. In the film, Ann meets with Ted while he’s still free but under police surveillance, and he tries to persuade her that the charges against him are bullshit.

Ann has her suspicions, though, and she’s especially worried about the murders because her own daughter Leslie- with whom I’m friends on Facebook, thanks to the magic of the Internet!- was a teenager at the time and liked to go around doing as she pleased, as most teenagers like to do. There’s a bit in the film where Ted tells Ann categorically that Leslie will not, repeat not, be harmed by the murderer. Only a man who was the murderer himself could make a promise like that.

The film doesn’t have the same ambience of dark, lurking menace that Ann’s marvellous book contains. I was scared for weeks after reading Ann’s account of the terrible murders in the Chi Omega sorority house in Tallahassee, Florida.

Ted, who’d escaped from prison for the second time and was still on the run, gained access to the sorority house through a door with a faulty lock. He then bludgeoned two sleeping students to death and inflicted grievous bodily harm on two others. Unbelievable though it sounds, all the attacks were carried out and achieved within a matter of twenty minutes or less. No-one heard anything, and only one person saw anything.

Ann wrote the account so well that I felt like I was crouching there in the darkened stairwell myself, watching Ted run down the stairs and out the front door carrying the oaken club he’d used to bludgeon the sleeping girls. He was actually seen by one of the girls leaving the house.

The film doesn’t even come close to capturing the horror of that dreadful night. After Ted exited the Chi Omega sorority house, he attacked another woman in a nearby ground floor apartment. Posing as a fellow called Chris Hagen, he only had a few more weeks of freedom left before he was re-captured and incarcerated for good. For the good of the community at large, you might rightly add.

There was something about a cat too in Ann’s book (I’m a bit hazy on the details here), a cat who’d apparently sensed the terrible evil in the Chi Omega house on the day of the murders and done a legger for several weeks until he felt it was okay to return. And the bit about the girl who was in the bathroom that very night and had no idea that it was Ted’s footsteps she heard outside the closed bathroom door…! It gave me chills for days.

In the film, Ted apparently goes to his execution in the electric chair without having his head or legs shaved or his rectum packed with cotton wool as would have actually happened, but I suppose these are mere details.

I’m more disappointed with the total lack of atmosphere in the film, the total absence of any real horror in its depictions of Ted’s heinous crimes. Their Ted is kinda wrong too, his face is too long.

It’s still a good watch though, THE STRANGER BESIDE ME, although I stand by what I said. The book is better. The New York Times described it as follows: ‘As dramatic and chilling as a bedroom window shattering at midnight.’ They’re not wrong. Rest in peace, dear Ann. I wish I’d known you. You sound like one heck of a great lady.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

 

THE RIVERMAN. (2004) A SUPERB TRUE-LIFE SERIAL KILLER MOVIE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

riverman bundy georgann

THE RIVERMAN. (2004) DIRECTED BY BILL EAGLES. BASED ON ROBERT KEPPEL’S 2004 BOOK THE RIVERMAN: TED BUNDY AND I HUNT FOR THE GREEN RIVER KILLER. STARRING CARY ELWES, BRUCE GREENWOOD, SAM JAEGER, KATHLEEN QUINLAN, SARAH MANNINEN AND DAVE BROWN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘That guy’s sure a piece-a work. Talking to him’s like having a slug crawling over your face.’

Florida State prison officer about Ted Bundy.

This is a fantastic film. It’s a film initially about the Green River Killer, otherwise known as blue-collar worker Gary Ridgway, the American murderer who killed so many prostitutes in the 1980s and 1990s that he had ‘a hard time keeping ’em straight,’ as he said himself.

It turns out then to be a film about the relationship between criminology professor Bob Keppel and Ted Bundy, a certain serial killer whose name you might know, and that’s when the film goes from being already very good to bloody brilliant. Let’s start at the beginning and see how things pan out.

Dave Reichert is the promising young detective who’s just been assigned the post of lead detective on the case of the Green River Killer in ‘Eighties America. The killer is known as the Riverman because so many of his victims’ bloated corpses ended up in or the banks of the mighty Green River. He operates in the Seattle-Washington area.

Dave Reichert himself discovered one of the bodies. He literally stumbles over the heavily decomposed remains on the overgrown river bank while investigating the case of another victim found floating in the Green River.

The Riverman only kills prostitutes, and often only very young ones at that. The girls are vulnerable, desperately impoverished and frequently under-aged runaways who are estranged from their families. It’s very hard to keep tabs on girls like that. If one goes missing, who’s to say whether or not she’s been abducted and murdered or simply packed a bag and moved on?

Even if someone reports such a girl missing because, say, she doesn’t phone home on her birthday or Christmas one year like she’s been accustomed to doing, it’s hard to imagine the police doing much more than making a note of her name and promising to keep an eye out for her.

How would you even begin to look for such a girl, who could have hitch-hiked a lift with some trucker and been several States away by the time the investigation into her disappearance gets underway?

The killer, of course, was counting on either this lack of interest on the part of law enforcement or the difficulties the cops faced in tracking down the missing girls. Their problems were his opportunities, as it were.

Dave Reichert is stumped, anyway, as to who’s killing these girls and dumping them in the river or on the river banks or in the most depressing, deserted stretches of waste ground known rather gruesomely as ‘dump sites.’ The killer himself referred to them as ‘clusters.’

Sometimes the horrible smell of decomposing flesh might alert a passer-by to the existence of something terrible in the bushes or behind the pile of rubble. More often than not, the corpse would turn up in the Green River, floating silently along all bloated and discoloured.

The killer treated the Strip where the prostitutes would ply their trade as his own personal playground or ‘supermarket’ for roughly two decades before he was finally collared in 2001. He more or less ran amok and there was nothing, really, to deter him for long.

The guy who plays Gary Ridgway in the film is exactly right for the role. He captures precisely the ordinariness, the sheer nothingness of this little weasel of a guy who played God with the lives of so many women for so long. The Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, was another such nondescript loser, with a boring blue-collar job and a so-so marriage, whose wife knew nothing of his crimes.

Anyway, Dave Reichert calls in Robert Keppel to help him to find the killer. Bob Keppel, a professor of criminology at the University of Washington, was a member of the Task Force responsible for tracking down Ted Bundy.

Ted, of course, was the handsome, charismatic law student-cum-serial killer who in the 1970s murdered several women in America, usually beautiful young college co-eds with long straight hair parted in the middle to resemble a woman he’d once loved who had rejected him.

For a long time, Ted’s victims simply disappeared into thin air. A college girl would go to sleep in her bedroom in her sorority house while her sorority sisters slept in their own rooms all over the house and, by the next morning, she’d be gone. How had he done it without alerting anyone to his presence in the house?

Or maybe a college girl would set out to walk home late at night from her boyfriend’s fraternity house to her own sorority house and she’d never get there. Even though there’d be just a short walk between the two buildings, somewhere along that short walk Ted had found her and spirited her away with him forever.

Once, he’d even removed two women, separately, from a crowded National Park of picnickers and sun-worshippers on the same day and brought them both to a hideout in the woods where one of them was forced to watch him murder the other. One of them had her bicycle with her, which vanished into thin air also, just like its owner.

Then, high on a cold lonely mountain, some remains were finally found. The manhunt for the man who actually told his victims he was called ‘Ted’ was one of the biggest America had ever known.

The police even had a photo-fit that closely resembled Ted and Ted’s friends would tease him about how much he looked like this man that the whole of the American police force was trying to catch.

I think it was the first time too that American law enforcement came up against a serial killer who travelled across various State-lines to hunt his prey. Now that everyone had their own transport, a killer could be in one State in the morning and in another in the evening. It made the job of law enforcement that much more difficult than, I suppose, in the days of travel by a horse and cart.

Anyway, when the then-incarcerated Ted Bundy, on Death Row in Florida State Prison at the time for only a fraction of the crimes he’d actually committed, found out that his old Nemesis Bob Keppel was on the case of the Green River Killer, he wrote to Bob at his family home asking Bob to come and see him. What was Ted offering? Insight, he claimed, into the mind of a serial killer. It was too good a chance for Bob to turn down.

Bob’s wife Sandie goes ballistic, though, when she sees the letter with Ted’s name and address on the outside of it. How did this man find out where we live? Are you seriously going to let this evil man back into our lives, after all the trouble he caused last time? Burn his letter, burn it! I don’t want anything of his in this house! Bob, you must be out of your mind if you’re considering getting mixed up with him again!

You couldn’t really blame the wife. The men and women on the Ted Bundy Task Force ate, slept and breathed Ted for weeks, months and even years, presumably leaving Bob little time for his wife and three young children.

On the other hand, I assume she knew what job her husband did when she married him. If his job is to help track down serial killers, then that’s his job. A lot of little families like hers end up making sacrifices for the ‘greater good.’

Bob and Dave go to Florida State Prison to see Ted, brilliantly played by Cary Elwes (THE PRINCESS BRIDE, the SAW franchise). Ted, even heavily guarded on Death Row, is still sarcastic, constantly sneering, constantly goading Bob.

He’s arrogant, haughty, desperate to show off his superior knowledge of the serial killer’s mind, desperate to prove that, even locked up as he is, he ‘still matters.’ He’s still important. He’s still a big wheel down at the cracker factory. (THE SIMPSONS!)

Ted has little insight really into the mindset of the Green River Killer, so Bob wisely uses the time to find out more about Ted’s own criminal activities. Ted is initially cagey but the closer he gets to his execution date, the more information he coughs up, thinking it might land him another stay of execution, which it doesn’t.

Bob learns a lot from Ted. He learns that full possession and control of the woman and, afterwards, her corpse, are the things that help Ted to ‘get his rocks off,’ to use Ted’s own words. Once she’s inside that car, that VW Bug, she’s his. To do with as he wishes. Just get them in the car. Ted will do the rest.

Ted would return many times to ‘his’ corpses to spend time with them and have sex with them till, presumably, they became too heavily decomposed. One can almost imagine that he would love to have lived with them in his house, if such a wild aberration had been permissible by law.

I’ve watched a few of the ‘Ted’ movies and they’re all really good, but none is as good as the five-minute segment in ‘THE RIVERMAN’ which shows us the terrible fate of pretty college co-ed Georgann Hawkins, the girl with the Spanish test in the morning.

The night-time bits see Ted pouncing and making off with his prey, but the bit in the cold sharp light of morning, the bit in the woods on the isolated mountain when an exhausted, satiated Ted is returning to his car really tells us so much more.

Did he drive home then to sleep for the whole day? What did he normally do after a kill? Did he wake up in the evening after hours of a dead sleep, starving with the hunger, and go and see his girlfriend Liz for a bite to eat with her and her daughter?

Did he have sex with Liz that night while re-living in his mind what he’d done to Georgann or the other women he took and killed? Did he smile to himself as memories of that night on the cold, lonely mountain or other similar nights came back to him? Ted took many of his secrets to the grave with him. Some things about him we’ll never know.

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

A IS FOR ACID and THE BRIDES IN THE BATH: A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY TRUE-LIFE MURDER MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

acid

A IS FOR ACID (2002) and THE BRIDES IN THE BATH (2003): A DOUBLE BILL OF TRUE-LIFE MURDER MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I remembering watching both of these murder movies when they were first on television- ITV, I think- back in 2002 and 2003. I remember also being utterly fascinated by them both, voyeuristic little ghoul that I am.

In particular, I never forgot Martin Kemp in THE BRIDES IN THE BATH yelling the following at one of his many bigamous ‘wives’: ‘You’re my wife, and if I want you to take a hot bath, then you’ll damn well take a hot bath!’ Crikey, take it easy, Mister Hygiene Police. Mind you, his apparent fastidiousness arose, not out of an over-riding passion for cleanliness, but out of a passion for murder…

Let’s start with THE BRIDES IN THE BATH then, as it appears we already have. Martin Kemp, the heart-throb from ‘Eighties New Romantic band Spandau Ballet, plays George Joseph Smith (1872-1915), a man who used and abused women cruelly for personal profit.

With his piercing blue eyes, handsome face, chin dimple (this is Martin Kemp I’m describing now, not George Joseph Smith!) and decent physique, he approached lonely single women in just-post-Victorian England and made them fall in love with him. He had all the charm and all the chat, so that bit was ridiculously easy for him.

It was easy too for him to bigamously marry these women, despite the fact that he had a wife sitting at home waiting for him in his unsuccessful antiques shop. He simply used aliases.

Once he’d married the women, he became the rightful owner of any money or property they had, or he’d take out life insurance policies on them, payable to him in the tragic event of the wife’s death. Then he’d make his wives take a bath with the door unlocked…

How he got away with it so often is staggering. Why were there no marks of violence on any of the bodies, when surely there must at least have been bruising round their ankles where he held them so tightly until they drowned? But no, he did this and got away with it three times before anyone thought to put two and two together.

He used the same modus operandi with each of the murdered wives. He’d marry ’em, move to a new area with them and then bring in the local doctor and tell him he was ‘worried’ about his wife, in an attempt to have a diagnosis of epilepsy or nervous hysteria or something brought in. This was so that then, when he went on to murder this wife for financial gain, he could call in the doctor and say things like, Oh my God Doctor, I was afraid of something like this! What a creep.

Martin Kemp is terrific as the cold, heartless George Joseph Smith. Mind you, he’s a great actor anyway. He was in EastEnders for several years and he also played one of the Kray twins with his real-life twin brother Gary in the superb film THE KRAYS, co-starring the magnificent Billie Whitelaw as their adoring mother.

I didn’t care much for the giant moustache he sports in THE BRIDES IN THE BATH but it was the style of the time, like wearing one of those long-legged stripy bathing costumes when you went to the seaside.

Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter’s Uncle Dursley) plays Smith’s barrister, Sir Edward Marshall-Hall, a man who seems to dislike his client and who almost certainly thinks Smith is guilty as hell of the heinous crimes of which he’s been accused. I wouldn’t say he was all that sorry to see Smith hang for his sins.

Tracey Wilkinson (yes, you DO recognise her; she was prison officer Di Barker in smashing prison drama BAD GIRLS) does a great job as Smith’s long-suffering ‘real’ wife Edith, and even then she finds out at the end that she too was married bigamously to Smith, as he’d wedded someone else before her in 1898. What a bastard!

‘Oh, but he keeps coming back to me,’ she bleats rather pitifully in the face of all the evidence of Smith’s bigamy. ‘Surely that means he loves me?’ Not necessarily, love. He needs a base, that’s all, somewhere to return to when the heat’s on or he needs to lie low or regroup his resources.

It’s a bit like running back to your Mammy when you’re tired and sick or you need to retreat from the world for a bit and you know she’ll look after you. It’s not the same as loving someone properly, not at all.

Smith, in a way, treated Edith worst of all, although he didn’t kill her. Instead, hers was the Death Of A Thousand Cuts, as she sat at home waiting for him for weeks, even months, on end while he was off marrying other women and killing them for their money and calling it his ‘work.’ This was the highly dubious ‘business’ of which she knew nothing. Was she better off not knowing? It’s hard to say.

There’s a funny bit- well, it’s funny in a gruesome way- when Smith’s boarding-house landlady is reading in her newspaper about the execution of infamous wife-murderer Doctor Crippen. At that exact moment she’s reading the news article, water from the on-going murder of Smith’s then-wife is actually dripping down onto the newspaper from the bathroom above. The irony is rather delicious.

Another Martin takes centre-stage now, Martin Clunes, as we take a look at A IS FOR ACID. Clunes plays John George Haigh (1909-1949), the ‘Acid Bath Murderer’ who killed people by dissolving them in a bath of acid because he’d heard that acid removed all traces that there’d even been a person there in the first place.

Without a body, he’d heard, there could be no conviction for murder. Corpus delicti, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, it was the remains of the people he killed that convicted him, the remains that the acid didn’t dissolve: the body fat, the gallstones (eeuw!), the dentures, the bit of a foot. So much for acid, anyway.

Just like our old friend George Joseph Smith’s case was trail-blazing in that it allowed evidence from other similar deaths to be heard during the prosecution of one particular murder, so was Haigh’s case ground-breaking.

It was one of the first in which forensics played a huge part. Forensics was all the police had to go on, pretty much, so Haigh might even have been the first murderer to have been convicted on the basis of forensic evidence alone.

Smith and Haigh were similar in other ways too. Smith quoted poetry at his women and he had a fondness for Tennyson. Haigh was very cultured also. He played classical piano well and performed pieces by such musical luminaries as Bach when he was asked for his party piece.

Haigh killed for love. Love of money and love of self, that is. In the film A IS FOR ACID, he kills six people for his own financial advancement. He was a born conman with several convictions for petty fraud.

He murdered his old chum Donald McSwann to gain control of McSwann’s properties and lucrative business, and then he killed Donald’s gentle elderly parents to avoid detection. What a cowardly weasel.

His modus operandi was probably a little less finessed than Smith’s. He claimed to be an inventor and an engineer and, in fact, he did tinker about with a few ideas. He’d invite the person he wanted to kill round to his workshop, then he’d either shoot them or bash them over the crown with a crowbar. Then into the vat of acid they’d go, maybe still alive for all we know. What a grisly, miserable end to meet.

After the McSwann family massacre, he murdered Archie and Rose Henderson (The awful Rose is played by Celia Imrie), a doctor and his wife, so that he could take charge of their financial affairs.

But Rose’s brother is deeply suspicious of Haigh. When he is able to connect Haigh to the disappearance and possible murder of an elderly rich woman living where Haigh does, at the Onslow Hotel, he contacts the police. They pay a long-overdue visit to Haigh’s workshop…

Haigh is quiet, polite and charming. But his mind has been somewhat of a gory bent since childhood, and he tells the cops that he thinks he’s a vampire. His wacko parents, members of a religious sect known as ‘the Plymouth Brethren,’ have been telling him since he was born that the three of them are part of something called ‘God’s Elect.’ No wonder Haigh feels like he has the power of life and death over the people he meets.

His devoted girlfriend Gillian (Keeley Hawes) is so smitten with the tall, amiable Haigh that she goes round to Haigh’s parents’ house after Haigh has been hanged and spouts mealy-mouthed platitudes like: ‘Oh no, he didn’t suffer at all at the end!’ Well, that’s a blessing, at any rate. We’d sure hate for the man they called the Acid Bath Murderer to suffer when he was facing Albert Pierrepoint, Britain’s last hangman…!

Anyway, these are two top-notch British crime dramas that you’d hugely enjoy if you’re into serial killers, which most of us horror movie fans probably are. There’s a glamour and excitement about serial killers that draws us to them but, when you watch films like this, you do get to see the killers as they really were.

And what were they really? Just small-minded, petty little men who killed defenceless women and pensioners for a few measly quid and thought they were great big men for so doing. Anyway, kudos to The Two Martins. A job well done there, lads. A job well done.

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

THIS IS PERSONAL: THE HUNT FOR THE YORKSHIRE RIPPER. (2000) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

ripper gregory oldfield

THIS IS PERSONAL: THE HUNT FOR THE YORKSHIRE RIPPER. (2000) STARRING ALUN ARMSTRONG, JAMES LAURENSON, RICHARD RIDINGS, SUE CLEAVER AND CRAIG CHEETHAM.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

The Yorkshire Ripper: ‘I’ve been killing all these women.’

The Ripper’s wife: ‘What have you done that for?’

This gripping and absorbing piece of work was originally a two-part crime drama mini-series made for television in 1999. It’s based on the murderous career of the man who became known as ‘the Yorkshire Ripper,’ after Jack the Ripper, the killer who’d snuffed out the lives of five prostitutes in the Whitechapel area of London nearly a century before in 1888.

The Yorkshire Ripper operated from the mid-‘Seventies (some say even earlier than this, as far back as 1969, maybe) till 1981 in the north-east area of England. He eventually turned out to be a transport worker from Bradford called Peter William Sutcliffe, an ordinary, rather weedy-looking fellow whom you wouldn’t look twice at if you passed him in the street, that’s how unremarkable he looked.

He’s still alive now at the age of seventy-two or three, doing a number of life sentences for the brutal murder of thirteen women, some prostitutes but not all. One woman worked for a building society and another was just a sixteen-year-old student when she was struck down by this petty little beast of a man. Calling him a monster might just imbue him with a tad too much importance for my liking.

The fact remains, however, that he held the whole of that part of England in the grip of a terrible fear for several years and I bet he loved the power it gave him, the little weasel. Sorry, I’m not being very impartial here, am I, but some of the stories told in the film are just so unbelievably heart-rending.

The small children of one of the victims, one Wilma McCann, were found wandering the streets of their neighbourhood, freezing in their pyjamas, the morning after Wilma was murdered, searching for their Mum who hadn’t come home the night before. It hardly bears thinking about, does it?

Peter Sutcliffe came up on the women from behind, like the cowardly creep he was, in lonely or deserted areas like parks or wasteground, and then he bludgeoned them on the head with a ballpeen hammer.

Then, once they were down on the ground and probably dying, he eviscerated them with a knife to the abdominal and even vaginal areas. That last bit is very similar to what Jack the Ripper did.

Peter Sutcliffe would tear off or pull up/down/off their underwear, but he never usually interfered with the women sexually. This implies something derogatory about him that I’d love to say but I’m going to exercise some restraint here. You know what I mean though, right? The prick.

After the Ripper had been killing for a while, George Oldfield of the West Yorkshire Police, masterfully played by Alun Armstrong, was brought in to spearhead the campaign against the killer by Chief Constable Ronald Gregory (James Laurenson). It was a campaign that cost Oldfield his health, as he ran himself ragged trying to find the man responsible for the brutal deaths of so many women.

He also kind of lost his job in a way because, once a long time had elapsed and the killer still hadn’t been found, Oldfield was moved ‘sideways’ by Gregory into something called ‘Support Services.’ This basically meant, as Oldfield said himself, that he’d be responsible for dogs and horses, while going back ‘into uniform’ to do it.

Oldfield’s colleague and friend, Dick Holland, however, kept looking for the man who’d come to dominate both their lives and, when the killer was eventually caught, there was one of those heartening scenes you get in crime dramas where someone comes rushing into the Incident Room shouting: ‘We’ve got him, we’ve got the bastard!’ and everyone cheers like crazy. Here they toned the expletive down to ‘bugger,’ but the effect was the same.

The Ripper was eventually caught almost by accident. The cops were constantly trawling the red- light areas in Leeds and Bradford because that’s where the Ripper picked up his victims. One night, they picked up this guy with a prostitute. They discovered that he had false number-plates on his car and so, thinking that this was a bit suspicious, they ran him down the station for a spot of questioning.

When they discovered that he’d twice used the excuse of having to go for a pee to ditch a ballpeen hammer and a knife from his wife’s kitchen block, they knew they had someone in their custody who was just a little bit more significant than your average john…

This all sounds similar to the way that American serial killer Ted Bundy was caught. Stopping Bundy for a motoring offence, the arresting officers wondered why he’d need what looked like a set of burglary-cum-rape tools, including a pantyhose ski-mask and a crowbar, if he was just the ordinary everyday citizen he was claiming to be.

The Ripper case was the case, I think, that really caused computers to start being used in England for the widespread solving of crime. Hundreds of policemen and women spent hundreds of hours inputting probably thousands of pieces of information into dozens of computers.

The Ripper used a car to pick up his victims, so the police were taking the registration numbers of all the cars they spotted in the red-light districts and putting them into their brand-new computers, then cross-referencing them against other names and numbers that kept coming up time and again.

Peter Sutcliffe’s name came up several times during the course of the investigation. He was even interviewed up to about nine times by the police and then written off as being not a likely suspect.

According to this film, though, there were men who were interviewed or picked up many more times than this and considered likelier suspects than Peter Sutcliffe. Every time Peter Sutcliffe’s name comes up on the computer screens in the film, I wanted to yell, that’s him, you’ve got him! But of course no-one ever listens in TV land…

Remember how, in the case of Jack the Ripper, both the police and the leader of a group of vigilantes formed to catch the killer were sent letters or grisly ‘souvenirs’ by someone purporting to be the killer? Same with the Yorkshire Ripper.

Letters were sent with a Sunderland postmark from someone claiming to be the killer and, most astonishingly of all, a tape was sent to George Oldfield by someone who spoke with a ‘Geordie accent.’ He told George, amongst other things, that: ‘I have the greatest of respect for you, George, but you’re no nearer catching me now than you were four years ago.’

Serial killers often become obsessed with the detective assigned to catch them and, in some cases, they even try to make contact with them. This is why this film is called THE YORKSHIRE RIPPER: THIS IS PERSONAL, because to George Oldfield, it was personal.

He’d been personally name-checked by a man he thought was the killer. He was determined to redouble his efforts to find the man, even if it killed him, and some would say that it probably very nearly did. Certainly he had a heart attack during the investigation.

I listened to this extraordinary tape myself and I was convinced that only the real Yorkshire Ripper could have recorded something so low-key and calmly authentic-sounding as this tape. The tape was later found to be a hoax, but it sent chills down my spine when I heard it and I reckon it would again, if I were to listen to it in the future.

Sue Cleaver (Eileen Grimshaw from CORONATION STREET; you know, Todd and Jason’s Mum) plays Dick Holland’s second Missus, Sylvia. Also, I could nearly swear to it that the beautiful Kimberley Walsh (GIRLS ALOUD, STRICTLY COME DANCING) plays George’s school-age daughter Gillian, who’s studying for exams in the film. (Just checked; it’s Kimbers all right!)

What really comes home to you in this excellent drama series, and others of the same calibre, is that the men and women who catch serial killers and try their best to keep the streets safe for everyone usually have families of their own, which they put on the back burner while the killers are still at large.

George and his wife had a daughter who died very young of leukaemia and they never got over the pain of that, but George had to put that aside to do his job, a very hard job where the Press and the public will castigate you and even tear you to shreds if you get it wrong, as sometimes happens, and the killer goes free to kill again.

One thing I didn’t like about the drama is the way that the victims of the Ripper’s who weren’t prostitutes were referred to as ‘innocent girls.’ They were all innocent, weren’t they? Prostitutes have such a dangerous job, and I doubt if any one of them do it for the excitement or to meet men.

They’re natural victims because of the danger and the illegality of what they do. When you operate illegally, you don’t have the protection of the police and that’s scary. The prostitutes who were killed had every much a right to life as the other women who were killed by this little runt of a man. I’d apply the word ‘innocent’ to all his victims myself.

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

 

DERANGED. (1974) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

deranged mary table

DERANGED… THE CONFESSIONS OF A NECROPHILE. (1974) AN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL FILM. DIRECTED BY JEFF GILLEN AND ALAN ORMSBY. WRITTEN BY ALAN ORMSBY. PRODUCED BY TOM KARR. SPECIAL EFFECTS BY TOM SAVINI.

STARRING ROBERTS BLOSSOM, COSETTE LEE, LESLIE CARLSON, MARIAN WALDMAN, MICKI MOORE, ROBERT WARNER, MARCIA DIAMOND, BRIAN SMEAGLE AND PAT ORR.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The wages of sin are gonorrhea, syphilis and death. Remember that, boy!’

Amanda Cobb, Ezra’s Mother.

This film is loosely based on the story of real-life American boogeyman and murderer Ed Gein (1906-1984), although in this film he’s called Ezra Cobb for some reason. Maybe because the real Ed Gein was still alive at this time, I don’t know what the deal is with that.

Ed Gein, known as the Butcher of Plainfield, was the Wisconsin farmer-cum-handyman who achieved permanent notoriety when he was found to have peopled his house with the mutilated corpses of women, and mostly elderly women at that, after his mother’s death in 1945 at the age of sixty-seven.

He was the inspiration for Robert Bloch’s horror novel PSYCHO, which in turn went on to become Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous movie PSYCHO in 1960. Iconic weirdo Norman Bates (‘A boy’s best friend is his mother’) was probably the first cinema character to portray what might happen when a fatherless boy with an uber-domineering mother who gives him some very messed-up ideas about women and sex is abandoned in death by that mother. Unable to cope with her very significant loss, his mind gives way and he devises a method that ensures that he can hold onto her forever. If a few other women are sacrificed along the way, well sure, what harm?

The bonkers Ed Gein was also the inspiration behind the character Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and the character Buffalo Bill in the 1991 smash hit movie THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, which introduced the character of Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter to the world, played so immaculately and memorably by Anthony Hopkins.

The Ezra Cobb in DERANGED is heavily emotionally attached to his own extremely domineering, deeply religious mother, Amanda Cobb. She’s bedridden and about to die when we meet her, but her venomous mouth has lost none of its power to shock and scare the child of her loins.

With her last breath, she’s telling her virgin son Ezra, who’s fifty if he’s a day, to watch out for the filthy, disease-ridden gold-digging whores who will flock to him now he’s such an eligible bachelor, with his own farm and a house to go with it and no doubt a few bucks in the bank as well. She’s filled Ezra so full of misogynistic poison that it’s a wonder he’s not scared off women for life.

He misses his mother so much that, one night, he imagines that he hears her calling to him from the grave. ‘Bring me home, boy! It’s cold and dark down here! Bring me home, I tell you!’ It’s his own voice mouthing the words but he thinks it’s his mother talking to him. Off he drives to the cemetery to dig her up, as happy as Larry once he gets her home and back in her own nice warm bed.

Over the coming weeks and months, he tries to patch her up with bits and pieces of animal skin, but it’s not long before he realises that human skin would work so much better for this purpose. What to do, what to do…?

When he hears about the recent death of his old Sunday-School teacher Mrs. Johnson, he digs her up, decapitates her gruesomely and uses her ancient facial skin to patch up his old Ma’s disintegrating kisser. The results, hideous beyond belief to the viewer, are mighty pleasing to Ezra Cobb, whom we can already see is completely and utterly mad.

His meeting with the equally bonkers Maureen Selby- is this what it sounds like when doves cry…?- leads to death and horror for poor lonely Maureen. And in front of her Herbert’s lovely photo, too! What in the wide world are things coming to?

The fate of attractive barmaid Mary Ransom is much more frightening. Ezra meets her in a bar and begins immediately to fixate on her. He cunningly slashes Mary’s tyres in secret one night so that she’s obliged to take a lift home with him.

This proves that his abduction of Mary is no spur-of-the-moment action but very much a premeditated one. What it proves legally I don’t know, but the educationally backwards and even mentally retarded Ezra can be as sly as a fox when pursuing his own twisted ends.

When the stunning Mary, described unflatteringly by the narrative voice-over as ‘thirty-four and already over the hill,’ follows Ezra into his isolated farmhouse and sees the little gathering of ‘women’ waiting to receive her in the parlour, it’s like the scene in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE where the screaming girl meets Leatherface’s ‘family.’ It’s just horrible. Poor Mary, initially brought here to be Ezra’s ‘bride’ rather than just another ‘companion’ for Ma Cobb, goes into shock. 

Major spoiler alert here now, folks. If she’d known as she clocked in for work at the bar that night that, before the night was over, she’d be beaten to death with a human thigh-bone that she’d earlier seen being used as a drum stick by a transvestite freak wearing a titty-vest made of human skin and real titties, she might well have called in sick.

It’s funny when Ezra admits openly to his one friend, Harlan Kootz, that he’s got all the missing women up at his place. Harlan, who’s known Ezra since they were schoolboys together and who regards him as a harmless simpleton who does a bit of work around his- Harlan’s- place, just laughs and then berates Ezra for telling fairy stories. Well, he can’t say he wasn’t forewarned.

What happens to pretty little Sally-Mae, the high school girlfriend of Harlan’s son Brad, mirrors closely the fate of the real-life victim of Ed Gein’s, poor old Beatrice Wordern, whose naked body was found hanging upside-down in the Gein barn, gutted like a deer. Jesus wept.

It’s apparently the closest the film gets to reflecting the real-life murderous career of Ed Gein, who’s today known as a serial killer and serial defiler of the dead. Ezra doesn’t have sex with any of the corpses in DERANGED although Ed Gein is very much known as a man who liked a nice bit of necrophilia.

Still, we must remember that the word ‘necrophilia’ can have two meanings. Yes, it means having sex with corpses (Ted Bundy definitely did this, until the corpses became too discomposed for comfort), but it can also mean someone who is obsessed with death, corpses and cemeteries. Both Ed Gein and Ezra Cobb fit this bill.

Apparently, Ed Gein denied having sex with any of his corpses but only because they ‘smelled too bad.’ Would he have had sex with them then if they’d smelled as fragrant as a lily-of-the-valley Christmas bath-set? Is that what he’s saying?

I read in a biography of Ed Gein’s that he was as happy as a sandboy to be carted off to a state mental institution for the remainder of his life for his crimes. He never gave the authorities there a lick of trouble. I can kind of understand why.

He had company there and people who spoke kindly to him, it was clean and presumably warm and he would have been given three square meals a day. A far cry from the cold, dirty, cluttered isolated charnel-house where he lived alone with his ‘Mother’ and her ‘friends.’ I can’t say I really blame him. Anything’s better than that, even for a man like Ed Gein.

What a kick in the knickers Ed must have been for the Plainfield Tourist Board all the same. They can have as much good hunting (for shame!) and lovely picturesque snow there as they please, but will Plainfield ever be known for anything but being the home of the man who, by digging up his dead mother and preserving her corpse, simultaneously dug his way right into the annals of crime history and also into the very pysche of the American people?

You know what, I bet there are mothers in Plainfield today who still use old Ed as the boogeyman to fractious children. ‘Hush up now and get to sleep, you pesky young’uns, or Ed Gein will come and cart you away and make a lampshade out of you!’ Aw. It’s good to know he’s useful for something.

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:

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