YIELD TO THE NIGHT. (1956) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

diana yield glamour

YIELD TO THE NIGHT. (1956) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY JOAN HENRY. DIRECTED BY J. LEE THOMPSON. STARRING DIANA DORS. MICHAEL CRAIG, HAMMER ACTOR MICHAEL RIPPER AND YVONNE MITCHELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a superb film, if you can bear the unrelenting bleakness. I love bleakness in movies, so I happily got stuck in and wallowed in it, lol. And I adore La Dors, the woman they dubbed ‘the English Marilyn Monroe,’ but whom I personally love much more than I ever loved Marilyn. There’s just something so real, so human, about Diana Dors, something that makes her feel like so much more than just a fabulous pin-up girl.

In this film, she gives a career-best performance as Mary Hilton, a shop-girl under sentence of death for murdering her lover’s lover. The story is similar to the real-life Ruth Ellis’s, although it’s not meant to be based on it. In the sweltering heat of July 1955, the year before YIELD TO THE NIGHT premiered, Ruth Ellis became the last ever woman in England to be hanged.

Opinion was divided on whether or not Ruth should have been put to death. There was no doubt that she murdered her lover, David Blakely, as she walked right up to him outside an English pub on Easter Sunday evening and shot him, pretty much point-blank, several times.

There were mitigating circumstances, however, that were not really taken into account when sentence of death was passed: David’s infidelity and extreme physical violence towards Ruth, the miscarriages and abortions she’d had while she was with him, including one miscarriage she’d had a few days before the shooting.

The balance of Ruth’s mind was shot to hell at the time of the murder, yet the judge decided to hang her anyway, as the concept of ‘diminished responsibility’ had not yet become part of British law. It was a sickening end to a tragic story, and a disgusting blot on the copybook of so-called ‘British justice.’

It also looks highly likely that another man in Ruth’s life had given her the newly-oiled and fully loaded gun and urged her, in her altered state of mind, to kill David, but this aspect of the case was not thoroughly enough investigated in time for the verdict.

The whole trial, therefore- and its outcome- was something of a farce. Ruth was raced to the gallows in Holloway Women’s Prison with unseemly haste, and there hanged by Albert Pierrepoint, a ghoulish figure indeed in British criminal history. (He has the necks of murderers John Christie and Neville Heath to his credit in addition to Ruth’s.) What kind of man volunteers to hang people, women as well as men? I don’t care if his father was the hangman before him and it ran in his family.

In YIELD TO THE NIGHT, blonde bombshell Diana Dors is sublime as Mary Hilton, a stunningly beautiful shop-girl who falls in love with an impoverished musician called Jim, who is not at all worthy of the lovely Mary and her overwhelming love. In time, however, Mary grows to realise that Jim has lost interest in her and is seeing an older, presumably wealthy woman called Lucy Carpenter.

The film centres around Mary’s detention in prison in the days and weeks before her execution. Just like in Ruth Ellis’s case, the condemned cell has a locked door in it, a door without a handle, that leads to the execution chamber beyond. Even if Mary were ever inclined to forget about her forthcoming death for a blissful moment or two, how can she with this door literally at the foot of her bed? It’s like a kind of emotional torture, isn’t it, surely?

Mary is treated as well as can be expected in the condemned cell, just like Ruth Ellis was in hers. Both their final days were a rigidly controlled and timetabled round of meals, exercise in the prison yard (separate from the other prisoners), baths, cocoa at bedtime and regular visits from the governor, the prison chaplain and doctor, their lawyer when requested, and any friends and family whom they might wish to come.

Mary is upset by the visits of her younger brother Alan and her mother. It kills her to see Alan, no more than a boy, trying unsuccessfully to cope with the enormity of the situation. Her useless ex-husband Fred, a true nonentity of a figure, only annoys her with his visits and meaningless babble about love. Where was he when Mary was crippled with love for the dysfunctional Jim, and going through the torture that led her to kill Lucy in so-called ‘cold blood?’

The light remains on in the condemned cell around the clock, and there are two female prison officers in the room with Mary at all times. Prisoners under sentence of death must be closely watched in case they feel like committing suicide and cheating the hangman.

The prison guards are all lovely to Mary though, knowing to what she’s been condemned. They invite her to join in their games of chess and cards and they chat and have a nice smoke together, even though the wardens are forbidden from smoking by the prison rules. It becomes a nice little friendly conspiracy between Mary and her wardens, something to smile about.

Mary, like Ruth Ellis, says she’s not sorry for what she’s done. Ruth Ellis was adamant that she wanted to die (‘an eye for an eye, a life for a life’) and go to ‘join David.’ I don’t think Mary wants to die, however, as she nearly jumps out of her skin every time she hears the kindly female governor tap-tapping down the corridor, possibly carrying a reprieve from the Home Office, and possibly not.

A sympathetic prison visitor and activist for prison reform called Miss Bligh meets with a sullen, obviously depressed Mary and tells her that, if she accepts what’s coming, if she in effect ‘yields to the night,’ the sentence of death will become easier to bear.

But Mary is dead-eyed and hopeless; can she take Miss Bligh’s very good advice on board, or will she shuffle resentfully and disbelievingly to the room of execution in her shapeless prison dress and slippers, a plaster on her poor blistered foot caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes?

The film does an excellent job of portraying the boring, tedious soul-destroying days and weeks leading up to an execution. It’s a big strain on the officers too, some of whom really like Mary and might have their own views on capital punishment that don’t happen to coincide with the law’s more stringent ones.

If Mary stays calm, the governor tells her, it will make things easier all round, for Mary herself as well as the prison staff who, after all, are ‘only doing their job.’ Routine is key, too, to keeping things on an even keel. There’s an awful lot to be said for it, and I mean that sincerely.

If things were perpetually in chaos and everyone was rushing around weeping and wailing and tearing their hair out, it wouldn’t be much use to anyone. Keep calm and carry on, as the famous slogan on my tea mug goes.

Poor tortured Mary, plagued by bad dreams, marks off the days on her calendar with a feeling of dread. Maybe she believes that they won’t hang a young woman who has only committed what some folks would refer to now as a ‘crime of passion,’ then not yet recognised by the British justice system, which by the way was made up in those days mostly of rich, highly educated white upper class males. Don’t be so sure, dear Mary. After all, they hung Ruth Ellis, didn’t they…?

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 RETURN OF DRACULA. (1958) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

return-of-dracula-1958-rachel-tim-norma-eberhardt-ray-stricklyn-review

THE RETURN OF DRACULA. (1958) DIRECTED BY PAUL LANDRES. STARRING FRANCIS LEDERER AND NORMA EBERHARDT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Jenny, I’ve come to wake you!’

‘The world shall spin and they all shall die, but not us.’

‘I’ve got to close the window! He’ll hear us, he’s outside!’

‘I had the strangest dream last night, only I can’t seem to remember it.’

‘You’re already balanced between two worlds. Eternity awaits you now.’

‘I can free your soul, Jenny. I can take you from the blackness into the light.’

Any film that starts with a group of men pursuing a vampire through a graveyard and right into his crypt with the intention of driving a stake through his heart is okay in my books. This is a little black-and-white curiosity I discovered on YouTube while searching for Dracula stuff. The Jack-Palance-as-Dracula film wouldn’t start for me so here we are, lol.

THE RETURN OF DRACULA is quite similar in storyline to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 movie, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, in which a mysterious uncle (Joseph Cotten) returns to the bosom of his small-town American-as-apple-pie family, only to spread a putrid fear, dread and uncertainty through its ranks.

The pretty young daughter of the family, played by Teresa Wright, is a romantic at heart who yearns for a better life than she thinks she’ll have in her small-town existence. She is hugely attracted to the mystery and glamour that emanates from the newcomer, but the best thing she can do, for herself and her family, is to stay as far away from him as she can. As is the way in films though, she doesn’t discover this fact until it’s nearly too late. Where would be the fun otherwise?

In THE RETURN OF DRACULA, a mysterious, middle-aged Eastern European man who claims to be a Mrs. Cora Mayberry’s long-lost cousin, Bellac Gordal, turns up in the American small town of Carleton. They’ve been expecting him and they’re very excited about the homecoming. Cora, her teenage daughter Rachel, her young son Mickey and Rachel’s boyfriend Tim (he drives a convertible!) all make the tall, dark speaks-with-an-accent stranger as welcome as they know how.

Is being a vampire compatible with family life? (Ah, come on, you already know he’s a vampire! How is that a spoiler?) Not really, no. Cousin Bellac keeps the most irregular hours, doesn’t sleep in the bed provided for him but in a mist-filled coffin in a nearby abandoned mine and can’t abide mirrors or crucifixes. He’s not too keen on the family moggy, Nugget, either, but then in another way, he’s a little too keen on him, if you take my meaning.

Cousin Bellac is supposed to be a talented artist, but he seems to have only painted one picture during his stay with the Mayberrys, and that one painting is deeply disturbing. No-one knows where he goes on his so-called ‘painting trips’ or what he does on them. He plays his cards tight to his chest and doesn’t encourage familiarity, except from Rachel, for whom he has great things in mind. I’m sure you can guess what things.

Rachel, the blonde All-American daughter, is an aspiring fashion designer and she is instantly attracted to the suave, sophisticated Eastern European artist, who makes her boyfriend Tim seem like a crude, inexperienced callow youth by comparison. She even goes off Tim for a bit, much to Tim’s mystification, while Cousin Bellac is around.

Rachel introduces Cousin Bellac to her friend Jenny. She more or less hands him Jenny on a plate. ‘Oh, Jenny’s blind and bedridden and helpless and you can do whatever you like to her, and she’s ever so sweet and she’s just DYING to meet you, I’ve told her all about you!’ Well, congratulations, Rachel, old girl. You’ve just given the vampire his first victim, all trussed up like a turkey, and you’ve even made the dressing and all the trimmings yourself as well.

There are some spooky scenes when the Immigration officer looking into Cousin Bellac’s papers and his legal right to be in America comes a cropper. A pitiful voice calls for help by the railway track, and a few gruelling seconds later, Mr. Immigration Officer is a blood-soaked corpse. And, of course, there’s no-one around. No-one saw or heard anything…

I love the bit where the white-shrouded woman skips lightly back to her coffin in the super-cool Receiving Vaults before the first light of day breaks over the horizon. She’s very obviously the Lucy character from the Bram Stoker Dracula novel, who gets some of the creepiest and most electrifying scenes in the whole book and also in any film or television dramatisation.

There’s one splash of bright-red blood, very reminiscent of Hammer Horror across the pond, in this black-and-white film, but I won’t tell you whose it is. 1958, of course, was the year when Hammer Film Studios released their own DRACULA (THE HORROR OF DRACULA in the United States), with horror legend Christopher Lee in the title role. Several more DRACULA films followed in the next decade and a half, and they make up a fine body of work in total.

Did it hurt the Dracula legend, bringing the Fanged One to small-town America, rather than keeping him amongst the crumbling abbeys of England or, even better, the castles of his native Transylvania? No, I think it worked well enough.

After all, SON OF DRACULA starring Lon Chaney Jr. brought Count Dracula to the swamps and plantations of the Deep South of America, and that was a terrific, if terribly gloomy, film. Not much in the way of comic relief there. ‘I see you living in a grave, married to a corpse.’ See what I mean…?

Why is this film called THE RETURN OF DRACULA? I honestly don’t know. Was there a previous film? Again, I don’t know. I’m guessing too that this film isn’t very well known. It’s still worth at least one watch, though, as it has a certain small-town charm and, as I said at the start, it’s a real little curiosity. At eighty minutes long as well, it won’t take up too much of your time. Go for 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 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 BLACK CAT. (1934) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

black cat skinning

THE BLACK CAT. (1934) FROM THE STORY BY EDGAR ALLAN POE. DIRECTED BY EDGAR G. ULMER. PRODUCED BY CARL LAEMMLE, JR. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES.

STARRING BELA LUGOSI, BORIS KARLOFF, DAVID MANNERS, JULIE BISHOP, LUCILLE LUND, EGON BRECHER AND HARRY CORDING.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This excellent old vintage horror classic has the distinction of being the first film ever to pair Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff together, so it’s a real case of Dracula versus the Mummy, isn’t? My money’s on the Fanged One rather than Mr. Bandages over there, but you never quite know how these things will pan out, do you?

The story begins on a train. American newly-weds Peter (a mystery writer, ironically enough) and Joan Allison are honeymooning in Hungary when they are asked to share their train compartment with a stranger, a handsome and charming Hungarian psychiatrist with an exotic accent by the name of Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi). They’re put out, naturally, as they wanted to be alone, but graciously invite Dr. Werdegast to sit with them nonetheless.

Dr. Werdegast is not just a stranger, but also a strangely intense man with a dark past. He reveals some of it to Peter while Peter’s wife Joan is asleep. She’s every inch the early ‘Thirties starlet, by the way, this one, and she spends most of the film screeching in fear at everything she sees and swooning elegantly into the arms of the nearest man.

Peter is obviously the love of her life and he shouldn’t have any trouble whatsoever controlling this docile, biddable little woman. I imagine he’d only slap her as a result of extreme provocation and not as a matter of course, which is always nice to know.

Anyway, I digressed there, lol. Vitus, who’s en route to visit a friend, as yet un-named, reveals to Peter that he has spent the best years of his life rotting away in a horrible prison in Siberia.

He was captured as a POW during the Great War of 1914-1918 and incarcerated for nearly two whole decades, thanks to the betrayal of a friend. His physical body may have survived the ordeal but his soul is in pieces, such was the horror of the place. His eyes are haunted with the memory of it all, and maybe other memories too that we don’t yet know about.

The young couple and Vitus and his wordless servant Thamal seem to be travelling in the same direction, so they all opt to share a carriage. In the lashing rain, however, the carriage overturns in a mudslide.

The driver is killed and Mrs. Allison, the frail little flower-petal, is injured a tiny bit. Vitus says, well, the friend’s house that I’m going to visit is just up the road a piece, come with me and my friend will fix us all up. So that’s what they do…

The ‘friend’ isn’t really a friend at all but Vitus’s worst enemy, the man whose terrible betrayal led to Vitus’s imprisonment for so long. Boris Karloff plays Hjalmar Poelzig, or ‘Pigslowe,’ if you prefer. Just ask Mrs. Allison. She knows what I mean!

Anyway, Poelzig is an architect who has built a very strange, rather futuristic-looking house in a mountainy region on top of Fort Marmarus, which he commanded during the war. Dr. Werdegast was one of his men.

The odd-looking house is surrounded by the graves of hundreds of soldiers who died in the war. It’s a weird, mysterious and atmospheric place, and the perfect location for the dark events that are about to play out there.

Causing Vitus to be imprisoned for so long is only half of what this sinister Poelzig fella has done to poor Vitus. There’s at least one woman in Poelzig’s household who can testify to just what wrongs have been done to her and Vitus and one other party, who shall remain nameless. Vitus is here to revenge himself on Poelzig, but not until the very end of the film does he know to what extent Poelzig has wronged him.

There’s a supernatural element to the film, of course, as Poelzig is involved in some very dodgy practices with their basis in the occult. Mrs. Allison is in grave danger, as Poelzig has decided he likes the look of her and wants to use her in an upcoming ritual. Well, if he needs a bird who can do little else but squawk and swoon into the arms of the nearest bloke, she’ll do just fine.

There is a black cat in the film but he seems to be there only to give Boris the chance to remark sarcastically to a bemused Peter Allison that Bela has a terrible fear of cats. It’s not really integral to the plot.

However, a lot of these old movies liked to be able to say at the beginning of the credits that the movie was inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, whereas in reality the connecting link was often quite tenuous, as it is here. Still, Poe was a popular fellow and, if his name got butts-on-seats, the producers were prepared to use it, see?

The handsome, suave and still young Bela isn’t the villain as such in this one, oddly enough. He wants to avenge himself against the evil Poelzig who is the real villain but, not only that, he’s taken a liking to the pleasant young couple who invited him to share their train compartment and they like him well enough too. (Even though the husband caught Bela stroking the wife’s hair while she was asleep, lol!)

He’s damned if he’s going to let the dastardly Poelzig and his queer V-shaped futuristic hairstyle ruin the young couples’ lives by taking the wife to use as a pawn in his deadly Satanic ritual. The stage is set for a terrific battle of wits between Bela and Boris which might just end in a big bang for someone, but we won’t of course say who. Or is it whom?

Either way, this film is a marvellous watch, with up-tempo classical music playing throughout just as if this were a silent film. Bela is wearing dark lippy and Boris is fully made-up in the style of the stars of silent cinema.

We’re only four years into the talkies by this stage, remember, so the film still retains the look and feel of a silent movie. Luckily for us, though, it’s a talkie and so we get to hear Boris’s charming lithp and Bela talking in his wonderful Dracula voice, which was actually his real accent.

Pre-Code but not, I believe, by much, the film features Satanism, the occult and the skinning alive of a human being and it also hints at abduction, necrophilia, rape and domestic abuse. For a film from the ‘Thirties that’s so old as to be almost a silent movie, it really kicks some serious ass.

What a delicious treat this old black-and-white movie is. It’s only one of a handful of films that were all released with the same title, lol, which must have been terribly confusing for the poor flummoxed viewer. Just how many movies called ‘The Black Cat’ were filmed, anyway? Never mind, dear reader. We don’t need to know. Maybe, as Bela himself remarks in the film, there are more things in heaven and earth…

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

OLIVER TWIST. (1948) A MOVIE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

fagin

OLIVER TWIST. (1948) BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY DAVID LEAN.

STARRING ALEC GUINNESS, ROBERT NEWTON, KAY WALSH, HENRY STEPHENSON, FRANCIS LOFTUS SULLIVAN, MARY CLARE ABSALOM, DIANA DORS AND JOHN HOWARD DAVIES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘It’s the old story… no wedding ring…’

Okay, so we’re probably all agreed that Lionel Bart’s 1968 musical version of this story is the best one. Wonderful songs like FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD, CONSIDER YOURSELF, YOU’VE GOT TO PICK A POCKET OR TWO, I AM REVIEWING THE SITUATION and OOMPA-PAH have been belting out of peoples’ tellies every Christmas for the last fifty-odd years. It’s a flawless film, the kind of film that gives musicals a good name.

But this 1948 re-telling of the Dickens classic is a proper corker too, even if the cast doesn’t burst into full-throated song every five minutes, lol. Its opening scenes are magnificently atmospheric in a dark brooding kind of way and deal with a subject that’s only implied in the musical version, that is to say, the arrival of Oliver’s beautiful young mother at the workhouse across the moors in the middle of a thunderstorm.

She’s already in labour and in terrible distress, both physically and emotionally. She gives birth to the child in the company of an ancient crone and a doctor, then ‘takes one look at ‘im (Oliver) and promptly dies,’ as the marvellous Harry Secombe as Mr. Bumble informs us in the musical version.

She is wearing an expensive locket that would lead to her highborn identity- and her child’s- being uncovered and to Oliver’s being restored to his wealthy and caring blood relatives, if it were brought to the attention of the proper authorities.

But the locket is unfortunately stolen by the old crone who attends the miserable workhouse birth, and so Oliver is brought up ‘on the parish’ like any other wretched orphaned waif. Poor kid.

Francis Loftus Sullivan was born to play a beadle. He’s brilliant here as Mr. Bumble, the workhouse official who places Oliver Twist with the undertaker Sowerberry after Oliver draws the short straw, asks for more chow at dinner-time and gets ejected from the workhouse after due consideration by the gluttons- sorry, by the gentlemen- of the Board.

The apprenticeship at the undertakers’ goes tits-up when Oliver runs afoul of Noah Claypole, Mr. Sowerberry’s nasty little assistant. A very young blonde-bombshell-in-waiting Diana Dors plays Charlotte, the Sowerberry’s slatternly maid, by the way. She’s already a beautiful woman, though this role’s not quite as glamorous as some of her later ones…!

Oliver, as we all know by now, runs away to London and falls in with Fagin the Fence, the vile receiver of stolen goods and corruptor of London’s youth, and his little band of pickpockets, cut-throats and thieves. Alex Guinness does a top job as Fagin, the Jewish miser whose huge hooked nose, straggly beard and voluminous rags all proclaim him to be a scoundrel of the first water.

He sends his boys, the Artful Dodger and Charlie and all the lads, out into the metropolis each day- ‘Cheerio but be back soon!- to rob and pilfer wallets, jewellery, silk handkerchieves and whatever other gew-gaws and fol-de-rols the toffs of London might be carrying about their exalted persons. He sells on the stuff and keeps most of the proceeds for himself, the scallywag.

When the green-as-grass and scrupulously honest Oliver is taken out for the first time with the Artful Dodger and Charlie and he sees them robbing an old gentleman, Oliver gets the blame and finds himself up before the Beak or Magistrate. And no, a Beak ain’t a bird’s mouf…!

The old gentleman who was robbed, however, a courtly old toff called Mr. Brownlow, is kindly disposed towards the sick and ill-treated Oliver and takes him home to live with him. It’s a strange but fortuitous ‘twist’ of Fate- lol- that will eventually lead to the discovery of the truth about Oliver’s true parentage.

Fagin and his band of villains and thieves, including the housebreaker and all-round bad guy Bill Sykes and his girlfriend Nancy, are all up in arms about Oliver’s new circumstances. What, Oliver taken? This is a disaster!

What if he peaches, blows, squeals, snitches on the gang and reveals their names and whereabouts to the law? They’d all be for the drop. (This is how they described the jolly process of being hanged.) ‘If the game were up with me, Bill, I fear it would be up with a great many more besides, and it would go rather worse with you than it would with me…’

Fagin puts the fear of God into Bill Sykes. Bill resolves to get the troublesome Oliver back at any cost, even though the kindlier and more compassionate Nancy, with a heart as big as all-outdoors, would prefer to leave the poor child where he is. One day, the couple see Oliver out walking by himself, running an errand for Mr. Brownlow. It’s only a matter of minutes before he’s back in the clutches of the gang and the die is cast…

The marriage of the pompous but not entirely heartless Mr. Bumble to the horrible Mrs. Corney, the self-serving, cold-hearted auld Bitch-With-A-Capital-B who runs the older folks’ workhouse, is both a source of mirth and terror.

Imagine ending up in a marriage as awful, as abusive and utterly joyless as this one. ‘If that’s what the law believes, then the law is an ass! The law is a bachelor, and the most I would wish for it is that its eyes would be opened by experience, Sir. By experience!’

Poor Nancy shares the same fate as the Nancy in the musical version, but it somehow seems grimmer and more dreadful here in stark black-and-white. There’s a very poignant moment when, after the terrible deed is done, Bill Sykes is looking round their bedroom at all the little things that were Nancy’s, her hairbrush and perfume bottles and powder puffs and her side of the bed.

There is something very poignant about someone’s belongings after they’ve passed on. Remember Vera Duckworth fondling dear old Jack Duck-Egg’s spectacles after his death in CORONATION STREET? The whole of Britain and Ireland were reaching for their hankies…!

The book goes one better and portrays Bill Sykes as being most dreadfully haunted by the ghost of the murdered woman after he does what he does. He flees to the countryside after the murder but is so tormented, both by what he’s done and also by the spectral sightings that chill his blood, that he ends up returning to the city, hue-and-cry or no hue-and-cry. Better the devil you know, eh, Billy Boy…?

I love the scene in the film where Nancy’s talking in secret with Mr. Brownlow on the very steps that lead down to the mighty Thames, while the Artful Dodger is concealed, listening for all he’s worth, just around the corner. This super-atmospheric scene is also in the book, though not in the musical version.

Want to hear some random facts about the 1948 film? Kay Walsh who plays Nancy was married to David Lean, the director. David Lean also directed the superb 1946 film version of Charles Dickens’s ‘GREAT EXPECTATIONS,’ starring John Mills as Pip, Valerie Hobson (THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, WEREWOLF OF LONDON) as Estella and Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham.

Mary Clare Absalom who plays the awful Mrs. Corney was an absolutely stunning beauty in her youth, and was also a stage actress and silent movie star. Kathleen Harrison, Mrs. Sowerberry, also plays the charwoman Mrs. Dilber opposite Alastair Sim in the superb 1951 film version of SCROOGE. 

The film’s producer, Robert Neame, was the father of Hammer actor Christopher Neame, who plays Johnny Alucard, Dracula’s little bitch, in DRACULA AD 1972, opposite Christopher Lee. Hattie Jacques from the CARRY ON movies has a cameo role here as a singer in the Three Cripples tavern.

Finally, Alec Guinness’s performance and make-up as Fagin caused great offence in certain circles, especially the outrageously oversized hooked ‘Jewish’ nose, because it was all thought to be desperately anti-Semitic. Not a cool thing to be accused of in the very recent aftermath of the Holocaust, as I’m sure you’ll agree.

John Howard Davies makes a great Oliver, just as good as if not better than Mark Lester from the musical version. This black-and-white version is overall of terrific quality and the equal of the musical, but you just can’t beat those familiar old songs. All together now: ‘As long as ‘e needs me…’

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 PHILADELPHIA STORY. (1940) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

phila wedding

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY. (1940) BASED ON THE 1939 PLAY OF THE SAME NAME BY PHILIP BARRY. DIRECTED BY GEORGE CUKOR. STARRING KATHARINE HEPBURN, CARY GRANT, JAMES STEWART, JOHN HOWARD, RUTH HUSSEY AND HENRY DANIELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Billed as ‘a sophisticated romantic comedy,’ THE PHILADELPHIA STORY is just that, a romantic comedy about- and possibly even for- rich, connected people. No peasants may apply, lol.

Not everyone watching it will be able to relate to Tracy Samantha Lord’s elegant swimming pool-and-tea-in-the-conservatory lifestyle, and I suppose not everyone watching it will sympathise with her haughty, aristocratic fault-finding manner which presupposes that no-one, husband or lover, will be able to live up to the almost excruciatingly high standards she’s set for herself. And, most importantly, for other people as well. On the other hand, she’s played by Katharine Hepburn and it’s a good strong performance, so I say just relax and go with the flow…

Beloved American actor James Stewart plays Macaulay Connor (I nearly wrote Culkin there!), a promising young newspaper writer who fancies himself as the next Ernest Hemingway, with his short-story-writing and his big literary dreams.

He’s disgusted, therefore, when his Editor Sidney Kidd, played by Henry Daniell- here for once in a non-villainous role- orders him to Philadelphia to cover the society wedding of the year, that of wealthy socialite Tracy Lord to a chap called George Kittredge.

What am I, some kind of shitty gossip columnist, he wails to his Editor but it’s no dice. Off to Philadelphia he must obediently trot, if he wants to keep his job, that is. As the accompanying photographer Elizabeth Imbrie points out, they’ve all got to eat, haven’t they, and for that they need jobs. I daresay that even the great Ernest Hemingway himself had to boil the odd egg and butter the odd slice of toast to go with it in order to stave off the hunger pangs.

When Macaulay, known to his friends as Mike, and Liz get to the Lord estate, they’re a bit bedazzled by all the grandeur. Liz (who, by the way, is head-over-heels in love with Mike but he’s too thick to know it) rather politically incorrectly remarks that she half expects to see ‘picaninnies’ floating around the place.

No doubt what she means by this is that the Lord house, with its ‘south parlour,’ resembles nothing so much as a modern-day Tara-from-GONE WITH THE WIND-style plantation.

The gangly reporter Mike, sorry, serious writer Mike, who’s already actually published a book of his short stories, is a little out of his depth amidst such obvious wealth and position. Liz is none too comfortable either, although she implies she’d swap places with Tracy Lord in a heartbeat.

Tracy herself is polished, sophisticated and able to greet the two newshounds with a professional ease that contains no real warmth. It’s born of years of practice and means little in terms of sincerity.

Mind you, she resents deeply that it was her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), who managed to insinuate the pair of journos from SPY magazine into the Lord house in the first place. Now they’re staying in her home to cover her wedding- a little blackmail goes a long way- and there’s nothing she can do about it.

Tracy and Dexter split up two years earlier when Tracy could no longer tolerate his drinking and he was no longer willing to put up with her Little Miss Perfect holier-than-thou attitude.

He blames her for his drinking, saying that the worse she behaved to him the more he drank. Talk about seeking to blame others for your own failings. If he’d gone to AA at all, they might have taught him to ‘own’ his own drinking and take responsibility for it, the creep.

Tracy and Dexter fought like cat and dog and they eventually broke up. Tracy’s annoying younger sister Dinah gleefully recounts how Dexter ‘socked’ her sister in the kisser before he left- and she even expresses a hope that he might do it again some day- but don’t worry folks. He didn’t actually hit her, he merely shoved her so that she fell over. Well, that’s all right then.

There’s still a major spark between the pair though. Dexter- and indeed Macaulay- are both wondering what the hell the spirited Tracy is doing getting married to the undoubtedly worthy but undoubtedly stodgy and rather dull George Kittredge.

He’s not of Tracy’s ‘class,’ you see, and he doesn’t know how to ride properly or even to wear jodphurs properly like a proper rich person. Oh dear, how shocking. Tracy needs someone she can spar with, not this dull older man who’ll probably be in bed by nine-thirty with a cup of cocoa and a lurid paperback thriller, the closest he’ll probably come to experiencing any real thrills himself. Miaow…!

Tracy is intrigued by Mike, who’s becoming more smitten with Tracy by the hour, much to poor Liz’s distress. Tracy checks out Mike’s book from the local library and falls in love with his words. What’s someone who can write like that doing covering a society wedding for SPY magazine, she demands to know. It’s clear she’s never had to work for her own living.

There’s a lot of talk amongst the men in the film, including Tracy’s own father, of Tracy’s being like a cold, untouchable statue of a goddess who doesn’t have any real human feelings and is utterly devoid of the milk of human kindness.

They imply she’s not a real human being at all, just a perfect automaton without any faults or human frailties. She’s accused of having no understanding of, or patience with, these human frailties and human imperfections that other people have but she apparently doesn’t.

Tracy is hurt by these assertions, especially coming from her father who is a randy philanderer who has hurt Tracy’s mother immeasurably with his dalliance with a dancer. Tracy, seemingly, has forced her mother to live up to her own exacting standards by kicking the Dad out, which he certainly deserves but it makes Mrs. Lord desperately unhappy.

Maybe Tracy’s standards are okay for Tracy herself, but not for everyone. Maybe she shouldn’t try to impose them on other people? Is that the lesson she’s supposed to learn in this highly popular and successful ‘comedy of re-marriage…?’

So, who does ‘Red’ wed, in the end? The rather judgemental George Kittredge, who at the end of the film pronounces that Tracy’s ‘class’ are on the way out and good riddance to every man Jack of ’em?

The starstruck Macaulay Connor, who’s too stupid to know that he has a good woman in love with him already in the form of photographer Elizabeth Imbrie, who’s obviously had to fend for herself in a way that the uber-privileged Tracy never has?

Or will it be the dashing C.K. Dexter Haven, the gadabout yacht designer who was Tracy’s first real love and the man she drove away with her criticisms and her overbearing attitude that holds that she’s right and everyone else is wrong…?

Personally I feel like Tracy, who must be worn out from uttering all that sparkling dialogue in Katharine Hepburn’s trademark haughty voice, could benefit from some time alone to work out how she really feels about each man, but what do I know? I’m just some schmuck.

The stage is set, as it were. The wedding guests are already seated, the pastor is ready with his ‘Do you, Tracy Samantha Lord, take this man to be thy awfully wedded etc.,’ and the pianist has already struck up the first few familiar bars of the Wedding March.

Tracy has clearly got to marry someone, in order to give the guests the show they’ve come for. Which man will it be? Will it be one of our Big Three, or is there even a fourth suitor possibly waiting in the wings? (There isn’t. That’s just some red herring I threw in to stir things up.) Well, watch out anyway, folks. Here Comes The Bride…

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

SCARFACE: THE ORIGINAL VERSION. (1932) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scarface 1932

SCARFACE: THE 1932 GANGSTER CLASSIC. BASED ON THE 1929 BOOK ‘SCARFACE’ BY ARMITAGE TRAIL, WHICH PORTRAYS THE LIFE OF AL CAPONE. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY HOWARD HAWKS.

STARRING PAUL MUNI, GEORGE RAFT, OSGOOD PERKINS, ANN DVORAK, INEZ PALANGE, KAREN MORLEY, VINCE BARNETT AND BORIS KARLOFF.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

For years and years and years, I didn’t even know that there was an original version of the 1983 gangster movie, Brian De Palma’s SCARFACE starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. This 1983 version is not only one of the best gangster movies of all time, but one of the best movies ever made, full stop. Or period, as our lovely transatlantic cousins the ‘Muricans say. But over here, you see, the word ‘period’ means something different altogether…

A lucky charity shop find this Christmas means that I now own the original 1932 film as well as its deliciously decadent and dangerous 1983 counterpart. As a gangster movie, SCARFACE 1932 is a real cracker, but when you’ve already seen the Al Pacino film, it’s even more fascinating because then you can see what the two films have in common and also where they differ.

SCARFACE 1932 has Paul Muni, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his role in the 1935 movie THE STORY OF LOUIS PASTEUR, playing the lead role of Scarface. He’s Tony Camonte, an Italian-American hoodlum in Chicago in the Prohibition era. Once you see him back-answering the Chief of Police at the start of the film, you know he’s got the swagger and style needed to carry off the lead role.

At the outset, a Mob boss called Louis Costillo is shot and murdered- by Tony- because he’s gotten soft and sloppy. Johnny Lovo is the weedy-looking, slyly-moustached criminal who then slides neatly over into the position of ‘Boss.’ He’s the Frank Lopez/Robert Loggia character from the 1983 film.

Johnny Lovo is ably backed up by Tony, an up-and-coming young hoodlum, and Tony’s coin-flipping best friend Guino Rinaldi, whom Tony nicknames ‘Little Boy.’ Guino is the Manny Ribera/Steven Bauer sidekick character from the 1983 re-make.

I love the way that Tony and Guino do business. It’s all about cracking heads and instilling fear, see? It’s Prohibition time in Chicago Town and Tony and Guino simply go round to all the bars/speak-easies in town and say to their owners, after strong-arming them into the back-room: ‘Hey dickhead, where ya getting your bootleg booze from?’

After the terrified owners stammer out a reply, Tony then informs them: ‘Yeah well, ya getting it from us now, asswipe. How many barrels ya want?’ And when the guy tells ’em he normally gets three or four barrels a day, Tony comes back at them with: ‘Yeah well, ya getting ten now.’ When the barman starts blubbing that ten is too many barrels, Tony comes out with: ‘I’ll bring ya round a bar of soap, knobhead. Ya can take a bath in it…’ So funny.

Tony meets Poppy, his boss Johnny’s ‘broad’ and the Elvira Hancock/Michelle Pfeiffer character from SCARFACE 1983. Poppy is a stunning ‘Twenties blonde whom Tony first sees seated at her dressing-table in her slip, bare-legged, powdering herself languidly. He likes what he sees and he goes all out to get it.

Luckily for Tony Camonte, Poppy is more receptive to him than the world-weary, bored and jaded Elvira Hancock is to Tony Montana. He’s obviously way more attractive to her than the much older Johnny Lovo, who looks like a moral weakling in his little sleazy Fredo Corleone moustache.

Poppy is ripe for the taking and so, thinks Tony excitedly, is Johnny’s booze business. I love this scene in the middle of the night where Tony wakes up Poppy in her bed of silken sheets:

Poppy: ‘Tony, where’s Johnny?’

Tony, ominously: ‘Where d’ya think?’ Allows this to sink in for a minute, then: ‘Pack your stuff.’

Tony has a little sister in this version too, Cesca, an absolute knockout of a ‘Twenties broad with dark curly hair and huge dark eyes like Gina/Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the re-make.

Cesca, just like Gina, is happy to take Tony’s blood money and spend it on clothes and going out dancing with dubious characters. Tony and Cesca’s Mamma, however, is all of-a-flutter, telling Cesca that Tony is nothing but trouble and so is his tainted money.

There’s the merest suggestion- but it is there- that Tony behaves more like a boyfriend than a brother to Cesca. She’s as feisty and mouthy as the 1983 Gina character and she gives him plenty of lip, but there’s nothing she can say- nothing anyone can say- to placate him when he finds out about Cesca and Guino, his sister and his best friend…

Boris Karloff (FRANKENSTEIN, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, SON OF FRANKENSTEIN) has a small role here as the gangster Gaffney, who narrowly escapes slaughter at the St. Valentine’s Day massacre but who gets his come-uppance later while bowling- or trying to!- a perfect game.

I was surprised to see him in such a small part and so far down the credits, after his humongous worldwide success as Frankenstein’s Monster. Angelo, Tony’s ‘seckertary’ who can never accurately take a telephone message, is kind of a sweet, lovable character, considering he’s a gangster’s sidekick.

Machine-guns play a big part in the film. When Tony discovers that such magnificent weapons exist, he nearly wets himself with excitement. It’s a sad day for the law-abiding citizens of Chicago, however, when these terrible guns are invented. Men, women and children are being caught in the cross-fire, mown down ruthlessly by these guns, and the gangsters who wield them don’t give a shit about any casualties.

There’s a distinct anti-gangster message being put across by the film-makers (‘What are YOU going to do about it?’). But the problem with making a film like this is that you can’t avoid glamorising the criminals and their awful criminal acts. In fact, this was what they unintentionally did do in this 1932 film.

Well, never mind, they weren’t the only ones. After watching the 1983 version of the film- one of the sexiest, most glamorous films ever made- I bet a million young lads everywhere ran straight down to the job-centre and applied to be a cocaine kingpin. Me, I wanted to be a cocaine kingpin’s moll and wear Michelle Pfeiffer’s dresses…!

THE WORLD IS YOURS, the slogan that appeals so much to Scarface in the 1983 film, turns up here first. It’s astonishing how many of the brilliant scenes from the 1983 film have their genesis, their beginnings, here.

The DVD I have of the 1932 film features two endings, so you can decide for yourself which one you like the best. Both are actually equally chilling. You can convey quite a surprising amount of fear with just a pair of prison-issue slippers.

I’m so pleased with my accidental charity shop find. Mind you, that’s where I’ve found all the gems of my collection so far, in charity shops on shelves next to the ‘faulty electrical goods and jigsaw puzzles with pieces missing.’ (LITTLE BRITAIN!) It pays to keep your eyes open. And ya mouth shut, as Tony Camonte would probably add. We hear ya, Tone, loud and clear. We hear ya.

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

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. (1946) THE CHRISTMAS CLASSIC REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

its_a_wonderful_life_still

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. 1947. BASED ON THE SHORT STORY ‘THE GREATEST GIFT’ BY PHILIP VAN DOREN STERN. DIRECTED BY FRANK CAPRA.

STARRING JAMES STEWART, DONNA REED, HENRY TRAVERS, THOMAS MITCHELL, GLORIA GRAHAME, BEULAH BONDI, H.B. WARNER AND LIONEL BARRYMORE. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Attaboy, Clarence…!’

‘I got a punch on the jaw in answer to a prayer a while ago.’

‘My mouth’s bleeding, Bert! Whaddya know about that?’

‘Merry Christmas…!’

What can I say about this cinematic offering that hasn’t already been said? God only knows! It’s a gorgeous fairytale of a film that has been topping ‘BEST CHRISTMAS MOVIES’ lists for nearly seventy years now.

Everyone knows it. Most people, I’m guessing, love it. Maybe some people hate it. I know some people who refuse to watch it because they think it’s ‘too soppy.’ You certainly can’t get the festive season started without it. So what’s it actually all about…?

It’s the story of George Bailey, played by James Stewart at his All-American best and handsomest. George has spent his whole life in picturesque American small town, Bedford Falls, though his dearest wish is to travel the world and have adventures. Fate intervenes time and again, however, to prevent George from following his heart. Could Fate possibly have a reason for so doing? We’ll find out…

When George’s beloved father dies from a stroke, George is obliged to stay in his home-town and run the Baileys’ Building And Loan. This is the business Mr. Bailey Senior set up so that the people of Bedford Falls could someday buy their own homes and not have to live in the slum dwellings owned by Mr. Potter, the town’s richest man and a regular Scrooge/Mr. Burns-type.

Mr. Potter owns everything in Bedford Falls except for the Baileys’ Building And Loan and, man, doesn’t it gall him! He’s tried every trick in the book to get his hands on this surprisingly successful little family concern.

There’s an awful lotta love in Bedford Falls for this little financial institution. Not only is it run on decent family values of honesty and hard work, but it also provides the locals, as we’ve just noted, with a choice, a choice not to live in Mr. Potter’s exorbitantly-priced slum houses. This choice is crucial for the people of the small town and they appreciate that the Bailey family have given it to them. 

Mr. Potter tries to make a grab for the Building And Loan when Pa Bailey dies, but George steps in to stop him. Mr. Potter then tries to bribe George with twenty thousand bucks a year and the promise of European travel to bring George over to his way of thinking, but George holds firm. It’s a real ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ moment, though.

All that’s really left for the mean, immoral and scurrilous old Mr. Potter to do, aside from fuming privately about his loss, is to wait for George to fuck up in some way, to put it bluntly, and see if he can acquire the Building And Loan that way. He gets his chance one gorgeous snowy Christmas Eve.

Bedford Falls looks a pretty as a picture under all that snow. It looks just like a winter wonderland from a Christmas card. George’s Uncle Billy is en route to the town bank to lodge eight grand of the Bailey’s Building And Loan’s money before close of business today. Should be simple enough to do, right?

When George’s Uncle Billy loses eight thousand dollars of the Building And Loan’s money, however, and the police are called in, George is so distraught and fearful of the shame and disgrace about to befall him that he contemplates suicide. He wishes, in fact, that he’d never even been born. Next comes the trippy part. Pay attention now…

After a series of painful misadventures that only serve to bolster George’s notion that things would have been better for everyone if he’d never been born, an elderly angel called Clarence is sent down from Heaven to help him.

His mission? To show the despairing George just what the lives of his friends and family would have been like had George never been born. And guess what? That’s right, you guessed it. It turns out that everyone he knows would have been a lot worse off for not having known George, who is the kindest and most generous man you could ever meet in a day’s walk, as we say here in Ireland.

I always get annoyed, though, when I see that Mary Hatch, George’s loving and endlessly loyal wife, would have been doomed to a sexless, repressed and colourless life as the town’s spinster librarian if George hadn’t been around to ‘save’ her.

She had other suitors, hadn’t she? Why couldn’t she have married Sam ‘Hee-Haw’ Wainwright and had loads of sex and kids with him? I just don’t see why she has to turn out like the very model of someone’s maiden aunt just because some guy wasn’t there to save her from it. Very sexist, that is, very sexist indeed. It just irks me, that’s all. 

I love Gloria Grahame as the feisty Violet Bicks. Not quite as soft and genteel as the more fortunate Mary Bailey, Violet is a woman who’s had to fight and struggle for her place in life. I also love that Ellen Corby, the Grandma from THE WALTONS, has a small role in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE as the little woman who only wants seventeen-fifty from the kitty at the Baileys’ Building And Loan.

Anyway, when George sees all that Clarence has to show him, he decides that he wants to live after all. Clarence lets him go back home to his wife and children, who are waiting for him with the most marvellous news.

Yes, it appears that at George’s house, a Christmas miracle has occurred. Everyone in Bedford Falls has rallied round the Baileys with enough of their hard-earned cash to make up the shortfall and then some.

Then good old Sam Wainwright, George’s old schoolfriend who’s now become something of a millionaire at business, comes through for George as well and things are all hunky-dory and tickety-boo once more. 

The Building And Loan is saved and so is George. Clarence the Angel gets his wings at last and we nod off in front of the telly with a surfeit of turkey and plum pudding inside us. Aw, isn’t it a wonderful life after all…? Of course it is. Just ask George Bailey. He knows…

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

WHITE ZOMBIE. (1932) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

white zombie bela closeup

WHITE ZOMBIE. (1932) BASED ON THE 1929 NOVEL BY WILLIAM SEABROOK, THE MAGIC ISLAND. DIRECTED BY VICTOR HALPERIN AND PRODUCED BY EDWARD HALPERIN.

STARRING BELA LUGOSI, MADGE BELLAMY, JOHN HARRON, ROBERT W. FRAZER AND JOSEPH CAWTHORN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is such a marvellously atmospheric old horror movie, starring Bela Lugosi who was still fresh from his success as UNIVERSAL’s DRACULA (1931). He looks young, extremely handsome, charismatic and devilish here as the white Voodoo Master of Haiti who puts a spell on a beautiful young woman on whom he has personal romantic designs. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

The beautiful young woman in question is a blonde ‘Twenties bombshell called Madeleine Short, and she’s come to Haiti to marry her fiancé Neil Parker, who’s already there for some reason. I think he has a plantation there. On the boat over to Haiti, she meets a rich young man called Charles Beaumont who’s determined to befriend the young married-couple-to-be for reasons known only to himself.

On the coach-ride to Mr. Beaumont’s plantation, the young couple pass a funeral party that is burying the deceased in the middle of the road. This is to deter anyone who might have a mind to steal the corpse and turn it into one of the ‘undead,’ explains their Haitian coachman matter-of-factly. And, speaking of which, here come a party of these eerie ‘undead’ rascals right now!

The coachman whips up the horses to a frenetic degree.

‘What the hell are you playing at, driver?’ demands Neil irately. ‘We might have been killed!’

‘Or worse, Mister Neil,’ replies the coachman sagely, ‘we might have been CAUGHT…!’

Apparently, Haiti is swarming with these ghouls, who once walked the earth as human beings but whom the most nefarious black magic has raised up from the dead and turned into mindless zombies who work night and day in the islands’ sugar-cane mills. What a life, or should I say what an un-life…?

Mr. Beaumont is a wealthy plantation owner and it soon becomes clear that he’s fallen madly in love with the gorgeous Madeleine, with her huge doe eyes, Clara Bow lips and short blonde ‘Twenties hair.

She’s the very image of a ‘Twenties babe, despite the fact that we’re now in the ‘Thirties. The fashions here are very much still of the ‘Twenties. It gives the whole production the look of a silent movie and, as I’m a huge fan of silent movies, that’s no bad thing in my opinion.

In fact, the film would have worked very well as a silent movie. There’s kind of minimal dialogue in it anyway and the fantastic music score would have been ideal for a silent horror flick.

There’s a long stretch of the film at the end, the bit where Neil is fighting off the zombies by himself, where there’s little or no dialogue and the music is extremely dramatic. You could easily imagine yourself to be watching a terrific old silent movie at this point.

Mr. Beaumont wants to stop the marriage between Madeleine and Neil. He seeks out Bela Lugosi’s evil Voodoo Master, a white creator of zombies with the fantastically memorable name of ‘Murder Legendre,’ to help him. He wants the marriage stopped, but when he realises that the Voodoo Master’s method of doing it is to turn Madeleine herself into one of these ‘living dead’ zombies, he freaks out.

When the Voodoo Master in turn works a spell on Beaumont to immobilise him while he, Murder Legendre, claims Madeleine for his own, the situation becomes desperate. Can Neil rescue the lovely Madeleine from Murder’s evil clutches and, whether he can or he can’t, what will happen now to poor zombified Mr. Charles Beaumont, himself a rich plantation owner but who is now under one of Murder’s terrible spells?

Is he doomed for all time to slave in the Voodoo Master’s mills as one of the undead? And why am I calling him ‘poor’ Mr. Beaumont? If he hadn’t tried to break up Madeleine and Neil in the first place, none of this stuff would now be happening…! He’s only got himself to blame but still, being a zombie is probably a lot less exciting than it sounds.

The bit where Beaumont meets Murder Legendre in the Voodoo Master’s sugar-cane mill is quite chilling. Not only has the VM turned hundreds of once-living people into mindless zombie workers for profit (they work long hours for no pay and never quibble about anything because they can’t), but he’s also turned a specific coterie of them into his own personal group of bodyguards.

‘See these lads here?’ he tells the horrified Beaumont with his trademark evil Bela Lugosi smile. ‘These all used to be my enemies. This one here used to be my master.’

Beaumont is clearly shocked.

‘What happens if the spell you put on them is ever broken?’ he asks nervously.

‘Why, then they will tear me to pieces,’ says Bela matter-of-factly, still smiling. ‘So that can never be allowed to happen…’

By the way, here are some random facts about the film. The film was savaged by the critics upon release for the very things I love about it, the slightly hammy acting and the silent movie look and feel of the thing. The critics were nuts. This is possibly the best zombie movie ever made. Certainly it was the first full-length one.

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE from 1943 has the same dark, shadowy atmospheric look and feel to WHITE ZOMBIE. It’s an excellent film as well, though with a slightly more modern feel to it because it’s a full decade older.

Rob Zombie’s metal band WHITE ZOMBIE took their name directly from the film and they wouldn’t have done that unless they thought it was the coolest movie ever, which it is, so take that, moronic critics. I still can’t believe they dissed this film.

The huge stone tower or cliffside castle where the zombified Madeleine is being held prisoner is actually a painting. It’s just like a black-and-white version of the fabulous painted castles in Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations for AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES. It’s a gorgeous castle, very atmospheric-looking and quite like something out of the 1931 UNIVERSAL DRACULA too.

The two little maids assigned to care for Madeleine are scared to brush her hair because they know she’s one of the undead. They’re also too afraid to run away because the wicked and cunning VM will find them and turn them into zombies too. It’s quite a creepy no-win situation in which they find themselves.

Madeleine looks like a medieval princess when she comes out onto the balcony with that long dress on her with the low-slung belt around the waist. If her hair was several feet longer, she’d make a great Rapunzel. She’s the perfect damsel in distress, waiting patiently in her medieval tower to be rescued. There ain’t nothing remotely proactive about this dame. 

I’m not sure, though, why Neil is in such an all-fired great hurry to snap her out of the vacant, glassy-eyed zombified state she’s in. At least while she’s checked out like this, she won’t be nagging him to change his socks or get up from the sports on the telly to put the bins out. Some blokes clearly don’t know they’re born.

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

VAMPYR. (1932) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Vampyr leone

CARL THEODOR DREYER’S ‘VAMPYR.’ (1932) BASED ON JOSEPH SHERIDAN LE FANU’S WRITINGS, ‘IN A GLASS DARKLY.’ DIRECTED BY CARL THEODOR DREYER.

STARRING JULIAN WEST (BARON NICOLAS DE GUNZBURG), MAURICE SCHUTZ, RENA MANDEL, SYBILLE SCHMITZ, JAN HIERONIMKO, HENRIETTE GERARD AND ALBERT BRAS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘This is the phantasy-experience of young Allan Gray, who engulfed himself in studies of demonology and vampire-lore. Preoccupation with the crazed ideas of past centuries turned him into a dreamer and a fantasist, lost at the border between fantasy and the supernatural.’

This surreal, fog-wreathed German-French early talkie, with so few words of dialogue that it could nearly pass for a silent movie, is the most gorgeous, ethereal and dream-like old vampire film I think I’ve ever seen.

It doesn’t have a linear storyline, in which, say, a Jonathan Harker is ordered by his employer to travel to Transylvania, there to meet with a Count Dracula to discuss a property the Count is desirous of purchasing in England, and then everything that happens after that follows a straight enough course to the climax.

Rather, it’s non-linear and dreamlike, and the lines between fantasy and reality are very much blurred. Also, some of it makes little or no sense but it looks so good ‘n’ spooky that it doesn’t matter in the slightest.

It has a sub-title of THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF ALLAN GRAY, Allan Gray being played by the handsome young aristocrat, Baron Nicolas De Gunzburg, who put up the money for the production in return for being allowed to play the lead role. Well, if it’s your money, then I guess you can ask for that privilege…!

Allan Gray is first seen travelling to an inn close to the village of Courtempierre with his fishing tackle slung over his shoulder. He locks his bedroom door at night because of very uneasy feelings he has about the place, but the sanctity and safety of his chamber is nonetheless breached later that night by a terrified old man.

‘She mustn’t die, do you hear?’ he says cryptically before depositing a wrapped parcel on Allan’s nightstand. ‘TO BE OPENED UPON MY DEATH,’ the old man has written rather ominously on it. It is an ancient book on vampire lore, and the man is the owner of the local chateau, who is at his wits’ end because he and his two adult daughters are under siege by vampires.

Next day, Allan finds this fabulous, rather run-down old chateau, but the master, his nocturnal visitor from last night, has just died in mysterious circumstances. Was he already dead when he came to Allan in the night, begging Allan’s aid for his two daughters? According to the book of ancient vampire lore, much, much stranger things have happened. Allan is involved now, and the fate of the chateau-dwellers is now to be his fate too.

The master’s daughter Leone is confined to bed, her life-blood being drained away from her bit by bit by the local vampire. Two marks like the bite of a rat can be seen on her neck. The scariest sequence in the whole film is when she rises from her sickbed and her eyes follow the progress of an unseen entity around her sickroom, even on the ceiling, while a manic, evil grin adorns her face. Her horrified sister Gisele, played by a beautiful young woman who worked as a Paris photographer’s nude model in real life, looks on helplessly.

Gisele is glad to have Allan’s help with her dreadful problem. The local doctor, played by a Polish poet who’s a dead ringer for Nobel prize-winning scientist Albert Einstein, is in league with the vampire so he’s deliberately not being much help at this terrible time.

The old servant at the chateau is really the hero of the hour. He reads the old book of vampire facts and thus learns what must be done if the chateau, and even the village, is to be saved from this demonic plague of creatures of the night.

He spearheads the operation of tracking the vampire down to an old grave in the churchyard and staking it through the heart with the help of Allan in a scene that bothered the censors greatly back in 1932. He even has a nasty surprise in store for the evil doctor in another scene that drew the censors’ wrath down on the film back in the day.

While Allan is sitting on a bench in the cemetery waiting for the trusty family retainer to bring the staking instruments, he drifts off into two Allans and has an horrific nightmare. He is in his coffin now, not dead but merely paralysed by nefarious means, and he is fully conscious while watching a man above him apply the turnscrew to the coffin nails and lock him away inside his forever-box.

The vampire also looks triumphantly down on him as his coffin screws are nailed down. Then the paralysed Allan sees the sky and the trees above him for the last time as his coffin is carried in a solemn procession to the cemetery. It’s a terrifying scene and one that could easily have inspired film legend Roger Corman when he made THE PREMATURE BURIAL for American International Pictures a few short decades later.

A few random facts about the film now, if you will. No sets were used, the whole thing was shot on location in a real inn, a real but marvellously derelict chateau, a real disused ice-factory (there’s nothing spookier than an abandoned factory, unless it’s an abandoned hospital or mental asylum) and a fully-operational plaster works for the grand finale.

The chateau looks truly magnificent in the film. I especially love the room randomly discovered by Allan in his wanderings (it’s not in the chateau, I think) which contains the old dusty books, the skull and what looks like a child’s skeleton standing intact upon a window-sill. If that’s not a room where you can practise your black magic or study the occult and the dark arts, then I don’t know what is. The whole film is stunning to look at. Catch it if you can at all, that’s my advice to you.

‘Imagine that we are sitting in an ordinary room. Suddenly we are told that there is a corpse behind the door. In an instant, the room we are sitting in is completely altered; everything in it has taken on another look; the light, the atmosphere have changed, though they are physically the same. This is because WE have changed and the objects ARE as we conceive them. That is the effect I want to get in my film.’

Carl Theodor Dreyer on describing to his crew the kind of film he wanted to make.

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

FRITZ LANG’S ‘M.’ (1931) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

fritz lang m

FRITZ LANG’S ‘M.’ (1931) DIRECTED BY FRITZ LANG. SCREENPLAY BY FRITZ LANG AND THEA VON HARBOU. STARRING PETER LORRE AND OTTO WERNICKE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘10,000 marks reward.

MISSING

Believed to have been murdered.

ELSIE BECKMANN.

Age 6-a-half years. Fair hair. Brown eyes. About 3 ft 4 in height. Last seen outside the Barclay School For Infants on April 14th at about ten minutes past twelve.

Any person able to supply information, please communicate with

CARL LOHMANN,

Chief of police or any police station.’

People are always calling ‘M’ Fritz Lang’s masterpiece. I love this film very much but I just want to point out that Fritz Lang’s ‘METROPOLIS’ exists too and might be an even better candidate for the title of this director’s actual masterpiece.

That’s not to say that ‘M,’ possibly the earliest film ever made on the disturbing and grisly subject of child murder and Fritz Lang’s first ever talkie, isn’t a masterpiece. It is, it absolutely is. But the guy can have two masterpieces, can’t he…? That’s all I’m saying, lol.

People usually think that the film is based on the murderous career of serial killer Peter Kurten, the so-called ‘Vampire of Dusseldorf,’ but Fritz Lang himself points out that Kurten was never an admitted child killer and also that the script for ‘M’ was already done and dusted before Kurten was ever apprehended. But serial killers did already exist back then, so it’s certainly more than possible that they gave Lang his idea for the film.

The German city in the film is a city living in terrible fear when the movie starts. A spate of child murders have the inhabitants on the edge of their seats, worrying themselves sick about their kiddies who are every day at risk from becoming the next murder statistic until this fellow is caught. And what won’t they do to the bastard when he is…! Temperatures run very, very high in the city at the moment.

In fact, the movie starts with a murder. Pretty, lively little Elsa Beckmann, the daughter of an impoverished and exhausted washerwoman, is cajoled away from her life by a man whose distinctive profile we first see against the background of one of the ‘WANTED! MURDERER!’ posters. It’s an effective introduction for the man the whole city is just longing to meet.

The images that imply Elsie’s death at the hands of this man, who jauntily whistles the theme from Grieg’s PEER GYNT while he lures the child casually away (his signature?), are stunning in their simplicity.

Her ball rolls away into a patch of wasteland; her new balloon is caught in some telegraph wires and flaps helplessly in the breeze. Two simple but strikingly powerful images, and pretty little Elsie Beckmann is lost to the world of man forever.

The whole city is up in arms. The police are working flat out to catch the killer. This is a good thing, right? Well, not, apparently, for certain elements of the city’s criminal fraternity.

They can’t take a step now without being caught up in a police raid to catch the child murderer. The constant police presence across the city is interfering big-time with their criminal activities. If this keeps up, they’ll be on the breadline, grumble grumble grumble. Ya gotta feel sorry for them.

A group of burglars and safecrackers, headed by a man who couldn’t look more like a Nazi if he tried, in his belted overcoat, hat, black gloves and stick (for whopping things…!), decide to catch the killer themselves and thereby loosen the coppers’ grip on the collar of the city’s criminal underbelly. Then they can go about their unlawful business in peace and quiet once more without the bleedin’ fuzz breathing down their necks all the livelong day.

The funny thing about all this is that the leader of this group, the guy in the Nazi overcoat (incidentally played by an actor who went on to have a rather succesful career under Nazi rule, so we’re not too far out), is wanted by the police on three separate counts of manslaughter.

But because the victims are presumably only adult males who got in the way of his criminal enterprises, then that’s totally okay, see? They weren’t little children. This gives us an idea of the special place reserved in hell (and in the minds of their peers) for the people who do harm to children.

The criminals, with the aid of the city’s population of beggars and down-and-outs, do actually manage to catch the murderer. They haul him in front of a secret kangaroo court consisting of criminals and their pals and there’s very much a feeling that these could tear the child murderer to shreds like wolves, if their leader so much as gives them the signal.

The man chosen to ‘defend’ the murderer brings up some very good points about the notion of capital punishment, the penalty for murder in those days. Should a man be penalised, he argues eloquently after a heartfelt speech from the murderer, if he has no control over his actions and is therefore not responsible for them? The kangaroo court are sceptical. They’re all for execution, and the sooner the better.

The counsel for the defence begs that the murderer be turned over to the police for justice to take place in a civilised fashion, rather than let him be subject to mob justice. We, the viewers, all probably know at this point that the murderer, rather than being summarily hanged or guillotined or shot by a firing squad, needs to be taken into protective custody, preferably in a mental hospital, and there analysed and given whatever treatment, if any, was available to the paedophiles of the day. The mob, however, might have other ideas…

Peter Lorre is brilliant here as You-Know-Who. His eyes are so big and expressive! He did an English language version of the film too, a version which up until only fairly recently was considered lost, and here he gives his first ever English-speaking performance in any movie ever. This makes it a very exciting discovery indeed for Peter Lorre aficionados.

The English language version of the film is a full twenty minutes shorter than the original German version, however, so for this reason I much prefer the German version with English subtitles. The two films have different, though similar, endings, if you get me, and the better ending of the two is in the German version, in my humble opinion.

The film really brings home to the viewer the vulnerability of children, the fact that they can be lured away from their parents, their friends, their homes, their schools and their very lives by an apple, a balloon, a piece of candy.

The kiddies in the film seem particularly impoverished, if Elsie Beckmann’s home and (I’m guessing) overworked single mother are anything to go by, so all the killer has to do is flash a toy or a few sweets to get the child to follow him anywhere he wants.

The spoilt brats of today with all their fabulous, expensive technology might be a little harder to lure away. You’d almost certainly have to be technology-savvy and offering something rather exceptional to get them to glance up, bored, from their iPads.

‘M’ is a truly haunting film. The lovely lost children, the terror of the murderer when faced with the kangaroo court, and the desolation of the downtrodden, impoverished mothers who’ve each lost children in this sinister way all combine to give us some genuinely disturbing images and memories that we won’t forget in a hurry. I can’t say exactly that you’ll enjoy the film, purely because of the grisly nature of the subject matter, but you’ll definitely remember it anyway.

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