THE SOUND OF MUSIC. (1965) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

sound of music

RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S THE SOUND OF MUSIC. (1965) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ROBERT WISE. BASED ON THE MEMOIRS OF MARIA VON TRAPP. MUSIC AND LYRICS BY RICHARD RODGERS (MUSIC) AND OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN THE SECOND (LYRICS).

STARRING JULIE ANDREWS, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, RICHARD HAYDN, PEGGY WOOD AND ELEANOR PARKER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,

Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens,

Brown paper packages tied up with strings,

These are a few of my favourite things.

………………………………………………….

When the dog bites and the bee stings

And I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favourite things

And then I don’t feel so bad.’

The sight of a nun with a guitar gives me the willies, straight up. Reminds me of Fourth Year in secondary school when Sister Assumpta, nicknamed ‘Stumpy’ for her lack of height inches, tried to teach me to play the guitar after school. After only two lessons, I was expelled forever from these after-school jamborees for Crimes Against Music. Well, we can’t all be good at everything. Music’s loss was writing’s gain, lol.

Anyway, there’s a nun with a guitar in the multi-award-winning THE SOUND OF MUSIC, set in the last days of the 1930s. Her name is Maria, she’s wonderfully played by Julie Andrews and she’s a source of constant frustration to the other nuns in the convent. Let’s just say she’s a little, well, different.

She sings all the time, not just in church, she’s late to everything- except meals- and she’s as scatty as a dotty old professor of physics who wastes a morning looking for the spectacles that were on his head the whole time.

Furthermore, she’s always up in the hills where she was brought up, singing and twirling and twirling and singing and generally acting like she’s taken leave of her remaining senses altogether.

The kindly and extraordinarily understanding Reverend Mother of this lovely little convent in Austria is convinced that Maria is not quite ready to take her final vows as a nun. She thinks that Maria hasn’t quite made up her mind what she wants to do with her life and she thinks that the girl might benefit from a spell back out in the world outside the convent walls once more.

With this in mind, she sends Maria to the Salzburg home of one Captain Von Trapp, a widowed and much decorated sea captain who is in urgent need of a governess for his seven children. Maria will be this governess. Off she duly repairs to the Captain’s magnificent abode.

She’s immediately struck by the tall, handsome and autocratic bearing of the Captain (Christopher Plummer), but she’s less impressed by the rather cold, super-regulated way that he treats his children as if they were little sailors under his command at sea. They march instead of play, they wear uniforms instead of normal kiddy clothes and they jump to attention when the Captain blows his shrill whistle.

Where’s the love? Where’s the heart? Where’s the music, the singing and dancing and, God forbid, the fun? The Captain does love his children very much but he seems unable to show them this love. Certainly it’s hidden beneath layers and layers of strict, in fact rigid, naval-style discipline, timetables, constant drilling and whistles. Always with the whistles.

Maria sets out to bring the heart, the music and the fun back to the sad Von Trapp household. Such things have been practically banned from the household by the Captain, because they remind him of his late wife and the pain of his bereavement.

That’s all well and good for Georg (inexplicably pronounced not as George but as Gay-org with two hard ‘g’s), but it’s surely a bit unfair on his children, isn’t it? After all, they lost their mother, didn’t they? Should they lose everything else that’s good and nice and fun in life as well?

The children, ranging from sixteen-going-on-seventeen-year-old Liesl to five-year-old Gretl, with Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta and Marta in between, all adore Maria and are more than willing to help her to restore the fun and games to their heretofore excessively regimented lives. With Maria encouraging them, they play to their hearts’ content, they sing and dance and run and climb trees and fall in the lake and get filthy dirty and soaking wet as kids are meant to do.

The Captain, though he won’t admit it, is enchanted by Maria, by the way she dispenses with rules and silly whistles and just whole-heartedly throws herself into loving the children and being there for them in a way that previous governesses were unable to comprehend.

There’s an immediate attraction between the two adults that quite flusters Maria and flummoxes the Captain. Who knows if they’d have ever done anything about it if it hadn’t been for a fly in the ointment in the form of the marriage-minded Baroness Schraeder? Marriage-minded for herself and the Captain, that is, not for Maria and the Captain, goodness me no. This one’s purely all out for Number One. 

The Baroness is the Captain’s girlfriend at first and then his fiancée. The children and Maria are deeply unhappy at the thought of the Captain marrying the Baroness. She’s blonde, attractive, uber-sophisticated and super-rich, but she’s cold and superficial also and probably older than the Captain.

She knows very little about children (‘Have you ever heard of a marvellous invention called boarding school?’ she says slyly to family friend Uncle Max) but her worldly-wise eagle eyes spot immediately the mutual attraction between Gay-org and the couldn’t-be-less-sophisticated-if-she-tried Maria. I love it when the Baroness says to Maria:

‘Come on now love, we’re both women, who are ya kidding? Let us not pretend that we don’t notice it when a guy is making eyes at us.’ Or words to that effect…!

The Baroness isn’t the only fly in Gay-org and Maria’s ointment. It’s the time of Nazism and the Third Reich and Hitler has just Anschlussed Austria to Germany, much to the seeming delight of most of the Austrian populace. Well, they lined the streets of Austria cheering for Hitler’s troops and they carpeted the Nazis’ path with flowers, didn’t they?

Anyway, Gay-org is at least one Austrian who is virulently opposed to Nazism and he’s brave enough to speak his mind on the subject. When, by virtue of his status as a naval war hero and his naval expertise, he’s given an important commission in the navy of the Third Reich, he finds himself with only two hard choices.

He can accept the commission for the sake of his family’s safety, but to go along with Nazi beliefs and ideology would sicken his stomach. Or he can throw the commission back in Hitler’s (represented locally by Gauleiter Herr Zeller) face and risk bringing the wrath of the powerful Third Reich down on his own and his childrens’- and Maria’s- heads. What to do? Richer men than he, who might have thought they were safe by virtue of their position, probably fell afoul of Hitler’s terrible regime…

The scenery and the songs are to die for. The hills are alive with the sound of music indeed. I love the clever lyrics and puppetry of ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ and I cried my eyes out when Gay-org sang ‘Edelweiss,’ with the poignant last line of ‘Bless my homeland forever,’ at Uncle Max’s precious folk music festival.

The Reverend Mother is an absolute boss when she belts out ‘Climb every mountain’ in an effort to show Maria that sometimes you have to work really fucking hard for what you want, lol. You go, girl.

It’s sad when Liesl’s childhood beau Rolph has morphed into a fully-fledged-and-indoctrinated member of the Hitler Youth, and the scenes in the beautiful Abbey crypt are nail-bitingly tense.

I only saw this film properly, from beginning to end, for the first time yesterday, but it’s going on my Christmas to-watch-every-year list from now on. All together now: ‘Doe, a deer, a female deer, ray, a drop of golden sun…!’

The Von Trapp Children:

Liesl: Charmian Carr.

Friedrich: Nicholas Hammond.

Louisa: Heather Menzies.

Kurt: Duane Chase.

Brigitta: Angela Cartwright.

Marta: Debbie Turner.

Gretl: Kym Karath.

Did any of ’em grow up to have eating disorders or take their clothes off for nudie mags or porn flicks? Hang on, I’m looking ’em all up now…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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

its_a_wonderful_life_still

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

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

‘Attaboy, Clarence…!’

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

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

‘Merry Christmas…!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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