SE7EN. (1995) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SE7EN. (1995) DIRECTED BY DAVID FINCHER. WRITTEN BY ANDREW KEVIN WALKER. STARRING MORGAN FREEMAN, BRAD PITT, GWYNETH PALTROW AND KEVIN SPACEY.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

When I first watched this psychological serial killer drama on television, I was so scared by the guy tied to the bed I think I stopped watching it, and then didn’t pluck up the courage to go back to it until a few years later. It still looks good today, as it happens, and it still spooks me.

Morgan Freeman, he of the iconic voice, plays tired old homicide detective just a short time from retirement, William Somerset. He’s seen it all, or so he thinks, the very worst that human beings can achieve and inflict on their fellow men.

He’s been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, spilled Diet Coke down the front of it and smeared it with peanut butter and jelly from the sandwich he habitually eats at his desk when he’s not missing lunch altogether because of his heavy caseload, brought the T-shirt home to be washed, washed it, worn the T-shirt again, decided he wasn’t that keen on it after all and donated it to Goodwill. Whew. The journey of a single garment, much.
 
He’s taciturn, the kind of television gumshoe we normally refer to as ‘jaded’ or ‘hard-bitten.’ He’s looking forward to retirement, when he probably plans to do the crossword, go fishing and catch up with a bevy of other superannuated old geezers like himself whom he’s known since Moses went up the mountain and came back down with a load of pills. Tablets, sorry, I meant tablets…!

Brad Pitt plays David Mills, the hot-headed ambitious younger detective who’s the Ying to Somerset’s Yang. He’s just moved to this rainy, crime-filled unnamed shithole of a city with his beautiful blonde wife Tracy, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. Tracy is up the duff and is considering not having the baby. She confides in Detective Somerset, to whom she’s taken a shine, that this filthy city is no place to bring up a child.

Disgraced actor Kevin Spacey is brilliant and chilling as John Doe (sorry, but he is!), the cold-blooded, supremely confident and methodical serial killer sought by Somerset and Mills. He kills his victims according to the Seven Deadly Sins, otherwise known as Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Envy, Wrath, Pride and Lust. No matter how many times you think you’ve remembered ‘em all, there’s always one you forget. Try it! It’s like trying to remember the Ten Commandments. I always run out of steam when it comes to all the coveting.

A fat man is forced to eat until his stomach explodes. Sin of Gluttony. A prostitute is savagely raped with a strap-on metal blade. (Yee-ikes!). Sin of Lust. See? Each crime represents one of these Seven Deadly Sins.

Can Mills and Somerset catch this twisted, sadistic serial murderer before he kills again, or is it already too late? Or, if it’s too late to stop the deadly roll-out of pre-planned murders, can the two detectives at least have a ringside seat to the Grand Finale…? I have a distinct feeling that the killer will insist on it…

I love the dark, rainy, gritty feel to this movie. It’s a very brown-looking movie, if you get me, just like David Fincher’s later crime thriller, PANIC ROOM (2002), which is one of my favourite films.

SE7EN is considered by some to be the best serial killer flick ever made, next to 1991’s THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, in which Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter is the psychopath to, quite possibly, end all psychopaths. I prefer LAMBS, personally, but that doesn’t take away from how good SE7EN is and you can’t twist my arm on that.

By the way, do you think that Dr. Lecter was named ‘Hannibal’ by his creator, Thomas Harris, because it rhymed with ‘Cannibal?’ Almost certainly. I feel like the monikers Andrew the Cannibal, Bob the Cannibal or even Laurence the Cannibal might not have had the same punchy, catchy memorable sound to them.

Brad Pitt was engaged to Gwyneth Paltrow during the making of SE7EN, the horny beast, and was later married to and divorced from Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie. I don’t think he’s ever been hitched to or divorced from either Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts or Penelope Cruz. He missed out there, anyway. Top birds, these.

Brad Pitt also has a minor planet named after him. My God, how the other half live. Planets and top actresses and such like. Shure you couldn’t be up to them. That’s an Irish-ism, by the way, that signifies that your attempts to replicate the celebrity lifestyle will be feeble and pitiful at best and you should just not bother your arse even trying.  

I like the shock ending to SE7EN. My only regret is that I’ll never again be able to watch it without knowing what’s in the box. Once you know it, you know it for life. What’s in the box, you say? I can’t tell you that. It would be a massive head. I mean, spoiler. Sorry. Sorry about that. I meant it would be a massive head. Fuck it, I did it again. Never mind me, you’d better just go and watch the fillum if you want to know…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

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

THE WOMAN IN THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE GIRL IN THE WINDOW. (2022) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE WOMAN IN THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE GIRL IN THE WINDOW. (2022)
A NETFLIX COMEDY SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
DIRECTED BY MICHAEL LEHMANN.
STARRING KRISTEN BELL, TOM RILEY, MICHAEL EALY, MARY HOLLAND, CAMERON BRITTON, SHELLEY HENNIG AND GLENN CLOSE.

‘Bingo…!’

This is a black comedy series in eight less-than-thirty-minutes episodes that would be easy enough to binge-watch in one night. Well, that’s how I did it, anyway, last night, as a matter of fact. It’s a send-up of all those crime thriller books and films that have names like GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

I’ve found the trend a bit tiresome at times, as every second crime book seems to have the words ‘the girl’ or ‘the woman’ in the title. I’ve noticed a similar trend in literary fiction for having ‘the so-and-so’s daughter’ for a title. Apothecary’s daughter, abortionist’s daughter, and we’re still only on the A’s here, lol. The world of books sure could use a shot of originality.

Anyway, this parody series features Kristen Bell, who played Princess Anna in the smash-hit kids’ animated film FROZEN (2013), as Anna, the rather kooky American heroine. Anna lives alone in a fabulous big house on a secluded, exclusive street rather like Wisteria Lane from the drama series DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES. Only rich people live there, and you probably have to be vetted by the neighbourhood welcome committee before you ever get permission to buy a house there.

Anna’s marriage to Douglas, an FBI profiler specialising in serial killers, broke up after their eight-year-old daughter Elizabeth dies in hilarious fashion. Well, this is a dark comedy series, after all, and a piss-take of the current annoying trends in crime thriller writing. Anna is an artist, but she hasn’t painted since Elizabeth’s death.

She spends her long, lonely boring days drinking huge full glasses of red wine, popping the pills her therapist gives her, which incidentally cause her to hallucinate, and staring out the window at her neighbours’ comings and goings. She reads books with titles like THE WOMAN ACROSS THE LAKE and THE GIRL ON THE CRUISE. She desperately needs to get a life, but she obviously hasn’t reached that place yet.

One day, a handsome British widower called Neil moves in right across the street with his daughter Emma, who’s about the same age as Elizabeth would have been. Anna immediately falls for Neil and starts bringing him and Emma casseroles- apparently, that’s a recurring trope in these crime thrillers- and encouraging Emma with her drawing.

She’s absolutely horrified to discover, after all the casseroles and meaningful looks, that Neil has a beautiful, but bitchy, young air hostess girlfriend called Lisa. Even more horrifying is the night that a sloshed Anna looks across the street and sees Lisa dying from a cut throat in Neil’s house.

She calls the police, who find no sign of a dead body or even a struggle. What they do find, however, is a drunken Anna who seems to be incapable from telling fact from fiction, imagination from reality and alcohol-and-pills-induced hallucinations from What Really Happened. No-one believes Anna’s story. Even Anna herself doubts it at times. The race is on for the grieving mother to find the truth before… well, before the series ends, I suppose.

For a parody or a spoof of something, it’s not exactly a laugh a minute, like, say, BLAZING SADDLES or YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, but there are a few good laughs in it. The self-help books of the day, for example, and cannibalistic serial killers (Massacre Mike is genuinely funny). People’s ridiculous online profiles and the lengths folks’ll go to to look like they’re carefree and having a great old time, and the very amusing all-over-the-house sex montage between Anna and beefcake Sexy Rexy. I also loved the bitchy, social-climbing Chinese neighbour Carol and Glenn Close’s very classy cameo at the end.

I would never watch this series again though, as one viewing really shows you everything you’ll ever need to know about it. I even feel guilty about spending an entire Friday night on it, as it’s really only chewing gum for the eyes without any particular intellectual merit to it but, what the hell, we’ve all been through a global pandemic together and we deserve some brain-switched-off downtime. That’s my excuse, anyway. What’s yours…?

BOOKS I’M THINKING OF WRITING IN THE FUTURE:

THE WOMAN WHO WAS THERE ONE MINUTE AND GONE THE NEXT.

THE WOMAN’S DAUGHTER, WHO WAS ALSO SOMEONE’S SISTER.

THE WOMAN AND THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN MEET THE WOMAN WHO WAS THERE ONE MINUTE AND GONE THE NEXT.

YOU TOO CAN BE A SERIAL KILLER.

THE SERIAL KILLER’S DAUGHTER.

THE ALCOHOLIC’S DAUGHTER.

YOU TOO CAN BE AN ALCOHOLIC SERIAL KILLER.

THE DAUGHTER OF THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW WHO USED TO BE THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN BUT IS NOW GONE.

THE WOMAN WHO LIVED IN THE HOUSE WITH THE WINDOWS.

THE WOMAN WHO LIVED IN THE HOUSE WITH THE WINDOWS BUT NO DOOR.

THE ALCOHOLIC WOMAN WITH THE DAUGHTER IN THE HOUSE.

THE ALCOHOLIC WOMAN WITH THE SERIAL KILLER DAUGHTER WHO WAS ALSO A WOMAN BUT NOT AN ALCOHOLIC ONE.

YOU TOO CAN LIVE IN A HOUSE WITH WINDOWS.

Let me know if you can come up with any more…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

FALLING DOWN. (1993) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

falling down

FALLING DOWN. (1993) DIRECTED BY JOEL SCHUMACHER. STARRING MICHAEL DOUGLAS, ROBERT DUVALL, BARBARA HERSHEY, TUESDAY WELD, RACHEL TICOTIN, DEDEE PFEIFFER AND FREDERIC FORREST.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I bloody love this film. Michael Douglas as the film’s anti-hero Bill Foster, a man who helps to make missiles for a living until he is made redundant, is a kind of Everyman, at war with the reality of everyday life.

One morning while sitting in traffic on the freeway in sweltering heat, surrounded by angry morons, he suddenly decides that he’s mad as hell with everything and he’s not going to take it any more. (Although, the signs are that this rebellion against life in this particular man has been brewing for some time.)

He abandons his car, telling other pissed-off motorists that he’s ‘going home.’ By this, he doesn’t mean the home he shares with his jumpy mother who’s terrified of his mood swings and explosive temper, but the house where he used to live with his wife Elizabeth, their daughter Adele and their beautiful Labrador dog. Until he was kicked out for, guess what, his mood swings and explosive temper.

Now he’s got it into his head that he’s going home for his daughter Adele’s birthday, despite the fact that the frightened Elizabeth has a restraining order out against him and keeps calling the police out to the house to reassure her that she and Adele are safe enough. Bill’s journey home is an extraordinary one.

He encounters various situations and people as he travels, throughout the course of one day, back to his former family’s home. They are the kinds of situations and people that drive most of us demented but, unlike the rest of us, for whom grumbling passive-aggressively is the only real outlet for our frustrations, Bill Foster actually takes the law into his own hands, while immediately putting himself outside the law for ever after because of it.

Most of us are probably cheering loudly as he steadily dispatches the villains of everyday life, such as the shopkeeper who charges over the odds for a can of fizzy drink and the burger place that stops serving breakfast on the dot of half-eleven, even if you’re gagging for a bite of scrambled egg and you’re only a measly seven seconds late.

My favourite bit in the whole film is when Bill compares the flat soggy burger they serve him in the Whammyburger to the juicy, succulent-looking burger in the advertised picture on the wall in front of him. This is a favourite bugbear of mine own, lol. Aren’t I always complaining about that exact same thing in real life? My kids are vigorously nodding yes, yes she is…!

There’s also the Latino punks who try to rob him because he’s inadvertently wandered onto their crappy derelict ‘pissing-ground,’ and the rich old white man who tries to keep him from walking across his precious golf-course while a game is in mid-play. Rich people in their exclusive golf-courses with glittering lakes and acres of lush green rolling parkland where the poor are forbidden to enter are really pissing Bill Foster off today.

I love the bit where he tells the homophobic and racist guy in the Army Surplus Stores, when the guy tries to make out that he and Bill are the same: ‘We’re not the same. I’m an American, and you’re a sick asshole.’ Woo-hoo! Go, Bill.

The guy is like Herman, the menacingly soft-voiced, one-armed surplus stores owner in THE SIMPSONS, and there’s a similar set-up in Quentin Tarantino’s PULP FICTION as well. Something about a spider catching itself a nice juicy fly…

There’s an hilarious episode of Irish clerical sitcom FATHER TED which sees the titular Fr. Ted inheriting a room full of Nazi memorabilia from a priest who clearly supported that side during the war. ‘Eh, would you have anything there from the Allied side at all, Seamus?’ a bewildered Ted asks his friend. ‘Oh no,’ replies Fr. Seamus instantly. ‘That type of thing wouldn’t interest me at all…!’ Very funny stuff indeed.

Anyway, as Bill Foster gets ever closer to his family home and his little daughter’s birthday party, accumulating scalps and ever bigger and more dangerous weapons along the way, Robert Duvall is superb as Martin Prendergast, the cop with literally one day left before he’s due to take early retirement.

He takes it on himself to track down Bill Foster, the square little man in the short-sleeved white shirt and tie (like Homer Simpson’s beloved Detective Sipowicz, lol!) with the pens in his breast pocket and a buzzcut you could set your watch to.

Prendergast has been virtually emasculated by his neurotic wife Amanda, who is pushing him to leave the force early and retire to some place where he’ll be utterly miserable for the rest of his life. She’s worried to death that something will happen to him in his life as a cop that will take him away from her. She doesn’t seem to be at all worried about the fact that he’ll resent her forever if she takes him away from a job he’s good at and enjoys. Meantime, however, he has the thrill of the chase (with Foster as the prey) to remind him that he’s alive and still a good cop.

The end is both chilling and sad, as we learn what Bill has in mind as a grande finalé for his little family and compare it against what actually happens to Bill, a man who was so tightly wound that, like the delicate mechanism to which we’re comparing him, he was bound to snap and break after so long.

He’s not evil, just sad and confused, pissed-off and fed-up after losing his job and his family. He not only was made redundant, but he feels that he is redundant. No-one needs or wants him any more. Like that other poor guy in the movie, he feels like he’s ‘not economically viable’ any longer.

This is a terrific film. I’m not condoning Bill D-FENS Foster’s violent methods, but I challenge you to watch this film and not cheer him on at least once for his decision to take no more shit from modern life.

Life can be crowded, noisy, sweaty, confusing, irritating, unfair, clogged up with pettifogging bureaucracy and downright baffling and bewildering at times for the people trying to get through it. Is it any wonder that, one day, it should prove too much for someone…?

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

 

SOME MUST WATCH. (1933) BY ETHEL LINA WHITE. SANDRA HARRIS REVIEWS THE BOOK THAT INSPIRED THE MOVIE ‘THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE.’ ©

some-must-watch

SOME MUST WATCH. (1933) BY ETHEL LINA WHITE. THE BOOK THAT INSPIRED THE FILM, THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE.

BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

As though struck by some recollection, he turned round and faced Helen.

‘How did you get back to the house?’ he inquired.

She did not understand the question.

‘When?’ she asked.

‘When you were coming through the plantation. I heard your footsteps. I waited… But you never came.’

At the words, suddenly- Helen knew.

‘You,’ she said.

SOME MUST WATCH, by Ethel Lina White.

This, as is says above, is the book that inspired film-maker Robert Siodmak to make his classic thriller, THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE. I’m not a huge fan normally of ’30s crime fiction, and I admit I only read this one because of its connection to the famous film.

The language can be out-dated in these ’30s crime novels, and sometimes it’s hard to know what’s motivating people to say and do some of the mad things we see them saying and doing. This book is no exception to that rule.

It’s the story of a young woman called Helen Capel, one of those women who takes a job in service as an antidote to being all alone in the world and obliged to make one’s own living.

She’s young and pretty with a cloud of red hair, and much is made in the book of her slight stature. She’s a tiny little fairy of a thing, the kind men rush to protect and cherish, much to the annoyance of at least one other, much taller and bigger, female character in the book.

She has a job as a ‘lady-help’ in the book, though what exactly her duties are meant to be is a somewhat mystifying question. She doesn’t appear to ‘help’ any one lady in particular in the house, and she seems to spend all her time flitting between the floors of the isolated English country mansion known as the Summit, sticking her nose into the business of the inhabitants of the house.

She has an insatiable curiosity about everyone and everything in the house that some folks would call nosiness, and she also seems selfish, self-absorbed, self-obsessed and possibly not a very nice person, which is odd for the heroine of a book. That’s what I mean about some of these ’30s crime novels written by lady authors; sometimes the people in them are not actually that nice or relatable…!

You’d be hard pushed to find a single nice character in the whole of the book, to be honest with you. The head of the household is the cold, intractable Professor Warren, who shares his home with his bookish unmarried sister Miss Warren and their obnoxious old bedridden mother, Lady Warren, a sly, cunning and cruel old baggage who gets rid of the nurses her children employ for her by means of violence both verbal and physical.

She may not get rid of her new nurse so easily, though. Nurse Barker, a tough cookie, has come from the nearby Nurses’ Home to take charge of Lady Warren. Because of her superior height, build and strength and a distinct darkening above the upper lip that necessitates the use of a razor, Helen and the gossipy drunkard of a housekeeper, Mrs. Oates, who lives downstairs with her handyman husband Oates, have decided she’s not a woman at all but a man in drag.

Which wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem (or maybe it would; it was still only the ’30s, after all!), but a murderer has been operating in the vicinity of the Summit of late. Several pretty young women have been brutally strangled to death, and earlier on in this particular day, in which the action of the book takes place, a woman who used to work for Lady Warren at the Summit was found dead and dumped outside the home of the Summit’s nearest neighbour, a Colonel Bean.

Which, of course, is bad news for Helen and the inhabitants of the Summit, because it means that the murderer is getting ever closer, and everyone in the house is suspect, especially the men. Let’s quickly meet the remaining tenants of the Summit.

There’s the Professor’s academic son, Newton, and his slutty wife Simone, who has her sights firmly set on Stephen Rice, the Professor’s live-in ‘pupil,’ who is not remotely interested in Simone, or at least not interested enough to run away with her, which is what she wants.

Finally there’s the young Dr. Parry, who doesn’t ‘live in’ but who constantly visits his patient at the Summit, Lady Warren. Over the course of his visits, he seems to fall in love with the vain, silly and flighty Helen, which might be no bad thing. For her, I mean.

Marriage and a slew of little’uns will sort her out and settle her down, but first of all she has to survive the fateful night in the book in which murder insinuates itself ever nearer to her. She suffers agonies of imagination that whole night before anything actually happens, and then, when murder finally does come knocking on her door for real, it’s wearing a surprisingly familiar guise…

There is a spiral staircase in the book, although it’s just a back stairs and doesn’t really see much action. Sadly, the book isn’t really scary at all, but it does feature one chapter that thrilled me, the opening one in which Helen Capel is returning from a solitary walk through a very eerie part of the woods near the Summit. This bit was good ‘n’ atmospheric, but unfortunately the rest of the book didn’t really keep pace with it.

It was nice to read something different over Christmas, and I did enjoy the book, although the odd behaviour and mannerisms of the characters annoyed me somewhat, and it was hard to find someone to genuinely like and root for in the book. Still, each to their own and every book is different and deserving of credit in its own way. This will be my last blog post of 2019, so Happy New Year to all my readers and may 2020 see the fulfilment of all of our dearest wishes.

Although her own lids seemed weighted with lead, she, alone, was awake in a sleep-bound world. She had to watch.

SOME MUST WATCH, by Ethel Lina White.

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

 

ANATOMY OF A MURDER. (1959) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Anatomy-of-a-Murder

ANATOMY OF A MURDER. (1959) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY ROBERT TRAVER. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY OTTO PREMINGER. MUSIC BY DUKE ELLINGTON. STARRING JAMES STEWART, LEE REMICK, BEN GAZZARA, ARTHUR O’CONNELL, EVE ARDEN, KATHRYN GRANT, MURRAY HAMILTON, GEORGE C. SCOTT AND DUKE ELLINGTON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Some might say that this was a strange vehicle for the all-American, wholesome-as-apple-pie Jimmy Stewart to get mixed up with. He’s not a grizzled old gunslinger in it, for one thing, and for another thing, there isn’t so much as a sighting in it of the giant rabbit who used to run the Savings and Loan.

Instead, James Stewart is casually using words previously unheard on the cinema screen, such as ‘rape,’ ‘panties’ and ‘spermatogenesis.’ That last one had even me scratching my noodle in bafflement. And this is the movie, if I’m not much mistaken, that made Stewart’s own Pops stop talking to him for a bit, it was so shocking to the old man.

For those who haven’t seen this black-and-white, rather controversial-for-its-time courtroom drama, James Stewart plays Paul Biegler, a small-town attorney who looks exactly as James Stewart does and who defends a man called Frederick Manion. Manion is accused of shooting dead the man who raped his wife.

The question is not whether he ‘dunnit.’ He ‘dunnit’ all right. The man’s as dead as dead and there are witnesses and everything. The question is whether he was in his right mind when he ‘dunnit,’ or if he was in fact temporarily insane, as this is what he’s going to plead.

The trouble for the viewer is that the married couple at the centre of the drama, Laura and Frederick Manion, are not what you’d expect for a woman who’s just been supposedly raped and battered by an acquaintance and the husband who’s so horrified by what’s happened to his lovely wife that he’s rushed out while his blood is up and shot the guy who committed these awful deeds.

Ben, an army lieutenant, is young, handsome and very, very cold. There seems to exist very little affection between himself and Laura. He’s suspected of having a jealous temperament and of giving her the odd clout round the head when he’s in the mood, although he shows us little or no emotion at all in the film. It’s not out of the question for the viewer that his wife, an incorrigible flirt, made up the story about the rape and battery to excuse her late arrival home to their trailer and her dishevelled appearance.

Let’s move onto the wife, Laura. Talk about a femme fatale. She doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word ‘inappropriate.’ Two days after the supposed rape, she turns up at Pauly’s office in a tight little outfit, flirting and smoking and smiling mysteriously, and making herself at home in his gaff, playing his records and sitting with her feet tucked up underneath her on his couch. She’s brought her adorable lickle wuff-wuff, Muff, with her too. Muff can do cute tricks, lol, and be altogether very obliging for an adorable lickle wuff-wuff. 

The homespun old Pauly is enchanted, to say the very least. There’s not much sign on the sexy blonde Laura of a recent trauma having taken place, barring the shiner underneath her sunglasses, which could just as easily have been given her by her husband as by the man she’s accusing of rape and battery. She looks rather in the pink, as a matter of plain fact.

Where’s the crying, the trembling, the hiding away and unwillingness to come forward that we might have expected from an on-screen rape victim? There’s none of that, just what seems like a vain, silly, thoughtless woman trying to add another middle-aged conquest to her army of followers. James Stewart, how easily you succumbed! For shame, haha.

Pauly and his elderly alcoholic assistant Parnell McCarthy (yep, it’s a good team, folks!) have to try to unravel what kind of man the dead guy, Barney Quill, was. In order to do this, they have to visit the bar which Barney owned and see the place where Laura and Barney met up on the night of the rape.

Over in one corner is the pinball machine on which Laura played on this fateful night, when she was boozing heavily and ‘swishing her hips’ in her little skirt and no doubt thrusting out her nips too in the little tight ‘Fifties sweater she wore.

And over there behind the bar is Alphonse Paquette, the surliest barman who ever pulled a pint. He surely doesn’t want to co-operate with Pauly and Co. What in the hell is he hiding? He’s played by a really young Murray Hamilton, by the way, a man who was once accused of ‘queuing up to be a hot lunch’ in the 1975 summer blockbuster, JAWS.

He’s definitely hiding something. Protecting his attractive young bar manager, Mary Pilant, maybe? Who is she, anyway, and what’s her connection to Barney Quill, the deceased bar owner with his trophies for shooting on display behind the bar…?

George C. Scott is handsome and deadly as the visiting big-city prosecutor who has to pit his razor-sharp wits against the rambling homespun wisdom of Pauly Biegler. The ancient judge, a bit of a rambling old dodderer himself, seems to be pro-Pauly rather than pro-the-visiting-big-city-prosecutor, but it’s not the judge Pauly has to convince with his arguments. It’s the jury of roughly about nine angry men and three mildly pissed-off women, and they all have lives to be getting back to…

I loved Eve Arden as Maida, Pauly’s good-humoured and efficient Girl Friday who puts up with his crap with loyalty and stoicism, even though some weeks he clearly can’t pay her her goddamn salary because he’s a bad businessman and he keeps letting people go off without paying him. She must have the patience of a saint to put up with his bullshit.

The funniest scene in the movie (and there’s a lot of comedy in this for a film about a rape trial) is when the judge, James Stewart and the two prosecutors are trying to find a suitable word for knickers, one that won’t offend the delicate sensibilities of the listening public but won’t cause them to crease up with a fit of the giggles, either. George C. Scott: ‘When I was stationed in France, there was a word they used there but it might be too suggestive…!’ Ah, go on, tell us, George, we’re totally in suspenders here…!

Modern-day feminists viewing the film will be appalled at the way in which the rape victim is judged unfavourably for her flirting and her boozing and her habit of swanning off to the pub without her husband or her knickers of a night, to play pinball and knock back the booze with strange men.

What was she wearing, the question some people think should be an irrelevancy in a rape trial, is given more court-time here than most feminists would like, and The Panties deserve their own credit, maybe even their own spin-off show, a cutting-edge legal drama where the characters are all played by undergarments, perhaps.

The long-winded judge who keeps trying to finish early in court so he can sneak off to go fishing could be played by an old pair of stripey boxer shorts, for example, and the sexy young barrister trying to make a name for herself could be portrayed by a lacy hot-pink thong, and so forth. The Panties could be splitting up with her husband and she’s fighting him tooth and nail for custody of their wonderful offspring, a delightful little pair of twin sock garters, and of course the case comes up before our aforementioned judge. You don’t buy it? No, neither did Fox, lol…

 Finally, if I may end with an appeal to film-makers to refuse to have pinball machines in the bars in their movies in the future, as said machines have been an incitement to rape in at least two films; this one, and also THE ACCUSED, starring Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis.

In fact, the pinball machine in THE ACCUSED was later found to have participated actively in the on-screen rape of Jodie Foster’s character in the movie and became unofficially known as ‘the fourth defendant,’ along with College Boy, the Ted Bundy lookalike and the local, ahem, lackwit, shall we say, so you can see how easily it can happen. Say no to pinball machines and you’re saying no to pinball machine rape, and together we can stamp out this atrocity in our time. (Send donations too if you want; it’s a totally legit cause…!)

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

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

DEATH WISH. (1974) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

death wish

DEATH WISH. (1974) BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘DEATH WISH’ BY BRIAN GARFIELD. DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY MICHAEL WINNER. MUSIC BY HERBIE HANCOCK. STARRING CHARLES BRONSON, HOPE LANGE, KATHLEEN TOLAN, VINCENT GARDENIA, STEVEN KEATS, STUART MARGOLIN, WILLIAM REDFIELD AND JEFF GOLDBLUM.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Big-shot company engineer-architect Paul Kersey is a very unlucky man. Every time he steps outta his New York/Manhattan apartment, he gets mugged by some jive-talking ‘Seventies cats with the Afros and everything who say things like, give us the money, honey and who think they’re cool just ’cause they’ve got flick-knives. Let me tell you cool cats, any asshole can carry a flick-knife. It doesn’t make you remotely special. Think about it.

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning of this, one of Charles Bronson’s biggest ever films, to which I believe there were many sequels made. He plays a family man, the above-mentioned Paul Kersey who, at the start of the film, is enjoying a sexy beach holiday with the wife he still loves, Joanna, even though they’ve been married for years and years and years. It’s sweet that they’re still hot for each other after all this time and still enjoy some nice cosy old-people sex.

They have a nice big apartment thanks to Paul’s nice comfortable well-paid job and a grown-up married daughter called Carol whom they both adore. One fateful day, when Paul is at work and Carol’s husband Jack is presumably at work also in his own place of business, something terrible happens to Joanna and Carol.

They are followed home from the grocery store by three scumbags, a trio of disgusting anti-social losers who gain access to the Kersey family apartment by pretending to be the grocery delivery boy. In a truly horrific home invasion scene, they rape Carol and beat her mother to death in front of her eyes.

Carol never recovers from the shock and ends up being put in a sanatorium by her devastated husband and heartbroken father. Here, catatonic, drugged up to the eyeballs and no longer able to talk, she may well spend the rest of her days.

Jeff Goldblum (THE FLY, JURASSIC PARK, FRIENDS) in his debut film role plays one of the assailants. He has this brilliant, jerky manic quality about him, as if he’s just downed a bucket of amphetamines chased down by a gallon of Coca-Cola and Skittles in order to calm his ADHD or something. He’s all jittery, tense, edgy, nervy.

Already he’s memorable, someone you’d recognise anywhere and whom you know has the capability to one day be good, really good. Although, of course, one wonders what esteemed scientist Ian Malcolm would make of these highly dubious anti-social shenanigans, breaking and entering and referring to one’s John Thomas as a ‘paintbrush,’ as in, ‘I’m gonna paint her mouth...!’ Oh yes, jolly good show, lads, do please carry on.

The effect of the rape-murder on Paul Kersey is what matters here. He’s not a violent man to begin with. In fact, he’s referred to as a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ and he hasn’t touched a gun since his hunter father was accidentally shot dead by another hunter after being mistaken for a deer. Also, Paul was a conscientious objector or ‘conchie’ during the Korean War. He’s still a really good shot though.

After being gifted with a lovely gun by a grateful business acquaintance, Paul takes to carrying the gun around with him on the darkened streets of night-time New York. He uses it to pepper any would-be muggers full of lead, and trust me when I say that a lot of folks are lining up to mug Paul, and they’re all carrying flick-knives. Gun beats knife. That much I do know.

The body count climbs ever higher as Paul start to really get into his role as a self-styled vigilante on the streets of New York. He starts to go out at night deliberately looking for lowlife criminals to shoot, instead of waiting until they just happen along by chance. He’s like a walking one-man protest against crime in New York, which was really bad in real life during this period.

The press pick up on his actions and soon the newspapers, magazines (yes, they still had them back then!) and TV news bulletins are all full of talk of ‘The Vigilante,’ as he now becomes officially known. You can’t just take the law into your own hands, though. That would set a very bad precedent and would be disastrous for the police force.

I love NYPD Lt. Frank Ochoa, the hard-bitten New York detective tasked with getting ‘The Vigilante’ off the streets. In fact, he’s so world-weary, worldly-wise and hard-bitten that he makes Columbo and Kojak look like two girly sissies on their way to ballet class via the ribbon store and the candy kiosk. He’s brilliant.

The higher-ups don’t even need to have this mysterious lone gunman put behind bars or otherwise brought to justice or anything. They just need him to stop doing what he’s doing ’cause he’s setting a very bad example to the public who, like the Hatpin Granny, are all now becoming ‘have-a-go heroes’ themselves in the style of their idol, ‘The Vigilante.’

The rape-and-murder scene is by far the most effective and memorable in the film. The rest of the film is mostly just Charles Bronson shooting at black people. Although I love the film, before I ever saw it I always assumed the premise of it would be to have Charles Bronson track down and kill his wife’s murderer and his daughter’s rapists.

This never seems to occur to him, however, even though they’ve got a fairly big clue in the form of the grocery store where the Kersey ladies did their shopping. He takes his revenge on crimmo lowlifes and society’s drop-outs in general, but not specifically on the perpetrators of the one act from which he’s suffered so badly and which has cost him so dearly. Strange, that. Ah well. Charles Bronson is well fit and handsome in this and he looks great holding a shooter, even an imaginary one. I’ll take that.

Here’s some random stuff about the film which you might or might not know. I bloody well knew I recognised a young Sonia Manzano, who played Maria in SESAME STREET for a whopping forty-four years, on the checkout till in the supermarket early on in the movie. Score one for me, lol.

I did not, however, recognise Olympia Dukakis as a cop at the precinct. Also, Denzel Washington swears blind that he did not make his film debut here as an alley mugger, and I don’t see any reason in the world for him to lie about it.

Finally, I am never, ever going to New York because of all the muggings and the high crime rate in general. I don’t care if it’s years later and things have changed, I’m still not going and you can’t make me.

I’ll stay here in good old Ireland where we don’t have that level of crime. Here we just have junkies who’ll jab you with a syringe-full of HIV-infected blood on 0’Connell Street unless you hand over your smartphone and wallet pronto. What’s that they say? It’s better the devil you know…? I should say it is an’ all.

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