MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL. (1969)
PUBLISHED IN 2020 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…’
‘… but I guess you knew I’d come back once we were both older.’
‘I’ve run things far too long to see them jeopardised by anyone- including you! The past’s the past, Nikki! What happened is over; gone! This whole neurosis about your childhood- it’s all in your head! That’s all!’
‘Blackmail? How can you accuse me of that when you know why I’m really here… that I’ve finally come back for you after all these years!’
The darkness of the hall …
The empty rooms …
The stairs …
The closed bedroom doors …
I’ve been reading and reviewing Michael Armstrong’s gorgeous glossy-covered film script books for about three years now, and, next to HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, I actually think DELIVER US FROM EVIL might just be my favourite, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute.
But for those who might not yet know (what’s the weather like up there on Pluto, by the way? Not too inclement for the time of year, I hope!), HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, the screen-writer’s addition to the canon of ‘Old Dark House’ movies, is one of Michael’s most well-known films.
Not just because it’s brilliantly written and full of terrific comic turns and horror movie references that’ll make you feel very pleased with yourself for spotting them, but because it’s the only film ever made that features horror icons Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all under the one roof, so to speak.
Incidentally, former BROOKSIDE actress Julie Peasgood, who has penned the foreword to DELIVER US FROM EVIL (all the forewords are written by movie industry insiders, including ME; I did the one for SCREAMTIME!), was the sexy blonde love interest in HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS.
Her co-star was Desi Arnaz Jr.. He played an American writer who agreed to hole up in the titular ‘House’ for a weekend, in order to speed-write a novel and thereby win a bet with his literary agent. But he didn’t, of course, reckon on the fact that four of the greatest horror actors on the planet were going to drop by and grievously interrupt him…!
Anyway, now we move onto DELIVER US FROM EVIL. Like Julie Peasgood, I devoured it in one sitting, because it’s just so easy to read (all the books are supremely reader-friendly) and a fantastically gripping storyline. It’s the story of the beautiful young Nikki Wynter, a woman who’s had rather more of a traumatic childhood than most of us can lay claim to …
Nikki: ‘If- if Mommy ever got better … if they ever let her out of that place …?’
And, later … Doctor: ‘You’re still worried it’s hereditary, aren’t you?’
Heh-heh-heh. The plot reminds me a little bit of John Carpenter’s fantastic serial killer horror film from 1978, HALLOWEEN. In this movie, a man who murdered his teenage sister when he was a little boy escapes from the mental institution in which he’s been incarcerated for years and returns to his hometown, where he immediately starts stalking a teenage babysitter and her unfortunate group of friends.
(Did I ever tell you that I met John Carpenter back in October 2016 when he played the music from his films live at Vicar Street in Dublin? Well, I say I met him, and I WAS there, but it’s probably closer to the truth to say that I glimpsed a teensy bit of his black jumper from my seat near the back while hundreds of big hairy male John Carpenter fans, every one of them wearing black movie T-shirts and holding up phones, blocked all but a tiny percentage of my view. Bastards, lol.)
Anyway, Michael’s story, which, incidentally, was penned nearly a whole decade before the release of HALLOWEEN, sees the return into Nikki’s life, not of an escaped mental patient, but of someone whom you’d imagine would have an even tougher time materialising back in someone’s life than an escaped lunatic.
All the lunatic has to do, if horror movies have taught us anything, is to slip his and his fellow inmates’ sleeping pills into the cup of tea or coffee of the orderly in charge of the ward. Wait a few minutes, then bada-bing bada-boom, Bob’s your uncle and a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse and so on.
But to come back from where Nikki’s unwelcome visitor has been, well, I can’t even imagine what you’d have to do. At the very least, the paperwork you’d have to fill out …!
After her horrific start in life, Nikki is now a rich privileged heiress to the fortune of her deceased adoptive parents, the Wynters. The action moves from a New York tenement in the ‘Fifties to Nikki’s swish villa in Nice in 1967.
Nikki’s adoptive parents are now dead and gone, and she has no-one to look out for her but her devoted boyfriend Ben Anderson and the family solicitor, Howard Doyle.
One fateful night, as they say, she goes for a solitary walk on her very own private beach, the lucky cow!
The twilight before dark …
A half-real, half-unreal world …
In which Nikki stands, deep in her own thoughts.
She moves further along the beach …
Enjoying the seemingly timeless solitude and the stillness …
Only the sound of the waves soothingly caressing the beach.
She glances back-
To see a figure approaching her some distance away;
Indistinct in the fading light.
And tries to make out who it is in the onrushing darkness-
The figure draws nearer to her
Across the darkening and deserted beach.
Nikki struggles to make out his features-
This is the beginning of Nikki’s nightmare. And I don’t mean the nightmare of having some peasant trespassing on your personal beach, possibly just yards from where your own private yacht is moored. God knows, I’ve had terrible trouble with that type of thing myself. And don’t even talk to me about servants …! Can’t anyone starch a collar properly nowadays?
I mean the nightmare of knowing that someone who couldn’t possibly be there is nonetheless standing right in front of you on a darkened beach at night. And they don’t have any intention of going away now they’re back. And that’s all I’m going to say, even though my fingers are itching to type more. And more and more and more, lol.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL is a cracker of a story that would have played so well on the big screen had it been filmed. It would make a fantastic Christmas present for the film fan in your life, as indeed would any of Michael’s collection of gorgeous film-script books. DELIVER US FROM EVIL and all of Michael’s books are available to buy from the following links:
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and 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