MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.
PLATINUM DREAMS. (1984)
PUBLISHED IN 2021 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’
My readers will be well familiar with Michael Armstrong by now, if they weren’t already. He is, of course, the famous British director and screen-writer who wrote the screenplays for the following films:
THE DARK- 1960.
THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring a young David Bowie in his first screen appearance.
THE HUNT- 1965.
MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970. A gruesome but frighteningly real depiction of eighteenth century witch-burnings.
THE SEX THIEF- 1973.
ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.
IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.
THREE FOR ALL- 1975.
ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.
ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.
THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.
HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.
HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.
That’s quite an impressive back catalogue, isn’t it, and that’s only a fraction of the screenplays Michael has penned over the years. As with all screen-writers, a few scripts are bound to fall through the cracks the odd time and not get made into films. This, sadly, was the case with PLATINUM DREAMS, the screenplay I want us to have a closer look at today.
As Andrew Porter, a good friend of Michael’s, says in his excellent foreword to the book, ‘Michael’s first task with PLATINUM DREAMS was to expose and satirise the hypocrisies of Hollywood- the platitudes hiding between the façade of show business glamour- the dream that is, in reality, no more than a mirage.
‘And the characters he created, similar to those in Fellini’s classic, LA DOLCE VITA, were doomed to live this pretence, prisoners of their hopeless ambition, eventually succumbing in a downward spiral of self-destruction…’
Cheerful, innit, lol. Michael himself, in the section of the film script book entitled A History of the Screen Play, says the following about his lead character Diane: ‘It was written to expose her interview, in hindsight, as a chilling and dangerous set of evasive platitudes hiding behind the façade of a glit & glam show business that, in reality, is no more than a mirage created to sell product…’
Let me explain what Michael means about ‘her interview’ in the lines above. PLATINUM DREAMS has a female protagonist- hear, hear!- called Diane Hayden. Diane is an attractive young English secretary to a minor music mogul.
She has no intention of remaining a humble PA forever, however. She wants to be the mogul, not just the assistant to a mogul. She’s fiercely ambitious, and she’s even prepared to be ruthless if she has to be.
She tries to advance in the company she works for, Centaur Records, but her progress is blocked every which way by the glass ceiling. In other words, the male executives progress up the ladder while Diane is patted on the head and told to be a good little quiet secretary and, look, here’s a nice bunch of flowers to keep you sweet, darlin’.
Diane explodes. She quits her job, breaks up with her boyfriend- after telling him unceremoniously that she was faking it pretty much the whole time- and catches a flight to Los Angeles on Centaur Records‘s tab. She doesn’t even tell her parents that she’s leaving. When they finally find out about it, it’s already a fait accompli.
Diane makes it big, really big, in the music industry in the City of Angels. Throughout the book, there are snippets of her being interviewed by a major showbiz magazine. (That’s the interview Michael is referring to above.) She’s quizzed about her life and her meteoric rise to the top, but the answers she gives are not the real ones.
She puts a glossy spin on everything and sanitises it, saying how lovely and polite and civilised everything was when we know from the rest of the narrative that her rise to fame was excruciatingly painful and head-wrecking and mired in drugs, booze, aimless thrill-seeking and sex with all the wrong people. (Erm, where do I sign up, please…?)
Not to mention the fact that you seem to have to kiss your values goodbye when you’re clawing your way to the top in an industry like the music business, in a city like Los Angeles, where all that glitters is almost certainly not gold. It’s much the same in the film and television industry and the modelling business as well, I imagine, though I’m no expert on the high life, haha.
Diane: ‘Money, sex, drugs and movies. Aren’t there any other topics of interest in this town…?’ That’d be a ‘no,’ love…
The story takes us through Diane’s relationships with the various men who populate her life as she goes on her journey to find fame, money and success in L.A. There’s Mel, a ‘lecherous ex-junkie songwriter,’ in Diane’s own words.
There’s a very funny bit where Diane is telling the interviewer how ‘spiritual’ Mel was, and how their relationship always remained ‘a purely professional one,’ on account of his wife and all. It was just all innocent fun and good hard honest graft.
What’s so funny is that her words are sandwiched in between two scenes where we clearly see Diane and Mel rutting like wild boars on the Apocalypse. There are many examples of this hilarious inter-slicing in the screenplay, and it’s just one of the many reasons it would have worked so well as a movie. Even in the book, though, you can actually see the irony…!
Anyway, then there’s the Jewish plastic surgeon with an extremely interesting background, Jerry Golba, who would be happy to make Diane his ‘kept woman,’ but Diane wants more than that. We get an insight here into the women who use Jerry’s services as a plastic surgeon, the ageing but rich women who will go to extraordinary lengths to ‘keep young and beautiful.’
One such woman tells Diane: ‘I say, if you’ve got imperfections, get ‘em fixed. Guys out there don’t go looking for women with imperfections. Ain’t that the truth?’ If it is the truth, then it’s curtains for the ninety-nine-point-nine percent of us with so-called imperfections…!
Jerry himself says of the ‘self-delusion and pretence’ that holds Los Angeles in a stranglehold: ‘It’s what I call the L.A. ‘disease’- a state of mind similar to being stoned. You lose track of what’s real and what’s an illusion.’ And of the lights of L.A. itself: ‘They’re nothing but bright lights, Diane. They may look pretty at night but they soon lose their glitter in the daylight.’ And ain’t that the truth…?
Finally, there’s Bobby, a very good-looking teenage gay guy with whom Diane has what could be termed a strange and unhealthy relationship. Things happen between them sexually that might have been called ‘rape’ had a man been doing them to a woman.
But Diane seems obsessed with Bobby, even though his much older millionaire lover, Paul Farrell, strongly disapproves and fears losing Bobby to this sexually aware and sophisticated English woman.
It’s a bizarre set-up, but it’s probably no more bizarre than any of the other sexual shenanigans that go on in the city of ridiculously lavish parties and anything-goes-as-long-as-you’re-young-and-beautiful-and-having-fun. I just despair of where it’s all going to end, that’s all…
I love the bit about the Charlie Manson-style ‘Children of the Avenger’ cult murders. Okay, yes, lol, I’m a ghoul, all right? Even though it’s gruesome and violent possibly beyond anything I’ve read before, I still loved it. I also love but kind of abhor the clear message the screenplay sends out that everyone in this city is disposable and no-one is irreplaceable.
For example, a guy who stars in a crime drama gets killed in the book. We’ll never forget him, everyone solemnly vows. Will the series he stars in be scrapped? Will it f**k. Here’s what someone in the ‘industry’ says: ‘Aw, they’ll find a way. Shoot round it like they always do. Use a double. Whatever. A few re-writes, no-one’ll miss him. Insurance’ll cover it. No big deal. Get their accounts department on it, they’ll probably even turn it into a tax loss.’
So much for ‘we’ll never forget him…!’
I’ll leave you with the following quote from Diane:
‘It’s all about winning, here. And if you’re not a winner, you’re some kind of lesser human being…. In Los Angeles, everyone comes- not to be the best at anything- but to be rich and famous- because that’s what making it’s all about.’
And so much for: ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul…?’
PS, if you happen to meet Michael on the street some day, ask him from me if he’s got a female Rambo yet, he’ll know what it means…!
You can buy this book and all of Michael’s other books as well at the following links:
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 Vampirology. 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:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: