HAMMER HORROR’S KISS OF THE VAMPIRE. (1963) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

kiss of the vampire showdownKISS OF THE VAMPIRE aka KISS OF EVIL (when shown on American television). (1963) HAMMER FILM PRODUCTIONS. DIRECTED BY DON SHARP. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY HINDS. WRITTEN BY ANTHONY HINDS UNDER THE NAME ‘JOHN ELDER.’ STARRING EDWARD DE SOUZA, JENNIFER DANIEL, CLIFFORD EVANS, NOEL WILLMAN, BARRY WARREN, JACQUIE WALLIS, PETER MADDEN AND VERA COOK. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is another fantastic entry in the Hammer Horror canon of DRACULA-slash-vampire films. It comes five years after Christopher Lee first donned the cloak and fangs to play Bram Stoker’s timeless horror creation Count Dracula for Hammer Film Productions, and a mere two years before Sir Christopher reprised his role again in Hammer’s DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

Neither Christopher Lee as the Count nor Peter Cushing as Van Helsing the vampire-hunter appear in KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, my only gripe with an otherwise perfect vampire film. Let’s take a look at the plot, shall we, film buffs…?

A young just-married couple, Gerald and Marianne Harcourt, are honeymooning in Bavaria, definitely a gorgeous spot for honeymooning. Except for the cult of bloodsucking vampires that occupy the castle overlooking the village where the Harcourts are obliged to spend several days due to motor-car trouble. See what you get for trusting so-called modern technology? You’d never have had that trouble with a coach and horses…!

The little inn where the young couple are staying over, rather ambitiously monikered the ‘Grand Hotel,’ is a quaint and charming wee place. The landlady, Anna, nurses a terrible un-named sadness, however, and her lovely old hubby Bruno, while suffering too, is just trying to get on with things. You know the way men are, haha.

An invitation for the young English couple to dine at the aforementioned castle, the property of a Dr. Ravna, is the source of much excitement at the little inn. Gerald and Marianne, in particular Marianne, are positively captivated by the charming doctor and his attractive and accomplished grown-up children, Carl and Sabena.

A party invite comes hot on the heels of the dinner invitation for the Harcourts. It’s a sexy masked ball and the booze is flowing, especially for the not-exactly-used-to-it Gerald, who wakes from a drunken-and-drugged stupor to find his wife missing. What’s more, the Ravnas are closing ranks and claiming that they know nothing at all about any so-called wife of his…

A friend of mine has remarked in the past that Dr. Ravna looks like Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing mashed together. Sometimes I see it, sometimes I don’t. I do think, however, that the rather wooden Marianne, she of the fixed expression and unmoving hairstyle, resembles no-one so much as Doris Mann, the blonde woman from the marvellous spoof horror film CARRY ON SCREAMING who gets turned into a mannequin. Even being turned into a vampire-hussy doesn’t cause her expression to change or her hair to move at all…!

I love Clifford Evans as the alcoholic Professor Zimmer, who has good reason to be hitting the booze so hard and so often. Under his sternly-bearded exterior, he shares a joint pain with Anna and Bruno, the inn-keepers. He might also be the only person who can help a shell-shocked Gerald to free his missus from the cult of the vampires.

I don’t know if I’d bother if I were Gerald. I’m sure that Marianne could be easily replaced at any good department store where mannequins adorn the window displays. Sorry, sorry. I love the film, but Blondie surely could have used some serious loosening up…!

The film is as gorgeously filmed and coloured as you might expect from any Hammer production, with stunningly beautiful costumes, scenery, settings and interiors. I don’t like KISS OF THE VAMPIRE as much as, say, BRIDES OF DRACULA or any of the Christopher Lee Dracula films, but it’s still a super-worthy addition to the Hammer canon of brilliant vampire films.

Stakes through the heart, black magic, a bloodstained chest (though not the kind you’re thinking of!) and a thoroughly unusual ending make for an extremely enjoyable watch all round. Vampirism is here depicted as a sort of social disease that mostly afflicts those enjoying a decadent lifestyle. Another reason to keep buying those Lotto tickets, so…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

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HAMMER HORROR’S BRIDES OF DRACULA. (1960) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

yvonne monlaurTHE BRIDES OF DRACULA. (1960) HAMMER FILM PRODUCTIONS. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL INTERNATIONAL. DIRECTED BY TERENCE FISHER. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY HINDS.

STARRING PETER CUSHING, MARTITA HUNT, YVONNE MONLAUR, DAVID PEEL, FREDA JACKSON, ANDRÉE MELLY, MILES MALLESON, MICHAEL RIPPER AND MARIE DEVEREAUX.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Oh wow. This is one of my personal favourites in the Hammer Horror canon of DRACULA films. It might even be my favourite of the lot of ’em if it weren’t for the fact that Christopher Lee is noticeably absent from the cast.

Luckily for his fans, the devastatingly handsome and sexually magnetic six-foot-five actor agreed to reprise his role as the Prince of Darkness in the 1965 DRACULA film which was called, coincidentally enough, DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS. Wasn’t that a big coincidence?

As you can probably see, I’m something of a fan of the late great Sir Chris. I’ve always felt a little bit connected to him through a series of other little coincidences. As a matter of fact, I joined Facebook on his birthday without knowing at the time that it was his birthday.

If that doesn’t seem like a big deal, well then, get your laughing gear around this little fact. On the day he died (not the day on which his passing was revealed to the public), I emailed my novel in three parts (then only two!) to Mr. Lee’s agent with a note asking said agent nicely to pass it on to him personally.

Entitled at the time ANNA MEETS COUNT DRACULA, now updated to FANGS AND FOREPLAY… THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF DRACULA, the lead character is modelled wholly on Christopher Lee’s Dracula in the Hammer Horror films of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Only with- ahem- added sexiness and tons and tons of sex and spanking.

Naturally, he would have read it, loved it and proposed that I write the film script for it. And of course, despite his advanced years, he would have wanted to play the leading role himself. If only things had worked out differently for us…!

Anyway, you’ll have gathered that, while I adore this film, I don’t dig the Baron Meinster (David Peel) as the head neck-biter here. Whoever heard of a blonde-haired Dracula figure? It’s an abomination! Other than that one little gripe, THE BRIDES OF DRACULA is sheer perfection from start to finish.

The stunningly beautiful and, sadly, recently deceased Yvonne Monlaur plays Marianne Danielle, a young Frenchwoman travelling alone through Hammer’s gorgeously-imagined Transylvania. She’s on her way to take up a position as a teacher of French and Deportment at a posh swanky girls’ finishing-school.

She does no teaching worth a damn in the whole film, though. Circumstances see her breaking her journey overnight at the castle-in-the-mountains home of the Baroness Meinster, a magnificent old dame with more chutzpah than a whole bevy of finishing-school beauties put together.

She’s marvellously played by Martita Hunt, an actress who once went up in flames in the dusty old surrounds of Charles Dickens’ Satis House as the lovelorn Miss Havisham. That 1946 adaptation of GREAT EXPECTATIONS, also starring John Mills as Pip, was the first time I ever saw Martita Hunt act and I never forgot how wonderful she was. I absolutely adore her in BRIDES OF DRACULA.

The Baroness’s feisty exterior masks a terrible sadness and an even worse secret. Nosy little Marianne can’t, of course, resist poking her exquisite little French nose into the tortured old noblewoman’s business.

When she finds out what the Baroness and her loyal servant Greta have been hiding, she most unwisely sets their ‘secret’ free. Free to wreak the most unimaginable horrors on the people of Transylvania, that is. And neither Marianne nor her pupils at the school will escape unscathed…

Peter Cushing is fantastic as always as the impeccably-suited and beautifully-spoken Dr. Van Helsing, the authority on the ‘cult of the Un-Dead’ who are threatening to consume the little village in an orgy of bloodlust and godlessness. He handles himself with aplomb and undoubted gutsiness against the horrors of vampirism and those who practise it.

Freda Jackson does a terrific job of portraying the crazy-as-a-loon Greta, the faithful old servant of Baroness Meinster’s whose mind is destroyed by the turn of events. Kudos also to Andrée Melly and Marie Devereaux, who make stunning Brides for the evil disciple of Dracula’s.

Miles Malleson (1888-1969) is brilliant also as the fee-hungry Dr. Tobler who likes the odd tipple. Like, every five minutes, haha. He plays a dotty entymologist Bishop in the 1959 Hammer version of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES (also starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing) who also likes a tipple. Very much so. A small sherry here, a small sherry there, they all add up. I wonder how much booze his on-screen characters consumed over the years…!

Miles Malleson was actually born the year that the scallywag known as Jack The Ripper cut a bloody swathe through the- ahem- working girls of Whitechapel, London. Isn’t that incredible, that he was born that long ago? It kind of boggles the mind to think that far back.

THE BRIDES OF DRACULA pre-dates all the nudity and sexiness of the Hammer DRACULA films from the ’70s, but it’s still more than sexy enough to satisy the naughty viewers who tune in to Hammer as much for the glamour as for the storylines.

The settings and costumes are, as always, fabulously-coloured and lavish, and it would be a Fussy Freddie indeed who doesn’t imagine himself back in nineteenth-century Transylvania when he watches the film. The film surely has that unmistakable Hammer Horror ‘feel’ and vibe to it.

And Yvonne Monlaur is surely one of the greatest beauties of the modern era. Those eyes and full, succulent blow-job lips…! Snigger. I mean that in the nicest possible way. She’s a knockout. And so is the film. Miss it, as they say, at your peril. And they’d be right. Un-dead right…

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

SINISTER 2 AND INSIDIOUS 3: TWO BRILLIANT HORROR MOVIE SEQUELS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Insidious-Chapter-3-1

SINISTER 2 and INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3: TWO HORROR MOVIE SEQUELS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

SINISTER 2. (2015) DIRECTED BY CIARAN FOY. PRODUCED BY JASON BLUM, SCOTT DERRICKSON AND BRIAN KAVANAUGH-JONES. STARRING JAMES RANSONE, SHANNYN SOSSAMON AND LEA COCO.

INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3. (2015) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY LEIGH WHANNELL. PRODUCED BY JAMES WAN, JASON BLUM AND OREN PELI. STARRING LIN SHAYE, LEIGH WHANNELL, ANGUS SAMPSON, DERMOT MULRONEY, JAMES WAN AND STEFANIE SCOTT.

These two horror films from 2015 have a lot in common. They’re each co-produced by hotshot horror movie producer Jason Blum and they each belong to two of the biggest horror film franchises in recent years, SINISTER and INSIDIOUS.

I’d already seen the original SINISTER movie, starring Ethan Hawke as true crime writer Ellison Oswalt, and loved it, but I was coming to INSIDIOUS 3 completely blind, having seen neither of the first two INSIDIOUS films. Chapter 3 blew me away, so I now absolutely cannot wait to get my mitts on the first two instalments.

SINISTER 2 sees Deputy So-And-So from the first SINISTER movie desperately trying to keep a beautiful young mother called Courtney and her two small sons Zach and Dylan from the clutches of two villains.

The first of these is Courtney’s abusive husband, who has discovered his wife’s remote hiding-place for herself and her two boys. This violent hot-head wants his family back, but they don’t want to come back. This is where Deputy-So-And-So, who’s completely smitten with Courtney, comes in. Can he be her knight in shining armour…?

The other villain is, of course, Bughuul, the freaky-ass supernatural child-snatcher from the original movie. Both of Courtney’s kids are seeing dead children all over the creepy house in which they’re hiding out with their terrified mother who’s fleeing from her nasty husband, but Bughuul seems to have his evil eye on one of the boys in particular to do his vile bidding. Can Deputy-So-And-So stop this possessed kid from destroying his whole family…?

Bughuul is once more adding to his collection of freakishly sick home movies in this film, by the way. As a huge fan of crocodiles, I loved the home movie in which they featured. The rat thing, while being imaginative and inventive, made me sick to someone else’s stomach, haha. Very Marquis de Sade-esque, I’m sure.

As for the rest of the home movies, it was all just like, fire again, seriously? Still, there’s some pretty nasty stuff in there. Damn you, Bughuul, you sick f**k, will you ever get yours…? I await any future developments with intense interest.

INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 sees a pretty young student called Quinn Brenner battling with the evil demon that has unfairly attached itself to her. All she wanted to do was to contact her dead mother (clearly she’s never seen any of those ouija board movies, the dozy mare!), but instead she finds herself in great physical danger as the demon of someone who died a long time ago tries to drag her down into the Underworld with him.

Yes, it’s a guy. Remember the nearly-dead guy in the bed in the movie SEVEN (1995), starring Brad Pitt? First-time director and a close friend of James Wan, who directed the first two INSIDIOUS movies, Leigh Whannell, wanted his demon to look like the guy from SEVEN. The demon is actually played by the guy from SEVEN…! He’s equally terrifying in both films and he’s the reason why I will never, ever watch the movie SEVEN again. So there, haha.

Quinn enlists the help of psychic Elise Rainier to help her fight the demon. Elise, brilliantly played by Lin Shaye, apparently featured in the other two INSIDIOUS movies, along with ghost-hunters Tucker and Specs, played by Angus Sampson and Leigh Whannell himself.

The scenes in which Elise goes into the otherworldly zone known as ‘The Further’ are freaking terrifying. Parker Crane, or the ‘Bride In Black,’ whose origin story I’m unaware of because I haven’t yet seen the first two films, scared the living daylights out of me. I definitely want to find out more about such a hideous and malevolent creature.

The scene where Elise follows the demon known as ‘The Man Who Can’t Breathe’ (because he’s wearing a gas-mask, see?) down into the dark depths of her Reading Room nearly spooked me half to death as well. The film is full of jump scares, which some horror fans tend to look down on, but when they’re well done, as they are here, they can be super-effective.

Heart-throb Dermot Mulroney (YOUNG GUNS, COPYCAT, MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING) plays the rather ineffective Dad here who keeps leaving his crippled daughter to fight the demon on her own. Lin Shaye totally steals the show for me though. She kicks ass all through the movie, especially against the ‘Bride In Black.’ I wish she was my Nan, haha.

Anyway, these are two terrific sequels from franchises which I know you horror fans will all know as well as you know your own names. Both are well worth watching and, as for INSIDUOUS Chapters One and Two, I cannot wait to get my hands on them.

There’s a lot of top-notch, high quality horror flicks being made nowadays, despite some folks’ assertions that all the best horror movies were made thirty or forty years ago. It gives one a lot of hope for the future. It surely does.

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 LAST EXORCISM/THE HAUNTING OF BATES HOTEL: A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

LastExorcismInterviewLeadTHE LAST EXORCISM and THE HAUNTING OF BATES HOTEL: A DOUBLE BILL OF GRISLY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE LAST EXORCISM. (2010) DIRECTED BY DANIEL STAMM. PRODUCED BY ELI ROTH. STARRING PATRICK FABIAN, ASHLEY BELL, CALEB LANDRY JONES AND LOUIS HERTHUM.

THE HAUNTING OF BATES HOTEL. (2012) DIRECTED BY BYRON TURK. STARRING JEAN LOUISE O’SULLIVAN, DANTE ZUCCA AND ZACHARY FLETCHER.

I bought both of these films to watch over the recent Saint Patrick’s Day holiday weekend here in Oireland, hence the double review today. While I always enjoy watching horror that’s new to me, however ropey, I must confess that I found one of these films to be possibly the worst horror film I’ve ever seen, while the other one baffled me at first but grew to be a strong finisher. Want to know which one is which? Stay tuned and I promise to tell all…!

Well, here I am telling all as promised, haha. I’ll start with THE HAUNTING OF BATES HOTEL. Being as I am a lifelong fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary horror film PSYCHO  (1960) and the book by Robert Bloch from which it derived, I admit I bought this film for the PSYCHO connection and also for the cover of the DVD box.

The cover features a building not unlike the home that Norman Bates shared with his ‘Mother.’ In an upstairs window, a woman is clearly silhouetted holding a knife. To my eternal disgust, THE HAUNTING OF BATES MOTEL has about as much to do with PSYCHO as GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS has to do with crocheting and needlework. I was deeply, deeply disappointed.

The film is set in an existing real-life horror attraction called the Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride. It’s situated in rural Pennsylvania on a place called Arasapha Farm and television star Bam Margera is seen advertising the Halloween attraction for real at the film’s outset.

In the film, a beautiful young woman called Agnes Rickover goes to work at this attraction to try to recover from a trauma she experienced there a year ago, namely the death of her best friend Lily (an employee of the attraction’s) who burned horribly on the Haunted Hayride.

People start dying ‘mysteriously’ around the Park pretty much on Agnes’s first shift. She determines to get to the bottom of both Lily’s death and the deaths of the other Park employees also. She enlists the aid of her cute but relectant writer friend Clyde to do this. I don’t want to give too much of the lame ‘plot’ away so I’ll just say this. The ‘who’ is pretty obvious. The ‘why’ is never revealed. I want my tenner back.

THE LAST EXORCISM is much more promising and worthwhile although, again, the DVD box features a scene that’s not even in the movie. Sigh. That always annoys me, even though it happens fairly frequently. At least the film inside was worth the ninety or so minutes of my life.

The Reverend Cotton Marcus, hailing from Baton Rouge, Louisiana and as smug and self-satisfied a character as you’ll find in any film, has been performing exorcisms since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. In this ‘found footage’ supernatural horror film, he admits freely to the public, through a documentary he’s allowing to be filmed about him, that he no longer believes in demons.

Say what? That’s right, folks. A medical issue caused him to lose his faith, but he still continues to perform fake exorcisms as a sort of placebo for the people who think they’re possessed by the devil. In other words, if they think he’s curing ’em, he really is curing ’em, if you follow me, It’s purely the placebo effect but, if it works, isn’t he doing them a favour rather than a disservice…?

Anyway, in this ‘documentary,’ he reveals all the tricks of his trade, such as phoney demon noises and making objects move and fall over by using wires. If this was a real documentary, it’d be hard not to be utterly sickened and disgusted by the tricks being played upon individuals who genuinely believe that they’re possessed by the devil. Still, it’s just a film. Isn’t it…?

Cotton’s camera crew follow him to the Sweetzer farm, where the Dad of the family tells them that he thinks his sixteen-year-old daughter Nell is possessed by a demon. Against the wishes of Nell’s brother Caleb, Cotton, filmed by his crew of Iris and Danny, duly performs a phoney exorcism on the pleasant and obliging young girl.

A few phoney demon noises later and Bob’s your Uncle, or so Cotton thinks. Imagine his shock when he’s confronted by evidence of a genuine possesion taking place inside the body and soul of the home-schooled young lady. Things take a distinctly creepy turn as Cotton and his crew discover that they’ve bitten off way more than they can chew with Cotton’s so-called ‘LAST EXORCISM…’

I was scared once or twice by this film, which is a good sign, although of course by now I know what to expect from exorcism films. Projectile vomiting or spewing, heads and bodies twisting to unnatural angles and girls with long dark hair and white nightdresses scuttling up walls and speaking in tongues.

It’s always the same, isn’t it, and this film is no different, although it’s still good. Show me a possession film where the possessed person is a balding, middle-aged businessman with a paunch and a wart on his face and I’ll show you a possession film with a difference. Don’t think it’s gonna happen, though. Not while girls with long dark hair and white nighties are still selling horror flicks.

A rather Dennis Wheatley-esque ending, which I quite enjoyed, completes the picture. I’d definitely recommend giving this one a watch. Not so, sadly, in the case of THE HAUNTING OF BATES MOTEL. Use it to prop up a wonky table, by all means, but that’s about all it’s good for. I just hope and pray that Alfred Hitchcock hasn’t seen it on the flatscreen television in the elegant and comfortable lounge of the afterlife. He’d certainly be turning in his grave.

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

HAMMER’S ‘THE WOMAN IN BLACK.’ (2012) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

woman-in-blackTHE WOMAN IN BLACK. (2012) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY SUSAN HILL. DIRECTED BY JAMES WATKINS. STARRING DANIEL RADCLIFFE, CIARAN HINDS, JANET MCTEER, LIZ WHITE, MARY STOCKLEY AND SHAUN DOOLEY. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Susan Hill sure got lucky when she came up with the idea for this book, heh-heh-heh. Wish I’d thought of it first. What a fantastic story, for a kick-off, a surefire draw for the horror community.

This super-scary and atmospheric movie is a HAMMER film, HAMMER FILM STUDIOS being the company that brought us those wonderful Christopher Lee/Peter Cushing films from the ‘Fifties, ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies. DRACULA (1958) and DRACULA: PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1965), to name just a couple. This modern-day venture into horror is definitely worthy of inclusion in the superb HAMMER canon. I personally think it’s a bloody brilliant film, excuse my French.

Daniel Radcliffe, who was the luckiest boy in the world for the whole of the ‘Noughties because he got to play Harry Potter in the films of J.K. Rowling’s stupendously popular books, is the star of the film. He’s grown-up now and quite handsome, but you can still see the Harry Potter in him, haha. You’ll never lose it, Harry…!

Anyway, he plays a young widowed lawyer called Arthur Kipp in this chilling supernatural horror film, set in Edwardian times. That means the times after the Victorian era. I think…! He gets sent to an out-of-the-way village called Crythin Gifford on a legal job.

He’s got to go to a place there called Eel Marsh House to take care of the legal documents of the deceased owner, one Mrs. Alice Drablow. He hates the thought of leaving his four-year-old son Joseph with the nanny, but needs must and all that…

The natives of Crythin Gifford are super-unfriendly. The very mention of Eel Marsh House seems to get everyone’s hackles up. Arthur’s only ally in the place is a rich local landowner called Samuel Daily, marvellously played by one of my favourite actors, Ciaran Hinds.

Eel Marsh House has to be seen to be believed. It’s one of the best haunted houses I’ve ever seen in any film ever, and that’s the truth. It’s a truly magnificent old ramshackle house on the edge of a marsh, hence its name, and it’s only accessible at certain times of the day because of the tides. The grounds are delightfully overgrown and spooky and even contain an old graveyard, and as for the house itself…!

The interior of the house is straight out of the Victorian era, with dusty old drapes and old curios under even dustier glass that look like they were borrowed from the Natural History Museum of the eighteen-hundreds.

There are ornaments and bric-a-brac and old photographs everywhere and all kinds of fantastic Victoriana and old clutter. There’s no electric light, no remaining servants and no neighbours for miles around.

But that’s where all Mrs. Drablow’s legal documents are being stored, so that’s where poor Harry, I mean, Arthur, has to hole up for the duration. But he won’t be alone in the house. No, he’ll have company all right, the grim old residence’s one remaining tenant…

Next to the house itself, which for me is the star of the whole shootin’ match, I love Ciaran Hinds’ character, the rich but decent Samuel Daily, and I loved when Samuel lent Arthur his adorable little dog Spider (what kind of name is that for a cute puppy?) so he wouldn’t lack for company in the house.

Company’s one thing Arthur won’t be lacking, though. Eel Marsh House has a tragic history and its tentacles of terror (I like that, tentacles of terror!) reach as far as the village of Crythin Gifford, a village surprisingly low on children. Why is that, I wonder? Harry will need to draw on every ounce of his wizarding powers to survive a stay in the toxic and deadly dangerous Eel Marsh House…!

There are some really good jump-scares in the film that’ll give you the willies big-time. The old nursery at the top of the house is filled with the freakiest-looking old Victorian-type toys the film-makers could find, or so it seems. It’s got all the old staples in it like the haunted rocking-chair and the old enchanted music-box and it’ll creep the bejeesus out of you if you find Victorian nurseries creepy, which a lot of horror fans do.

There’s also a lovely old crypt in the film, though sadly we don’t get to have a good old snoop around inside it which I would have loved. I simply adore nosing around inside other people’s crypts…!

This is a beautifully-shot, well-acted horror film with magnificent scenery and settings and a really scary ghost. Watch it if you can, but leave all the lights on. She’s coming to get you…

PS, I’m not forgetting that there was an excellent made-for-television version of this story filmed in 1989, as I know a few of you horror fans are going to remind me! As a bonus feature, as it were, I’m including here a review I wrote of that 1989 version but please, please be warned, it contains extreme spoilers as I penned it when I was only a fledgeling of a wee baby bird of a chicklet of a reviewer and I thought that that’s what you were meant to do…!

THE WOMAN IN BLACK. 1989. DIRECTED BY HERBERT WISE. STARRING ADRIAN RAWLINS, BERNARD HEPTON, DAVID DAKER AND PAULINE MORAN. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Based on the hugely successful novel by Susan Hill, this is the story of young solicitor Arthur Kidd, a family man with two young children. Kidd is sent by his employer to the small town of Crythin Gifford on the east coast of England to attend the funeral of elderly and reclusive widow Mrs. Alice Drablow and afterwards tie up any loose ends pertaining to her estate.

At the funeral, Kidd is uncomfortably aware of the presence first at the back of the church and then outside in the graveyard of a grim-faced woman dressed entirely in black. Kidd travels then to Mrs. Drablow’s home, a cheerless old pile called Eel Marsh House which is connected to the mainland by a tidal causeway periodically obscured by mist.

While rooting about amongst old Mrs. Drablow’s effects, he finds two death certificates and a photograph of someone who looks suspiciously like a younger version of the woman in the black attire. He also listens to some disturbing recordings made by the late Mrs. Drablow that seem to indicate that the house has a troubled past, a past chiefly involving a woman of whom Mrs. Drablow has been wary, to say the least, if not outright afraid.

A few things happen in quick succession, none of them good. Well, it’s a bleedin’ ghost story, innit…? Kidd is plagued by the sound of a pony and trap he cannot see, a horse in difficulties and a child screaming for its mother. In a room in the house decked out as a nursery he hears the laughter of a child and the sound of a child’s voice saying: “Hello…?”

Kidd learns that old Mrs. Drablow and her now-deceased hubby adopted the child of Mrs. Drablow’s sister, a woman who later felt forced into kidnapping her own son and tried to flee with him. She and the child died horribly when their horse and trap sank in the fog-wreathed marsh, and it is the sound of their death-throes that Kidd hears repeatedly now.

Sam Toovey, a local land-owner in whom Kidd has confided his experiences, warns Kidd not to return to the house. He also points out to the increasingly unnerved young solicitor that any appearance of the woman dressed entirely in black usually means that the death of a child is imminent.

Clearly the so-called titular Woman In Black, not content with merely haunting the bejeesus out of the inhabitants of Crythin Gifford, is also wreaking revenge on any poor parents lucky enough to possess that which has been taken from her so cruelly.

Anyway, long story short, Kidd wisely decides to leave Crythin Gifford but before he does, he has one more terrifying encounter with Jennet Goss- that’s her name- that has him fleeing back to London as if Old Nick himself were on his tail. Distance is no object for The Woman In Black, however.

In a starkly chilling scene in keeping with the overall feel of the film, she appears in the middle of a lake on which Kidd and his little family are boating. A tree falls on their boat, killing all four of them. Mean old Woman In Black, offing a perfectly nice family like that. Tsk tsk. What’s the world coming to?

This made-for-television film may not be as flashily atmospheric as the more modern HAMMER version, but it’s an effective little chiller just the same. So effective, in fact, that I fully expected to see the silhouette of The Woman In Black everywhere I looked for the rest of the night.

It’s one of the starkest, grimmest and most realistic-looking horror films I’ve seen lately. The acting is flawless and the scenery and settings are bleakly beautiful. Watch this film if you possibly can, but do be careful. She don’t give no warning, she don’t…

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

DRACULA, DRACULA’S DAUGHTER and SON OF DRACULA: A TRIPLE BILL OF HALLOWEEN HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

bela-lugosiDRACULA, DRACULA’S DAUGHTER and SON OF DRACULA: A TRIPLE BILL OF BLOODCURDLING UNIVERSAL HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DRACULA. (1931) BASED ON THE 1897 BOOK BY BRAM STOKER AND THE 1924 PLAY BY HAMILTON DEANE AND JOHN L. BALDERSTON.

DIRECTED BY TOD BROWNING. PRODUCED BY TOD BROWNING AND CARL LAEMMLE JR.

STARRING BELA LUGOSI, DWIGHT FRYE, EDWARD VAN SLOAN AND HELEN CHANDLER.

DRACULA’S DAUGHTER. (1936) BASED ON THE 1897 BOOK BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY LAMBERT HILLYER.

STARRING GLORIA HOLDEN, OTTO KRUGER, MARGUERITE CHURCHILL, NAN GREY, HEDDA HOPPER AND EDWARD VAN SLOAN.

SON OF DRACULA. (1943) BASED ON THE 1897 BOOK BY BRAM STOKER. DIRECTED BY ROBERT SIODMAK. SCREENPLAY BASED ON AN ORIGINAL STORY BY CURT SIODMAK.

STARRING LON CHANEY JR., EVELYN ANKERS, ROBERT PAIGE, LOUISE ALLBRITTON AND ETTA MCDANIEL (SISTER OF ‘MAMMY’ FROM ‘GONE WITH THE WIND.’)

Sometimes I thank all of our lucky stars that these three films were made. Three of the biggest and most popular films in the UNIVERSAL PICTURES horror movies canon of the 1930s and 1940s, they’re all based on characters and situations created by fellow Irishman Bram Stoker in his 1897 gothic novel DRACULA. It’s one of the most filmed books ever written.

Arthur Conan Doyle pulled off a similar coup with his SHERLOCK HOLMES stories, and I suppose J.K. Rowling to a lesser extent with her HARRY POTTER series of books. Other than these three books, surely only the Bible itself (or E.L. James’s FIFTY SHADES OF GREY novels…!) have ever been more popular or more widely read or filmed.

DRACULA (1931) is the role that made handsome Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi famous. It’s a straightforward enough interpretation of Bram Stoker’s story, in which the mysterious and charismatic Count Dracula comes to London, England from his native Transylvania to widen his reign of terror and find new necks to bite and nice new juicy bodies to drain of their blood.

Once there, aided and abetted by his estate-agent-turned-abject-slave Renfield, brilliantly played by Dwight Frye, he sets his sights immediately on the beautiful Lucy Weston and Mina Seward. The only person standing between him and city-wide domination is the intellectual giant and astute expert in the occult, Professor Van Helsing. Which of the two men will turn out to have the stronger will…?

Bela Lugosi was the first actor to portray Count Dracula as a suave, sophisticated and charming nobleman, as opposed to the claw-fingered, white-haired monstrosity of Bram Stoker’s novel. His superb performance brought him worldwide acclaim but he was only to reprise the role once more, and in a spoof movie at that, which seems strange given how utterly masterful he is as the Transylvanian vampire.

DRACULA’S DAUGHTER (1936) is a film of stunning beauty. I actually think it’s as good as the original Bela Lugosi film, or at any rate I love it equally, haha. It’s certainly every bit as foggy, mistily atmospheric and darkly mysterious as the 1931 film, and Gloria Holden is absolutely out of this world as the fabulous Hungarian Countess Marya Zaleska, who in reality is the titular Dracula’s Daughter.

This film actually continues on where the 1931 movie left off. Dracula has just been killed with the obligatory stake through the heart by the marvellous Edward Van Sloan reprising his role as Dracula’s nemesis, Professor Van (or in this case, Von!) Helsing.

The opening scenes in the police station are just wonderfully comedic and spine-tinglingly chilling as well. Coppers in these old classic horror films always do a terrific job of lightening the mood and warming the cockles of the viewers’ hearts.

Anyway, the beautiful but almost icily disdainful Countess desperately wants to be free of the curse of her vampire father. She wants distinguished London psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Garth to help her, but once he works out that the Countess is actually a fully-paid up, card-carrying member of the evil Un-Dead, he’s going to need quite a bit of persuading to have anything at all to do with her…

This is the film with the famously lesbian overtones, by the way. The scene between the Countess with her hypnotic powers and the impoverished young Lili is a thing of beauty indeed, the best of the whole film.

The Countess’s sinister servant Sandor must come in for some praise as well. His look is straight out of a ‘Twenties silent horror film. He looks like he should be turning levers in a mad scientist’s laboratory during a thunderstorm with a manic grin on his face, he’s so evil-looking.

SON OF DRACULA (1943) is set on a New Orleans plantation, so it’s as far from the fog-wreathed streets of Victorian London as it’s possible to get. For this reason, it’s maybe not as spookily atmospheric as its two predecessors, but it’s still a great film and Lon Chaney Jr. is coldly aloof and masterful as Count Alucard/Dracula.

He marries the beautiful Katherine Caldwell, whose mind (and plantation) he has already taken over, after he murders her elderly father. Katherine’s ex-fiancé Frank and a family friend called Dr. Brewster are deeply suspicious of the Count and his obviously underhanded motives.

Can they bring the brainwashed Katherine to her senses, with the help of the Transylvanian intellectual Professor Laszlo, or is she doomed to spend eternity by Dracula’s side as his Un-Dead bride? It’s touch and go for a while there…

These wonderful old classic horror movies never fail to cheer me up when I’m feeling fed-up. I highly recommend them as, say, a triple dose of medicine for the modern-day blues. Don’t take ’em internally, obviously(!), but watched as a triple bill of classic horror they’ll be the perfect cure for whatever ails you, I promise you. Sure beats Smedler’s Powder or Old Doc Washbourne’s Tonic any day of the week…!

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 GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1942) A HALLOWEEN HORROR FILM REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ghost-of-franky

THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1942) DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES. DIRECTED BY ERLE C. KENTON. PRODUCED BY GEORGE WAGGNER.

STARRING LON CHANEY JR., BELA LUGOSI, CEDRIC HARDWICKE, EVELYN ANKERS, RALPH BELLAMY, LIONEL ATWILL, JANET ANN GALLOW AND OLAF HYTTEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is another monster-ific instalment from UNIVERSAL PICTURES, this time featuring Lon Chaney Jr. as Frankenstein’s Monster instead of Boris Karloff, whom you might be more used to seeing in the role.

Come to that, you might be more used to seeing Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolf Man, another member of UNIVERSAL‘s little family of monsters. No Wolf Man in this picture, and no Count Dracula either, just Frankenstein’s big boxy-headed Monster and his minder, Ygor, played by a virtually unrecognisable Bela Lugosi.

I love Lon Chaney Jr. as the Monster, but there’s something very sad and moving about the Monster in every film in which he features, and this film is no exception. Mind you, he hasn’t exactly got much to smile about, has he?

Women run from him screaming in fear, he’s never more than six feet away from an angry mob wielding flaming torches and yelling blue murder and he’s stuck wearing his too-tight Communion suit for the rest of his life. Like I said, not much to smile about, is it…?

In this film, Ygor is eager (Ygor is eager, geddit…?) for Frankenstein’s Monster to be given a new brain to go with his big brawny body. The doctor he expects to perform this miracle of medicine is Dr. Ludwig Frankenstein, the son of the original Dr. Henry Frankenstein, the guy who brought the Monster to life in the first film.

Dr. Ludwig, played by the lovely old Cedric Hardwicke, is reluctant at first but, when Ygor threatens him with exposure (he’ll tell the villagers about Dr. Ludwig’s father, the original Monster-creator, in other words) he has no choice but to come round to the idea.

Dr. Ludwig wants to give old Frankie a good brain, specifically the brain of his own assistant, Dr. Kettering, who’s just been killed by the Monster. Ygor, however, wants his own warped, diseased brain to go into the Monster’s skull, thinking that with his evil smarts and the Monster’s strength, he could end up ruling the world. Well, I guess it’s possible…

Now all Ygor needs is to find a way to get this done. Could Dr. Ludwig’s other assistant, the disgraced Dr. Bohmer, be the weakest link in the chain and therefore easy pickings for the scurrilous Ygor? And if Ygor’s successful in his diabolical mission, is everyone in the village in the most terrible danger…?

The villagers, as always in these great old monster movies, are the very picture of outraged and exceedingly righteous fury as they demand justice from their law-makers. I particularly like Olaf Hytten, who appeared in minor roles in a few of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce SHERLOCK HOLMES films of the 1940s. He plays the father of little Cloestine Hussman, the cute little girl who is the Monster’s only friend and the only person in the whole world who can make him raise a smile.

Evelyn Ankers, who’s played opposite Lon Chaney Jr. in THE WOLF MAN and who also appeared in one of the aforementioned SHERLOCK HOLMES films, is on duty here as the eye-candy, namely the lovely daughter of Dr. Ludwig whom the Monster strangely doesn’t fall in love with this time. Probably because he’s too busy abducting little girls with a view to having their brains removed and put into his own big boxy-looking head, haha.

Cedric Hardwicke is marvellous as the poor beleaguered doctor who just can’t seem to escape his tainted past, as is Lionel Atwill, also a HOLMES actor, as the easily corruptible Dr. Bohmer, and of course Lon Chaney Jr. is infinitely watchable as the Monster, though as I mentioned there’s something very sad and touching about his performance here. I wonder if he was happy in his real life when he made this movie.

The settings are, as always, nicely reminiscent of the ‘mid-European’ locations where the action is meant to take place and, overall, THE GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN is more than deserving of joining its UNIVERSAL brothers and sisters in the UNIVERSAL PICTURES Monster Movie Hall Of Fame, if there exists such a thing, haha.

It can hold its head up high amongst all the other monster productions of its parent company, in other words, and it’ll live as long as they do in our hearts and minds. Which, if the fans of old classic horror films have their way, will be forever…

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