THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN. (1999-2002) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN: A COMEDY SERIES FIRST AIRED ON BBC2 FROM 1999-2002. CREATED BY JEREMY DYSON, MARK GATISS, STEVE PEMBERTON AND REECE SHEARSMITH. DIRECTED BY STEVE BENDELACK.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘We didn’t burn him…!’

‘You did it beautifully, Tubbs!’

I watched this comedy sketch show in its entirety over the Lockdown with my kids, and we are all in firm agreement: the first two series of TLOG are pure comic genius, the third and final series not so much. We might just leave it out of the review altogether, lol.

But the first two series are just outstanding, peopled as they are by the strange and often law-breaking citizens of a very odd little Northern England country town called Royston Vasey, the real name of sweary comedian Roy Chubby Brown, who turns up in the show as a foul-mouthed mayor.

Tubbs and Edward are probably my personal favourite characters. They run a quaint ‘local shop’ for ‘local people’ on the outskirts of the town which few people ever visit, which is fine by them. Visitors only disturb the peace of the shop and must be repelled at all costs, even if it means that murder is sometimes the only option…

Tubbs, the chubby, adorable wifey, doesn’t like to be distracted from ‘cleansing the precious things of the shop,’ and the arrival on-screen of her hubby, Edward, based on Christopher Lee’s character Lord Summerisle from THE WICKER MAN, is always heralded by his catchphrase: ‘Now then, what’s all this shouting? We’ll have no trouble here…!’

Pauline (‘Okey-cokey, pig-in-a-pokey, good morning, jobseekers!’), the Restart officer at the local Job Centre, is a gay, lonely and embittered spinster obsessed with the pens which form the tools of her trade. She runs a course for the unemployed, which they must attend as part of the conditions for their claiming the dole, and she’s also a walking bitch drawn from Reece Shearsmith’s own experiences.

It’s hilarious, if deeply unsettling, to see the abuse she heaps on the heads of those poor dole scum, sorry, jobseekers, in her power and, if Matt Lucas from LITTLE BRITAIN didn’t base his Margery Dawes/Fatfighters character on the pale-pink-lipsticked Pauline with her pen fetish, I’ll eat Pauline’s clipboard, the one she uses to whack Ross over the head with…

Aunty Val and Uncle Harvey are fantastically funny characters. Val’s nephew Benjamin comes to stay with them, supposedly for one night, but what does the sign outside the village read? That’s right: ‘ROYSTON VASEY: YOU’LL NEVER LEAVE…’

The pompous Uncle Harvey is a toad-enthusiast, and woe betide you if you confuse his precious pets with (we’ll have to whisper this next word) frogs… The gruesome twosome, Val and Harvey, are obsessed with household and personal cleanliness, and it’s their mission to stamp out self-defilement in the form of masturbation, for which they have numerous lovely euphemisms. (‘Consorting with Madame Palm and her five lovely daughters…!’)

When Aunty Val and Uncle Harvey have their Nude Day, or when they put on those special sandals to ‘restore the weft of the carpet,’ my kids and I nearly fell off the couch laughing. Can poor bemused Benjamin ever extricate himself from the Household from Hell, or is he doomed to relive Nude Day over and over again like Groundhog Day and spend all eternity gliding across the living-room carpet in special shoes…? Only time will tell…

I also loved Pop, the swarthy, hairy Greek or Turkish (I’m not sure which) entrepreneur who owns a fizzy drinks-and-chocolate-bar-kiosk and dreams of an empire to hand down to his two adult sons, Ritchie and Al. He beats up his youngest son for letting some no-good kids nick a few Maverick bars from the kiosk, and he’s also an unscrupulous landlord who charges young folks exorbitant rents to live in his kippy accommodations and then spies on them having sex on his CCTV.

I really loved the character of Les McQueen, who had five minutes of fame back in the ‘Seventies with pop band Creme Brulee (remember Voodoo Lady?) and who’s pined for those five minutes for the rest of his life, and also Papa Lazarou, possibly the show’s most popular- and controversial- character.

The fact that creepy, woman-abducting freak-show owner Papa Lazarou appears in blackface has been the subject of recent controversy, as you can imagine. He also hilariously calls everyone he meets ‘Dave,’ and he’s based on a former landlord of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s, who used to phone up their flat and ask repeatedly to speak to Steve, while ignoring all Reece’s efforts to persuade him that Steve wasn’t there at the moment…!

There are so many other characters in the show to laugh with as well, like Barbara, the town’s transexual taxi-driver, Hilary Briss, the dodgy butcher whose ‘special stuff’ sausages give the people who eat them nose-bleeds, Iris the scruffy cleaner and her snobbish employer, Mrs. Levinson, and the female vicar who doesn’t seem to love her job- or her parishioners-much.

It’s probably one of the best sketch shows ever written, is this. It was very much of its time, though, and you probably couldn’t write something this non-politically correct in our new softly, softly era, where it seems like every day we learn about yet something else that we’re no longer allowed to poke fun at because it’s racist/sexist/homophobic/offensive to minorities, etc. Ah well. We’ll always have THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN, at any rate. Hang on for a minute, though, there was something I wanted to ask you.

‘Is Dave there…?’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

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

JEEVES AND WOOSTER: THE COMPLETE C0LLECTION. (1990-1993) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

jeeves wooster 3

JEEVES AND WOOSTER: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION. (1990-1993) BASED ON THE NOVELS BY P.G. WODEHOUSE. DIRECTED BY ROBERT YOUNG AND FERDINAND FAIRFAX. MUSIC BY ANNE DUDLEY.

STARRING STEPHEN FRY AND HUGH LAURIE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This complete series is just such a treat, a delight, the televisual equivalent of afternoon tea with tons of cream cakes and jam and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off. My kids and I re-watched the entire series during the Lockdown of 2020 (well, of course we’re still in it!) and it brought us nothing but pure absolute joy.

The stately home and country garden settings are utterly exquisite and the period costumes and motor cars stunning. The attention to period detail is just incredible.

The series decamps to ‘Thirties America for some of the episodes and the detail in these episodes is equally painstaking, even if the series does somewhat imply that you can pop over and back to the States from Blighty in the blink of an eye, and not the several weeks on an ocean liner that it would probably have taken…!

Bertie Wooster is an English toff from the ‘Thirties, and Reginald Jeeves is his butler or valet or gentleman’s gentleman. Bertie is forever getting into scrapes, whether romantic or downright criminal (for example, involving the theft of a country copper’s helmet!), and the infinitely learned Jeeves, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything from the Life Cycle of the Worm to Greek and Roman classics, is called upon to exercise his ‘little grey cells’ to extricate his master from yet another jam.

Bertie loves to booze it up at the Drones Club for Gentlemen with other young bucks of his class (Hammer Horror’s Michael Ripper plays the porter there in several episodes), and he’ll put a bet on virtually anything that moves.

He loves to sing and uses his ‘pleasing baritone to great effect about the flat,’ in the words of the inimitable Jeeves. Check out the episode in which he decides that Irving Berlin has ‘come a cropper somewhat’ by putting too many words in his classic song, ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz…’

Bertie is a highly eligible bachelor with his own classy London pad. He’s also very easy-going and generous in nature, which is why his aristocratic peers from the Drones Club downtown are constantly trying to take advantage of him.

They’re always embroiling Bertie in their zany schemes, usually involving inheritances, allowances, young ladies of their acquaintance and disapproving relatives who would stand in the way of their romantic dalliances with said young ladies.

Bertie gets into the most hilarious scrapes trying to help his friends achieve true love, familial approbation and the weekly or monthly stipend which would enable them to continue living the work-and-worry free life of the idle rich.

Bertie’s closest friends all have ridiculous names such as Gussie ‘I gave her a newt’ Fink Nottle, Tuppy Glossop, who is very fond of his grub, Bingo Little, a hopeless romantic, Oofy Prosser from the Drones Club and Barmy Fotheringay (pronounced ‘Fungi’) Phipps, whose real name is Cyril.

One such hilarious scheme involves Bingo Little and his desire to get married to a waitress, a match he was sure his uncle would frown upon. Jeeves’ plan in this instance was to get Bingo to read a series of books to his uncle, all involving the romantic unions of waitresses and toffs.

‘SHE WAS ONLY A FACTORY GIRL’ by Rosie M. Banks went down particularly well, especially when Bertie was persuaded to masquerade as the aforementioned Rosie M. Banks. How was Bertie, never mind the dozy Bingo, to know that Bingo’s waitress lady love, a Rosemary Bancroft, was in fact the illustrious female author in disguise, working undercover as a waitress to acquire material for her next book…?

Women are drawn to Bertie like flies to jam. They frequently decide that they want to marry him, and Bertie is too much of a people-pleaser to say no to them. It is left to Jeeves, then, to extricate his master from the romantic entanglement.

Although we, the viewers, adore Bertie, you’d be surprised how many fathers, uncles, guardians and casual observers violently oppose the match of their precious female relatives to ‘that idiot Wooster…!’ Death before Wooster, even.

Some of the women who give Bertie the most trouble are the hale and hearty, mannish Honoria Glossop, the revoltingly insipid and brainless Madeline Bassett, the terrifyingly bossy Florence Craye and Pauline Stoker, daughter of American business billionaire, J. Washburn Stoker.

Stiffy, aka Stephanie, Byng, a cousin of Madeline Bassett’s who doesn’t even want to marry Bertie as she has her own bloke, Stinker Pinker the Vicar, has no compunction about using blackmail to get the poor hapless Bertie to do her bidding.

This usually involves Bertie’s putting himself at great risk by stealing something from her old uncle and guardian Sir Watkyn Bassett, and breaking into this unwitting uncle’s stately home to either pinch the thing in question or put it back.

Bertie therefore spends a lot of time running away from the law, which at Totleigh Towers in Totleigh-in-the-Wold comprises Constable Oates, who thoroughly loathes Bertie and thinks he is an imbecile Hooray Henry.

Bertie gets no end of trouble from his Aged Aunts Agatha and Dahlia as well, who are always forcing him to look after dud relations, get engaged to women he can’t stand or (yes, again!) steal something or put it back.

The actresses playing these Aged Aunts changed a lot over the course of the four series. My favourite incarnations of both were Elizabeth Spriggs as the last Aunt Agatha and Brenda Bruce as the first Aunt Dahlia.

My favourite character by miles, apart from Jeeves and Wooster themselves, is one Roderick Spode, a friend and frequent house-guest of Sir Watkyn Bassett of Totleigh Towers. Spode is hilariously made out to be a sort of English equivalent of Adolf Hitler.

With the toothbrush moustache, the passion for oratory, his political organisation, the Blackshorts, and their swastika-like symbols, their Hitler Youth-style marching and rallying and their Hitlerish breast-beating and right-arm-extended salute, the comparisons are obvious and hilarious.

Spode hates Bertie’s guts, denouncing him for an idiotic toff waster, and several times threatens him with actual bodily harm. But, never fear, Jeeves has put Bertie in possession of the one little word designed to scare the manners back into this belligerent, blustering British Fascist. Come closer and I’ll whisper it in your ear. That’s right, Eulalie. No, Bertie, not Euripides, Euclid or Eucharist, it’s Eulalie…! Try not to forget it. It could come in very useful…

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

THE BBC DRACULA. (2020) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

bbc dracula

THE BBC DRACULA. (2020) (LOOSELY) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY BRAM STOKER. STARRING CLAES BANG AND DOLLY WELLS. CO-CREATED AND WRITTEN BY MARK GATISS AND STEVEN MOFFAT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I’ve been just DYING to meet you.’

‘Food should never answer back.’

‘Always take the weather with you.’

‘I’m a five-hundred-year-old warlord.’

‘My God, I can’t wait to eat some atheists.’

‘One learns to keep a tidy slaughterhouse.’

‘Please avert your eyes- I have to murder a child.’

‘After four hundred years, it’s nice to be understood.’

‘This will be the most nuns I’ve ever had in one sitting.’

‘In the matter of blood, I am a connoisseur. Blood is lives.’

‘I’ve acquired some of your husband’s memories. You could say that I’ve downloaded them. Orally.’

‘There are many advantages to being a vampire, but it does make it hard to be a morning person.’

I don’t really know where to begin with this one, except to say that there’s something inherently wrong with the sight of Dracula texting on a smartphone. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored Hammer Horror’s two attempts to place Count Dracula in the modern era, ie, DRACULA AD 1972 and DRACULA AND HIS VAMPIRE BRIDES. In fact, these are two of my favourite films in the whole Hammer Dracula canon. But the BBC DRACULA, first broadcast on the BBC over New Year’s in 2020, is kind of… well, a mess. Tons of gore but zero atmosphere.

The first episode was tolerable and at least kept more or less to the plot of Stoker’s marvellous book. Jonathan Harker arrives at the Count’s magnificent crumbling abode in the wilds of Transylvania to finalise with him the sale of a house, Carfax Abbey in England. He discovers there that the ancient Count is in fact a vampire, who replenishes himself each time he drinks from the blood of his captive-guest, Jonathan Harker.

Once the Count re-appears as a tall, dark and dashing Englishman, with the posh charming suavity of Hugh Grant and the sex appeal and comic timing of a James Bond, one kind of gets the feeling that we’re not in Kansas any more. In fact, the drama degenerates into farce as the handsome Dracula quips all around him with lines such as ‘You are what you eat,’ ‘One should never rush a nun’ and, to a victim, ‘I must say you’re looking a little drained.’

I must admit that I was unnerved by Jonathan’s accidental discovery of the living dead, incarcerated for all eternity in locked boxes, in the labyrinthine wilderness of the Count’s castle. It’s an idea that puts me very much in mind of the vampire movie THE HUNGER. Also, David Bowie’s accelerated ageing from that very film is reminiscent of what happens here to Jonathan Harker each time the Count drinks his blood.

A bald-headed Harker, covered in sores and (disgustingly!) missing his fingernails is relating his tale of terror and homosexual sex (yep, Dracula’s bi!) to a toothsome Dutch nun called Sr. Agatha Van Helsing. This ballsy dame is an intelligent and courageous woman who is determined not to flinch or to be found wanting when Dracula attacks her convent in Budapest where Jonathan Harker is hiding out.

She and the staunchly sensible Reverend Mother do very well indeed to bat no eyelids at the sight of a gloriously naked Count Dracula emerging outside their convent gates from the bloodied belly of a wolf. Magnificent butt, but no willies are observed, worse luck.

Episode Two sees Dracula spending the four weeks aboard the Demeter it takes to get to England engaged in, well, eating the passengers and selected crew members. He murders his old flame the Grand Duchess Valeria, Lord and Lady Ruthven (the name derived from Dr. Polidori’s story, The Vampyre, in which he based his aristocratic vampire on Lord Byron) and a couple of (male) sailors, proving yet again that he doesn’t discriminate on the grounds of sex.

I liked Olgaren, the gigantic, bald-headed and heavily bearded cook with a hook for a hand, and also the quip Dracula makes in this episode about having worked with ‘skeleton crews’ before. I bet he has, lol. And remember in Hammer’s DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS, in which Christopher Lee’s Dracula is drowned by a little bit of running water? Well, this Dracula can swim, so be warned…

I hated the last episode. The action moves to the present day, and there they lost me completely. Dracula’s main focus here is getting with Lucy Westenra, a cool and glamorous disco chick who glitters and sparkles (might fit in well in TWILIGHT, so!) and takes hundreds of selfies, is never off the phone and has a Gay Best Friend to discuss her many romantic dalliances with.

Lucy is a vain and shallow person who prizes her looks above all else. Dracula doesn’t hold this against her. Why do you always want to meet up in a graveyard, she asks her midnight lover at one point. I like to spend time with people my own age, immediately quips back this smart-ass Dracula…!

The ‘Bloofer Lady’ and cremation scenes were actually quite creepy and there’s no denying that this episode of the drama mini-series made use of some very cool special effects, but otherwise it was a mess, especially the bit involving the modern day descendant of Sr. Agatha, Dr. Zoe Van Helsing.

I liked Dracula’s witty reference to someones’s ‘bringing a bottle to the party,’ and the nod to the original Hammer Dracula from 1958, when Peter Cushing leaps up on to a table and pulls down the curtains, thereby letting in the sunlight that devastates the vampire and crumbles him to dust, but otherwise this episode was a wash-out.

The notion of some people’s still being sentient (feeling, or being aware) when they are buried or cremated was quite a terrifying one, especially for someone as impressionable as me. I can’t be cremated now (normally my first choice) after seeing what happened to wee Lucy, and I don’t just mean Robbie Williams’s Angels being played at the ceremony, lol.

On the other hand, neither do I fancy being one of those poor unfortunates ‘doomed to spend all eternity scratching at the inside of a coffin lid…’ What a genuinely disturbing thought. And those are our only two choices as well. Clearly, we need more options urgently in this area.

Anyway, if they hadn’t moved the action to the present day in the third episode, I might have quite enjoyed this three-parter, although I probably still would have considered it a little unorthodox. I genuinely don’t see why the Count couldn’t have had some perfectly adequate and even exciting adventures in Victorian England after the journey to Whitby, but alas, it wasn’t to be.

Also, in a drama mini-series so obviously intent on shocking the viewer, why wasn’t there any sex, especially seeing as their Dracula was so handsome and had such a fit body that he had no problem with appearing in the buff at the age of fifty-two? Alas, that wasn’t to be, either. Looks like it’s back to using my imagination for me. Good job I have one, eh…?

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

OPEN ALL HOURS. (1976-1985) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

open all hours

OPEN ALL HOURS: THE COMPLETE SERIES 1-4. (1976-1985) CREATED AND WRITTEN BY ROY CLARKE. STARRING RONNIE BARKER, DAVID JASON AND LYNDA BARON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘G-G-G-Granville, f-fetch your cloth…!’

‘You can’t move around here for grocers in your bosom.’

This is the warmest, nicest and funniest television I’ve watched all year. It’s really and truly the best of British in the sitcom line. My only regret is that I didn’t discover it sooner. It’s the story of Arkwright’s Corner Shop and all who sail in her, namely Albert E. Arkwright the grocer, his n-n-n-nephew Granville and Arkwright’s state-registered lady love, one Nurse Gladys Emanuel, who lives over ‘t’ road.

Arkwright has three aims in life. One, fleecing his customers of every possible half-penny and sending them home with much more than they came in for. A slice or two of bacon? Well, why not buy a nice hand-mirror, antique clothes horse or out-of-date packet of Jamaica ginger cake to go with that, my love? The customers leave, bemused, time after time, gobsmacked at the way that the sneaky, unscrupulous Arkwright has managed to part ’em from their hard-earned cash.

Two, preventing his curly-headed, constantly daydreaming nephew, Granville, from discovering a life outside their cosy little Yorkshire shop. Granville yearns for a woman, for the bright lights and clamour of the local disco, for foreign travel and Chinese architecture and a yacht on the Riviera and the finer things in life, but how the heck is he supposed to achieve any of these exotic delights when the shop opens in ‘t’ middle of ‘t’ night, namely, at sun-up, and doesn’t shut till nine o’clock at night…?

Three, breaking through the fortress of ample bosom that is Nurse Gladys Emanuel to her softer inner core without getting one of her nifty left hooks, although getting stuck in the outer bosom would suit Arkwright (and Granville!) just fine, come to think of it. They could set up shop in her splendiferous frontage without any hesitation whatsoever, it’s so nice and warm and comforting there.

Nurse Gladys Emanuel, Arkwright’s betrothed, with her fabulous head of burnished red-brown hair, is one of those old-fashioned visiting nurses who’d drive round her little parish seeing to different patients. Changing a bandage on an old lady’s wound, checking on a newborn baby and its poorly mum, seeing that a bedridden old gent has managed to eat something after his operation, stuff like that. The travelling nurse is very much part of Britain’s distant past. I enjoyed hugely having that lovely nostalgic element included in the show.

Gladys Emanuel, played by the magnificent Lynda Baron, is a fine figure of a woman. No skinny little young one she. On the contrary, she’s broad in the beam with more front than Blackpool, and it’s no wonder the lovestruck Arkwright risks climbing a ladder at his age to catch a glimpse of her famous frontage leaning out of a window in her negligée. She won’t marry Arkwright until her never-seen mum no longer needs looking after, and Arkwright’s just going to have to knuckle down and wait.

Nurse Gladys is worth waiting for, though, as Arkwright well knows. She’s a woman any man would be proud to call his own, warm and good-humoured with a ready laugh. It’s brilliant, though, the way she slaps away his groping hands time after time and always has a cutting quip lined up that’s guaranteed to put him back in his box.

She’s determined to get him to spend a few quid as well, which for a man as stingy and parsimonious as old Arkwright is like pulling teeth without anaesthetic. Good luck getting Arkwright to prise open the old Oxo tin that holds his precious takings, Nurse Gladys Emanuel. If anyone can do it, you can!

There’s a running joke in the show about Granville, who’s of uncertain parentage, being part-Hungarian. Arkwright’s quite cheeky about his own sister, Granville’s long-deceased mum, having been of loose morals, flinging her knickers to the four winds whenever anyone asked her to.

Granville isn’t altogether averse to being part-Hungarian. It appeals to the part of him that yearns for excitement, glamour, mystery, bright lights; anything, in fact, that takes him away from the mundanity of pricing tins of carrots and pushing the old shop-bike loaded down with deliveries up yet another poxy hill in the rain…!

Arkwright’s Super-Stores is the housewives’ choice for sure. Kathy Staff (LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE) was bloody hilarious as the plain speaking Mrs. Blewitt in the earlier episodes. Stephanie Cole as the Black Widow, aka Mrs. Fer-fer-fer-fer-fer-Featherstone, did duty as the Resident Cranky Auld One in the later episodes.

Liz Dawn, Vera Duckworth in CORONATION STREET, had one line in a very early episode. Him off THE BILL (Eric Richard) played a cameo role once as a man trying to flog a washing machine to Arkright. Good luck with that one, mate. He’ll want cheaper than what you’re offering, you mark my words. Teddy Turner (CORRIE, EMMERDALE) also had a small role. Barbara Keogh (Lilly Mattock from EastEnders) was Mrs. Ellis.

Maggie Ollerenshaw played the ditzy, terminally indecisive Mavis, or did she? I can’t quite make up me mind! Paula Tilbrook (Betty Eagleton from Emmerdale) was Mrs. Tattersall. Barbara Flynn played the Milk-woman who every morning delivered two pints and a pot of unrequited love to the head-over-heels Granville. I personally thought she was a bit of a tease. I don’t believe she had the slightest intention of ever letting Granville have the top off ‘t’ milk, the snooty little hussy. She were only leading ‘im on, she were.

Poor Granville, desperate to be part of Britain’s new generation of swinging young people, but he never has time to get his pinny off. Doomed to be an errand boy for life, the poor lad. Come and nestle for a bit in Nurse Gladys Emanuel’s bosom. That’ll make you feel better, lad. Just make sure Arkwright’s not watching…!

Arkwright the grocer is rude to everyone, racist, sexist, disrespectful to women, verging on dishonest the way he flogs his old out-of-date white elephant stock to his customers (remember when he tried to sell some kind of lead blacking to male customers as a kind of marital aid?), and yet he’s the cuddliest, most loveable rogue you could ever hope to meet.

I also love the delightfully mournful theme tune, and the fact that the show didn’t modernise as the years went on, but rather kept the olde-worlde charm that makes it so magical. The time of the corner shop that sold everything from turnips to braces for your trousers to the kind of lead blacking people used to put on old stoves (marital aids, my foot!) has passed, sadly, to be replaced by the age of the supermarket and online shopping. Still, if we ever have a burning need for a small brown loaf and two teacakes, we’ll know where to go, won’t we? G-G-G-Granville, fetch your cloth…!

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE MAZE. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong book trio

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

THE MAZE. (1968)

PUBLISHED IN 2019 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

Screen-writer, actor and director Michael Armstrong has written some absolutely cracking horror screenplays. Some were made into films, such as THE DARK (1960), MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) and HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1982).

This last film, as well as being a rollicking great horror romp, has the distinction of being the only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

Some of his other screenplays, for one reason and another (showbusiness is a fickle and fluctuating mistress!), never made it onto the big screen, unfortunately for the public. These include the fantastic GHOST TOWN (1969), a comedy Western; BEELZEBUB (1984), the story of a haunted computer that would have made a terrific ‘Eighties horror movie; DEATH MASQUE (1988) and OUIJA-BOARD (1989).

Directors have been making films about ouija-boards for the last couple of decades now, but Michael Armstrong was one of the first, if not the first, to realise the potential of the humble ouija-board to be the subject of a major horror film.

Now, on to- or should I say into- THE MAZE (1968), a screenplay cut in the same mould as the excellent BEELZEBUB, GHOST TOWN and the aforementioned OUIJA-BOARD. I enjoyed it every bit as much as the screenplays of Michael’s (I can call him that; we’re great pals…!) that came before and after. I bet you guys can’t guess what it’s about, lol…

I’ll be kind and give you tons of clues. First off, we have a handsome young celebrity footballer fella called Bob Harding. Bob’s agent tells him one day that he’s positively got to go to this classy shindig on some dude’s private island, because the press will be there and a ton of other celebrities as well (‘-movie stars, pop, fashion- it’s a media coup!’), and this will be the perfect opportunity for Bob to grab some quick easy publicity.

What can Bob do but say yes? When he’s picked up at a Maltese airport by a handsome young Greek chappie called Alexis, who works for the island-owning millionaire, the pair have the following rather disturbing exchange:

Bob: This island we’re going to- I tried finding it on the map but it didn’t seem to exist. Does it have a name?

Alexis: No name. It isn’t on the map.

Bob: So, how far is it off the mainland?

Alexis: Far enough. Dr. Seresion likes privacy.

Okay. A mysterious island that’s not on any map, miles from anywhere, owned by some creepy-sounding doctor dude? (Remember THE ISLAND OF DR. HIBBERT from THE SIMPSONS?) I’d have turned the boat round and headed for home at this point, but dopey Bob has seemingly never watched that episode of THE SIMPSONS, lol.

Once on the island, he’s chauffeured by Alexis and Maurits, another hot Greek dude, to the magnificent palace of Dr. Seresion. The palace stands in beautiful, idyllic grounds with the following amenities: flower, rock and water gardens; tennis courts; croquet lawns; swimming pools and other sporting facilities; two theatres- one open-air, a butterfly house, a maze and a pagoda. See how the maze just sneaked in there, all innocent-like? Heh-heh-heh.

The rather sinister Dr. Seresion greets Bob and his other celebrity guests with the following speech. I’ve put in capital letters the sentence I feel to be the most portentous. The guests don’t seem to notice the undercurrents of menace running through the welcome speech, but then maybe I’ve seen more horror films than these guys have:

‘So, it is as fellow members of Mankind that I shall welcome you to my island. MAY YOUR YOUTH AND YOUR ENERGIES FILL IT WITH THE LIFE IT HAS SORELY CRAVED OVER THE YEARS. For that I welcome you- and wish you an enjoyable and fulfilling stay here.’

The guests include Bob, an obnoxiously brash and pushy journalist called Rowena and her photographer Mike, a young pop star called Brian who’s sweet on Rowena (unfortunately for him; she’s a total bitch!), a young heart-throb actor by the name of Simon and a ravishing young actress, Jenny Raine, who confounds expectations by not leaping into bed with every male starlet who looks at her twice. A woman of principles, eh? Curiouser and curiouser…

The press, as personified by Rowena, don’t come off very well in the screenplay at all. Here’s what Jenny thinks of Rowena and her ilk:

‘That’s what Ro and the rest of her species offer us: instant celebrity- ‘Be nice to me, do what I want, say what I want you to say and, if I feel like it, I’ll make you into a sexual icon to be worshipped and adored by millions.’

Jenny, a thoughtful and insightful woman, has this to say on the subject of her and Bob’s so-called ‘celebrity’:

‘And there we all are- society’s golden calves with more money than sense- hiding behind giant egos frightened someone’ll suddenly find out we’re not really divine at all… just pathetically mundane like everyone else.’

She’s rather an extraordinary woman, is this Jenny. I certainly hope she makes it to the end of the story. Some people don’t, you know, because there’s a serial killer loose on the Island of Dr. Hibbert (sorry!) who seems to be hell-bent on bumping off the famous guests.

But why? And who is it? And is it anything to do with the sound of underground drumming that’s been bothering some of the guests? Are The Rolling Stones secreted somewhere on the island, giving impromptu concerts to the moles and the fishes?

There’s also the titular maze, of course, ‘enormously tall, perfectly trimmed hedges eerily floodlit in the darkness.’ Nothing bad could ever happen in a maze, I hear you say. Don’t you believe it. There was a maze in THE SHINING, wasn’t there? The maze on the island seems to have almost a sentience about it, like it’s a living, breathing thing. Let’s hope that it never gets… gulp… hungry… and… eeek… needs f-f-f-feeding! Yikes, Scoob, let’s get outta here…!

Guests are disappearing and no-one is exactly sure where or why. An enormous shrine to the mother of Dr. Seresion, the mother he never knew, is discovered in a fabulous pagoda on the island. Dr. Seresion maintains ‘the island has no secrets’ but, the deeper you get into both the book and the island, the more you are disinclined to believe him.

Alex and Maurits, ‘Dr. Seresion’s creatures,’ who ‘grovel to do his bidding’ but don’t have humps and a snaggle-tooth apiece, haha, are at pains to reassure the guests that everything on the island is all nice and normal, but surely even the more cerebrally challenged among their number can read the writing on the wall…?

Now, I don’t want to give you any spoilers, but I’ve decided to share one maze-related passage with you which I found particularly frightening and atmospheric:

His head is surrounded by leaves on four sides

As he endeavours to breathe through the encompassing foliage-

One arm becomes twisted behind his back,

As the leaves press around his body

Like the tightening coils of a large snake-

Pathetically he struggles to free his legs-

Arms…

And still they continue to press in on him…

Slowly squeezing…

And crushing his body…

Compressing it…

And smothering his face…

Blocking his ability to breathe in or out…

The leaves are inside his mouth-

Twigs slowly skewering into his eyeballs-

Piercing into his ears-

Trickles of blood…

Seep through the tightly packed leaves…

I won’t go any further with this passage, but it’s the stuff of nightmares. The maze stands silently in the moonlight. All is quiet. Yeah well, all is quiet now, sure, but there are times when it’s all go in there, trust me.

The ending is truly terrifying. Stephen King himself couldn’t have done a better job. It’s put me right off going into mazes, anyway. Not that I’ve been in many. In point of fact, I’ve been in none, and I’m not too sure if we have any here in Dublin, but even if we did, I wouldn’t be tempted anywhere near them. Too leafy for me…

So here you are giving shelter to the local looney. All terribly Hitchcock and noire. So, now what? Do you both get handcuffed together and run around the windswept countryside trying to learn the secret of the thirty-nine hedges?

Come to bleed me some more, daddy dearest?

The maze!- I know what’s at the centre!

I have to be kept alive… for the maze.

It’s coming for us! It’s coming!-

THE MAZE, E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL and ROBIN HOOD (see illustration) by Michael Armstrong are available to buy now from:

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS. E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL. (1972) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong younger

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

‘E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL.’ (1972)

PUBLISHED IN 2019 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

You may have heard me mention this up-and-coming young fella before, this Michael Armstrong fella whose career as a film director and screenwriter is currently being immortalised in the form of some of the most beautiful books I’ve ever owned, books of all the screenplays he’s ever written, and he’s written a lot of screenplays. His productivity over the years puts most other writers to shame, and writers hate being put to shame, you can take that from me…! It makes us edgy, and we’re on edge enough of the time as it is.

Whether they were made into films or not, the screenplays are all being transformed into gorgeous books by Michael’s publishers, Paper Dragon Productions, and they really are the perfect present for film buffs of all ages. Well, not exactly all ages, lol. Some of ’em are a little blue…! Here are the films for which he’s penned the screenplays:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

Impressed much…? Thought so, heh-heh-heh. Now to E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL, the title of which you’ll see contains the acronym ENSA. What was ENSA? There’s a definition in the book’s Glossary Of References which will do perfectly nicely for our purposes, and here it is:

ENTERTAINMENTS NATIONAL SERVICE ASSOCIATION: Popularly known as ENSA; it was an organisation set up in 1939 by Basil Dean and Leslie Henson to provide entertainment for British Armed Forces personnel during World War Two. Infamously, quality of the shows varied considerably due to an insufficient number of good professional artistes to accommodate the number of shows required by the troops spread out fighting across Europe. As a consequence, ENSA became inundated by substandard acts and eager untalented amateur performers to such an extent that the troops created the acronym E.N.S.A. as ”Every Night Something Awful…!”

In other words, you’d be praying for a Bob Hope, a Marlene Dietrich, a Vera Lynn or a Glenn Miller, but you’d end up with some bozo playing the spoons. Still, I’m sure every act, no matter how amateur, gave it their very best shot and I’d personally maintain that any entertainment, however dodgy, is better than none at all. There was a bloody war on, after all. What right did anyone have to be picky…?

‘E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL’ (1972) is the hilarious story of one such company of wartime entertainers. Headed by flaming queen Ivor Short, they’re putting on a variety show for the lads called ‘Red, White And Blue,’ whether the troops want them to or not, and it’s bound to be Fab. U. Lous, darling. (Channelled my best Craig Revel Horwood from Strictly there…!) Or is it…? I think you already know the answer to that, readers.

There’s a really funny bit in the beginning where someone’s travelling to a top secret army camp in the New Forest and needs to ask directions from a local farmer and the farmer says: ‘But if it be the secret army camp you’re after?- That’s along there- about half a mile. You can’t miss it. You’ll see their sentries hiding behind the trees.’ So much for army confidentiality, anyway.

French heart-throb and international singing star Pierre Lamorisse, the main attraction of Red, White And Blue, is aghast to find that the English soldiers in this ‘top secret’ army camp don’t even have real weapons. I just have to include here the genuinely funny exchange between Pierre and one of the soldiers:

Soldier: Sorry, sir, I didn’t recognise you. I wouldn’t wander too far away, if I was you- just in case one of us mistakes you for an invasion force in the darkness.

Pierre: Oh yes… thank you. I wouldn’t want to get shot.

Soldier: Oh, no fear of that, sir. We ‘aven’t got real rifles- and even if we had, we ‘aven’t any bullets for ’em. No, all the real stuff’s over with our boys abroad. (He holds up his ‘rifle’ to show Pierre.) Not bad, is it? Looks like the real thing from a distance. Yeah, they’re makin’ ’em at Pinewood Studios; churnin’ ’em out, they are- tanks an’ all.

(Pierre stares at him in complete amazement.)

Pierre: Tanks?

Soldier: Only the outsides, mind you. Yeah. Make ’em out of hardboard, they do… spot of paint- looks all right from a long way off. Get a few ‘undred of ’em wheelin’ about on the cliffs makes old Jerry think twice about invadin’.

Pierre: But if they do invade, what will you fight them with?

Soldier: Well… we could always bash ’em over the ‘ead with one of these. They’re good and solid. You feel that. (He hands Pierre the ‘rifle’ to feel the weight.)

Pierre: It’s just wood.

Soldier: Yeah, but feel the quality. That’s good quality wood, that is. Jerry gets one of them round his mush, he’ll soon give up, I can tell you. Anyway, best be gettin’ back to my rounds. Can’t be too careful, you know. There’s spies everywhere, so we’re told. Been a right pleasure talking to you, sir. Have a nice night.

(And moves off as Pierre quickly calls after him:)

Pierre: Excuse me-?

(The soldier returns, so that Pierre can hand him back his ‘rifle.’ The soldier gives a rueful grin.)

Soldier: I’m always forgetting where I put it.

Talk about a Carry On…! However did England win this war anyway…?

Anyway, the company of entertainers includes the above-mentioned Pierre; Ginger, an attractive singer and femme fatale with a string of broken relationships behind her who just might be the perfect woman for Pierre, if they both but knew it; Bertie Rich, a jaded comedian who feels more dead than alive; Marilyn, a faded blonde bombshell whom Michael Armstrong envisoned being played by Diana Dors if the script had been made into a film (excellent choice, by the way); Constance, an older married lady with a theatrical repertoire, who never realises when she’s boring people (she also never uses the Horne when she’s performing); and Madam Merlin, aka Priscilla Clipthorpe, a lady magician (or should that be magicienne?) who never travels without her two bunny wabbits. It’s a motley crew but a good one.

Here’s what happens when French Pierre questions why he has to wear an Arabian Nights costume:

Pierre: Ivor, this is stupid. Why do I have to wear this?

Ivor: It’s part of a themed medley, sweetie: an exotic Arabian Nights fantasy… Ginger’s Scheherazade, I’m the cruel Sultan, the girls are my wives, Jack’s the Golden Slave and you’re a singing eunuch.

Pierre: Eunuch? What is that? I don’t get it.

Ivor: Neither did they, petal.

Bah-dum-tish, lol. This company of elite entertainers must travel abroad to a top secret destination (so secret not even the ship’s crew know where they’re going!) to dazzle their fighting boys abroad with their expertise and chutzpah. I love when Ivor says to Sally: Take it from the top again- and Sally dear, do try to make her sound more like an innocent young virgin and less like Gracie Fields? Heh-heh-heh. Lovely woman, Gracie Fields. Immensely talented.

Here’s what Bertie tells Madam Merlin to describe his feelings of jadedness and ennui:

Forgive me, dear girl, but after you’ve died in front of as many audiences as I have, you eventually cease to regard yourself as a living being anymore. Then: Actually, it was on the eve of my fiftieth birthday that I realised I was dead. Had been for some time, in fact. Just never really noticed it before.

Poor Bertie. And they say that showbusiness is glamorous… The main thing is that the show must go on, as the old showbiz motto goes. But can the show really go on when the troupe is in Rome but their band and props have somehow ended up in Norway? And why does everyone burst out laughing when Constance bursts forth with the song, O, for the wings of a dove?

What prompts Ivor the director to say: I know, to most people, I’m just a funny old queen but even funny old queens have feelings? There are some really touching moments amongst the comedy and quickfire one-liners which Michael Armstrong fires off with the ease of someone doing something they find really easy, lol. Good metaphors are not always readily available, even to a quicksilver brain like mine own. Michael Armstrong would probably have found a good one.

The troupe at least have each other, but what about the troops? Note the rather clever play on words there. Here’s the exchange between a sergeant and a young lieutenant when the ENSA party bus hoves into view of a little European village, where a garrison of soldiers is stationed like a sitting duck:

Sergeant: Think it could be some kind of enemy trick, sir?

Young Lieutenant: Worse, Sergeant. I think it’s ENSA…!

Sergeant: Oh, my God! Better warn the men, sir.

Young Lieutenant: Quite. Carry on, Sergeant.

Carry On, indeed…! All joking aside, folks, on page 192, you’ll find a scene that’ll show you the true worth of ENSA (popular as it may be to poke fun at them) to exhausted, demoralised soldiers far from home who just want to see their families again. I cried buckets at this scene, and you will too.

Can Pierre get to the root of Ginger’s commitment phobia and seeming inability to be faithful to one man? On page 236, he finally nails it. Will Marilyn get her man, or will she retreat gracefully from the arena so that the dreamily swoonsome Fabio can be with the woman he really loves? No woman’s that generous and big-hearted, surely? By the way, do you guys know what the words MINAS TERRESTRAS mean, because ENSA sure don’t…! And finally:

‘And here we have it!… A spectacular musical revue called Red, White & Blue… Ivor Short and Company: Jack Adair, Ginger Lawrence, Sally Meadows, Bertie Rich, Marilyn Turner, Constance Blythe with Speciality Madam Merlin and special guest star, Pierre Lamorisse. Acting understudy and ASM, Edith Nightingale. Band: Billy Rainbow & His Big Band. Touring Company- Category B.’

E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL, in addition to THE MAZE and ROBIN HOOD, is available to buy now from Michael Armstrong’s website and his publishers, Paper Dragon Productions. Don’t waste any time. Go get ’em!

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

By the way, Sherlock Holmes had his Irene Adler and Mr. Spode from Bertie Wooster his ‘Eulalie.’ If you ever want to see a grown man cry like a little girl, you have but to whisper one word into Michael Armstrong’s shell-like… Ryman…

See you guys next time!

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

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. (1992) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

muppets scrooge

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. 1992. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY BRIAN HENSON. MUSIC BY PAUL WILLIAMS. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY CHARLES DICKENS.

STARRING MICHAEL CAINE, STEVEN MACKINTOSH, MEREDITH BRAUN, ROBIN WEAVER, KERMIT THE FROG, THE GREAT GONZO, RIZZO THE RAT, MISS PIGGY, FOZZIE BEAR, SAM THE EAGLE, ROWLF THE DOG AND KERMIT’S NEPHEW, ROBIN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The years performed their terrible dance.’

The Marleys were dead, to begin with… This is, quite simply, the best Christmas movie ever made. It’s a top-notch reworking of the Charles Dickens’ classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, in which Ebenezer Scrooge, the meanest man in Christendom, is visited on Christmas Eve by Three Spirits who show him the error of his ways.

Michael Caine is superb as Scrooge, the Victorian moneylender who’s so mean he wouldn’t give you the steam off his piss, as we say here in Ireland. He underpays his employees, he’s a horrible uncle to his nephew Fred and he gives short shrift to the gentlemen who come collecting for charity on Christmas Eve.

He only lets his workers, among them Bob Cratchit, brilliantly played by Kermit The Frog, have Christmas Day off work because there won’t be any other businesses open to do business with. Tsk, tsk. What a cantankerous old skinflint.

Bob is glad to be rid of him when close of business finally arrives on Christmas Eve because Bob, along with his wife Emily and their four children, twin girls Belinda and Bettina (the living image of their mother Emily, played by Miss Piggy!) and two boys, Peter and the ailing Tiny Tim, do know how to keep Christmas well. Which is more, much more, than can be said for Mr. Scrooge. Humph.

Scrooge goes home alone to his cold, dark gloomy chambers. From the moment he sees the face of one of his long-dead business partners, Jacob Marley, materialise superimposed over the front door knocker of his house, he gets an uneasy feeling that tonight isn’t going to be like most nights. And by Jiminy, he’s dead right!

Statler and Waldorf, the two incorrigible old jokers who sit up in their box at the Muppet Theatre every night and gleefully heckle the performers, turn up to his chambers first as the ghosts of Scrooge’s deceased business partners, Marley and Marley.

Wearing the terrible ‘chains they forged in life,’ the two auld lads try to convince Scrooge that living for his cashboxes the way he does is the way to end up in hell, chained for all time to the things you mistakenly thought were important in life. They don’t have much luck. Scrooge is going to need more convincing.

Next, the Three Spirits, the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future, whose ghoulish coming was foretold by the shades of Marley and Marley, arrive bang on schedule on Christmas Eve night.

They give the terrified Scrooge what for, showing him what a miserably lonely child he was in his youth, how he is scorned and shunned by all in the present, and how little he’ll be missed on his death.

Scrooge, as we all know, repents his tight-fisted ways and pays festive visits to both his gobsmacked nephew Fred and the impoverished Cratchit family, who are delighted to see that he comes bearing gifts.

One of my favourite scenes is where Bob Cratchit, an amiable man who only sees the good in people, tries to get his wife Emily to join him in drinking a toast during Christmas dinner to ‘Mr. Scrooge, the founder of the feast.’ 

She nearly becomes apoplectic with rage, saying things like: ‘Founder of the feast indeed!’ and ‘If he were here, I’d give him a piece of my mind and I hope he’d choke on it…!’ She doesn’t have quite the rosy-eyed view of the world that her husband has, and I don’t blame her.

While Bob is out at work, she’s the one who has to feed her family out of fresh air and find clothes for them and heat their freezing little icebox of a house. She also has to watch her youngest child, Tiny Tim, grow steadily weaker for the want of good food, a bit of warmth and the right medicines.

The wife of a rich Victorian banker may have been able to lie on her chaise-longue all day, pale and languid, but the wives of poor men were up against it all right. It’s no wonder that the spirited Emily Cratchit, fiercely loyal to her husband who busts his hump daily for Scrooge for tiny wages, would dearly love to ‘Hi-yah!’ Ebenezer Scrooge into the middle of next week. You go, girl.

The songs are fantastic, every single one of them an unforgettable Christmas classic. This is a great karaoke film because you and your whole family can sing along as loudly as you like to the tunes, especially if you have the subtitles and therefore the words.

There are some genuinely spooky and atmospheric scenes in Scrooge’s dark, cold old chambers as he awaits the arrival of the spectres. The Ghost Of Christmas Future is particularly grim. I think he’d put the willies up most people, this fella.

The atmosphere of love and togetherness in the Cratchit household, despite their poverty and Tiny Tim’s imminent death, would bring a tear to the eye of the most hard-hearted viewer. They have a sense of family that’s most fitting for the time of year, but that you can imagine sustains them right through the rest of the year as well. And yet they’re not too sickly-sweet, like the Waltons, lol. Bob’s genuine warmth and Emily’s feistiness and fierce protectiveness of her family sees to that.

The film is chock-a-block with typical Muppet comedy too, as you might expect. The Great Gonzo playing Charles Dickens is an inspired piece of casting, and Rizzo the Rat makes an adorably funny sidekick to the great nineteenth-century novelist. It’s the perfect Christmas film and a wonderful tribute to the season that the Victorians are credited with, if not inventing, exactly, then at least putting their own stamp on it.

Let’s not forget either, though, that it’s ultimately a horror story, involving the visitation by ghosts of a man who seriously needs to change his miserly ways. And change them he does, in the many versions of the story committed to celluloid. Could this even be the most often-told ghost story of all time…?

I don’t know, but what I do know is that this little film is top of my Christmas movie-list every single year without fail. It’s a heartwarming, brilliantly-scripted classic. What else can I say about it? Just watch it for yourself. You’ll see what I mean. But make sure you try to get an early night first, okay? After all, there’s only one more sleep till Christmas…

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