JEEVES AND WOOSTER: THE COMPLETE C0LLECTION. (1990-1993) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

jeeves wooster 3

JEEVES AND WOOSTER: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION. (1990-1993) BASED ON THE NOVELS BY P.G. WODEHOUSE. DIRECTED BY ROBERT YOUNG AND FERDINAND FAIRFAX. MUSIC BY ANNE DUDLEY.

STARRING STEPHEN FRY AND HUGH LAURIE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This complete series is just such a treat, a delight, the televisual equivalent of afternoon tea with tons of cream cakes and jam and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off. My kids and I re-watched the entire series during the Lockdown of 2020 (well, of course we’re still in it!) and it brought us nothing but pure absolute joy.

The stately home and country garden settings are utterly exquisite and the period costumes and motor cars stunning. The attention to period detail is just incredible.

The series decamps to ‘Thirties America for some of the episodes and the detail in these episodes is equally painstaking, even if the series does somewhat imply that you can pop over and back to the States from Blighty in the blink of an eye, and not the several weeks on an ocean liner that it would probably have taken…!

Bertie Wooster is an English toff from the ‘Thirties, and Reginald Jeeves is his butler or valet or gentleman’s gentleman. Bertie is forever getting into scrapes, whether romantic or downright criminal (for example, involving the theft of a country copper’s helmet!), and the infinitely learned Jeeves, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything from the Life Cycle of the Worm to Greek and Roman classics, is called upon to exercise his ‘little grey cells’ to extricate his master from yet another jam.

Bertie loves to booze it up at the Drones Club for Gentlemen with other young bucks of his class (Hammer Horror’s Michael Ripper plays the porter there in several episodes), and he’ll put a bet on virtually anything that moves.

He loves to sing and uses his ‘pleasing baritone to great effect about the flat,’ in the words of the inimitable Jeeves. Check out the episode in which he decides that Irving Berlin has ‘come a cropper somewhat’ by putting too many words in his classic song, ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz…’

Bertie is a highly eligible bachelor with his own classy London pad. He’s also very easy-going and generous in nature, which is why his aristocratic peers from the Drones Club downtown are constantly trying to take advantage of him.

They’re always embroiling Bertie in their zany schemes, usually involving inheritances, allowances, young ladies of their acquaintance and disapproving relatives who would stand in the way of their romantic dalliances with said young ladies.

Bertie gets into the most hilarious scrapes trying to help his friends achieve true love, familial approbation and the weekly or monthly stipend which would enable them to continue living the work-and-worry free life of the idle rich.

Bertie’s closest friends all have ridiculous names such as Gussie ‘I gave her a newt’ Fink Nottle, Tuppy Glossop, who is very fond of his grub, Bingo Little, a hopeless romantic, Oofy Prosser from the Drones Club and Barmy Fotheringay (pronounced ‘Fungi’) Phipps, whose real name is Cyril.

One such hilarious scheme involves Bingo Little and his desire to get married to a waitress, a match he was sure his uncle would frown upon. Jeeves’ plan in this instance was to get Bingo to read a series of books to his uncle, all involving the romantic unions of waitresses and toffs.

‘SHE WAS ONLY A FACTORY GIRL’ by Rosie M. Banks went down particularly well, especially when Bertie was persuaded to masquerade as the aforementioned Rosie M. Banks. How was Bertie, never mind the dozy Bingo, to know that Bingo’s waitress lady love, a Rosemary Bancroft, was in fact the illustrious female author in disguise, working undercover as a waitress to acquire material for her next book…?

Women are drawn to Bertie like flies to jam. They frequently decide that they want to marry him, and Bertie is too much of a people-pleaser to say no to them. It is left to Jeeves, then, to extricate his master from the romantic entanglement.

Although we, the viewers, adore Bertie, you’d be surprised how many fathers, uncles, guardians and casual observers violently oppose the match of their precious female relatives to ‘that idiot Wooster…!’ Death before Wooster, even.

Some of the women who give Bertie the most trouble are the hale and hearty, mannish Honoria Glossop, the revoltingly insipid and brainless Madeline Bassett, the terrifyingly bossy Florence Craye and Pauline Stoker, daughter of American business billionaire, J. Washburn Stoker.

Stiffy, aka Stephanie, Byng, a cousin of Madeline Bassett’s who doesn’t even want to marry Bertie as she has her own bloke, Stinker Pinker the Vicar, has no compunction about using blackmail to get the poor hapless Bertie to do her bidding.

This usually involves Bertie’s putting himself at great risk by stealing something from her old uncle and guardian Sir Watkyn Bassett, and breaking into this unwitting uncle’s stately home to either pinch the thing in question or put it back.

Bertie therefore spends a lot of time running away from the law, which at Totleigh Towers in Totleigh-in-the-Wold comprises Constable Oates, who thoroughly loathes Bertie and thinks he is an imbecile Hooray Henry.

Bertie gets no end of trouble from his Aged Aunts Agatha and Dahlia as well, who are always forcing him to look after dud relations, get engaged to women he can’t stand or (yes, again!) steal something or put it back.

The actresses playing these Aged Aunts changed a lot over the course of the four series. My favourite incarnations of both were Elizabeth Spriggs as the last Aunt Agatha and Brenda Bruce as the first Aunt Dahlia.

My favourite character by miles, apart from Jeeves and Wooster themselves, is one Roderick Spode, a friend and frequent house-guest of Sir Watkyn Bassett of Totleigh Towers. Spode is hilariously made out to be a sort of English equivalent of Adolf Hitler.

With the toothbrush moustache, the passion for oratory, his political organisation, the Blackshorts, and their swastika-like symbols, their Hitler Youth-style marching and rallying and their Hitlerish breast-beating and right-arm-extended salute, the comparisons are obvious and hilarious.

Spode hates Bertie’s guts, denouncing him for an idiotic toff waster, and several times threatens him with actual bodily harm. But, never fear, Jeeves has put Bertie in possession of the one little word designed to scare the manners back into this belligerent, blustering British Fascist. Come closer and I’ll whisper it in your ear. That’s right, Eulalie. No, Bertie, not Euripides, Euclid or Eucharist, it’s Eulalie…! Try not to forget it. It could come in very useful…

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

TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. (1935) ‘THE BANNED MASTERPIECE OF NAZI CINEMA’ REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

hitler leni

LENI RIEFENSTAHL’S ‘TRIUMPH OF THE WILL’ OR ‘TRIUMPH DES WILLENS.’ (1935)

‘THE BANNED MASTERPIECE OF NAZI CINEMA’ REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘A devastatingly brilliant piece of film-making.’

HALLIWELL’S FILM GUIDE.

‘Technically brilliant.’

TIME OUT FILM GUIDE.

‘The Party is Hitler—and Hitler is Germany just as Germany is Hitler!’ Rudolf Hess.

‘It is our will that this state and this Reich shall endure through the coming millennia.’ Adolf Hitler.

‘As soon as our own propaganda admits so much as a glimmer of right on the other side, the foundation for doubt in our own right has been laid.’ Adolf Hitler.

We want to be a united nation, and you, my youth, are to become this nation. In the future, we do not wish to see classes and castes, and you must not allow them to develop among you. One day, we want to see one nation.’ Adolf Hitler.

‘The concept of labor will no longer be a dividing one but a uniting one, and no longer will there be anybody in Germany who will regard manual labor any less highly than any other form of labor.’ Adolf Hitler.

This is a much-praised and much-lauded piece of film-making, although you’ll find that its fans are quick to point out that their praise is all for the technical aspects of the film only.

Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s pet movie director- Hitler was a big movie fan- has certainly made a fantastic documentary, and all without benefit of much of the modern film-making paraphernalia of today which might possibly have made her mammoth task a bit easier.

On the other hand, critics are reluctant to praise the content of the movie for fear of appearing to be a Nazi sympathiser, so as I’ve said the critiques mostly just praise the lady’s undoubtedly superior technical prowess and nothing else.

The film is Ms. Riefenstahl’s record of the Nazi Party’s 1934 Nuremberg Rally or their ‘sixth Party Congress,’ as it’s referred to by Hitler in the film. As an exercise in film-making, it seems to have no equal, being regarded as one of the most outstanding documentaries ever made.

As an exercise in Nazi Party propaganda, however, it was never surpassed, not even by Leni Riefenstahl’s own film record of the 1936 Olympic Games, which were held in Berlin and which she immortalised in her two-years-in-the-making 1938 movie ‘Olympia.’

Never mind all the hype for now, though. I’m happy to just tell you what’s in the damn film, lol, just in case other reviewers confine themselves to going into transports of ecstasy about things like montage, camera angles and light, things which I confess I find a little boring myself. As a reviewer, I’m mainly interested in the more human element of things.

She first shows us Hitler’s plane in motion above the clouds en route to Nuremberg and, I must say, I do wonder how she managed to capture such fabulous images of life-above-the-clouds.

Hitler was the first leader of a country to travel from place to place within his country by aeroplane, a fact which already imbued him slightly with godlike-status. She knew what she was doing, this dame, filming him descending from the clouds like Zeus on a thunderbolt!

We then see Hitler travelling by open-topped car through the city of Nuremberg which, after the war, became home to the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, the exact opposite of a Party propaganda rally, if you like. For now, however, the city resounds to the heavens with cheers as Germany’s ‘saviour’ stands ramrod-straight in his open-topped car to greet his people.

The undisguised joy on the faces of the cheering crowds has to be seen to be believed. Right arms extended in the Nazi Party salute, men, women children and even babies are thrilled beyond words to catch a glimpse of their idol.

They carpet his path with flowers and reach out to touch him as if he’s Elvis Presley on tour or something. Housewives and young women look like they’re getting ready to fling their flannel drawers at him, which is kind of hilarious. A less likely-looking matinee idol would be hard to find.

We see some lovely aerial views of Nuremberg, which must have been a very beautiful city back then with its gorgeous old buildings and cathedral spires. Then we’re treated to the sight of probably hundreds of thousands of young shirtless Aryan males camping out waiting for the rally to begin.

They engage in healthy open-air Aryan pursuits such as wrestling and athletic-type games while they wait. Could they be any blonder or more healthily, aggressively Aryan? I doubt it, lol. Hitler would certainly approve.

There’s a huge amount of marching in formation in the film. If there was one thing the Nazis knew how to do well, it was marching in formation. Always a useful skill when you’re setting out to establish your One Thousand Year Reich.

The SA (Sturmabteilung)- The Night Of The Long Knives had already happened by then- and the SS (Schutzstaffel) are in evidence during the marches and there are thousands upon thousands of standard bearers of Nazi emblems and flags with swastikas on them, marching, marching, interminably marching. 

The Wehrmacht- the German military- are in there somewhere too. It must have been a golden age of lucrative industry for the manufacturers of swastika flags and other Nazi Party memorabilia. Exit through the gift shop much…

The marchers goose-step past the watching Hitler with their arms extended and heads turned to the right to see their Fuhrer. That kind of thing, doing three or four contradictory movements at once, is hard to do. They look like machines marching in unison, especially with their legs going a mile a minute like that like something out of a cartoon.

When the speeches get underway, Hitler’s toady Rudolf Hess, who later disgraced himself by flying off to Scotland without Hitler’s permish to try to broker a peace between the Reich and Britain, introduces Hitler with lots of lavish, nonsense clichés such as ‘Germany is Hitler and Hitler is Germany.’

Very, erm, intense, Hess, you smirking jackass you. He leads the crowd in a rapturous chorus of ‘Sieg heils!’ so loud that it probably woke God himself up from his nap. I’d describe the toadying Hess as being the Wayland Smithers to Hitler’s Mr. Burns, except that that would be an insult to the characters from THE SIMPSONS that we know and love.

Hitler talks at great length about Germany’s youth and how they’re the future of Germany. That was true at any rate, I suppose. Thousands of these ‘Jugend’ obligingly cheer back at him with the terrifying light of fanaticism in their eyes.

‘We want to be a united nation, and you, my youth, are to become this nation. In the future, we do not wish to see classes and castes, and you must not allow them to develop among you. One day, we want to see one nation.’

Then he goes on to talk about how no-one belongs to the Reich who is not prepared to work their asses off for said Reich, doing jobs such as farming the land and building the Autobahns.

Cue a couple of hundred young men wielding shovels, all echoing his words back at him with adoration and ferocity. The rallies wouldn’t have done the shovel industry any harm at all, either. How fast can you deliver one million shiny new shovels, please?

Party luminaries such as the trench-coated Minister for Propaganda Joseph Goebbels and the portly Hermann Goering all get up to say a few words (or cupla focal as we say in Irish), but it’s mainly Hitler talking, banging on for hours while not seeming to say very much, if you know what I mean. He was really, really good at that.

He says generalised rubbish like ‘Germany is behind us, Germany is before us, Germany is beneath us,’ but I bet if you asked him if he had an actual plan of action for any specific problem that needed fixing or issue that needed addressing, he’d have said: ‘A plan? Oh dear me, no, who needs a plan when you have rhetoric, tons and tons of rhetoric?’

In many cases, Hitler left it to his staff to come up with the plans of action to carry out his wishes. Look, for example, at the way he left it largely to the odious little bespectacled Himmler, pictured here in the film in his long black overcoat, to work out the details of the Final Solution.

Infamous Jew-hater Julius Streicher gets his spoke in here too, by the way: ‘A people that does not protect its racial purity will perish.’ Leni Riefenstahl declared after the war that she was unaware of Hitler’s ‘genocidal’ or ‘anti-Semitic’ policies. I ain’t sayin’ nuthin.’

The rally looks spectacular at night, with the torchlight parades and processions, the fireworks lighting up the blackness of the night sky, the always rousing drumbeats and stirring music and the artificial mist-machines making the place look mystical and shrouded in mystery and glamour. The 1934 Nazi Party rally passed into mythology largely due to Riefenstahl’s superb camera-work. Amazing what you can do with a bit of smoke and mirrors.

You’d be hugely attracted to it all if you didn’t know about the worm that sat at the heart of the Third Reich’s inwardly rotten apple, devouring it from the inside. Movietone News would broadcast footage of this and other Nazi Party Rallies around the world.

The ones featuring clear evidence of Germany’s total re-armament- the tanks and the planes of the Luftwaffe- must have been terrifying for England and the other countries worried by the rise of Nazism.

There were limitations placed on Germany’s army, navy and air-force in the Versailles Treaty of post-World War One Europe, but Hitler pretty much tore that up. He was a law unto himself, that fella. I don’t know why we even bothered having a Versailles Treaty if Hitler was just going to use it to wipe his backside on.

Well anyway, we know how the story ends, don’t we? Hitler was only in power from 1933 to 1945, a mere twelve years in the scheme of things, but he and his precious Party managed to do quite a lot of damage in this short time, with their concentration camps and their plots to wipe out the Russians and wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. Certainly there were six million Jews who never lived to see the post-war Europe. That’s Hitler’s real legacy, but hey, thanks to one Leni Riefenstahl, he’s got this amazing film too.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

CHURCHILL. (2017) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

winnie speech

CHURCHILL. (2017) DIRECTED BY JONATHAN TEPLITZKY. STARRING BRIAN COX AND MIRANDA RICHARDSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

CHURCHILL (2017) and DARKEST HOUR (2017), which I reviewed recently as well, are actually quite similar to each other. They each tell the story of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as he prepares to face one of the two most troubling and problematic- yet ultimately victorious- events of World War Two.

DARKEST HOUR shows us Winnie, whom some people still regard as the greatest Briton who ever lived, fretting himself half to death over the monumental event that became known as Dunkirk, when thousands of British soldiers were rescued from the French coast by English vessels, many of them civilian crafts, getting them out just before the Germans were able to swoop in and cause a massacre.

Though the whole operation must have been rendered necessary by a mistake or failure on the part of the Allies- why else would so many Allied soldiers have been so nearly turned into sitting ducks for the Nazi forces in that one handy area of France? I’ll probably be reviled for pointing this out but one can’t help wondering why it was ever allowed to occur in the first place!- Dunkirk made heroes out of many hundreds of ordinary courageous British civilians, and rightly so. See, I’ve finished that point on a high note. Call off your (bull?)dogs, lol.

CHURCHILL sees Winnie, Field Marshal Montgomery (Monty) in his trademark little beret and duffel coat, and the American General Dwight ‘Ike’ Eisenhower preparing for the momentous event that they termed OPERATION OVERLORD.

It became known as D-Day or the Normandy Landings and it involved thousands of American and British soldiers, in the biggest land-sea-air operation of the entire war, landing in France with their tanks and guns, all fired up for the liberation of France from the Germans.

OPERATION OVERLORD managed to bring about the very turning point in the war it was hoping to achieve, although the three lads, Winnie, Monty and Ike, were terribly afraid that it mightn’t work. The weather was a crucial factor in whether or not the gambit would succeed.

After much faffing about and discussion of meteorological charts, it was decided to make a run for it, as it were, during a break in the stormy weather and, mercifully, it worked. God and Mother Nature were clearly both on the side of good that on that fateful day, June the 6th, 1944.

Germany, of course, would not capitulate until the 8th of May, 1945, about a week after the suicide of Adolf Hitler, so there was still nearly a full year of the war left to run.

This was bad news for the millions of prisoners-of-war, political prisoners, Jews, Roma gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and so-called ‘enemies of the Reich’ who still languished in concentration camps across Germany and Poland, in appalling conditions and with almost no hope of a return to normal life.

Still, D-Day probably marked the official beginning of the end for Hitler and his short-lived Third Reich. They managed to do an awful lot of damage though, didn’t they, in the twelve short years they were in power? Books are still being written about that period and films like this one have never been more popular. We’ve had about three of them- these two, and DUNKIRK- out in the last year or two. Not bad going for twelve short years…

Anyway, Winnie is openly critical in CHURCHILL of OPERATION OVERLORD. He thinks that the soldiers will be massacred as they land in France. He’s thinking very much of Gallipoli, in the First World War, for the failure of which he himself was blamed. It’s clear that he’s agonised over this failure every day of his life since and he still can see the blood mixing with the foam of the waves and hear the anguished cries of dying men.

I’ve always found the whole Gallipoli thing to be hard to understand but here’s what happened, to the best of my limited knowledge. Winnie was the First Lord Of The Admiralty back then. Hoping to knock Turkey, Germany’s ally, out of the war for good, he and his colleagues arranged for a humongous amphibious Allied Landing- oh, one of those, lol!- on the Gallipoli peninsula, which was part of Turkey.

As far as I can make out, it was a massacre as the Turks were much better prepared for this Landing than the Allies knew of. As well as British and French casualties, so many Australians died during this campaign/battle that the Australians’ commemoration of Gallipoli on the 25th of April, known as ANZAC Day, is the biggest date in the calendar every year.

Winston Churchill resigned from the Admiralty as a result of the Gallipoli disaster and, even though he obviously went on to become the British Prime Minister in later years, he was always understandably sensitive from then on to the notion of ‘amphibious landings’ of huge amounts of Allied soldiers on foreign war-torn shores.

Winnie comes up against Field Marshal Montgomery and General Eisenhower, the actual Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe who later became the American President, on the subject of the D-Day Landings. He thinks that the whole thing is sheer bloody madness and nothing more than an invitation to a mass slaughter.

Monty and Ike, however, maintain that this Landing has been planned for weeks now, it’s the right thing to do and, furthermore, they’re not going to let an old duffer like Winnie put a spoke in the wheel at this late stage.

Luckily for them, it does turn out to be the right thing to do but it’s a bitter pill for Winnie to have to swallow, especially when these top Army lads make out that he’s an anachronism left over from the First World War, as out-of-date as a piece of period furniture or something.

In CHURCHILL, he and the then King, George the 6th who is the father of the present-day Queen Elizabeth (in 1944, ‘Lillibet’ was just eighteen years old), bemoan together the face that they have to sit quietly at home, like a pair of superannuated geriatrics, waiting to hear the results of OPERATION OVERLORD from other people.

They’re too old, for one thing and, for another, as the Prime Minister and King of England respectively, they owe it to the people of England to keep themselves safe and not to get their heads blown off in a battle somewhere across the Channel as they’ve actually been thinking of doing. I can understand that they both feel useless but with great power comes great responsibility. Tough titty, in other words, lol.

Miranda Richardson plays Clementine Churchill here. She has two modes: she’s either shaking her head fondly at Winnie’s naughtiness and eccentricity and stubborness or being terribly passive-aggressive about the fact that he has hardly any time for her now that he has the troubles of the whole world on his shoulders.

Well, she should probably have expected that when she married him. Statesmen and kings and Prime Ministers have to do the job they signed up for or else they’ll be letting their people down. It’s hard on the wives and families but I’m sure that there are a lot of material compensations to make up for it, and I bet they wouldn’t volunteer to give these up either, lol.

Both films, DARKEST HOUR and CHURCHILL, see Winnie fighting his war with the brilliant, impassioned speeches that are still quoted to this day. I don’t like, however, that both films try to get humour out of an old man’s eccentricities and his physically ageing body in his nightshirt and bare feet.

DARKEST HOUR was particularly guilty of this, showing Winnie’s bare legs as he hopped nekkid out of the bath and ran across the landing in the nip while his young female secretary hovered, mortified.

I’m surprised they didn’t go the whole hog and show him clipping his horny old toenails and breaking wind in the jacks as well. Or maybe they’re planning on putting these scenes into the next big film on Churchill. Leave the guy some dignity, for Chrissakes.

I’ll be eternally grateful to both films, however, for teaching me the difference between Dunkirk and D-Day, two things I’d mixed up for literally years. In the first scenario, Allied soldiers were rescued from the coast of France and in the second, Allied soldiers were transported to the coast of France in order to carry out the liberation of this country. And I’m sure those snooty French peeps were eternally grateful, lol, and lived happily ever after and never ever looked down their noses on the rest of the world again…!

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

FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA: A MEMOIR OF AUSCHWITZ. (1978) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

isabella book

FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA: A MEMOIR OF AUSCHWITZ BY ISABELLA LEITNER. (1978) THIS NEW EDITION PUBLISHED BY OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.

BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a gorgeous little book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, if anyone can ever be said to have ‘enjoyed’ a book about the Holocaust and the tragic events contained therein. I read it in one sitting on the day I purchased it. The book itself had a lovely velvety feel to it, a texture I can never quite resist in a book. I buy some books just because I love the shape, the feel or the smell of them. I’m totally a book nut, lol.

It’s quite short, this FRAGMENTS OF ISABELLA, just a manageable one-hundred-and-twenty-seven pages in total and, in fact, it was named on publication as an AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION BEST BOOK FOR YOUNG ADULTS.

I didn’t realise as I was reading it that it might be a book for Young Adults. I read it for what it is, a very moving, simply written but devastatingly telling account of Isabella Leitner’s- and her family’s- experience of the Holocaust.

Isabella (Leitner was her married name) was a beautiful young Jewish-Hungarian woman who was deported from the ghetto to Auschwitz on the morning of her twenty-third birthday. A cruelty indeed on the part of Fate- and the Nazis- but then, Isabella herself would probably say that every day is someone’s birthday and that all deportations were cruel. And of course she’d be right on both counts.

It’s so sad when she talks about how the non-Jewish population of Kisvarda, the small town in Hungary where she lived with her family, more or less stood by and let these deportations happen. They didn’t just let them happen, they actually stood there and watched them happen, some of them with smiles on their faces that seemed to a shell-shocked Isabella to mean:

‘Well, goodbye, dirty Jews, we’re glad to have our country back to ourselves again.’ In the end, Isabella said that she wanted to leave these small-minded, petty cowardly people behind her, whatever horrors the future held in store for her and her family.

This future was terrible indeed. Isabella and her mother, Teresa, and her four sisters Chicha, Cipi, Rachel and little Potyo, along with her brother Philip, were crammed together into one of the notorious cattle wagons for the journey to Auschwitz, the dead centre of the Nazis’ concentration camp killing machine.

Their father had gone abroad to seek safe passage and immigration papers for his family to come and join him in America or Israel, wherever he was, but I’m not sure if Isabella ever heard from him again after that. Their mother, Teresa, died in the jam-packed, almost airless cattle wagons, as did many others.

The old, the sick, babies, nursing mothers and the very young were, of course, particularly vulnerable to the appalling conditions. People were piled in on top of one another with nothing to eat or drink except what they’d managed to bring along themselves as per the Nazis’ instructions. There was only one bucket for sanitation purposes and the stench of urine and excrement would quickly become unbearable, as you can imagine.

The death of their cultured, kind-hearted book-loving mother was a terrible blow to Isabella and her sisters. Ditto, the death of their little sister Potyo not long after. Life was hard enough to bear without these two deaths to cope with as well.

Their arrival at the camp was the same nightmare experienced by all the others who passed through the dreaded gates of Auschwitz, over which were inscribed the words: ‘ARBEIT MACHT FREI,’ or WORK SETS YOU FREE. Not always the case at Auschwitz.

The sisters endured together the horrible shock of having their heads shaved immediately on arrival, as well as the shaving off of their pubic and armpit hair to prevent the spread of lice, a constant worry in the camp. Isabella describes herself and her sisters at this moment in time as ‘four naked-headed monsters,’ but they were not the monsters. They weren’t even close.

Isabella and her sisters made a pact to each stay alive. No matter what the awful camp threw at them, they would stick together and STAY ALIVE. Thus, whenever one of them felt like giving up and throwing in the towel, the sisters would all rally round and practically will that person to keep going, keep going, keep going, no matter what, to stay alive.

Isabella’s brother Philip, who would have been in the mens’ section of the camp, urged his sisters to stay alive also so that the Nazis could be ‘paid back’ for their crimes against humanity. Also, Philip said, it was so that they could tell the whole world what had happened there at Auschwitz, and that was obviously something that really resonated with Isabella.

And the awful camp had plenty in its horrible arsenal to throw at them. For example, the infamous ‘selections,’ at which Dr. Josef Mengele himself indicated with his right thumb or his left thumb who was to live and who was to die in the gas chambers.

Infectious diseases like typhus and TB. Irma Grese, the notorious SS woman, blonde and beautiful but with a heart of stone. Poor, rotten food. Limited washing and toileting facilities. The endless roll-call or ‘Appell’ at which you could be standing in line for four or more hours while the guards called out everyones’ names.

If there was a mistake or a miscount in the Appell, the guards would start again while the starving prisoners either froze in the snow or wilted under the sun. And always, always, always, the constant shouts of ‘Raus! Raus! Raus!’ meaning ‘Get out!’ or ‘Schnell! Schnell! Schnell!,’ meaning to hurry up. The Nazis always did everything on the run.

Isabella’s book was written in 1978, thirty-three years after Liberation. It’s a sad book, but it’s a book that ultimately contains a dazzling message of hope. PUBLISHERS’ WEEKLY says of it that: ‘Her (Isabella’s) slim volume is a celebration of the strength of the human spirit as it passes through fire.’

The things that Isabella and her sisters go through will strike a chord with any Holocaust survivors who read the book. She’s got her own way of putting things though, a unique voice that tells her dreadful story simply, in a way that’s easy to read and digest. It’s not like one of those massive Holocaust tomes that you could use as a door-stop if you needed to, but then it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes less really is more.

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

HITLER: THE RISE AND FALL. (2016) A DOCUMENTARY REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

hitler rise and fall

HITLER: THE RISE AND FALL: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER. (2016) A DOCUMENTARY BY STAN GRIFFIN. NARRATED BY CHRISTIEN ANHOLT. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

It took me two nights to watch all two-hundred-and-seventy-eight minutes of this gripping documentary, which amounted to three episodes a night at forty-five minutes each. This was surprisingly manageable, especially as it was the weekend and I was bloody well due a little me-time, lol.

Anyway, the documentary does exactly what it says on the tin, charting Adolf Hitler’s life and- ahem- life’s work from his relatively humble beginnings to his meteoric rise to become ruler of Germany and the Nazi Party, before, well, you know. The war and stuff. All the stuff he did. You know what I mean. We’re not supposed to mention it…

Various Professors of History and assorted academics who’ve nearly all written books on Hitler sit around chatting to camera about what they’ve learned about Hitler over the years and, coupled with the little dramatisations and recreations with actors and actresses going on in the background, it all actually makes for rather thrilling viewing. Here for your delectation is my own interpretation of the facts as presented by HITLER: THE RISE AND FALL. A sort of ‘HITLER FOR DUMMIES,’ if you will.

Hitler was born in 1889 in Austria-Hungary to a civil servant father who brutalised him physically and whom Hitler despised utterly, and a mother who worshipped him but understandably couldn’t protect him from his father’s wrath.

When Alois Hitler- the Dad- passed away in 1903, I doubt if Hitler shed many tears, unlike at the death of his mother four years later, which devastated him. It was the first major blow of his life. Probably the next one was when he was rejected for Art School in Vienna.

Apparently he wasn’t good at drawing people, but wasn’t bad at all at sketching buildings. In fact, he had a lifelong obsession with architecture and was always dreaming up ideas for fabulous buildings and town centres in his mind.

During his last days in the Bunker, while Berlin burned around him and the Russians were within shelling distance of the Reich Chancellery, instead of making plans to save himself and his entourage or to broker a peace deal with the Allies, Hitler fiddled endlessly with a scale model of a town plan of Linz in Austria, which he planned to turn into a cultural capital ‘after the war.’ I wonder when was the exact moment at which he finally realised that there would be no ‘after the war’ for him and his Party…?

Anyway, his special talent was really for public speaking. Boy, could he talk. He could- and did- talk for Germany. After World War One, in which he rather startlingly won an Iron Cross for ‘bravery’ (I always think of him as a bit cowardly, actually), he turned to politics. His early days in the Nazi Party saw him cutting his oratorial teeth on the speeches he made to admiring Party members.

He started to develop his anti-Semitic views around this time and was a real asset to the Nazi Party, which by the way he didn’t ‘found’ but he did join it very early on, when it was still in its infancy.

There’s a disturbing image for you anyway, the Nazi Party as a chubby baby complete with rattle and bonnet being wheeled round the park in an antique stroller by a uniformed Nanny. ‘Take me once round the park, Smithers, I’m feeling fussy…!’

The failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 came next, in which Hitler and his pals, including General Ludendorff from WW1, sought to stage a coup that would ultimately challenge the government in Berlin. Hitler was sentenced to five years in prison for his part in the Putsch but served only one, getting out early for, ‘of all things, good behaviour…!’

During his time in Landsberg Prison, Hitler dictated his autobiography, MEIN KAMPF, to his adoring deputy Rudolf Hess. I said dictated, not dedicated, lol. I don’t know if the book ever had the benefit of proper editing but most historians agree that it’s a major snooze.

He waffles a lot in it about his ideas on race and suchlike. They’re not at all what you’d call liberal. Some form of ethnic cleansing is implied. It’s seemingly badly written and a crashing bore, but essential reading, the experts claim, if you want to understand where he got his nutty ideas from or the ‘reasoning’ behind them. I did take it out of the library once, but the endless blocks of dry-as-dust, unbroken-up text made me return it soon after, unread.

After Hitler’s early release from prison, he began work on rebuilding the Nazi Party, which had stood by him throughout his, by all accounts, reasonably cushy incarceration. (There were flowers on the table in that prison cell, ffs…!) It was the Great Depression of 1929 that proved to be the key to Hitler’s later success.

With America demanding back the money they’d loaned Germany to get back on her feet after the punitive terms of the Versailles Treaty, Germany was in trouble financially and ripe for some political agitation from Hitler and the Nazi Party.

A stable, healthy German economy was no use to Hitler. But the recession that followed the Crash of ’29 was the perfect environment for the Nazis to flourish, and flourish they did, by promising the German people the only two things they cared about at this time, ‘ARBEIT UND BROT,’ or ‘WORK AND BREAD.’ They even delivered on their promises sometimes.

The elections of 1932 saw Hitler coming second only to Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934), the elderly President of Germany, who died a mere two years later. Hitler was now becoming established as a political force to be reckoned with.

1933 was even better for Hitler, the funny little man with the toothbrush moustache, poor table manners and queer sense of sartorial style (the top hat and dog whip, seriously?).

He became Chancellor of Germany and, with the aforementioned death of the old President Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler made himself President as well as Chancellor and fixed things so that he couldn’t be removed from office. Dictatorship, anyone?

A lot of stuff happened between 1933 and the start of World War Two that we’ll try to get through quickly. Punitive laws were enforced against the Jews, coming to an explosive head- but by no means ending- on Kristallnacht or The Night Of Broken Glass (November 1938)during which Jewish shops were trashed and their synagogues burned.

In the Irish Jewish Museum here in Dublin, just as a matter of interest, they have on display a piece of a religious scroll saved from a burning synagogue on this terrible night. Hitler was apparently annoyed by the damage to some of Germany’s lovely old buildings during Kristallnacht. Oh dear. How careless of those naughty marauders to damage the buildings.

The Nazi Party brushed Germany’s racial ‘issues’ under the carpet for the duration of the 1936 Olympic Games, which were held in Berlin. Film-maker Leni Riefenstahl, who also incidentally filmed the Olympics, made a movie called TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, about one of the gigantic Nuremberg rallies, that captured all the terrifying glamour and spectacle so beloved of the Nazis. Hitler is represented as a god in this film, literally descending from the clouds in his little aeroplane, the first leader of a country to ever use air travel to his benefit.

During this period also, from 1933 to 1939, ‘enemies’ of the Nazi Party (like the chap who protested that his livelihood had been torn down to make way for lavish extensions to the Berghof, Hitler’s fabulous mountain retreat) were being sent to concentration camps, which already existed. Inmates taken there were supposed to undergo a sort of ‘re-nazification.’ Like the ‘re-Neducation’ in that TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode of THE SIMPSONS but, like, a million times less fun, obviously.

The dreaded camps were not yet the killing machines some of them ended up being later on when the ‘Final Solution,’ the extermination of the Jews, was properly underway. For now, they were mostly for communists and people who opposed the Nazi ideology. There were eyes and ears everywhere. It was a dangerous time to speak out against the Fuhrer or his Nazi Party.

Hitler became obsessed during this time with the idea of ‘Lebensraum,’ or living space, for the German people. He built up and re-armed the Army that had suffered restrictions as a result of the Versailles Treaty, a humiliating document that had basically ground Germany into the dirt, as Hitler saw it, for having caused World War One.

The reparations Germany had to pay after WW1 were brutally punitive. Hitler metaphorically tore up this hated treaty every time he marched his newly re-armed forces into a different country in yet another stunning land grab, and the people of Germany loved him for it.

He’d united Austria with Nazi Germany without the firing of a single shot. The Austrians welcomed Hitler and his cohorts with open arms and floral tributes. He was like a king when he rode in his car through the flower-strewn streets. It was one of his greatest moments.

Then came his acquisition of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, Neville Chamberlain and ‘Peace In Our Time,’ and then the ill-fated invasion of Poland which led to Britain and France declaring war on Germany, much to Hitler’s surprise. What do these assholes care about Poland, he was probably thinking, but care they did. It was jolly well a matter of principle, old boy. The war was very much a go…

France fell fairly quickly to the well-oiled Nazi machine. Nazi steamroller, more like. Britain, of course, held out staunchly to the end because Britons never, never, never shall be slaves, of course. Hitler unleashed the full force of the odious, fatly smiling Goering’s Luftwaffe on them but to no avail. Britain was not for turning…

Hitler spent much of the war teaching his beloved Alsatian dog Blondi to do tricks. He also enjoyed eating cake- Hitler, that is, not Blondi, although who knows, maybe the doggie did too- and so he consumed quite a lot of the stuff up in the gorgeous little Teahouse that formed part of his mountainside hideaway in the Berghof, where his long-term mistress Eva Braun resided.

Hitler should have been as fat as a fool, with all the cakes the film-makers show him putting away in this documentary. I got quite peckish for cake, actually, while watching this film, and so a packet of Jaffa cakes may or may not have been sacrificed to the common good on one of the nights…

Dr. Theodore Morell, Hitler’s doctor, gets a mention here as the doctor who put the Fuhrer on a cocktail of drugs to treat his various ailments, real or imagined. Hitler was something of a hypochondriac, but the drugs he was given probably far exceeded his need and would have almost certainly contributed to how divorced from reality he was by the end of the war.

America entered the war in 1941 after the Japanese shockingly attacked Pearl Harbour. Hitler is seen in the documentary film as not taking this news seriously enough. It was a disaster for him, however.

The Americans were mightily pissed off and would stay in the war until the bitter end, until they, in fact, were the victors along with Britain and Hitler’s most hated enemy, Russia. The threat of Bolshevism was as bad, to him, as the threat represented by the Jews.

Hitler’s invasion of Russia was an unmitigated disaster also, resulting in the deaths of millions of Russian soldiers and civilians and German soldiers. Fighting a war of that scale on two fronts was too much for one man, a man who by now wasn’t even living in the real world.

The Holocaust, the wholesale murder of the Jews of Europe in concentration camps, was in full swing by now, with Auschwitz in Poland at the ‘dead’ centre of the operation. The more catastrophic Hitler’s war became for Germany, the more the killing was speeded up, the killing he actually termed ‘humane’ because it was done by gassing rather than other, messier means.

Everyone wants to hear about the Bunker, of course, the ‘good stuff,’ lol, when Hitler moved battalions that no longer really existed around the map from one place to another during the daily situation reports that became more and more fraught. The war was lost. The jig was up. Hitler was pretty much the last person to take this admittedly unpalatable fact on board.

In his last couple of days, he marries Eva Braun, dictates his last Will and Testament to his secretary Traudl Junge and shoots himself while Eva bites down on a cyanide capsule on the couch beside him.

Nearby, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister and long-time toady Joseph Goebbels prepares to follow his Fuhrer even unto death, along with his wife Magda and their six children. Thus, with a gunshot and the hasty burning of two bodies in the Reichchancellery garden, endeth the Third Reich. There’s talk of a Fourth sequel but I don’t know, I think the franchise is pretty much played out, lol.

There’s some really fantastic footage of the players in this iconic real-life drama in HITLER: THE RISE AND FALL. I’d never seen a lot of the footage before and it was gob-smackingly clear and exciting to view.

The historians are pretty good too, my favourites being the super-enthusiastic Emma Craigie, author of HITLER’S LAST DAY: MINUTE BY MINUTE, which I’ve read and enjoyed, and also a chap by the name of Professor Richard Overy. Watch this if you’re a history fan. It’s top-notch stuff.

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

AUSCHWITZ: THE LAST JOURNEY. (2006) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

auschwitz last journey outside train

AUSCHWITZ: THE LAST JOURNEY (DER LETZTE ZUG). (2006) DIRECTED BY JOSEPH VILSMAIER AND DANA VAVROVA. STARRING GEDEON BURKHARD, LALE YAVAS, LENA BEYERLING, SIBEL KEKILLI, ROMAN ROTH AND LUDWIG BLOCHBERGER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Hey, don’t feed the animals…!’

This German language film is an absolute masterpiece, utterly compelling but undoubtedly grim viewing at the same time. It’s an historically and factually accurate depiction of the dreadful journey of one of the Holocaust trains transporting Jews to Auschwitz, as seen from the viewpoints of two or three specific little families or couples.

The journey starts at home, with the inevitable tramp of booted feet on the quiet streets outside in the middle of the night. Then it’s ‘Open up, it’s the Gestapo!’ and the terrified Jews, the last few Jews left in Berlin, have only five minutes to pack their things and get downstairs to the waiting trucks and lorries.

They’re allegedly being taken to a ‘place of safety,’ because there are too many Allied bombs falling on the city. A likely story. The viewer knows that the Nazis are simply rendering Berlin ‘Juden-frei’ or ‘Jew-free’ as a ‘gift’ to Hitler for his birthday. If I may be permitted a little levity (anti-Nazi, that is, not anti-Jew!) here, what happened to the notion of giving someone a voucher and letting them pick out their own present?

At the train station, a calm voice over the tannoy tells the seven hundred Jews leaving Berlin for Auschwitz (although they don’t know that yet) not to panic. If they board the trains in a nice orderly fashion, they’ll be provided with the food and drink that will sustain them throughout the journey. This doesn’t sound so bad, the waiting crowds tell themselves.

Some children question why they’re to travel in cattle cars when they’re not cattle, they’re people, but their mothers hush them and remind them that, after all, it’s wartime. Some of the Jewish men, suspecting correctly where they’re being taken, resolve even at this stage to work together to escape the trains once they’ve boarded.

Once the doors to the train have been bolted and the Jews are ‘safely’ aboard, all pretence at politeness on the Germans’ part will cease and the Jews will realise that they’ve been duped. Though they still haven’t been told precisely where they’re going, they can guess. Now will begin the most horrific journey of their lives, and even then it’s still not as bad as their awful destination.

One hundred people crushed into one cattle car. One bucket of water for them all to share, and no food except what they’ve managed to bring themselves. Another bucket for toilet purposes. Men, women, old people, children and babies all steaming in the heat and breathing the same foul, fetid air. One tiny barred window and a locked and bolted door.

The Jews are deemed to need so little care once they’ve been securely locked inside the cattle cars that the Nazi powers have given the job of commander to a young boy of barely twenty, an Oberleutnant Crewes.

This baby-faced Nazi, however, is already full of the poison and cruelty inculcated into him by his elders, so the Jews needn’t expect any mercy from this quarter. As the train stokers say: ‘These young ones are full of this whole Aryan race shit, as if the Virgin herself had personally whispered it into their ears.’

Conditions inside the cattle car quickly become unbearable as the train trundles rather than hurtles its way through Hitler’s Germany, the countryside of his Third Reich, to Auschwitz in Poland.

There are long delays too, for example when they have to sit back and allow precedence to the trains filled with German soldiers rushing to the Front, and another time while a gallows is being built to hang a group of partisans and leave them hanging, as a grim warning to all who see them.

During these interminable delays, the cry is all for ‘Wasser, bitte!’ as the occupants of the cattle car beg for a little water to ease their raging thirst. Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t. They hand their valuables out the window to the train operatives in return for water and a bit of bread. They’ll lick the water up off the floor of the cattle car if they have to.

Let’s meet our main protagonists. Henry and Lea Neumann, a handsome young couple, are here with their young daughter, a remarkably clever and brave little girl called Nina, and their baby son David.

Albert Rosen and Ruth Silbermann are a young engaged couple who are so in love with each other it’s lovely to see. Ruth has a lot of character and guts and she’ll make Albert, a former jeweller, a marvellous wife, a wife he can be proud of.

Jakob and Gabrielle are an elderly couple, devoted to each other and with balls and chutzpah to spare. Jakob has been a comedian and entertainer all his life. When the Gestapo and the sinister man in the trenchcoat give him five minutes to pack his most valuable possessions, he brings his collection of jokes and the tuxedo he wears to perform in.

Gabrielle is his pianist. She has as much courage as the diminutive Jakob who, before this awful train journey happened, tried to persuade his beloved to emigrate to America. She refused to leave him, however, so now they’re both here.

The staunchly good-humoured old couple use their talents and entertainment skills to try to keep up morale in the stifling cattle car, in which people are already dying of dehydration and shock and everyone’s stripped down to their underwear in the intense heat.

Henry and Albert are the two men who try to engineer escape from the train of certain death. If they don’t manage it for anyone, then this train will one day pull up at Auschwitz.

There’ll be barbed wire, attack dogs, endless shouting and doing everything ‘on the run’ the way the Nazis preferred it. There’ll be the infamous ARBEIT MACHT FREI, which might just as well read ABANDON HOPE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE, as in the workhouses of old.

There’ll be ‘men to the left, women and children to the right’ and grey-faced Sonderkommandos pulling and pushing them into the correct lines before the Nazis get angry. The new arrivals might see the chimneys that are kept alight night and day and belch out smoke and a peculiar-smelling ash round the clock.

Some of the new people may have heard of these chimneys and their grisly purpose. ‘It can’t be true,’ they tell themselves as they look up, wide-eyed. ‘How can it be true? It doesn’t make any sense, the Nazis destroying their own workforce!’

If it sounds like hell to the reader, well, one can’t even imagine what it was like for the people who were brought here. The film’s ending is one you won’t forget for a long time. It’s even sadder than the little vignettes of our main protagonists’ former happier lives which are cleverly interspersed throughout the film.

I’m not one to preach but, if ever a film could represent a cogent argument against racism, then this film would have to be it. Every time I watch it, it makes me feel ashamed of my nice cushy life in one of the so-called ‘civilised’ countries. And you’ll certainly never waste a drop of water in your life again after seeing this. I guarantee 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

THE GEORGE FORMBY FILM COLLECTION. (1941- 1946) REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

formby-500x297

THE GEORGE FORMBY FILM COLLECTION. (1941-1946) DIRECTED BY MARCEL VARNEL AND STARRING LANCASHIRE’S OWN GEORGE FORMBY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Rediscover the magic of ‘The Ukelele Man’ himself- George Formby- with seven of his very finest films!

George Formby was Britain’s biggest box-office star when he moved to Columbia Studios to make these seven fabulous comedy musicals- full of hit songs and packed with daft and inspired comedy in the true Formby style!

Finally released from the film vaults and digitally remastered for optimum sound and picture quality, these seven films are now available to own for the very first time in one very special DVD boxset!’

SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT.

‘Eeeeeeeeh, it’s turned out nice again, ha’nt it…?’

My teenage son and I went out specifically to look for George Formby films after hearing him singing his wonderful comic song ‘I’m leaning on a lamp-post on the corner of the street in case a certain little lady passes by’ on a gorgeous CD called WARTIME MEMORIES, which I’ve been listening to since Christmas.

And why was I listening to a CD called WARTIME MEMORIES, you might ask me? Well, I watched CASABLANCA on Christmas Eve on Irish television, all by myself in the deepening gloom, and ever since then I’ve craved as much ‘Forties music as I can get my hands on. Anything ‘Forties, really. Music, films, memorabilia and whatever else is out there.

We found this seven-film boxset in one of our favourite places to buy movies and music, and set about watching ’em with the diligence and enthusiasm of a mouse who finds himself unexpectedly alone with a wheel of Brie.

It’s as good an introduction to the films of this special little funny man as ever you’re likely to find, so if you’re thinking of getting to know the movies of George Formby yourself, you could do a lot worse. Eeeeeeeeeh…!

George Formby (1904-1961) is the undisputed star of all seven films. With his gormless, pleasantly toothsome face and the trademark wide grin, he sings and jokes his way through the scripts in much the same way each time.

He’s never a rich posh toff, he’s always a working-class stiff (usually called George!) trying to make ends meet, but it doesn’t bother our George at all that he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Whatever the weather, George is always in a good mood and as nice as a cake made of pie (Ned Flanders, THE SIMPSONS) to everyone he meets.

If he gets bullied by bigger, tougher men, he might get knocked about but he’ll always get back up. He’s got an unerring sense of justice and fair play, he loves his country dearly and would punch any traitor on the nose for daring to say a bad word against his beloved England.

As these particular films were mostly made during the Second World War, you’ll find George preparing to fight the Nazis in a few of them. There are jokes against Hitler, Goering and Goebbels in them specifically and the patriotism in them would do your heart good. Eeeeh, they would at that…!

There’s a certain kind of England conjured up in each film that’s mostly gone now, an England of cheeky little scamps shouting the news of the day on street corners as they sell their papers, sailors home on shore-leave with the words ‘loose lips sink ships’ ringing in their ears and war savings bonds on sale everywhere you look to aid the war effort.

Bobbies still had chin-straps and said ‘Now you just come alonger me’ to suspicious characters or rum-looking coves, going to the pictures cost next to nothing (you need to take out a bank loan these days for a night out at the flicks!) and it was common practice to hide behind the sofa when the landlord came calling for the rent.

And don’t forget the blackout curtains and the little evacuees and the air-raid sirens and the nights in the bunkers while Hitler’s Luftwaffe droned relentlessly overhead. Women drew stocking seams down the backs of their legs because real nylons were rare. Oh, happy days…!

There aren’t many folks alive today who remember this tumultuous era first-hand but we know that, as straitened as circumstances often were back then, people always had their lovely memories of the time. Maybe some of your Great-Grannies and Great-Grandads even went to see George Formby at the pictures and have good memories of so doing. Eeeeeeh, i’n’t life grand…!

George sings three, four or even five songs in each of the films, often accompanying himself on his beloved ukelele, and here’s something else about the films. You wouldn’t take George for a ladies’ man, would you, but in every single movie he gets the girl of his dreams with only a modicum of effort, and you know what little belters those ‘Forties dames were.

Of course, he was the star and the star always gets the girl. Or does it just go to show you that nice guys don’t, in fact, necessarily always finish last? George hasn’t a bad bone in his body, he’s a tad goofy-looking and if a woman came onto him he’d be just as likely to run off shrieking ‘Mother!,’ but the nice girlies all love our Georgie. ‘Well, I’ll go to our ‘ouse…!’

Let’s have a quick run-down of the seven films on the boxset before we finish. In SOUTH AMERICAN GEORGE (1941), George’s coincidental resemblance to an opera singer (without being able to sing a note of opera!) leads him into a situation where he can help a lovely lady out if he’ll just play the part of the absentee opera singer for a bit. That’s if he doesn’t get his head blown off by some rum coves first…!

MUCH TOO SHY (1942) is an hilarious romp and mine and my son’s favourite film in the boxset. George, a handyman and artist who designs the film posters for the local cinema, takes an art class to teach him to give the womens’ heads he draws fabulous bodies to go with their free-floating craniums. But when some scandalous nudie pictures of local ladies mysteriously turn up in the papers, bodies an’ all, guess who gets the blame…!

This one features comedian Jimmy Clitheroe as George’s wise-beyond-his-years little brother. ‘Show me a woman and I’ll show you trouble…!’ Fans of the CARRY-ON movies will be thrilled to see a ridiculously young-looking Charles Hawtrey in this one as a ‘brother brush’ of George’s, and our favourite comic song, ‘I’m Delivering The Morning Milk’ is in it too.

GET CRACKING (1943) is a full-on, all-out World War Two film that sees the hapless George joining the LDF or LOCAL DEFENCE VOLUNTEERS. While he cares for a little girl evacuee and builds his own honest-to-God tank in his spare time out of odds-and-ends, he has great fun also trying to get one over on a rival LDF platoon. The enemy is Hitler, George! Wouldn’t it be better if you rival LDF chaps joined forces? It’s just a thought…

BELL-BOTTOM GEORGE (1944) is another war film that sees George joining the Navy in a case of mistaken identity, while dating a pretty WREN and accidentally cracking a spy ring that the British government has been trying to track down themselves.

George has always wanted to be in the Navy though. Maybe his efforts in uncovering the spy ring and entertaining the troops with his little ukelele might be enough to gain him admission? We’ll see what the man whose uniform he’s wearing has got to say about that…! Charles Hawtrey is here too, plus the world’s oddest-sounding crickets.

HE SNOOPS TO CONQUER (1945) sees George working as a lowly tea-boy for the corrupt Tangleton local council. When he’s tasked with surveying the entire population of Tangleton as to their working and living conditions, George does a thorough job of it.

So thorough, in fact, that he accidentally unmasks the local councillors for the lying, pocket-lining rats they are and exposes the terrible disparity between rich and poor in post-war Tangleton. Eeeeeh, some of the films have a nice bit of social commentary in ’em an’ all, you know, lol.

George also gets entangled (in Tangleton) with a wacky toff inventor and his attractive daughter in this one, and the excellent comic song ‘If You Want To Get Your Picture In The Press, You Must Be Different, Some Kind Of Way’ is here too.

I DIDN’T DO IT (1945) sees George set off to the Big Smoke to pursue a career on the stage with his recitations and comic songs, only to find himself accused of the murder of a rich man in the same boarding-house.

The way George innocently lands himself in trouble with the police with his unfailing honesty is so funny here, and the back-story of the murder is really exciting, reminding me of old German silent movie star Emil Jannings in VARIETÉ.

GEORGE ON CIVVY STREET (1946) sees a hopeful George being debriefed and finally sent home from the war. He’s looking forward to running the old family pub again, in its charming rural location, and hooking up once more with the girl he more than likes.

But she owns a rival pub, you see, and now it’s run by scurrilous individuals who want to see George out of business. Will they succeed in their fiendish plan? This one includes a naughty, wholly unforeseen strip-a-gram that had myself and my son in stitches.

Most of the songs contain the sauciest of sexual innuendo that saw George in trouble with the BBC back in the day. I understand that crotchety old Auntie Beeb wasn’t at all impressed with ‘Me Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock,’ which unfortunately doesn’t feature on the boxset.

There’s still more innuendo here than you can shake a stick at, though, so enjoy a sly little giggle at these genius songs. George is probably looking down in approval, grinning his big toothy grin as he lovingly fingers his ukelele. Eeeeeeh, careful now, you cheeky fast cat…!

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

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