LOST HEARTS (1973), THE TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS (1974) and THE ASH TREE (1975): MORE GHOSTLY ADAPTATIONS FROM THE BBC REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

lost hearts

CLASSIC GHOST STORY ADAPTATIONS FROM THE BBC: LOST HEARTS (1973), THE TREASURE OF ABBOT THOMAS (1974) AND THE ASH TREE (1975). BASED ON THE STORIES OF MONTAGUE RHODES JAMES.

STARRING SIMON GIPPS-KENT, JOSEPH O’CONOR, MICHAEL BRYANT, PAUL LAVERS, EDWARD PETHERBRIDGE AND BARBARA EWING.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

These three ghost stories in the BBC’s A Ghost Story For Christmas series are just gorgeous. They’re beautifully photographed and the stories are good and creepy too. As the little booklet accompanying the DVD box-set tells us so descriptively, they would have appeared on television late at night, probably the last programme before the station shut down for the night.

This was back in the days when television wasn’t a twenty-four-hour thing, remember, and you had a choice sometimes of only two, three or four channels. The viewer would have watched the programme in front of the dying embers of that day’s fire, and gone straight up to bed afterwards with the disturbing imagery from the ghost story weighing heavily upon his mind. By Jove, if that isn’t the way to do it…!

Lost Hearts tells the story of a recently orphaned boy called Stephen coming to live with his ancient aristocrat uncle/first cousin twice removed Abney, in said uncle’s fabulous stately home set in acres of rolling parkland.

Uncle Abney is, quite simply, too good to be true. He’s chuckle-y and funny and so kindly disposed towards the soon-to-be-twelve-years-old lad that we wonder in earnest what his deal is. Things –– and people –– that seem to be too good to be true often are, after all . . .

If I were Stephen, I’d be extremely worried about the well-meaning but thoroughly unnerving tales told by the housekeeper about children who were invited to stay at the house by the kindly old Mr. Abney in the past, but who then disappeared into thin air shortly afterwards. Still, the boy is powerless to act, isn’t he? What can he do in a situation like that? He’s orphaned, after all, and the older gentleman in whose home he currently resides is now his legal guardian.

The fog-wreathed landscape looks wonderful in this film. The supernatural beings are present in the narrative almost from the beginning, but they’re no less creepy for all that, the Italian hurdy-gurdy gypsy boy in particular. The music is marvellous and the graveyard scene at the end is just beautiful to look at. Apologies for the fulsome nature of my adjectives, but really, this short film is just too visually delicious to resist.

In The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, an intellectually arrogant cleric by the name of the Reverend Justin Somerton is engaged on what amounts to a secret treasure hunt, for the gold said to have been secreted away by the titular Abbot Thomas in the ancient church-slash-seat of learning where Somerton is now doing some research. It has to be kept secret because it would fatally damage Somerton’s academic reputation to be seen to be grubbing around after a handful of gold coins.

Somerton is assisted in his treasure-hunting by the aristocratic young Lord Peter Dattering, whose father is recently deceased. I love the bit where Peter invites his mentor Somerton to a séance in his home. Peter’s mother is convinced that her medium and the medium’s husband are able to contact her dear dead spouse for her, but the snobby show-off Reverend Somerton soon puts paid to the medium couple’s little scam . . .

Somerton and Peter have great fun flexing their intellectual muscles in trying to solve the puzzle left by long-deceased alchemist and suspected sorcerer, the Abbot Thomas. Imagine Somerton’s fright, though, when he realises that the mischievous, malevolent Abbot Thomas has not been trying to keep him away from his precious treasure, but has in fact been trying to lure him into a horrible, deathly trap, using the treasure as bait. The scene in the catacombs is delightfully gruesome, and I love the end bit, of which we get a satisfying bird’s-eye view. He looks down on what is hidden . . .

The Ash Tree is arguable my favourite story of the three short films. The handsome, aristocratic young Sir Richard Fell is the newest incumbent of Castringham hall, his predecessor Sir Matthew having died a strange and mysterious death.

Sir Richard straightaway begins to experience moments of possession, when he finds himself occupying the body and mind of the late Sir Matthew. But Sir Matthew lived in witch-finder times, when innocent women were hanged and drowned and burned to death after being found ‘guilty’ of so-called witchcraft.

Sir Matthew’s mind, once he has reluctantly accused a beautiful local woman, Anne Mothersole (played by Hammer actress Barbara Ewing), of witchcraft and condemned her to a horrible death by hanging, is not a comfortable place to be. Sir Richard becomes more and more discombobulated by the periods of possession. Is it only a matter of time before he suffers the same grisly fate as his unfortunate ancestor . . . ?

Sir Richard has a saucy little sexpot of a girlfriend called the Lady Augusta, by the way, who seems to be permitted an extraordinary amount of freedom for a woman of the time. Gadding about on her horse, swanning over to Paris for her wedding trousseau and daring to chide her husband-to-be over his inclusion of Henry Fielding’s The Adventures of Tom Jones in his library. A woman who reads? Heaven forfend . . . 

It is sincerely to be hoped that Sir Richard beats this distinct tendency towards independence out of her once they are lawfully wed, which was the style of the time, and fills her belly with enough regularity to take her mind off gadding about and keep it where it belongs, in the nursery. Humph.

There’s an hilarious passage in the booklet which accompanies this DVD box-set, in which director Lawrence Gordon Clark tells us about how it was the ash tree in his very own garden that served as the downfall of poor Sir Richard.

Months later, the following summer, in fact, Clark was entertaining friends in his garden when a hideous spider baby, that seemingly hadn’t been boxed away with the other hairy monstrosities after filming ended, fell suddenly out of the tree into the lap of a terrified female guest. If that had been me, the speed of my departure would have put the Road-Runner to shame. Sweet suffering Jesus.

‘Mine shall inherit . . .’

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

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

lastMANonEARTH

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

‘Come out, Morgan…!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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

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

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

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

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Jenny, I’ve come to wake you!’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

10 RILLINGTON PLACE. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

christie wall

10 RILLINGTON PLACE. (1971) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘TEN RILLINGTON PLACE’ BY LUDOVIC KENNEDY. DIRECTED BY RICHARD FLEISCHER. STARRING RICHARD ATTENBOROUGH, JOHN HURT, JUDY GEESON AND PAT HEYWOOD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a superb film- it’s beyond superb, even- but the subject matter is chilling in the extreme. John Reginald Halliday Christie (born in 1898) has always given me the willies as a serial killer. He was no gleaming-toothed, charismatic Ted Bundy with an army of ‘Ted’ groupies behind him and the hearts and minds of women everywhere under his belt.

Christie comes across as a creepy little man, odious and whispery, with his big bald dome of a head, his prissy, old womanish mannerisms and all those repressed sexual hang-ups that come from his apparently having been abused by his father and dominated by his mother and sisters.

I’ve always reckoned that dear old Dickie Attenborough (JURASSIC PARK and the original DUNKIRK movie) plays Reg Christie pretty much as he really was, the softly-spoken weirdo. (Christie, I mean, not our lovely cuddly John Hammond!) Rubbish at sex, maybe under-endowed to boot, drawn to women but afraid of them too, only really relaxing around them once he’d killed them and they no longer represented a threat.

He doesn’t seem to have sought out the company of men at all. Men probably scared him with their loud voices and latent capacity for violence always just simmering away under the surface. Women were easier prey, women could be pushed around and gassed and, once they were ‘under,’ as it were, well, it was playtime for the man known throughout his adolescence as ‘Reggie-No-Dick’ and ‘Can’t-Do-It-Christie.’ Well, that won’t surprise anyone. These kinds of sickos are frequently impotent, aren’t they, or have some complicated sexual hang-ups that can only be satisfied by a particular, peculiar set of circumstances.

10 Rillington Place is one of those British addresses notorious for having had horrific murders committed there. 25 Cromwell Street (Fred and Rosemary West) and 16 Wardle Brook Avenue, Hattersley (Ian Brady and Myra Hindley: the Moors Murderers) are two others you might know. The local council normally ends up having to raze such properties into the ground, to prevent their becoming shrines of evil for sightseers and souvenir hunters.

(In the extra features on the DVD, Richard Attenborough relates how that’s exactly what happened to 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London. People nicked nearly enough of the bricks to make the house a safety risk, for crying out loud! Part of the film, by the way, was made in and around the real-life Rillington Place, which no longer exists today. Now, how gruesome and grisly is that…?)

In the film, we know straightaway that Christie is a killer. There are women’s bodies buried in his garden, and it’s extraordinary that no-one discovered them for so long, especially given that the Christies were only renting and didn’t own the property. Christie’s living with his rather passive wife Ethel (Pat Heywood, Nelly Dean from the 1978 BBC dramatisation of Wuthering Heights), but God alone knows how he persuaded anyone to marry him, is all I can say.

What happens to his lodgers, Tim and Beryl Evans and their baby daughter Geraldine, is sad beyond words. Christie commits the most heinous of crimes against Tim’s little family and poor, stupid Tim, young, Welsh and frequently unemployed, known for telling ridiculously tall tales down the boozer that even the drunks don’t believe, takes the rap for it.

Tim, who can’t read or write, isn’t the brightest tool in the box and he allows the sneaky liar that is Reg Christie to run rings around him. It’s just too sad. What happened to Tim ultimately should, of course, never have happened. All the pardons and exhumations in the world wouldn’t have given him back what he lost in 1949 and 1950.

Christie was a mad thing altogether, with his hypochondria and his ‘medical books,’ his potions and bits of hose and his preoccupation with gas. It’s true he was respected for joining the police as a special constable during ‘t’ war, even though he had a criminal record (I suppose anyone would do in a crisis!), and convictions for fraud and malicious woundingbut I bet he had no more medical experience than my left big toe.

Pretending that he did, however, have the skill-set of a doctor and, particularly, of an abortionist, was a grand handy way of luring unsuspecting women back to his flat while his wife was out. He was a pest, a menace to society in general and to womenkind in particular. Their house truly was a bona fide House of Horrors.

I’m getting all angry here now, lol, thinking about what a nasty piece of work John Christie was. He’s certainly on a par with John George Haigh, the Acid Bath Murderer, and George Joseph Smith, the guy who drowned his wives in the bath and Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper.

I’m angry with his wife Ethel too though. From remarks she makes to her husband towards the close of the film, it’s clear she knew something of Christie’s disgusting activities and may have been at least partially responsible for sending an innocent man to his death. I’ve heard she feared her husband, and that may well be true, but if she could have saved Tim Evans from his cruel fate, then surely she had an obligation to do so?

Ah well. Superb acting from everyone involved (John Hurt was AMAZINGLY GOOD as poor Tim Evans!) makes the film a pleasure to watch, although the content is greatly disturbing. You must certainly watch this magnificently acted film if you haven’t already seen it, but don’t watch it alone. I did, and it still has the power to freak me 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

HEREDITARY. (2018) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

hereditary mom

HEREDITARY. (2018) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ARI ASTER. STARRING TONI COLLETTE, GABRIEL BYRNE, ALEX WOLFF, MILLY SHAPIRO AND ANN DOWD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘It’s a neutral view of the accident…!’

Often, my first experience of a film that’s been released in the cinema to great acclaim is to watch it when the DVD comes out and everyone’s moved onto something else. That’s because, being a writer, I genuinely don’t get out much. Always slaving away at my desk trying to leave something worthwhile behind for humanity, lol.

Anyway, this is one film I bloody wish I’d seen on the big screen. Every second I spent watching the DVD was electrifying, it’s that good. Watching it unfold scene by scene at the cinema for the first time ever must have been a fantastic experience, not the kind you’re likely to forget any time soon.

HEREDITARY stars Toni Collette (MURIEL’S WEDDING, ABOUT A BOY, IMPERIUM), an actress who just seems to be getting better and better as she grows older. She steals the show completely in this film. She’s an absolute powerhouse in it. She plays Annie Graham, an artist, wife and mother who, when we meet her first, is getting ready to bury her mother.

It’s possibly most difficult to bury the mothers with whom we didn’t get along and with whom we have a troubled history, because there’s so much guilt involved, terrible, terrible guilt that makes for very heavy carrying. The ones we loved and were loved by, well, those deaths are bad enough to cope with, but anything more complicated, fuhgeddaboutit.

Annie is having trouble coping with her mother Ellen’s death, because they only seemed to get on intermittently and there’s a long complex back-story there. Annie even goes to a bereavement group that meets in town to see if it’s any help to her.

I think she shocks the group with how much detail she goes into about exactly how troubled her family history is. You can almost hear the group facilitator saying: ‘Well, it’s usually enough just to say your name, dear, and that you’re a wee bit sad…!’

Annie is married to Steve, played by Gabriel Byrne. (I know he’s Irish, like me, but I’ve never liked him. Too mopey and unsmilingly craggy-faced!) They’re obviously well-off and have a fabulous big house in the middle of an isolated forested area (the film was shot in Utah).

I’m not sure what Dad does (just Googled it, he’s a psychiatrist! Gabriel Byrne with his mopey unsmilingly craggy face would be perfect at playing a shrink, sitting for hours saying nothing with his legs crossed, bored, fiddling with his pen and polishing his specs, lol.), but Mom is a marvellous artist who works in miniatures and has exhibitions of her work and everything.

She creates the most amazing doll-houses and artistic installations featuring tiny people in various exquisitely-realised scenarios. Some of the scenes in the film actually make us feel like we’re looking at tiny little doll-people in a tiny little doll-house. It’s so cleverly done.

Anyway, Mom and Dad are no longer close after x amount of years together, married and bringing up children. Relationship-wise, they’re just going through the motions now. It happens, unfortunately, after that much time together. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.

Peter, their teenager, is introverted, with not much to say for himself. He’s more interested in experimenting with drugs and trying to get girls to notice him than in interacting with his family. He’s absolutely your typical teenager. Annie in particular feels like every time she talks to him, she gets a sneer back and a rude back-answer. Again, par for the course with teenage boys. And girls…!

The Grahams also have a thirteen-year-old daughter, Charlie, who appears to be autistic or otherwise differently-abled, although we’re not sure because it’s not mentioned. Either way, she’s an odd little girl. I mean, is it normal for little girls to calmly cut the heads off dead birds with scissors, or to see their dead grandmothers sitting on the grass surrounded by a bank of flames and not turn a hair?

I’ll probably be lynched for being crass enough to notice this, but the film-makers have actually gone out of their way to make the little girl an ugly figure of menace, with strange unsettling facial features and a dumpy build that reminds one of the evil dwarf in the red duffel coat from Nicolas Roeg’s DON’T LOOK NOW. Like, don’t tell me that they didn’t have this film in the back of their minds when they were creating the look for the little girl…!

When Annie urges Peter to take an unwilling Charlie to a school party one night, in an attempt to socialise a child who clearly resents her efforts, an event occurs that might just be the most shockingly unexpected thing you’ve ever seen in a horror film. I mean, if Annie thought she was sad before, well, this is grief the like of which she didn’t even know existed. The family is in crisis. Joan from the bereavement group makes a timely entrance…

I was gripped by this film for the whole one hundred and twenty-two minutes of its duration. (The standard ninety minutes wouldn’t have been sufficient for this meaty horror plot.) Things start to happen fairly quickly after the night of the party and Toni Collette positively acts up a storm. The viewers begin to wonder exactly what the creepy old Grandma Ellen’s deal was in life, and in what way it’s possibly impacting on the Graham family now.

The scares come thick and fast, but not the flashy every-ten-seconds jump-scare-for-the-sake-of-it thing you’re probably familiar with from other modern horror movies. (James Wan, I do love you and keep making those brilliant CONJURING and ANNABELLE movies but I’m looking right at you, lol.) I’m not telling you guys too much for fear of spoilers, though. The film really is too good for that.

I kept being shocked at the plot twists and the freakish occurrences but in a really good way, and in such a way that I didn’t want the film to ever end. And I loved the way the plot moulded itself into one of my favourite horror movie themes in the end. I wasn’t disappointed with the climax, just stunned, and I feel like if I go back and watch the film again, certain things will now make more sense. Verdict? Top-notch stuff. Watch it, before it watches you…!

(PS, down the line, certain people might have to come to terms with the fact that a child’s treehouse may not be, shall we say, the most dignified location for meetings and gatherings of such magnitude, but any port in a storm, as we say.

After all, the Pope doesn’t hold his conclave thingies behind the wheel of the bumper cars at the local funfair, does he, and Donald Trump, the most powerful man on the planet because he’s the boss of the United States of America, wouldn’t be seen dead inviting his fellow politicians to vote on a Very Important Matter while enjoying some time on a bouncy castle on the grass verge out the back of the Whitehouse? Well, actually, as to that last one, I don’t know. I guess anything’s possible…!)

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:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER. (1961) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER. (1961) PUBLISHED IN 2018 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…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

Some of my regular readers might have heard me mention a certain Michael Armstrong, a screenwriter and film director whose luxurious script-books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing over the past eighteen months or so, according as they roll off the presses at Michael’s publishers, PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS. If you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

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.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

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.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS are not only publishing the screenplays of Michael’s that got made into films, but also the ones that didn’t, for one reason or another. Of the scripts that didn’t make it onto the screen, I can’t wait to read THE KINKY DEATH-WISH OF VERNON SLIM (1967) and THE CURSE OF TITTIKHAMON (1977). I also strongly urge Michael to keep looking for the missing script entitled THE PUSSY CAPER (1975). I want, no, need to read that script…!

Anyway, THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER was penned in 1961 when Michael was still a teenager. A teenager with a burning urge to write, however, and who’d already watched enough films on TV and at the cinema to have amassed an extraordinary degree of knowledge around how they work, and also a healthy amount of cynicism regarding the way that Hollywood tries so hard to sell us various images and concepts.

Even the dedication is cynical, lol. The book is dedicated to ‘ALL THOSE OF US WHO STILL BELIEVE IN GREEN-COATED SANTA CLAUS BEFORE HE WAS MARKETED AS RED-COATED SANTA CLAUS AND SO NO LONGER EXISTED IN OUR IMAGINATIONS.’

Now, I’m not quite old enough to be able to recall the green-coated Santa to mind but I do remember someone telling me once that the image of the red-coated Santa Claus was first sold to us as an idea by the gigantic COCA-COLA corporation.

This means that our image of Santa didn’t come from Charles Dickens or evolve organically from a traditional Victorian fairytale but came directly from a massive, world-guzzling franchise.

From what I know of the world today, that sounds about right. Depressing, but right. Who came up with the idea of putting a Christmas tree in your home during the festive season? Probably it was SNICKERS or CHANEL NO.5 FOR MEN. I wouldn’t be surprised.

The screenplay tells the story of Peter Brent, ‘a sensitive young man in his early twenties’ who teaches Art. His students are ‘terribly influenced by Chagall’ and also, in a word, terrible. He’s depressed in his job and wants nothing so much as to direct a film using a script he’s written himself. He’s writing the script at the moment and he has high hopes for it.

He doesn’t get much support from his family. Here’s what his Dad Reg Brent thinks about his son’s proposed career in movies:

‘Anyway, what do you know about film directing? You’ve got to be old and have worked your way up before they’ll let you do that sort of thing. They don’t have young film directors. They’re all of ’em at least my age and upwards. I mean, look at Alfred Hitchcock. He’s no spring chicken. You’re wasting your time having all these wild ideas.’

Here’s what Peter’s Nan and his Mum Millie think about Peter’s big dreams of stardom:

Nan: ‘I say, Millie, I got two loaves from the bread man this morning. I got two large brown because Reg, here, won’t eat white. He won’t eat white, you know, so I had to get two large brown.’

Millie: ‘Oh Mother, you know I told you to get a large white.’

Nan: ‘Well, Millie- see here, Millie-‘

They both shout over each other. Peter rises and leaves.

Heh-heh-heh. So funny. Anyway, Peter moves out of his parents’ house and gets himself a swanky new girlfriend, a wanna-be actress called June Marlowe, and an ant-eater for a pet whom he calls Jack The Ripper because he- Jack, that is- loves tearing things like floorboards to shreds.

Unfortunately, Peter finds himself in the unenviable position of having to re-write his script from scratch when his Mum chucks it out while tidying his room, along with some comic books she deems him too old for at his age. It’s every nerd’s nightmare, is that. And I actually shuddered when she says in an offhand fashion about his script:

‘Well, if it’s something you need, I daresay you can always type it out again. It was only writing.’

IT WAS ONLY WRITING…? Jesus Christ, Ma, get a grip.

Speaking of Dickens, which we were earlier, I love Peter’s new landlady, Mrs. Gloom, Elderly Lady Of This Parish. Straight out of Dickens she is, like Mr. Bumble the Beadle, the holder of ‘porochial’ office responsible for naming Oliver Twist and blighting that lad’s youth with fear and hunger. I do love a bit of Dickens. His insight into the social problems of his day was, quite frankly, staggering in its accuracy.

Anyway, Peter tries to tout his screenplay idea round various film production studios like COLUMPIA and the RUNK ORGANISATION. Initially, he’s not terribly successful. I think he needs to work on his pitch:

‘I’ve written a screenplay- or rather- I HAD written one until my mother thought it was rubbish and threw it away- but I should be able to write it again because, luckily, I can remember most of it. So, if I could just see someone who-‘

Oh dear. I’ve been trying to tempt agents and publishers myself lately with my recently-penned, Zeitgeist-tapping-into and social-awareness-raising chick-lit novel and, believe me, you have got to have your pitch- and your shit-together if you’re to even have a hope of attracting someone’s attention.

Peter and June while away some time at the cinema. Michael says himself in the chapter entitled A HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY that ‘the screenplay abounds with parodies of cinematic clichés of the day and the world of screen advertising.’ 

He’s not wrong there, by Jove. There’s a wickedly merciless parody of the Walt Disney nature documentaries of the day between pages 80 and 90 that you absolutely have to read. It’s too long to include here but trust me, it’s bloody hilarious.

After a ton of Union-related problems and other mishaps, Peter eventually wangles a meeting with film producer Milton Kronowsky (lol, can you tell who he’s meant to be ’cause I totally can!) under false pretences.

Unfortunately, the meeting is scheduled for the exact same time that Peter is meant to be in court with his ant-eater Jack The Ripper answering a charge of causing a public disturbance. Can Peter pull a ‘Robin Williams in MRS. DOUBTFIRE’ and be in two places at once or will he need a little assistance?

Will Milton Kronowsky agree to make Peter’s movie? Will Mrs. Gloom, Elderly Lady Of This Parish, ever get the rent which is that good lady’s due and there’s no point saying it ain’t…? Will Jack The Ripper get to live out his days comfortably in an ant-filled paradise?

Will the hugely hilarious and highly hyperboled hullaballoo at Claridges’ be the ruination of Peter and June and Peter’s dreams of movie stardom? Or will it be the gateway to a whole new lease of life? You’ll have to read this wonderful book to find out, folks, and now stay tuned for these messages:

‘So, for a supremely satisfying pair of underpants: wear Snugjoy…’

A LARGE PAIR OF SUPER-IMPOSED UNDERPANTS FILLS THE SCREEN…

‘Snugjoy satisfies suddenly, satisfies supremely.’

Um, yes. Quaite…

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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

DERANGED. (1974) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

deranged mary table

DERANGED… THE CONFESSIONS OF A NECROPHILE. (1974) AN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL FILM. DIRECTED BY JEFF GILLEN AND ALAN ORMSBY. WRITTEN BY ALAN ORMSBY. PRODUCED BY TOM KARR. SPECIAL EFFECTS BY TOM SAVINI.

STARRING ROBERTS BLOSSOM, COSETTE LEE, LESLIE CARLSON, MARIAN WALDMAN, MICKI MOORE, ROBERT WARNER, MARCIA DIAMOND, BRIAN SMEAGLE AND PAT ORR.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The wages of sin are gonorrhea, syphilis and death. Remember that, boy!’

Amanda Cobb, Ezra’s Mother.

This film is loosely based on the story of real-life American boogeyman and murderer Ed Gein (1906-1984), although in this film he’s called Ezra Cobb for some reason. Maybe because the real Ed Gein was still alive at this time, I don’t know what the deal is with that.

Ed Gein, known as the Butcher of Plainfield, was the Wisconsin farmer-cum-handyman who achieved permanent notoriety when he was found to have peopled his house with the mutilated corpses of women, and mostly elderly women at that, after his mother’s death in 1945 at the age of sixty-seven.

He was the inspiration for Robert Bloch’s horror novel PSYCHO, which in turn went on to become Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous movie PSYCHO in 1960. Iconic weirdo Norman Bates (‘A boy’s best friend is his mother’) was probably the first cinema character to portray what might happen when a fatherless boy with an uber-domineering mother who gives him some very messed-up ideas about women and sex is abandoned in death by that mother. Unable to cope with her very significant loss, his mind gives way and he devises a method that ensures that he can hold onto her forever. If a few other women are sacrificed along the way, well sure, what harm?

The bonkers Ed Gein was also the inspiration behind the character Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and the character Buffalo Bill in the 1991 smash hit movie THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, which introduced the character of Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter to the world, played so immaculately and memorably by Anthony Hopkins.

The Ezra Cobb in DERANGED is heavily emotionally attached to his own extremely domineering, deeply religious mother, Amanda Cobb. She’s bedridden and about to die when we meet her, but her venomous mouth has lost none of its power to shock and scare the child of her loins.

With her last breath, she’s telling her virgin son Ezra, who’s fifty if he’s a day, to watch out for the filthy, disease-ridden gold-digging whores who will flock to him now he’s such an eligible bachelor, with his own farm and a house to go with it and no doubt a few bucks in the bank as well. She’s filled Ezra so full of misogynistic poison that it’s a wonder he’s not scared off women for life.

He misses his mother so much that, one night, he imagines that he hears her calling to him from the grave. ‘Bring me home, boy! It’s cold and dark down here! Bring me home, I tell you!’ It’s his own voice mouthing the words but he thinks it’s his mother talking to him. Off he drives to the cemetery to dig her up, as happy as Larry once he gets her home and back in her own nice warm bed.

Over the coming weeks and months, he tries to patch her up with bits and pieces of animal skin, but it’s not long before he realises that human skin would work so much better for this purpose. What to do, what to do…?

When he hears about the recent death of his old Sunday-School teacher Mrs. Johnson, he digs her up, decapitates her gruesomely and uses her ancient facial skin to patch up his old Ma’s disintegrating kisser. The results, hideous beyond belief to the viewer, are mighty pleasing to Ezra Cobb, whom we can already see is completely and utterly mad.

His meeting with the equally bonkers Maureen Selby- is this what it sounds like when doves cry…?- leads to death and horror for poor lonely Maureen. And in front of her Herbert’s lovely photo, too! What in the wide world are things coming to?

The fate of attractive barmaid Mary Ransom is much more frightening. Ezra meets her in a bar and begins immediately to fixate on her. He cunningly slashes Mary’s tyres in secret one night so that she’s obliged to take a lift home with him.

This proves that his abduction of Mary is no spur-of-the-moment action but very much a premeditated one. What it proves legally I don’t know, but the educationally backwards and even mentally retarded Ezra can be as sly as a fox when pursuing his own twisted ends.

When the stunning Mary, described unflatteringly by the narrative voice-over as ‘thirty-four and already over the hill,’ follows Ezra into his isolated farmhouse and sees the little gathering of ‘women’ waiting to receive her in the parlour, it’s like the scene in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE where the screaming girl meets Leatherface’s ‘family.’ It’s just horrible. Poor Mary, initially brought here to be Ezra’s ‘bride’ rather than just another ‘companion’ for Ma Cobb, goes into shock. 

Major spoiler alert here now, folks. If she’d known as she clocked in for work at the bar that night that, before the night was over, she’d be beaten to death with a human thigh-bone that she’d earlier seen being used as a drum stick by a transvestite freak wearing a titty-vest made of human skin and real titties, she might well have called in sick.

It’s funny when Ezra admits openly to his one friend, Harlan Kootz, that he’s got all the missing women up at his place. Harlan, who’s known Ezra since they were schoolboys together and who regards him as a harmless simpleton who does a bit of work around his- Harlan’s- place, just laughs and then berates Ezra for telling fairy stories. Well, he can’t say he wasn’t forewarned.

What happens to pretty little Sally-Mae, the high school girlfriend of Harlan’s son Brad, mirrors closely the fate of the real-life victim of Ed Gein’s, poor old Beatrice Wordern, whose naked body was found hanging upside-down in the Gein barn, gutted like a deer. Jesus wept.

It’s apparently the closest the film gets to reflecting the real-life murderous career of Ed Gein, who’s today known as a serial killer and serial defiler of the dead. Ezra doesn’t have sex with any of the corpses in DERANGED although Ed Gein is very much known as a man who liked a nice bit of necrophilia.

Still, we must remember that the word ‘necrophilia’ can have two meanings. Yes, it means having sex with corpses (Ted Bundy definitely did this, until the corpses became too discomposed for comfort), but it can also mean someone who is obsessed with death, corpses and cemeteries. Both Ed Gein and Ezra Cobb fit this bill.

Apparently, Ed Gein denied having sex with any of his corpses but only because they ‘smelled too bad.’ Would he have had sex with them then if they’d smelled as fragrant as a lily-of-the-valley Christmas bath-set? Is that what he’s saying?

I read in a biography of Ed Gein’s that he was as happy as a sandboy to be carted off to a state mental institution for the remainder of his life for his crimes. He never gave the authorities there a lick of trouble. I can kind of understand why.

He had company there and people who spoke kindly to him, it was clean and presumably warm and he would have been given three square meals a day. A far cry from the cold, dirty, cluttered isolated charnel-house where he lived alone with his ‘Mother’ and her ‘friends.’ I can’t say I really blame him. Anything’s better than that, even for a man like Ed Gein.

What a kick in the knickers Ed must have been for the Plainfield Tourist Board all the same. They can have as much good hunting (for shame!) and lovely picturesque snow there as they please, but will Plainfield ever be known for anything but being the home of the man who, by digging up his dead mother and preserving her corpse, simultaneously dug his way right into the annals of crime history and also into the very pysche of the American people?

You know what, I bet there are mothers in Plainfield today who still use old Ed as the boogeyman to fractious children. ‘Hush up now and get to sleep, you pesky young’uns, or Ed Gein will come and cart you away and make a lampshade out of you!’ Aw. It’s good to know he’s useful for something.

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

MISS LESLIE’S DOLLS. (1973) A NAUGHTY VIDEO-NASTY REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

miss leslie's dolls split screen

MISS LESLIE’S DOLLS. (1973) DIRECTED AND CO-WRITTEN BY JOSEPH G. PRIETO. STARRING SALVADOR UGARTE, TERRI JUSTON, MARCELLE BICHETTE, KITTY LEWIS AND CHARLES PITTS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I loved this one, as fine a low-budget piece of exploitation cinema as you’ll find anywhere. It’s a cross between a video-nasty, an early slasher movie and a porno flick, with a really cool ‘Seventies music soundtrack and tons of lady-nipples, lol. It reminds me a bit of DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE, another ‘Seventies film that would also fall into the category of video-nasty. The basic premise is as follows.

A young University teacher called Alma Frost is travelling somewhere with three of her students, two beautiful young ladies called Martha and Lily and then there’s Roy, who’s driving. Their old jalopy runs out of gas in the middle of the night. In the middle of a cemetery. In the middle of a storm. They really planned that well, didn’t they? Snigger.

There’s a spooky old abandoned-looking house by the cemetery. Miss Frost thinks it might be a good idea if they sought shelter there, although personally I’d rather sleep in the car with the doors locked than try to deal with whatever dwells within the walls of that old mausoleum. Still, the folks in horror movies, they just won’t be told, will they?

The house is owned by one Miss Leslie Lamont, a queer old duck who’s only too happy to be receiving company as she lives alone in her isolated house (except for her cat, Tom) with little or no contact with the outside world. It’s a strange set-up but then we gotta live and let live, right? To each their own.

The little school party don’t seem to notice that she’s distinctly masculine-looking and built like a brick outhouse with hands and feet the size of dinner plates, but I did. I was onto that rum dame in the blue dress right from the start, lol.

She’s awfully forthcoming about her private and personal business, and so in no time at all the schoolies and their teacher have discovered the following snippets of information about her.

Her mother is dead, but when she was alive Mother owned a small doll factory. I don’t know if it’s the factory or the dolls that was/were small…! Anyway, the factory mysteriously burned down years ago, killing Maw Lamont and a young woman who worked for her.

Miss Leslie is a self-confessed student of the occult, reincarnation and all things other-worldly.  She moves and speaks slowly and deliberately while all the time stroking her pussy (cat, that is, Tom the cat!) and there’s something distinctly odd about her, even once you get past the fact that she’s built like a WWF wrestler in a very big frock. She’s both calm and placid and yet also highly sensitive and emotional as well, a lady who obviously feels things deeply.

While Miss Leslie’s off kindly organising some ham and cheese sambos for the little lost lambs, the lambs are off sticking their noses into a room of hers which she calls her ‘sanctuary.’ It contains five or six life-sized dolls that look suspiciously like dead human females and which would put you in mind immediately of Vincent Price’s HOUSE OF WAX.

Anyway, bedtime comes and the three silly-billy females have seemingly only packed see-through shorty nightdresses of the kind that used to be called ‘baby doll.’ They must all be freezing with the cold. There’s a storm on, after all. There are so many perky little nipples on show that you’d hardly know where to look. 

There’s even one scene in which Miss Leslie appears to be confiding in a pair of bare breasts with some lovely standy-uppy nipples…! I know I talk to my own boobies sometimes (in you go, girls, that’s it, easy now, like when I’m squishing them into a brassière) but this is ridiculous.

There’s a very permissive ménage-à-trois thing going on between the sex-mad Roy and the two beautiful, horny-as-feck young ladies, Martha and Lily. He’s sleeping with both of them, the dirty dog, with the full knowledge and consent of all parties. I know it was the permissive ‘Seventies, but still…!

So Roy has sex with Martha while the seemingly uptight and sexually repressed Miss Frost whips off her frumpy librarian spectacles, unpins her glorious strawberry-blonde hair and strips off her teacher clobber to commit an act of what these days would pass for rape against Lily, the student who’s not having sex with Roy at this moment in time. (But don’t worry, readers, she soon will be…!)

Still unsated after her unexpected bout of lesbian sex, Lily afterwards goes in search of Roy and Martha for a spot of heterosexual shenanigans just to mix things up. Meanwhile, Miss Leslie, who’s already rather creepily told the schoolies that Martha is the living image of a girl she once knew who’s now dead, is having a full-on earnest conversation down in the basement with what remains of her mother. Cuckoo, right…?

All we need now is for the four schoolies to suddenly decide they urgently need to wander around the house in their ridiculously skimpy nightwear in the middle of the night and the stage is set for the bloodiest high-jinks since Carrie got her first period in the Stephen King novel of the same name.

Will the college party unwittingly be the cause of Miss Leslie’s finally achieving her lifelong dream, which I can’t tell you about because it would be a definite spoiler? We’ll see, gentle reader. We’ll see…

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 REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL (2018) and WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH (2017): TWO NAZI HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

Werewolves-of-the-Third-Reich2-1

THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL (2018) AND WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH (2017): A DOUBLE BILL OF TRULY WOEFUL NAZI HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I received both of these films as a birthday present recently and I had great craic watching them, despite the fact that they’re both awful, lol. THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE DOLL is apparently the third film in a trilogy, so somewhere out there, knocking around merrily as if they haven’t got a care in the world, are the two other films that spawned this unholy hell-child.

Based on a real doll, a doll that exists in real life and is said to be possessed of supernatural powers, it’s by far the worst film of my two birthday gifts. It’s a film of two halves. The first half actually promises to be good, believe it or not.

An obviously abused wife is fleeing from her sadistic husband in Nazi Germany. She’s bringing with her an old book said to possess the power to grant life to inanimate objects. Hitler has sent some of his most high-ranking Nazis to retrieve the book at all costs.

What does Hitler want it for anyway, the cheeky beggar? If he was hoping to use it to revive his floppy pecker, well, I don’t think the book performs actual freakin’ miracles, lol. From what I’ve read, he wasn’t exactly a sensation in the bedroom. Eva Braun must have died a very frustrated woman. Good job there were so many hot Nazis around…

Anyway, the abused wife, Eva von Hammersmark, is charming and feisty and the film might have been a bit better if it had concentrated more on Eva and her nasty hubby Joseph. However, we lose Eva at the end of the first half of the film when her car is hijacked by another nasty piece of work (she certainly seems to attract that type!) and she and her abductor end up at the isolated farmhouse of a very strange man indeed…

The second half of the film doesn’t seem to have anything at all to do with the first, and it’s virtually incomprehensible to boot. The ancient German toymaker responsible for creating Robert the Doll is aboard a train for some reason, fighting off Nazis with the help of his ventriloquist’s dummy, Robert. I think they’re all fighting for possession of the mystical book but don’t quote me on that. They could be doing anything at all, this bit’s such a mess.

WEREWOLVES OF THE THIRD REICH has garnered a number of truly stinking reviews, but I liked it much better than THE REVENGE OF ROBERT THE STUPID WOODEN DOLL WHO LOOKS LIKE THE EVIL DUMMY FROM THE GOOSEBUMPS BOOKS.

 A group of four painfully American soldiers escape from the Nazis while they’re being carted off to military prison in Germany in World War Two. They wander deep into rural Germany, Hitler’s Third Reich, and end up stumbling upon something rather out of the ordinary.

It’s an SS medical experiment camp run by the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele and his, um, wife, Ilse Koch. She’s a big show-off cow who’s very anxious for the four (yes, four, maybe it was all they could afford, lol) prisoners at the camp to know her terrifying nickname, the Bitch of Buchenwald…

Here at the camp, Mengele, played by an actor who could easily double as Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s personal toady and Minister for Propaganda, is taking time out from experimenting on twins and making his infamous ‘selections’ on the arrivals ramp at Auschwitz.

He’s engaged on a top-secret mission for the Fuhrer, played by a man who looks like Scottish actor Robert Carlyle with ‘a perfectly square bit of black dirt’ painted onto him between his schnozz and his kisser. Mengele is perfecting a method that will turn regular Nazis into werewolf Nazis, so they’ll be just as vicious and bloodthirsty but just not quite as blonde, lol.

The Nazi chosen to go first in this terrifying experiment is the handsome young fella who’s been giving the horny, frustrated Ilse Koch the ride while Mengele’s been occupied trying to turn straw into gold, I mean Nazis into werewolves. Yes, Ilse is a passionate woman who needs to be loved and she’s been playing hide-the-salami with the film’s one good-looking Nazi, the clever girl.

Mengele has found out about his wife’s unwise infidelity and he’s deliberately chosen her lover for the furry face and scratchy fingernails out of spite and jealousy. And the lover can’t even refuse to do it because it’s for Hitler, haha, for Hitler and the Third Reich and you know how fanatical these guys were about doing stuff for Hitler and his precious Reich, lol.

Can Ilse save her sexy blonde lover from a fate pretty much worse than death? (Is being a werewolf worse than being a Nazi? I can’t even tell…!) Can ‘the Fabulous Four’ (those ‘Murican soldiers I mentioned earlier) manage to break into the camp and foil Mengele’s dastardly plan to win the war for Hitler with his unholy army of savage werewolf soldiers?

If you still actually care at this point, you might enjoy the fun ending and the promise of more films to come. Oh, and the end of the ROBERT THE DOLL movie promises, well, another ROBERT THE DOLL movie sometime in the future too, God help us all.

Maybe by then they’ll have a few more Nazi uniforms to go round and they might even have had time to iron out the plotholes in their concept. Who am I kidding? Even the mystical book couldn’t reanimate these turkeys, but I still enjoyed them- well, WEREWOLVES, anyway- and they’re only meant to be a bit of fun. Don’t y’all go taking ’em seriously now…

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