THE GIRL IN A SWING. (1980) BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE GIRL IN A SWING. (1980) A NOVEL BY RICHARD ADAMS.

BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Beautiful, haunting erotic love and an absolutely terrifying ghost story.’

The New York Times Book Review.

A Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection.

At the time of writing this book review, I haven’t actually seen the 1988 film that was made from the book, but reading the film’s entry on Wikipedia certainly helped to clarify a few things that were left unexplained in the book, lol.

Not that I didn’t enjoy reading the book. Quite the contrary. I loved reading it. It gave me something to look forward to on those cold dark January nights just gone. It was a fantastic read right up until the last thirty-five pages or so, after which things became positively baffling and I admit I was disappointed by the ending, because I felt that the mystery surrounding Käthe, the joint lead character, hadn’t been resolved at all.

The book is an erotic mystery/suspense novel, written by the guy who wrote WATERSHIP DOWN. You know, the anthropomorphic rabbits? ‘Bright eyes, burning like fire…?’ Song made everybody cry? Ah, you know it. Well, this sexy, bordering-on-pornographic oeuvre was a bit of a change of pace from the poor wee bunnies. It’d really make you wonder how you’d go on to write one after the other…!

Anyway, the book is the story of Alan Desland, a quiet young intellectual Englishman who has made himself an expert in pottery and ceramics after the death of his father, whose ceramics shop he’s inherited.

The cultured Alan lives quietly with his widowed mother, in the very house where he and his sister Flick, now married with a child of her own, grew up. They live in a lovely quiet country town and it sounds idyllic, except for the fact that Alan hasn’t met the right woman yet and he’s starting to wonder if he ever will…

He stops wondering when he meets Käthe, a beautiful, mysterious young German secretary, on a ceramics-related trip to Copenhagen. Without knowing the first thing about the girl (indeed, he never really does), he falls head-over-heels in love with her and proposes marriage to her.

They get married and honeymoon in Florida, on the suggestion and offer of free accommodation from a business acquaintance of Alan’s. Then they come home to England, and straightaway Käthe is a huge success with Alan’s friends and family and even the women who work in his pottery shop.

Käthe really is the perfect wife. She’s a superb cook, she knows how to save Alan a few pennies here and there on the housekeeping, she becomes knowledgeable about ceramics and even acquires for a gobsmacked Alan the pottery find of a century (The Girl In A Swing), although to call it the find of several centuries might be nearer to the mark.

And the sex! My God, the sex. Alan goes from being impotent with her to becoming almost like one of his creator’s anthropomorphic bunny rabbits, rutting with his lovely young wife all the livelong day and night. They even have sex on the kitchen table once, while a whole roomful of acquaintances and friends wait for them just next door in the sitting-room. The dirty beasts!

Alan comes home from somewhere once to find Käthe naked as a jaybird and ready for loving on the swing in the back garden. Naturally he obliges her, and, when she wants them to have sex on the public beach as well one day, he obliges her in that too, the lovesick fool. (Their simple garden swing becomes the ‘sex swing’ of Joey Tribiani’s dreams in sitcom FRIENDS, lol!)

You know the word, uxorious, right? As in having or showing an excessive fondness for one’s wife? Well, that’s Alan Desland for you. As Käthe is unlike anyone he’s ever known before, and possesses a deeply ingrained sexuality that entraps, enslaves and enchants him, she quickly becomes the thing he cares about most in the world, maybe even more than his precious ceramic figurines.

But some things are happening around the young couple which give Alan no slight cause for concern, and which seem to be connected with Käthe in some way. There’s the sound of rushing water in the night, with no visible source for the noise. There’s the sighting of a corpse on a Florida river-bed, and the morphing of a seemingly harmless green cushion into a stuffed green tortoise toy for some reason…

Then there’s the sound of a child crying in the garden, but, if she’s only in the garden, why can’t Alan find her? Whose is the big black dog on the heath, and why is he hostile to Alan but not to Käthe? What’s Mrs. Taswell got to do with the price of fish? And why does she put me in mind of Billie Whitelaw as Mrs. Baylock in DAMIEN: THE OMEN (1975)?

Then there are all the dreams of drownings and drowned people, and then comes a night of such horror in Alan’s childhood home that he doesn’t demur when his distraught missus begs him to take her away from their house and bring her to… the sea, of all places. But, what with all the water-based ill omens that have been plaguing Alan so far, what on earth makes him think that the sea is a safe place to which to bring Käthe…?

The book falls apart at this point. Nothing makes sense any more. There’s a REBECCA-style inquest and a shame-faced confession of nudie seaside lovemaking but nothing that explains the dog, Mrs. Taswell or the dreadful night of terror in the house.

As I said, I probably learned more from reading the film’s Wikipedia entry than I did by reading the end of the book. I’d read 325 pages looking for a pay-off that never really came, which was immensely disappointing.

One minute, I’m reading what I feel might be a genuinely spooky piece of folk horror set in a breath-taking countryside location (the countryside is a surprisingly fabulous setting for a good horror story!), and the next, kablam-o…!

Still, the first 325 pages were spellbinding and breath-taking, and you should still read the book if ever you come across it. So long as you know that the end is confusing and doesn’t really explain much.

And that The Girl In A Swing is a real group of porcelain figurines, which lends a good deal of authenticity to the plot of the book. Unfortunately, it’s not authenticity it needs, but some clarity as to what really happens in the end. Oh well. Win some, lose some. It’s all grist for the mill at the end of the day. Happy Swinging…!

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 HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE: THE 2018 NETFLIX TV SERIES. ©

THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE: THE TELEVISION SERIES. (2018) CREATED AND WRITTEN BY MIKE FLANAGAN. BASED ON THE BOOK BY SHIRLEY JACKSON.

STARRING CARLA GUGINO, TIMOTHY HUTTON, MICHIEL HUISMAN, ELIZABETH ANN REASER, OLIVER JACKSON-COHEN, KATE SIEGEL, VICTORIA PEDRETTI AND ANNABETH GISH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Whatever walked there, walked alone…’

Wow. This ten-part series makes for excellent television drama, but I suppose we’d better start by saying that it’s not as good as the original film of Shirley Jackson’s superb horror novel; how could it be? But it’s pretty damn good television viewing, even though it wasn’t as scary as I’d been led to believe and there’s an awful lot of talking and repetition in it.

It’s a ghost story, told in a non-linear fashion, so a bit you see in one episode might not make sense at all until another episode repeats the thing and explains it to you. Yes, that might be annoying for some, but the plot is really well written and complex and, even though it seems to have a million things to keep track of and an equal number of loose ends to tie up, it doesn’t do a bad job at all of tying everything up in a nice big bow at the end.

Okay, so it’s the summer of 1992 and the Crain family- the parents, Hugh and Olivia, and their five sprogs Stephen, Shirley, Theodora and twins Luke and Nell, come to live in the titular Hill House to do to it what the Americans call ‘flipping,’ that is, they’re going to do it up a bit and sell it on to make a fortune. That’s the plan, anyway.

But Hill House is haunted to buggery, as we all very well know, and it isn’t long before the house begins to exert its evil supernatural pull over the family Crain. Little Luke has an ‘imaginary’ friend called Abigail, who comes out of the nearby woods to play with him.

He is also haunted by a terrifyingly tall man with a walking stick, who floats a good twelve inches above the ground. His twin, Nell, is tormented by visitations from a scary-sounding someone she calls ‘the Bent-Neck Lady.

Theodora learns that she has a ‘psychic’ touch: if she touches something or someone, she can derive psychic information from it. She takes to wearing gloves every day, however, to prevent this from happening. Well, not everything she learns is necessarily welcome information, so you can’t really blame her, can you?

Dad is severely disturbed by the sounds of scraping, banging and tapping he hears in the basement he’s trying to de-mould, and as for Mom…! Mom probably has a sign tattooed across her forehead that only ghosts can see, a sign saying: ‘Haunt me, please!’

She’s a drippy, hippy-dippy spiritual type to begin with, gliding through the rooms in a succession of fabulous long nighties and robes, with her long dark hair streaming out behind her, but when the house starts to impact on her already fragile-seeming emotional state, she becomes a million times flightier.

She sees dead people and chats away to them as if they’re real, and she’s extremely susceptible to the ghosts’ warped mind games, being highly suggestible when they plant ideas of evil-doing in her increasingly damaged mind.

Something happens in the house in 1992 that sees the family (well, nearly all the family) fleeing for their lives, like the family in THE AMITYVILLE HORROR. The story moves back-and-forth over the ten episodes between the past and the present, and it won’t be until the very last few frames in the very last episode that we discover just what happened in that cursed house that fateful summer.

The Crain siblings are very messed-up adults. It’s pretty obvious that their stay in Hill House has impacted upon them big-time in different ways. One is a funeral director and a control freak. One is a heroin addict. Another is a child psychologist, responsible for working out if children have been sexually or otherwise abused. Her job makes her miserable. It’s a good group so far, isn’t it?

Another of the siblings is a flaky mess whom everyone in the family feels is a suicide waiting to happen, and yet another writes books about hauntings in general and Hill House in particular, books that get their entire family’s back up. I told you it was a good group…!

The siblings haven’t had any answers from their parents, in particular from their father, regarding what exactly happened in Hill House to tear the family apart that summer. Now, their lives are so messed-up and mixed-up that they’re going to need some answers, whether their parents want to give them these answers or not. Why not start by asking what was behind the locked door of the Red Room, for which they never had a key when they lived there…?

There are definitely references in the series to the original book by Shirley Jackson. Two of the sisters are called Theodora and Nell, there’s writing on the wall and banging on the doors, and the weird caretaker couple, the Dudleys, won’t stay on in the house in the night, in the dark, when it’s night, after dark, lol.

Some of the scares are extremely effective; others less so. I’d definitely recommend this Netflix series. It’s good writing and good acting; it’s a bit annoying and confusing in places, full of dreams and fantasies and with all the females in it sporting identical hairstyles, but it’s mostly good scary fun that puts me very much in mind of Stephen King’s THE SHINING.

I believe that Stephen King, master of horror and a huge fan of Shirley Jackson’s book, gives THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, the series, his seal of approval. It has mine too, for what it’s worth, so go forth and watch it and enjoy it, and just make sure the Bent-Neck Lady doesn’t find you alone in the house, in the night, in the dark…

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 DEAD SUMMER: BY HELEN MOORHOUSE. (2012) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

dead summer

THE DEAD SUMMER: A NOVEL BY HELEN MOORHOUSE. PUBLISHED BY POOLBEG IN 2012.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘If you’re a fan of Susan Hill’s THE WOMAN IN BLACK, you’ll love this…!’

This book, written by an Irish woman and set in the English countryside, is a really unusual blend of chick-lit mixed with a top-notch ghost story. I write in both genres myself, mixing ’em both up together big-time, and I love it when other writers do it too. I especially love it when they do it well, as happens here.

Martha Armstrong is a young woman with a baby girl called Ruby. She’s split up from her husband Dan because he’s a big cheating bastard, and now she’s planning to leave her London home and, by extension, the rat-race, to go and live with Rubes in a ramshackle cottage somewhere in the English countryside. She wants to write the children’s story, about a unicorn, that she thinks has been fermenting inside her for years. Eeuw, it sounds right nasty, does that. Surely ‘t doctor can give her summat for ‘t…?

Hawthorn Cottage, or, to give it its other name, Eyrie Farm, seems lovely at first. Martha moves in in the summertime and gets into a routine fairly quickly. In the mornings, she drops Rubes off at the local crèche, run by a woman named Mary Stockwell, then she goes home and faffs about for several hours pretending to write. 

Lady, I can tell you this for nothing. Ain’t nobody gon’ want to read y’all’s daft story about unicorns. The children’s book market is saturated with so many wanna-bees that there’s barely any room for even one more sad hopeful to squish in there.

If I were Martha, I’d find a nice little day-job, on a make-up counter maybe, or behind the till at Tesco, and spend any free time riding Rob, the local landlord, rich property developer and Man Mountain. PS, why am I discouraging another writer, even a fictional one, from writing when I’m clearly a writer myself?

Well, there’s too much bleedin’ competition out there, that’s why. As a writer who’s hoping to bring out her first traditionally published novel next year (the first part of a trilogy, I might add), I know this all too well. I like to commit a little, shall we say, sabotage, every now and then…! Remember, every scribe you can discourage from writing is one less annoying, pushy bastard grabbing for your brass ring, lol. Ah, I’m only joking. Or am I…?

Anyway, up at Hawthorn Cottage, things are starting to get a little hairy for Martha. On her very first night in the cottage, she hears a growling sound on the baby monitor that would have had me reaching for the suitcases there and then. Lights switch themselves on and off too and the temperature in a room can dip to freezing at the drop of a pair of knickers with dodgy elastic.

There’s a terrible scratching and scrabbling sound coming from behind the chimney breast in Ruby’s room, and the sound occasionally also of a baby crying, but when Martha runs in to comfort Ruby, the child is fast asleep.

A black shape is seen lurking by the bathroom door and a spoon is slapped right out of Martha’s hand when she’s playing ‘here comes the aeroplane, and will you please eat your bloody dinner, you aggravating child!’ with an unimpressed Ruby.

Martha’s experiences at Eyrie Farm (Hawthorn Cottage my arse, she thinks; this place is as haunted as all-get-out!) are told alongside our reading of a number of letters penned by a woman who actually lived in Eyrie Farm in the 1950s.

Poor Lily Flynn’s life is ruined forever when her sister Marion gets pregnant out of wedlock in 1950s Ireland, a mortal sin in those terrible, not-so-far-off days. Marion gets shunted off to England to have her baby away from the prying eyes of the neighbours, and Lily is forced to accompany her as her maid, her minder, her cook, her cleaner and her whipping boy. Marion has the temper of a devil and she gives poor Lily a dog’s life that includes terrible physical violence, to the point where Lily begins to think that Marion is actually insane.

It won’t take you too long to figure out who the ghosts are and why they’re haunting Hawthorn Cottage, of all places, but the execution of the ghost story is really well done. If this book were filmed, it would have all the jump-scares and black-mouthed screaming demons in it of THE WOMAN IN BLACK or James Wan’s more recent THE NUN.

It’s clear from the book that this author likes her horror books or films, as I spotted references in it to THE WICKER MAN, THE SHINING, and Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, THE BIRDS and STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. It’s always gratifying when that happens to a horror reader. It makes us feel like we’re not alone, lol.

And the romance isn’t neglected either, readers, never fear. It’s where Will, the handsome young parapsychologist from Scotland, comes in, with his scruffier, bolshier mate Gabriel in tow.

Gabriel has a hotline direct to the spirit world; will he be able to cleanse Hawthorn Cottage of the evil that stalks it, and even more importantly, can he save Baby Ruby from the clutches of another Woman In Black (who may not love her but it would give her great satisfaction to be able to kill the child and take it away from its mother)…?

THE DEAD SUMMER is a cracking little horror story anyway, but it also does a terrific job of recounting the culture of shame that surrounded unmarried sex and pregnancy in mid-twentieth century Ireland. I like the way that the bit of very important social commentary goes hand-in-hand with the ghost story, and I’m really looking forward to reading more from this smashing debut author, Helen Moorhouse.

(PS, that was back in 2012 and Helen Moorhouse has written several other books since then, go check them out!)

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 WOMAN IN BLACK: ANGEL OF DEATH. (2014) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

The Woman in Black 2 Angel of Death

THE WOMAN IN BLACK: ANGEL OF DEATH. (2014) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION. DIRECTED BY TOM HARPER. STARRING PHOEBE FOX, HELEN MCRORY, OAKLEE PENDERGAST AND JEREMY IRVINE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Whenever she’s seen, and whoever by,

One thing’s sure; a child will die.’

Funny how the words The Woman In Black conjure up much more frightening images in people’s minds than, say, The Woman In The Sort Of Beigey-Fawn Cardigan or The Man In The Electric Blue Shell-Suit. I’ve no complaints with the title.

As to the rest, it pains me to speak ill of a Hammer film but this one isn’t great. It’s only about half as good as the original film starring Daniel Radcliffe which preceded it. It could have used some sharper scripting, that’s for sure, and maybe some livelier characters too. The characters here are very ‘meh.’ You wouldn’t go out of your way to save a single one of them from being hit by a runaway rickshaw, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, it’s 1941 and London is very busy indeed being bombarded daily- and nightly- by Uncle Adolf’s Blitz. Drippy young schoolteacher Eve Parkins and her snotty headmistress Jean Hogg are shepherding a group of frightened kiddies to the countryside to get them away from all the nasty bombs-es. (Gollum to Hitler: ‘You’re ruining it…! You’re ruining London!’)

Guess where they’re being evacuated to, by the way? This is a hoot. Eel Marsh House, in the isolated market town of Crythin Gifford, where Harry Potter was first terrorised by the spectre of the Woman In Black.

Jennet Humfrye lost her beloved only child, Nathaniel, in a drowning tragedy back in the Victorian times and, being of a vengeful nature, she’s making damn sure it’s everyone’s problem. (She particularly blames her respectable married sister Alice Drablow, who took Nathaniel from the unmarried Jennet and adopted him.) The presence of the children in the house on the damp, misty causeway is all it takes to wake her once more…

Eve is particularly sensitive to the presence of the spectral female because she has something in common with her, something heartbreaking, a desolate secret. She’s the first person to come to the rather chilling conclusion that there’s ‘someone else’ living in the house with them, a ‘tenant’ who hasn’t yet been properly identified.

The ghost has her eye on a particular chubby little fellow called Edward, because he’s just become orphaned and is traumatised and refusing to speak. Time after time, the ghost comes for little Edward and, time after time, is batted resolutely away by Eve. How long can Eve keep up this militant stance against what SKYMOVIES.COM refer to as ‘one of British cinema’s scariest creations…?’

The ghost isn’t terribly scary this time round, I’m sorry to say. Some of the bleak scenery is far spookier. I love the deserted village, although not the madman who resides there. What’s he living on, by the way, rats’ tails and flies? It doesn’t look like there’s much sustenance to be found in the scrubby little village gardens any more.

Come to that, what are the children, Eve and Jean eating up at Eel Marsh House? Not once have we seen a boy on a delivery bicycle wind his way up the causeway path before the sea washes over it and covers it again till low tide. There’s no telephone in Eel Marsh House either, so how do the two women get in touch with the undertaker when they need him, eh…?

I nearly forgot to mention Eve’s boyfriend, possibly because he’s so forgettable. He’s an RAF pilot based at an airfield nearby to Eel Marsh House, and we know for sure he’s a pilot because he always wears the furry collar of his leather jacket turned right up. It’s like he’s afraid to turn it down- even a little bit- in case it means he’s not a pilot any more. What a muppet. Thinks he’s Elvis, lol.

This pilot fella, Harry Burnstow, who has the blankest face, has his own back-story and tacked-on secret, for which he’s seeking redemption. Maybe he’ll find it looking after Eve and the little evacuees and protecting them from the Woman In Black. Or maybe the film-makers will forget to finish his storyline altogether. He’s such a mannequin I honestly wouldn’t blame them.

Having said that this sequel isn’t much to write home about, I would like to see at least two more films in this franchise which, after all, started out very well. One set in the ‘seventies, maybe, with a hippie commune (free love and natural childbirth and all that) coming to live at Eel Marsh House, and one set in modern times, in which a young married couple, together with their child, find out that they’re now the sole descendants of the original owners and decide to come and live in their house themselves rather than sell it. I’d watch the hell outta both of those, lol. Thankfully, there’s life in the old dog yet. (In the franchise, I mean, not in me! There’s loads of life left in me and the franchise yet, lol.)

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

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE PATRICK STEWART ONE! (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge patrick stewart scared

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE PATRICK STEWART ONE! (1999) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY CHARLES DICKENS. WRITTEN FOR TELEVISION BY PETER BARNES. DIRECTED BY DAVID JONES. STARRING PATRICK STEWART, RICHARD E. GRANT, SASKIA REEVES, DOMINIC WEST AND JOEL GREY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Patrick Stewart does a terrific job as Ebenezer Scrooge in this made-for-TV version of the timeless Christmas tale. No matter how many versions I see, and there are quite a few knocking around, I never get tired of watching this story of festive cheer and redemption unfolding on the screen before me.

Patrick Stewart makes for a very fit and trim-looking Scrooge, a Scrooge whose bearing is noble rather than stooped and bent-over and who looks as if he might just be able to run after you- and catch you!- if you endeavoured to pull an Artful Dodger on him and pinch his wallet or pocket handkerchief right out from under his very nose. This is no decrepit or dilapidated Scrooge. This is a Scrooge in top physical form, a Scrooge to be reckoned with. He’s still a miserable git, though.

Anyway, it’s Christmas-time once more, Christmas Eve in fact, and a full seven years ago tonight since the demise of one Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s business partner and the only person he could really call his friend.

Scrooge, the renowned miser and whizz-kid down at the Stock Exchange, is in his office as usual, grumping and bitching at his humble clerk Bob Cratchit about how much coal he’s putting on the fire. Scabby or what?

Richard E. Grant plays the servile but good-natured family man Bob Cratchit. I was surprised by this bit of casting because I was fully expecting him to be playing Scrooge’s posh nephew Fred but no, he’s playing Bob and they’ve even blacked up his gnashers to make him look like a proper povvo from Dickensian times. Realistic, I have no doubt, but somewhat off-putting, if I may say so.

Bob and his equally black-toothed Missus have six hungry chilluns atween ’em. Which only goes to prove the long-held opinion that there wasn’t much to do of an evening before the invention of the telly. Scrooge only pays Bob a measly fifteen bob a week, which is nowhere near enough to keep his six scraggy urchins in Playstation games and iPhones and whatnot. Better call CHILDLINE…!

Still and all, though, the Cratchits are determined to celebrate Christmas together no matter how poor they might be. Unlike mean old Mr. Scrooge, who’s busy screaming abuse at the child carol singers and telling the gentleman charity collectors looking ‘to make some slight provision for the poor at this time of year’ to bugger off. Bah humbug indeed.

While Bob runs gleefully home to his family at close of business on Christmas Eve, Scrooge returns home to his gloomy chambers alone. Here he is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley. Jacob, wrapped in ‘the chains he forged in life,’ the lock-boxes and money-bags that were his stock-in-trade while he lived, has a terrible message of hope and despair for his old mucker.

Change your money-grubbing, miserly ways, you greedy old bastard, is the message in a nutshell. If you don’t start loosening the purse-strings and making the welfare of mankind your business tout de suite, you’ll end up like me, Jacob Marley, doomed to walk abroad for all eternity without the power to intervene where you see misery, hunger and poverty!

It’s a pretty clear and chilling message, but Jacob can’t be sure that it’s penetrated Scrooge’s thick skull. Three ghosts will be coming, he warns Scrooge before he takes his leave of the frightened old miser, to make sure that the message to ‘change’ really gets through. Expect the first ghost when the bell tolls one…

As we all know by know, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future do come to see Scrooge and, through little vignettes from his own past, present and future, show him the error of his ways.

Joel Grey, who positively sparkled as the wickedly bitchy and lecherous MC in CABARET some two-and-a-half decades earlier in CABARET, is lacklustre and as flat as a pancake here as the Ghost Of Christmas Past. I hate slagging him off when he was so mesmerisingly good in CABARET, but his heart’s clearly not in this role here.

Scrooge, of course, ends up changing his miserly ways and becomes ‘a man who knows how to keep Christmas well.’ He befriends Bob, raises his salary and vows to help Bob and his hungry family in the future. Bob thinks his master’s gone mad, of course, but he’ll go along with the madness as long as it means a few more shillings in the family coffers.

Scrooge also eats large helpings of humble pie round at his nephew Fred’s place, where Fred is entertaining his guests at Christmas dinner. Fred is the child of Scrooge’s dead sister Fanny (tee-hee, fanny is a rude word!), the one person in the world who truly loved Scrooge and thought there was some good in him.

Why Scrooge wasn’t kinder to poor good-natured, warm-hearted Fred for this reason from the start is a mystery, unless it was the case that Fanny (snigger!) died giving birth to Fred and that’s why he’s hated Fred all this time.

In some versions, we hear that this is the exact same reason for Scrooge’s father disliking his son and forcing him to live at school all year round. In other words, Scrooge’s mother died birthing him and Scrooge’s father wanted nothing to do with the boy.

Having been treated like this himself by his own father, it’s surprising that Scrooge would have behaved the same way towards his nephew. It’s a very harsh and unfair way of going on, isn’t it?

The child can’t be blamed for the demise of the mother, heart-breakingly sad and unfortunate as that is. In any case, Scrooge now determines to be the best uncle to Fred he can possibly be, so all’s well that ends well.

Except that Scrooge now owes Dominic West’s Fred about thirty years worth of back-payments in Christmas and birthday book-tokens, lol. I can’t imagine that Scrooge would have gifted any young’un with the cash to heedlessly fritter away on penny candy and saucy French postcards, can you? Not while they could have been doing something useful with the money.

You’ll see one or two recognisable faces in the cast. Ian McNeice (NATIVITY 2: DANGER IN THE MANGER!) plays Scrooge’s first employer, dear old Mr. Fezziwig, he of the fat wife and equally plump daughters.

It will be very hard to marry off all three of these hefty lassies unless old Fezziwig can give each of ’em an equally hefty dowry to sweeten any potential marital deal. I’m just saying. I’m genuinely concerned for the romantic futures of these three comely heifers, lol.

Liz Smith (THE ROYLE FAMILY) is perfectly, beautifully cast as the cackling old Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s ancient charwoman-housekeeper, and Celia Imrie, from every English film ever made, or so it would seem, is suitably ringleted and corseted as one of Fred’s rather frivolous Christmas dinner guests. They do love their silly games, Gawd bless ’em every one.

And Gawd bless Mr. Scrooge too who, from this day forward, will be ‘the founder of the feast’ in a properly meaningful way. This will be my last Scrooge review for Christmas 2018 (I’ve finally run out of Scrooges to review, can you believe it!), so I’m glad to be going out on a high note with this one.

Patrick Stewart makes a top-notch Scrooge. And Tiny Tim, lightly roasted, makes a more than acceptable turkey substitute in a pinch. I’m only surprised that none of his hungry relatives ever thought of it before, to be honest. Tuck in while it’s hot, folks…

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 MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. (1992) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

muppets scrooge

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. 1992. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY BRIAN HENSON. MUSIC BY PAUL WILLIAMS. BASED ON THE NOVEL BY CHARLES DICKENS.

STARRING MICHAEL CAINE, STEVEN MACKINTOSH, MEREDITH BRAUN, ROBIN WEAVER, KERMIT THE FROG, THE GREAT GONZO, RIZZO THE RAT, MISS PIGGY, FOZZIE BEAR, SAM THE EAGLE, ROWLF THE DOG AND KERMIT’S NEPHEW, ROBIN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The years performed their terrible dance.’

The Marleys were dead, to begin with… This is, quite simply, the best Christmas movie ever made. It’s a top-notch reworking of the Charles Dickens’ classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, in which Ebenezer Scrooge, the meanest man in Christendom, is visited on Christmas Eve by Three Spirits who show him the error of his ways.

Michael Caine is superb as Scrooge, the Victorian moneylender who’s so mean he wouldn’t give you the steam off his piss, as we say here in Ireland. He underpays his employees, he’s a horrible uncle to his nephew Fred and he gives short shrift to the gentlemen who come collecting for charity on Christmas Eve.

He only lets his workers, among them Bob Cratchit, brilliantly played by Kermit The Frog, have Christmas Day off work because there won’t be any other businesses open to do business with. Tsk, tsk. What a cantankerous old skinflint.

Bob is glad to be rid of him when close of business finally arrives on Christmas Eve because Bob, along with his wife Emily and their four children, twin girls Belinda and Bettina (the living image of their mother Emily, played by Miss Piggy!) and two boys, Peter and the ailing Tiny Tim, do know how to keep Christmas well. Which is more, much more, than can be said for Mr. Scrooge. Humph.

Scrooge goes home alone to his cold, dark gloomy chambers. From the moment he sees the face of one of his long-dead business partners, Jacob Marley, materialise superimposed over the front door knocker of his house, he gets an uneasy feeling that tonight isn’t going to be like most nights. And by Jiminy, he’s dead right!

Statler and Waldorf, the two incorrigible old jokers who sit up in their box at the Muppet Theatre every night and gleefully heckle the performers, turn up to his chambers first as the ghosts of Scrooge’s deceased business partners, Marley and Marley.

Wearing the terrible ‘chains they forged in life,’ the two auld lads try to convince Scrooge that living for his cashboxes the way he does is the way to end up in hell, chained for all time to the things you mistakenly thought were important in life. They don’t have much luck. Scrooge is going to need more convincing.

Next, the Three Spirits, the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future, whose ghoulish coming was foretold by the shades of Marley and Marley, arrive bang on schedule on Christmas Eve night.

They give the terrified Scrooge what for, showing him what a miserably lonely child he was in his youth, how he is scorned and shunned by all in the present, and how little he’ll be missed on his death.

Scrooge, as we all know, repents his tight-fisted ways and pays festive visits to both his gobsmacked nephew Fred and the impoverished Cratchit family, who are delighted to see that he comes bearing gifts.

One of my favourite scenes is where Bob Cratchit, an amiable man who only sees the good in people, tries to get his wife Emily to join him in drinking a toast during Christmas dinner to ‘Mr. Scrooge, the founder of the feast.’ 

She nearly becomes apoplectic with rage, saying things like: ‘Founder of the feast indeed!’ and ‘If he were here, I’d give him a piece of my mind and I hope he’d choke on it…!’ She doesn’t have quite the rosy-eyed view of the world that her husband has, and I don’t blame her.

While Bob is out at work, she’s the one who has to feed her family out of fresh air and find clothes for them and heat their freezing little icebox of a house. She also has to watch her youngest child, Tiny Tim, grow steadily weaker for the want of good food, a bit of warmth and the right medicines.

The wife of a rich Victorian banker may have been able to lie on her chaise-longue all day, pale and languid, but the wives of poor men were up against it all right. It’s no wonder that the spirited Emily Cratchit, fiercely loyal to her husband who busts his hump daily for Scrooge for tiny wages, would dearly love to ‘Hi-yah!’ Ebenezer Scrooge into the middle of next week. You go, girl.

The songs are fantastic, every single one of them an unforgettable Christmas classic. This is a great karaoke film because you and your whole family can sing along as loudly as you like to the tunes, especially if you have the subtitles and therefore the words.

There are some genuinely spooky and atmospheric scenes in Scrooge’s dark, cold old chambers as he awaits the arrival of the spectres. The Ghost Of Christmas Future is particularly grim. I think he’d put the willies up most people, this fella.

The atmosphere of love and togetherness in the Cratchit household, despite their poverty and Tiny Tim’s imminent death, would bring a tear to the eye of the most hard-hearted viewer. They have a sense of family that’s most fitting for the time of year, but that you can imagine sustains them right through the rest of the year as well. And yet they’re not too sickly-sweet, like the Waltons, lol. Bob’s genuine warmth and Emily’s feistiness and fierce protectiveness of her family sees to that.

The film is chock-a-block with typical Muppet comedy too, as you might expect. The Great Gonzo playing Charles Dickens is an inspired piece of casting, and Rizzo the Rat makes an adorably funny sidekick to the great nineteenth-century novelist. It’s the perfect Christmas film and a wonderful tribute to the season that the Victorians are credited with, if not inventing, exactly, then at least putting their own stamp on it.

Let’s not forget either, though, that it’s ultimately a horror story, involving the visitation by ghosts of a man who seriously needs to change his miserly ways. And change them he does, in the many versions of the story committed to celluloid. Could this even be the most often-told ghost story of all time…?

I don’t know, but what I do know is that this little film is top of my Christmas movie-list every single year without fail. It’s a heartwarming, brilliantly-scripted classic. What else can I say about it? Just watch it for yourself. You’ll see what I mean. But make sure you try to get an early night first, okay? After all, there’s only one more sleep till Christmas…

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

SCROOGE THE MUSICAL. (1970) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge musical

SCROOGE THE MUSICAL. (1970) BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY RONALD NEAME. STARRING ALBERT FINNEY, DAME EDITH EVANS, KENNETH MORE, DEREK FRANCIS, ROY KINNEAR, GORDON JACKSON, JAMES COSSINS AND SIR ALEC GUINNESS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Awwwww, I never get tired of seeing film adaptations of this timeless story. Albert Finney, as far as I know the only Scrooge young enough to himself play Young Scrooge in these movies, plays, you guessed it, Ebenezer Scrooge, the miser who makes all other misers ashamed of their woeful under-performances.

Albert Finney of course had played the swoonsome Tom Jones (positively not the Welsh crooner!) only a few short years before (1963) in the film adaptation of Henry Fielding’s massive tome of the same name. The book, in fact, was one of the first English-language novels, along with Samuel Richardson’s PAMELA.

I’m always threatening to read both of these huge big books but I haven’t gotten around to it quite yet. The film of TOM JONES was terrific too, made by Woodfall Film Productions and containing such gems of dialogue as ‘Where is she? Where’s Tom’s pussy?’ and ‘Tom, thou art as hearty a cock as any in the kingdom.’ Snigger.

He’s brilliant as Scrooge too, Albert Finney, though it’s a shame to have his handsome face all twisted up into the famous miser’s crotchety countenance. He works away in his freezing cold (cold is good; cold is free, like the dark) moneylenders’ office until 7pm on Christmas Eve, and his poorly-paid clerk Bob Cratchit practically has to boot him out the door, telling him it’s Christmas Eve and time to jack it all in till December the 26th.

Scrooge goes home to his dark, cheerless chambers, where he is met by Alec Guinness as the ghost of his deceased partner in the moneylenders’ business, Jacob Marley. Jacob Marley now dwells in Hell, doomed to carry around with him for all eternity ‘the chains he forged in life,’ the giant cash-boxes and heavy old ledgers that came with his old business.

Not to mention the guilt of knowing that he never did a hand’s turn for his fellow man while he was alive. That dreadful knowledge has manifested itself physically in the form of huge chains that wrap and wind themselves around his body. You can’t miss ’em, lol.

Jacob Marley has a grim message of hope for Scrooge. Change your miserly ways and start being more generous and compassionate towards your fellow man or else. Or else what? Well, or else he’ll end up like Jacob Marley, carting those awful clinking-clanking chains around with him till the cows come home. Which, apparently, they never do.

To reinforce this terrible message, Scrooge will be visited this very night by three ghosts, one at a time, and he’d bloody well better learn the lessons they’ve got to teach him. Dame Edith Evans, as the Ghost Of Christmas Past, shows Scrooge visions of himself as a young boy in school, lonely, motherless, neglected by his harsh father and obliged to spend Christmas at school, catching up on his studies.

Scrooge isn’t at all happy to be reminded by this Lady Ghost of how he loved and lost his devoted girlfriend Isabelle when he was a young man working at Old Mister Fezziwig’s rubber chicken factory. Sorry, I mix up all these versions with The Muppets’ one! They both had such high hopes of marriage and a family, Scrooge and Isabelle, but then she dumps him when she realises that he loves another more than her. His true mistress? Money…

The Ghost Of Christmas Present forces Scrooge to look into the lives of his clerk Bob Cratchit and Bob’s little family. Making merry for Christmas over a scrawny goose and a drop of watered-down punch, they’re as poor as church mice thanks to Scrooge’s scabby wages. Subsequently, they can’t afford a good doctor for Tiny Tim, the youngest member of the family, who will die if he’s not properly treated.

Scrooge has the wind up good and proper by now. He’s already repenting of his terrible stinginess, and by the time the frightening Ghost Of Christmas Future gets to wag a bony finger at him in silent reproach, he’s on his knees begging for a second chance.

The Ghost Of Crimbo-Still-To- Come isn’t taking any chances, though. He gets Alec Guinness’s Jacob Marley to take Scrooge on a terrifying tour of Hell, just in case Scrooge has any ideas about not bothering to change his godless ways.

Everyone loves the ending of all the versions, of course.

Scrooge: You there, boy, what’s today?

Ragged Urchin: Today, Sir, why, it’s Christmas Day!

Scrooge: Christmas Day? Why, then, I haven’t missed it! The spirits must have done it all in one night! Of course they did, they can do anything they like, you know!

Then he raids the butcher’s shop, the toyshop, the confectionery shop and so on and brings the largesse round to the gobsmacked Cratchits (Miss Piggy is the best Mrs. Cratchit, and Robin the Frog is the bestest Tiny Tim!) and to Fred, his sorely neglected nephew.

Fred is the son of Scrooge’s dear deceased sister Frannie, who had asked Scrooge before she died to look after her boy. Up to now, he hasn’t made such a great fist of it, but that was before the Three Spirits came…

This is a musical version, so of course there’s a song at every turn. I especially love Scrooge’s devastatingly honest version of ‘I HATE PEOPLE!’ It’s probably the most honest the old miser has ever been, in fact, in any of the film versions and, some days, I know just how he feels, lol.

It feels a bit like the film is trying to be the new OLIVER! (1968), with the Charles Dickens/Victorian England/Christmas card background, all the big group numbers and everyone singing and dancing in the street but, fun as SCROOGE THE MUSICAL is, it doesn’t even come close to snatching OLIVER!‘s golden crown.

All the old favourite lines of dialogue are in there too:

‘If I had my way, every man who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips would be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart…!’

‘If they are going to die, then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population…!’

‘Falling in love? Bah! That’s the only thing sillier than a Merry Christmas!’

‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’

‘Bah humbug!’

Bah humbug to you too, Scrooge, you old coot. Don’t get too pissed now on that Milk Of Human Kindness there. That’s some pretty powerful stuff, you know.

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