MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. (1978) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

MIDNIGHT EXPRESS. (1978) DIRECTED BY ALAN PARKER. SCRENPLAY BY OLIVER STONE. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY BILLY HAYES.
STARRING BRAD DAVIS, JOHN HURT, RANDY QUAID, NORBERT WEISSER, IRENE MIRACLE, BO HOPKINS, MIKE KELLIN AND PAUL L. SMITH.
MUSIC BY GIORGIO MORODER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’ve always thought this prison drama based on a true story was an absolutely cracking film, and I still do, but it’s regarded by many as an exercise in racism and hate for its diabolical portrayal of Turkey and the Turkish people. The prison guards are seen as sadistic, lazy, inefficient brutes and the supposed upholders of the law as ignorant, prejudiced and corrupt beyond anything you can imagine.

Also, some of the most eye-popping incidents in the film, which I probably shouldn’t mention for fear of spoilers, apparently never happened, and were added by the film-makers for dramatic effect. That might affect the way you see the film when you’re reflecting on it afterwards.

The real Billy Hayes, who penned the book on which this film is based, was disappointed by the portrayal of Turkish people in the film and eventually, I believe, apologised for it to the Turkish nation.

Having said that, it’s still a brilliant and iconic movie, and it catapulted the lead actor, Brad Davis, into international stardom, which was good for him. Everyone in the film gives a sterling performance, and there’s a fantastic electronic score by Giorgio Moroder. (Together in Electric Dreams, anyone…?)

The film tells the story of Billy Hayes, an American college student who, in 1970, is arrested at a Turkish airport with 2kg of hashish strapped to his chest. Don’t worry, folks! We’re not dealing with a hardened drugs kingpin here. ‘I wuz only gonna sell it to my friends.’ Oh well, that’s all right, then.

The Turkish guards are coming down heavy on drugs offenders, however, and Billy gets thrown in prison for four years, a sentence later changed to something much worse, for his trouble.

The prison is so horrific, and Brad Davis as Billy so handsome and personable, that you’d very quickly forget that he wasn’t put there unjustly; there’s been no miscarriage of justice here. He has actually committed a crime here. And, even though the drug is hash and not heroin, it still might have ended up bringing untold misery to the families of the college kids to whom he sold it.

Anyway, back to the horrific prison. Conditions are awful, and the savage brutality of the Turkish guards and their ‘trusties’ has to be seen to be believed. Hamidou, the gigantic head guard, is a veritable monster, the kind who’ll grind your bones to make his bread.

On Billy’s first night under his care, Hamidou rapes him and savagely beats him for stealing a blanket. Poor Billy! He just can’t stop getting into trouble. Paul. L. Smith, an American-Israeli actor, is superb as the sadist with the two small sons whom he allows to witness his horrendous beating of four young boys. I wonder what a guy like that would be like as a husband and father. Don’t tell me there wouldn’t be violence at home behind closed doors…

Whenever Hamidou heaves on stage, practically seething with anger and striding purposely towards the inmates with his big plank of wood (for beating!) in his hand, you just know someone’s gonna be in for a terrible whuppin’…

Rifki, the guards’ trusty, or favoured prisoner, is sly, slimy, self-serving and a terrible snitch (all the s’s!), and Billy and his friends positively loathe him. Billy has formed a little sort of clique with another American, Randy Quaid as Jimmy, John Hurt as Max the Englishman and the German actor Nobert Weisser as Erich.

Jimmy is a crazy hothead who keeps getting beaten half to death for his ill-advised escape attempts. Max is a fragile drug addict who loves his cat, and Erich is a pragmatic German who would like to have sex with Billy but Billy isn’t quite ready to cross that final barrier between his old life in America, when he had a pretty blonde girlfriend called Susan, and his new sexless one in a men’s prison in Turkey.

I love the performance given by Mike Kellin as Billy’s Dad, who has been utterly destroyed by his son’s incarceration. He’s such a good dad and Billy himself is in bits for having put his old man to the trouble and expense of flying over from the United States to Turkey to see his son and consult with Billy’s lawyers.

I always cry when Billy and his dad cry, it’s just too sad! Dad never seems to blame Billy for the whole thing, instead venting his vitriol on the head guard Hamidou, who doesn’t give two figs.

I also love Ahmet, the perfect-English-speaker in the insane asylum played by English character actor Peter Jeffrey, and all his gobbledy-gook about ‘bad machines.’

Irene Miracle as Billy’s girlfriend Susan is good too, visiting Billy in all her clean unsulliedness when he looks like he’s been dragged backwards through the seven circles of Hell. That scene where Billy begs her to take off her top so he can see and touch her breasts through the glass is sad. Very sad. Look what he’s come to, it’s saying to us.

Other stand-out scenes include the tongue-biting-out one, Billy’s speech from the docks in which he calls all Turkish people ‘pigs’ and the scene in which Hamidou, the feared head of the prison, accidentally hangs himself up on his own coat hook. It’s a real ‘ouch!’ moment.

Brad Davis turns in a stunning not-quite-debut performance as Billy Hayes. It’s such a good sympathetic performance that, as I mentioned before, you tend to forget all about the crime that puts him in prison and just notice how bravely stoic he’s being in confinement and how awful the guards are who are keeping him there.

It’s still a genuinely good, exciting and nail-bitingly tense film, though I daresay it did for the Turkish tourist industry what JAWS did for sea-swimming. Over and out…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/
    

THE SOCIAL NETWORK. (2010) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE SOCIAL NETWORK. (2010) DIRECTED BY DAVID FINCHER. SCRIPT BY AARON SORKIN. BASED ON ‘THE ACCIDENTAL BILLIONAIRES: THE FOUNDING OF FACEBOOK, A TALE OF SEX, MONEY, GENIUS AND BETRAYAL’ BY BEN MEZRICH.
STARRING JESSE EISENBERG, ANDREW GARFIELD, ARMIE HAMMER, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, MAX MINGHELLA, ROONEY MARA AND DAVID SELBY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’d put off watching this film for ages, dismissing it as probably being a load of rubbish, but it’s not rubbish at all. It’s a strangely compelling, gripping and fascinating two-hour peek into the life of Mark Zuckerberg, the man we all know as the founder of Facebook, and I was glued to it from start to finish.

Apparently, the Harvard computer science student gave himself the idea for Facebook after being dumped by his girlfriend and writing some very misogynistic stuff about her on his blog, before figuring out a way of rating the ‘hot’ girls on campus online by using their photos. His Internet-crashing venture led to the creation of the site we know and (mostly!) love in early 2004.

The invention was originally intended as a way for college students at select universities to connect with each other, but the site expanded rapidly and had one billion users worldwide by 2012. I had been aware of it myself only since about 2010, and joined in 2012 with the purchase of my first ever laptop.

I’ve generally found using Facebook to be a really positive experience. I’ve made some wonderful friends there who all share my interest in films and books, and I’ve been able to share my movie reviews and other writings on the site as well, which has been a huge help. I haven’t really encountered too many jerks or dickheads on Facebook- maybe one or two at most- so I guess the jerks and dickheads all congregate on Twitter or Instagram or wherever else…!

Anyway, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t come across as a very nice guy in the early stages of the film because of the way he reacts to being dumped, but I began to root for him quite seriously when the Terrible Twins, now Bitcoin billionaires Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, come to the forefront of the film when they decide to sue MZ for bazillions of dollars for ‘stealing their idea’ for a social networking site.

I don’t believe that MZ stole the idea for Facebook from the twins. He’s clearly been a coding genius from a young age and was always going to do something magnificent with his life and his brains.

The twins, both ably played by the hunky Armie Hammer (he’s in trouble at the moment for being a bit kinky in his sex life; this just makes me want to embrace him, not ‘cancel’ him!), are spoiled privileged rich boys who claim MZ nicked their idea, instead of coming up with his own, which he would have been perfectly able to do without any help from them, thank you very much.

Sadly, the courts took the side of the Winklevoss twins, probably because they had unlimited use of their billionaire father’s crack law team. Remember old David Selby– he plays their lawyer- as Richard Channing on FALCON CREST? He was always coming up against the might and sleight of hand of Angela Channing (Jane Wyman), the filthy-rich businesswoman with more balls than the Wimbledon finals. God, I used to love that show, with all its fabulous glamour and under-handed shenanigans and the implausibly named Chase Gioberti! Haha, we’ll be talking about DALLAS and DYNASTY next. 

Where was I in the film review, anyway? Oh yes, Justin Timberlake turns up as one Sean Parker, founder of the computer file-sharing service, NAPSTER; I have no clue what that means. Also, he looks exactly like himself. He tries to encourage MZ to party down with underaged girlies and take all kinds of so-called ‘recreational’ drugs as he is a big messer. MZ really only likes to code, however, so he goes on with that and leaves the partying and the madness to other people.  

I don’t think the Winklevoss twins should have been awarded so much money for the so-called ‘intellectual property theft’ of their precious ‘idea.’ They should have gone off and invented something else, if they were that bothered. It was right of the court to restore MZ’s pal Eduardo Saverin’s name to the Facebook masthead, however; he remains one of the legitimate co-founders, after all.

I still remember how much fun it was to look up old boyfriends’ profiles on Facebook, back when I first joined. It was also good for checking if girls I’d gone to school with had gotten fat or had a nicer house than me. (Most of them did; the bitches!)

I’ve calmed down a good bit since then, mind you. It’s no longer such a novelty to look up other people’s business online, as we’ve had that facility for years now. It’s still nice to know it’s there, though, just in case anyone new comes along to send me a friend request.

The main takeaway from this excellent film is a negative one, sadly. Watching the disgraceful behaviour of some of the rich Harvard students in it gave me the shivers, because these are the men- it’s always men- who will one day lead the world. They are the men who’ll invent things, control things and make the big money, so big that we peasants wouldn’t really be able to comprehend it. It wouldn’t really seem real to us, do you know what I mean?

But, just going by what’s in the film, growing up as the privileged ‘few’ who alone have access to the elite, exclusive clubs of Harvard doesn’t seem to be filling these young lads full of empathy and compassion for their fellow men.

It’s kind of like when I saw a picture of Boris Johnson and his university chums in the news recently. All that privilege, I was thinking. All that future power. You can see it in them already. You can even smell it. Maybe one shouldn’t generalise. Maybe there’ll be a few good eggs who only want to do good in their world. It boggles the mind, though, how many of them might forget that with great power comes great responsibility. Pity, that.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

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

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

ANONYMA: THE DOWNFALL OF BERLIN. (2008) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE DOWNFALL OF BERLIN: ANONYMA. (2008) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY MAX FARBERBOCH.
BASED ON THE MEMOIR, EINE FRAU IN BERLIN: ANONYMA (A WOMAN IN BERLIN: ANONYMOUS) BY MARTA HILLERS.
STARRING NINA HOSS, EUJENY SIDIKHIN, JULIANE KOHLER, ROMAN GRIBKOV AND AUGUST DIEHL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This superb but harrowing film is based on the memoirs of a real-life German woman who lived through the end of World War Two, and that turbulent period when Berlin was occupied by the Russians and it was said that up to 100,000 German women were raped by Russian men.

The Russian Army was the first triumphant force to reach and overcome Berlin, which by then was being poorly defended by members of the Volksturm, the raggle-taggle ‘People’s Army’ comprising young boys and old men that didn’t stand a chance in hell of standing up against the Russian tanks.

Remember Hitler’s last public appearance, an informal ceremony in the garden of the Reichschancellery, presenting the Iron Cross to boys no more than ten or twelve years old? These boys, though they did their best, were all that was standing between a battered Berlin and the might and anger of the Russian Army. They were bound to fail. They had no chance.

The author of the memoir remained anonymous for as long as she could, until she was identified as German journalist Marta Hillers. The book was widely read but not by the Germans, who literally couldn’t stomach the thought of their women being made impure by the mass invasion of Russian cocks. Some folks will have you believe that the book is not just a sensationalist book about rape, but the subject of rape certainly comes up in it.

In my own opinion, EINE FRAU IN BERLIN is an important book, a book that holds just as much meaning as a war general’s remembrances about the military battles that were fought in World War Two. The women’s battles are just as relevant, just as much so as other wartime experiences, even if these experiences arouse rage, anger, hatred and disgust in the bosom of the German male.

Anyway, our heroine-narrator, whose name we don’t know, is in Berlin when the Russians invade, living in an apartment building with a handful of other women, some old, some young, some old men declared unfit for fighting and a few children.

The Russian Army make their presence felt quickly, by putting up their flag and sexually violating every available woman they can find. Age is no barrier to them. Our narrator is raped several times by different men, after which she makes a Scarlett O’Hara-type promise to herself, one which she intends to keep. ‘No-one will touch me again without my consent.’

So, how does she intend to keep this promise to herself? She seeks the protection of first one and then two Soviet officers, the handsome dairy farmer Anatole and then the tormented widow, Major Andrej Rybkin, with whom she has a doomed but at least reciprocated love affair.

It’s all in return for sex, though, and she receives not only their protection but also food and other hard-to-get supplies. Berlin’s shops have been gutted in the war, but the Soviets have access to food and soap and even goodies, so the women put out for them and they’re- the men, at least- perfectly happy. A fair exchange is no robbery, after all.

I wouldn’t judge these poor women for doing what they have to do in order to survive. Their German husbands will do enough of that when they come home from the front, or from manning the death camps, or from wherever they’ve been… What rights do the husbands even have to pass judgement, anyway, after they’ve been away at war for so long?

Juliane Kohler, who was absolutely fantastic as Hitler’s missis Eva Braun in the 2004 film DOWNFALL, turns up here as Elke, our anonymous narrator’s friend.

“How many times?” queries the narrator.

Elke doesn’t even need to ask her friend what she means.

“Four times,” she answers, before changing the subject gaily with a forced brightness. Four? Sounds like she got off lightly, considering what went on.

Women in those days didn’t have access to birth control, did they, so how did they keep from producing dozens, if not hundreds, of little Russian-fathered babies? Most likely there were hundreds of Russian babies floating around in the post-Third Reich Germany. And, if a woman was raped by more than one Russian soldier, which certainly happened, she mightn’t even know the identity of her own baby’s father.

Did their mothers lie to their German fathers about their babies’ origin, and to the babies themselves? And what effects, if any, did that have on the children concerned, because most of those children would never know the men who fathered them…?

The Russians were fierce and formidable opponents in war, and, of course, Hitler’s biggest military mistake was to open up a war on two fronts, against the Soviets as well as against the Allies. However, in the film, the Russian soldiers seem amiable, generous and friendly towards the German women, children and old men who treat them civilly.

They love to laugh, to love, to live, just like the Germans and the people of other nations. They pray, they dance, they drink like fish, they eat like horses and they adore to sing patriotic songs that venerate their beloved Russia.

The people in our anonymous narrator’s apartment building build up a comfortable rapport with their ‘invaders,’ and life takes on even just a tiny semblance of normality. They even laugh and hold raucous parties with their ‘liberators.’

Which were they, the Russians? Were they the conquerors of Berlin, or the liberators? We’re liberating you from your Nazi overlords, they said as they rolled into the German capital in their massive tanks. I suppose the German people who hadn’t supported the Nazi regime were pleased to be ‘liberated.’

Many Germans feared the arrival of the Russians and chose to commit suicide rather than be invaded.
A woman in the film tells another what she’d heard from a German soldier; that, when the occupation happens, if the Russians do to the Germans even a fraction of what the Germans did to the Russians in the Russians’ very own country, then God help the Germans.

The Nazis initially had horrendous plans for Russia; they wanted to steal her acres and acres of ‘lebensraum’ or ‘living space’ for themselves, an expanding nation, and for a time there were plans to take Russian food and leave Russian people to starve to death. And that’s not even mentioning what the Nazi Einsatzgruppen or death squads did to the country’s Jews. It seems like the Germans had every reason to fear Soviet retribution.

Anyway, to sum up, I admire the anonymous narrator’s courage and determination in deciding that she’s going to survive the Russian occupation, whatever way she needs to do it. She even begs her Major lover and protector to stop the rapes of other German women, but his uninterested reply is simply: ‘My men are all healthy.’  

When her German fiancé returns from fighting the losing battle against Russia and the Allies, it’s almost certain that he’ll be intolerant of her survival tactics and look down on her as a ‘fallen woman.’

But how hypocritical is that? Don’t tell me that he’s never, whether in the Wehrmacht or the SS, done something during this awful war in order to survive that he’d be ashamed to tell his wife or priest. Needs must when the devil drives, you know.

This is an excellent and thought-provoking movie. If you think you’re up to being punched in the kisser with the weight of an extremely turbulent part of history, then watch it. At one hundred and twenty six minutes, it’s a long one but a good one.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

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

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/

3,096 DAYS. (2013) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

3,069 DAYS. (2013) BASED ON TRUE EVENTS. DIRECTED BY SHERRY HORMANN. STARRING ANTONIA CAMPBELL-HUGHES AND THURE LINDHARDT.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely loved this brilliantly acted film, which is more or less what you’d call a two-hander, with just a duo of main characters. In 1998, the adorable, chubby little Austrian schoolgirl, Natascha Maria Kampusch, is walking to school by herself after an unfortunate argument with her mother (unfortunate because it’s the last thing they’ll remember of each other for several years) when she is abducted by an unemployed telecommunications technician called Wolfgang Priklopil.

He brings her back to the home where he lives alone and keeps her captive in his house for eight years (or 3,069 days), after which time she escapes. He’s a genius with houses, and has converted a sort of nuclear bunker created by his father and grandfather into a permanent room for his captive. Over the years, he’ll add more comforts and conveniences to the room, but initially there’s just a thin foam mattress, a toilet and a sink in the room which becomes all life to Natascha.

It’s heart-breaking to see Wolfgang, a quiet loner who seems to be visited by only his mum and grandmother, shouting at and bullying the ten-year-old girl in the beginning. But wee Natascha has a stout heart and a lot of courage for a little girl. Remember Punjab from the musical ANNIE? ‘A child without courage is like a night without stars.’ Good on ya, Punjab old chap.

Little Natascha tries very hard, even in the beginning, not to let Wolfgang break her spirit. When she’s older, she even yells back at him sometimes. But her captor is a total control freak. He frequently batters the living daylights out of her for failing to follow his rules to the letter.

He subjects her to sexual violence, though we’re not sure of Natascha’s age when this starts, whether it’s straightaway or not until she’s older. On her escape from captivity, she steadfastly refused to discuss the ‘personal’ side of their relationship.

He often starves her as well, to keep her physically weak and unable to run away. It’s so distressing to see her bony, concentration-camp-thin body naked in the shower, or clad only in his horrible, ill-fitting Y-fronts and vests.

In her entire period of captivity, she only puts on a pitiful seven pounds in weight. Seven pounds in eight years! She has to deal with getting her periods while in Priklopil’s dubious care (she’s so malnourished it’s a wonder she gets them at all), and ‘learning’ the facts of life from him as well.

In the later years of Natascha’s captivity, Priklopil lets her up into the main house a fair bit, mostly to do housework and cook for him, but also to have sex with him in his bed. Sex while attached to him with a cable tied round both their wrists. Talk about possessive. He uses her as unpaid labour for the various construction jobs he wants done around the house.

She can tile and probably grout a bathroom by the time she’s free of him, so she can go into business as a handywoman if she wants to, but as it isn’t her own choice to become a feckin’ apprentice builder, I’d say she never wants to see a fuppin’ bathroom tile again in her life…!

As well as the physical and sexual violence, we also see him forcing her to eat her food off the floor and shaving her head so that she feels ugly and maybe unable to run away. That was the main reason the nuns in the horrible Magdalen Laundries here in Ireland shaved the poor, so-called penitents’ heads. Penitents? The only ones who had anything to apologise for were the nuns…

A couple of random facts about what happens after the film ends. A copper gets in trouble for saying that Natascha had a better life in captivity than with her parents, and, as recently at 2017, Natascha Kampusch owns the house in which she was a prisoner for eight years.

Interesting, isn’t it? Some people, of course, will say that she has Stockholm Syndrome and has come to identify with her captor. I personally would lay odds that she feels terrible guilt for what ultimately happens to the weasly little Prik(lopil). The poor girl. There’s probably nothing she can even do about it.

Even though the exact ending is a matter of public knowledge, I won’t ruin it for you in case you’re not familiar with the case. It’s an incredibly sad story, though it probably gives hope to everyone out there whose child has been abducted, but unfortunately not all of these tragic cases end with the captive returning home. The two actors here play an absolute blinder anyway, and though the film is grim and bleak to the max, it’s well worth a watch. Mind yourselves, now, and your kids.

 AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/

FATAL LOVE, or SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR: THE ALISON GERTZ STORY. (1992) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

FATAL LOVE, or SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR: THE ALI GERTZ STORY. (1992) BASED ON TRUE EVENTS. WRITTEN BY DEBORAH JOY LEVINE. DIRECTED BY TOM MCLOUGHLIN.

STARRING MOLLY RINGWALD, LEE GRANT, MARTIN LANDAU, PERRY KING AND GEORGE COE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Ali, Darren died three years ago of AIDS. I thought you knew.’

I think I remember seeing this one on the television in the ‘90s. It’s one of those really good, made-for-tv early AIDS movies that came out in the ‘90s when, from what I recall, we were still a long way from knowing everything there is to know about the horrible disease known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Molly Ringwald, queen of the Brat Pack, does an excellent job playing pretty little rich girl, Ali Gertz, who develops AIDS from a one-night-stand with a handsome, long-haired bartender called Darren who sleeps around big-time.

The reason everyone’s so shocked that Ali gets AIDS is that she’s not a gay man hanging around the notorious bath-houses or a homeless drug addict begging on the streets. She belongs to a group of people that doctors didn’t realise could get AIDS at first… the heterosexuals.

In fact, Ali is young, white, rich, female, heterosexual, the pampered child of rich parents, Carol and Jerry, all living happily living in their fabulous Park Avenue apartment. The world is her oyster. She can do anything, go anywhere, have anyone. She’s a very privileged young lady indeed.

When Ali is fifteen or sixteen, however, she goes through a bit of a wild child phase. She sleeps with a bisexual bartender at Studio 54, and then seven years later, after being struck down by a mystery illness, is told by her family doctor, not that she is HIV-positive, but that she already has full-blown AIDS.

She’s devastated. So are her parents, her much older boyfriend Mark and her friends. One female friend, Tracy, can’t get her head round the fact that she, as Ali’s partner in crime in the boozing, drugging and sleeping around, could just as easily have been the one who got AIDS. Ashamed but unable to act any differently, Tracy jumps ship, as does Mark, Ali’s boyfriend, who can’t stomach the idea of having sex with a woman who has AIDS.

Another friend of Ali’s, a gay guy called Peter, chides Ali for never having paid any attention to AIDS until she gets it herself. Where was she when Peter was a terrified wreck, having lost half his friends to the deadly disease the whole way through the ‘Eighties?

Now it’s Ali’s turn to feel ashamed, but she more than makes up for it, I think, by becoming an AIDS activist and presenting herself as ‘the face of AIDS’ to the kind of people who need to hear it most, heterosexual, sexually active school-going teenagers who all think that AIDS doesn’t apply to them. By saying to them, look at me, I didn’t think it applied to me either, she stands a very good chance of getting through to them.

Bernie Siegel, American writer, inspirational speaker, retired paediatric surgeon and the author of LOVE, MEDICINE AND MIRACLES, is the catalyst that turns Ali’s attitude towards her illness to positivity rather than negativity and apathy. She attends one of his seminars on illness and healing, and comes out of it with renewed hope and energy.

The thing she finds hardest to come to terms with is the fact that, as she’s got full-blown AIDS, she may now never experience what it feels like to be a wife and mother. She’s been loved and spoiled and pampered her whole life. She can’t bear the thought of never again being touched in love by a man she cares for.

Ali paints a horrible but accurate picture to her parents about what she can ‘look forward to,’ AIDS-wise, in her ‘future.’ The terrified parents, Jerry and Carol, react by tearing strips off each other and playing the ‘Blame Game.’

‘It’s all your fault! You never disciplined her! You spoiled her, you still do!’

It’s true that a fifteen-year-old should not have been allowed to drink alcohol at Studio 54, to take drugs and have one-night-stands. But the Gertz family paid the highest price for it, so I’ll hold the lecture. There but for the grace of God go any of us, anyway.

It says at the end of the film that Alison Gertz is still talking to people about her experience and inspiring them with her amazing courage and positivity. Then I looked up the date of her death online. 1992, just four months after the release of the film. Well done, Molly Ringwald, for a terrific performance, and rest in peace, Ali Gertz. You’ve earned it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
 

VERONICA. (2017) A NETFLIX HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

VERONICA. (2017) A SPANISH HORROR FILM FOR NETFLIX DIRECTED BY PACO PLAZA AND STARRING SANDRA ESCACENA. LOOSELY BASED ON REAL EVENTS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I wasn’t expecting this Netflix horror film to be as good as it is. Loosely based on a real-life Ouija board case from Spain in 1991 in which a girl died mysteriously after using one of those devil-boards, it’s the story of a very ordinary schoolgirl, the titular Veronica.

She experiences hauntings and a bit of the old demonic possession as well after using the Ouija board which comes free with the occult magazine she regularly buys. A free Ouija board? I remember the days when a cheap sparkly nail varnish sellotaped to the front of your magazine was the most you could expect, lol.  

Anyway, poor Veronica seems to be having quite a hard time of it generally, even without the haunting to contend with. Her dad is dead, and her mum works all the hours God sends in the family restaurant/bar to keep a roof over her kids’ heads and food in their mouths.

Mum unfortunately has to put a ridiculous amount of pressure on Veronica, as the oldest child, to care for her two younger sisters, Irene and Lucia, and her adorable little brother with the curly hair and glasses, Antonito. The kids are all likeable and terrific little actors too, but, as their screen sister Veronica knows, they take an awful lot of looking after.

Veronica has to get them up in the morning and see that they’re washed, fed, dressed and ready for school. She does a full day of school herself then, before collecting the young ‘uns, dropping by the restaurant to pick up the food which Mum has prepared for their dinners and bringing everyone home again to feed ‘em, wash ‘em, get ‘em to bed and then do her own homework.

It really is an incredible amount of pressure to put on a teenage girl but, as I said, Mum doesn’t really have any choice. It’s either work or starve and be homeless. Veronica is fifteen and still hasn’t had her first menstrual period. Maybe its onset is delayed by the tremendous pressure the girl is under, who knows?

She’s definitely ripe for a haunting-slash-possession, though, as teenage girls often seem to be, because of riotous hormonal activity and, in this case, because of the death of a father whom she clearly misses. Plus, of course, her dad’s demise left her in the unenviable position of being a second parent to her younger siblings.

She’s been denied the carefree adolescence some girls experience, and she often has to miss out on seeing her friends to babysit her siblings. Also, the film-makers have thrown in a solar eclipse for good measure. Could the stars have been aligned in exactly the right way for a haunting to occur…?

The haunting is pretty damn effective. Veronica starts seeing things, awful things, around the family apartment, and having frightful nightmares, shortly after using the Ouija board in her Catholic school junk room with two of her friends. Her own odd behaviour during the séance causes her friends to be wary of her afterwards. The session scares all three girls witless, anyway.

‘Sr. Death,’ the blind, chain-smoking retired nun who lives at the school, is able to sense that ‘someone’ now walks beside Veronica who was accidentally summoned up by the amateur séance, someone from whom her three siblings must now be protected. Veronica has opened a door, the ancient nun says, that should never have been opened. If Veronica didn’t have the willies up her before, she certainly does now.

I was scared stiff myself watching the hauntings. Poor Veronica. Her friends have ditched her, her mum thinks she’s acting out just to make things difficult for everyone and their downstairs neighbour wants to know what all the racket from upstairs is about when Veronica doesn’t have a clue herself. She’s left to face the horrors alone and the outcome is going to be bloody…

I love ‘paranormal activity’ films and this is a good ‘un. The moral of the story is, of course, that you should never interfere with things you don’t fully understand, and the occult is probably at the top of that list.

I wouldn’t personally use a Ouija board if you paid me to, that’s how spooked I would be at the whole idea of waking sleeping dogs with a sledgehammer, which is the effect the Ouija board seems to have on the spirit world.

The film’s ending is shocking and could maybe have been prevented if only poor Veronica hadn’t been left shouldering so much responsibility by herself, but, as we’ve agreed, Mum has to work and that’s that. There is no-one else, as there’s no-one else for so many real-life single parent families. Maybe that’s the real horror in this story.

Other reviewers have pointed out the very obvious undercurrents of sexual abuse underpinning Veronica’s story and, if they’re right, it makes for a sad tale indeed. Either way, whatever you decide is the reason for all these gruesome happenings, it makes for a really gripping watch.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

GIRL, INTERRUPTED. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

GIRL, INTERRUPTED. (1999) BASED ON THE 1993 MEMOIR BY SUSANNA KAYSEN. DIRECTED BY JAMES MANGOLD.

STARRING WINONA RYDER, ANGELINA JOLIE, WHOOPI GOLDBERG, VANESSA REDGRAVE, JARED LETO, CLEA DUVALL, BRITTANY MURPHY AND JILLIAN ARMENANTE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Do not drop anchor here.’

‘Susanna, you’re hurting everyone around you!’

‘No-one cares if you die, Lisa. You’re already dead!’

‘Because I don’t want to kill myself, that’s not cool to you…?’

‘I’m curious as to why I should have to be in a mental institution, Melvin.’

‘Here’s a piece of advice, lady. Don’t wag your finger at fucking crazy people!’

I don’t really know what blokes would think of this girlie movie, but it’s been on my list of favourite films ever since I actually saw it on the big screen early on in the year 2000. It was my first time ever clapping eyes on Angelina Jolie and I was completely mesmerised by her stunning ‘LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!’ performance.

I’ve never cared much for Winona Ryder, thinking her too moo-cow-eyed, drippy, wishy-washy and mopey-faced, and in this film she’s surely at her mopiest ever playing Susanna Kaysen, the writer of the memoir on which the film is based, but Angelina Jolie, mon Dieu! She steals every scene she’s in as the beautiful, charismatic, dangerous, damaged and unpredictable sociopath Lisa Rowe. Susanna is drawn to her like a moth to a flame, and truly, so was I, lol.   

I should explain. It’s the late ‘Sixties in America. Susanna Kaysen has ‘the distinction of being the only girl in her year at school not going on to college.’ That’s because, although she knows she wants to write, she has no idea of what she wants to ‘do,’ because of course writing is not a proper job or course of action for a young woman on the cusp of life, according to the adults in her life. Grrr.

After having a disastrous affair with a college professor, constantly self-harming and attempting suicide, Susanna is packed off, more or less against her will, to a mental institution called Claymoore for a so-called ‘rest’ of two weeks, which turns into a stay of one whole year.

She has a diagnosis of ‘Borderline Personality Disorder’ slapped on her, something of a nothing diagnosis if you ask me. Far be it from me to say that this mental disorder or that one doesn’t really exist, but it just seems like a mish-mash of all the feelings young women tend to normally have in late adolescence anyway, feelings like insecurity, fear of abandonment, fear of never finding the perfect relationship or partner, stuff like that.

Susanna quickly becomes as badly-behaved and self-indulgent as the other brats in her ward. Whoopi Goldberg as the sensible Nurse Valerie- ‘two kids and one bathroom’- doesn’t tolerate her nonsense for a second.

She tells Susanna that she has so much going for her that it would be criminal for her to just get comfortable with the ‘crazy’ label and lie down under it. It takes a while for Susanna to work out that Nurse Valerie is spot on when she advises Susanna: ‘Do not drop anchor here.’

Brittany Murphy, who died tragically young a mere decade after making this film, is superb as the poor Daisy Randone, a sexually abused young woman with an eating disorder and a fast pass to self-destruction. Angelina Jolie’s Lisa is horrible to her and selfishly, almost for fun, gives her that extra push she needs to step off the edge of the world completely. It’s a really sad storyline.

Jared Leto plays the handsome Toby, who’s terrified of being sent to Vietnam (well, I don’t really blame him for that, do you?) so he asks Susanna to run away with him just as company for himself, the little gurrier.

Vanessa Redgrave is suitably superior and ivory-tower-ish as the Great and Powerful Dr. Wick, head shrink at Claymoore. I’m not sure how in touch with the real world and the patients she is, though, up there in her lovely office with her dictionaries and her fancy Latin words.  

Again, though, Angelina Jolie, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Lisa, just steals every scene she’s in and is so infinitely watchable as the too-cool-for-school ‘lifer’ who, under her tough, prickly smart-mouth exterior is just crying out to be loved.

And not just the love of a man for a damaged, broken but still sexually desirable little girl, either. She’s had plenty of that, it would seem, but she’s probably never known the genuine affection of one human being for another, and that’s really sad too.

A pretty cool ‘Sixties soundtrack accompanies the scenes of Susanna and her pals at Claymoore running amok in their nice safe sanitarium for- mostly- the daughters of rich folks who can afford to pay to have their problems kept neatly out of sight for a while.

This is mine and my daughter’s favourite girlie film, along with White Oleander, Sleeping with the Enemy, Tina Turner: What’s Love got to do with it?, Erin Brokovich and Gorillas in the Mist.

As I said earlier, I’m not sure what guys will think of the film but, as a woman who was probably just as angsty and as prone to navel-gazing and endless introspection as Susanna Kaysen when I was seventeen (in all fairness, isn’t that what your late teens are supposed to be for, anyway?), I bloody love it. That’s about it, really.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

HELTER SKELTER. (2004) THE STORY OF THE MANSON FAMILY MURDERS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

charlie

HELTER SKELTER. (2004) A RE-MAKE OF THE 1976 MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE. DIRECTED BY JOHN GRAY. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY VINCENT BUGLIOSI WITH CURT GENTRY.

STARRING JEREMY DAVIES, CLEA DUVALL AND MARGUERITE MOREAU.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This film, based on true events, will give you the willies. At the moment of writing this, I’m about one third of the way through the book on which it’s based, and the book tells you- and shows you- all the things over which the film, of necessity, has to draw a veil of discretion. The film tells the story of the dreadful events which are collectively known as the Manson Family Murders, and it’s told from the point of view of a young girl called Linda Kasabian.

In 1969, the teenaged Linda breaks up with her husband, who basically abandons her and their baby daughter Tanya. Linda, already used to commune life, is invited to join one located on the Spahn movie ranch in the hills outside Los Angeles.

The head of the commune is Charles Manson, a scrawny little beardy weed of a guy who, for the members of his ‘Family,’ has come to represent God, Jesus Christ, the Devil, good and evil, Heaven and Hell. He is the heart and particularly the Soul of the Family.

Charlie Manson tells Linda Kasabian exactly what she wants and needs to hear at this time. ‘No-one will ever throw you away again,’ he assures the emotionally insecure young girl who has already admitted to him that her husband and stepfather have both made her feel ‘disposable.’

They have sex- Charlie has sex with all the long-haired hippy girls, on whom he also bestows aliases- and soon she’s pregnant again. I don’t think the Family feel kindly disposed towards contraceptives and the notion of keeping oneself safe from sexually transmitted diseases!

Life on the commune is weird, man. Everyone has sex with everyone else and the babies and children are communally cared for, although, in some cases, it would seem like they were communally neglected, ie, left out in the sun all day to burn, stuff like that. Women are indoctrinated into believing that their function is to have babies and look after them and their men.

The guy who plays Charlie here does a terrific job. You can well imagine abused or needy women lapping up his freaky-ass nonsense, silly maxims like ‘No sense makes sense’ and ‘Come to the Now, man!’ He loves the sound of his own voice, which is probably why he founded his own cult.

I could never personally buy into his ridiculous notion that you’re doing people a favour by killing them because you’re ‘bringing them to the Now,’ and it’s hard to imagine how anyone ever did, but they did and that’s how the murders were able to happen. 

Linda is taken out at night by Charlie and various other members of the cult for what they call ‘creepy crawls.’ They wear dark clothing, break into rich peoples’ homes and disarrange stuff so that the occupants of the house will wake up and be freaked out to find that everything’s different.

The ‘creepy crawlers’ all carry knives. If any one of their victims had had the extreme misfortune to wake up during one of these night raids on their homes, I feel confident in saying that murder would have been committed without compunction by the culties.

In August 1969, the ‘creepy crawls’ get really real. In the house known as 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, five horrific murders are committed one sultry night. The victims are as follows: Sharon Tate, the beautiful, eight-months-pregnant actress wife of director Roman Polanski, who’s away filming in London when the murders happen; Jay Sebring, thirty-five, Sharon’s ex-boyfriend (they’re still good friends) and head of an international men’s hairdressing corporation; Abigail Folger, the heiress to a coffee fortune, and her Polish lover Voytek Frykowski; and finally, poor Stephen Parent, a young guy who was only visiting the caretaker of 10050, Cielo Drive, William Garretson, in the lodge house that night to try to sell him a clock radio. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

By the time Manson’s besotted followers had done their leader’s dirty work, the house and gardens at 10050 Cielo Drive resembled a slaughterhouse. The following night, a rich businessman called Leno LaBianca, who owned a chain of grocery stores, was brutally murdered in his own sitting-room along with his attractive wife Bianca. The two sets of killings were soon being referred to as the Tate-LaBianca murders, and it wasn’t too long before the hippies out at Spahn movie ranch were squarely in the frame for them.

Linda Kasabian ran away from the Family after she witnessed the murders and was utterly sickened and shocked by them. Unlike the other girls, whom Charlie controlled through sex and drugs and the undeniable power of his words, Linda still had a reasonably unskewed sense of right and wrong.

‘Death to piggies’ might have been Charlie’s and his sick-in-the-head followers’ raison d’être, but it wasn’t Linda’s. Although she ran away from the cult, initially without her daughter Tanya so as not to arouse the suspicions of the other cult moms, she came back of her own accord, to tell the police what she knew.

I’ve been reading in prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s book about failed musician, Beatles’ fan and ex-pimp Charles Manson’s disadvantaged upbringing. The child of a teenaged prostitute with no father to speak of, he had spent most of his life before the murders in and out of institutions, from juvenile detention centres to adult prisons. Well, that’s no excuse for any of the things he did. Ted Bundy had only a single mother for a parent too and he never did any of the things… Oh wait, he did. Sorry, bad example, lol.

I must tell you about something absolutely mad that’s referred to in the film but which the book explains in a bit more detail. Before they were all arrested for the murders, the Family were planning en masse to follow their crazy-as-batshit leader out into the desert because there was a ‘hole’ in Death Valley which, if you followed it deep down inside to the very centre of the earth, would lead you to an entire civilization, all apparently living and thriving away underneath the earth. It’s straight out of Jules Verne, is that.

Only Charlie knew where this hole was, and the Family were going to hide out with this other civilization while ‘helter skelter,’ the race war to end all wars, played itself out above ground.

I have only one word to say with regard to this ‘plan,’ which is worse than Homer Simpson’s plan to take his whole clan to live with him under the sea when the heat from his sexual harassment suit becomes too much to bear. (Remember? There’ll be no accusations, just friendly crustaceans, under the sea…!) What is this one word? Well, in a nutshell… Cuckoo…!

Manson, in the end, was sentenced to death for his part in the excessively brutal killings but had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. That was fifty years ago this very year, and he only died recently there, in 2017. Same year as Moors murderer Ian Brady. He was probably still a nut-job when he passed away, a basket-case, a fruit loop.

That’s nearly fifty years that he was living at the American taxpayers’ expense, and every year he remained on earth was probably another slap in the face for the loved ones of the people he ordered his culties to murder in cold blood, simply because they were rich and ‘rich whites’ represented the ‘establishment, the ‘man.’

Oh well. He didn’t live forever, contrary to the impression he might have been trying to give his brainwashed followers. One day he too, the great Charlie Manson, had to answer for his crimes before a higher power, like we all will have to some day. Only then would real justice have been done.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

10 RILLINGTON PLACE. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

christie wall

10 RILLINGTON PLACE. (1971) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘TEN RILLINGTON PLACE’ BY LUDOVIC KENNEDY. DIRECTED BY RICHARD FLEISCHER. STARRING RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH, JOHN HURT, JUDY GEESON AND PAT HEYWOOD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a superb film- it’s beyond superb, even- but the subject matter is chilling in the extreme. John Reginald Halliday Christie (born in 1898) has always given me the willies as a serial killer. He was no gleaming-toothed, charismatic Ted Bundy with an army of ‘Ted’ groupies behind him and the hearts and minds of women everywhere under his belt.

Christie comes across as a creepy little man, odious and whispery, with his big bald dome of a head, his prissy, old womanish mannerisms and all those repressed sexual hang-ups that come from his apparently having been abused by his father and dominated by his mother and sisters.

I’ve always reckoned that dear old Dickie Attenborough (JURASSIC PARK and the original DUNKIRK movie) plays Reg Christie pretty much as he really was, the softly-spoken weirdo. (Christie, I mean, not our lovely cuddly John Hammond!) Rubbish at sex, maybe under-endowed to boot, drawn to women but afraid of them too, only really relaxing around them once he’d killed them and they no longer represented a threat.

He doesn’t seem to have sought out the company of men at all. Men probably scared him with their loud voices and latent capacity for violence always just simmering away under the surface. Women were easier prey, women could be pushed around and gassed and, once they were ‘under,’ as it were, well, it was playtime for the man known throughout his adolescence as ‘Reggie-No-Dick’ and ‘Can’t-Do-It-Christie.’ Well, that won’t surprise anyone. These kinds of sickos are frequently impotent, aren’t they, or have some complicated sexual hang-ups that can only be satisfied by a particular, peculiar set of circumstances.

10 Rillington Place is one of those British addresses notorious for having had horrific murders committed there. 25 Cromwell Street (Fred and Rosemary West) and 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, Hattersley (Ian Brady and Myra Hindley: the Moors Murderers) are two others you might know. The local council normally ends up having to raze such properties into the ground, to prevent their becoming shrines of evil for sightseers and souvenir hunters.

(In the extra features on the DVD, Richard Attenborough relates how that’s exactly what happened to 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London. People nicked nearly enough of the bricks to make the house a safety risk, for crying out loud! Part of the film, by the way, was made in and around the real-life Rillington Place, which no longer exists today. Now, how gruesome and grisly is that…?)

In the film, we know straightaway that Christie is a killer. There are women’s bodies buried in his garden, and it’s extraordinary that no-one discovered them for so long, especially given that the Christies were only renting and didn’t own the property. Christie’s living with his rather passive wife Ethel (Pat Heywood, Nelly Dean from the 1978 BBC dramatisation of Wuthering Heights), but God alone knows how he persuaded anyone to marry him, is all I can say.

What happens to his lodgers, Tim and Beryl Evans and their baby daughter Geraldine, is sad beyond words. Christie commits the most heinous of crimes against Tim’s little family and poor, stupid Tim, young, Welsh and frequently unemployed, known for telling ridiculously tall tales down the boozer that even the drunks don’t believe, takes the rap for it.

Tim, who can’t read or write, isn’t the brightest tool in the box and he allows the sneaky liar that is Reg Christie to run rings around him. It’s just too sad. What happened to Tim ultimately should, of course, never have happened. All the pardons and exhumations in the world wouldn’t have given him back what he lost in 1949 and 1950.

Christie was a mad thing altogether, with his hypochondria and his ‘medical books,’ his potions and bits of hose and his preoccupation with gas. It’s true he was respected for joining the police as a special constable during ‘t’ war, even though he had a criminal record (I suppose anyone would do in a crisis!), and convictions for fraud and malicious woundingbut I bet he had no more medical experience than my left big toe.

Pretending that he did, however, have the skill-set of a doctor and, particularly, of an abortionist, was a grand handy way of luring unsuspecting women back to his flat while his wife was out. He was a pest, a menace to society in general and to womenkind in particular. Their house truly was a bona fide House of Horrors.

I’m getting all angry here now, lol, thinking about what a nasty piece of work John Christie was. He’s certainly on a par with John George Haigh, the Acid Bath Murderer, and George Joseph Smith, the guy who drowned his wives in the bath and Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper.

I’m angry with his wife Ethel too though. From remarks she makes to her husband towards the close of the film, it’s clear she knew something of Christie’s disgusting activities and may have been at least partially responsible for sending an innocent man to his death. I’ve heard she feared her husband, and that may well be true, but if she could have saved Tim Evans from his cruel fate, then surely she had an obligation to do so?

Ah well. Superb acting from everyone involved (John Hurt was AMAZINGLY GOOD as poor Tim Evans!) makes the film a pleasure to watch, although the content is greatly disturbing. You must certainly watch this magnificently acted film if you haven’t already seen it, but don’t watch it alone. I did, and it still has the power to freak me out.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE HAUNTED. (1991) THE LOST ”CONJURING” MOVIE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

haunted warrens

THE HAUNTED. (1991) DIRECTED BY ROBERT MANDEL. STARRING SALLY KIRKLAND AND JEFFREY DEMUNN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love haunted house films, as some of you might already know, but even better are the ones that are ‘based on a true story.’ I mean, it’s bad enough to think that some of these poltergeist-y phenomena might happen, but to know that they did happen to some folks in real life, well, that really makes you sit up and take notice.

In this film, it’s the ‘Eighties and a family called the Smurls are moving into a lovely big new house on Chase Avenue in a place called West Pittson in Pennsylvania. Jack and Janet are totally Mrs. and Mrs. Normal America in every way, a nice hardworking couple with four daughters, Erin, Shawn, Colleen and Katie. Jack’s lovely old parents move in with them too, and they have their own entrance to their big new house in the respectable new neighbourhood.

They’re not even unpacked before the new neighbourinos are calling over with fresh-baked brownies, inviting the Smurls to join the Lions Club and the Sacred Heart League. Lands’ sakes, but this sure sounds like a jumpin’ neighbourhood…! I’m sure they hold great yard sales, luaus and block parties too, lol, like every respectable ‘Murican family on television ever, lol.

Anyway, the house is haunted, as you’ve probably already guessed. At first, the mom, Janet, is the only one who experiences the supernatural phenomena with which their home appears to be plagued, so naturally, when she complains about it to her hubby, he thinks she’s over-tired at first. Then he gets angry and starts to make out like it’s all in her head.

But when Jack’s mom starts to experience some of the spooky stuff too, he and his dad are forced to take the situation a bit more seriously. So, what exactly’s been happening? Well, doors slam shut of their own accord, putrid odours are smelled in various places, whispered voices are heard in conversation with each other and humanoid shadows float from place to place in the house. It’s pretty scary stuff.

The creepiest thing for me was the fact that the supernatural entity in the Smurls’ house was able to simulate Janet’s mother-in-law’s voice in order to lure Janet into the basement. That bit was freaky. In the bedroom, a sleeping Janet is made to levitate several feet above her bed and the bedclothes are pulled off Jack and Janet’s bodies while they slumber.

Probably the most horrific supernatural event to which we’re made privy is the rape of the dad Jack by his own teenage daughter, though of course it’s the demon who lives in their house taking the daughter’s form to make the rape all the more terrible.

If you look closely during the rape sequence, you’ll see the real face of the demon who haunts the Smurl house like a deadly and disgusting miasma. Demon or no demon, though, I’m not sure that the dad would ever have been able to look his daughter in the face again after that dread-filled experience.

The Smurls’ call in the church, just like the poor family in AMITYVILLE 2: THE POSSESSION, for my money the scariest haunted house/demonic possession film ever made, bar none. The priest blesses the house, but the vengeful demon is only getting started. The Church refuses the priest permission to perform an exorcism or to help the Smurls further.

So, who do the Smurls turn to now? I cheered loudly when ghostbusters- sorry, demonologists!- Ed and Lorraine Warren were called in. I’ve loved the Warrens ever since watching THE CONJURING/ANNABELLE films, but these Warrens aren’t as nice and smiley as their counterparts in THE CONJURING, and Mr. Warren sure doesn’t play Elvis on the guitar to cheer up the Smurls. Mind you, the Smurls didn’t ask him to. Maybe he was just waiting for that invite, lol.

Still, Lorraine Warren, the head ghostbuster of the pair, does manage to confirm that the Smurls are housing three relatively harmless spirits and one demon. Rent-free as well, I’m guessing, those pesky freeloading entities! The demon’s the one you need to watch out for.

His main goal, apparently, is to tear the family apart and destroy their faith in God, because family strength, unity and togetherness and an unswerving faith in the Lord are the only things that can hurt the demon, see?

So, can the Warrens help the Smurls, or will the Smurls be forced to engage in ever more extreme measures to get the help they need? It’s a pretty scary and unnerving film and, because it’s based on a true story, it’ll remind you strongly of the first two original AMITYVILLE HORROR films.

Because of the sexual element, I was also reminded of Barbara Hershey in THE ENTITY, a terrifying film in which a woman is raped repeatedly over time by a sexually aggressive ghost who haunts her house. She sustains actual physical injuries from these assaults, so she knows herself that they’re really happening.

The psychiatrists, however, are falling over themselves to prove that some sort of sexual abuse in the woman’s childhood is causing her troubled mind to invent or imagine the ghost-rapes in her adulthood. It seems to be really, really hard for them to accept that maybe, just maybe, there’s a real ghost in this lady’s house.

When I watched THE ENTITY first, I was clearly still rather immature because I was giggling at the ghost-sex and making out like it was better than no sex at all. Now that I’m older, and with, of course, the benefit of hindsight, I stand by every word I said back then, lol. Any sex, even ghost-sex, is always better than no sex at all…!

I watched THE HAUNTED on Youtube and I put on captions (subtitles), as sometimes the sound isn’t great on these Youtube films. You know the way that these captions are often poorly translated into English and can end up looking like total gibberish?

The funniest bit was when the exhortation to ‘expedite Amish women in glasses’ came up on the screen (and nothing whatsoever to do with the plot, of course!), but a big shout-out must also go the following: ‘Boppity happens when there’s a big stinky.’ I’m not even going to try to follow this one with a comment of my own. I think ‘boppity’ speaks for itself. ‘Nuff said.

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:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

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