EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

zac-efron-as-ted-bundy

EXTREMELY WICKED, SHOCKINGLY EVIL AND VILE. (2019) A FILM BY DOCUMENTARIAN JOE BERLINER.

BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE PHANTOM PRINCE: MY LIFE WITH TED BUNDY’ BY ELIZABETH KENDALL.

STARRING ZAC EFRON, LILY COLLINS, KAYA SCODELARIO, HALEY JOEL OSMENT AND JOHN MALKOVICH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘HACKSAW…’

‘What happened to her head…?’

‘Don’t wag your finger at me, young man!’

This film gets my seal of approval. What qualifies me to judge whether it’s any good? Well, you know the Milhouse Van Houten quote from THE SIMPSONS, ‘I knew the dog before he came to school?’ That’s me, lol. I was swotting up on Ted Bundy back in the mid-‘Noughties, long before the Cult Of Ted was experiencing its current magnificent rebirth, back when I was going through my ‘serial killer’ phase. Reading up on ’em, that is, not being one!

I read everything I could get my hands on about Ted, including his girlfriend Liz Kendall’s little book, ‘THE PHANTOM PRINCE.’ This was back when the book was out of print and hard to find. Now, given the wave of Ted-mania sweeping anew across the globe thanks to this film, I expect the books’s been re-printed in its billions with Zac Efron as Ted on the cover.

I also expect that Liz Kendall has penned a foreword, an afterword and an epilogue, just as crime writer Ann Rule regularly updated her famous book about Ted, THE STRANGER BESIDE ME, to include the ten-year appeals process and Ted’s eventual execution at the hands of the good folk at Florida State Penitentiary. If she hasn’t, well, then, I expect someone else has.

Now that we’ve established my credentials as an avid reader of Ted-lit, let’s talk about the film. It’s not really a film about the murders Ted committed, as Liz was unaware of these until quite late in the day. It’s a film about Liz’s life and relationship with Ted, as is the book, and charts their joint experiences from their first ever meeting in a Seattle college bar in 1969 to Ted’s execution for murder in 1989.

Liz couldn’t believe her luck, basically, that someone as handsome and charismatic as law student Ted should take an interest in her, a lowly office worker and single mother to a little girl. But Ted was interested, very interested indeed, and pretty soon the three of them, Ted, Liz and Liz’s daughter Molly (in the book she’s Tina) were a tight, compact little family unit.

Quite soon into the film, we start hearing about the disappearances and murders of attractive young women from Washington, Seattle, Utah, Oregon and Colorado, all the different places in which Ted has been living, in other words.

The women mostly all look alike, young, slim and pretty with long brown straight hair parted in the middle, but in the film we don’t hear about this, or whom Ted is really striking at when he picks up and destroys these virtual clones of each other.

Liz is as horrified as anyone else when Ted is arrested for these terrible crimes. In the book, she talks about his penchant for petty crime, for stealing and for unexplained disappearances of his own that she feels a bit ‘hinky’ about, as the Americans call it, but in the film it looks pretty much like it’s the first she’s hearing about Ted’s possible involvement in murder.

Zac Efron as Ted is superb. He’s captured the look, the charm and the charisma of the real Ted exactly. There’s even an uncanny physical resemblance between the two men when Efron is all ‘Ted-ded up’ in the wool cardigan with the heavy ‘Seventies lapels, or the tight yellow sweater Ted wore to the police line-up in which kidnap victim Carol Da Ronch recognised him out of several other men as ‘Officer Roseland.’ This being, of course, the phoney police officer who’d attempted to abduct her from the Fashion Place Shopping Mall on the pretext that her car had been broken into.

Let’s talk about Liz for a minute. Well played by Lily Collins, daughter of musician Phil Collins, she’s basically a mess from the time the news breaks about Ted to the end of the film. She smokes, she drinks, she hides herself away from life, her friends, and Ted, and her concentration at work suffers too. Well, it’s a lot to have going on, by anyone’s standards.

In the film, we see Liz trying to break away from Ted, trying to break up with him, even, but his protestations of undying love, fidelity and devotion are hard to say no to. Some of his letters to her are published in the book and he really, really had a way with words. She would have had to be superhuman not to be affected by his promises and metaphors.

The murders are not really depicted here, more alluded to, as it’s Liz’s story more than anyone else’s. We see her freaking out, understandably, each time Ted escapes from custody- twice he does this- and worrying herself sick in case he turns up on her doorstep. She even starts a relationship with a work colleague who seems to really care about her, but Ted keeps getting in the way. Every time she thinks she’s free and clear, up pops Ted.

I didn’t like the Carol Anne Boone character at all, the pushy woman who marries Ted in court and gives birth to his daughter while he’s still in prison. Not many people probably will, as she really seems to have blinkers on where Ted is concerned.

Even if she were faced with absolute irrefutable proof of his crimes, I genuinely don’t think it would have mattered to her. She wanted Ted and she set out to get him and she did get him, for what he was worth.

I daresay that even the most horrific crime scene photos and a signed confession from Ted himself, signed in his own blood, wouldn’t have made any difference to her ‘love’ for him. Why did I just apostrophise the word ‘love?’ No, of course I don’t doubt that she loved him. It’s just that the love of a woman for a man who kills women is a funny kind of love, isn’t it?

What this film really does well, whether or not it intends to, is to show how the groupie culture grew up around one of history’s most notorious serial killers. I think its main achievement will be to introduce a handsome young charismatic Ted to a new adoring generation of Ted-lovers, and they won’t care who he killed, raped or battered any more than the groupies from the ‘Seventies cared. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I think we know the answer to that.

My God, there’s real-life footage in the film of ‘Seventies groupies ooh-ing and aah-ing over Ted and saying things like, oh, a man that good-looking and intelligent couldn’t possibly be a KILLER…! It’s obvious that they’d date him in a shot if they had the chance.

They sat in the sweltering courtroom day after day, just waiting for a grin or a wink from Ted. Ted, of course, grandstanded and played to the gallery every chance he got, proving again and again the old adage that he who represents himself has a fool for a client.

I’m torn between thinking that these groupies are all just naïve fan-girls and wanting to elbow my way to the head of the Ted-love queue myself. It’s such a dichotomy. Why do women love men who kill, rape or beat women? I’m not qualified to answer that, but there are apparently whole books devoted to the subject. Maybe one of them has the answer to the sixty-four billion dollar question.

John Malkovich is good here as Judge Edward ‘Bless your heart’ Cowart, the guy who had no choice but to impose the death penalty on Ted after he was found guilty of the Chi Omega killings in Tallahassee, Florida in January 1978, during his second and last ever escape. (Florida State Penitentiary were adamant that Ted would not escape from THEIR facility…!) He’s the guy whose summing-up gave us the film’s rather clunky title, by the way.

Cowart was also the guy who rather strangely told Ted to ‘take care of yourself, pardner’ after he’d sentenced him to death. Tears flow down Ted’s cheeks as Cowart says that he, Ted, could have made a great attorney and that he’d love to have had Ted practising law in front of him but ‘you went a different way, pardner.’ Cowart comments on the shocking waste of human life he’d observed during the trial, and one gets the distinct feeling that he was including the ‘shocking waste’ of Ted’s own life as well.

The film shows clearly that Ted could have saved himself from the electric chair if he’d wanted to, by merely pleading guilty to the Chi Omega murders and attempted murders and the murder of twelve-year-old Kimberley Leach. Why he didn’t just plead guilty to save himself, I don’t know. Everyone knew he was guilty. Maybe he just couldn’t bear to have the world’s good opinion of him as a lovely young man altered.

In the film, we see the exact moment when Ted shows Liz his guilt for the first time. It’s a truly chilling moment. This is a terrific film, but it should probably come with a health warning for women, who are gravely in danger of falling under Ted’s spell when they view Zac Efron’s performance. Seeing his perfect ass in two nude shots won’t exactly help to put them off either, I’m afraid.

Another generation of groupies will emerge, as I said earlier. That will probably be the main long-term effect of this film. No doubt the egotistical Ted would be delighted to see how far his charisma, his power over people, over women, is able to stretch. I surely am the greatest trick in shoe-leather, he’s probably thinking right now from wherever he is.

A full thirty years after he was put to death in ‘Old Sparky,’ here we all are, still talking and thinking about him and wondering what makes him tick. Liz, I’m sure, was never able to forget him. She has her place in history now, anyway. I wonder what she feels about 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 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

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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. We see him going to the Lyric cinema- when he has the price of admission, and sometimes when he hasn’t!- to watch Westerns and old UNIVERSAL horror movies such as THE MUMMY, starring Boris Karloff. ‘He’s sticking his knife into that nice lady’s belly…!’

Frankie 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

THE GLENN MILLER STORY. (1954) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

glenn millerTHE GLENN MILLER STORY. (1954) DIRECTED BY ANTHONY MANN. STARRING JAMES STEWART AND JUNE ALLYSON. MUSIC BY GLENN MILLER, JOSEPH GERSHENSON AND HENRY MANCINI. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

God, I love this film. I watch it every Christmas without fail, which is perfectly appropriate as it’s ideal family viewing and the action in the film ends on Christmas Day, 1944. It’s the story of the most famous ‘big band’ leader of them all, Glenn Miller, who between 1939 and 1943 scored no fewer than twenty-three Number Ones, a feat unequalled by Elvis Presley or even The Beatles.

And that was back when being Number One actually meant something. These days, Ed Sheeran could just break wind and it’d sail straight to the top of the charts without any competition whatsoever, no offence intended to the Rich Ginger One, lol.

Glenn Miller is magnificently portrayed here by America’s third favourite leading man after Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant, James Stewart. He looks so like Glenn Miller it’s actually uncanny, and his lanky, awkward charm is so devilishly endearing that it can’t fail to captivate the hearts of any women watching. Probably men too, I don’t know…!

The story takes us from Glenn Miller’s early attempts to establish himself as a musician and band leader to those heady, heady days when he was on top of the world, having finally established that distinctive ‘Glenn Miller Sound’ that we know so well and that he’d quite literally slaved to achieve.

Present for most of the struggle was Glenn’s lovely wife, Helen Miller née Burger. His courtship of her in the film is erratic and quirky and ultimately desperately romantic for the viewer. In real life, leaving two or three years between phone calls to his girlfriend would’ve garnered Miller the bum’s rush and a painful punch in the kisser, but the film has an almost fairytale quality to it and Glenn’s advances are welcomed by Helen with no harsher a remonstrance than the occasional humorously-toned ‘Honestly…!’ As in, Honestly, this man of mine, lol. He gets away with murder because of his eccentric and individualistic charm. Guys everywhere could learn a thing or two from him, they really could.

There are cameos in the film from such real-life musical luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Babe Russin, Gene Krupa, The Modernnaires and Frances Langford. I love when he’s leading his own big band overseas as Captain Glenn Miller in World War Two, and at an open-air concert for the troops the band keeps playing, even as the bombers are flying overhead and the earth is shaking ominously.

The band keeps playing on and receives a rapturous reception from the appreciative crowd after the danger has passed. I always get a big lump in my throat at that bit. Even mean old Hitler himself couldn’t stop Glenn Miller…!

I also love when his band start playing Glenn Miller’s own music to the troops on parade instead of the usual dreary marching music. Suddenly the troops are marching with these giant goofy grins plastered all over their mugs. It’s wonderful to see.

Of course, Captain Glenn Miller gets a big bollocking afterwards from his immediate superior for his maverick, Robin-Williams-in-GOOD-MORNING-VIETNAM-style behaviour, but he’s the winner ultimately when he’s given official permish to entertain the troops in his own inimitable Glenn Miller way.

We can’t talk about the film without talking about the marvellous music it contains. MOONLIGHT SERENADE is, of course, the big one, and the story of how it came about features prominently in the movie. You can also hear PENNSYLVANIA 6-5000, TUXEDO JUNCTION, AMERICAN PATROL, IN THE MOOD, A STRING OF PEARLS and LITTLE BROWN JUG, many of which were written as wonderful musical gifts to his wife. Lucky Helen…! Wish someone would write me a song of any description, lol.

The end comes when Glenn Miller’s plane goes missing somewhere over the English Channel on December 15th, 1944, while he’s en route to entertain American troops in France. Neither Glenn Miller nor his plane nor the pilot were ever seen again. It’s so sad to see this bit in the film.

It’s an unsolved mystery about which people have been speculating for years but the obvious answer to the puzzle of what happened is that the plane simply failed in some way and fell into the sea. It was a tragic end for the man who once denounced fascist oppression in Europe with the words: ‘America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music.’

Even sadder is the Christmas Day radio broadcast for that year, at which Glenn Miller was supposed to be present and playing. The broadcast poignantly goes ahead without him, while his wife Helen, his best friend and fellow musician Chummy MacGregor and Glenn and Helen’s two adopted children, Stevie and Jonnie, listen at home.

The Christmas tree twinkles while the adults listen to Glenn’s music, smiling through their tears. It’s just too sad. I always break down completely at this bit. It’s just like I always suspected, folks. I’m just too soft for this job, haha. Anyway, watch the film if you haven’t done so already. Glenn Miller isn’t just for Christmas, you know…glenn millerglenn miller

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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