THE TOWERING INFERNO. (1974) A FANTASTIC DISASTER MOVIE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE TOWERING INFERNO. (1974) DIRECTED BY JOHN GUILLERMIN. ADAPTED BY STIRLING SILLIPHANT FROM THE NOVELS ‘THE TOWER’ BY RICHARD MARTIN STERN AND ‘THE GLASS INFERNO’ BY THOMAS N. SCORTIA AND FRANK M. ROBINSON.

STARRING AN ENSEMBLE CAST LED BY PAUL NEWMAN AND STEVE MCQUEEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This blockbuster disaster film contains more Hollywood stars than you can shake a stick at, and is perfect Christmas viewing, because when else do you get to watch a film with a running time of one hundred and sixty-five minutes? Exactly, lol.

In a nutshell, it’s the story of a magnificent new San Francisco skyscraper, known as the Glass Tower and comprising one hundred and thirty-eight storeys, making it the tallest building in the world until something even taller comes along.

The film takes place on the night of the Tower’s inaugural party, which will see bigwigs and celebs from all over the place rocking up to be seen swanning up the red carpet and quaffing case after case of champagne in honour of the world’s tallest new building, which offers both office and apartment space, if you please.

On the evening of the party, however, an electrical fire caused by faulty wiring (caused in turn by that peculiar phenomenon known as cutting corners) starts on the 81st floor of the Tower. By the time the fire has been detected, the inaugural party is in full swing up in the Promenade Room on… guess where?… the 135th floor. The race is on to get the party guests out of the building before they’re sizzled to a delicious bacon-y crisp and the Tower becomes the world’s tallest lighted matchstick…

An uber-manly Steve McQueen plays Michael O’Hallorhan, the San Francisco Fire Chief, who has a lot of scathing things to say about big-shot industrialists who build skyscraping monstrosities such as the Glass Tower, without making sure that they are safe and as fire-proof as possible.

Tasty hunk of beefcake and alpha male Paul Newman stars here as Doug Roberts, the ethical architect who designed the building in good faith and didn’t expect the man who built and owns the building, William Holden as the unscrupulous James Duncan, to cut corners in things like electrical wiring and peoples’ safety.

Blond blue-eyed Doug is trying to talk Faye Dunaway’s gorgeous Susan Franklin into running off with him to the back of beyond, but she’s just been offered an editorial position with the magazine she’s been writing for for years, and so she’s dragging her designer heels. Maybe a night spent in fear for their lives will help the sexy pair to put things into perspective …

Richard Chamberlain plays the weak and cowardly Roger Simmons. He’s James Duncan’s son-in-law and the electrical engineer who cut all the corners at a sly nod from his Pops-in-law.

Duncan, of course, was trying to do what builders everywhere have been doing since the dawn of the construction industry: that is, shave a few bucks off the end cost of building the thing. Now, however, the fire is going to cost the Duncan family a hell of a lot more than just a few bucks…

Roger’s married to Duncan’s beautiful daughter Patty, but their marriage is going to hell in a handbasket, because that’s what happens when you’re a woman whose bloke only married you for Daddy’s money and not because he loves you.

While Steve McQueen and Paul Newman are busting their collective humps to save people from the burning building, the selfish and craven Roger Simmons seeks only to save his own skin. He doesn’t even care what happens to his wife, which is how we know the marriage is kaput. Will he make it? Will karma allowed the self-serving S.O.B. to walk free from his sins? Will she hell…

Fred Astaire and Jennifer Jones co-star as a loved-up elderly couple destined for heartbreak, Robert Vaughn plays a U.S. Senator and O.J. Simpson (yes, that one!) portrays Harry Jernigan, the building’s Chief Security Officer who saves a cat from Frying Tonight, and that makes him all right in my book.

My favourite story, but perhaps the saddest story of all, sees a suave and handsome Robert Wagner as PR man Dan Bigelow make love to his secretary near the top of the building, far above the fire floor. Everything is going beautifully, not to mention sexily, until the secretary utters the immortal words, Darling, do you smell smoke…?

Such a great star-studded movie. Watch it with THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE for the ultimate disaster movie double bill, and then thank your lucky stars that, thanks to good old COVID, you won’t be booking any cruises or attending any parties in a San Francisco skyscraper any time soon…

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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. (1964) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

lastMANonEARTH

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. (1964) BASED ON THE 1954 NOVEL ‘I AM LEGEND’ BY RICHARD MATHESON. DIRECTED BY UBALDO RAGONA AND SIDNEY SALKOW. STARRING VINCENT PRICE, FRANCA BETTOIA, EMMA DANIELI AND GIACOMO ROSSI-STUART. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Come out, Morgan…!’

(It’s September 2019 and I’ve just finished reading Richard Matheson’s superb short horror novel ‘I AM LEGEND,’ the kind of book I still haven’t given up hope on writing myself one day. Not necessarily about a vampiric apocalypse, but on any horror topic that grabs me.

Books like PSYCHO, ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE EXORCIST, JAWS, A KISS BEFORE DYING, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, CARRIE, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS and THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS provide huge, huge inspiration. A book like that that lives on after you die, that people never get tired of reading or watching in film format, is probably most horror writer’s ultimate goal.

Anyway, the book I AM LEGEND was adapted so faithfully by the film THE LAST MAN ON EARTH that I felt there would be no need to bother you good people with two reviews, one for the book and one for the film. Instead, I’m choosing to share again the review I wrote for THE LAST MAN ON EARTH back in 2016, the year I discovered it for the first time.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I think this might actually be the best film that horror icon Vincent Price ever made, even though his numerous horror movies for Roger Corman in their Edgar Allan Poe cycle were all beyond fantastic.

It’s just such a grimly bleak and realistic performance he gives in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH that you get to see his ability to really act, as well as his undoubted talent for hamming it up in a doublet and tights, lol. So here we go, anyway, and I hope you enjoy it. ‘Come out, Neville…!’)

This is a brilliant sci-fi horror film from the era that brought us loads of equally great sci-fi horror films. Yep, it sure was a good era for the old sci-fi horror…! I came across it on a box-set I bought back in 2013 for only a tenner called 100 GREATEST HORROR CLASSICS. One hundred old horror movies for only ten quid? Hell, yeah…!

Other films on the set include THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, both starring Lon Chaney Sr., George A. Romero’s zombie classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS and Alfred Hitchcock’s first ever movie, THE LODGER, starring Ivor Novello. Yes, I think it’s that Ivor Novello; who else could it be…?

Anyway, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH manages to be both brilliant and extremely grim at the same time. Horror icon Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, a man who has survived a terrible wind-borne plague that’s killed off nearly everyone on earth, except for those whom it turned into bloodthirsty vampiric mutations. These monstrosities become active at night. During the day, they sleep…

Poor old Robert spends the daylight hours tracking down the mutants and staking them through the heart before chucking ’em in a giant pit of fire. Well, I guess he just wants to be sure they’re really dead. Fair enough, lol.

At night, he holes himself up in his gaff while the pathetically weak vampires, including his former work colleague Ben Cortman, bang on his door and beg him feebly to come out so that they can kill him and drink his blood. Naturally, Robert declines this delightful offer. Maybe he likes his blood where it is. I’d be the same myself…!

In any case, his existence as literally the last man on earth is so bleak that the viewer wonders why he doesn’t just end his own life and be done with it. Maybe he’s afraid that he’ll become one of the Walking Un-Dead like the monstrous mutations he grapples with every day and night. Also, we mustn’t forget that the instinct for survival is very strong. There’s always the chance/hope that things might, one day, return to normal. That’s what keeps us going when times are tough.

One miraculous day, however, while out doing his ’rounds,’ Dr. Morgan spies a sight that he never expected to see again; a human female! Is she real? Is she infected with the plague that turned the mutants into the bloodsucking demons they’ve become? And, most importantly, how will this seemingly chance encounter impact upon the already stressed-out Dr. Morgan…?

I think that this film works so well because it taps into those fears we all secretly have. You know, the ones about being one of the sole survivors of some kind of apocalyptic disaster that leaves us on our own battling against zombies and mutants? I’ve always had that fear at the back of my own mind, anyway.

There’s this horrible scenario I think about sometimes where I’m alone in my house in just such a post-apocalyptic situation as we’ve discussed and a mis-shapen shadow suddenly falls across my window. Then I hear a scrabbling at the door. I stay perfectly still but the noise continues. Then there’s the unmistakable sound of someone breaking in… It’s all very ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS (Lucio Fulci), isn’t it?

Another thing that scares people is the thought of a plague or pandemic that wipes out half the world’s population. We’ve had worrisome thoughts like that about different epidemics over the decades: AIDS, swine flu, avian flu and the Ebola virus, to name a few. I’ve literally just read online, actually, about something called the ‘Zika virus.’

It’s not outside the bounds of possibility that something like a plague/pandemic could happen. That’s why films like OUTBREAK, QUARANTINE and RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR are so popular. It’s because, one day, it might just happen here…

I think THE LAST MAN ON EARTH must have been the inspiration for that TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode of THE SIMPSONS in which Homer Simpson becomes ‘the last man on earth’ after a nuclear bomb wipes out most of the rest of the world. He isn’t remotely bothered by being surrounded by rotting corpses. He actually enjoys having the world to himself for a bit, haha. Until he finds himself being chased by freakish skin-eating mutants, that is…!

Vincent Price puts his heart and soul into his performance as the poor beleaguered Dr. Robert. Did I mention that I met his daughter Victoria Price in November 2015, by the way? I do try to mention that quite regularly, lol. She was having a meet-and-greet at the Irish Film Institute here in Dublin to promote the cookery book her dear old dad co-wrote with her mum and she was absolutely lovely and down-to-earth.

I chose to buy her biography of her dad, though, rather than the cookery book. It was a real whopper of a coffee-table book and it cost an even more whopping sixty quid…! Quite honestly, I’m not much of a Nigella Lawson, anyway. I prefer to spend as little time in the kitchen as I can get away with.

The flashback scenes in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH are excellent and the scenes with the puppy are just heartbreaking. The fact that the film is in black-and-white highlights the starkness of Dr. Robert’s awful situation. If you want to see how he copes with things, watch the film. It’s superb. And don’t answer the door after dark under any circumstances. It might be the mutants…

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

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

orry george

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

YIELD TO THE NIGHT. (1956) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

diana yield glamour

YIELD TO THE NIGHT. (1956) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY JOAN HENRY. DIRECTED BY J. LEE THOMPSON. STARRING DIANA DORS. MICHAEL CRAIG, HAMMER ACTOR MICHAEL RIPPER AND YVONNE MITCHELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a superb film, if you can bear the unrelenting bleakness. I love bleakness in movies, so I happily got stuck in and wallowed in it, lol. And I adore La Dors, the woman they dubbed ‘the English Marilyn Monroe,’ but whom I personally love much more than I ever loved Marilyn. There’s just something so real, so human, about Diana Dors, something that makes her feel like so much more than just a fabulous pin-up girl.

In this film, she gives a career-best performance as Mary Hilton, a shop-girl under sentence of death for murdering her lover’s lover. The story is similar to the real-life Ruth Ellis’s, although it’s not meant to be based on it. In the sweltering heat of July 1955, the year before YIELD TO THE NIGHT premiered, Ruth Ellis became the last ever woman in England to be hanged.

Opinion was divided on whether or not Ruth should have been put to death. There was no doubt that she murdered her lover, David Blakely, as she walked right up to him outside an English pub on Easter Sunday evening and shot him, pretty much point-blank, several times.

There were mitigating circumstances, however, that were not really taken into account when sentence of death was passed: David’s infidelity and extreme physical violence towards Ruth, the miscarriages and abortions she’d had while she was with him, including one miscarriage she’d had a few days before the shooting.

The balance of Ruth’s mind was shot to hell at the time of the murder, yet the judge decided to hang her anyway, as the concept of ‘diminished responsibility’ had not yet become part of British law. It was a sickening end to a tragic story, and a disgusting blot on the copybook of so-called ‘British justice.’

It also looks highly likely that another man in Ruth’s life had given her the newly-oiled and fully loaded gun and urged her, in her altered state of mind, to kill David, but this aspect of the case was not thoroughly enough investigated in time for the verdict.

The whole trial, therefore- and its outcome- was something of a farce. Ruth was raced to the gallows in Holloway Women’s Prison with unseemly haste, and there hanged by Albert Pierrepoint, a ghoulish figure indeed in British criminal history. (He has the necks of murderers John Christie and Neville Heath to his credit in addition to Ruth’s.) What kind of man volunteers to hang people, women as well as men? I don’t care if his father was the hangman before him and it ran in his family.

In YIELD TO THE NIGHT, blonde bombshell Diana Dors is sublime as Mary Hilton, a stunningly beautiful shop-girl who falls in love with an impoverished musician called Jim, who is not at all worthy of the lovely Mary and her overwhelming love. In time, however, Mary grows to realise that Jim has lost interest in her and is seeing an older, presumably wealthy woman called Lucy Carpenter.

The film centres around Mary’s detention in prison in the days and weeks before her execution. Just like in Ruth Ellis’s case, the condemned cell has a locked door in it, a door without a handle, that leads to the execution chamber beyond. Even if Mary were ever inclined to forget about her forthcoming death for a blissful moment or two, how can she with this door literally at the foot of her bed? It’s like a kind of emotional torture, isn’t it, surely?

Mary is treated as well as can be expected in the condemned cell, just like Ruth Ellis was in hers. Both their final days were a rigidly controlled and timetabled round of meals, exercise in the prison yard (separate from the other prisoners), baths, cocoa at bedtime and regular visits from the governor, the prison chaplain and doctor, their lawyer when requested, and any friends and family whom they might wish to come.

Mary is upset by the visits of her younger brother Alan and her mother. It kills her to see Alan, no more than a boy, trying unsuccessfully to cope with the enormity of the situation. Her useless ex-husband Fred, a true nonentity of a figure, only annoys her with his visits and meaningless babble about love. Where was he when Mary was crippled with love for the dysfunctional Jim, and going through the torture that led her to kill Lucy in so-called ‘cold blood?’

The light remains on in the condemned cell around the clock, and there are two female prison officers in the room with Mary at all times. Prisoners under sentence of death must be closely watched in case they feel like committing suicide and cheating the hangman.

The prison guards are all lovely to Mary though, knowing to what she’s been condemned. They invite her to join in their games of chess and cards and they chat and have a nice smoke together, even though the wardens are forbidden from smoking by the prison rules. It becomes a nice little friendly conspiracy between Mary and her wardens, something to smile about.

Mary, like Ruth Ellis, says she’s not sorry for what she’s done. Ruth Ellis was adamant that she wanted to die (‘an eye for an eye, a life for a life’) and go to ‘join David.’ I don’t think Mary wants to die, however, as she nearly jumps out of her skin every time she hears the kindly female governor tap-tapping down the corridor, possibly carrying a reprieve from the Home Office, and possibly not.

A sympathetic prison visitor and activist for prison reform called Miss Bligh meets with a sullen, obviously depressed Mary and tells her that, if she accepts what’s coming, if she in effect ‘yields to the night,’ the sentence of death will become easier to bear.

But Mary is dead-eyed and hopeless; can she take Miss Bligh’s very good advice on board, or will she shuffle resentfully and disbelievingly to the room of execution in her shapeless prison dress and slippers, a plaster on her poor blistered foot caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes?

The film does an excellent job of portraying the boring, tedious soul-destroying days and weeks leading up to an execution. It’s a big strain on the officers too, some of whom really like Mary and might have their own views on capital punishment that don’t happen to coincide with the law’s more stringent ones.

If Mary stays calm, the governor tells her, it will make things easier all round, for Mary herself as well as the prison staff who, after all, are ‘only doing their job.’ Routine is key, too, to keeping things on an even keel. There’s an awful lot to be said for it, and I mean that sincerely.

If things were perpetually in chaos and everyone was rushing around weeping and wailing and tearing their hair out, it wouldn’t be much use to anyone. Keep calm and carry on, as the famous slogan on my tea mug goes.

Poor tortured Mary, plagued by bad dreams, marks off the days on her calendar with a feeling of dread. Maybe she believes that they won’t hang a young woman who has only committed what some folks would refer to now as a ‘crime of passion,’ then not yet recognised by the British justice system, which by the way was made up in those days mostly of rich, highly educated white upper class males. Don’t be so sure, dear Mary. After all, they hung Ruth Ellis, didn’t they…?

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

OPEN ALL HOURS. (1976-1985) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

open all hours

OPEN ALL HOURS: THE COMPLETE SERIES 1-4. (1976-1985) CREATED AND WRITTEN BY ROY CLARKE. STARRING RONNIE BARKER, DAVID JASON AND LYNDA BARON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘G-G-G-Granville, f-fetch your cloth…!’

‘You can’t move around here for grocers in your bosom.’

This is the warmest, nicest and funniest television I’ve watched all year. It’s really and truly the best of British in the sitcom line. My only regret is that I didn’t discover it sooner. It’s the story of Arkwright’s Corner Shop and all who sail in her, namely Albert E. Arkwright the grocer, his n-n-n-nephew Granville and Arkwright’s state-registered lady love, one Nurse Gladys Emanuel, who lives over ‘t’ road.

Arkwright has three aims in life. One, fleecing his customers of every possible half-penny and sending them home with much more than they came in for. A slice or two of bacon? Well, why not buy a nice hand-mirror, antique clothes horse or out-of-date packet of Jamaica ginger cake to go with that, my love? The customers leave, bemused, time after time, gobsmacked at the way that the sneaky, unscrupulous Arkwright has managed to part ’em from their hard-earned cash.

Two, preventing his curly-headed, constantly daydreaming nephew, Granville, from discovering a life outside their cosy little Yorkshire shop. Granville yearns for a woman, for the bright lights and clamour of the local disco, for foreign travel and Chinese architecture and a yacht on the Riviera and the finer things in life, but how the heck is he supposed to achieve any of these exotic delights when the shop opens in ‘t’ middle of ‘t’ night, namely, at sun-up, and doesn’t shut till nine o’clock at night…?

Three, breaking through the fortress of ample bosom that is Nurse Gladys Emanuel to her softer inner core without getting one of her nifty left hooks, although getting stuck in the outer bosom would suit Arkwright (and Granville!) just fine, come to think of it. They could set up shop in her splendiferous frontage without any hesitation whatsoever, it’s so nice and warm and comforting there.

Nurse Gladys Emanuel, Arkwright’s betrothed, with her fabulous head of burnished red-brown hair, is one of those old-fashioned visiting nurses who’d drive round her little parish seeing to different patients. Changing a bandage on an old lady’s wound, checking on a newborn baby and its poorly mum, seeing that a bedridden old gent has managed to eat something after his operation, stuff like that. The travelling nurse is very much part of Britain’s distant past. I enjoyed hugely having that lovely nostalgic element included in the show.

Gladys Emanuel, played by the magnificent Lynda Baron, is a fine figure of a woman. No skinny little young one she. On the contrary, she’s broad in the beam with more front than Blackpool, and it’s no wonder the lovestruck Arkwright risks climbing a ladder at his age to catch a glimpse of her famous frontage leaning out of a window in her negligée. She won’t marry Arkwright until her never-seen mum no longer needs looking after, and Arkwright’s just going to have to knuckle down and wait.

Nurse Gladys is worth waiting for, though, as Arkwright well knows. She’s a woman any man would be proud to call his own, warm and good-humoured with a ready laugh. It’s brilliant, though, the way she slaps away his groping hands time after time and always has a cutting quip lined up that’s guaranteed to put him back in his box.

She’s determined to get him to spend a few quid as well, which for a man as stingy and parsimonious as old Arkwright is like pulling teeth without anaesthetic. Good luck getting Arkwright to prise open the old Oxo tin that holds his precious takings, Nurse Gladys Emanuel. If anyone can do it, you can!

There’s a running joke in the show about Granville, who’s of uncertain parentage, being part-Hungarian. Arkwright’s quite cheeky about his own sister, Granville’s long-deceased mum, having been of loose morals, flinging her knickers to the four winds whenever anyone asked her to.

Granville isn’t altogether averse to being part-Hungarian. It appeals to the part of him that yearns for excitement, glamour, mystery, bright lights; anything, in fact, that takes him away from the mundanity of pricing tins of carrots and pushing the old shop-bike loaded down with deliveries up yet another poxy hill in the rain…!

Arkwright’s Super-Stores is the housewives’ choice for sure. Kathy Staff (LAST OF THE SUMMER WINE) was bloody hilarious as the plain speaking Mrs. Blewitt in the earlier episodes. Stephanie Cole as the Black Widow, aka Mrs. Fer-fer-fer-fer-fer-Featherstone, did duty as the Resident Cranky Auld One in the later episodes.

Liz Dawn, Vera Duckworth in CORONATION STREET, had one line in a very early episode. Him off THE BILL (Eric Richard) played a cameo role once as a man trying to flog a washing machine to Arkright. Good luck with that one, mate. He’ll want cheaper than what you’re offering, you mark my words. Teddy Turner (CORRIE, EMMERDALE) also had a small role. Barbara Keogh (Lilly Mattock from EastEnders) was Mrs. Ellis.

Maggie Ollerenshaw played the ditzy, terminally indecisive Mavis, or did she? I can’t quite make up me mind! Paula Tilbrook (Betty Eagleton from Emmerdale) was Mrs. Tattersall. Barbara Flynn played the Milk-woman who every morning delivered two pints and a pot of unrequited love to the head-over-heels Granville. I personally thought she was a bit of a tease. I don’t believe she had the slightest intention of ever letting Granville have the top off ‘t’ milk, the snooty little hussy. She were only leading ‘im on, she were.

Poor Granville, desperate to be part of Britain’s new generation of swinging young people, but he never has time to get his pinny off. Doomed to be an errand boy for life, the poor lad. Come and nestle for a bit in Nurse Gladys Emanuel’s bosom. That’ll make you feel better, lad. Just make sure Arkwright’s not watching…!

Arkwright the grocer is rude to everyone, racist, sexist, disrespectful to women, verging on dishonest the way he flogs his old out-of-date white elephant stock to his customers (remember when he tried to sell some kind of lead blacking to male customers as a kind of marital aid?), and yet he’s the cuddliest, most loveable rogue you could ever hope to meet.

I also love the delightfully mournful theme tune, and the fact that the show didn’t modernise as the years went on, but rather kept the olde-worlde charm that makes it so magical. The time of the corner shop that sold everything from turnips to braces for your trousers to the kind of lead blacking people used to put on old stoves (marital aids, my foot!) has passed, sadly, to be replaced by the age of the supermarket and online shopping. Still, if we ever have a burning need for a small brown loaf and two teacakes, we’ll know where to go, won’t we? G-G-G-Granville, fetch your cloth…!

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

THE RETURN OF DRACULA. (1958) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

return-of-dracula-1958-rachel-tim-norma-eberhardt-ray-stricklyn-review

THE RETURN OF DRACULA. (1958) DIRECTED BY PAUL LANDRES. STARRING FRANCIS LEDERER AND NORMA EBERHARDT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Jenny, I’ve come to wake you!’

‘The world shall spin and they all shall die, but not us.’

‘I’ve got to close the window! He’ll hear us, he’s outside!’

‘I had the strangest dream last night, only I can’t seem to remember it.’

‘You’re already balanced between two worlds. Eternity awaits you now.’

‘I can free your soul, Jenny. I can take you from the blackness into the light.’

Any film that starts with a group of men pursuing a vampire through a graveyard and right into his crypt with the intention of driving a stake through his heart is okay in my books. This is a little black-and-white curiosity I discovered on YouTube while searching for Dracula stuff. The Jack-Palance-as-Dracula film wouldn’t start for me so here we are, lol.

THE RETURN OF DRACULA is quite similar in storyline to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1943 movie, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, in which a mysterious uncle (Joseph Cotten) returns to the bosom of his small-town American-as-apple-pie family, only to spread a putrid fear, dread and uncertainty through its ranks.

The pretty young daughter of the family, played by Teresa Wright, is a romantic at heart who yearns for a better life than she thinks she’ll have in her small-town existence. She is hugely attracted to the mystery and glamour that emanates from the newcomer, but the best thing she can do, for herself and her family, is to stay as far away from him as she can. As is the way in films though, she doesn’t discover this fact until it’s nearly too late. Where would be the fun otherwise?

In THE RETURN OF DRACULA, a mysterious, middle-aged Eastern European man who claims to be a Mrs. Cora Mayberry’s long-lost cousin, Bellac Gordal, turns up in the American small town of Carleton. They’ve been expecting him and they’re very excited about the homecoming. Cora, her teenage daughter Rachel, her young son Mickey and Rachel’s boyfriend Tim (he drives a convertible!) all make the tall, dark speaks-with-an-accent stranger as welcome as they know how.

Is being a vampire compatible with family life? (Ah, come on, you already know he’s a vampire! How is that a spoiler?) Not really, no. Cousin Bellac keeps the most irregular hours, doesn’t sleep in the bed provided for him but in a mist-filled coffin in a nearby abandoned mine and can’t abide mirrors or crucifixes. He’s not too keen on the family moggy, Nugget, either, but then in another way, he’s a little too keen on him, if you take my meaning.

Cousin Bellac is supposed to be a talented artist, but he seems to have only painted one picture during his stay with the Mayberrys, and that one painting is deeply disturbing. No-one knows where he goes on his so-called ‘painting trips’ or what he does on them. He plays his cards tight to his chest and doesn’t encourage familiarity, except from Rachel, for whom he has great things in mind. I’m sure you can guess what things.

Rachel, the blonde All-American daughter, is an aspiring fashion designer and she is instantly attracted to the suave, sophisticated Eastern European artist, who makes her boyfriend Tim seem like a crude, inexperienced callow youth by comparison. She even goes off Tim for a bit, much to Tim’s mystification, while Cousin Bellac is around.

Rachel introduces Cousin Bellac to her friend Jenny. She more or less hands him Jenny on a plate. ‘Oh, Jenny’s blind and bedridden and helpless and you can do whatever you like to her, and she’s ever so sweet and she’s just DYING to meet you, I’ve told her all about you!’ Well, congratulations, Rachel, old girl. You’ve just given the vampire his first victim, all trussed up like a turkey, and you’ve even made the dressing and all the trimmings yourself as well.

There are some spooky scenes when the Immigration officer looking into Cousin Bellac’s papers and his legal right to be in America comes a cropper. A pitiful voice calls for help by the railway track, and a few gruelling seconds later, Mr. Immigration Officer is a blood-soaked corpse. And, of course, there’s no-one around. No-one saw or heard anything…

I love the bit where the white-shrouded woman skips lightly back to her coffin in the super-cool Receiving Vaults before the first light of day breaks over the horizon. She’s very obviously the Lucy character from the Bram Stoker Dracula novel, who gets some of the creepiest and most electrifying scenes in the whole book and also in any film or television dramatisation.

There’s one splash of bright-red blood, very reminiscent of Hammer Horror across the pond, in this black-and-white film, but I won’t tell you whose it is. 1958, of course, was the year when Hammer Film Studios released their own DRACULA (THE HORROR OF DRACULA in the United States), with horror legend Christopher Lee in the title role. Several more DRACULA films followed in the next decade and a half, and they make up a fine body of work in total.

Did it hurt the Dracula legend, bringing the Fanged One to small-town America, rather than keeping him amongst the crumbling abbeys of England or, even better, the castles of his native Transylvania? No, I think it worked well enough.

After all, SON OF DRACULA starring Lon Chaney Jr. brought Count Dracula to the swamps and plantations of the Deep South of America, and that was a terrific, if terribly gloomy, film. Not much in the way of comic relief there. ‘I see you living in a grave, married to a corpse.’ See what I mean…?

Why is this film called THE RETURN OF DRACULA? I honestly don’t know. Was there a previous film? Again, I don’t know. I’m guessing too that this film isn’t very well known. It’s still worth at least one watch, though, as it has a certain small-town charm and, as I said at the start, it’s a real little curiosity. At eighty minutes long as well, it won’t take up too much of your time. Go for it.

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

WUTHERING HEIGHTS. (1978) THE BBC DRAMATISATION REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

wuth couple

WUTHERING HEIGHTS. (1978) THE BBC ADAPTATION BASED ON THE NOVEL BY EMILY BRONTE. DIRECTED BY DICK COLES. STARRING KEN HUTCHISON, KAY ADSHEAD, PAT HEYWOOD, JOHN DUTTINE, CATHRYN HARRISON, ANDREW BURLEIGH, DAVID ROBB, DAVID WILKINSON, BARBARA KEOGH, BRIAN WILDE AND CAROLINE LANGRISHE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath- a source of little delight, but necessary.’ Catherine Earnshaw.

Oh wow. I’ve seen a fair few film-and-TV versions of Emily Bronte’s classic novel in my time, but this one has by far the most rain, the most wind, the most mist, the most water-logged, treacherous moors, the most whipping, and the most destructive, messed-up inter-personal relationships you’ll ever see. I bloody well love it, lol, for all these reasons and more.

It’s the bleakest, grittiest, most depressing and most violent (emotionally and physically) version there is, I do believe, but this is a positive thing and not a bad one. It’s how this book was meant to be filmed, my dears. No Jane Austen light comedy-of-manners, this. This is a book about pain, obsessive love, revenge and endless suffering, and any screen version would do well to remember this as this version does.

In this version, the sins of the father (and mother) are not only visited on the children, but they (the sins!) have brought a mountain of bloody luggage with ’em an’ all, and announced their intention of occupying the back bedroom for the foreseeable future so forget what plans you’ve made for ‘t’ back bedroom, the sins are here to stay and there’s nowt you can get do about it, so you’d best put up and shut up, lol, and get ‘t’ bloody kettle on sharpish.

Wuthering Heights is the rain-washed farmhouse on the Yorkshire moors that houses the Earnshaw family, the family into which the young foundling Heathcliff is first brought by Daddy Earnshaw as an interloper, an outsider, the cuckoo in the nest. Hindley, the real son of the family, loathes Heathcliff with all his being, but the same can’t be said for Hindley’s sister, Catherine…

Catherine grows up mostly without a mother. She’s a tomboy, an expert rider and tree-climber, a free spirit with a wild, tempestuous nature as wild and tempestuous as the moors where she grows up. This wildness and longing for freedom in Cathy’s soul, this contempt for the conventions, finds an answering call in the boorish and brooding Heathcliff’s tormented being. Thus begins the love affair that flies in the face of God and transcends the years and even, eventually, Death itself…

Cathy and Heathcliff are perfect for each other, but that’s not to say that they’re perfect. Their relationship is a passionate, spiteful destructive one, in which two similarly selfish, self-willed, self-centred people butt heads and vie for mastery of each other. Cathy is particularly spoiled and wayward. Heathcliff, one supposes, is merely the product of his painful upbringing, in which Catherine Earnshaw was the only person to show him anything approximating love.

Cathy rejoices in making Heathcliff jealous, in watching him twist himself up in knots for love of her. It hurts him greatly when she discovers the Linton family of Thrushcross Grange across the moors, and makes a favourite of posh Edgar Linton, the rather sissified toff with the stiff upper lip and aristocratic bearing who nonetheless cannot hold a candle to Heathcliff’s enduring passion.

Cathy and Heathcliff bring pain and suffering to those around them. They should really be quarantined and kept apart from other people, the better to not taint them with their particularly vicious brand of twisted love. 

But they seem to almost enjoy bringing hurt to others (Heathcliff in particular), and so their fates and fortunes become inextricably linked with those of the Lintons, Edgar of Thrushcross Grange and his younger sister Isabella, and the Lintons will be the worse off by far for it.

They’ll drag their children into it too, and make them good and miserable as well. There’ll be nothing but misery, in fact, for all who are tainted by this destructive affair or amour fou, a crazy, messed-up kind of love. (There’s so much inbreeding going on here, as well, that it makes mental illness in some of the protagonists a very real prospect.) 

Throughout it all, Ellen (Nelly) Dean, Cathy’s nurse, stands true and faithful to her darling Catherine, Catherine’s lover Heathcliff and any of the various offspring who are placed in her care and clasped to her motherly bosom.

I daresay she’s frequently an enabler, too, for the most toxic and poisonous man-woman relationship that ever soiled the face of the earth, but at least no-one can question her fidelity to her mistress (Cathy) and master (Heathcliff).

This screen version of the book has the most capricious and temperamental Catherine, the most steadfast Nelly, the most tortured and tormented Heathcliff and the wettest, windiest moors. I remember enjoying my solitary bike rides as a child to a ruined castle on the outskirts of town, where I clambered over the uneven surfaces of the castle floor and looked out the glassless windows across the fields, imagining them to be moors and myself the much-loved and fought-over Cathy.

I couldn’t, at that age, conceive of anything more divinely romantic than a man who loved his girlfriend so much that he would dig up her rotted corpse some twenty years after her death and make love to it, at least with his lips. I guess a career in horror writing was already beckoning, lol.

Graveyards already held a special charm for me and, when I discovered a single unattended grave in the grounds of my ruined castle, well, of course, it just had to be Cathy’s, lying quietly awaiting the arrival of a Heathcliff with a good strong shovel. It might wait there still, for all I know. (Or, most probably, some poxy businessmen might have bought and ‘developed’ the land and turned it into ‘luxury’ apartments, boooooo!)

Kate Bush, my favourite singer of all time, male or female, had obviously felt a similar attraction to this gothic story of doomed love, because she wrote that timeless hit song that had more wildness and passion about it than most of the screen versions of same. This is the kind of story that appeals to people with a gothic, maybe even slightly flawed turn of mind, lol.

If you like the frilly, flouncy, fluffy kind of love that has a happy ending and ties up neatly with a big chocolate-boxy bow, you’d best stick to Jane Austen. But if you want your romance stories to end mainly tragically with only a little teensy-weensy bit of hope left for the future, then Emily’s your man.

Her own sister Charlotte nearly managed to out-romance her in the fabulous classic JANE EYRE, but Emily still pips her to the post. A book with a male character in it who wants, who begs, to be haunted by his dead lover’s ghost on the stormiest of stormy nights on the wiliest and windiest of wiley, windy moors would pretty much pip anyone else’s book to any mouldy old post.

‘Cath-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…!’

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

 

FAWLTY TOWERS. (1975-1979) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

fawlty cast

FAWLTY TOWERS. (1975-1979) WRITTEN BY JOHN CLEESE AND CONSTANCE BOOTH. STARRING JOHN CLEESE, CONSTANCE BOOTH, PRUNELLA SCALES, ANDREW SACHS, BRIAN HALL, BALLARD BERKELEY, GILLY FLOWER AND RENEE ROBERTS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Hello, Fawlty Titties…!’

‘Papers arrived yet, Fawlty?’

‘However did they win?’ (WW2)

‘I know English. I learn it from a book…!’

‘That’s Brahms, dear. Brahms’ third racket…!’

‘He try to see girl in room! She make him crazy.’

‘Do you by any chance wear A HEARING AID…?’

‘This is exactly how Nazi Germany got started…!’

‘Celery, apples, walnuts, grapes. In a mayonnaise sauce.’

‘A gin and orange, a lemon squash and A SCOTCH AND WATER PLEASE…!’

‘Right, well I’ll go and have a lie-down then. No I won’t; I’ll go and hit some guests.’

This is one of Britain’s best ever situation comedies. Consisting of two series’ each comprising six thirty-minute episodes, it originally aired on the BBC in 1975 and 1979. Set in a Torquay hotel, the concept was based on a real-life experience John Cleese had while staying in a real-life hotel as part of the Monty Python crew.

He and his then wife Constance Booth were so enchanted by the rude behaviour and hostile attitude of hotelier Donald Sinclair towards his guests that, when the chance came to write and star in their own sitcom, they knew exactly what they wanted to write about. That’s right, an animal preservation centre in North Africa, lol. No, silly, a badly-run hotel owned and managed by the rudest hotel manager in Britain. Welcome to Fawlty Towers…

John Cleese plays Basil Fawlty, owner of a small hotel in Torquay. A man with pretensions of grandeur who’s obsessed with the notion of social climbing, he’s been sadly disappointed by his life and his marriage to the efficient but bossy and annoying Sybil (Prunella Scales). He takes his frustrations out on the hotel guests and the long-suffering staff, Polly, played by his then-wife Connie Booth, and Manuel, played by the late Andrew Sachs.

Basil is forever sniping at Sybil- ‘You’re always refurbishing yourself!’– but Sybil is well able for him. ‘Do you really think that a beautiful young lady like this would be interested in an ageing, brilliantined stick insect like you?’ Theirs is a marriage based on nagging and resentment. Each of them wishes they’d done better but, for better or worse, they’re stuck with each other.

Sybil gets things done quietly and efficiently, even if she is ‘always refurbishing herself,’ while Basil complicates things in a manner worthy of a Frank Spencer, a Father Ted or a Victor Meldrew.

He covers up his many cock-ups by telling ever more elaborate lies, and then the lies grow legs and spiral out of control until Basil is in a hopeless muddle. He usually drags his staff Polly and Manuel down into the mire with him.

And it’s usually Sybil over whose eyes he’s trying to pull the wool. She rules Basil with an iron fist inside an iron glove- yes, I said iron twice!- and she has strict rules about gambling and looking at other women. Or should I say, about not doing either of these two things, lol, under any circumstances.

Polly is the sensible waitress and chambermaid. She saves Basil’s arse more than once. She’s good at her job and is fond of the hapless Manuel, the waiter, and tries to shield him, not always successfully, from Mr. Fawlty’s wrath.

Manuel is from Barcelona in Spain, speaks only limited English and misunderstands even the most basic of instructions. Basil gives him a terrible time, excusing Manuel’s shortcomings to the guests by saying: ‘I’m sorry, he’s from Barcelona…!’

Permanent guests at the hotel include the marvellous old British Major Gowen, a delightful relic of World War Two who at times still thinks he’s fighting the Germans. Whatever you tell him, he’ll have forgotten in seconds. It’s guaranteed. Miss Ursula Gatsby and Miss Abitha Tibbs are two lovely elderly ladies whom Basil thinks are completely dotty.

In the episode entitled A TOUCH OF CLASS, Basil’s crashing snobbery comes to the fore as he lavishly welcomes to the hotel a certain Lord Melbury, played by Michael Gwynn (VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED).

He fawns over the toff in the usual sycophantic manner he reserves for doctors and the aristocrats of the world, everyone he considers to be a cut above the usual ‘rubbish we get in here.’ When Lord Melbury turns out to be not quite whom he says he is, Basil will only have himself to blame…

In THE BUILDERS, we see Basil using Mr. O’Reilly’s cut-price but vastly inferior construction company to carry out repairs to the hotel while he and Sybil take a short break away. This is strictly in contravention to Sybil’s direct instructions. Sybil wants Basil to use Mr. Stubbs’s outfit, because even though they cost a little more, they’ll do the job properly.

But as usual, Basil thinks he knows best. He’s a cheapskate as well as a snob, so he goes with O’Reilly, played by Irish actor David Kelly. Let’s just hope they’re using an iron girder and not a wooden one, eh?

Basil has a curiously closed-minded but maybe typically British attitude to, ahem, sex. In THE WEDDING PARTY, he flees the attentions of a flirtatious Frenchwoman and mistakes an innocent family get-together at the hotel for a sexual free-for-all. Naturally, he makes a total arse of himself and grudgingly complies when Sybil tells him he has to put right his mistake.

Although when a young man is looking for a chemist that’s still open for business in the late evening, maybe one can’t help but make the same mistake that the uptight, strangely moralistic Basil Fawlty makes, lol.

In THE HOTEL INSPECTORS, Basil makes another series of near-fatal faux pas when he mistakes both a humble but extremely fussy spoon salesman (Bernard Cribbins) and an outboard motors salesman (James Cossins) for the hotel inspectors that have been spotted plying their trade in the various hotels around town.

Basil wastes valuable time licking these two gentlemen’s boots when, as Sybil could have told him, just a little common courtesy to every guest, regardless of social status, would have seen him right. This episode has some brilliant quotes:

‘The wine has reacted with the cork and gone bad!’

‘I thought Boff was a locale…!’

‘You were RUDE, Mr. Fawlty, I say RUDE…!’ 

‘No, it would NOT be possible to reserve the BBC2 channel from the commencement of its (the TV programme’s) beginning to the termination of its ending, thank you so much…!’

GOURMET NIGHT sees Basil’s lovely specialist evening of classy gourmet dining ruined by a drunken chef. ‘He’s soused… the herrings! He’s potted… the shrimps! He’s smashed… the eggs… in his cups… under the table…!’

Basil’s ham-fisted attempts to put things right see his unreliable old jalopy getting ‘a damned good thrashing’ (SpecSavers, anyone?), Manuel wearing a cooked duck as a slipper and a quartet of local aristocracy being forcefully treated to an impromptu variety show courtesy of Manuel, Polly and Sybil. ‘Fancy putting no riff-raff…!’

THE GERMANS is a classic episode that’s actually given rise to the phrase ‘Don’t mention the war!’ A party of Germans arrive at the hotel only to be baited horribly about their country’s part in World War Two by a concussed Basil.

Who or what has concussed him? Why, it was the moose, of course. Who else? ‘You naughty moose!’ And let’s not forget: ‘Don’t mention the war! I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it alright.’

In COMMUNICATION PROBLEMS, Basil- or should that be K.C. Watt?- combines the forbidden joys of betting (‘That’s right, dear, that particular avenue of pleasure has been closed off to me.’) with trying to deal with the most disagreeable old lady guest. She’s extremely hard of hearing and dissatisfied with everything in the hotel.

‘I mean, what do you expect to see out of a Torquay bedroom window? Sydney Opera House, perhaps? The Hanging Gardens of Babylon? A herd of wildebeest sweeping majestically (across the plains)…?’

In THE PSYCHIATRIST, Basil freaks out when he discovers that the titular psychiatrist is staying at the hotel. Fiercely unwilling to be ‘analysed’ and found wanting, his attempts to remain strictly innocuous in the shrink’s eyes fail disastrously when he thinks that a heavily- medallioned and hairy-chested guest has smuggled a woman into his room, contrary to the strict rules of the hotel. ‘There’s enough material there for an entire conference.’

WALDORF SALAD is another hilarious classic episode. Basil runs afoul of a rich American businessman with an overpowering personality when he reveals he doesn’t know how to make a Waldorf salad, the businessman’s starter of choice. Erm, this letter explains everything…

By the end of the episode, the businessman has riled up the other guests into a state of mutiny against the hotel’s habitually shoddy service. When Basil huffily quits the hotel and returns as a ‘guest,’ what else would he be requiring for his breakfast-in-bed but a ‘Waldorf salad, washed down with lashings of hot screwdriver…?’

THE KIPPER AND THE CORPSE sees Basil tearing madly around the hotel trying to hide the corpse of a guest who’s died in the night. Why all the secrecy? Well, Basil thinks that the hotel’s breakfast kippers are what’s done for the rather anaemic-looking Mr. Leeman, and he’s afraid that the hotel will be ruined if word gets out. Let’s hope that Geoffrey Palmer, playing a doctor who really wants his sausages, can shed some light on the situation…

In THE ANNIVERSARY, Basil’s pitiful attempts to pretend to Sybil that he’s forgotten their fifteenth wedding anniversary lead to Sybil’s storming out of the hotel just as her surprise anniversary party is supposed to kick off. Basil tried to be too clever and now he’s got to pay the price for his little ‘joke.’

Roger the shit-stirring guest thinks that ‘they’ve had a row and she’s refused to come down,’ but Sybil’s not even in the hotel. So who’s that in Sybil’s bed then, waving and nodding and smiling like the Queen, with puffy thighs and foaming mouth and severe laryngitis? Well, to quote Roger again, ‘who wants to go to something fun when you can come to one of Basil’s dos?’ Floor-crisps, anyone? Una Stubbs co-stars in this one as Roger’s wife.

BASIL THE RAT is particularly close to my heart because we keep Syrian hamsters, which are real, genuine bona-fide hammies, unlike Manuel’s so-called ‘Siberian hamster,’ which has a tail and is clearly a giant rat, lol. Real hammies do not have tails. This fact is indisputable.

He’s cute, though, is Basil the Rat, only the Health Inspector might not think so when the furry little fella turns up in the biscuits during an extremely important inspection of the hotel… 

FLOWERY TOWELS is not at all politically correct by today’s standards. There’s blatant sexism in it, strong violence against a Spanish waiter, a slight touch of homophobia and rather a load of casual racism as well. The latter two mostly come courtesy of Major Gowen, an otherwise immensely lovable character.

He says the things he does because it was probably acceptable to do so at the time, but of course now times have changed. Nowadays, of course, you couldn’t say things like ‘you’re the rat inspector’ without being peppered full of buckshot by the PC Brigade…!

I wonder if people hold Fawlty Towers festivals the way they hold Father Ted festivals? People would pay good money, I’m sure, to stay in a mock-up version of Fawlty Towers and be grossly insulted by their hotel manager and receive poor service during their stay. That’s a good business idea for anyone with the wherewithal to set it up. I might even stay there myself sometime. I’ll bring my own batteries though…

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

NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE. (1979) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

nosferatu 1979 jonathan castle

NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE (NOSFERATU: PHANTOM DER NACHT/NOSFERATU: PHANTOM OF THE NIGHT.) 1979. BASED ON BRAM STOKER’S ‘DRACULA.’

DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY WERNER HERZOG. SCREENPLAY BY WERNER HERZOG.

MUSIC BY POPOL VUH. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY JŐRG SCHMIDT-REITWEIN. RATS TRAINED BY MAARTEN’T HART.

STARRING KLAUS KINSKI, ISABELLE ADJANI, ROLAND TOPOR, WALTER LADENGAST AND BRUNO GANZ.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Dedicated to Bruno Ganz, who passed away last week.

‘The master is coming.’

‘The hold is teeming with rats.’

‘Will you come to me, and be my ally?’

‘Mother Superior, stop the black coffins…!’

‘The cause must be gone into with scientific thoroughness.’

‘We are delivering this man, who appears to belong to this house.’

‘Go now, to Riga. The army of rats and the Black Death go with you.’

‘In the evening, the mate who had the watch disappeared without trace.’

‘Though the vampire is an unnatural being, he must obey some natural laws.’

‘If a woman who is pure of heart can make the vampire forget the cry of the cock…’

‘Join us, please. We have all caught the plague, and must enjoy each day that is left.’

‘I know who you are from Jonathan’s diary. Since he has been with you, he is ruined.’

This film doesn’t have a silent psychopath in a mask stalking half-dressed women and unsuspecting men with his enormous butcher knife. It doesn’t have a Mother-fixated madman stabbing people to death in the shower while dressed in women’s clothing, and neither does it have a well-spoken maniac who likes to eat people’s internal organs with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

In this sense, maybe, it’s not what some people think of when they think of horror movies. What the film does have, however, is a lead character of such subtlety, cruelty and even human-like frailty that he surely deserves his standing as one of the creepiest and most notable horror icons of all time: Nosferatu The Vampyre.

This film is possibly my favourite horror film of all time, jostling for the coveted first place alongside Anthony Schaffer’s THE WICKER MAN (1973) and Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (1960). These would be my Top Three Desert Island films, although there are days when I’d genuinely considering just bringing three copies of Herzog’s NOSFERATU, just to be on the safe side…!

The film was written, produced and directed by Werner Herzog, a German film-maker who made his first movie in 1961 at the age of nineteen and who now has more than sixty feature and documentary films to his name.

It is one of five movies he made with German actor Klaus Kinski, with whom he enjoyed a well-documented relationship that was both productive and wildly tempestuous, given the intensity and passionate nature of each of the protagonists.

This is Herzog’s best film, in my own personal opinion, and Klaus Kinski’s best as well. (Although I loved him also in Sergio Leone’s dusty, gritty and sweaty spaghetti Western, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE.) 

Bruno Ganz, Switzerland’s most lauded actor who sadly passed away a few days ago, is superb in NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE and my personal favourite of all the screen Jonathan Harkers. This and DOWNFALL or DER UNTERGANG (2004), in which he plays a certain Adolf Hitler in his last days in the bunker, are his two best performances, again in my own humble opinion.

When people think of Nosferatu, their minds frequently conjure up an image of Max Schreck who played him so brilliantly in the silent production of nearly a century ago, and fair play to old Maxie, he did a cracking job but for me, Kinski is Nosferatu.

He is the bald-headed, sunken-eyed, strangely melancholy creature of the night who resides in his crumbling castle in the Carpathian mountains and feeds off the blood of any humans unfortunate enough to cross his path.

He is desperately lonely and would nearly welcome death at this stage, as an alternative to spending yet more centuries in terrible isolation, craving company but scaring away anyone with whom he comes in contact. You actually feel sorry for the vampire in this film because Kinski plays him so subtly nuanced and so much more of a tragic figure than previously portrayed.

It’s well-known enough at this stage that Werner Herzog, a very clever man indeed, thought that F.W. Murnau’s 1922 film NOSFERATU was the best thing to come out of Germany since Oktoberfest, lol. This was the version of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA that Herzog had in mind when he made his own film version.

It’s as magnificent a tribute as has ever been made. Though I’ve always loved the HAMMER HORROR DRACULA movies starring the iconic and handsome Christopher Lee, I don’t think that anyone but Herzog himself has made a better or more visually stunning film of Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire novel. Every shot is a work of art. Some of them are so beautiful they could even be paintings. What am I saying? They could all be paintings.

The film begins with Jonathan Harker, a clerk in a real estate company, being told by his employer, the decidedly odd and giggly Mr. Renfield, that he must cross the Carpathian mountains to bring legal papers to the rich and reclusive Count Dracula. The Count, you see, has decided to buy a house in their area, the pretty and picturesque town of Wismar in Germany.

Jonathan’s wife, Lucy, played by the stunningly beautiful Isabelle Adjani, begs him not to go as she has had premonitions of the most profound evil but Jonathan disregards her fears and sets off blithely on his journey. I love the way he more or less says to his wife:

‘I’m off now, dear, off to the land of wolves and robbers and phantoms and spirits for several weeks, possibly forever. Well, cheerio, then…!’

The thoughtless git. It certainly seems as if no man, however bang-tidy his missus is, is going to turn down the chance of a business trip that gets him out of the house for a bit. I never met a man yet who’d say no to the chance of a few weeks without the old trouble-and-strife, the wife.

Anyway, the film is worth watching solely for the shots of the glorious but lonely countryside through which he passes on his way to Count Dracula’s castle and also for the superb musical score by German electronic band Popol Vuh.

Check out the opening credits as well, by the way, in which the deliciously spooky music plays while the real mummified bodies (which will creep the living daylights out of you because they’re the real deal!) are put on display for our delectation and edification. That music is repeated throughout the film and I can assure you that it will haunt you for the rest of your days. If you have a soul at all…

As Jonathan nears the castle, he is warned by the locals to turn back and go home before he loses his life but he has come too far to turn back now. Disquieted and edgy, he continues on his way.

The fantastic music reaches a crescendo as he finally enters the courtyard of Count Dracula then fades away as the giant castle doors creak open to reveal… Nosferatu himself, standing at the top of the steps with a smile of quiet welcome on his colourless face.

For Jonathan, events take on a surreal appearance from this point onwards. Nosferatu begins to feed on his blood from the first night of his arrival. While poor Lucy frets and works herself up into a right old state about her absent spouse back in Wismar, Jonathan is trapped in Nosferatu’s castle of mould-stained, whitewashed walls and silent, dusty rooms. He is powerless to prevent the vampire from feasting on him and gradually sapping his strength and will.

There are some moments of genuine heartstopping horror in this part of the film, which incidentally is my favourite part. Check out the moment during Jonathan’s first meal at the castle when he realises that his host is a monster. Talk about awkward. What’s the etiquette for this situation, for crying out loud…?

I dare the viewer not to jump when Nosferatu appears soundlessly in Jonathan’s bedroom in the dead of night, his claws expanding as he moves in for the kill, or when Jonathan pushes back the slab of rock in the dungeon to reveal a sleeping Nosferatu, claws folded and eyes wide open, staring at nothing. Jonathan does some pretty good backing away in this situation, check it out.

The latter half of the film sees Nosferatu travelling to Wismar by sea with his black coffins and his plague of rats. The scene where the ship of death sails silently up the canals of Wismar while the unwitting inhabitants of the town slumber peacefully in their beds sends a shiver down my spine every time I see it. In no time at all the town is overrun with rats and the plague.

Check out the scene where one of the rats (I believe eleven thousand were used in all) appears to be making a grab for personal glory by standing up as tall as he can make himself and appearing to sing his heart out, X FACTOR-style. So darling, but I still wouldn’t want to have to accommodate all eleven thousand of the little beggars while they’re on location, would you? Can you imagine the breakfast orders?

Any-hoo, crazy old Mr. Renfield, who is revealed to be Count Dracula’s loyal servant, is beside himself with happiness at the arrival in the town of the ‘Master.’ These are trying times indeed for Lucy Harker, however. Jonathan has found his way home but he no longer recognises her and sits in his chair all day giggling and chattering nonsense, his mind and body destroyed by Dracula.

The love-starved and lonely Nosferatu comes to Lucy in her bedroom and begs her to be his concubine and companion down through the centuries to come, but Lucy holds fast to her love for Jonathan and sends the Count away empty-handed. It’s a good offer, given that she’s more or less down one husband now. I think she should have taken it, personally. It’s tough being a single woman in the time of the plague…!

Now we come to the climax of this gorgeously-shot film. I’d better warn you, there will be spoilers, but I’m guessing that most horror movie fans know the DRACULA story inside-out and upside-down by now anyway.

The town of Wismar has been devastated by Nosferatu and his delightful plague of rats. The scene where some of the townspeople gather for a grotesque parody of a ‘last supper’ in the town square while the rats climb all over them is a chilling one.

The music here is truly awe-inspiring. I get chills every time I listen to the hauntingly beautiful song that’s playing. It’s a traditional Georgian folk song called ‘Tsintskaro’ and it’s the most beautiful piece of music ever used in a film.

Lucy tries to tell the town physician, Dr. Van Helsing, that Nosferatu is the reason for all the death and destruction in the town of Wismar but the good doctor is a man of science and refuses to believe in the existence of such supernatural creatures as vampires. In this sense, he’s kind of the opposite of his namesake in every other DRACULA movie, in which Van Helsing is actually the vampire-hunter, not the sceptic.

When Lucy’s closest friend and neighbour, Mina, is murdered by Count Dracula, Lucy does the only thing left to her to do. She offers herself to Nosferatu, in the hope that she can keep him occupied throughout the night and make him ‘forget the cry of the cock’ in the morning, thereby causing him to be killed by the first rays of the morning sun. He was clearly listening too hard to the cry of his own cock, heh-heh-heh.

The scene where Nosferatu comes to Lucy in her bedroom and finally feeds on her delicious blood is erotic in the extreme. It always brings back my ‘horny,’ last spotted around the time of the break-up of my last relationship, legging it into a taxi-cab with an overnight bag and an airplane ticket.

Lucy is dressed all in white, her bedclothes are white and delicate flowers in shades of pastel sit on the night-stand and litter the bed. The Vampyre gently pulls back her clothing to look at her body (who says vampires only dig blood?), then he rests his claw on one full rounded breast as he lowers his head to her neck and begins to suck.

They remain locked together in a beautiful and moving sexual congress all night, and when the first rays of the sun begin to filter into Lucy’s bedroom the following morning, she pulls Nosferatu back down to her once more.

The besotted Vampyre thus ‘forgets the cry of the cock’ and dies. Awfully tough luck, old boy. Lucy listens to his death agonies with a smile on her face and then, knowing that she has saved the town of Wismar from the horror of Count Dracula, she closes her eyes and dies herself.

There’s a great little twist at the end which I won’t tell you about here. You’ll just have to go and watch the film for yourself, which I hope you will anyway. (Yeah, I know I’ve told you guys nearly everything else but we’ve gotta draw the line somewhere…!)

Personally speaking, as I may have hinted earlier, if I had to choose only one film to watch for the rest of my life, it would be this one. I want to be buried with it. In the absence of Nosferatu himself coming to me in person in my flower-strewn bedroom and bending his head to my newly-washed neck, then I want to be buried clutching my copy of the film, the coffin lid closing on the sight of my fingers laced around his deathly-white face on the front of the DVD box. And when you watch this film, I can pretty much promise you that you will too.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. (1966) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Eli Wallach in The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY. (1966) DIRECTED BY SERGIO LEONE. MUSIC BY ENNIO MORRICONE. STARRING CLINT EASTWOOD, LEE VAN CLEEF, ELI WALLACH, ALDO GIUFFRÈ AND MARIO BREGA.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I’ve never seen so many men wasted so badly.’

This is the third film in Sergio Leone’s renowned triumvirate of spaghetti Westerns, the ‘DOLLARS’ trilogy. Preceded by A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (1964) and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE (1965), it’s also the longest and most ambitious of the films and the only one to feature the American Civil War.

Clint Eastwood, who stars in all three films, made his name internationally in the ‘DOLLARS’ trilogy and introduces in them his famous character of ‘The Man With No Name.’ This is the laconic Man-Of-Few-Words who has such superlative skills as a gunfighter that he frequently can shoot at things behind him or to the side of him and get ’em bang-on. Even just by using his peripheral vision he’s a crack shot.

In THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, Clint teams up with Lee Van Cleef (Colonel Douglas Mortimer in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) as the ruthless Angel Eyes and Eli Wallach in his first and only ‘DOLLARS’ outing as Tuco. Clint is here known as ‘Blondie’ because of the sun-lightened highlights in his lovely thick head of brown hair.

Blondie and Tuco have an hilarious but rather unreliable scam going together at the start of the film. Tuco is the comic relief throughout the movie, but that doesn’t alter the fact that he’s also a desperate desperado of a villain and a thief and he’s ‘WANTED’ in several towns for his various outlawed shenanigans. And I do mean ‘WANTED,’ not just plain wanted, lol.

Here’s what they do, see? Blondie pretends to run Tuco into the Sheriff of the different towns where there’s a price on the foul-mouthed Tuco’s charming lickle head. Blondie collects a nice fat reward, often thousands of dollars.

Tuco is duly sentenced to hang by the denizens of the town. At the point of hanging, a strategically-placed Blondie shoots at the rope around Tuco’s neck and Tuco, already comfortably seated on a horse, lights on outta there a free man, later to share the spoils with Blondie. Then it’s onto the next town to commit the same delightfully ingenious fraud again.

There’s a lot that can go wrong with this scam, or possibly scam-ola. (THE SIMPSONS!) All it takes is for Blondie to get the sudden urge to scratch his ass or swat away a fly that lands on his face or for the sun to blind him at the wrong time, and Tuco is toast.

Not to mention the fact that the various towns in the Wild West were already able to communicate with each other via telegraph, mail coach, horse messenger and plain good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Word would surely have gotten around sooner or later that Blondie and Tuco were engaged in a scam of the scammiest order. But whatever, it’s a film…!

Anyway, Blondie and Tuco don’t trust each other as far as they could throw each other, despite the fact that they’re compelled to work together if they want to make a quick easy buck without resorting to honest, back-breaking labour. Which naturally they do. Honest, back-breaking labour both sucks and blows.

They’re frequently on the outs with each other or trying to kill each other, or threatening to, at any rate. It’s my honest belief that, when it comes to the crunch, they wouldn’t do it. There’s a grudging mutual liking there, despite themselves.

It’s during one of these ‘outs,’ however, that the two bandits learn from a dying man calling himself Bill Carson of the existence of two hundred thousand dollars worth of Confederate gold in a grave in a cemetery somewhere.

Ironically, Tuco only learns the name of the cemetery and Blondie only manages to find out the name on the gravestone. The pair are forced to work together, therefore, in order to pull off the biggest coup of their bandity lives.

Unbeknownst to the pair of them, though, Lee Van Cleef’s unscrupulous mercenary Angel Eyes character is also after this money. In order to find out its whereabouts, he’s already murdered a small family of peasants without any qualms and beaten a young prostitute half to death. Shame on you, Angel Eyes, you family-killer and prostitute-beater, you! As if their lives weren’t tough enough already.

The American Civil War is going on while all this is happening. Do Blondie’s comments about the terrible, pointless waste of life mirror the director’s own opinions? It’s certainly hard not to agree with Blondie when you see the carnage and the utter chaos that characterises this awful conflict.

Blondie and Tuco are trotting along happily on the way to the cemetery anyway, wearing some stolen grey uniforms of the South, when they see a regiment of grey-clad soldiers coming towards them.

Oh great, it’s the South, they think, relieved, until the dust of the desert road brushes off the soldiers’ coats to reveal them as the navy-blue-clad soldiers of the North. It’s a very funny scene, though, where Tuco is yelling yay, hurray for General Lee, etc., and then the soldiers turn out to be the enemy. Poor stupid Tuco…!

Angel Eyes is surprisingly a Union Sergeant in the regiment that captures Tuco and Blondie. His huge henchman Wallace (the magnificent Mario Brega in his third ‘DOLLARS’ outing) gives Tuco the most horrific-looking beating to get him to tell Angel Eyes where the loot is, quite literally, buried. Tuco gets his threatened revenge on Wallace later. ‘An bhfuil cead agam dul go dtì an leithreas, máis e do thoil e…?’

Blondie, Tuco and Angel Eyes have their inevitable three-way showdown in a wide-open space of suitably amphitheatrical proportions, to the accompaniment of Ennio Morricone’s marvellous music.

But not before Blondie and Tuco have done a big and much-appreciated favour for an exhausted and dispirited navy-blue-coated Captain (Clinton) of a regiment fighting the dreadful Civil War…

There’s a very touching scene where Blondie gives a dying young soldier a puff of his ever-present cigarette and wraps him in his good warm coat, taking only a poncho in return. Which suits both him and us perfectly, as we’re more used to seeing him so garbed.

So, who gets the precious moolah in the end? Blondie, Tuco or Angel Eyes? None of them? Or do they agree to a highly unlikely three-way split? Like I said, it’s highly unlikely. Lee Van Cleef is properly mean in this one too, unlike when he was Colonel Douglas Mortimer in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE.

Then, he was reduced to working as a bounty hunter by straitened circumstances and, of course, he had his own deeply personal reasons for wanting to kill the bandit El Indio, but here he’s motivated purely by greed. His moustache is slightly longer and darker too here, a sure sign of proper villainy, lol. Never trust a man whose moustache curls up slightly at the ends. You could live to regret it.

By the way, when I saw Ennio Morricone perform his greatest hits in Dublin’s 3Arena back in early 2015, I only went because I was absolutely convinced that it’d be his last hurrah. I’ll never get another chance to see such a living legend in person, I told myself.

He’s been back three or four times since then, lol, and he’s probably booked in for next year as well, making a total mockery out of my assumption that he was nearly ready to hang up his baton. I bet he’s doing it just to spite me…!

Anyway, when during this concert the orchestra struck up the opening bars to ‘THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY,’ a definite frisson of excitement rippled through the audience.

A thrilled culchie (a country person Up In Dublin For The Day, usually for some kind of All-Ireland sporting event) behind me was heard to remark to his companion: ‘Tish The Big One.’ You’re not wrong there, my country friend. You’re not wrong there.

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