BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY AND ROCKET MAN: A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY AND ROCKETMAN: TWO MUSIC FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. (2018) DIRECTED BY BRIAN SINGER AND DEXTER FLETCHER. STARRING RAMI MALEK AS FREDDIE MERCURY.
ROCKETMAN. (2019) DIRECTED BY DEXTER FLETCHER. STARRING TARON EGERTON AS ELTON JOHN.

I normally steer clear of mainstream movies but I watched these two based-on-real-life films in the run-up to the New Year, and they both completely blew me away, especially the QUEEN one, as I’ve been a fan of their music since the ‘Eighties. Both films follow quite similar trajectories.

Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara in Zanzibar to Parsi-Indian parents, was obsessed with music from a young age and the start of the movie sees him talking his way to being the front man of QUEEN after one of their gigs as their earliest incarnation, SMILE.

The other members are a bit bemused by his posh accent and quirky dress sense, but there’s no denying his musical genius, the confident personality that seems to both attract and demand good things to happen and his fabulous singing voice.

Rami Malek gives an Oscar-winning performance as the QUEEN front man, and he’s so like him physically it’s hard to believe you’re not watching the actual Freddie Mercury.

When you hear those familiar million-selling songs issue from his lips while he’s at the piano or bursting out of the giant speakers when QUEEN is in concert, you’ll get chills down your spine every time, not to mention a quickening of the heartbeat in time to the music.

The movie shows us how Kenny Everett’s radio show prevented the magnificently theatrical, six-minute-long rock opera ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ from being just a footnote in musical history. Thank Christ for that. What a loss to music that would have been!

We also get to see QUEEN’s signing with John Reid, Elton John’s manager, Freddie’s destructive relationship with his gaslighting day-to-day organiser, Paul Prenter, and his relationship with girlfriend and best friend Mary Austin, who seems to have guessed that Freddie was fully gay before Freddie himself seems to have come around to the notion.

Reporters constantly badgered Freddie about his sexuality. They seemed to have been quite unscrupulous and callous about it as well, not caring whom they hurt as long as they got their story.

Freddie was left alone, except for his casual lovers and one-night-stands, while the other members of QUEEN married, had children and grew roots. He was deeply conscious of the gap between them in this respect, and it feels like he was desperately lonely, just as Mary had sadly predicted, a lot of the time.

Freddie’s relationship with the toxic Paul and his split from the band to embark on a solo career for a bit soured relations with the other members of QUEEN, who all look in the film exactly how they looked in real life. In the film, they reconcile for the charity event Live Aid, before which Freddie reveals to his fellow band members that he has contracted HIV, the forerunner to AIDS, the so-called ‘gay plague.’

Poor Freddie. He was so lonely. When he puts his hand over boyfriend Jim Hutton’s hand in his parents’ home on the day of Live Aid and says, his voice breaking, ‘Jim’s my friend,’ I bawled like a baby. I don’t care two hoots that the film is meant to be chock-a-block with historical inaccuracies. The emotional depth of Rami Malek’s stunning performance will remain with me till the day I die, it’s that good.

I wasn’t expecting ROCKETMAN to be anywhere near as good, but it came pretty close. Taron Egerton turns in an excellent performance as Elton John, born Reginald Dwight in Pinner, Middlesex, to Stanley and Sheila in 1947. He was brought up mainly by his mum and grandmother.

We see him in the film being extremely upset by his father, who seemed to be incapable of showing his son any love or affection, despite having handed down to him some of his own musical ability and inclinations.

The film covers his meeting with his lifelong song-writing partner, Bernie Taupin, and the absolutely toxic relationship he had with his manager and lover, John Reid, the same John Reid who managed QUEEN.

Elton was tortured, like Freddie, by horribly negative feelings about his homosexuality and fear of peoples’ reactions to his being gay. When he confesses his sexual inclinations to his mum in a heart-breaking scene, she coldly tells him that she’s known he was gay for years, but it means that he’ll never ‘be properly loved,’ a harsh pronouncement that leaves her son devastated, reeling from the pain and shock of his mother’s indifference.

Though he becomes an international superstar with songs such as CANDLE IN THE WIND, YOUR SONG, GOODBYE YELLOW BRICK ROAD and the eponymous ROCKETMAN, in his own words in the film, he’d fucked everything that moved, he’d taken every drug and pill known to man, and he’d even attempted suicide, in a dramatic swimming-pool scene covered by the film.

I personally think that, here, when he was trying to kill himself, he was just trying to be heard. He was sick and tired of being an endless meal ticket for the leeches and hangers-on whom celebrities routinely attract, and I don’t bloody blame him.

That scene where his mother, played by an unrecognisable Bryce Dallas Howard (M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN’s THE VILLAGE, JURASSIC WORLD), his nan (Gemma Jones from BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY) and some of their neighbours are flown in to his LA home for a few days or weeks of living entirely at Elton’s expense made me feel sick to my stomach. Feck the bloody Andersons’…! They don’t even look grateful for the immense privilege!

Elton was in a hell of his own and others’ making. In the end, he saves his own life by booking himself into a rehab and sticking it out. According to the end credits, he’s been sober and clean- and hopefully happy, with his husband David Furnish and their two sons- ever since.

It’s a powerhouse of a performance from Taron Egerton, although of the two films I prefer BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY because of the music and because of how it made me cry and want to cuddle poor Freddie and make things better for him. I love a nice cry, me.

It’d be great to see a film biopic of this nature made about David Bowie, say, or Prince or Madonna or Debbie Harry or any other of those great stars that we just don’t seem to grow any more. (STARMAN, PURPLE RAIN, MATERIAL GIRL and HEART OF GLASS, anyone?)

The more we do to remember and immortalise them now, the better it will be for our future generations of music lovers. Can you imagine a world in which none of these icons had ever existed? That’s right. Me neither.

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
 

GODDESS OF LOVE. (2015) A SEXY-AS-HELL HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

goddess of love venus

GODDESS OF LOVE. (2015) WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY ALEXIS KENDRA AND JON KNAUTZ. DIRECTED BY JON KNAUTZ. STARRING ALEXIS KENDRA, WOODY NAISMITH AND ELIZABETH SANDY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely loved, loved, loved this one, a kind of FATAL ATTRACTION or PLAY MISTY FOR ME for the modern era, with its themes of love, obsession and bloody revenge and the intriguing tagline of: Her Love Will Never Die. I only bought it by accident, too, which is what makes it all the more amazing.

A sweet old dear in a charity shop pointed out to me, when I was buying a DVD from their Halloween movie section, that for one extra euro I could get another DVD. So back I dutifully trot to the DVDs and I pick out GODDESS OF LOVE, only half expecting it to be any good. When it turned out to be one of my films of the year, I was thrilled with myself.

It was written and produced by the lead actress, and the reason it’s so good is that She. Knows. Women. She has clearly been through bad break-ups in her time (haven’t we all, lol) and known other women who have too, and she’s drawn on her knowledge and life experiences to make a devastatingly true-to-life film that most women will identify with.

Venus (hence the title) is an American stripper. That’s her real name in the film, by the way, even though her clients might doubt it. She’s a beautiful young woman who can make a fair few bob a night with her pole-dancing, her stripping and her lap-dancing, and she has a gorgeous flat with a balcony view but, as is probably the case with a lot of women who work in the sex industry, she isn’t a happy camper underneath the sexy exterior.

She drinks too much, she takes drugs and she also sees things. She has full-on visions, hallucinations of things that aren’t happening or aren’t there. Whether this is as a result of the drugs or a full-blown mental illness, we don’t know.

And there could be other underlying reasons why this happens. Sexual or other kinds of abuse in childhood, maybe. There could be many reasons why poor Venus is as messed-up as she is.

A lot of women who are abused in childhood end up working in the sex industry. To them, sex maybe equals love, and if they can get love this way, well, then, they will. And who could blame them, or judge them? Very few of us are morally fit to throw that first stone.

Anyway, one night at work Venus meets a punter called Brian, the guy whom all of us women are secretly dying to nab for ourselves. He’s tall, dark, bearded, handsome, rich, he drives a huge glossy SUV, he’s a successful photographer and… get this… he’s a widow to boot! His wife committed suicide and he’s very messed-up because of it. He’s hurt, grieving, wounded, sad… and gagging for sex. The perfect man, lol.

Venus, who can’t believe her luck, takes him home and makes love to him. They start a relationship, in which Venus immediately pulls out all the stops in order to make Brian’s life sweet, easy, loving and meaningful again. She completely forgets about her own life, needs and personality in order to make Brian’s life better and whole again.

I’ve done this many times myself in the past so I know how she feels and why she’s doing it. I got exhausted watching her do all the things I used to do with certain guys. Concentrating on her appearance to the point where she’s worn out, never able to just relax in her pyjamas in case he calls over for sex.

Cooking for him, keeping her flat exhaustively clean and tidy for him, dressing up in her hooker clothes to have sex with him, working hard to keep him amused, satisfied and interested in the bedroom and forgetting her own needs entirely.

There’s one really uncomfortable scene in which she’s all strippered up, doing a lap-dance for a bored and snoozy Brian, who says all he wants to do is sleep. How is it nice and relaxing for her to have sex with him, when she feels obliged to treat him like a punter who must always get his money’s worth? She feels like she has to put on a performance, a great big spectacular show, for him every time. It’s awful to watch, but it’s her own fault.

Clearly, like many of us, she feels like her own looks and personality aren’t enough to keep him. She has to become a complete and utter doormat for him as well. It’s so sad to watch, and yet we women do this for men all the time.

The only reason I’m not doing it myself for some guy right this very minute is because I took my frozen heart out of circulation for a bit so that I’d have time to write my romantic fiction novel, which I did. At least I did that. Maybe it was something of a self-protection thing too.

I pride myself on having learned from my previous mistakes, but probably all it’d take for me to be back living for some bloke twenty-four-seven would be for ‘some bloke’ to crawl out of the woodwork claiming he loved me too. That’s how easy it is to steal away a woman’s heart.

Anyway, even more embarrassing to watch is when Venus presents Brian with a beautifully wrapped package containing a statuette of the famous Venus De Milo after which Venus was named, the Goddess of Love with the arms lopped off at the elbows.

Not only does Brian, supposedly a photographer and connoisseur of beauty, not know who this iconic creature is, but he hasn’t a clue why Venus is giving him such a thoughtfully chosen gift. The cretinous philistine. Who doesn’t know who the Venus De Milo is, and what kind of photographer worth his salt hasn’t heard of it?

The work in the relationship is all being done by Venus. She sends the little loving ‘miss you’ texts, she arranges all the dates and the nights out, she puts her own life completely and utterly on hold while she waits for Brian to phone.

She even spies on him, sitting on the cold damp ground by the trees across from his fabulous gaff, for hours on end in the dark, to see if he’s doing what he said he’d be doing on nights when he can’t see her, ie, working away quietly at home by himself.

She has good reason to believe that he might be seeing another woman, a stunning-looking antiques shop owner called Christine LeGrande. Christine was his deceased wife’s best friend, she’s posed nude for his photography sessions and they had a ‘brief fling’ when Brian’s wife killed herself, because they each knew the kind of pain the other was going through.

I’d be 99.99% certain that Christine’s ‘pain’ on losing her friend was 100% assuaged by gaining the friend’s husband, whom I’ve already stated is the kind of man most women would kill for. And what an irony that is, given what happens in the second half of the film when poor, poor Venus goes round to Brian’s house one night and discovers the real truth about her snivelling, gutless and faithless so-called boyfriend…

I won’t tell you how the film ends because it’s just too good to spoil, but Venus’s descent into what the DVD box calls ‘the dark side of psycho-sexual insanity’ is fantastic to watch but we feel awful for Venus at the same time.

And the sad thing about it is that guys watching this film will just dismiss Venus as another mental-as-f*ck bunny-boiler, because doing that means that they won’t ever have to look at their own possibly faulty, irresponsible behaviour towards women. Guys never learn, and women continue to suffer.

That’s not to say that Venus is entirely blameless and put-upon in this whole mess. She doesn’t derive her self-esteem from herself (the clue’s in the name, apparently!), but has grown used to deriving it from the men in her life. As someone who’s done this their whole life, I can’t help but relate to this. At least I have the awareness about this now, but having the awareness is only half the battle, sadly. Lol…! Why can’t it ever be the whole battle?

Venus only feels good about herself when her relationships are going well; when they begin to unravel, so do her good feelings about herself. And then the downward spiral into drink, drugs and feeling shit about herself will begin to bubble over, and it’s never that far from the surface at any time anyway. Alexis Kendra is a film-maker whose work I’d love to see more of. I’ve said it earlier and I’ll finish on it. She knows women, and she knows the struggle too.

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

 

HELTER SKELTER. (2004) THE STORY OF THE MANSON FAMILY MURDERS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

charlie

HELTER SKELTER. (2004) A RE-MAKE OF THE 1976 MADE-FOR-TV MOVIE. DIRECTED BY JOHN GRAY. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY VINCENT BUGLIOSI WITH CURT GENTRY.

STARRING JEREMY DAVIES, CLEA DUVALL AND MARGUERITE MOREAU.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This film, based on true events, will give you the willies. At the moment of writing this, I’m about one third of the way through the book on which it’s based, and the book tells you- and shows you- all the things over which the film, of necessity, has to draw a veil of discretion. The film tells the story of the dreadful events which are collectively known as the Manson Family Murders, and it’s told from the point of view of a young girl called Linda Kasabian.

In 1969, the teenaged Linda breaks up with her husband, who basically abandons her and their baby daughter Tanya. Linda, already used to commune life, is invited to join one located on the Spahn movie ranch in the hills outside Los Angeles.

The head of the commune is Charles Manson, a scrawny little beardy weed of a guy who, for the members of his ‘Family,’ has come to represent God, Jesus Christ, the Devil, good and evil, Heaven and Hell. He is the heart and particularly the Soul of the Family.

Charlie Manson tells Linda Kasabian exactly what she wants and needs to hear at this time. ‘No-one will ever throw you away again,’ he assures the emotionally insecure young girl who has already admitted to him that her husband and stepfather have both made her feel ‘disposable.’

They have sex- Charlie has sex with all the long-haired hippy girls, on whom he also bestows aliases- and soon she’s pregnant again. I don’t think the Family feel kindly disposed towards contraceptives and the notion of keeping oneself safe from sexually transmitted diseases!

Life on the commune is weird, man. Everyone has sex with everyone else and the babies and children are communally cared for, although, in some cases, it would seem like they were communally neglected, ie, left out in the sun all day to burn, stuff like that. Women are indoctrinated into believing that their function is to have babies and look after them and their men.

The guy who plays Charlie here does a terrific job. You can well imagine abused or needy women lapping up his freaky-ass nonsense, silly maxims like ‘No sense makes sense’ and ‘Come to the Now, man!’ He loves the sound of his own voice, which is probably why he founded his own cult.

I could never personally buy into his ridiculous notion that you’re doing people a favour by killing them because you’re ‘bringing them to the Now,’ and it’s hard to imagine how anyone ever did, but they did and that’s how the murders were able to happen. 

Linda is taken out at night by Charlie and various other members of the cult for what they call ‘creepy crawls.’ They wear dark clothing, break into rich peoples’ homes and disarrange stuff so that the occupants of the house will wake up and be freaked out to find that everything’s different.

The ‘creepy crawlers’ all carry knives. If any one of their victims had had the extreme misfortune to wake up during one of these night raids on their homes, I feel confident in saying that murder would have been committed without compunction by the culties.

In August 1969, the ‘creepy crawls’ get really real. In the house known as 10050 Cielo Drive in Los Angeles, five horrific murders are committed one sultry night. The victims are as follows: Sharon Tate, the beautiful, eight-months-pregnant actress wife of director Roman Polanski, who’s away filming in London when the murders happen; Jay Sebring, thirty-five, Sharon’s ex-boyfriend (they’re still good friends) and head of an international men’s hairdressing corporation; Abigail Folger, the heiress to a coffee fortune, and her Polish lover Voytek Frykowski; and finally, poor Stephen Parent, a young guy who was only visiting the caretaker of 10050, Cielo Drive, William Garretson, in the lodge house that night to try to sell him a clock radio. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

By the time Manson’s besotted followers had done their leader’s dirty work, the house and gardens at 10050 Cielo Drive resembled a slaughterhouse. The following night, a rich businessman called Leno LaBianca, who owned a chain of grocery stores, was brutally murdered in his own sitting-room along with his attractive wife Bianca. The two sets of killings were soon being referred to as the Tate-LaBianca murders, and it wasn’t too long before the hippies out at Spahn movie ranch were squarely in the frame for them.

Linda Kasabian ran away from the Family after she witnessed the murders and was utterly sickened and shocked by them. Unlike the other girls, whom Charlie controlled through sex and drugs and the undeniable power of his words, Linda still had a reasonably unskewed sense of right and wrong.

‘Death to piggies’ might have been Charlie’s and his sick-in-the-head followers’ raison d’être, but it wasn’t Linda’s. Although she ran away from the cult, initially without her daughter Tanya so as not to arouse the suspicions of the other cult moms, she came back of her own accord, to tell the police what she knew.

I’ve been reading in prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s book about failed musician, Beatles’ fan and ex-pimp Charles Manson’s disadvantaged upbringing. The child of a teenaged prostitute with no father to speak of, he had spent most of his life before the murders in and out of institutions, from juvenile detention centres to adult prisons. Well, that’s no excuse for any of the things he did. Ted Bundy had only a single mother for a parent too and he never did any of the things… Oh wait, he did. Sorry, bad example, lol.

I must tell you about something absolutely mad that’s referred to in the film but which the book explains in a bit more detail. Before they were all arrested for the murders, the Family were planning en masse to follow their crazy-as-batshit leader out into the desert because there was a ‘hole’ in Death Valley which, if you followed it deep down inside to the very centre of the earth, would lead you to an entire civilization, all apparently living and thriving away underneath the earth. It’s straight out of Jules Verne, is that.

Only Charlie knew where this hole was, and the Family were going to hide out with this other civilization while ‘helter skelter,’ the race war to end all wars, played itself out above ground.

I have only one word to say with regard to this ‘plan,’ which is worse than Homer Simpson’s plan to take his whole clan to live with him under the sea when the heat from his sexual harassment suit becomes too much to bear. (Remember? There’ll be no accusations, just friendly crustaceans, under the sea…!) What is this one word? Well, in a nutshell… Cuckoo…!

Manson, in the end, was sentenced to death for his part in the excessively brutal killings but had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. That was fifty years ago this very year, and he only died recently there, in 2017. Same year as Moors murderer Ian Brady. He was probably still a nut-job when he passed away, a basket-case, a fruit loop.

That’s nearly fifty years that he was living at the American taxpayers’ expense, and every year he remained on earth was probably another slap in the face for the loved ones of the people he ordered his culties to murder in cold blood, simply because they were rich and ‘rich whites’ represented the ‘establishment, the ‘man.’

Oh well. He didn’t live forever, contrary to the impression he might have been trying to give his brainwashed followers. One day he too, the great Charlie Manson, had to answer for his crimes before a higher power, like we all will have to some day. Only then would real justice have been done.

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

SCARFACE, CARLITO’S WAY and SERPICO: A TRIPLE BILL OF AL PACINO GANGSTER-AND-COP MOVIE REVIEWS FROM SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scarface wedding

SCARFACE (1983); CARLITO’S WAY (1993); and SERPICO (1973); A TRIPLE REVIEW OF AL PACINO GANGSTER-AND-COP MOVIES BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Al Pacino was such a handsome guy in the ’70s, ’80s and even ’90s. In SCARFACE, he plays Tony Montana, one of the ‘Cuban boat people’ whom Fidel Castro let go from Cuba in the early ’80s. They went straight to America and made themselves comfortable there, or at least Tony Montana did, by selling drugs and being a part of what Michelle Pfeiffer as Elvira later on in the film refers to as ‘the Cuban crime wave.’

Tony Montana goes from being a humble dishwasher in Miami, Florida to being a guy who works for a druglord to being the druglord himself, living in a fabulous mansion with a real tiger prowling by the lake in his garden and a beautiful woman- Elvira, poached from Tony’s former boss Frank Lopez- by his side.

Of course, the bigger he becomes in the drug world himself, the bigger his enemies become (Alejandro Sosa and his silent assassin, The Skull, to name but two) and the bigger the downfall waiting for him at the end, by which time he’s ‘so high on his own supply’ that he hardly knows which way is up. Scarface’s downfall is surely one of the most magnificent in the history of cinema, and with the best music also, supplied by the King of Electronics, Giorgio Moroder.

Robert Loggia plays Tony’s first drugs boss, Frank Lopez, and F. Murray Abraham is Frank’s sleazy sidekick Omar Suarez, who enjoys a pleasant helicopter ride courtesy of Bolivian cocaine kingpin Alejandro Sosa halfway through the film. Frank is only small-time compared to what Tony eventually becomes. Frank’s humiliation is completed when Tony steals his glamorous mistress Elvira away from him.

(Here’s a wee snippet you might not know about Paul Shenar, who plays Alejandro Sosa, Tony’s main antagonist in the film. Apparently, he was in a relationship with British actor Jeremy Brett in the ’70s for several years. You’ll know Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes to Edward Hardwicke’s Dr. Watson in the Granada TV series. He made a fantastic Holmes and was second only to Basil Rathbone, in my humble opinion.)

Anyway, it might be some consolation to Frank Lopez to know that Tony’s relationship with Elvira becomes a toxic, poisoned thing almost immediately. Elvira is a desperately unhappy woman. She smokes, drinks and takes drugs, all to excess, she never eats and ‘her womb is so polluted from all the drugs she takes’ that she can’t give Tony a child. Oh dear. No amount of marriage counselling can save this marriage.

Tony has some kind of a sexual longing for his sister Gina (played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) too, a beautiful young struggling beautician whom, when he first sees her again near the start of the film, he hasn’t seen for several years and he’s deeply struck by the vibrant and vivacious beauty she’s become.

He’s pathologically jealous of the men she associates with and he becomes murderous when he suspects there might be something between Gina and Tony’s oldest friend and right-hand man, the good-looking Manny (Steven Bauer). Manny has an easy charm that Gina obviously finds attractive. Poor Scarface. He wanted to have it all, he thought he had it all coming to him, ‘the world and everything in it,’ but he winds up with surprisingly little in the end…

The chainsaw scene is fantastically nerve-wracking. Even Scarface is getting a little hot and sweaty under the collar. I love the way also that Tony’s Momma sticks to her guns- not a bad metaphor, that!- and won’t take a penny of her son’s drugs-and-blood money.

I also love the way though, quite conversely, that the young and impressionable Gina is more than happy to live the good life courtesy of her big brother. She’s from a different generation to her mother, a generation that wants money and a good time, dancing and drinking and romance and excitement, all under the disco glitterball.

Al Pacino might be ten years older and wiser in CARLITO’S WAY, but Carlito Brigante needs his head testing. Fresh out of prison after a five year stretch (drugs, of course), he should be planning a new crime-free life. And in fact he is.

He wants to go straight, he wants to earn enough money to retire to a sunshine island in the Bahamas and live out the rest of his days in peace. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? But of course there’s a fly in his ointment. It’s a film, after all. Gotta have flies, lol.

That fly takes the shape of Carlito’s coked-up lawyer, Sean Penn in brilliant form as David Kleinfeld. Carlito feels beholden to Kleinfeld because Kleinfeld gets him out of prison on a technicality after he’s done only five years out of a thirty year sentence.

Now that Carlito’s out of the nick, Kleinfeld gets him a job as the manager of his friend’s nightclub. Carlito’s all set up with a good job and plenty of money. No wonder Carlito feels like he’s under a compliment to Kleinfeld (that’s just an Irish way of saying ‘beholden’).

So, when Kleinfeld asks Carlito to do him one little teensy-weensy ‘favour’ that involves breaking a mob boss out of a prison barge stationed at Riker’s island, Carlito reluctantly agrees.

‘I’ll just do this one last job and then I’ll be outta the life for good,’ he assures his whingy dancer/stripper girlfriend Gail, played by Penelope Ann Miller. Well, we all know what happens to people who say they’re just doing this one last job and that’s it…

There’s a fantastic chase scene at the end where Carlito is being pursued through the train station by the mob, who are trying to prevent him from boarding a train with Gail and choo-choo-ing off into the horizon to realize his dreams of a happy retirement. The bit on the public escalator is the best bit, it’s just brilliant.

You might recognise one of the pursuers (Vincent Taglialucci) as Joseph Siravo who goes on to star as Tony Soprano’s alpha-male father, Johnny Boy Soprano, in HBO hit mob drama THE SOPRANOS. 

Viggo Mortensen (THE LORD OF THE RINGS) has a small part as a wheelchair-bound ex-con and John Leguizamo is ‘Benny Blanco from the Bronx.’ ‘Remember me…?’ Remember him? If Carlito didn’t before, he certainly will now…

There’s a funny bit at David Kleinfeld’s garden party when a coked-up Kleinfeld has a go at a party guest for getting a ‘hand-job’ in full view of the guests. Who would have thought that the host of a hookers-and-cocaine party should have turned out to be so all-fired moralistic and judgemental?

I love both SCARFACE and CARLITO’S WAY, each of which was directed by Brian De Palma. I’m not a big fan of Sidney Lumet’s based-on-a-true-story SERPICO, however. It’s still a good film, but I just hate the way that Al Pacino’s stunning good looks are all but obscured by the scruffy beard and awful hats and dreadful baggy clothes he wears as undercover cop Frank Serpico.

Frank Serpico was a real-life cop who all his life coveted the police officer’s gold shield and wanted nothing so much as to be a part of the thin blue line that protects the law-abiding citizen from the criminal fraternity.

As a plainclothes policeman who did undercover work, and quite successfully too, I believe, the thing he mostly seemed to uncover was a staggering amount of corruption in the police force. As an honest cop, he refused to take bribes, kick-backs, blood-money, protection-money, racket-money or any other kind of money that wasn’t his by rights.

The cops who did take unlawful monies were unbelievably pissed off by the big stink that Serpico made about it, to the point where some of his work colleagues hated his guts and his life was threatened. But he persevered with his attempts to take his story of rank corruption within the police force to the highest authorities and he didn’t stop till he got somewhere.

It’s hard to like Al Pacino’s portrayal of Serpico in the film because Serpico is a scruffy, shambling, mumbly-voiced single-minded bore who pisses off everyone he talks to with his abrasive hostility. I get it that he’s doing the right thing, but does he have to be such a total pill about it? Nobody likes a snitch, but a whingy, self-righteous snitch is even harder to stomach.

He adores animals and keeps several pets, which is good, but he treats them better than he treats his girlfriends, which is not so good. The girl from next door who moves in with him is shouted at constantly by Serpico because his mind is always on his work problems, and he only promises a commitment to her when she’s on the verge of leaving him.

Even then, as she quite rightly points out, once he gets her back he’ll never mention kids and marriage again. He’s a commitment-phobe and a big beardy loser. She can do better. And I think Al Pacino makes a nicer gangster than he does a cop…!

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

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