PSYCHO. (1998) THE RE-MAKE REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

PSYCHO: THE RE-MAKE. (1998) BASED ON THE BOOK BY ROBERT BLOCH AND THE 1960 FILM BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK.

DIRECTED BY GUS VAN SANT. SCREENPLAY BY JOSEPH STEFANO. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN, DANNY ELFMAN AND STEVE BARTEK.

STARRING ANNE HECHE, VINCE VAUGHN, VIGGO MORTENSEN, JULIANNE MOORE, RITA WILSON AND WILLIAM H. MACY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I wasn’t expecting to like this more or less scene-for-scene re-make of Alfred Hitchcock’s magnificent, disturbing and ground-breaking horror picture of 1960, but as it turned out, I really enjoyed it. While still acknowledging, naturally, that it isn’t and never could be as good as the original masterpiece which inspired it. Now that we’ve got that little disclaimer out of the way, lol, we can get down to appreciating PSYCHO: THE RE-MAKE for what it is; a film in its own right.

Anne Heche, an actress who co-starred in genuinely the worst film I’ve ever seen in my life, CATFIGHT with Sandra Oh in 2016, is actually pretty good as Marion Crane, the woman who steals $400,000 dollars from her boss with the intention of starting a new life with her currently impoverished hardware store owner boyfriend, Sam Loomis.

She plays Marion as a sweeter, softer person than the Marion played by Janet Leigh in 1960. That Janet was a bit cold, a bit self-righteous, a bit judgemental. Marion in the re-make is just softer all round, a bit less sure of herself, maybe even (Heresy! Heresy!) a bit more likeable.

Vince Vaughn, the beefcake actor whom you’re probably more used to seeing in throwaway comedies such as OLD SCHOOL, DODGEBALL: A TRUE UNDERDOG STORY, WEDDING CRASHERS and FRED CLAUS, is surprisingly good as Norman Bates, the sexually deviant and mentally deranged motel owner who takes a murderous shine to Marion Crane as she flees from her old life.

He’s got the sweetie-guzzling thing going on, he defends his abusive mother to the hilt and won’t hear of having her put away ‘someplace,’ and he’s no match for the clever questioning of William H. Macy as the private dick with the greatest name ever dreamed up by a writer, Milton Arbogast.

The character of Milton Arbogast here is just perfect, although he reminds me of no-one so much as Lyle Lanley, the character from THE SIMPSONS who brings the ill-fated Monorail to Springfield.

‘I’ll show you my idea. I give you the Springfield Monorail! I’ve sold monorails to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and, by gum, it put them on the map! Well, sir, there’s nothin’ on Earth like a genuine bona-fide electrified six-car monorail!’ He’s even got the hat-flipping down to a T, and his death (come on, it’s a sixty year old film, if you haven’t seen it by now, it’s not my fault, lol!) is very well done, and reverently reminiscent of the way Hitchcock did it in 1960.

I love that the film, even though it’s set in 1998, still manages to keep the worst excesses of the modern world and modern technology at bay for the viewer. No-one’s yakking away on a cellphone, for one thing, for which I was immensely grateful. The colours are the lovely pink and blue pastels of a softer, gentler era and the clothes everyone’s wearing all have such a retro ‘Sixties vibe that we could actually be in that era and not modern times.

The only harsh, jarring note here is, sadly, Julianne Moore as Lila Crane, Marion’s sister who comes to Fairvale to look for her after she hops it with the money. I say ‘sadly’ because I do really like Julianne Moore as an actress. However, here she plays Lila all wrong.

She plays her too tough, too militant, too shouty, too raving feminist. She plays her like she plays FBI Agent Clarice Starling in HANNIBAL in 2001, like she’s a cop on a drugs raid and she’s taking no bullshit from her suspects.

She strides into a place as if she should be pointing a gun into it ahead of herself, and even her clothes are wrong. They’re too bloody moderns, as Mr. Khan says in EAST IS EAST (1999).

Lila Crane is not a ball-breaking FBI agent. She’s a woman who would look and dress and speak similarly to her missing sister. Julianne Moore’s Lila Crane looks like she should be wearing combats, rolling across a floor pointing a gun and screaming ‘Freeze, motherfuckers!’ at a den of Colombian druglords. It’s the one false note in a film that otherwise succeeds quite well in creating a world that blurs the lines between the ‘Sixties of Hitchcock’s film and modern times.

I loved the highway-cop-with-the-sunglasses bit. He’s almost identical to the cop from the original film. Mumbly Viggo Mortensen as Marion’s lover, Sam Loomis, doesn’t contribute much besides a gratuitous butt-shot, and Old Mother Bates was never a blonde bombshell, but other than that and the Julianne Moore thing, and the fact that the famous shower scene was possibly less impactful, I’ve no complaints about the film, lol. It received mostly negative reviews, but I enjoyed watching it, so there. Give it a whirl if you haven’t already seen it. You might enjoy 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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND. (1936) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE MAN WHO CHANGED HIS MIND. (1936) GAINSBOROUGH PICTURES. DIRECTED BY ROBERT STEVENSON. STARRING BORIS KARLOFF, ANNA LEE, FRANK CELLIER AND JOHN LODER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a sort of sci-fi-and-horror-by-numbers film, of the kind that the legendary Boris Karloff probably could have churned out in his sleep. It’s not the greatest film he ever made, but it’s still great fun to watch and a lot of the tropes we’ve come to expect from this kind of movie are present and correct.

Boris Karloff himself plays the ‘mad scientist,’ Dr. Laurience, pronounced ‘Lorentz.’ Tall, imposing, chain-smoking, wild-haired, with the famous beetling eyebrows and those iconic glowering eyes, used to such good effect when he played Imhotep in THE MUMMY in 1932, he’s the very picture of the introverted academic, driven half-crazed with the need to work, work, work every hour God sends on his kooky projects. Well, they’re not kooky to him, of course…!

He’s working on a very kooky project indeed at the moment. He honestly thinks that he can transfer the thought content of a human brain into another human, and vice versa. Apparently, it can all be done in a few minutes, and just by pulling a few levers, as well.

There’s no need to saw open the skull with one of those pizza cutter things we see in films; it all happens pretty much by magic- scientific magic. He’s practised it on some really adorable chimps, so, if it works on monkeys, could it not work on human beings, as well…? That’s the sixty-four million dollar question, isn’t it?

When a wealthy entrepreneur in the form of one Lord Haslewood offers to fund all of Dr. Laurience’s experiments (without knowing what they are, I hasten to add), in return for which Haslewood’s newspapers will get all the scientific scoops as they happen, Dr. Laurience feels like all his birthdays and Christmases have come together. Woo-hoo! Now to practise swapping people’s brains around to his heart’s content without anyone guessing what he’s up to…

One person does guess what Dr. Laurience is up to behind closed doors: the film’s eye candy, his assistant and a budding surgeon herself, Dr. Claire Wyatt. A blonde bombshell with studio-tamed eyebrows and red lipstick, she’s engaged to Dick, Lord Haslewood’s son. That’s if he can persuade her to stop working or thinking about work for a minute, that is. She’s quite the bluestocking, is Claire. She probably votes in local and national elections as well, just like a man, the brazen hussy.

When Claire finds out about the doctor’s unethical plans for willy-nilly brain-swapping, she freaks out and begs him to cease and desist from all further experimentation. But the doctor is on a slippery downwards-leading slope now that he’s going to find it difficult, if not impossible, to come back from. With a power like the one he’s got his nicotine-stained mitts on just now, he could quite possibly end up ruling the world.

When an audience of his peers rejects Dr. Laurience’s findings and ridicules him as well, Lord Haslewood wants Dr. Laurience out of the snazzy new laboratory currently being funded by Lord Haslewood’s enterprises, but the mad scientist runs amok with rage.

Then he remembers that he has the power to swap people’s brains, including the essence of their personalities, around. Could Lord Haslewood find himself in the power-mad Dr. Laurience’s hot-seat?

And, if he does, who could his brain be swapped with? And will the ravishing Claire, now the object of the frightening Dr. Laurience’s scary romantic affections as well as Dick’s, be able to somehow foil his crazy, mad scientist-type plans for world domination? Answers on a postcard, please, folks…

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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS. MY SCARE LADY (1989). REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

my scare lady

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

MY SCARE LADY. (1989)

PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER 2019 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

I was thrilled to have a new consignment of Michael Armstrong screenplay books to read over Christmas: FALCONFELL (1983), THE LAMIA (1972) and the one I’ve just finished reading, MY SCARE LADY (1989). Readers of my blog will be well familiar with Michael Armstrong and his oeuvres by now, but just to refresh our memories, here’s a list of the screenplays he’s penned that were turned into 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.

He’s written plenty more screenplays that never made it on to the big screen for whatever reason; lack of funds or people going back on things they’d said or promised and what-have-you. There are all kinds of showbizzy reasons why a screenplay might not find its way to the big screen, reasons that would have nothing to do with the merits of the work itself.

We, the readers, are getting all the benefits of Michael’s works now, as they roll hot and steaming off the presses at Paper Dragon Productions, and MY SCARE LADY is one of the most enjoyable and entertaining film books of his I’ve read so far. Here’s how it starts. How’s this for an opener?

Through a huge field of corn waving in the night breeze…

Runs a terrified GIRL…

She is being pursued by BOBO;

A ferocious giant of a man of Neanderthal appearance.

The GIRL stumbles and falls…

Crawls, helplessly, through the corn…

In a futile attempt to escape-

Then BOBO is on her-

Okay, well, I don’t know about you guys, but I really want to read a book that starts with lines like that, lol, and can you only just imagine what a killer opening to a horror movie it would have made? I know I’m teasing you now, but let me just transport you to a few lines further on:

Gleaming white walls…

Intricate scientific apparatus…

Complementing an area set aside as an operating theatre.

BOBO drags the terrified GIRL across…

And, flinging her down onto an operating-table-

Proceeds to strap her down, firmly.

Heh-heh-heh. The story then moves on and introduces us to Ben Hyatt and Kirk Dillon, the two male sort-of-heroes, although Kirk is a very unlikely hero at first. He’s a famous male model to Ben’s photographer, and to call him a sexist male chauvinist pig would be to paint him in a good light. He’s used to women throwing themselves at him, and he treats them like dirt. Here’s a few examples of the charming speeches he makes about women:

Once your dick’s inside ’em, who cares what name they answer to?

Oh, man! See the tits on that one? Imagine sinking your teeth into those juicy water melons!… Shit! Now, that’s what I call a body! Get those legs wrapped around you? Jesus! Could I do disgusting things to her! Oh, man! Did you see?

We’ve gotta go find out where there’s some action. Watching all this meat go by’s making me horny. I gotta score, bro. I can’t believe I’m sitting here in London, England, with no pussy lined up for tonight. I gotta have pussy! Gotta have pussy!

What a nice guy, right? We’re not altogether sorry when the truly obnoxious Kirk is lured away from his jet-set lifestyle to an isolated farmhouse somewhere in rural England by a beautiful and mysterious woman called Selina.

Selina, who implies she wants to have sex with him, has no trouble at all getting Kirk to the farmhouse, where some very strange and macabre things have been going on. It’s a bit like when the dopey teens in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE meet Leatherface & Co. for the first time in the backwoods home filled with unimaginable horrors.

Selina’s Fine Art-loving plastic surgeon father, Algernon, has a laboratory filled with body parts, the family bodyguard Bobo is as unlike his cuddly teddy bear name as you can picture, and Selina’s sister Galatea, who rather oddly wears a mask over most of her face for most of the book, is desperate to make the-beast-with-two-backs with Kirk, her long-time obsession after seeing him star in numerous television commercials. But Kirk is terrified by the very sight of Galatea, and that’s before she takes off her mask and reveals the art-inspired monstrosities that lie beneath…

Here are some snippets of an hilarious conversation between Algernon and Selina:

Algernon: Look how shocked they all were when I turned to Surrealism in rhinoplasty! What’s wrong with having two noses? What’s so aesthetically terrible about having one bigger than the other? And with only one nostril?… Sideways?

Selina: Father, you’re having one of your megalomania attacks again!

Algernon: I’ll admit my Francis Bacon period may have been a little disturbing. Maybe the world wasn’t quite ready to accept a woman with her face completely melted down into a single enormous mouth- but what artist hasn’t suffered for trying to break with convention?

Lol. Here’s something illuminating Galatea said to Algernon earlier on: I don’t want you to think I’m being ungrateful asking for outside help. [A choreographer called Meredith and his pianist, Endymion.] I appreciate how you’ve fought and struggled and sacrificed and cut up lots of people into little pieces just to give me a better chance than most girls get in life…

What a lovely family. Kirk is now at the mercy of Algernon, the plastic surgeon from the very depths of hell, and his dotty household. It’ll be up to Ben, Kirk’s photographer mate, to try to spring Kirk from captivity, but he can’t do it alone.

He’ll need help from Meryl, a woman of large build whom Ben really likes, despite the fact that she’s not an anorexic supermodel, and also from Nathalie, a chick who likes Kirk but who quite rightly wasn’t prepared to put up with his sexist bullshit.

Will any lessons be learned? Will the horrible Kirk learn that there’s more to women than tits and a pussy (Kirk’s language, not mine!)? Will Ben pack in photographing stick-thin models and take the pictures of real women and other artistic subjects that he really wants to take instead? Will Galatea find that she’s come all this way in search of something that was right under her nose the whole time? Will Kirk ever get his beloved pussy again, and will he treat it any better if he does…?

I’ll leave the last words to Algernon, aka Dr. Frankenstein, my favourite character in the screenplay, whom Michael Armstrong envisioned being played by either Vincent Price, Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee if the screenplay ever made it onto the big screen:

Splendid! Well, I think after all that fresh air, I’m going to take a little nap for half an hour or so, then settle down to a quiet evening of dismemberment and bottling…

My sentiments exactly!

FALCONFELL, MY SCARE LADY and THE LAMIA are all available to buy now. You can purchase them at either of these websites:

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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

 

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘FALCONFELL.’ (1983) THE SCRIPT-BOOK REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong younger

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

FALCONFELL. (1983)

PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER 2019 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

I’m delighted to have a new little stack of Michael Armstrong books to read and review, including this little gem from 1983, FALCONFELL. Michael Armstrong, of course, is the screenwriter responsible for such cinematic treats as HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1982), ESKIMO NELL (1974) and MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970). Don’t just take my word for it, however. Check out the list of films for which he’s penned the screenplays:

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.

FALCONFELL is a horror story, something that Michael Armstrong does exceedingly well. You might even call it his forte, as the French say. FALCONFELL was written in four weeks; happily it flowed well. Also, it was modelled after the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s Oscar-winning screen version of Daphne Du Maurier’s REBECCA.

REBECCA, of course, is the story of a couple who meet and marry extremely quickly, then the relationship between the two of them begins to unravel as the man’s deceased wife Rebecca casts a very long shadow over the couple and the imposing old mansion in which they live, Manderley.

In FALCONFELL, an attractive single secretary called Joanna Merrick meets and marries a handsome writer of historical books called Adam Holt after a very short courtship. You know how it is. She’s freewheeling towards thirty, drinking alone in the Last Chance Saloon, her biological clock is ticking loud enough to wake the dead and Adam’s offer of marriage is clearly just too good to be passed up. Rich writers don’t come along every day. Speaking for myself, I’ve never met even one, lol.

Joanna’s friend Sally’s words to her on her wedding day mirror those of rich old dragon Edythe Van Hopper to the shy, mousy little companion in REBECCA who’s just done the impossible and snagged Catch of the Century, Maxim de Winter, in holy matrimony.

Sally: ‘Well, I’ve got to hand it to you: still waters really do run deep. For three years? Nothing. Then in three weeks- you do the works!’

She might just as well have added: ‘Tennis lessons, my foot…!’

Anyway, no sooner does Joanna marry Adam than he legs it over to England from New York to bury himself in a country mansion called Falconfell, the Manderley of the script. Here he intends doing some historical research and incorporating it into a new book. A few days later, a worried Joanna follows him over to see exactly what he thinks he’s up to, doing his best impersonation of the Invisible Man just a day or two into their bleedin’ honeymoon.

The house is Manderley-esque, certainly, but it also reminds me fondly of Baldpate Manor, the ‘Old Dark House’ of Michael’s creation that featured in the highly successful horror film, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS. This was the only film to… you guys know this…!… feature iconic horror movie stars Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

Baldpate Manor is a terrifically spooky old house, and Falconfell is very much cast in its eerie mode. Incidentally, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS also features a writer, one who holes himself up in the countryside for one weekend to speed-write a novel in order to win a bet with his agent.

I love the way writers are always writing about writers, lol. They just can’t help it, because it’s what they know. Stephen King (who gets a mention in FALCONFELL, by the way) does it, and Michael Armstrong does it too.

It’s the kind of thing that other writers, such as myself, love to read, because we all want a sneak peek into someone else’s ‘process,’ if you get me. Just in case another writer has the secret to fame and fortune that doesn’t involve years and years of hard, unrelenting thankless grind…!

Falconfell, a big tourist draw in the summer months, is nonetheless a creepy old place. Here are some of the evocative descriptive passages that I most enjoyed:

Joanna explores the ornate and stately rooms…

Long, richly panelled corridors…

And staircases…

Bedrooms…

A music room…

Library…

Numerous salons…

A wealth of art treasures and antiques everywhere;

Mostly cordoned off from the public by ropes…

Occasional glass display cases…

And stands containing art curios or old documents and books…

And a frequency of signs:

‘PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’ and ‘NO SMOKING’…

Along with a splattering of staff cleaning this vast museum.

It paints a lovely picture, doesn’t it? But wait, there’s more;

Joanna is exploring the areas not open to the public.

Here, there is a different atmosphere;

These are what were the servants’ quarters:

Enclosed and claustrophobic…

Dark, brooding memories of a candlelit past…

Lingering ghosts in the shadowed recesses and stairways;

Hiding from the occasional shafts of sunlight as if in guilt.

A catacomb-like maze…

Of corridors, alcoves…

And narrow stairways…

Still protecting their gloomy secrets…

I just love the pictures these words paint so skilfully, like actual paint on canvas. Anyway, this gorgeous mausoleum seems to be having an ill effect on both Adam and Joanna, making them behave out of character in ways which are worrying to each other. Joanna struggles daily with an almost overwhelming desire to ride the arse off Reg, the attractive stable boy, and Adam finds himself increasingly drawn to a nightly bit of the old rape. I know, I know, but it’s not a kiddy’s book, is it?

It turns out that Falconfell, like most stately homes worth their salt, has a colourful and bloody history and maybe even a ghost or two. Well, there is a disused gibbet (gallows) just down the road a piece, and in the 1750s, when the house was in its heyday, the lady of the manor cheated on her husband, the dastardly Sir Hugo Glaston, with disastrous consequences.

When Joanna discovers that the house seems to be hell-bent on a bit of, shall we say, historical re-enactment, her biggest problem seems to be convincing Adam of how much trouble the pair of them are in.

The flapping wings of imminent danger are, well, flapping ever nearer. Now, they could belong to the real-live falcon Adam seems suddenly to have acquired out of nowhere, or they could be a metaphor for the shadow of a brutal past, reaching out its slimy tentacles to drag Adam and Joanna down into the mire with it… (The Grimpen Mire, perhaps? That rake Sir Hugo is practically twins with his namesake from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES…!)

What a smashing script. It would have made a terrific movie. This or any other of Michael’s luxurious, glossy script books would make fantastic Christmas presents for the film buff in your life. I’ll leave you with a couple of my favourite quotes:

‘Birds make me nervous.’

‘You’ve heard Megaera in the night… searching for something to sink her claws into… something to tear into with that razor-sharp beak of hers.’

FALCONFELL is available to buy now. You can purchase it at either of these websites:

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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 DEAD SUMMER: BY HELEN MOORHOUSE. (2012) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

dead summer

THE DEAD SUMMER: A NOVEL BY HELEN MOORHOUSE. PUBLISHED BY POOLBEG IN 2012.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘If you’re a fan of Susan Hill’s THE WOMAN IN BLACK, you’ll love this…!’

This book, written by an Irish woman and set in the English countryside, is a really unusual blend of chick-lit mixed with a top-notch ghost story. I write in both genres myself, mixing ’em both up together big-time, and I love it when other writers do it too. I especially love it when they do it well, as happens here.

Martha Armstrong is a young woman with a baby girl called Ruby. She’s split up from her husband Dan because he’s a big cheating bastard, and now she’s planning to leave her London home and, by extension, the rat-race, to go and live with Rubes in a ramshackle cottage somewhere in the English countryside. She wants to write the children’s story, about a unicorn, that she thinks has been fermenting inside her for years. Eeuw, it sounds right nasty, does that. Surely ‘t doctor can give her summat for ‘t…?

Hawthorn Cottage, or, to give it its other name, Eyrie Farm, seems lovely at first. Martha moves in in the summertime and gets into a routine fairly quickly. In the mornings, she drops Rubes off at the local crèche, run by a woman named Mary Stockwell, then she goes home and faffs about for several hours pretending to write. 

Lady, I can tell you this for nothing. Ain’t nobody gon’ want to read y’all’s daft story about unicorns. The children’s book market is saturated with so many wanna-bees that there’s barely any room for even one more sad hopeful to squish in there.

If I were Martha, I’d find a nice little day-job, on a make-up counter maybe, or behind the till at Tesco, and spend any free time riding Rob, the local landlord, rich property developer and Man Mountain. PS, why am I discouraging another writer, even a fictional one, from writing when I’m clearly a writer myself?

Well, there’s too much bleedin’ competition out there, that’s why. As a writer who’s hoping to bring out her first traditionally published novel next year (the first part of a trilogy, I might add), I know this all too well. I like to commit a little, shall we say, sabotage, every now and then…! Remember, every scribe you can discourage from writing is one less annoying, pushy bastard grabbing for your brass ring, lol. Ah, I’m only joking. Or am I…?

Anyway, up at Hawthorn Cottage, things are starting to get a little hairy for Martha. On her very first night in the cottage, she hears a growling sound on the baby monitor that would have had me reaching for the suitcases there and then. Lights switch themselves on and off too and the temperature in a room can dip to freezing at the drop of a pair of knickers with dodgy elastic.

There’s a terrible scratching and scrabbling sound coming from behind the chimney breast in Ruby’s room, and the sound occasionally also of a baby crying, but when Martha runs in to comfort Ruby, the child is fast asleep.

A black shape is seen lurking by the bathroom door and a spoon is slapped right out of Martha’s hand when she’s playing ‘here comes the aeroplane, and will you please eat your bloody dinner, you aggravating child!’ with an unimpressed Ruby.

Martha’s experiences at Eyrie Farm (Hawthorn Cottage my arse, she thinks; this place is as haunted as all-get-out!) are told alongside our reading of a number of letters penned by a woman who actually lived in Eyrie Farm in the 1950s.

Poor Lily Flynn’s life is ruined forever when her sister Marion gets pregnant out of wedlock in 1950s Ireland, a mortal sin in those terrible, not-so-far-off days. Marion gets shunted off to England to have her baby away from the prying eyes of the neighbours, and Lily is forced to accompany her as her maid, her minder, her cook, her cleaner and her whipping boy. Marion has the temper of a devil and she gives poor Lily a dog’s life that includes terrible physical violence, to the point where Lily begins to think that Marion is actually insane.

It won’t take you too long to figure out who the ghosts are and why they’re haunting Hawthorn Cottage, of all places, but the execution of the ghost story is really well done. If this book were filmed, it would have all the jump-scares and black-mouthed screaming demons in it of THE WOMAN IN BLACK or James Wan’s more recent THE NUN.

It’s clear from the book that this author likes her horror books or films, as I spotted references in it to THE WICKER MAN, THE SHINING, and Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO, THE BIRDS and STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. It’s always gratifying when that happens to a horror reader. It makes us feel like we’re not alone, lol.

And the romance isn’t neglected either, readers, never fear. It’s where Will, the handsome young parapsychologist from Scotland, comes in, with his scruffier, bolshier mate Gabriel in tow.

Gabriel has a hotline direct to the spirit world; will he be able to cleanse Hawthorn Cottage of the evil that stalks it, and even more importantly, can he save Baby Ruby from the clutches of another Woman In Black (who may not love her but it would give her great satisfaction to be able to kill the child and take it away from its mother)…?

THE DEAD SUMMER is a cracking little horror story anyway, but it also does a terrific job of recounting the culture of shame that surrounded unmarried sex and pregnancy in mid-twentieth century Ireland. I like the way that the bit of very important social commentary goes hand-in-hand with the ghost story, and I’m really looking forward to reading more from this smashing debut author, Helen Moorhouse.

(PS, that was back in 2012 and Helen Moorhouse has written several other books since then, go check them 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

FRIGHT. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

fright

FRIGHT. (1971) A BRITISH LION FILM. WRITTEN BY TUDOR GATES. DIRECTED BY PETER COLLINSON. STARRING SUSAN GEORGE, HONOR BLACKMAN, GEORGE COLE, DENNIS WATERMAN, JOHN GREGSON, TARA COLLINSON AND IAN BANNEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a terrific horror-thriller movie in the sub-genre of what we would call ‘babysitter horror.’ Remember the original version of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (Carol Kane), the first twenty minutes of which are pure unadulterated perfect horror? Damn right. ‘Have you checked the children?’

There’s also HOUSE OF THE DEVIL (Jocelin Donahue), in which a young American college student desperate for rent money is lured out into the sticks on the pretext of a babysitting job, but when she gets to the creepy old house in the country, she discovers two things. One, the baby she’s been called out to sit for isn’t a baby at all, but an elderly lady; and two, that the entire family are up to their tits in a devil cult. Lol. Dontcha just hate it when that happens?

And then, of course, there’s the original babysitter horror itself, HALLOWEEN, with Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode doing duty as the babysitter and the masked escaped criminal Michael Myers providing the chuckles, I mean, the murders.

FRIGHT stars the delectable Susan STRAW DOGS George as Amanda, the young babysitter and child welfare student who comes to the isolated house of Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd to watch their son Tara, while they go out to the Plover Inn in the village a few miles away and celebrate ‘a sort of anniversary.’

The real star of the film is Susan George’s infinitely expressive, mobile face, with the huge eyes, the lush trembling lips and the slightly gammy but still charming teeth. This woman can really show fear in her face. Her long blonde hair and perfect, petite little body all go to complete the package.

The camera loves her, and her face can be shot endlessly in close-ups and you’d never get tired of it. Also, she’s rather smashing at portraying women who are being pushed around and abused by men. You can see this here, and also in STRAW DOGS which she made later in the year for Sam Peckinpah.

Anyway, as Amanda, she shows up at the Lloyds’ house in her fab little woolly pinky-purple mini-dress with the kinky black knee-boots, all set to babysit their little blond cherub of a son, Tara. By the way, in Ireland, Tara is a girl’s name. Just sayin.’

The Lloyds are played by George Cole (MINDER, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS) as Jim and the super-posh and classy Honor Blackman (GOLDFINGER, THE AVENGERS, TO THE DEVIL A DAUGHTER) as Helen. They are an uneasy pair.

Helen is obviously on edge, and doesn’t really want to leave the house, or her baby son, at all, but she’s going to go out to dinner for her husband’s sake and for the sake of living life as normal. Even though they clearly have a secret, one that might possibly place Amanda and the baby in danger if things pan out the way Helen clearly fears they’re going to.

The Lloyd house is big and old and creaky. Amanda gets a few scares initially that turn out to be no more than taps dripping or washing-lines tapping off the branches of trees. But when she sees a distorted man’s face through a ground floor window-pane, she can’t pass this off as a mere commonplace event.

She gets really scared and is glad when her male friend Chris (Dennis Waterman; MINDER, THE SCARS OF DRACULA) pops round to try and get in her knickers. She resists him at first, then gives in part of the way, then throws him out on his ear. Women, eh? Talk about moody and inconsistent. Men are like children. They need consistency in a woman. No means no and all that. Chris leaves, angry, confused and in a danger he’s unaware of…

In the meantime, there’s someone in the Lloyd house who shouldn’t be there and poor little Amanda, in her skimpy mini-dress that opens at the front to show her brassière and her perfect little boobies, is about to be subjected to a nightmare that will only be topped when Susan George films STRAW DOGS later in the year for Sam Peckinpah, the Daddy of Movie Violence. Will Amanda make it out alive? Will Tara? And what is the secret that’s eating Helen Lloyd up from the inside out…?

I love the shots of Helen and Jim boogey-ing on the dance floor in the Plover Inn, and also the fact that Amanda is watching Hammer’s PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES on the Lloyds’ ancient telly. FRIGHT could so easily pass for a Hammer film itself. 

I also love the confident, ginger-moustached cop who’s clearly in charge of the station’s one gun, and the way the desk sergeant won’t tell the Inspector a single solitary dicky-bird until he’s painstakingly made out a handwritten report.

‘Oh, you’ve been shot in the ‘ead there, ‘ave you, sir? Well, just hang on out here, sir, will you, while I go and fetch a pen and paper and write all this down for the Inspector, sir. Now where did I put that darned pen? It were ‘ere a minute or two ago. ‘Ere, you, Davies, ‘ave you had me pen? Blue it is, with a chewed cap where I chewed it myself. Oh, you’ve given up and died, ‘ave you, sir? Right on the floor down there? Fair enough, sir, I can’t say I blame you, but just hang on a minute, will you, while I make a note of it for the Inspector? Oh yes, that’s right, I’ve lost me pen, ‘aven’t I…?’

Cracking stuff. Watch FRIGHT. It’s a good atmospheric watch with loads of shocks and scares along the way. Out now from STUDIOCANAL, it features interviews with Susan George (she’s still alive and looking very well) and good-humoured cinema critic and snappy dresser Kim Newman. I saw him give a talk once, but unfortunately didn’t get close enough to him afterwards to ask for an autograph. You snooze, you lose.

But please don’t snooze while you’re on your own in a strange house, with their telly and your refrigerator privileges. That could be the very chance a boogeyman needs to gain access. And, once he’s in, he can be very hard to get rid of…

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 CORPSE VANISHES. (1942) A BELA LUGOSI HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

corpse vanishes

THE CORPSE VANISHES. (1942) DIRECTED BY WALLACE COX. STARRING BELA LUGOSI, TRISTRAM COFFIN, ELIZABETH RUSSELL, MINERVA URECAL, ANGELO ROSSI, FRANK MORAN, VINCE BARNETT, KENNETH HARLAN AND LUANA WALTERS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Oh, Professor, do you also make a habit of collecting coffins?’

Patricia Hunter.

‘Why, yes, in a manner of speaking, I find a coffin much more comfortable than a bed.’

Dr. Lorenz.

I love these old low-budget Bela Lugosi horror movies. He made a fair few of ’em, God bless him, after his success in Universal’s DRACULA (1931), the unexpected smash hit (I don’t know why it was so unexpected; it was Bram Stoker’s masterpiece, after all!) that single-handedly launched the horror cinema genre into the stratosphere and made Universal Studios its home.

In many of these films, the tall, handsome Hungarian actor often plays a criminal mastermind, a mad scientist or some deranged professor engaged in a crazy experiment that will surely endanger the world if it’s successful. THE CORPSE VANISHES is, of course, no exception. It’s actually got quite an ingenious plot.

The American public is utterly bewildered by a spate of bride abductions, that is to say, pretty young blushing brides all over the place are swooning at the altar, being pronounced dead by puzzled medics and strapped into mortuary vans which are then waylaid en route to the morgue by a gang of unknown villains. Clever, eh? The police are left scratching their noodles in puzzlement.

The only thing these society brides have in common, apart from the fact that they are spoiled little rich girls marrying into even more money and a nice cushy lifestyle, is that they’ve all worn orchids on their persons that were mysteriously delivered to them just before the marriage ceremony. Could there be a connection between the orchids and the sudden ‘deaths’ of the brides…?

Miss Patricia Hunter, Girl Reporter Extraordinaire, certainly seems to thinks so. Tired of reporting bland nonsense for the Society pages- who wore what where; who was seen talking to whom when everyone knows his wife’s left him and she’s seeking a divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, that type of thing- she’s thrilled when her grumpy male boss (is there any other kind…?) says she can investigate the possible orchid connection if she wants. She’s out of that office and investigating her tight little caboose off before you can say ‘glass ceiling,’ lol.

She heads straight up-state for the home of the mysterious recluse scientist, Dr. Lorenz (Bela Lugosi), who just so happens to be an expert on the particular type of orchid delivered to the unfortunate society brides on their wedding day and purporting to be from their husbands-to-be. I told you earlier that the plot was ingenious, didn’t I? Who wouldn’t wear an orchid on their wedding dress that had supposedly been sent to them by their loving fiancés? Depending on what’s up with these orchids, it’s kind of like the perfect ruse, isn’t it?

He’s a charming and cordial man, this Dr. Lorenz, and, although he refuses to help her on the orchids question, citing lack of time as an excuse, he invites Patricia to stay the night at his huge palatial home in the hills while a terrible storm is raging outside. Patricia reluctantly agrees, deciding she has no choice. You’d think that, as a journalist, she’d be glad of a chance to snoop around the place, wouldn’t you?

Dr. Lorenz’s wife, an older woman known as the Countess, is mighty displeased to have such a pretty young woman on the premises for however short a time, but her husband Dr. Lorenz tells her, with a giant grin splitting his face, that she could be very useful to the Countess, whereupon the Countess, taking her husband’s meaning, relents graciously.

Also staying the night Chez Lorenz due to the inclement weather is a Dr. Foster, a colleague of Dr. Lorenz’s but definitely not his partner-in-crime. (Dr. Foster is played by a Tristram Coffin; how cool a name is that for a horror actor? Seems to be his real name as well.) There’s an instant attraction between the rather wooden, stilted Dr. Foster and the feisty, much livelier Patricia Hunter. The pair could end up enjoying nuptial bliss themselves when the Mystery of the Missing Brides is solved.

Patricia could end up having the honour of bringing Dr. Foster his pipe and slippers at the end of the working day (his, not hers; she’ll have to give up her career, naturally, to have all the babies) and stoically taking the odd punch in the kisser when Hubby’s in one of his moods.

Oh, what a wonderful thing it was, to be a blushing bride in ‘Forties America, lol. Those women with careers who pretended to eschew marriage were really just waiting on tenterhooks for some guy to ride in on his white charger, scoop them up and take them away from nasty work for ever. Everyone knows that. Those women who seemed genuinely to enjoy their careers were definitely looked upon a bit suspiciously. They couldn’t really prefer forging a name for themselves in their chosen field to washing shitty diapers and chopping the vegetables for tonight’s casserole, could they…?

Anyway, Patricia has a nightmarish experience in the massive basement of Dr. Lorenz’s rambling mansion on the night she stays over, an experience Dr. Lorenz tries to dismiss as merely a bad dream but Patricia knows better. It’s connected to the Mystery of the Missing Brides and Patricia could swear to it, no matter how much the charming Dr. Lorenz tries to convince her that it was all just a dream and she should put it out of her mind like a good little girl.

Dopey Dr. Foster is of no help to her whatsoever in the matter of Patricia’s so-called ‘bad dream,’ but never mind. Once she’s married to him, she’ll no longer be required to use her fluttery little bird-brain for anything more complicated than deciding what spices to keep on her rack. But for now, she still has a mind of her own and she comes up with a brilliant idea for catching the ‘killer’ and abductor of all these unsuspecting society brides. Phoney wedding, anyone?

The scene in the ‘mausoleum’ at night is genuinely creepy. The man called Angel, the idiot son of Dr. Lorenz’s creepy old maid Fagah, comes across as the sort of gibbering sex-pest who might enjoy a nice bit of rape if it came his way. Patricia would do well not to run into him in the cellars at night. The music in the mausoleum scene is excellent and très atmospheric. I like the cheeky dwarf butler Toby, too, he’s cute.

THE CORPSE VANISHES is a good little black-and-white horror mystery, and Bela is on top form in it. His whipping arm is still in good nick anyway. He’s always whipping the poor unfortunate inbreds who end up working for him, isn’t he, lol?

He’s still able to pick up women bodily too and carry ’em off, and even horror legend Christopher Lee needed a little bit of help with that from stunt double Eddie Powell at the end. Good old Chris and Bela, the kings of Hammer and Universal horror respectively. Wonder if they’re neighbours now…?

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE MAZE. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong book trio

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

THE MAZE. (1968)

PUBLISHED IN 2019 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

Screen-writer, actor and director Michael Armstrong has written some absolutely cracking horror screenplays. Some were made into films, such as THE DARK (1960), MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) and HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1982).

This last film, as well as being a rollicking great horror romp, has the distinction of being the only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

Some of his other screenplays, for one reason and another (showbusiness is a fickle and fluctuating mistress!), never made it onto the big screen, unfortunately for the public. These include the fantastic GHOST TOWN (1969), a comedy Western; BEELZEBUB (1984), the story of a haunted computer that would have made a terrific ‘Eighties horror movie; DEATH MASQUE (1988) and OUIJA-BOARD (1989).

Directors have been making films about ouija-boards for the last couple of decades now, but Michael Armstrong was one of the first, if not the first, to realise the potential of the humble ouija-board to be the subject of a major horror film.

Now, on to- or should I say into- THE MAZE (1968), a screenplay cut in the same mould as the excellent BEELZEBUB, GHOST TOWN and the aforementioned OUIJA-BOARD. I enjoyed it every bit as much as the screenplays of Michael’s (I can call him that; we’re great pals…!) that came before and after. I bet you guys can’t guess what it’s about, lol…

I’ll be kind and give you tons of clues. First off, we have a handsome young celebrity footballer fella called Bob Harding. Bob’s agent tells him one day that he’s positively got to go to this classy shindig on some dude’s private island, because the press will be there and a ton of other celebrities as well (‘-movie stars, pop, fashion- it’s a media coup!’), and this will be the perfect opportunity for Bob to grab some quick easy publicity.

What can Bob do but say yes? When he’s picked up at a Maltese airport by a handsome young Greek chappie called Alexis, who works for the island-owning millionaire, the pair have the following rather disturbing exchange:

Bob: This island we’re going to- I tried finding it on the map but it didn’t seem to exist. Does it have a name?

Alexis: No name. It isn’t on the map.

Bob: So, how far is it off the mainland?

Alexis: Far enough. Dr. Seresion likes privacy.

Okay. A mysterious island that’s not on any map, miles from anywhere, owned by some creepy-sounding doctor dude? (Remember THE ISLAND OF DR. HIBBERT from THE SIMPSONS?) I’d have turned the boat round and headed for home at this point, but dopey Bob has seemingly never watched that episode of THE SIMPSONS, lol.

Once on the island, he’s chauffeured by Alexis and Maurits, another hot Greek dude, to the magnificent palace of Dr. Seresion. The palace stands in beautiful, idyllic grounds with the following amenities: flower, rock and water gardens; tennis courts; croquet lawns; swimming pools and other sporting facilities; two theatres- one open-air, a butterfly house, a maze and a pagoda. See how the maze just sneaked in there, all innocent-like? Heh-heh-heh.

The rather sinister Dr. Seresion greets Bob and his other celebrity guests with the following speech. I’ve put in capital letters the sentence I feel to be the most portentous. The guests don’t seem to notice the undercurrents of menace running through the welcome speech, but then maybe I’ve seen more horror films than these guys have:

‘So, it is as fellow members of Mankind that I shall welcome you to my island. MAY YOUR YOUTH AND YOUR ENERGIES FILL IT WITH THE LIFE IT HAS SORELY CRAVED OVER THE YEARS. For that I welcome you- and wish you an enjoyable and fulfilling stay here.’

The guests include Bob, an obnoxiously brash and pushy journalist called Rowena and her photographer Mike, a young pop star called Brian who’s sweet on Rowena (unfortunately for him; she’s a total bitch!), a young heart-throb actor by the name of Simon and a ravishing young actress, Jenny Raine, who confounds expectations by not leaping into bed with every male starlet who looks at her twice. A woman of principles, eh? Curiouser and curiouser…

The press, as personified by Rowena, don’t come off very well in the screenplay at all. Here’s what Jenny thinks of Rowena and her ilk:

‘That’s what Ro and the rest of her species offer us: instant celebrity- ‘Be nice to me, do what I want, say what I want you to say and, if I feel like it, I’ll make you into a sexual icon to be worshipped and adored by millions.’

Jenny, a thoughtful and insightful woman, has this to say on the subject of her and Bob’s so-called ‘celebrity’:

‘And there we all are- society’s golden calves with more money than sense- hiding behind giant egos frightened someone’ll suddenly find out we’re not really divine at all… just pathetically mundane like everyone else.’

She’s rather an extraordinary woman, is this Jenny. I certainly hope she makes it to the end of the story. Some people don’t, you know, because there’s a serial killer loose on the Island of Dr. Hibbert (sorry!) who seems to be hell-bent on bumping off the famous guests.

But why? And who is it? And is it anything to do with the sound of underground drumming that’s been bothering some of the guests? Are The Rolling Stones secreted somewhere on the island, giving impromptu concerts to the moles and the fishes?

There’s also the titular maze, of course, ‘enormously tall, perfectly trimmed hedges eerily floodlit in the darkness.’ Nothing bad could ever happen in a maze, I hear you say. Don’t you believe it. There was a maze in THE SHINING, wasn’t there? The maze on the island seems to have almost a sentience about it, like it’s a living, breathing thing. Let’s hope that it never gets… gulp… hungry… and… eeek… needs f-f-f-feeding! Yikes, Scoob, let’s get outta here…!

Guests are disappearing and no-one is exactly sure where or why. An enormous shrine to the mother of Dr. Seresion, the mother he never knew, is discovered in a fabulous pagoda on the island. Dr. Seresion maintains ‘the island has no secrets’ but, the deeper you get into both the book and the island, the more you are disinclined to believe him.

Alex and Maurits, ‘Dr. Seresion’s creatures,’ who ‘grovel to do his bidding’ but don’t have humps and a snaggle-tooth apiece, haha, are at pains to reassure the guests that everything on the island is all nice and normal, but surely even the more cerebrally challenged among their number can read the writing on the wall…?

Now, I don’t want to give you any spoilers, but I’ve decided to share one maze-related passage with you which I found particularly frightening and atmospheric:

His head is surrounded by leaves on four sides

As he endeavours to breathe through the encompassing foliage-

One arm becomes twisted behind his back,

As the leaves press around his body

Like the tightening coils of a large snake-

Pathetically he struggles to free his legs-

Arms…

And still they continue to press in on him…

Slowly squeezing…

And crushing his body…

Compressing it…

And smothering his face…

Blocking his ability to breathe in or out…

The leaves are inside his mouth-

Twigs slowly skewering into his eyeballs-

Piercing into his ears-

Trickles of blood…

Seep through the tightly packed leaves…

I won’t go any further with this passage, but it’s the stuff of nightmares. The maze stands silently in the moonlight. All is quiet. Yeah well, all is quiet now, sure, but there are times when it’s all go in there, trust me.

The ending is truly terrifying. Stephen King himself couldn’t have done a better job. It’s put me right off going into mazes, anyway. Not that I’ve been in many. In point of fact, I’ve been in none, and I’m not too sure if we have any here in Dublin, but even if we did, I wouldn’t be tempted anywhere near them. Too leafy for me…

So here you are giving shelter to the local looney. All terribly Hitchcock and noire. So, now what? Do you both get handcuffed together and run around the windswept countryside trying to learn the secret of the thirty-nine hedges?

Come to bleed me some more, daddy dearest?

The maze!- I know what’s at the centre!

I have to be kept alive… for the maze.

It’s coming for us! It’s coming!-

THE MAZE, E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL and ROBIN HOOD (see illustration) by Michael Armstrong are available to buy now from:

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: DEATH MASQUE. (1988)

michael armstrong

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS. DEATH MASQUE. (1988)

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

I’m super-excited about this new book of Michael’s. As some of my readers will know, for the past while I’ve had the privilege of reading and reviewing some of Michael Armstrong’s gorgeous script books which are now being made available to the reading public, with the weight of half a century of screenwriting knowledge and know-how and juicy gossip firmly behind them.

Incidentally, anyone looking for a really decent Christmas present for a loved one who’s obsessed with the cinema and related matters, these books would be ideal. Just saying, lol. Not trying to give you the old hard sell or anything.

So far I’ve read the script books for HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, THE IMAGE, THE BLACK PANTHER, GHOST TOWN, A STAR IS DEAD, BEELZEBUB, ESKIMO NELL and now DEATH MASQUE, all of which are for sale on Michael’s website (see above).

Each book comes with a glossy cover, the relevant screenplay in its entirety, a history of that particular screenplay written by Michael himself and also a chapter on the screenwriting style. For anyone interested in screenwriting who wants to learn to do it right, these books would actually make a terrific how-to guide. I’ll tell you one salient fact about each of the ones I’ve read so far.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS was made into the enjoyably entertaining horror movie of the same name, starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine. It has the distinction of being the only film to star all four of these horror legends together and it has a really cracking storyline as well.

An American writer holes up in a supposedly deserted old English country mansion to win a bet against his agent, the bet being that he can’t speed-write a novel in a certain amount of time. The key phrase here is ‘supposedly deserted…’

Michael’s first movie was a short film called ‘THE IMAGE’ and, as far as I know, it marked the first screen appearance of a certain David Bowie, who later went on to make flicks like THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, LABYRINTH and THE HUNGER. The book cover features an old ghostly picture of the now deceased star and the book is certainly a fitting and lovely memento by which to remember him.

THE BLACK PANTHER was the name given to Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer whose abduction of wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975 is the subject of Michael’s controversial screenplay of the same name. The 1977 film was even banned for a bit but a change of heart by the British Film Institute saw it taking its rightful place amongst other important British films of the period.

GHOST TOWN is a horror-slash-spoof Western which sees a group of handsome, reckless young outlaws, consisting of two groups of brothers, robbing a bank and then hiding out in a town that they don’t realise has its very own gathering of ghosts…

The moon is full.

The derelict buildings stand

Like towering black tombstones coldly bathed in the moonlight.

The only sounds to break the silence come from the Saloon,

From which lights are now flickering.

A STAR IS DEAD, though it was never made into a film, tells the fictional story of how the management team of notorious punk band The Sex Pistols tried to clean up their grubby image by getting them to star in a family film, a musical version of Alexandre Dumas’ book THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Enough said? ‘Nuff said…!

BEELZEBUB is a fantastic horror story about a haunted or possessed computer which could so easily have been made into a great ‘Eighties horror film, if only circumstances had been different. ESKIMO NELL is a rambunctious sex romp-slash-sexploitation comedy with a terrific cast.

It stars a young and dashingly handsome Michael Armstrong himself, Christopher Timothy before ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL, Roy Kinnear who was Verruca Salt’s Dad in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, Rosalind Knight from ABOUT A BOY (‘Are you a professional Santa?’) and porn star Mary Millington before she was widely-known.

Some of the lines in ESKIMO NELL are pure comedy gold. Here’s a sample:

‘I can’t do it, Benny, I just can’t do it! I’m just not capable of writing the first all-British pornographic Kung Fu musical western: least of all when three different girls and a drag queen all think they’re going to be playing the same part!’

‘Right then, the opening shot of the film is a big close-up of this bleedin’ great pair of tits…

but do it with integrity…’

‘Acting? Acting? You didn’t tell me I had to act! Listen, I don’t mind getting screwed but I’m not doing any of that acting stuff! What sort of a girl do you take me for?’

‘It’s all terribly wholesome family entertainment, like Hamlet… but nicer.’

‘Yes, but what’s my motivation for having an erection…?’

‘Oooooh, what lovely buns…!’

The superb and undeniably clever DEATH MASQUE is the latest script-book to roll off the presses at Michael’s publishers, PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS. It’s a screenplay about opera, one of the arts about which I’m afraid I know only the old joke:

Kid: Mammy, why is that man threatening that fat woman with a stick?

Mammy: Don’t be ridiculous, dear. Of course he’s not threatening her.

Kid: Then why is she crying…?

I hope, therefore, that Michael will forgive me for glossing over the heavily operatic bits and concentrating as always on the plot and the writing, both of which are again top-notch and a pleasure to read.

The book, by the way, in case I’ve alarmed you with all the opera stuff, can be read just as easily by non-opera buffs such as myself as by experts or aficionados of the art, and there’s a full glossary of references at the back of the book if you want to know the meaning of some of the fancy words.

There’s a lot of fascinating information in there too about Masques, not the masks with which you hide your face but the other kind of Masque, which is defined in the book as:

‘a spectacular court entertainment involving music, dancing, singing, and acting, within an elaborate stage design, to present a deferential allegory flattering to the patron. They would end with a celebratory dance, led by the monarch and his favourite courtiers.’

There’s a ‘Masque’ in the book, in fact a Masque is pretty much the central feature of the book, so now at least we know what it is. Forewarned is forearmed, isn’t that what they say?

The twisty-turny plot sees two young holiday-makers, Carrie and Tim, finding themselves staying in the fabulous Italian villa of operatic legend Anna Morenzi after they have all their money and passports and airline tickets and stuff pinched by a couple of hitch-hikers. Here’s where they meet their slightly-less-than-gracious hostess:

‘But before anything can be said,

Their attention is directed upwards-

Where, at the top of the grand staircase:

ANNA MORENZI stands;

Resplendent in her shimmering golden dress and diamonds.

Although she may be in her-mid sixties;

Like the youthful beauty of her portrait,

She has remained undiminished by time.’

There’s kind of a Norma-Desmond-from-SUNSET BOULEVARD vibe about the splendiferous but undoubtedly ageing Anna Morenzi. Her household is no less curious than Ms. Desmond’s, consisting as it does of the following:

Miles, her devoted (but definitely not her first!) husband; Edgar, her stunning but much younger lover; George, the sort-of-butler and Miles’s step-brother, who has the misfortune to be wildly in love with Miles; Drake Cauley, a lawyer, and his alcoholic lush of a wifey, Helen.

Now there’s the Americans, Carrie and Tim (Tim’s a would-be actor), also and even the two hitch-hikers, once believed to be thieves, Sean and Dorothy, are all part of the big happy family now as well.

Anna should have more than enough bodies now to participate- whether they want to or not- in her enormous annual deathly ‘Masque’ in honour of her birthday. Although you’d think at her age, wouldn’t you, that she’d be better off not marking the passing of time quite so publicly…! 

The screenplay begins most promisingly with a young couple running away, through a forest at night, from something so horrible that they’d prefer to entomb themselves in a crypt with the long-departed rather than stand and face it.

The pace never lets up once after that. As you might have guessed, there are some extremely strange goings-on at Anna Morenzi’s palatial villa, goings-on that can’t all be explained away by Miles’s and Edgar’s sick little game-playing in which they freely admit to indulging:

Edgar: It’s this crazy game we play. I screw his wife so he gets even by murdering me. That way I keep them both happy. At first, it felt kinda strange but now I’ve gotten used to it; it’s kinda fun and I enjoy it.

Tim: You enjoy pretending to be killed? That is seriously weird, pal.

Edgar: No more than all those business guys who go off for weekends where they dress up to play war games and shoot each other with little blobs of paint. What we do’s much more creative… and sexy. Sometimes I even get a hard-on.

Tim: You’re sick, fella.

Edgar: You think so? You should try it sometime.

DEATH MASQUE is intended to be read and enjoyed on three levels: as a mystery thriller (who exactly is Ulrica-ca, the Woman In Black, and what does she want?), as a comedy and, finally, as a social allegory. Me, my low-brow mind goes straight for the smut as always. I’ll leave you with my two favourite quotes from the screenplay, the first of which is spoken by the great and glorious Anna Morenzi herself: 

‘Always give the audience what it wants. Lots of T. & A. Never fails, dear: ‘Tits & Art.’ If they don’t like the show, at least give ’em something to drool over. Helps keep the snoring down.’

I love it. This last one then is uttered by Tim, who has big dreams of being a Hollywood actor but you just know that a career as a bus-boy is all that beckons:

‘My God! He’s screwing his mother! The guy’s actually screwing his own goddamn mother… in the grass!’

A man who would screw his own mother in the grass- in the grass, mark you- is not fit to consort with decent civilised people. ‘Nuff said? I think so.

Michael Armstrong’s script-books are available from retailers, Amazon and direct online at:

www.paperdragonproductions.com/shop

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

THE PREMATURE BURIAL. (1962) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

premature burial couple

THE PREMATURE BURIAL. (1962) BASED ON A STORY BY EDGAR ALLAN POE. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ROGER CORMAN. SCREENPLAY BY CHARLES BEAUMONT AND RAY RUSSELL. AN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURE.

STARRING RAY MILLAND, HAZEL COURT, RICHARD NEY, ALAN NAPIER AND HEATHER ANGEL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a visually gorgeous gothic horror film,  a superb addition to Roger Corman’s cycle of Edgar Allan Poe film adaptations for American International and the only one, if I’m not mistaken, not starring horror legend Vincent Price.

I’m not sure why Roger Corman opted to switch one leading man for another at this point but the film still works. It’s a wonderfully Gothic piece of dramatisation, with a setting as atmospheric and fog-wreathed as in all the other Poe films of this period.  

Ray Milland, an excellent actor whose film LOST WEEKEND is one of the best ever made on the horrors of alcoholism, plays the lead role here of Guy Carrell. Guy is a wealthy aristocrat who’s got a bee in his bonnet the size of Notre Dame Cathedral about being buried alive.

Now, you can’t really blame him for that, I suppose. No-one likes the idea of being buried alive, of waking up in their coffin underground, with the lid sealed down and the gathering population of worms sharpening their tiny knives and forks and tucking their napkins into their shirts, while others print up tiny menus that all carry only the one dish.

So, what’s given poor sensitive, touchy Guy the fear of being buried alive? Well, he’s convinced that his Pops, Daddy Carrell, was buried alive in the family crypt while under the influence of catalepsy, a terrifying condition that simulates death.

I’m not keen on the idea of a family crypt myself, having all your horrible dead relatives buried in tombs in the basement of your house. Why can’t they go in the ground in a dreary churchyard miles away, like normal people?

It would have been bad enough being around them while they were alive, without knowing that their rotting corpses are mouldering away beneath you in the family crypt. It’s enough to give you the willies, that is.

Still, it was the aristocratic way, you know. That was how the poshos did it back then, maybe still do for all I know. Probably couldn’t bear to relinquish anything that belonged to them, even if it was in a state of advanced putresence, lol.

Anyway, Guy is obsessed with the notion of being buried alive, just like he thinks his Paw was, much to the concern of his beautiful new younger wife Emily, his young doctor friend and advisor Miles and his older sister Kate Carrell. He won’t go on honeymoon with Emily, because he’d rather stay at home building himself one kickass mofo of a crypt on the grounds of his estate…

This crypt is really quite remarkable. It’s like a small house with a purpose-built coffin filled with tools for breaking out if one should have the misfortune to wake up and find oneself buried alive. There are stores of food and wine so you don’t starve to death while you’re trying to gain, as Guy himself rather splendidly puts it, ‘egress’ from his frightening hand-made mausoleum.

There’s even stores of deadly poison for killing yourself if all else fails and you can’t manage to break out of your tomb. It’s really the most ingenious of contrivances, this tomb, but it’s also the product of a very sick mind. Guy’s wife, sister and doctor are convinced of this once they realise that Guy has practically set up shop in this awful crypt, painting his horrible disturbing paintings and waiting for death.

‘What you fear has already happened, Guy,’ says Emily sharply to him when she’s had enough of his nonsense, ‘because you’re already buried alive.’ She’s right, too, you know.

Guy is being plagued in other ways as well, by the constant popping-up in his vicinity of two sinister grave-diggers who seem to wish him ill, and he’s hearing a creepy tune, Ireland’s Molly Malone of all things, coming from nowhere that’s making the hairs stand up on the back of his neck. He seems to be associating it with death and his old favourite thing to do or to have done to you, premature burial.

So when the worst happens and the thing that Guy fears more than anything else in the world comes to pass, it may not just be the catalepsy that’s put him there. There’s a foul agency at work here and I shouldn’t be at all surprised to find that it might have small feminine hands and genteel girlish fingers…

I love Alan Napier as Emily’s doctor father, Gideon Gault. He does a Peter Cushing here in that he takes delivery of newly dug-up corpses which he intends to dissect for medical purposes. Dr. Frankenstein, much? When he comments with a chuckle that Guy Carrell will be of more use to medical science dead than alive, he may even be right.

Guy is wasting whatever life and talents and time he’s been given. By obsessing night and day, day and night on what might possibly happen to him in his afterlife (which we’ll all find out, soon enough), he’s actually missing out on his one chance to live his actual life. He’s squandering his life. Other people would kill to have what he has, and he’s just throwing it away like so much rubbish.

The sets and costumes here are all stunning and luxurious-looking, as they always are in these Roger Corman productions for American International. The bedrooms, the living-rooms and the family crypt are all decked out in the most fabulously rich autumn colours of russet, brown, orangey-brown and the deepest of reds.

And the Carrolls’ beautiful, atmospheric gothic gardens and estate have got more mist than an X FACTOR final. And that, folks, as any self-respecting X FACTOR fan will tell you, is a whole helluva lotta mist…!

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