HAUNTED: THE FERRYMAN (1974) AND POOR GIRL (1974). 2 GHOSTLY DRAMAS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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HAUNTED: TWO TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL: THE FERRYMAN BY KINGSLEY AMIS (1974) AND POOR GIRL BY ELIZABETH TAYLOR (1974).

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Both dramas reviewed here originally aired over the Christmas period of 1974, each fulfilling quite nicely the role of ‘a ghost story for Christmas.’ Both are beautifully shot and acted, with an ethereal, otherworldly look about them that lends itself rather marvellously to the supernatural themes.

THE FERRYMAN stars a ridiculously young-looking and handsome Jeremy Brett, probably best known for playing Sherlock Holmes alongside Edward Hardwicke’s Dr. Watson in the brilliant ’80s television adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous stories. Remember the great theme tune and the opening credits sequence?I certainly do.

He plays Sheridan Owen, an egotistical and narcissistic horror author whose book THE FERRYMAN has become an unexpected bestselling hit. After doing the rounds of the launch parties and the bookshops for often tedious book-signing sessions, he escapes for a weekend to the countryside with his attractive wife Alex, hoping to get away from all the hullaballoo.

It looks like all Owen’s succeeded in doing, however, is in bringing the dratted book with him even as far as The Ferryman’s Rest, the coincidentally-named guest-house in which he and Alex seek shelter during a dreadful downpour.

Owen quickly notices more strange coincidences. The maitre’d at the guest-house has the same surname as the maitre’d in Owen’s novel, but not the same Christian name. The barman has the same Christian name as Owen’s fictional barman, but not the same surname. Everything is just a little bit unsettling and off-kilter, in this out-of-the-way guest-house with no other visitors barring Sheridan Owen and his wife…

When the owner of the hotel turns out to have both the same name as Owen’s novel’s murderer, and also a beautiful young acting student daughter called Jill who is exactly how Owen imagined his lovely heroine to look, Owen starts to wonder exactly how far life is planning to go on imitating art. Knowing how his book ends, Owen, who has never before believed in ghosts even though he’s penned a supernatural bestselling book, decides to stay up when night-time falls and keep a solitary watch…

The scenes at the guest-house are bathed in a shimmery, iridescent colour that gives everything an unreal or ghostly look. Acclaimed actress Lesley Dunlop looks absolutely stunning as the gorgeous daughter Jill; what a beauty she was in her day! She could even have been a Hammer girl, she was so easy on the eye. I love posh-voiced Geoffrey Chater as her dad, the coincidentally named Miles Attingham, and the tale of terror ends with a decidedly delicious ghostly twist…

POOR GIRL, set in Edwardian times, sees an attractive young woman called Florence Chasty enter the rich Wilson household in the countryside as governess to the nine-year-old son of the house, Hilary.

He’s a precocious little spoiled brat who is, technically speaking, already too old for a governess. To see her attempting to teach him equations, extremely hard sums which it requires a male mind to properly understand and inculcate, is a pitiful sight indeed.

Why is this little master not by now enduring his baptism of fire on the playing-fields of Eton, might one enquire, fagging for a prefect who blisters his rear end enthusiastically with a length of bamboo whilst enjoying a spot of buggery over the hot buttered toast in front of the fire of a wintry evening?

I’m not saying I approve of this barbaric and horrifically abusive system, mind, which traumatised children for life, but we all know what these English public schools were like, leaving their poor troubled graduates in need of a Cynthia Payne type to fulfil the sadomasochistic fantasies instilled in them in school!

Hilary straightaway falls in love, of course, with Miss Chasty, whose heavy brown coil of hair at the nape of her delicate neck looks too heavy for her little head to support. Oliver Wilson, the handsome, still young master of the house, Hilary’s father, can’t keep his eyes off Florence, either. She could have her pick of father and son, uncomfortable as that sounds, were it not for the mistress of the house…

Angela Thorne is superb as the coldly genteel, restrained Mrs. Louise Wilson, who dismisses Florence as the ‘common shopgirl’ type almost from the beginning. It’s quite unpleasant to see how far above the peasant class Mrs. Wilson holds herself, simply because she has a few shillings more than most people.

Florence is quite a respectable young lady, with a loving father still living at home, and not at all the orphaned and utterly penniless Jane Eyre type of governess, but to the snobbish and horribly prejudiced Mrs. Wilson, she’s in quite ‘the wrong class’ altogether.

The haunting in POOR GIRL is very subtle, consisting of a few flash-forwards experienced by Florence of a man, who turns out to be the grown-up Hilary, and a woman, living in the house in the 1920s, wearing strange clothes and sporting strange hairstyles and behaving in an alien manner to the reserved, Edwardian-era Florence.

Florence very subtly changes, too, as she becomes less respectful and eager-to-please towards Mrs. Wilson, and begins to act more like her rival in love rather than an obsequious underling. Florence is straying into dangerous territory. I daresay she’s not the first young woman who thought she could usurp another woman’s place by virtue of her firm white body and lush, obliging lips.

Mrs. Wilson is on the ball, however, and very watchful of her husband who, as she is very well aware, has strayed with pretty young servants and employees before. It won’t be long at all, therefore, before Mrs. Wilson thinks to look in the summerhouse window…

These two ‘plays,’ as the blurb on the DVD box describes them, were made by and for Granada Television. They must have been compulsive viewing when they were first aired over the festive season of 1974. I love that some of the really brilliant television dramas and serials from that era are now available on DVD. I never thought I’d be saying this, dreadful technophobe that I am, but three cheers for the age of technology…!

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

NORTH AND SOUTH: THE EPIC MINI-SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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NORTH AND SOUTH: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION. (1985, 1986 AND 1994) BASED ON THE BOOKS BY JOHN JAKES. STARRING MAINLY (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) THE DELICIOUS PATRICK SWAYZE, BUT THERE MIGHT POSSIBLY BE SOME OTHER PEOPLE IN THERE TOO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is what I’m talking about. This is what I call a mini-series. A superb romantic and historical epic, it’s based on the three whopping great doorstops of books by John Jakes which must have set this guy up for life, they were so popular, probably mostly because of the mini-series.

Broadly, NORTH AND SOUTH, LOVE AND WAR and HEAVEN AND HELL tell the story of, respectively, the lead-up to America’s Civil War that set brother against brother and friend against friend; the Civil War itself; and then the grim, often depressing period of Reconstruction that followed the war and takes us a bit into cowboy-and-Indian times as well.

More specifically, though, the books and mini-series tell the story of two families, the Hazards and the Mains, who find themselves on opposing sides of the war when it kicks off in 1861. And, more particularly again, it’s the tale of two men from these families, George Hazard and Orry Main, who form lifelong friendships at Westpoint military college, but their friendship is tested in many ways over the years both because of the war and the fundamental differences between their families, the differences that started the war in the first place.

The Mains own a huge cotton plantation in the Deep South. They are filthy rich, live lovely gracious lifestyles characterised by fabulous elaborate dresses for the women and mint juleps and political chit-chat on the lawn for the men. They have lovely accents and call everyone ‘suh,’ as in, ‘Suh, I say, suh, I fear that your necktie offends me and I demand satisfaction, suh!’

The demanding of satisfaction might be preceded by a harmless but infinitely insulting glove-slap to the kisser. If you don’t come back with the appropriate response, you’ll certainly be branded a coward for life, and who wants that…?

The Mains are like the O’Haras and the Wilkeses from GONE WITH THE WIND. Despite their being much more enjoyable to watch than the duller Northerners or ‘damn Yankees,’ to use the correct historical term, they have one major flaw. They keep slaves, black slaves without whom they could not run their precious cotton plantations, from which comes all their money.

The Mains of South Carolina pride themselves on treating their slaves fairly and nicely, but when a man can be hanged or branded with fire on the face for trying to run away from his ‘owner,’ then you know there’s a problem with the whole damn system. People are human beings, not cattle. Even cattle themselves don’t deserve to be treated like that.

And the poor female slaves are having the shit raped out of them as well by the white overseers like the horrible Salem Jones. What do the plantation owners do about this? They neither know nor care about it, my friends.

The term ‘Gone With The Wind’ referred to the ‘Southern way of life,’ gracious, easy-going, privileged, cultured, genteel and all the rest of it, disappearing for ever in the Civil War, trampled underfoot by dusty, nasty Yankee boots. But a way of life that has so many basic human rights violations as its bedrock could never be permitted to exist indefinitely.

Orry’s mother, played by SPARTACUS actress Jean Simmons, spends a lot of time in the film mooning over photo albums that represent this lost way of life. She’s mourning its loss, weeping for it night and day, but, again, that way of life was based on slave-owning and the slaves doing all the work while the Southerners sat around, being genteel in their fabulous mansions. Again, how could this last…?

The Hazards up North (Pennsylvania) make their money, not from genteel cotton, but from vulgar industry, in the form of Hazard Iron. On the plus side, they don’t use slave labour to run their factories for them for nothing.

George (played by James Read) and Orry clash continually on the issue of the Mains using slave labour, and it causes such contention between them that they have to agree to disagree on the touchy subject and steer clear of it if they want to remain friends.

The dreamy Patrick Swayze plays the handsome and dashing Orry Main, the typical courteous, gallant, chivalrous Southern gentleman who would never permit a lady to step through a puddle while he had a coat to spread across it first. But he also owned slaves. Unfortunately, we can’t forget about that.

Orry is desperately in love with Madeline Fabray La Motte, played by English beauty Lesley-Anne Down. Madeline has been married off by her father to the abusive Justin La Motte, brilliantly played by David Carradine of the Carradine acting dynasty.

Justin is a brutal slave-owner, who revels in the violence he’s allowed to get away with just because he’s a rich white Southern male slave-owner. He hits Madeline, he whips his slaves and he wants Virginia to secede from the Union, the one bit of the Civil War I always find hard to understand. I think it’s a bit like Britain leaving the EU, but you might want to check up on that for yourselves, lol.

Orry and Madeline have a super-exciting, super-sexy secret affair for donkey’s years behind Justin’s back, during which time Orry never so much as looks as another woman and positively lives for their sexy-time trysts in the old abandoned church. Justin uses that same church for his dalliances with slave-girls. If the old deserted church gets any busier, some sort of booking or queuing system will have to be worked out.

George, meanwhile, is stuck with goody-goody Constance (Wendy Kilbourne: MIDNIGHT CALLER with Gary Cole), whose dreadful ‘Oirish’ accent on the show attracted a fair amount of ridicule at the time. PS, Guess who married each other after meeting on the set? You guessed it; James Read and Wendy Kilbourne, lol!

George’s brother, Stanley (Jonathan Frakes: STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION), has lovely eyes but he’s fiddling the books at Hazard Iron with the help of his ball-breaking wife, Isabel, who is played by a different actress in each of the three segments.

George’s brother Billy (he morphs from Cary Guffey, who played little Barry Guiler from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, 1977, into Parker Stevenson from THE HARDY BOYS in the second segment) marries Orry’s milksop sister Brett, which proves to be extremely problematic once the war kicks off, as their families are each on different sides.

George and Orry have one very interesting sister apiece. Orry’s sibling Ashton (Terri Garber) is a great character. She would sell her whole family down the river for a diamond necklace. She’s a total social-climbing, money-grabbing bitch who marries for social advancement but carries on a sizzling affair with Elkanah Bent (Philip Casnoff) behind her politician husband’s back.

Bent is a short man with a Napoleon complex (Say ‘I am a military genius, you can’t kill me!’ in a Southern accent!) who has been Orry and George’s bitter enemy since their Westpoint days. Check out Bent’s duel with Orry at Westpoint. Bent doesn’t have a prayer against a bona fide Southern gentleman, much to the amusement of those present. Orry’s lovely floppy hair in this section deserves a credit all of its own. Guess who just stepped out of a salon…?

Anyway, the evil Bent won’t rest until he’s created the ’empire’ for himself he knows he deserves. He uses Ashton to help him achieve this, and if he can take down Orry Main at some point along the way, so much the better.

Bent is pathologically jealous of Orry for his wealth and his sense of Southern entitlement, and his hatred for Orry twists and contorts his judgement till he can’t even see straight, never mind think things out rationally and logically, so you just know he’s gonna come a massive cropper in the end.

George’s sister Virgilia (Kirstie Alley: CHEERS) is an Abolitionist, someone who wants to free the slaves. Her marriage to a handsome slave called Grady (‘You wants to lay with me, don’t you?’) causes great embarrassment to her family, and her disastrous affair with the oily Congressman Sam Greene (David Ogden Stiers) will see poor Virgilia finally come to the end of her rope. Well-meaning but ill-fated, that’s our Virgilia. Terrific character, though.

NORTH AND SOUTH had a terrific theme tune and really long credits featuring little drawings of the characters, and it gave old Hollywood greats such as Jean Simmons, James Stewart, Robert Mitchum and Olivia De Havilland (if you thought she was old THEN, lol…!) another stab at the brass ring.

Erica Gimpel (Coco from FAME) and Forest Whitaker both play slaves. Linda Evans, Krystle Carrington from DYNASTY, and Johnny Cash both have cameos, as do Morgan Fairchild (Chandler’s bitchy mother from FRIENDS), Peter O’Toole, Robert Wagner, Elizabeth Taylor, Gene Kelly and Nancy Marchand (Tony’s Ma from THE SOPRANOS).

It’s truly a magnificent sweeping epic, romantic and historical, and you accidentally pick up a fair bit of info about the Civil War as well. Hal Holbrook (THE FOG, THE SOPRANOS) plays Abe Lincoln for the North, and Lloyd Bridges is Jefferson Davis for the South. All the famous Generals from both sides- Sherman, Grant, Lee, etc. – get a look-in too. Grey uniforms bad, blue uniforms good, in a nutshell, is another way of looking at it, lol.

The battle scenes used real Civil War re-enact-ers, who must have been (excuse vulgarity) jizzing themselves big-time at the thought of acting out all the well-known battles for a big prestigious mini-series like this. I bawled my eyes out when Lee surrendered to Sherman in such a staunch, dignified manner, because that scene is so genuinely moving, but then I remembered about the slaves and I hardened my heart…

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