MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘FALCONFELL.’ (1983) THE SCRIPT-BOOK REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong younger

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

FALCONFELL. (1983)

PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER 2019 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I’m delighted to have a new little stack of Michael Armstrong books to read and review, including this little gem from 1983, FALCONFELL. Michael Armstrong, of course, is the screenwriter responsible for such cinematic treats as HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1982), ESKIMO NELL (1974) and MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970). Don’t just take my word for it, however. Check out the list of films for which he’s penned the screenplays:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

FALCONFELL is a horror story, something that Michael Armstrong does exceedingly well. You might even call it his forte, as the French say. FALCONFELL was written in four weeks; happily it flowed well. Also, it was modelled after the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s Oscar-winning screen version of Daphne Du Maurier’s REBECCA.

REBECCA, of course, is the story of a couple who meet and marry extremely quickly, then the relationship between the two of them begins to unravel as the man’s deceased wife Rebecca casts a very long shadow over the couple and the imposing old mansion in which they live, Manderley.

In FALCONFELL, an attractive single secretary called Joanna Merrick meets and marries a handsome writer of historical books called Adam Holt after a very short courtship. You know how it is. She’s freewheeling towards thirty, drinking alone in the Last Chance Saloon, her biological clock is ticking loud enough to wake the dead and Adam’s offer of marriage is clearly just too good to be passed up. Rich writers don’t come along every day. Speaking for myself, I’ve never met even one, lol.

Joanna’s friend Sally’s words to her on her wedding day mirror those of rich old dragon Edythe Van Hopper to the shy, mousy little companion in REBECCA who’s just done the impossible and snagged Catch of the Century, Maxim de Winter, in holy matrimony.

Sally: ‘Well, I’ve got to hand it to you: still waters really do run deep. For three years? Nothing. Then in three weeks- you do the works!’

She might just as well have added: ‘Tennis lessons, my foot…!’

Anyway, no sooner does Joanna marry Adam than he legs it over to England from New York to bury himself in a country mansion called Falconfell, the Manderley of the script. Here he intends doing some historical research and incorporating it into a new book. A few days later, a worried Joanna follows him over to see exactly what he thinks he’s up to, doing his best impersonation of the Invisible Man just a day or two into their bleedin’ honeymoon.

The house is Manderley-esque, certainly, but it also reminds me fondly of Baldpate Manor, the ‘Old Dark House’ of Michael’s creation that featured in the highly successful horror film, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS. This was the only film to… you guys know this…!… feature iconic horror movie stars Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

Baldpate Manor is a terrifically spooky old house, and Falconfell is very much cast in its eerie mode. Incidentally, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS also features a writer, one who holes himself up in the countryside for one weekend to speed-write a novel in order to win a bet with his agent.

I love the way writers are always writing about writers, lol. They just can’t help it, because it’s what they know. Stephen King (who gets a mention in FALCONFELL, by the way) does it, and Michael Armstrong does it too.

It’s the kind of thing that other writers, such as myself, love to read, because we all want a sneak peek into someone else’s ‘process,’ if you get me. Just in case another writer has the secret to fame and fortune that doesn’t involve years and years of hard, unrelenting thankless grind…!

Falconfell, a big tourist draw in the summer months, is nonetheless a creepy old place. Here are some of the evocative descriptive passages that I most enjoyed:

Joanna explores the ornate and stately rooms…

Long, richly panelled corridors…

And staircases…

Bedrooms…

A music room…

Library…

Numerous salons…

A wealth of art treasures and antiques everywhere;

Mostly cordoned off from the public by ropes…

Occasional glass display cases…

And stands containing art curios or old documents and books…

And a frequency of signs:

‘PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’ and ‘NO SMOKING’…

Along with a splattering of staff cleaning this vast museum.

It paints a lovely picture, doesn’t it? But wait, there’s more;

Joanna is exploring the areas not open to the public.

Here, there is a different atmosphere;

These are what were the servants’ quarters:

Enclosed and claustrophobic…

Dark, brooding memories of a candlelit past…

Lingering ghosts in the shadowed recesses and stairways;

Hiding from the occasional shafts of sunlight as if in guilt.

A catacomb-like maze…

Of corridors, alcoves…

And narrow stairways…

Still protecting their gloomy secrets…

I just love the pictures these words paint so skilfully, like actual paint on canvas. Anyway, this gorgeous mausoleum seems to be having an ill effect on both Adam and Joanna, making them behave out of character in ways which are worrying to each other. Joanna struggles daily with an almost overwhelming desire to ride the arse off Reg, the attractive stable boy, and Adam finds himself increasingly drawn to a nightly bit of the old rape. I know, I know, but it’s not a kiddy’s book, is it?

It turns out that Falconfell, like most stately homes worth their salt, has a colourful and bloody history and maybe even a ghost or two. Well, there is a disused gibbet (gallows) just down the road a piece, and in the 1750s, when the house was in its heyday, the lady of the manor cheated on her husband, the dastardly Sir Hugo Glaston, with disastrous consequences.

When Joanna discovers that the house seems to be hell-bent on a bit of, shall we say, historical re-enactment, her biggest problem seems to be convincing Adam of how much trouble the pair of them are in.

The flapping wings of imminent danger are, well, flapping ever nearer. Now, they could belong to the real-live falcon Adam seems suddenly to have acquired out of nowhere, or they could be a metaphor for the shadow of a brutal past, reaching out its slimy tentacles to drag Adam and Joanna down into the mire with it… (The Grimpen Mire, perhaps? That rake Sir Hugo is practically twins with his namesake from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES…!)

What a smashing script. It would have made a terrific movie. This or any other of Michael’s luxurious, glossy script books would make fantastic Christmas presents for the film buff in your life. I’ll leave you with a couple of my favourite quotes:

‘Birds make me nervous.’

‘You’ve heard Megaera in the night… searching for something to sink her claws into… something to tear into with that razor-sharp beak of hers.’

FALCONFELL is available to buy now. You can purchase it at either of these websites:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER. (1961) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER. (1961) PUBLISHED IN 2018 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

Some of my regular readers might have heard me mention a certain Michael Armstrong, a screenwriter and film director whose luxurious script-books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing over the past eighteen months or so, according as they roll off the presses at Michael’s publishers, PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS. If you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS are not only publishing the screenplays of Michael’s that got made into films, but also the ones that didn’t, for one reason or another. Of the scripts that didn’t make it onto the screen, I can’t wait to read THE KINKY DEATH-WISH OF VERNON SLIM (1967) and THE CURSE OF TITTIKHAMON (1977). I also strongly urge Michael to keep looking for the missing script entitled THE PUSSY CAPER (1975). I want, no, need to read that script…!

Anyway, THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER was penned in 1961 when Michael was still a teenager. A teenager with a burning urge to write, however, and who’d already watched enough films on TV and at the cinema to have amassed an extraordinary degree of knowledge around how they work, and also a healthy amount of cynicism regarding the way that Hollywood tries so hard to sell us various images and concepts.

Even the dedication is cynical, lol. The book is dedicated to ‘ALL THOSE OF US WHO STILL BELIEVE IN GREEN-COATED SANTA CLAUS BEFORE HE WAS MARKETED AS RED-COATED SANTA CLAUS AND SO NO LONGER EXISTED IN OUR IMAGINATIONS.’

Now, I’m not quite old enough to be able to recall the green-coated Santa to mind but I do remember someone telling me once that the image of the red-coated Santa Claus was first sold to us as an idea by the gigantic COCA-COLA corporation.

This means that our image of Santa didn’t come from Charles Dickens or evolve organically from a traditional Victorian fairytale but came directly from a massive, world-guzzling franchise.

From what I know of the world today, that sounds about right. Depressing, but right. Who came up with the idea of putting a Christmas tree in your home during the festive season? Probably it was SNICKERS or CHANEL NO.5 FOR MEN. I wouldn’t be surprised.

The screenplay tells the story of Peter Brent, ‘a sensitive young man in his early twenties’ who teaches Art. His students are ‘terribly influenced by Chagall’ and also, in a word, terrible. He’s depressed in his job and wants nothing so much as to direct a film using a script he’s written himself. He’s writing the script at the moment and he has high hopes for it.

He doesn’t get much support from his family. Here’s what his Dad Reg Brent thinks about his son’s proposed career in movies:

‘Anyway, what do you know about film directing? You’ve got to be old and have worked your way up before they’ll let you do that sort of thing. They don’t have young film directors. They’re all of ’em at least my age and upwards. I mean, look at Alfred Hitchcock. He’s no spring chicken. You’re wasting your time having all these wild ideas.’

Here’s what Peter’s Nan and his Mum Millie think about Peter’s big dreams of stardom:

Nan: ‘I say, Millie, I got two loaves from the bread man this morning. I got two large brown because Reg, here, won’t eat white. He won’t eat white, you know, so I had to get two large brown.’

Millie: ‘Oh Mother, you know I told you to get a large white.’

Nan: ‘Well, Millie- see here, Millie-‘

They both shout over each other. Peter rises and leaves.

Heh-heh-heh. So funny. Anyway, Peter moves out of his parents’ house and gets himself a swanky new girlfriend, a wanna-be actress called June Marlowe, and an ant-eater for a pet whom he calls Jack The Ripper because he- Jack, that is- loves tearing things like floorboards to shreds.

Unfortunately, Peter finds himself in the unenviable position of having to re-write his script from scratch when his Mum chucks it out while tidying his room, along with some comic books she deems him too old for at his age. It’s every nerd’s nightmare, is that. And I actually shuddered when she says in an offhand fashion about his script:

‘Well, if it’s something you need, I daresay you can always type it out again. It was only writing.’

IT WAS ONLY WRITING…? Jesus Christ, Ma, get a grip.

Speaking of Dickens, which we were earlier, I love Peter’s new landlady, Mrs. Gloom, Elderly Lady Of This Parish. Straight out of Dickens she is, like Mr. Bumble the Beadle, the holder of ‘porochial’ office responsible for naming Oliver Twist and blighting that lad’s youth with fear and hunger. I do love a bit of Dickens. His insight into the social problems of his day was, quite frankly, staggering in its accuracy.

Anyway, Peter tries to tout his screenplay idea round various film production studios like COLUMPIA and the RUNK ORGANISATION. Initially, he’s not terribly successful. I think he needs to work on his pitch:

‘I’ve written a screenplay- or rather- I HAD written one until my mother thought it was rubbish and threw it away- but I should be able to write it again because, luckily, I can remember most of it. So, if I could just see someone who-‘

Oh dear. I’ve been trying to tempt agents and publishers myself lately with my recently-penned, Zeitgeist-tapping-into and social-awareness-raising chick-lit novel and, believe me, you have got to have your pitch- and your shit-together if you’re to even have a hope of attracting someone’s attention.

Peter and June while away some time at the cinema. Michael says himself in the chapter entitled A HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY that ‘the screenplay abounds with parodies of cinematic clichés of the day and the world of screen advertising.’ 

He’s not wrong there, by Jove. There’s a wickedly merciless parody of the Walt Disney nature documentaries of the day between pages 80 and 90 that you absolutely have to read. It’s too long to include here but trust me, it’s bloody hilarious.

After a ton of Union-related problems and other mishaps, Peter eventually wangles a meeting with film producer Milton Kronowsky (lol, can you tell who he’s meant to be ’cause I totally can!) under false pretences.

Unfortunately, the meeting is scheduled for the exact same time that Peter is meant to be in court with his ant-eater Jack The Ripper answering a charge of causing a public disturbance. Can Peter pull a ‘Robin Williams in MRS. DOUBTFIRE’ and be in two places at once or will he need a little assistance?

Will Milton Kronowsky agree to make Peter’s movie? Will Mrs. Gloom, Elderly Lady Of This Parish, ever get the rent which is that good lady’s due and there’s no point saying it ain’t…? Will Jack The Ripper get to live out his days comfortably in an ant-filled paradise?

Will the hugely hilarious and highly hyperboled hullaballoo at Claridges’ be the ruination of Peter and June and Peter’s dreams of movie stardom? Or will it be the gateway to a whole new lease of life? You’ll have to read this wonderful book to find out, folks, and now stay tuned for these messages:

‘So, for a supremely satisfying pair of underpants: wear Snugjoy…’

A LARGE PAIR OF SUPER-IMPOSED UNDERPANTS FILLS THE SCREEN…

‘Snugjoy satisfies suddenly, satisfies supremely.’

Um, yes. Quaite…

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: OUIJA-BOARD. (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong younger

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: OUIJA-BOARD. (1989) PUBLISHED IN 2018 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I absolutely loved this latest book of Michael Armstrong’s, OUIJA-BOARD. Michael, as the piece above taken from his website informs us, is actually making history by being the first scriptwriter to publish almost everything he’s ever written in book form. So the history he’s making is both cinematic and literary, and I’m thrilled to bits to be a part of it.

I usually begin these reviews with a brief recap of the books of Michael’s that I’ve read so far, all of which are available to buy direct from Michael’s own website and also from Michael’s publishers, the lovely people at Paper Dragon Productions.

The books all have gorgeous glossy covers and they’re greatly improving the look of my personal library, I must say. Thus far I’ve read, or should I say devoured in one sitting, the following works:

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1982), filmed in 1983, is my favourite of all of Michael’s marvellous scripts, and there’s a lot to choose from. It’s a wonderful ‘haunted house’ story, which I would have adored anyway on its own merits.

The fact, however, that it features horror icons Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine in the first and only film to ever star all four of them together, is the icing on an already terrific cake.

THE BLACK PANTHER (1976) was the name given to Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer whose abduction of wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975 was the subject of Michael’s controversial 1976 screenplay. The 1977 film was even banned for a bit but a change of heart by the British Film Institute saw it taking its rightful place amongst other important British films of the period.

Michael’s first movie was a short film called ‘THE IMAGE.’ (1964) It marked the first screen appearance of a certain David Bowie, who later went on to make flicks like THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, LABYRINTH and THE HUNGER.

Michael Armstrong had the pleasure, and it must have been a huge one, of directing Mr. Bowie first, though, and now the book of that script is also available to buy as part of Michael’s gorgeous collection.

GHOST TOWN (1969) is a terrific tongue-in-cheek Western comedy while A STAR IS DEAD (1977), another riotously irreverent comedy, was actually commissioned by Malcolm McLaren and intended to star The Sex Pistols in their screen acting debut. What a film that would have made!

BEELZEBUB (1984) is the story of a haunted computer that also would have made a great film and DEATH MASQUE (1988) is simultaneously an intellectual mystery thriller, a comedy and a social allegory, if you please. It contains the immortal words of operatic legend Anna Morenzi:

‘Always give the audience what it wants. Lots of T. & A. Never fails, dear: ‘Tits & Art.’ If they don’t like the show, at least give ’em something to drool over. Helps keep the snoring down.’

ESKIMO NELL (1975), starring Roy Kinnear and a ridiculously young and handsome Michael Armstrong in the flesh, is one of Britain’s most famous sex comedies. The dialogue is just so funny. Here are a few choice snippets:

‘I can’t do it, Benny, I just can’t do it! I’m just not capable of writing the first all-British pornographic Kung Fu musical western: least of all when three different girls and a drag queen all think they’re going to be playing the same part!’

‘Right then, the opening shot of the film is a big close-up of this bleedin’ great pair of tits…

but do it with integrity…’

‘Acting? Acting? You didn’t tell me I had to act! Listen, I don’t mind getting screwed but I’m not doing any of that acting stuff! What sort of a girl do you take me for?’

‘It’s all terribly wholesome family entertainment, like Hamlet… but nicer.’

‘Yes, but what’s my motivation for having an erection…?’

‘Oooooh, what lovely buns…!’

OUIJA-BOARD (1989) is a horror film-script that sadly never got made into a film, for reasons which Michael goes into, frankly and honestly, in the chapter entitled ‘THE HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY.’

It should serve as a cautionary tale to any budding young scriptwriters out there who still wear their rose-tinted glasses and think that everyone in the movie industry is as scrupulous as themselves…!

Michael admits himself that he wrote this script to a formula, the one that works so well for the horror movies we know and love and have been watching for years. It’s a deceptively simple formula that can be staggeringly effective.

You put a group of attractive young people in their twenties into a situation from which they absolutely can’t extricate themselves for a bit. In a ‘Cabin In The Woods,’ for example, on a weekend break from the city, and maybe their car’s broken down so they can’t go anywhere for the moment, or at least until the Park Ranger drives by on Monday morning to check on ’em. But by Monday morning, every last one of them could be stone-dead…

Throw in some booze and drugs, of course, to loosen everyone up a bit and lower their inhibitions, and make sure that several characters are wildly attracted to each other so that the chances of them having sex together are greatly improved. This beefs up the action no end, as any director worth his salt will tell you.

While all their guards and defences are down, a crazed serial killer will have no problem at all picking the horny young ‘uns off one by one, until no-one remains but the least slutty of the girls and maybe one guy, the guy she likes but thought was into the skank with the fake tits. And you can be sure that he was into her, at least at first. Until he found out that the skank with the fake tits is always the first to die…

In OUIJA-BOARD, we have a pair of young heart-throb teenage boy musicians, Brad Jackson and Li Lin, in a beach location filming a pop music video together. Also present are their three attractive backing singers, Sophie, Luanne and Marie. 

Then there’s Hugh, who’s directing the video, even though he’d rather be off directing an art-house movie somewhere and is only making this crappy video to pay the bills. I’m sure we can all relate. There’s also Larry, Brad’s manager, and Paul and Joe, two young cameramen. Debbie is Brad’s sort-of girlfriend.

Early on in the script, the young people- except for Debbie, who’s rightly nervous- all mess around with a ouija-board. Even though Sophie is initially the one who’s all for it, she gets scared quickly when the board makes it clear that it really, really wants to play games with the young folks. It also loves the words blood, death and danger. A good sign? You tell me…!

Sophie: ‘You see? It’s warning us. You start asking it things like that, you might attract the wrong kind of spirit.’

And:

Sophie: ‘I think we’re in touch with something real bad. I think we should stop.’

And:

Sophie: ‘They’re always looking for ways in, you know? To our world. That’s how people become possessed.’

And:

Sophie: ‘It’s all down to the vibrations our emotions give off. They all have different wavelengths and some of them can lay us open to- well, it’s like the radio- tuning into the wrong station.’

She’s bang on the money there. But remind us again, Sophie, why you wanted to fool around with the ouija-board in the first place? We all know the deal with ouija-boards by now. You might think you’re only trying to get in touch with your dear deceased old granny or Tweety the canary, who sadly departed this life when he mistook a pane of glass for the open air, but when you open that door to the Afterlife there’s no telling what kind of horrors you’re allowing in to your world.

A ghost is one thing, the ghost of someone who once lived, but if you attract the attention of a demon, something that’s never walked the Earth in human form, you are basically fucked. I learned this from demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren in James Wan’s THE CONJURING movies, lol. Who says you can’t learn anything from watching movies…?

Anyway, when something gory happens to Luanne as a direct result of the ouija-board session, Hugh and Larry decide that everyone on the team must move up to their mountain location and hang loose there while they, Hugh and Larry, take Luanne to the hospital. Larry comes out with what I can only refer to as Famous Last Words:

Larry: ‘There’s not much that can happen to them stuck on top of a mountain miles from nowhere.’

The demon unleashed by the young peoples’ unwise dabblings with the ouija-board of course follows Brad, Li Lin, Sophie, Marie, Debbie, Paul and Joe up the mountain, to the lodge where they’re supposed to be filming the mountainy parts of their pop video.

Oh Larry, you poor sweet fool! ‘There’s not much that can happen to them stuck on top of a mountain miles from nowhere.’ Are you FKM…? Killing this group of unsupervised high ‘n’ horny young ‘uns is going to be a piece of cake for the demon. The words shooting, fish and barrel come immediately to mind.

Brad, a cocaine addict, intends to spend this enforced sabbatical getting high and partying. Fair enough. With a blonde-haired-captain-of-the-football-team name like Brad, I guess he’s kind of morally obliged to.

Debbie wants to talk to Brad about Their Failing Relationship, but Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That. Marie wants to have sex with Li Lin, but there’s something pretty important she needs to learn about him first.

The sneaky Demon, meanwhile, has decided to confuse the issue by possessing first one and then another of the horny young ‘uns in turn, rather in the style of John Carpenter’s THE THING.

The killing scenes are gloriously gory (Now (s)he is cleansed from the squalor of the kill) as things go from seriously bad to much, much worse for the group of pop teens and their entourage abandoned, for the moment, to their own devices on the mountain-side.

When shit really starts going down, Paul the camera-man has kind of a Famous Last Words moment himself when he says:

‘Look… We’ll be okay. Nothing’s gonna happen to us just as long as we all stick together and don’t go wandering off on our own.’

Well, if everyone in horror movies paid attention to this little maxim, we’d have nothing good to watch. Thankfully, the dopes never do. Sophie, at whose door can be laid the blame for everything that’s gone wrong as the whole ouija-board thing was her idea, hits the nail on the head when she says:

‘It’s like it’s playing this horrible game with us. We’re its entertainment.’

Why don’t we ask the Demon itself what it wants…?

The Demon: ‘I want to play! Blood! Killing! I want to play!’

Can somebody please break out the travel Scrabble…?

OUIJA-BOARD and Michael’s other new book, THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER, are hot off the presses right now, direct from Michael’s own website and that of his publisher’s:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: DEATH MASQUE. (1988)

michael armstrong

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS. DEATH MASQUE. (1988)

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I’m super-excited about this new book of Michael’s. As some of my readers will know, for the past while I’ve had the privilege of reading and reviewing some of Michael Armstrong’s gorgeous script books which are now being made available to the reading public, with the weight of half a century of screenwriting knowledge and know-how and juicy gossip firmly behind them.

Incidentally, anyone looking for a really decent Christmas present for a loved one who’s obsessed with the cinema and related matters, these books would be ideal. Just saying, lol. Not trying to give you the old hard sell or anything.

So far I’ve read the script books for HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, THE IMAGE, THE BLACK PANTHER, GHOST TOWN, A STAR IS DEAD, BEELZEBUB, ESKIMO NELL and now DEATH MASQUE, all of which are for sale on Michael’s website (see above).

Each book comes with a glossy cover, the relevant screenplay in its entirety, a history of that particular screenplay written by Michael himself and also a chapter on the screenwriting style. For anyone interested in screenwriting who wants to learn to do it right, these books would actually make a terrific how-to guide. I’ll tell you one salient fact about each of the ones I’ve read so far.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS was made into the enjoyably entertaining horror movie of the same name, starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine. It has the distinction of being the only film to star all four of these horror legends together and it has a really cracking storyline as well.

An American writer holes up in a supposedly deserted old English country mansion to win a bet against his agent, the bet being that he can’t speed-write a novel in a certain amount of time. The key phrase here is ‘supposedly deserted…’

Michael’s first movie was a short film called ‘THE IMAGE’ and, as far as I know, it marked the first screen appearance of a certain David Bowie, who later went on to make flicks like THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, LABYRINTH and THE HUNGER. The book cover features an old ghostly picture of the now deceased star and the book is certainly a fitting and lovely memento by which to remember him.

THE BLACK PANTHER was the name given to Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer whose abduction of wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975 is the subject of Michael’s controversial screenplay of the same name. The 1977 film was even banned for a bit but a change of heart by the British Film Institute saw it taking its rightful place amongst other important British films of the period.

GHOST TOWN is a horror-slash-spoof Western which sees a group of handsome, reckless young outlaws, consisting of two groups of brothers, robbing a bank and then hiding out in a town that they don’t realise has its very own gathering of ghosts…

The moon is full.

The derelict buildings stand

Like towering black tombstones coldly bathed in the moonlight.

The only sounds to break the silence come from the Saloon,

From which lights are now flickering.

A STAR IS DEAD, though it was never made into a film, tells the fictional story of how the management team of notorious punk band The Sex Pistols tried to clean up their grubby image by getting them to star in a family film, a musical version of Alexandre Dumas’ book THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Enough said? ‘Nuff said…!

BEELZEBUB is a fantastic horror story about a haunted or possessed computer which could so easily have been made into a great ‘Eighties horror film, if only circumstances had been different. ESKIMO NELL is a rambunctious sex romp-slash-sexploitation comedy with a terrific cast.

It stars a young and dashingly handsome Michael Armstrong himself, Christopher Timothy before ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL, Roy Kinnear who was Verruca Salt’s Dad in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, Rosalind Knight from ABOUT A BOY (‘Are you a professional Santa?’) and porn star Mary Millington before she was widely-known.

Some of the lines in ESKIMO NELL are pure comedy gold. Here’s a sample:

‘I can’t do it, Benny, I just can’t do it! I’m just not capable of writing the first all-British pornographic Kung Fu musical western: least of all when three different girls and a drag queen all think they’re going to be playing the same part!’

‘Right then, the opening shot of the film is a big close-up of this bleedin’ great pair of tits…

but do it with integrity…’

‘Acting? Acting? You didn’t tell me I had to act! Listen, I don’t mind getting screwed but I’m not doing any of that acting stuff! What sort of a girl do you take me for?’

‘It’s all terribly wholesome family entertainment, like Hamlet… but nicer.’

‘Yes, but what’s my motivation for having an erection…?’

‘Oooooh, what lovely buns…!’

The superb and undeniably clever DEATH MASQUE is the latest script-book to roll off the presses at Michael’s publishers, PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS. It’s a screenplay about opera, one of the arts about which I’m afraid I know only the old joke:

Kid: Mammy, why is that man threatening that fat woman with a stick?

Mammy: Don’t be ridiculous, dear. Of course he’s not threatening her.

Kid: Then why is she crying…?

I hope, therefore, that Michael will forgive me for glossing over the heavily operatic bits and concentrating as always on the plot and the writing, both of which are again top-notch and a pleasure to read.

The book, by the way, in case I’ve alarmed you with all the opera stuff, can be read just as easily by non-opera buffs such as myself as by experts or aficionados of the art, and there’s a full glossary of references at the back of the book if you want to know the meaning of some of the fancy words.

There’s a lot of fascinating information in there too about Masques, not the masks with which you hide your face but the other kind of Masque, which is defined in the book as:

‘a spectacular court entertainment involving music, dancing, singing, and acting, within an elaborate stage design, to present a deferential allegory flattering to the patron. They would end with a celebratory dance, led by the monarch and his favourite courtiers.’

There’s a ‘Masque’ in the book, in fact a Masque is pretty much the central feature of the book, so now at least we know what it is. Forewarned is forearmed, isn’t that what they say?

The twisty-turny plot sees two young holiday-makers, Carrie and Tim, finding themselves staying in the fabulous Italian villa of operatic legend Anna Morenzi after they have all their money and passports and airline tickets and stuff pinched by a couple of hitch-hikers. Here’s where they meet their slightly-less-than-gracious hostess:

‘But before anything can be said,

Their attention is directed upwards-

Where, at the top of the grand staircase:

ANNA MORENZI stands;

Resplendent in her shimmering golden dress and diamonds.

Although she may be in her-mid sixties;

Like the youthful beauty of her portrait,

She has remained undiminished by time.’

There’s kind of a Norma-Desmond-from-SUNSET BOULEVARD vibe about the splendiferous but undoubtedly ageing Anna Morenzi. Her household is no less curious than Ms. Desmond’s, consisting as it does of the following:

Miles, her devoted (but definitely not her first!) husband; Edgar, her stunning but much younger lover; George, the sort-of-butler and Miles’s step-brother, who has the misfortune to be wildly in love with Miles; Drake Cauley, a lawyer, and his alcoholic lush of a wifey, Helen.

Now there’s the Americans, Carrie and Tim (Tim’s a would-be actor), also and even the two hitch-hikers, once believed to be thieves, Sean and Dorothy, are all part of the big happy family now as well.

Anna should have more than enough bodies now to participate- whether they want to or not- in her enormous annual deathly ‘Masque’ in honour of her birthday. Although you’d think at her age, wouldn’t you, that she’d be better off not marking the passing of time quite so publicly…! 

The screenplay begins most promisingly with a young couple running away, through a forest at night, from something so horrible that they’d prefer to entomb themselves in a crypt with the long-departed rather than stand and face it.

The pace never lets up once after that. As you might have guessed, there are some extremely strange goings-on at Anna Morenzi’s palatial villa, goings-on that can’t all be explained away by Miles’s and Edgar’s sick little game-playing in which they freely admit to indulging:

Edgar: It’s this crazy game we play. I screw his wife so he gets even by murdering me. That way I keep them both happy. At first, it felt kinda strange but now I’ve gotten used to it; it’s kinda fun and I enjoy it.

Tim: You enjoy pretending to be killed? That is seriously weird, pal.

Edgar: No more than all those business guys who go off for weekends where they dress up to play war games and shoot each other with little blobs of paint. What we do’s much more creative… and sexy. Sometimes I even get a hard-on.

Tim: You’re sick, fella.

Edgar: You think so? You should try it sometime.

DEATH MASQUE is intended to be read and enjoyed on three levels: as a mystery thriller (who exactly is Ulrica-ca, the Woman In Black, and what does she want?), as a comedy and, finally, as a social allegory. Me, my low-brow mind goes straight for the smut as always. I’ll leave you with my two favourite quotes from the screenplay, the first of which is spoken by the great and glorious Anna Morenzi herself: 

‘Always give the audience what it wants. Lots of T. & A. Never fails, dear: ‘Tits & Art.’ If they don’t like the show, at least give ’em something to drool over. Helps keep the snoring down.’

I love it. This last one then is uttered by Tim, who has big dreams of being a Hollywood actor but you just know that a career as a bus-boy is all that beckons:

‘My God! He’s screwing his mother! The guy’s actually screwing his own goddamn mother… in the grass!’

A man who would screw his own mother in the grass- in the grass, mark you- is not fit to consort with decent civilised people. ‘Nuff said? I think so.

Michael Armstrong’s script-books are available from retailers, Amazon and direct online at:

www.paperdragonproductions.com/shop

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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