ANOTHER BOUQUET (OF BARBED WIRE): THE 1977 SEQUEL TO THE SEXY, CONTROVERSIAL TV SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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ANOTHER BOUQUET (OF BARBED WIRE). (1977) BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF ANDREA NEWMAN. MADE BY LONDON WEEKEND TELEVISION. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY TONY WHARMBY AND JOHN FRANKAU.

STARRING FRANK FINLAY, SHEILA ALLEN, SUSAN PENHALIGON, JAMES AUBREY, DEBORAH GRANT, ERIC CARTE, CAROL DRINKWATER AND PHILIP MADOC.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Hmmm. Well. I loved this second instalment of the BOUQUET OF BARBED WIRE television series nearly as much as the first, but I’m not at all happy with the way it’s turned out. Some absolutely mad stuff happens to some of the characters that I can’t believe they’d be happy to go along with, but then, it’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, mad world we live in and, who knows, maybe they are happy, the bunch of crazy loons.

Poor Peter Eliot Manson is in a bad way. Still separated from the saintly Cassie and living in the flat he bought for his former mistress Sarah Francis, he’s obsessed with his dreams and thoughts of his daughter Prue and seems to be gradually losing touch with reality. He tries to concentrate on Prue’s little girl, his grand-daughter, but she’s not a patch on Prue, unfortunately, and she won’t compensate Peter for his daughter’s absence.

He’s revolted to the pit of his stomach to find that his wife, Cassie, has been sleeping with the son-in-law he loathes, Gavin, and furthermore, that the affair started when the pregnant Prue was in hospital after being beaten up by Gavin. He sees Gavin as having murdered his beloved daughter and ruined his marriage. No wonder he wants to biff him in the schnozz…

Annoying goody-two-shoes Cassie is hurt beyond belief that bad boy Gavin, Prue’s widower and the baby’s father, has ditched his older girlfriend (Cassie) for a new woman. It was bound to happen. She should never have hooked up with him in the first place, and her a respectable married woman in her forties (at least!).

She loses no time in hooking up with Gavin’s new girlfriend Vicky’s father, a Dr. Lewis, a really annoying, commitment-phobic man who is not ashamed to admit that he has two other women on the go as well. Cassie thinks she can be modern enough and mature enough to put up with this bullshit, but I’m telling you now that she won’t. No woman worth her salt would.

Gavin has a really sick relationship with his new girlfriend Vicky, who seems to be as masochistic as Prue was. ‘Do anything you want to me, Gavin, only please love me!’ The relationship is not a healthy one, and the worst part about it is that Gavin doesn’t give a shit about poor unloved hippy chick Vicky. (Her father, Dr. ‘Freelove’ Lewis, is horribly neglectful towards her too.)

All she is to the carelessly cruel Gavin is a free babysitter and sex on tap when he feels like it. Elizabeth ‘There is only ice in the ice house’ Romilly is excellent in the role of deeply troubled Vicky. In choosing Gavin to love, she’s only replicating the loveless relationship she has with her selfish bastard of a father.

The most frustrating thing of all about this sequel was the fate of my favourite character, Sarah Francis, Peter’s former secretary and mistress. Even now, she keeps muddying the waters by continuing to sleep with Peter behind the back of her rich handsome blond husband, Geoff, who is extremely loving towards her and lenient about her independent ways and all the time she spends away from him ‘getting a bit of space.’ Space, my eye!

Anyway, Sarah discovers she’s pregnant and, instead of plumping for living a privileged, charmed life as Rich Geoff’s adored wife (did I mention he was rich?), she goes off and deliberately chooses a really stupid and probably temporary alternative which will possibly put Geoff off her forever. Well, it serves her right, if she’s actually going to be that irresponsible about her future…!

She’s self-sabotaging big-time because somewhere deep down inside her, she doesn’t think she deserves to be happy or loved. This course she’s chosen now won’t yield any love or fulfilment, just more of the punishment she probably feels she has coming to her. And, who knows, maybe she’s in love with the drama and excitement of it all as well, the excitement of living such an undisciplined and unstructured life. I wash my hands of the whole thing.

Did anyone notice the way the baby is treated in the series, by the way? Apart from, obviously, as the poor parcel in ‘pass the bleedin’ parcel…!’ They keep putting her down on her tummy to sleep, which, yes, you’re right, that’s what they thought was best back then, but it’s since been proven to be a bit of a big fat no-no.

Also, Cassie keeps putting the baby out in the garden on a blanket (on her tummy, of course!) while she herself goes back into the house to do the washing-up or read the paper, and the front gate is wide open so anyone who wants to can come into the garden and steal the baby, which actually happens in the series. It causes a big furore, but you can’t say that it doesn’t serve Cassie and Gavin right…!

Also, when Gavin tells Cassie that Vicky’s lost her temper with the baby and shaken her a little bit, Cassie brushes it off and says it’s nothing. Oh, she says, I used to shake Prue and the boys all the time when they were babies, it didn’t do them any harm…! I’m just glad that times have changed since then, that’s all I’m saying.

Peter’s ending is incredibly sad. I cried buckets at it. How I would have loved another sequel, but some things are finite and that’s that. I know there was a re-make of the series in 2010, but I can’t imagine myself wanting to watch it, having seen the excellent and incomparable original series. Why re-make everything, anyway, instead of creating something new? Some things are perfectly fine just as they are.

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

GHOST STORIES FROM THE BBC: THE SIGNALMAN, STIGMA AND THE ICE HOUSE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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A GHOST STORY FOR CHRISTMAS FROM THE BBC: THE SIGNALMAN (1976), STIGMA (1977) AND THE ICE HOUSE (1978). STARRING DENHOLM ELLIOTT, BERNARD LLOYD, KATE BINCHY, PETER BOWLES, JOHN STRIDE, GEOFFREY BURRIDGE AND ELIZABETH ROMILLY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

The Signalman was based on a short story by England’s greatest novelist, Charles Dickens. It was penned the year after he almost died in an horrific train accident that killed ten of his fellow passengers and injured forty others. To the end of his days, the notion of train travel gave him nightmares, and no wonder.

Denholm Elliott does a superb job as the titular Signalman, who performs his train-related duties from a signal-box on a remote part of the line. His job is safety; ensuring the safety of the passengers and crew that pass by him daily, in the screeching steam trains that belch out the thick black smoke for which the Industrial Revolution was infamous.

I’m not sure what he does exactly. He doesn’t seem to be raising or lowering any barriers, or opening or closing any gates. His job involves telegraph wires, bells and flashing red warning lights. He sits in his lonely booth night after night, studying mathematics in front of his little fire to keep his mind from atrophying, with ne’er a living soul for company.

Until now, that is. A well-dressed gentleman known to us only as the Traveller, descends by a precarious dirt path to the Signalman’s booth, telling that same man that he was ‘drawn there,’ somehow. The lonely Signalman seizes on the opportunity to tell his congenial companion about a disturbing spectre that’s been haunting both him and this isolated little stretch of railway line for the past year or so…

I’ll tell you something for nothing. That there spectre causes at least one of the terrible accidents to which we are privy. I’m not at all convinced that he’s a good spirit, put it like that. The scenes where the Traveller strides briskly to his lodgings at night are gorgeous and so atmospheric. The whole short piece is steeped in atmosphere and a sense of slow-building, impending dread, with fabulous bleak scenery and the most unnerving sounds also. No wonder the poor Signalman feels like he’s going out of his mind…

STIGMA is a chilling folk horror that sees Katharine and Peter, an affluent, middle-aged couple with a surly teenaged daughter called Verity, moving to the countryside from, presumably, the city. A couple of workmen are already out in their garden, trying to remove an enormous stone from the ground because it’ll very much be in the way of Dad’s proposed new lawn.

Personally, I think that anything that size should be left well enough alone, as obviously it’s been put there for a reason. It has; it is, in fact, a menhir or a standing stone associated with a human sacrifice, in this case the sacrifice of a woman thought to be a witch. From the moment the workmen manage to raise the massive stone and its pitiful secret is revealed, Katharine’s life and maybe Verity’s too is in grave- excuse the pun- danger…

It’s pretty scary to find out near the end just how many standing stones there are in the area, and therefore just how many women were sacrificed as suspected witches back in the bad old times, which are not as far back as we might think. The whole landscape is dotted with these eerie structures. How many funeral pyres were lit back in the day, and how many times was the air rent with the hideous screams of the dying as they suffered in life the very torments of the damned…? It’s enough to give you the willies.

Anyway, here’s my little claim to fame. I met the lead actress, Kate Binchy, cousin of the late great Irish writer Maeve Binchy, several years ago in an Irish doctor’s surgery. We had a chat about how she’d once played Fr. Stone’s mother in the hilarious episode of clerical sitcom FATHER TED entitled ENTERTAINING FR. STONE.

She signed an autograph for me and I was thrilled with myself. At that time, I was unaware that, as a younger woman, she’d starred in STIGMA- and had whipped her bosoms out for that same part, as well!- but, what with me being Irish, her FATHER TED credentials were more than exciting enough on their own for me.  

THE ICE HOUSE is a very strange piece of work. I still haven’t even figured it out myself. A middle-aged man called Paul comes to stay at a very exclusive spa in an isolated part of the English countryside after his marriage breaks down. The spa is run by a sinister- and incestuous!- brother and sister called Jessica and Clovis.

They lavish attention upon Paul day and night. They wait on him hand and foot, they are never far away if he wants anything and they seem to have made his happiness and comfort their number one priority. He enjoys the saunas, massages and facials the spa offers, although he can’t help noticing when a staff member disappears suddenly, and that his disappearance seems somehow tied up with the little building in the wooded grounds called the ice house…

This is indeed a strange but very sexy and sensuous instalment of the Ghost Story for Christmas series. The heavy, erotic perfume from the red and white vines that climb and clamber up the ice house walls reaches Paul through the phallic-shaped cut-outs in his bedroom window, and the sister in red and the brother in white are so obviously lovers, even if we hadn’t already seen them kiss, that an aura of heady, forbidden sexuality pervades the whole piece. Oh, and what exactly are those two inbred weirdos hiding in that ice house? Don’t you know? ‘There is only ice in the ice house…’ Yeah, right, sister. And I’m Mother Teresa of Calcutta…

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