WUTHERING HEIGHTS. (1998) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WUTHERING HEIGHTS. (1998) BASED ON THE 1847 BOOK BY EMILY BRONTE. DIRECTED BY DAVID SKYNNER. ADAPTED BY NEIL MCKAY.
STARRING ORLA BRADY, ROBERT CAVANAH AND PETER DAVISON.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from this TV film adaptation of Emily Bronte’s iconic dark love story, but it was so intense I was barely breathing for most of it. Once Cathy and Heathcliff cast aside their annoying childhood selves and become fully fledged adult lovers, this film really took off.

And, even though it’s a relatively modern version, it manages to capture that much earlier, bleaker feel and look that suits the material much better. I loved it, absolutely loved it. It has the wily, windy moors that Kate Bush sang about, the ones where we roll and fall in green. It has the spilling rain and the glowering inhospitality of Wuthering Heights versus the opulent elegance of Thrushcross Grange.

This is a love story, yes, but I think it must be the darkest love story ever written. And it’s not just a love story; it’s a hate story, a jealousy story, a passion story, a revenge story and a selfishness story as well.

Because, if this is love, it’s a savage, unhealthy one, that endures long after it should have withered and died on the vine. Oh, for a love like that! Who wants the good, clean decent kind, when you can have the kind that Cathy and Heathcliff shared?

I spit on the good kind, lol. The only love worth having is the one that causes emotional agony. If a bloke isn’t digging up my desiccated corpse in twenty years’ time in the dead of a moonless night and making passionate love to it- with tongues- then I haven’t been doing my job…!

Anyway, Irish actress Orla Brady is excellent as the spoilt, wilful selfish Catherine/Cathy Earnshaw, and Robert Cavanagh, an actor with whom I was unfamiliar till now, makes a great Heathcliff, the moody, broody urchin with a chip on his shoulder who has the misfortune to love, and be loved, by her. She’s rich, he’s poor. She’s entitled, he’s beholden. She’s a bitch, and he’s the devil incarnate. It’s a match made in one of the sixty-nine chambers of Hades

So many ruined lives and relationships litter the plot that it sometimes puzzles me that this is actually meant to be a love story. Heathcliff grows up twisted, hating and resenting his so-called ‘betters.’

Hindley Earnshaw, Heathcliff’s sworn enemy and the son of Heathcliff’s benefactor, drinks himself into a horrible state of living death before his actual physical death after his wife Frances shuffles off her own mortal coil. Their miserable son Hareton practically brings himself up.

Edgar Linton suffers the torments of the damned when he marries the tempestuous Cathy, but she won’t give up Heathcliff, because she wants to have her cake and eat it too.

She wants the big fancy house and the exalted marriage, but she still wants to roam the moors with her childhood plaything Heathcliff as well and have no responsibilities whatsoever besides being adored by two men. What chance will Cathy and Edgar’s daughter have?

And, as for poor Isabella, the sister of Edgar who is revenge-married to Heathcliff because he- Heathcliff- thinks it will be a great joke on Edgar and Cathy, well, she’s just in for a rotten time.

Heathcliff is never more brutish than when he rapes the refined Isabella on their wedding night, and their son together, Linton Heathcliff, is a sickly, pitiful, mewling thing, despised by his father. The poor lad gives up the ghost at seventeen.

Nelly Dean, the housemaid and helpmeet to the Earnshaw and Linton women, is well played by a lady called Polly Hemingway. Peter Davison from ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL plays Mr. Lockwood, who has to spend the night in Cathy’s old bedroom at Wuthering Heights and encounters her ghost tap-tap-tapping on the rain-lashed window-pane, begging to be let in.

The all-encompassing, all-enduring but ultimately destructive love of Cathy and Heathcliff’s is the star of the show. Their story inspired Kate Bush to write a song that’s every bit as wildly romantic as the book, which has also spawned numerous film and TV adaptations.

It’s one of my favourite books, appealing intensely to my gothic side as it does. I might decide to be buried with my copy of it. And this film version is top-notch. It really captures the madness of a fucked-up love…

    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:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

A STAR IS BORN. (2018) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


A STAR IS BORN. (2018) BASED ON THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT (1937) BY WILLIAM A. WELLMAN, DOROTHY PARKER, ROBERT CARSON AND ALAN CAMPBELL. ALSO BASED ON THE 1954 AND 1976 SCREENPLAYS OF THE SAME NAME.
DIRECTED BY BRADLEY COOPER.
STARRING LADY GAGA, BRADLEY COOPER, SAM ELLIOTT, RAFI GAVRON AND DAVE CHAPELLE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This romantic musical drama is a fuckin’ brilliant and gripping film, despite the fact that every second fuckin’ word in it is the fuckin’ ‘F’ word. Still, who am I to fuckin’ complain? I’m not a fuckin’ rock star. The music is out of this word, the love story is all too believable and the acting is top-notch.

I’ve previously watched and enjoyed the 1954 version of the film starring Judy Garland and James Mason, but I actually think this modern re-make is better, and I hardly ever say that about any film, ever. That’s how impressive this modern adaptation is.

It’s the story of a young, ballsy American woman called Ally, beautifully played by Lady Gaga, who works as a waitress to make her living, but she also has a phenomenal talent as a singer-songwriter.

Despite this fact, she’s still a nobody as far as the world at large is concerned. Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air, and all that. Thomas Gray wrote that, by the way. It’s a line from his poem, Elegy in a Country Churchyard.

Ally does have one outlet for her amazing creativity, however. One night a week, she gets to sing in a local drag club. On this one night in particular, guess who just happens to stagger in with the intention of getting loaded, as he does every night? It’s none other than Jackson Maine, who’s just about the biggest country/rock star on the whole frickin’ planet…

He falls in love with both Ally and her fabulous voice and stage presence when she does an absolutely riveting performance of Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose. Yep, the girl can sing in fluent French, too, and while lying flat on her back on the bar-top! Jackson is besotted with Ally from the moment he sets eyes on her.

The pair spend one of those once-in-a-lifetime special nights together, the night- before the sex happens- where you talk non-stop about your hopes and dreams and, in their case, the music they love and their songs and song-writing processes. The sex comes later, lol. And you only ever have this kind of night with someone you want to sleep with. Without the physical attraction, this kind of ‘you’re my soulmate’ connection simply wouldn’t happen. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about here.

Ally’s feet hardly touch the ground after this wonderful night. Before she knows what’s hit her, really, she finds herself being swept off her feet by the whole Jackson Maine circus. They quickly become a couple, and he’s so encouraging of her music that he even pulls her up on stage with him one night to sing the now-famous song, Shallow. It’s a stunning performance that quickly sees Ally becoming a star in her own right.

What she doesn’t know at the outset- even though Jackson is drunk when they meet- is that Jackson is a motherless alcoholic and drug-addict with Daddy issues. He also has a rapidly worsening hearing problem that has grave ramifications for his music career. In short, he’s a mess.

Without even noticing it at first, Ally slips automatically into the role of his mother/problem-solver/caretaker/cleaner-upper-after/excuses-maker and enabler, on the occasions when his lovely, endlessly patient older brother Bobby isn’t around to do these things for him and fill these roles.

Ally’s star is on the rise while Jackson’s is on the wane. Jackson’s behaviour when he’s drinking and snorting cocaine is out of control. Things come to a drastic head at an awards ceremony, where a pissed-as-a-newt Jackson commits an act of social inappropriateness that would make James Mason’s character in the 1954 film blush like a tomato.

Rehab rears its head, but is it too late for a depressed and downhearted Jackson? And what about his marriage to Ally? (Yep, they get hitched!) How can it survive Jackson’s extreme jealousy of his wife’s stardom and the insecurities that make him lash out cruelly at Ally’s weak points?

Her producer and manager Rez thinks that Ally would be better off without Jackson. He’s bringing her down, he’s like a millstone round her neck that threatens to de-rail her astronomic rise to fame if she’s not careful. Even Jackson’s greatest support, his big brother Bobby, is forced to take a back seat from Jackson’s addictions and dangerous behaviour when it becomes too much to bear.

What will become of the newly-weds? Is theirs a whirlwind romance doomed to bitter failure, or can things sink even lower than that…? It will take all of Ally’s courage and determination, which she has in spades, to get through these dark days. Lady Gaga is an excellent actress as well as one hell of a chanteuse, and she carries all before her as the troubled Ally.

The film accurately depicts the relationship where one of the parties is an addict and the other slips unwittingly into the role of enabler, before they finally wake up to what they’re doing and they either give the addict an ultimatum- clean up your act or I walk- or they leave, with the sad realisation that they are not responsible for the happiness of another. Great fuckin’ story, great fuckin’ acting, great fuckin’ music. That’s about it, really.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

THE THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS. (1996) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


THE THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS. (A 1996 CBS MINI-SERIES.) DIRECTED BY KEVIN JAMES DOBSON. BASED ON THE BOOK BY COLLEEN MCCULLOUGH. STARRING RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN, AMANDA DONOHUE AND MAXIMILIAN SCHELL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This made-for-television mini-series supposedly fills in the gaps left by the original mini-series, the phenomenally successful THORN BIRDS. In the original show, Meggie Cleary and the long-time love of her life, the handsome Fr. Ralph de Bricassart- yes, he’s a priest!- make love for the first time. Then, the action rather frustratingly cuts to ‘nineteen years later’ in the plot, when Meggie has two grown-up children; a daughter, Justine, by her husband Luke, and a son, Dane, by her beloved Fr. Ralph.

In THE MISSING YEARS, we start off when Dane is about ten and Justine a year or two older. Meggie left her he-man husband, sheep-shearer and cane-cutter extraordinaire Luke O’Neill, before Dane was born, because he promised her love and an equal marriage and then fecked off to cut cane and hang out with his boozy, womanising mates. All this while Meggie languishes with a family who need a housemaid. Quite the comedown for the lovely daughter of the Cleary clan, masters of Drogheda!

Now, Meggie is back home on the family ranch of Drogheda with her two children. Luke O’ Neill comes back, after all these years, at rather an opportune time. That part of Australia has been experiencing a two-year drought, and the ranch is desperately in need of a man about the place. Luke promises to give Meggie everything she’s been ‘missing’ in the way of love and affection and sex all these long, lonely years, and Meggie succumbs. She’s only human, after all.

Her kids in particular are delighted. Justine, who has never really had her mother’s love because she’s ‘only’ Luke’s child, is hostile to Meggie and absolutely determined to become a daddy’s girl straightaway. Dane, who thinks he’s Luke’s son, is happy too to suddenly have a dad, though his desire to be a Catholic or ‘mick’ priest doesn’t sit well with his he-man ‘father.’ Wonder where he gets his priestly leanings, lol…?

Meanwhile, we see how Fr. Ralph has helped Jews to escape the wrath of Hitler during World War Two, even going so far as to shelter them in the underground caves beneath the Vatican. He behaves heroically and selflessly and gets no thanks from his superiors for it.

Remember the way Fr. Ralph and the Church somewhat dubiously inherited Mary Carson’s millions and the estate of Drogheda in the original mini-series? Well, now, for using Drogheda money to help the Jews, Fr. Ralph is ‘banished’ by the Church to Australia once more, supposedly to hold talks with the Australian government about taking in some of the displaced victims of the war.

Not much in the way of politics gets done as Fr. Ralph is enmeshed once more in his love for the beautiful and feisty Meggie Cleary and hers for him. Fr. Ralph’s being back in Oz bodes ill for the touching re-union of Meggie and Luke, and both Luke and Justine are furious to see him back there, taking up all of Meggie’s time and thoughts.

A really dirty custody battle ensues over the one child Meggie would be truly devastated to lose. She could get her son back in an instant by proclaiming to the world at large whose boy Dane really is, but not even Ralph knows this fact. Also, Ralph’s career as an Archbishop would be ruined by the stunning revelation. Who does Meggie love more, and who will she choose to save, Dane… or Ralph…?

Richard Chamberlain is the only actor from the original mini-series who appears in THE THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS. Rachel Ward as the original Meggie is replaced by Amanda ‘get your kit off’ Donohue, so for this reason I was expecting the sex scenes to be practically x-rated, lol.

But no, surprisingly the show keeps its lovely romantic-rather-than-smutty feel, with the love scenes taking place this time around in an isolated cabin in the Australian outback rather than on the dreamy shores of Matlock Island, where the besotted pair first made the wild, passionate love that resulted in a son, Dane.

Fr. Ralph has a pretty sweet deal going on for himself in this show, as in the original. Much as I love- and fancy him- as a character, he led poor old Mary Carson on something rotten, and used her legacy, the legacy which was rightfully meant for the Cleary family, Mary’s true relatives, to better himself and climb the ladder of success in his precious Church.

He’s kept Meggie on a string for years, enjoying her adulation and her hero-worship and even her body, but always pulling away from her in the end, saying that he loves God more than he loves her. How that must have stung Meggie, but there’s nothing much she can do about it. The heart wants what the heart wants, allegedly.

This 1996 show was criticised for its many inconsistencies and deviations from the original plot, but we’re not going to get into these inconsistencies here. They’re fun to spot when you watch it, though! It’s a different big house and ranch too, as the ‘sequel’ is filmed in Australia and not in California, where the original was made.

There’s no topping the original mini-series for romance and sheer romantic pain and longing, but I feel that this second mini-series holds its own, after a ropey start. It becomes really exciting once the whole Meggie-Luke-and-Ralph love triangle kicks off, and the fist-fight between Luke and Ralph is genuinely entertaining and nail-bitingly enjoyable to watch. Luke, damn you, you had it coming…! Enjoy the ‘sequel,’ if for no other reason than you get to hear Henry Mancini’s dreamy score again.

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: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

THE THORN BIRDS: MINI-SERIES. (1983) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


THE THORN BIRDS. (1983) DIRECTED BY DARYL DUKE. BASED ON THE 1977 BLOCKBUSTING BOOK BY COLLEEN MCCULLOUGH. THEME MUSIC BY HENRY MANCINI.
STARRING RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN, RACHEL WARD, BARBARA STANWYCK, JEAN SIMMONS, BRYAN BROWN, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, RICHARD KILEY, MARE WINNINGHAM, PHILIP ANGLIM AND KEN HOWARD.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely loved this sprawling mini-series set in the Australian outback, on a massive old ranch called Drogheda built by originally Irish settlers. In Ireland, we would pronounce this word as, phonetically, ‘Droh-hedda,’ but the characters in the film make the ‘g’ hard and pronounce it as ‘Drog-eeda,’ a sound painful to the genuinely Irish ear, lol. You’d think they’d have consulted an actual Irish person regarding the pronunciation of this very Irish word, but how-and-ever…

On the one hand, it’s the story of the Irish Cleary family, headed by Paddy, who come from New Zealand to live on Drogheda in the early 1920s, as caretakers and labourers for Paddy’s older, millionaire sister, Mary. Mary is played by one of the queens of the old movies, Barbara Stanwyck.

It’s a hard, relentless life in New South Wales, with the weather and the unforgiving terrain constantly chucking curveballs at anyone brave enough- or crazy enough- to try to make a living there, and the arrogant, manipulative Mary never lets the Clearys forget who owns the land and the house and who controls the purse-strings.

Paddy is a plain honest labouring man who married the aristocratic, unsmiling Fiona- Jean Simmons- when she was knocked up and desperate. She spends the whole series looking down her nose at everything that goes on and bearing with an air of martyrdom the hardships and privations of her life with Paddy. She loves her sons, especially Frank, that wee cuckoo in the nest, but her youngest child and only daughter Meggie doesn’t get so much as a look in.

Don’t worry about Meggie, though, folks. She’s not doing too badly. She has something I never had as a child, and that’s her very own pet priest, the swoonsomely handsome and charismatic priest with the romantic name, Fr. Ralph de Bricassart, played by Richard Chamberlain. This is the main storyline of the four episodes, the theme of forbidden love.

Fr. Ralph is the padre to their neck of the woods in New South Wales. From the moment the pair set eyes on each other when Meggie comes to Drogheda at the age of about ten, a bond is formed between them that not even God himself can put asunder, even though the ancient Mary Carson has eyes for the priest herself and is savagely jealous of his relationship with Meggie.

Fr. Ralph is bewitched by the feisty, lonely little Meggie from the start, and she’s thrilled to have someone so kind and, it must be said, devastatingly good-looking, to dance the attention on her that she never gets from her parents. Paddy is just too busy, and Fiona doesn’t care about her daughter anywhere near as much as she cares for her sons, especially her eldest, Frank.

What’s a daughter, anyway, she muses later in the show, but a younger version of herself who’ll make all the same mistakes and endure all the same hurts and suffering as she did, because the life of a woman- in those days at least- is all pain and suffering and not a whole hell of a lot else.

When Meggie is a child, Fr. Ralph keeps her dangling on a string like a little adoring puppet, probably because it’s great for his ego. He gives her a million mixed messages along the way, like, I do love you, Meggie, but of course I can’t marry you, because I’m married to God. A great cop-out for the holy man, and it never fails to unsettle and confuse Meggie.

But when Meggie grows into the beautiful, ballsy woman she eventually becomes and starts demanding real, grown-up love things like sex and a proper relationship and even marriage, Fr. Ralph finds it a lot trickier to come up with reasons why they can’t be together, usually falling back on his love of God and the Church to keep the red-blooded but frustrated young woman at bay, while never releasing her altogether from his thrall. Bit dog-in-the-manger, that.

But Meggie won’t be messed about forever. She even flounces off to Queensland and endures a horrible marriage to the sheep-shearing, cane-cutting emotionally constipated he-man Luke O’Neill- played by Bryan Brown- to show Fr. Ralph just how ‘over’ him she is. You’re fooling no-one, Meggie Cleary O’Neill…

Eventually, the love and physical attraction between Meggie and her padre will be denied no longer. It overflows in a long-overdue explosion of honest-to-goodness lust on a beautiful desert island, after which time the pair will never be the same again. It’s a time for decisions, for making one’s mind up, for putting one’s money where one’s mouth is. Who will Ralph choose, his God, or his Meggie…?

Parallel to the love story is the almost meteoric rise of the ambitious Fr. Ralph up through the ranks of Mother Church, thanks to a legacy of doubtful morality. Christopher Plummer is witty and wise as Archbishop Vittorio, Ralph’s mentor in no less exalted a place than the Vatican itself.

The clever, all-seeing Archbishop has designs on the Papacy and he plants the seeds of a similar ambition in Ralph. If Ralph was still just a humble and unknown cleric in the Australian outback, it might be easier to leave the priesthood for Meggie, but now he has the fabulous materialistic trappings of a religious career in Rome to lose if he decides to give up everything for love. Is it a case of I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that…?

The beautiful legend of the actual ‘thorn-bird,’ probably made up, is so poignant it had me in floods of tears. Summer is the perfect time to watch this epic and awesome mini-series with the gorgeous theme tune by Henry Mancini. It’s got hardships, privations, outback fires and wild boar attacks on the one hand, and civilised Greek theatre, sex on the beach and Kissing the Archbishop’s Ring on the other. Lol.

It’s only rated 12s, as there’s no nudity or swearing in it, so you can watch it with- most of- the family, and, if you’re looking to end July in a glorious blaze of doomed romance, it’ll do the job perfectly.

Plus, as a nice little bonus, it features some serious members of Hollywood royalty in it too, the stars of such classic films as DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE ROBE, SPARTACUS and THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Ideal for those lazy, hazy post-lockdown days…

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:

THE END OF THE AFFAIR. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


THE END OF THE AFFAIR. (1999) BASED ON THE BOOK BY GRAHAM GREENE.
WRITTEN, DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY NEIL JORDAN.
STARRING JULIANNE MOORE, RALPH FIENNES, STEPHEN REA, JASON ISAACS, JAMES BOLAM AND IAN HART.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Love doesn’t end, just because we don’t see each other.’

I love this film, characterised by gorgeous scenes of endless heavy rainfall in post-war Britain and a rather spiffing shot of Ralph Fiennes bare backside captured splendidly in mid-coitus. Phwoar. The more I see of this guy, the more I fancy him.  

I saw the film on the big screen back in 1999 when it was first released. I’ve had fond memories of it ever since, though it certainly wouldn’t appeal to lovers of action movies as it’s quite slow. That suits me though, being quite a slow-moving person myself, lol.

There’s a bit too much religion in it; that’s possibly the only aspect of the film I didn’t enjoy, but otherwise, it’s as damn near perfect as anything else you’ll see. It’ll appeal to fans of history and thwarted love affairs, heavy rainfall in cinema and Ralph Fiennes’s lovely bare arse doing the old in-out, in-out. What’s not to love?

Ralph- that’s ‘Rafe’ to you!- plays Maurice Bendrix, a moderately successful English novelist in wartime and post-wartime Britain. Well, he’s had one of his books made into a film, so, if that’s moderate success, I’ll have some, please. Beats obscurity and starving in the proverbial garret any day!

Anyway, one rainy night after the war, Maurice bumps into Henry Miles (Stephen Rea), a politician with whose wife, the beautiful Sarah, Maurice had a raging affair during the war.

Seeing the cuckolded Henry again encourages Maurice to re-kindle his acquaintance- and romance- with Sarah, subtly played by Julianne Moore. It’s not difficult to fool poor Henry, Gawd bless his naive, too-trusting buttons.

If ever a man was downbeat, downtrodden and expecting to be made a fool of, it’s poor old Henry. Maurice and Sarah are taking the actual piss by the way in which they practically have sex under Henry’s nose and get away with it. Even in Henry’s own house, on Henry’s own couch, of all places…!

Henry needs to grow a pair, seriously, but I think Henry thinks he’s punching above his weight in marrying Sarah, and is therefore grateful that she consents to stay married to him while still having her little affairs.

Anyway, Maurice has always wondered why Sarah broke off her affair with him during the war years, when London was having the bejeesus bombed out of her by nasty Uncle Adolf and Company; now, in 1946, having inveigled his way back into Sarah and Henry’s lives again quite by chance, he might just finally get to find out.

Three members of the eventual cast of the Harry Potter films are to be found here; Ralph Fiennes as Maurice/Lord Voldemort; Jason Isaacs as the rather surplus to requirements priest/Lucius Malfoy and Ian Hart as the private eye Parkis/Professor Quirrell from HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE.

I disliked intensely the attempt to make Julianne Moore’s character Sarah into some kind of a saint at the end. As the friend with whom I recently re-watched the film pronounced uncompromisingly, she wasn’t a saint, she was a shameless and adulterous slag. I don’t mean to slut-shame, by the way, lol. I’m just telling it like it is.

I love this film, a rain-spattered, doomed wartime romance- positively the best kind of doomed romance there is!- and I have particularly fond memories of watching it in the cinema, so it’ll always get a thumbs-up from me. Women will probably relish all the soul-searching and nudie Ralph Fiennes; insensitive males will more than likely just switch over and watch the footy. Their loss, folks…       

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: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. (1993) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. (1993) A MERCHANT-IVORY PRODUCTION. DIRECTED BY JAMES IVORY. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY KAZUO ISHIGURO. SCREENPLAY BY RUTH PRAWER JHABVALA.

STARRING ANTHONY HOPKINS, EMMA THOMPSON, JAMES FOX, HUGH GRANT, CHRISTOPHER REEVE, PETER VAUGHAN, PIP TORRENS, JOHN SAVIDENT, LENA HEADEY AND BEN CHAPLIN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an utterly gorgeous film, visually and in just about every way you can think of. It’s beautifully-scripted and acted and the shots of the sumptuous and luxurious Darlington Hall are breath-taking, though, interestingly enough, five or so English country houses were used in the filming of the magnificent hall.

The film is based on the best-selling novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. I have the loveliest memories of watching the film in the dying light of a sunny November day several winters in a row and I’ll probably always associate it with that time of year.

Anthony Hopkins turns in a masterful performance as Mr. James Stevens, butler to Lord Darlington of Darlington Hall in the England of the 1930s and 1940s. Stevens is the perfect butler. The consummate professional. Discreet, efficient, born to serve and, most importantly, putting his job above all else.

A real-life butler was consulted in the making of the film and apparently Anthony Hopkins asked him if he had any ‘tips’ on buttling. When a butler is in a room, the consultant advised, it must seem emptier than before. You could certainly say that of Mr. Stevens, the most unobtrusive butler imaginable.

His main goal in life seems to be to ease Lord Darlington’s passage through his life, to the point where he is willing to sacrifice his own chances of love and a family and a personal life of his own.

He clearly gets this devotion to duty from his stiff-upper-lipped elderly father, Mr. William Stevens, who ‘buttled’ his butt off his entire life and who, in fact, will die ‘buttling.’ Ooops. Spoiler alert, haha. Mr. Stevens the Elder is exquisitely played by the wonderful Peter Vaughan of PORRIDGE and A GHOST STORY AT CHRISTMAS fame.

There are two main storylines in the film. Stevens falls gradually in love with Emma Thompson’s younger housekeeper, the lively and spirited Miss Sarah ‘Sally’ Kenton, who is as good at her job as Stevens is. She doesn’t live for her job, however. She is quite amenable to the idea of love and all that goes with it.

Stevens, though, is so buttoned-up and used to keeping his feelings under strict control that he is unable to respond to her advances. She gives him chance after chance after chance to declare that he has feelings for her, but time out of number he fails the test. And he knows he’s failing, which is worse, but, despite the pain he’s causing to them both, he still can’t open up to her.

She eventually throws in the towel, and who could blame her, after he comes across her bawling her eyes out over him on the floor of her parlour. Unable to offer her so much as a crumb of comfort, unwilling even to help the sobbing woman to her feet, he makes some inconsequential remark about the maid’s failure to dust a certain alcove.

‘I knew you would wish to be informed about it,’ he says stiffly.

‘I’ll see to it, Mr. Stevens,’ she sniffles, heartbroken.

Mr. Stevens’s last chance for love flies up the parlour chimney and is gone forever…

The other- grimmer- storyline concerns Lord Darlington’s alleged ‘Nazi-sympathising’ and commitment to helping Germany re-arm and strengthen herself after her crushing defeat in World War One. The situation for England grows more and more serious as the war which seems inevitable to some draws nearer.

Lord Darlington’s watchwords are words like ‘fair play’ and ‘honour’ and doing right by the other fellow. He feels guilty, and almost personally responsible, for the Versailles Treaty that followed on after the First World War.

The Treaty crippled Germany and made her pay heavily, financially and otherwise, for her part in causing the war which killed so many people. She lost lands and monies and the right to re-armament.

She had to pay huge sums in reparations and her peoples were pretty bloody depressed for a long time afterwards. Lord Darlington foolishly wants to make this all up to Germany in the interests of so-called fair play.

Lord Darlington’s journalist godson, ably played by Hugh Grant, accuses Stevens of turning a blind eye to the well-meaning but misguided Lord Darlington’s turning the house into a base for Nazi operations in England. Stevens, however, would never dream of presuming to question his master’s actions. Talk about ‘ours not to reason why, ours but to do and die…’

It is only later in the film, when we see Stevens off on a motoring holiday en route to rectify past mistakes after the war, that we discover he may not have been entirely comfortable after all with what went on at Darlington Hall. At the very least, he sees it as something to keep quiet about.

There are so many highlights and key scenes in the film. Poor old Mr. Stevens Sr. falling with the heavy tray and Coronation Street’s Fred Elliott attending him as his doctor. Miss Kenton trying to wrestle Steven’s ‘dirty’ book out of his hands. Hugh Grant as Lord Darlington’s godson getting the birds and the bees talk from a mortified Stevens. ‘I always enjoy our little chats about nature,’ says Hugh Grant to a bemused butler.

 The opulence of Darlington Hall during the ill-fated international conference of 1936, and the major preparations below stairs for said conference. (The film really shows us how these fantastic old country houses were run behind the scenes. The image of the swan gliding along the water serenely while underneath the surface the feet paddle furiously comes to mind.) The heart-breaking scene at the bus-stop in the bucketing rain at the end. Oh God. Just thinking about it is causing me to tear up. Say no more…

This film is a thing of understated beauty, subtlety and delicacy. It is one of Anthony Hopkins’s and, indeed, of Emma Thompson’s finest ever performances, in my ever-so-humble-opinion, and that’s saying something. Together, they pack one hell of an emotional punch.

I must warn you before you watch it, you’ll need hankies. Lots of hankies. And fancy chocolates too and maybe a nice glass of white wine. Chilled to perfection and served the way Mr. Stevens himself would do it. It’s the kind of classy film that deserves a bit of effort being put into watching it. Any trouble you take over it will most certainly be worth it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

SUNSET BOULEVARD. (1950) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SunsetBlvd

SUNSET BOULEVARD. (1950) A PARAMOUNT PICTURE. DIRECTED BY BILLY WILDER. STARRING GLORIA SWANSON, WILLIAM HOLDEN, ERICH VON STROHEIM AND NANCY OLSON. ALSO FEATURING CECIL B. DEMILLE, HEDDA HOPPER AND BUSTER KEATON AS THEMSELVES. COSTUMES BY EDITH HEAD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Say, don’t I know you from someplace? Aren’t you Norma Desmond, the silent movie star? Didn’t you used to be big?’

Joseph Gillis.

‘I AM big. It’s the pictures that got small.’

Norma Desmond.

‘They (the silent movie stars) had the eyes of the world back then. But that wasn’t enough for them. They wanted the ears as well. So they opened their mouths, and what came out? Talk, talk, talk…!’

Norma Desmond.

‘We didn’t need words back then. We had faces!’

Norma Desmond.

This magnificent film lost out on the Best Picture Oscar for that year to ALL ABOUT EVE, another excellent film. SUNSET BOULEVARD should have won, but some of the bigwigs in Hollywood weren’t exactly thrilled at the way their precious industry was portrayed as being so cynically soul-destroying and merciless towards the stars it routinely chewed up and spat out, and also ruthlessly dismissive of its older, washed-up stars. If you were hot, you were hot, and if you were not, well then, goodbye for ever and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Still, we know SUNSET BOULEVARD should’ve won the Best Picture Oscar and that’s what matters.

Beefcake William Holden does a stellar job as Joe McGillis, the hack writer who keeps trying to write that bestselling Hollywood film script that’ll make his name and keep him in clover for the rest of his days. At the moment, however, all his ideas are dull and derivative and he’s up to his cojones in debt, because Hollywood doesn’t pay you for rubbish script ideas, only for good solid polished script ideas, see?

Joe has just about decided to throw in the towel and return home to Dayton, Ohio, where he’ll go back to working for the local rag and live out his working life reporting on Bonnie Baby beauty contests and charity bring and buy sales, when a strange thing happens.

Whilst fleeing from a pair of heavies who want to re-possess his jalopy, he accidentally finds himself in the grounds of a fabulous but decaying old Hollywood mansion from the ‘Twenties, the kind of house that was built by the super-rich silent movie stars of bygone years for them to enjoy their wonderfully privileged lifestyles in.

Swimming pool, deserted now, ruined tennis court, unswept deserted courtyard. Joe is inclined to think that the queer but fascinating place has actually been abandoned when a strange female figure appears from behind a curtain and imperiously bids him to hurry up and get his arse inside. He’s just been mistaken for a monkey-undertaker (that’s right, you heard me, lol!), and he’s also just had his first experience of Norma Desmond, star of the golden era of the silent screen…

Norma Desmond is rude, haughty, selfish and self-obsessed. She lives in her crumbling mansion surrounded by framed photographs of herself in her hey-day and the memorabilia of her long-lost film career, including a home cinema on which she never tires of playing her old movies. Talk about narcissism.

She’s all alone but for a solemn little foreign man called Max who carries out her every wish and whim, no matter how ludicrous. Max has gone to ridiculous lengths to hide from ‘Madame’ the fact that her legions of fans have not only deserted her, but forgotten her as well. He’s an enabler to Norma’s sick visions of herself as still a huge star.

It would have been kinder altogether to let her know the real truth about her washed-up career twenty years ago, but Norma’s so used to thinking of herself as Queen of the Cinema Screen that maybe Max feels that the shock of a good hard dose of reality might actually kill her. Well, he should know. After all, he’s her butler, ex-husband and the film director who discovered her, all rolled into one obliging package, lol.

This is the bizarre household in which Joe finds himself suddenly embroiled. Madame takes an enormous liking to Joe, the prime slice of ‘Fifties beefcake, and immediately hires him to live in her house and edit a long messy screenplay she’s written, with herself in the starring role of Salome.

She has every intention of presenting it to her old director, Cecil B. DeMille, when it’s finished. It’ll be her comeback film, even though she hates that word, lol (she prefers ‘return’), and it will be humongous. The notion of a comeback is entirely in her own head, by the way, and everyone but Norma knows it, even the mysterious little Max.

Joe soon finds himself rapidly becoming more than just an editor to the delusional Norma. He’s her gigolo now too, her toyboy, her plaything, and with every gift of cufflinks, gold cigarette cases and vicuna coats she buys him, he feels worse about himself. (What’s a vicuna, by the way? Does anyone know? Is it an animal or summat?) Norma has bought him lock, stock and barrel, and they both know it, and their card-playing friends (the waxworks) know it too.

Worst of all, he gives up writing altogether and just gives in to this meaningless lifestyle of indolence and luxury. Just look at the most uncomfortable New Years’ Eve party ever at Norma’s house! This is his life now, and how sad it is too.

In case you guys think all this indolence and luxury sounds terrific, and nice work if you can get it, etc, hear ye this. Anyone with a gift for writing, or indeed painting, playing music or running very, very fast, can’t just squash this gift into an old biscuit tin and slam a lid on it. It will out, like a plague of zombies under the stairs.

Joe’s real gift for writing ‘outs’ when a pretty young reader of scripts for Paramount Pictures, Betty Schaefer, encourages him to re-write a tired old script of his into something new and vibrantly exciting. He enters into this project with Betty with great enthusiasm, but their writing sessions have of necessity to be a secret from the jealous and possessive Norma.

Norma, you see, has a disturbing habit of harming herself, or even just threatening to, every time Joe’s five minutes late coming back from ‘t’ privy. Max and now Joe have got to watch her pretty closely because of it, just like Norma is watching Joe. What a strange, uncomfortably paranoid household it is!

It’s not like Norma wouldn’t have any reason to be jealous, either. Pretty soon, the sparks flying between Joe and Betty are enough to ignite a fire on the Paramount lot where they meet in secret, in Betty’s little office.

But there are two things standing in the way of their happiness. One thing is Joe’s own hatred of himself for submitting to being Norma’s kept man. After all, he could have said no, couldn’t he, if he wasn’t so morally weak and detestable in his own eyes? The other thing, of course, is Norma Desmond herself…

There are so many iconic scenes to single out for praise. I adore the monkey burial ceremony, carried out in the dead of night ‘with all the solemnity of a state funeral.’ Also, Buster Keaton and two other stars of the silent era, Anna Q. Nilsson and H.B. Warner, playing cards (bridge?) with Norma while Joe looks on, bored, emptying the ashtray when Norma tells him to like a good, obedient little stud. (H.B. Warner, by the way, plays Mr. Gower who clouts George Bailey over the ear in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!)

Then there’s Cecil B. DeMille, resplendent in his riding boots, playing himself when Norma makes her first visit to Paramount Studios since her career as a silent film star ended, and the uncomfortable scenes where poor Norma undergoes a series of gruelling ‘beauty treatments’ in order to look young and beautiful for her big ‘comeback.’

The poor, poor woman. It’s all an illusion, a big rip-off. Being boiled, squeezed into bandages and made to look like a gimp-slash-mummy will not lead to her appearing one iota younger or feeling a jot happier.

(Joan Crawford goes through the same ridiculous tortures in the film MOMMIE DEAREST). It’s hard for women to look at these scenes when we’re fully aware that Norma’s only fooling herself. How out of pocket would she have been as well?

Her final scenes- ‘I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille’- are pretty damned near heart-breaking to witness. Oh Norma, poor poor Norma. Has she cracked under the strain of it all? And will Joe find the courage to walk away from all that lovely money for ever, to live as an impoverished script-writer with the real love of his life, Betty Schaefer? You’ll have to watch this legendary movie for yourselves to find out, folks. Enjoy your stroll down Sunset Boulevard…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE BLUE ANGEL or DER BLAUE ENGEL. (1930) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

blue angel bigger

THE BLUE ANGEL/DER BLAUE ENGEL. (1930) BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PROFESSOR UNRAT’ BY HEINRICH MANN (BROTHER OF THOMAS MANN).

DIRECTED BY JOSEF VON STERNBERG. PRODUCTION COMPANY: UFA.

STARRING MARLENE DIETRICH, EMIL JANNINGS, KURT GERRON, ROSA VALETTI, HANS ALBERS AND REINHOLD BERNT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

There’s something eerily magical about this classic Weimar Germany film, even today, nearly a full ninety years after it was made by Josef Von Sternberg, who returned from America to Germany especially to direct it.

After seeing Marlene Dietrich perform in the Berliner Theater in Georg Kaiser’s cabaret ZWEI KRAWATTEN (TWO NECKTIES), Von Sternberg knew that he had found his leading lady.

Though still recognisable, she hadn’t yet grown into her famous face, if you get me, the same way you can look at a young Brigitte Bardot in MANINA or a young Joan Crawford in GRAND HOTEL and think, is that really them, they look so different when they’re young…? 

Although Von Sternberg would modestly shrug off suggestions that he ‘discovered’ Dietrich, I think it really must be said that he did. She went on to have a long and varied career after THE BLUE ANGEL, which led to a contract with Paramount Studios, served as a more than efficient springboard or launching-pad to international stardom.

Josef Von Sternberg, a dark-haired, rather sad-faced man who looked small next to some of his taller contemporaries, made a few minor changes to the story on which the film was based, PROFESSOR UNRAT (PROFESSOR GARBAGE) by Heinrich Mann, but the basic plot remains the same.

A college professor who teaches English Literature, among other things I’m sure, to the boys and young men who attend the Gymnasium, a German word for college or place of learning, meets and falls head-over-heels with a beautiful cabaret singer in a nightclub. This reckless act of impulsivity leads directly to his downfall only a short few years later.

Professor Immanuel Rath makes his way to the nightclub, THE BLUE ANGEL, after a spate of saucy-postcard-hoarding by his students. He sees Lola Lola for the first time as a scantily-dressed image on a kinky postcard (these passed for porn back then…!) and is straightaway taken and intrigued by her. How much more taken will he be, then, with the flesh-and-blood, three-dimensional Lola Lola when he encounters her for real…?

He goes to the nightclub ostensibly to complain about its performers corrupting his young pupils. All thoughts of his moral responsibilities vanish from his mind when he meets the enchanting Lola Lola backstage in her dressing-room.

To the unmarried Professor in his forties, whom we can imagine as having led a very sheltered, bookish life up to now, Lola Lola is sexiness- and sex- incarnate. The magnificent Dietrich is very young here, but she has already learned how to use her eyes and lips to devastating effect. The poor Professor doesn’t stand a chance against such an onslaught of raw sexuality. He’s smitten from the off.

Of course, Marlene Dietrich was always about the legs. The legs, the legs, the legs. This film could also have been called ‘FRILLY KNICKERS AND STOCKING-TOPS’ because that’s what she’s dressed in for most of the movie. She elevates the taking off and putting on of stockings into an art form as she teases and tantalises Rath with a private little striptease in her cramped backstage dressing-room.

She (or maybe I should say they, both Dietrich AND Lola Lola) holds the- mostly male- audiences to the cabaret spellbound as she belts out songs like ‘FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN’ and ‘YOU’RE THE CREAM IN MY COFFEE, YOU’RE THE SALT IN MY STEW.’ They are utterly in thrall to her sexuality and mystique, as is Rath.

When Rath proposes to Lola Lola, I’m always gobsmacked that she says yes. Rath is a portly, not very attractive school-teacher who’s probably not rolling in money. He’s a figure of fun to his students. They don’t respect him. They have nothing but contempt for him.

What on earth does Lola Lola see in him? A kind of father figure, someone who represents security and stability to her, maybe? Or maybe she just says ‘yes’ in the spirit of yeah sure baby, why not, I don’t care either way, it’s all bullshit anyway and, who knows, it might be a blast to try it for a bit…?

Either way, they get hitched, much to Rath’s delight and, four short years later, we come full circle right back to Rath’s origins and it’s not a pretty picture. The marriage has destroyed him, although I can’t give you the details.

His self-respect is non-existent, he’s a figure of fun for all now and not just for his pupils, and his reputation, such as it ever was, is in shreds. Was it worth it, Rath, Von Sternberg seems to be asking his male protagonist, was she worth it…? Would he do it again?

The dark, cramped, narrow little slanted streets surrounding the Blue Angel nightclub look like they’ve come straight out of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI or any other masterpiece of German Expressionist cinema. There’s a fabulous town clock in the film that’s worth looking out for too, the creation of set designer Otto Hunte, and a sad and rather chillingly portentous scene involving a late parrot.

Who is Lola Lola? We know nothing of her background or origins. Is she hard and cold because she’s had to be or because she enjoys it? Is she immoral? Is she promiscuous? Does she have a heart at all?

Does she take pleasure in Rath’s downfall or, as is probably more likely, does she simply regard him as being big enough and old enough to look after himself? She’s his wife, after all, not his mother or his nursemaid, and he’s a grown man.

I don’t think she’s particularly malicious, although she’s certainly mischievous. I think she just doesn’t care, but not because she’s uncaring or heartless. She has enough to be doing looking out for herself. Whatever her motivations anyway, in Lola Lola we’ve been given a timeless creation of sheer sexiness and sensuality whose appeal doesn’t dim with the years.

Marlene Dietrich was a truly beautiful woman and an acting legend on two of the finest legs to ever grace a stage. In THE BLUE ANGEL, Josef Von Sternberg has bottled this legend and encapsulated it for us for all time. Kudos to you, Joe dear. Kudos to you.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. (1923) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

hunchback esmeralda

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. (1923) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY VICTOR HUGO. DIRECTED BY WALLACE WORSLEY. PRODUCED BY CARL LAEMMLE.

STARRING LON CHANEY, PATSY RUTH MILLER AND NORMAN KERRY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Swift run the sands of life, except in the hour of pain.’

Lon Chaney’s performance in this film is positively staggeringly good. He throws himself into it to the extent that he doesn’t mind at all that his creation is repugnant to lay eyes on. That’s a good thing, as far as he’s concerned, and it’s damned realistic too.

He doesn’t mind his character looking hideous and he doesn’t mind enduring a bit of physical suffering to achieve the right look. I think he thought that the suffering was a good thing too, lol. If you suffered for your art, you were obviously getting it right. And he got it so right with his Hunchback.

The Hunchback is a tragic figure, certainly unappealing to look upon but never comic, even if he does start the movie being crowned the King of the Fools during the festival of the same name. We’re in Paris, France ‘ten years before Christopher Columbus discovered America,’ so I make that 1472 by my watch.

The Middle Ages were so unsanitary with their rats, their plagues and their open sewers with filthy sewerage flowing down the streets that it’s a wonder anyone ever lived through them at all. Downright disgusting, they were.

Louis the Eleventh was the King of France during this era and you can bet your bottom dollar that he didn’t have to walk through sewerage on his way to buy a carton of milk and a packet of fags. One law for the rich and another for the poor, that’s how it was back then.

There were dire mutterings behind the scene amongst the lower classes though, and talk of uprisings and of overthrowing the King and distributing the wealth a little more evenly. I’m a little sketchy on my French history so I don’t know what happened in France between 1472 and the French Revolution of 1789 (‘Off with their heads!’ and suchlike) but the peasants were frequently revolting anyway, and you couldn’t really blame them as conditions for the poor were so appalling.

Rickets, ticks in the straw, the plague every five bloody minutes, boils and sores, infestations of this or that, no proper toilet or washing facilities, absolutely no Internet access, etc., etc. I couldn’t be doing with any of that type of thing. Give me modern times any day.

Lon Chaney’s character is Quasimodo the Hunchback, an orphaned, disfigured pauper brought up by the Church within the confines of the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, the other star of the film. Whaddya mean you don’t remember Quasimodo? Surely his face at least rings a bell? Ba-dum-tish, lol. Bad joke. Forgive me.

He’s the bell-ringer at the Cathedral, which job has rendered him half-deaf if not wholly deaf after years of enduring the tremendous noise at close range. He loves the bells though, and at one point we see him expressing his ‘wild joy’ at something that’s happened by ringing the bejeesus out of those bells till the whole city is quivering from the reverberations.

Quasimodo is ordered by the Archdeacon’s lecherous and distinctly unholy brother Jehan to kidnap Esmeralda, the beautiful Gypsy girl who can be seen dancing and twirling like a sexy dervish in the streets during the festival. The kidnapping goes awry and Quasimodo is sentenced to a terrible public lashing, ‘not by any means the first time a servant was punished in place of its master.’

The poor Hunchback falls hopelessly in love with Esmeralda when she is the only person to take pity on him after this whipping and bring him a drink to quench his awful thirst. But Esmeralda is head-over-heels in love with Phoebus de Chateaupers, a ringleted and twirly-moustachioed popinjay who goes by the title of the Captain of the Guards.

The wicked Jehan stabs Phoebus while he- Phoebus- is engaged in embracing the lovesick Esmeralda, then he legs it and lets Esmeralda take the blame. Poor Esmeralda is ‘put to the question’ by the men of the Court, by which of course I mean she was tortured by these master torturers until she ‘confessed’ to the crime she didn’t commit, that of stabbing her lover Phoebus. These were the times of the Inquisition and witch-burnings and people being accused of sorcery if they were found to be able to add two plus two together and get four. That’s right, those were the bad old days.

On foot of her forced ‘confession,’ Esmeralda is sentenced to be hanged. On her way to the gallows, she is seen by Quasimodo, who is horrified by the implications of what he’s observed. His beautiful kind-hearted angel Esmeralda, sentenced to death? He kidnaps her away from the Guards and hops it with her into the Church. Methinks it’s time for a little Sanctuary, lol.

Can a gypsy girl really receive justice when she’s only a poor lowborn female while her accusers are all male and more powerful than she? And on whom will she bestow her love, the dashing nincompoop Phoebus or her rescuer Quasimodo who, alas, is no more pleasing to look on than last night’s curry leftovers after the dog’s been at ’em…? Whatever she does, someone’s bound to get hurt.

There’s also the intriguing mystery of Esmeralda’s parentage. Who is the girl’s mother, and is there a chance of a reunion between mother and daughter before one of them dies? Esmeralda has never been more alone in the world than she is now. She could use some good news.

The Court of Miracles, so-called because ‘here the blind can see and the lame walk,’ is a very interesting place too. Here lives Esmeralda’s ‘adopted’ father, Clopin, the King of Thieves, with the other downtrodden peasants of Paris, and here it is also that a word from Esmeralda saves Gringoire the poet, a minor character, from being hanged for wandering into the wrong part of town. Will Clopin rally his own troops when he hears of Esmeralda’s intended fate? He jolly well ought to, anyway.

The siege of the Cathedral is the most exciting bit. Look at the way Quasimodo leaps in glee and triumph when he thinks he’s gotten one over on those who are trying to force an entrance! He’s positively alive with mischief and impish malice, like the bad fairy at the party or something.

Lon Chaney, who also stars in the superb film adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in 1925, puts his heart and soul into the performance and into the mannerisms of the poor Hunchback.

There have been other Hunchbacks since his- the brilliant Charles Laughton, for example, and even Anthony Hopkins had a go at it- but his to me will always be the most poignant and the most moving. Lon Chaney, the Man With A Million Faces, has done it again, has pulled off another master-stroke with his bag of tricks. Hats off to you, Mr. Chaney. Hats off to you.

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