DOUBLE INDEMNITY. (1944) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

double indemnityDOUBLE INDEMNITY. (1944) DIRECTED BY BILLY WILDER. SCREENPLAY BY BILLY WILDER AND RAYMOND CHANDLER. FROM THE NOVEL BY JAMES M. CAIN.

STARRING FRED MACMURRAY, BARBARA STANWYCK AND EDWARD G. ROBINSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I killed him for the money. And for a woman. I didn’t get the money, and I didn’t get the woman.’

Walter Neff, insurance agent.

You can tell from the writing credits (Wilder, Chandler, Cain) just why DOUBLE INDEMNITY is one of the best and darkest film noir thrillers ever made. And the performances don’t exactly suck either.

On the contrary, they shimmer and steam with tension and desire all the way through. Not just with sexual desire, although there’s plenty of that, but with the desire to enrich oneself financially while simultaneously ridding oneself of the millstone around one’s neck, a husband who’s outlived his usefulness. It’s the old, old story, isn’t it?

Fred MacMurray, a fine handsome slice of ‘Forties beefcake, plays Walter Neff, an insurance agent who finds himself one afternoon in the lavish home of bored housewife Phyllis Dietrichson, portrayed here by Barbara Stanwyck. Walter doesn’t mind that her husband, the wealthy breadwinner to whom he would have pitched his sales spiel, is out. He couldn’t care less about the husband once he claps eyes on the wife.

Phyllis, the second wife of this Dietrichson fella, is stunningly beautiful, and don’t she just know it? Her glossy blonde hair falls in artlessly silky rolls and waves, her make-up is flawless and she dresses to seduce, with bling and cling wherever you choose to look.

Walter is immediately smitten with her. The sight of the slim, slinky gold chain winking expensively around one elegantly crossed ankle is his undoing. Bam! He’s in love, head-over-heels in love, and the attraction is mutual.

The conversation turns to murder surprisingly quickly. Walter initially walks out on Phyllis when he susses out that she wants to take out a whopping insurance policy on her cruel, abusive husband, then arrange a little ‘accident’ for the unfortunate man shortly afterwards.

But it doesn’t take long for the spider to lure the fly back into her parlour, which smells heavily of honeysuckle. ‘Murder smells like honeysuckle,’ I betcha ya didn’t know that. The fly takes the bait.

The stage is set for the demise of Mister Dietrichson. The two conspirators concoct a plan that has always seemed to me to be needlessly complex and dangerous. Too much could go wrong. Too much does…

Why does Walter do it? He loves her, of course, and he desires her more than he’s ever desired any woman in his life before. The money is not to be sniffed at either. But there’s another reason. It’s almost a matter of pride with him.

He’s an insurance agent, right? Day after day, he sits in his office reading fraudulent claims put in by people who think that they can fiddle their insurance. Walter and his boss Keyes, played by Edward G. Robinson in magnificent form, know every single trick in the book. Hell, they wrote the goddamned book.

Walter quite fancies the idea of being able to use his eleven years of inside knowledge to pull off the ultimate fool-proof insurance scam. But there’s no such thing as the perfect murder. And Walter always knew that Keyes would worry and worry at this case from the moment he got the bit between his teeth. Keyes can smell a fraud a mile off.

What Walter doesn’t know is that Dietrichson’s daughter Lola, between whom and Phyllis there is no love lost, has some rather disturbing information on Phyllis. It might just shed some light on the character of the woman whom, after all, Walter barely knows. It concerns Dietrichson’s first wife and the manner in which she died…

The sexual tension between the two leads is palpable. The swift, snappy quickfire dialogue they utter in their first few scenes together is a sheer delight to watch. It positively crackles with electricity. It was written by men who knew their stuff, goddammit.

double indemnitydouble indemnitydouble indemnityWhen Walter and Phyllis first sleep together in Walter’s apartment on a gorgeously rainy night, you’ll see no more than the aftermath of Phyllis adjusting her blouse and Walter smoking on the couch with his shoes off, but it’s as suggestively sultry as if you’d seen them actually engage in sexual intercourse.

Of course, they knew how to do things back then. These old ‘Forties thrillers were masterful at showing without telling, if you know what I mean. A fierce embrace and the music rising to a powerful crescendo was all they needed back then to imply mind-blowing, life-changing sex, the kind of sex you’ll remember for the rest of your days.

Those were the good old days, huh? And DOUBLE INDEMNITY is one of the best examples of its genre, one of the finest of all the film noir thrillers. If you haven’t already seen it, go and find it and watch it. It’ll weave its magic on you too. I say let it.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

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JANE EYRE. (1943) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

jane eyre- weddingJANE EYRE. (1943) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY CHARLOTTE BRONTE. DIRECTED BY ROBERT STEVENSON. STARRING JOAN FONTAINE, ORSON WELLES, AGNES MOOREHEAD, MARGARET O’BRIEN, HILLARY BROOKE, HENRY DANIELL AND ELIZABETH TAYLOR AS HELEN. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

It’s so funny that this film should have been on the good old BBC2 today, because just this very week I’d been telling people that I wanted to properly read and, in some cases, re-read a selection of the classics.

Books like JANE EYRE and Charlotte’s sister Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS, not to mention Jane Austen’s and Charles Dickens’ works in their entirety. That’s some tall order, innit, but watching this fabulous screen adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s deliciously Gothic novel has only whetted my appetite and now I’m raring to go. Let’s see how far I get, shall we…?

Joan Fontaine, whose sister Olivia De Havilland is miraculously still alive aged over one-hundred, is sublime as the poverty-stricken governess Jane Eyre. This and REBECCA and SUSPICION are my favourite films of Joan Fontaine’s. She has the face and voice of an angel and was absolutely the perfect choice for Jane in this movie.

Actually, there are a lot of similarities between her roles in JANE EYRE and REBECCA. In REBECCA (1941), she plays the un-named female companion who is obliged to trail behind the obnoxious Mrs. Van Hopper in Monte Carlo because she’s utterly impoverished since the death of her father and, frankly, urgently needs the pay-check.

Here she comes to the attention of the rich and embittered Maxim De Winter, who marries her after a whirlwind courtship and whisks her off to his fantastic Gothic family home of Manderley in Cornwall, England. Nice work if you can get it, eh? From poorly-paid and looked-down-upon ‘friend of the bosom’ to mistress of Manderley in one easy step…

The little paid companion couldn’t be happier, of course, but it seems that there is some mystery surrounding the first Mrs. De Winter, the deceased and titular Rebecca and, whatever it is, it’s making Maxim desperately unhappy. Worse, it’s stopping the newly-married couple from enjoying themselves, their new-found love and their marriage…

In JANE EYRE, Joan Fontaine plays a dirt-poor little English governess who is employed to take care of a little French girl called Adele, in the country household of the rich and mysterious Mr. Edward Rochester.

This is only, however, after she’s endured ten hard cold years at the brutal Lowood Institution For Girls and nearly a decade more as the un-wanted orphaned niece of her hard cold Aunt Reed and her fat bully of a son, Jane’s Cousin John.

As this is England in the first trimester, as it were, of the nineteenth century, you can imagine how rough it was for anyone but the rich and privileged. An impoverished female would have been at the very bottom of the totem-pole, so to speak.

Jane probably falls head-over-heels in love with the dashing Mr. Rochester the instant she meets him by accident on the moors at night. How romantic is that, eh? The moors at night? Beats locking eyes over an over-priced bag of chips and a battered sausage in Dublin’s Temple Bar on a crowded Saturday night, does that…!

Mr. Rochester, the Heathcliff of this book/film, is superbly played by that lion of a man, Orson Welles. He cuts a magnificent figure in his knee-boots and riding breeches, with the confidence and arrogance that comes with a lifetime of privilege and giving the orders.

He’s as taken with the stubborn, virtuous Jane as she undoubtedly is with him, but he toys with her and makes her think he’s going to marry the proud and haughty aristocratic Blanche Ingram before eventually crushing Jane to his manly bosom and declaring his undying love for her. Handsome and overpoweringly charismatic he might be, but he’s still a total prick when it comes to how to treat women…!

Jane and Edward’s tragic story plays out against the fabulous, awe-inspiring backdrop of the oh-so-Gothic Thornfield Hall, with its forbidden tower that houses a strange occupant whom Jane hears laughing maniacally in the night but never sees. An occupant that may have tried to kill Mr. Rochester by burning him to death in his bed, who must be watched night and day by a dour and forbidding-looking woman called Grace Poole…

No fewer than three actors appear here who have also popped up in the Basil Rathbone- Nigel Bruce SHERLOCK HOLMES movies (1939-1945). Henry Daniell is wonderful as the mean old Mr. Brocklehurst who runs the charitable institution of Lowood. He once played Moriarty to Basil Rathbone’s world-famous detective, even bearding him rather cheekily in his own den at 221B Baker Street.

This was in THE WOMAN IN GREEN, an utterly ‘mesmerising’ watch, heh-heh-heh. In the same film Hillary Brooke (Blanche Ingram) tried to hypnotise the great detective, with limited results, it must be said.

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUSE OF FEAR, Aubrey Mather, in JANE EYRE a genial house-guest of Mr. Rochester’s and an uncle to Blanche Ingram, plays Alastair. He’s the only Good Comrade not trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the law (represented ably here by Dennis Hoey as Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard) by illegally profiting from the mysterious ‘deaths’ of his friends.

I feel all romantic and dreamy after watching this. Reality, sadly, is much less Gothically romantic, so I’m off now to see about the dinner and get some clothes sorted out for the week to come. Yes, yes, I know, boring…! Enjoy the film if you watch it. As an escape from the daily grind, you honestly couldn’t do better.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

jane eyre- wedding

 

THE GLENN MILLER STORY. (1954) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

glenn millerTHE GLENN MILLER STORY. (1954) DIRECTED BY ANTHONY MANN. STARRING JAMES STEWART AND JUNE ALLYSON. MUSIC BY GLENN MILLER, JOSEPH GERSHENSON AND HENRY MANCINI. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

God, I love this film. I watch it every Christmas without fail, which is perfectly appropriate as it’s ideal family viewing and the action in the film ends on Christmas Day, 1944. It’s the story of the most famous ‘big band’ leader of them all, Glenn Miller, who between 1939 and 1943 scored no fewer than twenty-three Number Ones, a feat unequalled by Elvis Presley or even The Beatles.

And that was back when being Number One actually meant something. These days, Ed Sheeran could just break wind and it’d sail straight to the top of the charts without any competition whatsoever, no offence intended to the Rich Ginger One, lol.

Glenn Miller is magnificently portrayed here by America’s third favourite leading man after Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant, James Stewart. He looks so like Glenn Miller it’s actually uncanny, and his lanky, awkward charm is so devilishly endearing that it can’t fail to captivate the hearts of any women watching. Probably men too, I don’t know…!

The story takes us from Glenn Miller’s early attempts to establish himself as a musician and band leader to those heady, heady days when he was on top of the world, having finally established that distinctive ‘Glenn Miller Sound’ that we know so well and that he’d quite literally slaved to achieve.

Present for most of the struggle was Glenn’s lovely wife, Helen Miller née Burger. His courtship of her in the film is erratic and quirky and ultimately desperately romantic for the viewer. In real life, leaving two or three years between phone calls to his girlfriend would’ve garnered Miller the bum’s rush and a painful punch in the kisser, but the film has an almost fairytale quality to it and Glenn’s advances are welcomed by Helen with no harsher a remonstrance than the occasional humorously-toned ‘Honestly…!’ As in, Honestly, this man of mine, lol. He gets away with murder because of his eccentric and individualistic charm. Guys everywhere could learn a thing or two from him, they really could.

There are cameos in the film from such real-life musical luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Babe Russin, Gene Krupa, The Modernnaires and Frances Langford. I love when he’s leading his own big band overseas as Captain Glenn Miller in World War Two, and at an open-air concert for the troops the band keeps playing, even as the bombers are flying overhead and the earth is shaking ominously.

The band keeps playing on and receives a rapturous reception from the appreciative crowd after the danger has passed. I always get a big lump in my throat at that bit. Even mean old Hitler himself couldn’t stop Glenn Miller…!

I also love when his band start playing Glenn Miller’s own music to the troops on parade instead of the usual dreary marching music. Suddenly the troops are marching with these giant goofy grins plastered all over their mugs. It’s wonderful to see.

Of course, Captain Glenn Miller gets a big bollocking afterwards from his immediate superior for his maverick, Robin-Williams-in-GOOD-MORNING-VIETNAM-style behaviour, but he’s the winner ultimately when he’s given official permish to entertain the troops in his own inimitable Glenn Miller way.

We can’t talk about the film without talking about the marvellous music it contains. MOONLIGHT SERENADE is, of course, the big one, and the story of how it came about features prominently in the movie. You can also hear PENNSYLVANIA 6-5000, TUXEDO JUNCTION, AMERICAN PATROL, IN THE MOOD, A STRING OF PEARLS and LITTLE BROWN JUG, many of which were written as wonderful musical gifts to his wife. Lucky Helen…! Wish someone would write me a song of any description, lol.

The end comes when Glenn Miller’s plane goes missing somewhere over the English Channel on December 15th, 1944, while he’s en route to entertain American troops in France. Neither Glenn Miller nor his plane nor the pilot were ever seen again. It’s so sad to see this bit in the film.

It’s an unsolved mystery about which people have been speculating for years but the obvious answer to the puzzle of what happened is that the plane simply failed in some way and fell into the sea. It was a tragic end for the man who once denounced fascist oppression in Europe with the words: ‘America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music.’

Even sadder is the Christmas Day radio broadcast for that year, at which Glenn Miller was supposed to be present and playing. The broadcast poignantly goes ahead without him, while his wife Helen, his best friend and fellow musician Chummy MacGregor and Glenn and Helen’s two adopted children, Stevie and Jonnie, listen at home.

The Christmas tree twinkles while the adults listen to Glenn’s music, smiling through their tears. It’s just too sad. I always break down completely at this bit. It’s just like I always suspected, folks. I’m just too soft for this job, haha. Anyway, watch the film if you haven’t done so already. Glenn Miller isn’t just for Christmas, you know…glenn millerglenn miller

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

JINGLE ALL THE WAY. (1996) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

jingle all the wayJINGLE ALL THE WAY. (1996) DIRECTED BY BRIAN LEVANT. STARRING ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, JAKE LLOYD, RITA WILSON, PHIL HARTMAN, ROBERT CONRAD, SINBAD AND JAMES BELUSHI. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Ho-ho-ho and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and all that festive jazz…! JINGLE ALL THE WAY is one of those seasonal staples that’s as much a part of Christmas as getting pissed on bubbly while you’re waiting for the turkey to cook, and shagging the one person at your work’s annual Christmas do who’s guaranteed to put the snap you drunkenly allowed them to take of your ass up on social media. That’s not just me, surely…? Lol.

Anyway, I’d classify JINGLE ALL THE WAY as a Christmas comedy on a par with THE GRINCH WHO STOLE CHRISTMAS, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, HOME ALONE and all those other favourite Crimbo films we all love to unearth at this time of year. Parents will identify with it (painfully so, I’d say!) and kids will laugh their heads off at it.

It stars the Austrian Oak, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he’s in a much more perilous situation than any fix he’s ever had to face in his TERMINATOR or other action-packed movies. He’s a Dad at Christmas who has failed, repeat failed, to pick up the toy his son wants for Christmas in advance of the big day. Boo…! For shame, Howard Langston, for shame. That’s his name, lol.

He is a bad father. He should be tied to a chair and pelted with tofu balls while Cliff Richard’s MISTLETOE AND WINE plays on repeat on the sound-system. Too harsh, you say? No, I’m sorry but the penalty stands. It has to stand, if the world order isn’t to collapse under a weight of wrapping paper and festive ribbons and bows.

There’s no crime worse than failing to buy Little Timmy or Tammy Snotnose exactly what they want for Christmas. Money equates love, see? The bigger the gift, the more you love your kid. Simple. And buy two of everything. The little brats won’t wanna share. And for Chrissakes, remember the bloody batteries…!

Howard is horrified to discover on Christmas Eve that he has neglected to purchase the toy which his son Jamie has asked Santa for this Crimbo. The must-have toy-du-jour is Turbo Man. I love the way the people in the toy-stores all laugh maniacally at him when he asks for a Turbo Man. Any self-respecting parent worthy of the name knows that that particular toy has been sold out for months. Hah!

The scenes of chaos in the toy-stores in the film on this Christmas Eve are terrifying, but not at all unusual. A family member had the misfortune to work in a Dublin toy-store last Christmas and she still hasn’t forgotten the misery. The stampeding, the screaming and bawling, the abuse, the recriminations, and that was just the staff. Never mind the pushy parents or the marauding kids.

She sits in her chair at home every day now, not talking, just continually rocking back and forth, and when she closes her eyes she can still see the shells falling, smell the awful smell of burning flesh and put her hands into the pile of goo that used to be her best friend’s face… No, wait a minute. That was ‘Nam, wasn’t it? From what I hear, though, there’s not much difference between the two…

Anyway, Howard finds himself in some extraordinary situations as he races around town looking for a Turbo Man doll in time for the Christmas Parade later in the day. Followed everywhere he goes by a manic mailman looking for the same toy and a pissed-off copper who likes to give out parking tickets, he encounters a group of crooked Santas (crooked in the sense of corrupt, not askew!), chases a small girl through a crowded shopping mall, breaks into his neighbour’s house with theft in mind and pretty much terrorises the host of a radio show.

This is all in the name of finding the doll and proving to little Jamie and his wife Liz that he’s neither the screw-up they seem to think he is nor a neglectful, emotionally- and physically- absent parent.

What the kid and the wife don’t seem to realise is that the reason that Dad is away so much is because he’s working his butt off to keep the ungrateful pair in the style they’ve obviously long been accustomed to. And what a style! Their house is fabulous.

As this is an American film, they’ve really gone to town on making the film look as magically Christmassy as possible. I’ve always maintained that the Americans know how to keep Christmas well, as old Scrooge might say.

The houses and snow-covered gardens and streets are all decked out in full festive regalia, the shops look gorgeous and there are real carollers singing in the open air in proper Victorian garb. Charles Dickens, the writer credited with inventing the true traditional Victorian Christmas by putting it all down in his books for posterity, would be proud to see how wonderfully festive it all is.

Arnie is funny and handsome throughout, especially when he’s all togged out as Turbo Man for the parade. I love the way his wife says ‘Howard…!’ in surprise when she realises that she’s actually sexually attracted to her husband in the super-hero suit. Well, it’s a very snug-fitting suit, ahem. I wouldn’t be in any rush to take it back to the costume shop myself…

Phil Hartman, the voice of both Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure from THE SIMPSONS, does a real star turn here as the obnoxious Ted, Howard’s annoying, know-it-all next-door-neighbour who always has to go one better, much to Howard’s irritation.

It’s a lot like THE SIMPSONS, with Ted as Ned the pious and virtuous neighbour who gets his son’s TURBO MAN weeks in advance of Christmas and Howard as Homer who forgets it completely until- you guessed it- the last minute.

Homer, however, would have forgotten it because he was more interested in boozing at Moe’s Bar than in preparing for Christmas, something he’d perceive to be Marge’s territory. Howard only forgets because he’s genuinely snowed-under at work. Snowed-under, geddit? It’s funny ’cause it’s Christmas.

Anyway, the housewives all adore the newly-divorced Ted, and Ted has his sights set on Howard’s missus Liz, probably because he’s actually jealous as hell of the muscular Howard. I love Ted’s line to Howard which reveals all Ted’s own insecurities and petty envy: ‘You can’t bench-press your way out of this one…!’ See what I mean? Jealous, jealous, jealous.

The film is good clean fun, if a tad far-fetched and, at the end, the commercial message it’s been sending to viewers all throughout the film (to buy, buy, buy and then buy some more) gets turned completely on its head, which is nice.

Keep watching those end credits as well, because there’s a cute little twist right at the very end which impatient viewers, anxious to switch off and get the little horrors to bed, might miss. Aw, kids. Kids are great, aren’t they? You can’t live with them, you can’t donate them to charity. Well, that’s what the woman in Oxfam told me, anyway, and she’d know…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

jingle all the way

CARRY ON SCREAMING! (1966) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

fenella fieldingCARRY ON SCREAMING. (1966) DIRECTED BY GERALD THOMAS. PRODUCED BY PETER ROGERS. WRITTEN BY TALBOT ROTHWELL. MUSIC BY ERIC ROGERS. STARRING KENNETH WILLIAMS, CHARLES HAWTREY, JIM DALE, HARRY H. CORBETT, PETER BUTTERWORTH, BERNARD BRESSLAW, JON PERTWEE, TOM CLEGG, ANGELA DOUGLAS, JOAN SIMS AND FENELLA FIELDING. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Foul feet

smell

something horrible…’

Where do I even begin to talk about one of the greatest horror comedies of all time? I’ve always been a huge fan of the CARRY ON franchise (31 classic British comedies made between 1958 and 1992) anyway, but this Hammer Horror spoof featuring some of the franchise’s finest actors and actresses really takes the cake.

It’s funny, glamorously gothic, mysterious and downright wacky all at the same time, with sparklingly witty writing, terrible puns and hilarious sight gags all chucked in for good measure. The blend of comedy and horror works so well, and I love the way that they’re both parodying the Hammer Horror movies of the day and also lovingly homage-ing them as well.

Let’s see now, where do we start? Well, at the beginning, I suppose, in Hocombe Woods in the time of horse-drawn carriages and gaslight, where something mysterious walks at night and carries off local damsels who are never seen again.

If it was a real Hammer Horror film, it might of course be Christopher Lee as Count Dracula who’d be doing the carrying-off. Well, in actual fact, it’d be good old Eddie Powell as Christopher Lee’s double who’d be doing it, as Chrissy had a trick back and couldn’t be humping women around like sacks of coal all the livelong day…!

But this isn’t Hammer Horror and, for once, it isn’t the horny, bloodthirsty Count who’s stalking the forest for comely female victims with bounteous bosoms and sturdy, pinchable hindquarters. But someone or something is kidnapping local women from Hocombe Woods and ‘disappearing’ them without a trace. The woods, a hotspot for courting couples, are becoming an increasingly dangerous place to be.

It falls to the lot of Detective Sergeant Sidney Bung, married to a battleaxe of a wife played by Joan Sims, and his bungling sidekick Detective Constable Slobotham to get to the bottom of the mystery, starting with the disappearance of a certain Miss Doris Mann from Hocombe Woods.

Doris’s boyfriend, Albert Potter, a randy tradesman, is outraged at her abduction, not least because he hadn’t managed to penetrate her well-protected virginity before she ‘opped it, so to speak. And after all the trouble he went to to deflower her, as well, only to be thwarted at the last hurdle…!

Jim Dale is marvellous as Albert Potter, the gormless lug who’s slap-bang on top of Bung and Slobotham’s list of suspects, until they find definitive proof that they’ve ‘fingered’ the wrong man and that the case might, in fact, have a supernatural element to it that they hadn’t bargained on…

Charles Hawtrey, a wonderful comic actor who only has to say ‘hello…!’ in that funny voice of his and you’re cracking up already, is superb as Dan Dann, the lavatory man, who runs a mens’ convenience and has some rather vital information to impart to Bung and Slobotham, but will he live long enough to pass on what he knows? That, folks, is the sixty-four-million dollar question.

The key to the mystery might just lie at Bide-A-Wee, a spooky gothic mansion in the heart of the forest that houses a right motley crew of Halloweeny-style weirdos. Bernard Bresslaw appears first as the butler Sockett, who informs the coppers and Albert Potter that the master of the house has been dead for some time but he’ll see if he can rouse him nonetheless… Talk about the bleedin’ Addams Family.

Kenneth Williams, a man who surely was born to make a snidey-comic remark with an accompanying snidey-comic facial expression, is brilliant as the not-quite-all-there Dr. Orlando Watt. He’s hard to keep track of because he just seems to keep coming and going, but you’ll get quite a charge out of him when you get to know him, har-de-har-har.

I’ve saved the best for last. Fenella Fielding as Valeria, Dr. Watt’s sex-pot sister, gives all the Elviras and all the Vampiras a run for their money. Oh yes she does, with her long lustrous black hair, her chalk-white skin, red lips and smoky voice, her hourglass figure in that delicious red dress with her fabulous boobies on a plate for all and sundry to drool over, and drool they undoubtedly do. I could quite go for her myself if I weren’t such a committed man-eater, haha.

Valeria, a sexually-assured woman with a wealth of wiles and experience at her painted fingertips, easily runs rings around the besotted Bung and Albert Potter. As if having the undying devotion and everlasting lust of Sockett and the hideous Oddbod weren’t enough for her, the saucy strumpet.

Bung will have his work cut out for him, trying to figure out why the basement of Bide-A-Wee is filled with strangely lifelike waxwork dummies and why, even more curiously, a mannequin that Albert Potter swears is the living image of his beloved Doris Mann has turned up in the window of a local department store.

Will Bung and Slobotham, the latter of whom cuts a rather charmingly matronly figure in a wig and corset, ever get to the bottom of the unorthodox happenings at Bide-A-Wee? Will Joan Sims ever stop nagging her browbeaten husband? Will Dan Dann be able to meet you sometime at his convenience and, most importantly of all, will the luscious Valeria ever stop smoking? It’s unlikely, dear readers, to say the least…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

JOHN CARPENTER’S ‘THE THING.’ (1982) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

the thingJOHN CARPENTER’S ‘THE THING.’ (1982) DIRECTED BY JOHN CARPENTER. BASED ON THE NOVELLA ‘WHO GOES THERE?’ BY JOHN W. CAMPBELL JR. MUSIC BY JOHN CARPENTER AND ENNIO MORRICONE. SPECIAL EFFECTS BY ROB BOTTIN. STARRING KURT RUSSELL, KEITH DAVID, PETER MALONEY AND A. WILFORD BRIMLEY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

It’s shocking nowadays to read over the bad reviews this film initially garnered on its release, and then to compare them with the rave reviews it’s received retrospectively and continues to receive to this day.

Either those early critics really, really got it wrong or it was simply a case, as some people think, of THE THING’s having simply found it too hard to compete with two other films that were released at the same time.

Namely, Steven Spielberg’s E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, which of course presents an altogether different, more positive view of alien visitors from Outer Space, and Ridley Scott’s BLADE RUNNER. 1982 was clearly a good year for science fiction movies…!

Suffice it to say here that this film is widely regarded nowadays as one of the best horror movies ever made and John Carpenter, its creator, one of the best horror movie directors. Did I mention that I saw him perform his movie soundtracks live in Dublin’s Vicar Street last Halloween Week? I didn’t? Well, gather round, friends, and I shall tell you a wondrous tale…!

Haha, I’m only joking. I told that story enough last year. Today we’ll just talk about THE THING. So, um, well, here’s the thing, geddit? See what I did there?

 It’s the story of a highly malevolent, parasitic alien life form that somehow finds its way onto an American scientific research station in Antarctica, after thousands of years of being buried nice and cosy-like in the ice.

That’s a hell of a story, isn’t it? Something similar happens in the marvellous horror movie, HORROR EXPRESS, starring Hammer royalty Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and also TV detective Kojak, aka actor Telly Savalas. Who loves ya, baby?

Anyway, once the lads at the research station encounter THE THING for the first time (in their dog pound as it’s initially taken the form of a cute cuddly bow-bow), they still don’t even grasp the enormity of the situation they’re in. This is only the beginning of the horror for the men, whose lives on the station are probably isolated enough and tough enough as it is.

THE THING has the power to take on any life-form it chooses, but only if there’s already an existing life-form for it to take the shape and form of, if you get me. It sneakily decides to take on the appearance of various scientists at the station, and the only way for the other brainiacs to tell the difference is by doing a blood test, which isn’t always convenient:

‘Um, excuse me, Mr. Thing, would you mind awfully just taking a seat here and giving me your arm? It’s only a little prick, you’ll hardly feel it, and you can TOTALLY go back to killing us all afterwards, I promise! We even have lollipops here for anyone who gives blood. Hey, how about those Mets, huh…?’

Kurt Russell, deeply attractive in a full beard and with his thermal long johns on under his outer clothing, is the main character, R.J. MacReady, and the scientist who’s the most proactive in trying to track down and destroy THE THING. He’s (Mac) ready for anything, geddit? His answer to everything is fire. It’s hilarious.

Every time he spots anything that remotely resembles THE THING, he turns a flame-thrower on it and no exceptions. If he’s not careful, he’ll forget himself and end up scratching his arse with that flame-thrower or trying to turn on the TV with it. It reminds me of an episode of THE SIMPSONS where they’re trying to figure out something, I forget what, and Marge ends up saying ‘No fires!’ to all of Homer’s pyromaniacal suggestions.

The feeling of suspicion and paranoia that builds up in the station as the men all view each other now as potential enemies is so strong, it’s almost palpable. Everyone’s all, like, let’s just sit here, real nice and quiet-like, where we can all keep an eye on each other, real friendly-like.

No-one trusts anyone else and, when mens’ tempers are frayed in such an isolated and claustrophobic situation, things can be triggered almost accidentally, bad things.

Again, it’s like that episode of THE SIMPSONS in which Bart Simpson, Milhouse Van Houten and Martin Prince each have shares in a rare comic-book, the first RADIOACTIVE MAN comic or something, but they quickly grow to distrust each other, each thinking that the other is planning to commandeer the comic for itself. There are very few situations in life that can’t in some way be compared to an episode of THE SIMPSONS…!

The special effects in THE THING are amazingly good, stomach-turning and extremely gory. They’re so good it’s actually incredible to think that they were created a whopping thirty-five years ago and yet they’ve never been bettered since.

Please don’t argue with me about this. I am a woman. I am programmed to win every argument, without exception, and I fight dirty, too, and I’ll resort to tears if I have to, haha.

Although there are some excellent horror film franchises on the go today (INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING, SINISTER, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, to name but a few), no-one’s ever really managed to scale the dizzying heights that John Carpenter and Rob Bottin achieved together all those years ago. Maybe no-one ever will.

I read online that the film is screened every Winter, along with THE SHINING, for the lads at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. That’s funny and kinda sweet but it’s also a bit like showing ALIVE as the in-flight movie on an aeroplane or a virus outbreak film in the hospital waiting-room to people experiencing, well, um, a viral outbreak. Funny but inadvisable, haha. Maybe even a little tactless…! 

I’m off now to make a nice cup of tea to settle my stomach after all those gory special effects. I only wish there were some way to do it where I didn’t have to get up from my chair, wash a cup, get the teabags, boil the kettle… Wait a minute. Where’s me flamethrower…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

SHADOW OF A DOUBT/FAMILY PLOT: A DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

shadow-of-a-doubt-6SHADOW OF A DOUBT/FAMILY PLOT: A DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SHADOW OF A DOUBT. (1943) DIRECTED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. STARRING JOSEPH COTTEN, TERESA WRIGHT, HENRY TRAVERS, PATRICIA COLLINGE, MACDONALD CAREY, WALLACE FORD, HUME CRONYN AND EDNA MAY WONACOTT.

FAMILY PLOT. (1976) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE RAINBIRD PATTERN’ BY VICTOR CANNING. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. MUSIC BY JOHN WILLIAMS.

STARRING KAREN BLACK, WILLIAM DEVANE, BARBARA HARRIS, BRUCE DERN, CATHLEEN NESBITT AND ED LAUTER.

I had a grand time re-watching both of these Alfred Hitchcock thrillers back-to-back over Christmas this year. SHADOW OF A DOUBT is widely-regarded as a stone-cold classic, not only one of the master director’s best films but also the one he’s supposed to have considered to be his own personal favourite of all his movies.

FAMILY PLOT is Hitchcock’s final film, a thriller also with twists and turns to beat the band but with a distinct comedy element to it. Both films concern family ties and the exhaustive complications that can arise therein, which I’m guessing we all know from experience to be the case…!

I like SHADOW OF A DOUBT best, without- ahem- a shadow of a… Well, you know how that ends, haha. Teresa Wright plays a small-town girl, Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Newton, who lives in Santa Rosa, California. She’s named for the man she idolises, her Uncle Charlie who’s her mother’s adored younger brother.

Uncle Charlie is back in town after a long time away, and Young Charlie is so thrilled to have him back that she doesn’t give much thought to what he’s been up to during his lengthy absence. The whole family is delighted to have the prodigal uncle back under their roof, especially Charlie’s kindly older sister Emma, who wants to mother him and never let him out of her sight again.

There’s something a little different about having the handsome and charming Uncle Charlie around the place this time around. For one thing, he seems to be being shadowed by two guys, men whose claims to be conducting a national survey on families for the ‘government’ are so lame that it’s surprising anyone at all believes ’em.

(Mind you, housewives from the ‘Forties were probably so used to swallowing their husband’s lies and edicts that every word out of men’s mouths was gospel to them, haha, and it didn’t occur to them to question what they heard.)

Also, Uncle Charlie seems more secretive and edgy than Charlie remembers, and he doesn’t seem too comfortable in his own skin. Perhaps most disturbingly of all, he seems to have picked up some extremely warped world views in general and views on a certain type of woman in particular.

Young Charlie gradually comes to the realisation that maybe Uncle Charlie’s time away from the family was spent engaging in pursuits that weren’t quite, shall we say, lawful. Maybe they were even murderous…

Joseph Cotten does a wonderful job of playing the charming uncle with the shadowy past. I adore the love story between Young Charlie and the cute-as-a-button detective.

I also love Henry Travers, also known as ‘Attaboy, Clarence!’ or Clarence Odbody the Angel in Frank Capra’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, who’s playing Young Charlie’s father here. His deliciously but unconsciously fiendish conversations about crime and murder with his best friend Hume Cronyn (husband to Jessica Tandy from DRIVING MISS DAISY) act as a delightful backdrop to the build-up of suspense, tension and high drama going on elsewhere in the film.

Even though it’s the master director’s last film, I must confess to not liking FAMILY PLOT as much as I do SHADOW OF A DOUBT, which to me feels like a far superior film. FAMILY PLOT is a comedy-thriller and, as I’ve always been much more open to being frightened half to death by the films I watch than being made to laugh by them, maybe that’s why I’m not crazy about this movie. It’s still a good film though, and well worth a watch if you’re a Hitchcock fan.

Barbara Harris, apparently a lady whom Hitchcock had been wanting to work with for a while, plays a phoney psychic who’s been commissioned by a rich elderly client to find her nephew who’d been given away for adoption at birth.

The rich old lady is feeling guilty for having forced her sister, who’s now deceased, to give away her baby boy and so she wants her nephew back so that she can die with her guilty conscience assuaged. The nephew, incidentally, will inherit the old dear’s entire fortune if he can be found…

The phoney psychic Blanche will pick up a handy little commission of ten grand as well, a sum that neither she nor her boyfriend George, a humble chauffeur hilariously played by Bruce Dern who’d previously been in Hitchcock’s MARNIE, are going to sneeze at. All they have to do now is to find this nephew who’s heir to a massive fortune, the elusive Edward Shoebridge…

On the other side of the story, we’ve got smarmy ‘jeweller’ Arthur Adamson (William Devane) who, along with his stunning girlfriend Fran, played by horror queen Karen Black, makes his real living out of kidnapping rich folks and demanding a ransom in gemstones.

Karen Black, who was utterly superb in horror movies like BURNT OFFERINGS and TRILOGY OF TERROR before moving on to star in modern horror flicks like Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES, would add a touch of solid-gold class to any proceedings, and she plays a blinder here. William Devane, who starred alongside Roy JAWS Scheider and Dustin Hoffman in MARATHON MAN, is also perfectly cast as the duplicitious businessman.

You’re probably wondering where the whole ‘family’ element comes into the picture. Let’s just say that when the paths of the two sets of couples collide, and collide they most certainly will for reasons which I’m not at liberty to divulge, it’ll give a whole new meaning to the words ‘family plot…’

You can’t go wrong with a Hitchcock, any Hitchcock. Even if I’m personally not nuts about FAMILY PLOT, it’s still the last film the master director ever made and as such is worthy of respect. As for SHADOW OF A DOUBT, it’s an absolute cracker of a thriller. So go on, film fans, pull that cracker! After all, Christmas is only over when you decide it is…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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