PLATINUM DREAMS. (1984) THE SCREENPLAY BOOK BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

PLATINUM DREAMS. (1984)

PUBLISHED IN 2021 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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

My readers will be well familiar with Michael Armstrong by now, if they weren’t already. He is, of course, the famous British director and screen-writer who wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

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

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970. A gruesome but frighteningly real depiction of eighteenth century witch-burnings.

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.

That’s quite an impressive back catalogue, isn’t it, and that’s only a fraction of the screenplays Michael has penned over the years. As with all screen-writers, a few scripts are bound to fall through the cracks the odd time and not get made into films. This, sadly, was the case with PLATINUM DREAMS, the screenplay I want us to have a closer look at today.

As Andrew Porter, a good friend of Michael’s, says in his excellent foreword to the book, ‘Michael’s first task with PLATINUM DREAMS was to expose and satirise the hypocrisies of Hollywood- the platitudes hiding between the façade of show business glamour- the dream that is, in reality, no more than a mirage.

‘And the characters he created, similar to those in Fellini’s classic, LA DOLCE VITA, were doomed to live this pretence, prisoners of their hopeless ambition, eventually succumbing in a downward spiral of self-destruction…’

Cheerful, innit, lol. Michael himself, in the section of the film script book entitled A History of the Screen Play, says the following about his lead character Diane: ‘It was written to expose her interview, in hindsight, as a chilling and dangerous set of evasive platitudes hiding behind the façade of a glit & glam show business that, in reality, is no more than a mirage created to sell product…’

Let me explain what Michael means about ‘her interview’ in the lines above. PLATINUM DREAMS has a female protagonist- hear, hear!- called Diane Hayden. Diane is an attractive young English secretary to a minor music mogul.

She has no intention of remaining a humble PA forever, however. She wants to be the mogul, not just the assistant to a mogul. She’s fiercely ambitious, and she’s even prepared to be ruthless if she has to be.

She tries to advance in the company she works for, Centaur Records, but her progress is blocked every which way by the glass ceiling. In other words, the male executives progress up the ladder while Diane is patted on the head and told to be a good little quiet secretary and, look, here’s a nice bunch of flowers to keep you sweet, darlin’.

Diane explodes. She quits her job, breaks up with her boyfriend- after telling him unceremoniously that she was faking it pretty much the whole time- and catches a flight to Los Angeles on Centaur Records‘s tab. She doesn’t even tell her parents that she’s leaving. When they finally find out about it, it’s already a fait accompli.

Diane makes it big, really big, in the music industry in the City of Angels. Throughout the book, there are snippets of her being interviewed by a major showbiz magazine. (That’s the interview Michael is referring to above.) She’s quizzed about her life and her meteoric rise to the top, but the answers she gives are not the real ones.

She puts a glossy spin on everything and sanitises it, saying how lovely and polite and civilised everything was when we know from the rest of the narrative that her rise to fame was excruciatingly painful and head-wrecking and mired in drugs, booze, aimless thrill-seeking and sex with all the wrong people. (Erm, where do I sign up, please…?)

Not to mention the fact that you seem to have to kiss your values goodbye when you’re clawing your way to the top in an industry like the music business, in a city like Los Angeles, where all that glitters is almost certainly not gold. It’s much the same in the film and television industry and the modelling business as well, I imagine, though I’m no expert on the high life, haha.

Diane: ‘Money, sex, drugs and movies. Aren’t there any other topics of interest in this town…?’ That’d be a ‘no,’ love…

The story takes us through Diane’s relationships with the various men who populate her life as she goes on her journey to find fame, money and success in L.A. There’s Mel, a ‘lecherous ex-junkie songwriter,’ in Diane’s own words.

There’s a very funny bit where Diane is telling the interviewer how ‘spiritual’ Mel was, and how their relationship always remained ‘a purely professional one,’ on account of his wife and all. It was just all innocent fun and good hard honest graft.

What’s so funny is that her words are sandwiched in between two scenes where we clearly see Diane and Mel rutting like wild boars on the Apocalypse. There are many examples of this hilarious inter-slicing in the screenplay, and it’s just one of the many reasons it would have worked so well as a movie. Even in the book, though, you can actually see the irony…!

Anyway, then there’s the Jewish plastic surgeon with an extremely interesting background, Jerry Golba, who would be happy to make Diane his ‘kept woman,’ but Diane wants more than that. We get an insight here into the women who use Jerry’s services as a plastic surgeon, the ageing but rich women who will go to extraordinary lengths to ‘keep young and beautiful.’

One such woman tells Diane: ‘I say, if you’ve got imperfections, get ‘em fixed. Guys out there don’t go looking for women with imperfections. Ain’t that the truth?’ If it is the truth, then it’s curtains for the ninety-nine-point-nine percent of us with so-called imperfections…!

Jerry himself says of the ‘self-delusion and pretence’ that holds Los Angeles in a stranglehold: ‘It’s what I call the L.A. ‘disease’- a state of mind similar to being stoned. You lose track of what’s real and what’s an illusion.’ And of the lights of L.A. itself: ‘They’re nothing but bright lights, Diane. They may look pretty at night but they soon lose their glitter in the daylight.’ And ain’t that the truth…?

Finally, there’s Bobby, a very good-looking teenage gay guy with whom Diane has what could be termed a strange and unhealthy relationship. Things happen between them sexually that might have been called ‘rape’ had a man been doing them to a woman.

But Diane seems obsessed with Bobby, even though his much older millionaire lover, Paul Farrell, strongly disapproves and fears losing Bobby to this sexually aware and sophisticated English woman.

It’s a bizarre set-up, but it’s probably no more bizarre than any of the other sexual shenanigans that go on in the city of ridiculously lavish parties and anything-goes-as-long-as-you’re-young-and-beautiful-and-having-fun. I just despair of where it’s all going to end, that’s all…

I love the bit about the Charlie Manson-style ‘Children of the Avenger’ cult murders. Okay, yes, lol, I’m a ghoul, all right? Even though it’s gruesome and violent possibly beyond anything I’ve read before, I still loved it. I also love but kind of abhor the clear message the screenplay sends out that everyone in this city is disposable and no-one is irreplaceable.

For example, a guy who stars in a crime drama gets killed in the book. We’ll never forget him, everyone solemnly vows. Will the series he stars in be scrapped? Will it f**k. Here’s what someone in the ‘industry’ says: ‘Aw, they’ll find a way. Shoot round it like they always do. Use a double. Whatever. A few re-writes, no-one’ll miss him. Insurance’ll cover it. No big deal. Get their accounts department on it, they’ll probably even turn it into a tax loss.’

So much for ‘we’ll never forget him…!’

I’ll leave you with the following quote from Diane:

‘It’s all about winning, here. And if you’re not a winner, you’re some kind of lesser human being…. In Los Angeles, everyone comes- not to be the best at anything- but to be rich and famous- because that’s what making it’s all about.’

And so much for: ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul…?’

PS, if you happen to meet Michael on the street some day, ask him from me if he’s got a female Rambo yet, he’ll know what it means…!

You can buy this book and all of Michael’s other books as well at the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

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 Vampirology. 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 sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE.’ (1976) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE. (1976)

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…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

VOICE: Emergency. Which service do you require?

Miss Friggin, an elderly lady: Police. There’s a sex maniac outside.

I remember once watching a brilliant old film of Buster Keaton’s, in which Buster’s character goes out one day to play a nice relaxing game of golf and ends up on the gallows, about to be hanged.

I forget the name of this film but, if you read the film-script book of Michael Armstrong’s hilarious sex comedy, ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE, like I just have, you’ll probably be able to work out why I connected the two oeuvres in my mind…

Derek: How anyone can turn a simple visit to a police station into a low-budget British sex comedy, I do not know …!

We first meet the titular private dick, Bob West, after he’s just delivered what used to be known as a jolly good seeing-to to a married woman, Gretchen Prentiss, whose husband’s out working nights.

Milkman: Morning, Mr. Prentiss. You’re up early?

Mr. Prentiss: Up early? I’m on nights this week.

Milkman: I bet the wife doesn’t like that?

Mr. Prentiss: Doesn’t seem to bother her.

Well, now we know why, lol. Why would she be lonely when she has Bob West, private dick, to keep her company? Although, to be brutally honest, Bob is not so much a private dick as the assistant to a private dick.

His boss, Judd Blake, is the one who really gets all the perks, the life of luxury and excitement … cocktails in St. Moritz, intrigue in Morocco, South of France on the yacht then straight off in a private jet to some dangerous assignment in South America or Tangiers …

Bob is understandably jealous of his suave, sophisticated boss. He works his way through secretaries like a chain-smoker. Judd Blake is handsome, debonair, middle-aged, elegant and vain, and, boy, doesn’t he know it.

Judd to the gauche, socially awkward Bob: Think yourself lucky you’re working for the biggest dick in the business. That says it all … But then one fine day, Judd and his latest secretary sweetie go away for a bit and Bob is unexpectedly left holding the reins.

Judd: Cases, Robert … cases.

Bob’s face instantly lights up.

Bob: Do you want me to handle them while you’re away?

Judd: No. I want you to take them down to the car.

The screenplay is chock-full of hilarious lines like that. Judd is adamant that Bob keeps his nose out of any ‘cases’ which may arise. He’s to hold the fort and take messages and that’s about it. But Bob has other ideas, especially when a gorgeous broad called Laura Sutton comes in to the office looking for help and mistakes Bob for his boss. Laura is a real hot tamale.

Laura: Let me explain. I used to be a professional model- fashion model. To be honest, I lived a pretty wild life, Mr. Blake … Until I met Ashley … Ashley Dotrice. It was love at first sight. The fact that he was eighty-seven and a multi-millionaire with a bad heart condition had nothing to do with it, naturally.

Oh, naturally. You can’t argue with love at first sight. Laura has a little problem, however. A nasty rotten anonymous blackmailer is threatening to scupper her lovely plans to inherit the now deceased Mr. Dotrice’s massive estate.

Will Mr. Blake please help her to see off the blackmailer so she can inherit her ancient lover’s millions without having to keep looking over her elegant shoulder? Bob, now cast ineluctably in the role of Judd Blake, Private Eye, eagerly agrees to help the stunning model in distress …

Laura invites Bob (still thinking he’s Judd Blake, his boss) down to Ashley’s rural seat, the rather sinister-sounding Grimsdyke Manor, to see what’s what. The house is chock-a-block with relatives and aged retainers.

There’s Craddock, the rusty old butler, and Zelda, the busty maid. There are Ashley’s two daughters: Medea, a tall, exotically attired woman with green hair who fancies herself as a bit of a psychic (I see the mark of death upon you), and Violet, step-mother to the well-endowed Clarissa and wife to spanking enthusiast Sydney Burke.

Violet: … We have a lovely house in Esher. Sydney built it. He’s a building contractor. Remember that block of flats that fell down last year? That was one of his.

So much for Sydney …! Anyway, Bob is determined to uncover the identity of Laura’s dastardly blackmailer and prove himself as big a dick as Judd Blake any day. Even if he has to bonk, screw, roger, diddle, fiddle, poke, pork, fondle, caress, ride, bump and grind, hump or jump the bones (did I leave any out?) of every female from Land’s End to John o’ Groats to do it. Well, or thereabouts …!

Sally, a desperate housewife: Then there’s the dustman. We’ve been working our way through ‘Emmanuelle’ in the mornings, then into the high-heeled boots and Gestapo uniform for a quick bit of ‘The Night Porter’ with the window cleaner. It helps liven up the day.

I’ll say it does. And then there’s Jane: Tell me, is it getting harder? Ahem. And as for Little Willy: Another man came and jumped up and down on Mummy last week. I’ll bet he did …!

The humping and jumping of bones Bob can do with one hand tied behind his back. But I doubt if he was prepared for his lovely, farcical sex comedy of errors and mistaken identity to turn into a proper, Agatha Christie-style murder mystery along the way:

Bob: What about the police? I mean, you can’t just go around the place hiding dead bodies when you feel like it. There’s laws about that sort of thing.

Laura: Nobody need know. There’s an old chalk quarry only a few miles from here. He wouldn’t be discovered for days.

Well, well, well. The plot definitely thickens. Bob’s time as Judd comes to an hilarious climax in a spot of cross-dressing:

Stage Manager: I thought we were only booking four girls? Who’s the big ugly one in the middle?

Who indeed? I’ll give you three guesses. By the way, here’s a riddle for y’all. Why did the private dick stab himself in the balls with a fork? Because it’s in the plot, that’s why, silly!

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE was filmed in 1976 with two of my absolute favourite actresses of the period, the fabulous Diana Dors and Suzy Kendall, in the cast-list. Harry H. Corbett from STEPTOE AND SON also starred, as Sydney the Spanker. The film script book, along with Michael’s other beautiful film books, are all available to buy now from the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I’ll give internationally famous superstar Lisa Moroni the last word:

‘You know, ever since I was a little girl- you know? I’ve had secret fantasies about dicks.’

Haven’t we all, Lisa lovey, haven’t we all … ?

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘MUTANTS.’ (1967) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

MUTANTS. (1967)

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…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I absolutely adored this sort of science fiction mystery thriller, penned by legendary screen-writer Michael Armstrong a few years after he himself holidayed in Venice, in the same area which he writes about in the screenplay.

His youthful exploits there nearly cost him his life on more than one occasion (just boyish high jinks, folks, nothing to see here, move along, lol), so I’m guessing the holiday had a profound effect on him, enabling him to write MUTANTS so easily and quickly, and with such feeling and a genuine sense of being there in the moment the action is taking place.

The story of why it didn’t get turned into a film, despite its massive potential and the fact that Michael had originally intended the main male role to go to iconic rock star David Bowie, star of his debut film, THE IMAGE, is told with honesty and poignancy in the chapter of the book entitled A HISTORY OF THE SCREEN PLAY.

In which, I must add, he also gives a stunningly familiar-seeming description of A Writer’s Insecurity and our general feeling that every word we’ve ever written is not fit to use as toilet paper with which to wipe Saddam Hussein’s arse, to gloriously misquote Bridget Jones in that terrific first film. You don’t mind, do ya, Bridge love…?

These books would make a fabulous Christmas present for the film fan in your life, by the way. If you’re strapped for cash, you can just buy one or two (or three!), but if you’re feeling flush, why not go for the full monty? The books come with gorgeous glossy covers and more film industry know-how and gossip inside than you can shake a stick at. I positively treasure my own copies.

EXT. VENICE NIGHT.

The sea-water splashing against the quayside-

Against the sides of moored gondola …

The pools of water on the streets …

Puddles reflecting the city’s antiquity …

Desolate now …

Barely a sound now …

Old …

So very, very old …

Now we move to a Venice beach in the late ‘sixties, which I’m guessing was a rather cool place to be. Not cool in the temperature sense, of course, as it’s pretty damn hot in the book and the sun presents as a fiery, unusually red ball in the sky.

Cathy Hinton and her older brother David are on holiday in the area, as are their two chums, Ann and Nick, who are boyfriend and girlfriend. They’re all camping at the exact site at which Michael himself once stayed as a penniless drama student on his holliers from the RADA, a place called Punta Sabioni. It’s across the lake from Venice proper, and it’s obviously cheaper than staying in one of the beautiful city’s posh hotels.

While on the beach one day, the quartet of youngsters attract the attention of a fellow English tourist, a Sarah Thornton whom Michael describes as ‘an attractive, over-dressed woman in her late forties, trying to look older.’

She immediately, and rather pushily, insists on taking the four under her obviously mature, cougar-ish wing, treating them to expensive meals, suites in the hotel where she’s staying and nights filled with champagne and laughter.

She has no family of her own and the day on which she introduces herself to them is allegedly her birthday, plus she’s got oodles of dosh and she’s paying for everything, shelling out money hand-over-fist, so the teens kind of feel like, well, if she wants to do all that for them, let her do it. They’re being shown a glimpse of the high life without having to pay a penny for it.

Sarah: Oh … well, maybe for tonight, you should stay over here? There’s plenty of space in my hotel room. I have a suite. You’d be more than welcome to stay the night- and that way we don’t have to break up the party … right?

The two boys exchange another glance, and grin back, ruefully.

Sarah beams back at them.

She has what she wanted.

What’s in it for this strange older woman who’s gone out of her way to become a feature in the youngsters’ lives? Well, the first thing she wants is David, who’s still in school and only about seventeen years old. She gets him blind drunk- on Sarah’s champagne, they all get blind drunk- and seduces him, the dirty cougar!

Sarah: You’re a beautiful child … so very young, so very, very beautiful. Are you glad you met me?

David’s younger sister Cathy can see the dangers of David getting involved with a woman who’s old enough to be his granny, but naturally David, thinking with his willy and not his head, is oblivious. Who cares, he says nonchalantly? Loads of young blokes hang out with older birds. Where’s the harm?

Sarah says some pretty far-out things. Like: You see that stretch of water over there? Well, it’s very, very deep- just that section; like an enormous black hole dug out of the sea. They once sent divers down to find out just how deep it was but they never came back and no one’s tried to find out since.

Shudder. Like the Marianas Trench in the west of the Pacific Ocean. The deepest oceanic trench there is. God knows what’s down there. Have you ever heard it said that we know more about what’s in outer space than we do about what’s in our oceans? I’d well believe it. In the meantime, our four young holiday-makers continue to swelter under a sun of an unnaturally red colour…

The last third or thereabouts of the book deals with What Happened To Poor David. I’m giving nothing away, but I will challenge you to find the Frankenstein moment in the script. A loving nod, I’m guessing, to the films Michael would have adored as a child and then a young man starting out in his career.

Okay, you’ve twisted my arm. Here’s a teensy-weensy hint of what’s to come, but don’t tell anyone I told you or I’ll send the boys round. Ah, I’m only kidding. There are no boys.

People everywhere are screaming;

Running away in alarm-

And that’s positively all I’m giving you. It’ll be well worth the suspense, I promise you.

MUTANTS is available to buy now at the following web addresses, along with other books in the Michael Armstrong collection. Get out your wallets, lads. Don’t be stingy now…!

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

Man: It’s extraordinary the way they can move separately when they grow or expand outwards...

I just want it all to stop … so we can go home. I want to go … home … I’m so scared. I just want to go home.

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘DELIVER US FROM EVIL.’ (1969) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘… 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!’

Downstairs …

The darkness of the hall …

The empty rooms …

The stairs …

Upstairs …

The closed bedroom doors …

Silence.

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.

Nikki turns

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:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S ‘REGIONS OF DARKNESS.’ (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

REGIONS OF DARKNESS. (1971)

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…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘Demons are our bad desires that have been suppressed.’ Sigmund Freud.

‘Within every human being, suppressed deep in his sub-conscious, lie the impulses of his own demonic origin. They are latent, always unwholesome and intensely horrific.’ Geoffrey Harding.

Simone looks at the closed door, half-hidden in the shadows at the end of the corridor…

I love REGIONS OF DARKNESS, originally intended to be one half of a Michael Armstrong/Hollywood horror movie double bill along with his screenplay THE LAMIA, but unfortunately this idea never came to fruition, for reasons you can read about in A History of the Screenplay in the REGIONS OF DARKNESS film script book. The book is out now from Michael’s publishers, Paper Dragon Productions.

I also love that screen-writer Michael Armstrong researched his screenplay by boning up, if you’ll excuse the rather obvious pun, on the works of that shy, retiring character known to history as Donatien Alphonse Francois, the Marquis de Sade.

De Sade’s oeuvres abound with graphic depictions of sexual fantasies involving violence, often extreme violence, sado-masochism, rape, sodomy and other, erm, things like that. Not the type of thing you’d read aloud to a blind and infirm aged aunt, in other words, not unless said aged aunt had been quite the swinger in her youth. Ahem.

Just to say, incidentally, that graphic depictions of sexual fantasies involving violence, often extreme violence, sado-masochism, rape, sodomy and other, erm, things like that, are also to be found in REGIONS OF DARKNESS, but naturally, here, none of it is gratuitous and is all done purely for the sake of art and the furtherance of story. Ahem again. Naughty Michael Armstrong…

This is the creepy tale of a beautiful young Frenchwoman called Simone Rangod, who comes from France to live in a gorgeous but spooky English country house where she has been engaged by a Mrs. Alice Harding to work as an au pair.

Alice Harding’s three sons, who all still live with her, are grown-up and not likely to need tucking into bed with a bottle of warm milk and a re-telling of Peter Pan, so Simone can take it that she’s here to help with the housework and not with the rearing of the sons, Peter, Roger and Eric Harding.

That’s not to say that the sons are oblivious to her not inconsiderable Continental charms. Eric, in particular, the widowed Mrs. Harding’s adopted son, takes a shine to Simone and she to him. She leaps willingly into Eric’s bed, but it’s not long before Simone is asking herself some pretty serious questions.

Why does Eric never leave the house? (Eric: I never leave the house.) Why do his mother and brothers keep such a close eye on him? Why is one half of the mansion closed off? (Okay, that could genuinely be just a housekeeping issue, but still…?)

Why do the family still set a place at table for the deceased paterfamilias, and why, in general, do they act as if Geoffrey Harding, the dad who died, is still alive when he’s, erm, not? ‘Sometimes, the way they all carry on, you’d think he was still alive.

Why are his paintings so gruesome, depicting nightmarish scenes of torture and cruelty the way they do? Was Geoffrey Harding, Esquire, sick in the head or what? Does this upcoming snippet of conversation shed any light?

Alice: My husband was a painter…

She notices Simone’s face, as she stares at the collection of ghoulish paintings.

Alice: He never seemed interested in doing landscapes or bowls of fruit like most artists.

Simone stops by one wall, on which hang portraits of young men interspersed with several nightmarish faces.

Alice: He met Austin Spare once- the painter- who got him interested in atavism.

Simone: Atavism?

Alice: … It’s to do with discovering one’s previous existences. My husband actually wrote a book on it called: THE DEMON IN MAN- hardly a bestseller but if you’re interested I can lend you a copy- provided you’ve got a strong stomach and don’t frighten easily?

Simone: Thank you, but I think these paintings will give me enough nightmares already…

Demons, eh? The plot thickens. And the more Simone tries to find out things about the Hardings and her beloved Eric, the murkier things appear. Doors open and close in the house, but no-one’s there when Simone goes to investigate. Demonic-looking faces peer in at her from the windows.

Eric’s self-portraits (yes, he’s an artist like his adopted Pops, Geoffrey Harding) are almost more horrific than his father’s…

Simone: … Why are they all so cruel?

Eric: Then that’s me. It must be. Through painting each one, I discover more and more about myself.

Simone: They’re like his (Geoffrey’s) paintings … They’re just like his paintings.

Eric: He taught me …

A shiver just ran through me there when I re-read that bit. Shades of Dorian Gray, much? Shades of M.R. James too, later on, when the young rent boy encounters the dust-sheets in the deserted part of the house doing that thing that sheets in ghost stories do. Here’s another snatch of conversation between Simone and Eric:

Simone: Eric, tell me? What is it you dream about that’s so frightening?

Eric: Myself … my previous existences, the torment of my soul … my death

Okay, so, either he’s a giant narcissist, who could benefit from going out into the world a bit and seeing that there are other things out there to obsess on besides himself, or a raving lunatic. I’ll give you just one more clue to the mystery that’s unravelling chez Harding, and it’s Peter’s answer to Simone’s question, what is atavism?

Peter: It’s a way of tracing back all your previous existences … earlier existences … back to the point of pre-human consciousness … to the time of creatures that were half-human, half-beast … and then even earlier … to our very beginnings. And that’s when he (Geoffrey Harding) found the source within those dark secret regions of his sub-conscious.

Well, I’ve said too much. This is another terrific, atmospheric story from Michael Armstrong that would have made a great horror film. I know that Michael had his own ideas as to whom he would have cast in the roles of Eric and Simone, but I’ve had a couple of brainwaves too.

For Eric, Shane Briant, a posh blonde frilly fellow best known for his performances in four Hammer horror films, including one aptly called DEMONS OF THE MIND, in which his frilliness and incestuous brain-sickness know practically no bounds.

A Hammer actress for Simone, a beautiful Frenchwoman called Yvonne Monlaur, whose sexy accent would charm ze birds from ze trees, and no fooling. I wonder what Michael would make of my two choices?

I love his own choice of the legendary Diana Dors for the part of Mrs. Ellesmere, the astonishingly well-read cook and charwoman to the Hardings: I like a bit of Dostoyevsky now and again. Doesn’t take so long to read as Tolstoy…!

REGIONS OF DARKNESS is available to buy now at these links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘Let us speak of unwholesome things. Let us speak of our inner desires and private fantasies; our secret impulses. For a vision of hell, look into the deepest regions of your own being.’

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

A FLORAL TALE BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: ANOTHER BRILLIANT SCREENPLAY BOOK REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

A FLORAL TALE. (1971)

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…’

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘Its (the play’s) jokey attacks on literary pretentiousness gave me the idea of turning it into a send-up of sixties European cinema and the current pretentious critical acclaim in which it wallowed.’

Hippolytus: Help!Rape!

Fairy Mustard-Blossom: Ooooh, ‘eckythump! She’s gone and suffocated in there! (and, later…) I think there must be something up with this wand… probably needs servicing.

Adonis to Persephone: Go back to your husband, Persephone. I’m sure he’d be pleased to see you once in a while.

Aphrodite to Persephone: What a total lack of pleasure to see you here, dear Persephone.

Hippa, on being a nymph: Unfortunately, quite a few of us do tend to get raped by the gods from time to time…. (and) Sometimes they turn themselves into animals to do it.

Hera to Echo the nymph: According to Artemis, you’ve been molested by a fairy?

Artemis the Hunter to Actaeon, a mortal and a playwright: You know, Actaeon, if you ever gave up all this silly writing nonsense and devoted yourself to my Hunt instead, I’d make you my favourite huntsman of all time. No-one can handle a shaft the way you do.’ (Writer’s note: What’s that, Artemis? Should he ‘re-train’ as a huntsman because his job in the Arts is gone forever due to COVID-19…?)

A FLORAL TALE is an absolute whopper of a screenplay from the Michael Armstrong collection of published works. Unfortunately, it was never made into a film (read THE HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY), but it makes for fantastic reading in the comfort of your own home. And he wrote it when he was only a young fella, as well, which is astonishing, given how complex and learned is the subject matter (Greek mythology).

It’s 390 pages of terrifically good value, containing not only the very funny screenplay (another of Michael’s unbeatable parodies; his specialised subject is definitely ‘The Send-up’), but also about a hundred pages of the most fantastic artwork for free as well; drawings and sketches of costumes and characters drawn by Michael himself with a view to attracting investors to the screenplay back in the day.

Set in Greece in mythological times, but with a definite flavour of present-day materialism, greed and immorality thrown in for good measure, it’s the story of Fairy Mustard-Blossom, a fairytale fairy based on a real person. (‘She was inspired by an extraordinary girl I knew who was the perfect actress to play her: a wonderful Lancashire comedienne I’d recently met called Veronica Doran.’)

Fairy Mustard-Blossom has been deprived of her wings because she keeps ballsing up the wishes she grants to people. They will be returned, the Fairy Queen graciously informs her, once you have granted a wish that will lead to a Happy Ever After ending.

Easier said and done for the less-than-sylph-like lass with the strong Northern England accent and a distinct penchant for screwing up everything she puts her hand to. Kind of a reverse Midas touch, which is quite apt as Midas, the mythical hoarder of gold, turns up in the story too.

Fairy Mustard-Blossom, as you might imagine from my description of her clumsy though well-meaning ineptness, creates havoc amongst the cast of thousands in this epic Greek mythology-traditional fairytale crossover.

As I’d studied the gods and goddesses of Ancient Greece and Rome in Classical Studies in school (my favourite subject, due to the presence of a gorgeous telly hunk called Michael Wood in the various documentaries the teacher screened for us; phwoar…!), I felt quite smug as I recognised their names in the screenplay: Zeus, the boss of all the gods; Hera, his suspicious Missus; Aphrodite, the goddess of love and bonking; Dionysus, the god of having yourself a good old knees-up; Hermes, the gofer of the gods, and so on and so forth.

In addition to gods and goddesses, the cast is peopled with nymphs (affiliated, I presume, with Gambollers Anonymous), satyrs (Michael writes some very biting satyr, as you know), mortals, titans, classical Heroes like Heracles, who famously goes into ‘labour’ twelve times, of which the shit-shovelling in the Augean stables is the only one I ever remember without prompting, and then, of course, there’s good old Fairy Mustard-Blossom herself, who always likes to lend her services, usually with disastrous consequences, wherever a soul in need presents itself.

Everyone in the cast is either having sex with someone, or trying to. Many characters are pining away for love of other characters, who barely know that they exist, and the pain of their unrequited love can lead them to do some crazy things.

Theseus, for example, loves his new wife Phaedra, but she only has eyes for the gigantic bulge in the crotch area of Theseus’s son, Hippolytus, who himself suffers agonies of love for Hyacinthus, a gorgeous young man friend who spurns him as a lover.

Hyacinthus digs Apollo and Apollo digs him, but Hyacinthus also attracts the terrible and most definitely unwanted attentions of Zephyrus, which storyline culminates in a most harrowing fate for the poor lad down the line.

Echo the nymph loves Narcissus, but Narcissus is initially frightened to death at the thought of being intimate with someone else, before deciding ultimately that the person he really loves is… himself. Pyramus loves Thisbe and Thisbe loves Pyramus, but pesky politics gets in the way of their dream, and, in any case, there’s a spy in the house of love…

Orpheus and Linus are rock stars, and millions of teenage fans want to have sex with them. Orpheus loves Eurydice, however, although their relationship is about to hit a sticky patch.

Clytie loves Apollo but he’s otherwise engaged, and Zeus loves anything he can get his god-like mitts on, basically. Witness this exchange between him and the rolling pin-wielding Missus, aka Hera, queen of the gods:

Zeus: I keep telling you, my dear! I’ve not been trying to seduce anyone- let alone a virginal nymph!

Hera: You really expect me to believe that? After the rape of Europa?

Zeus: I told you that wasn’t me, either! It was a white bull!

Hera: Everybody knows it was you! You even admitted it after she bore you three sons- and if that wasn’t bad enough, you then had another go at the poor girl in the shape of an eagle!! So don’t expect me to believe you’ve never tried it on as a pantomine fairy! (She slaps his face and storms off…)

Poor Zeus. He just can’t catch a break. Highlights of the screenplay include Eurydice’s ‘celebrity funeral,’ at which virgins are sacrificed as if they’re taking part in a television reality show. Here, the commentator is talking to a young virgin:

Commentator: Tell me, are your parents here today?

1st Virgin Youth: They’re in the audience over there, somewhere.

Commentator: I’m sure they’ll be feeling very proud when they see you up there being sacrificed.

I also love the storyline involving Prometheus, the Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans, and who’s now advocating a kind of free, independent thinking that’s got Zeus & Co. all hot under the collar.

The gods don’t want people thinking for themselves; they just want mindless obedience from the masses and the unquestioning adoration they think is due to them. You know what gods are like.

Anyway, I love the way that Prometheus is at one point made to appear as a Hitler-type character (the torchlight processions and adulation from the crowd) and, at another, as Jesus himself (the loaves and fishes thingymabob).

Prometheus’s storyline culminates in one of the funniest lines in a book which is already chock-a-block with killer one-liners and intellectual in-jokes, such as a bunch of cheerleaders for Heracles claiming that they’d ‘go into labour for Heracles any day…!’ Here’s the Prometheus one:

You don’t expect all this violence at a flogging…!

I also love this one:

Home owner: I did try to get my hands on a cloak of invisibility, but they’re quite hard to find…!

You’ll also learn the (floral) myths that lie behind the naming of various flowers such as Hyacinth and Narcissus, but don’t worry, Michael’s aim is to entertain, not beat you over the head with facts, lol. He’ll be so gentle with you that you’ll barely noticing you’re being educated too…!

A FLORAL TALE is available to buy now at these links:

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

Eeee…! I never had this trouble with Puss in Boots…!

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’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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: ROBIN HOOD. (1977) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

michael armstrong book trio

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

ROBIN HOOD. (1977)

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

Did’st thou hear the one about the minstrel who bought his wife a musical chastity belt and then couldn’t find the right key?

Robin: So, thou would’st join me in Sherwood Forest?

Will Scarlett: Well, we can either go there or back to my place. I’m not fussy.

Robin: And can’st handle a weapon, good Will?

Will Scarlett: I’ve never had any complaints so far.

Robin: Then thou art most welcome to come live with me in merry Sherwood.

Will Scarlett: Well, there’s no need to get that involved, is there? I mean, a quick one in the bushes’ll do me fine.

Everyone loves a nice bit of Robin Hood. He cuts such a romantic figure, doesn’t he, in his green tights and tunic and the jaunty little hat with the feather in it, swashbuckling his way with sword and bow and arrow through Sherwood Forest, with of course his faithful Ye Olde Merrie Men at his side.

Errol Flynn is probably most people’s idea of a favourite screen Robin Hood (1938 with Olivia De Havilland, Claude Rains and the magnificent Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisborne), and I agree that he made a terrific Robin Hood, but me, I always fancied the arse off Michael Praed from the ’80s TV series ROBIN OF SHERWOOD, featuring the fabulous theme tune, Robin, The Hooded Man, by Irish band Clannad.

He had such beautiful long mullety hair, this Robin, and I always felt that I was much better suited to him than that ginger-haired long drink of water they cast opposite him as Maid Marian. Humph. I wanted so badly to do a Miss Piggy on her every week. Hi-yah…! Heh-heh-heh.

The latest script-book of screenwriter, actor and director Michael Armstrong’s to roll off the presses at his publishers,’ PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS, is a fantastically funny spoof of Robin Hood, surely as thoroughly English a subject as Chaucer’s CANTERBURY TALES or Shakespeare’s plays about the English Kings, two of which figure in Ye Olde Tale of Robin Hood. Here’s how Michael’s Narrator opens the story:

‘Tis merry England in ye twelfth century. Upon ye royal throne sitteth good King Richard ye Lionheart. It wath a time of much trouble and strife for ’twas a country torn betwixt two peoples: ye Saxons and ye Normans. But a far greater shadow was looming up o’er ye horizon- ye Saracens had gotten Jerusalem. And so it was that good King Richard called for a crusade; a call which stirred the very heart of his people; responding in that manner so typical of ye British man when facing a national crisis…’

So, the bumbling, somewhat thick-as-a-plank King Richard goes off to fight the Crusades- I’m never quite sure why it’s any of his business but never mind, lol- and rather unwisely leaves his treacherous brother John to keep his throne warm for him in his absence:

Richard: Brother John, into thy hands do I entrust this fair land of England. Rule wisely over her till I return.

John: Don’t you worry about a thing, Dickie. You just stay out there as long as you like and have yourself a good time. Get a nice suntan, fight a few battles, all that sort of thing. No need to rush back.

Then, a bit later during their goodbye scene:

Richard: Dear brother John- ever so honest and true. How it comforts me to know I’m leaving England in safe hands. Keep up her high moral standards, brother, and don’t drop ’em for anyone.

Well, of course it would suit the snake-in-the-grass John perfectly well if Richard never came back, as he quite fancies the throne for himself, the dastardly sneak. Backed up by the oily, unctuous Sheriff of Nottingham, his toady, he plans to cripple the peasants of England with more taxes and tariffs (Prince John: Right! Right! Screw ’em for every penny!- Dirty rotten peasants.) and to grab all the power of the throne and the crown for himself.

Egged on and even manipulated by the Sheriff, he also intends to marry the lovely Maid Marian to the truly odious man-beast, Sir Guy of Gisborne, one of their minions, so that they can claim her father’s wealthy estate. Marian, of course, is madly in love with Robert of Locksley, aka Robin Hood, who now robs from the rich to give to the poor, so she won’t be one bit happy about that. No-one likes a forced marriage.

Meanwhile, Robin Hood, already an outlaw with a price on his head, is gathering to himself a little band of followers who are prepared to back him up in his attempts to shaft the soldiers and tax collectors of Prince John’s and the Sheriff’s at every opportunity.

Still known as Robert of Locksley, he’s also trying to come up with a suitable name for himself and his men. Here’s a conversation he has with Allan A Dale, MC of a local nightclub and Bella Stark, the sexy hostess of same:

Allan: Er… Robert?… Robbie, love… let me get this straight. You say you’re going to rob the rich?

Robin: You got it!

Allan: So far I like it. Great idea!… It’s the next bit I didn’t quite follow?

Robin: I rob from the rich and give it to the poor.

Allan: Give it to the poor… yes. That’s the bit I don’t quite-

Robin: Look, it’s very simple. The money I steal from-

Allan: Yes, yes, the stealing bit I understand. It’s the giving away part that I don’t get.

Bella: Is it some kind of tax dodge?

Robin: No, no. Listen- I live in Sherwood Forest and get myself a band of men together-

Allan: You’re gonna form a band? Robbie, you’ll need proper representation.

Robin: Not that kind of band. I’ve told you what we’re gonna do. Robert Fitzooth and his Merry Men! Sounds good- huh?

Allan: Fitzooth, Fitzschmutter! What’s the difference? It’s a lousy name. What kind of bookings are you going to get with a name like that? It’s gotta be something that’ll grab the attention. Something that’ll really stand out on a ”Wanted” poster. Something like Clint Travolta or Dustin de Niro.

Bella: Dustin de Niro and his Merry Men?- For a hood who’s robbing people?

Allan: Hood! That’s it! Dustin de Hood!

Shirley: Sounds like he’s running a car cleaning agency.

Robin: What’s wrong with my own name?

Allan: Robert?- Too old-fashioned. The kids’ll never go for it.

Bella: Well, if he’s gonna be robbing people and he’s a hood- why not call him Robbing Hood?

Allan: Robbin’ Hood! That’s it! Robin Hood!

They got there in the end…! This book, even more so than the others, is jam-packed with hilarious puns and one-liners and witticisms, many of them pertaining to the culture of the day (the late 1970s) because, as every good writer knows, spoofs set in Ye Olden Times are funnier when you bring in characters and situations and slang from Ye Moderne Times. (Think Blazing Saddles!) The scenes where Prince John is watching DALLAS and KOJAK on the ‘television’ are especially funny.

And the characters in ROBIN HOOD are frequently breaking the fourth wall and saying things like: ‘How come Errol Flynn (or Basil Rathbone) never had these problems?’ (That was Robin.) With so many plays-on-words and general merriment on nearly every page, the book zips along at a rip-roaring pace. Here’s a touching meeting between the two romantic leads:

Marian, on her balcony: Oh, Robin, Robin, wherefore art thou, Robin?

Robin: I’m down here behind the bushes.

Oh, the beautiful, painfully doomed romance of it all! And later, in the same scene:

Robin: And now, sweet Marian, ’tis time I headed back to leafy Sherwood. Methinks the cock hath already risen.

Marian: I’m bloody sure it did, you randy sod!

Snigger. Such delicious naughtiness. I love it. Anyway, Robin gathers to himself his crew, as I said, in the form of Much Jr., the disturbingly flatulent Stutely, the outrageously camp Will Scarlett, Little John (a super-cool black guy formerly known as Akunt-Akunta; this wicked pun has its ‘roots’ in a popular television series of the day), Friar Tuck the Flasher (‘During Communion, it wasn’t just the wafer he’d stick in your mouth.’) and Allan A Dale, his PR guy:

Allan: Ah, Robin, love- the very man I wanted to see. I need to get your okay on these. (He hands Robin a green tunic, on the front of which is printed his picture. Robin looks at it, bewildered.)

Robin: Er- great. What is it?

Allan: Official Robin Hood T-shirts. We’re planning to put them on the market by the end of the week along with horse and cart stickers and these ‘I’m merry and proud of it’ badges.

Then:

Allan: I’m telling you, Robbie, you’ve become the hottest thing since King Arthur and Camelot. I’ve even had NBC on, wanting exclusive video rights to your next robbery.

Robin Hood is now the biggest thing since the Beatles. The cult of Robin Hood makes  Beatlemania look like a fassing pad. I mean a passing fad. Excuse my Spoonerism. The teeny-boppers love Robin. In between signing autographs and working on firming up the Robin Hood brand, how will he ever find the time to enter the evil Sheriff of Nottingham’s archery contest, specially rigged to catch Robin the outlaw? Here’s what the contest’s News commentator has to say about it:

NEWS COMMENTATOR: And now we’re taking you over to Centre Court for live coverage of ye olde archery contest and this- the first match of the day- is between the number one seed, John Muckyrow of ye yet to be discovered United States-

(And a John McEnroe lookalike stands there, unloading a veritable arsenal of longbows from neat little zipper-bags.)

NEWS COMMENTATOR: -and Bjorn Bouf of Sherwood Forest, seeded 1,642.

(Which proves to be none other than ROBIN; no longer dressed in a Harlequin costume but now sporting a perky little Wimbledon tennis outfit in Lincoln Green. Their respective names appear on the scoreboard while the archery version of ball-boys crouch down in readiness.)

So now, the game is on. Will Robin come up to the mark? Will he get the girl, having first to rescue her from the clutches of the ape-like Sir Guy of Gisborne? Will King Richard come back and foil Baldrick’s- I mean, the Sheriff’s- cunning plans for world domination?

There’s loads more to come before the finale, including an hilarious torture scene, an even more hilarious scene in which Prince John’s castle is attacked by a very, very small army, a scene straight out of MACBETH and an unintentionally funny and prophetic reference to… ahem… Jimmy Saville. Ahem. I’ll get the eye-wash so you can pretend you didn’t read that bit, lol. Share it around now. The eye-wash, I mean.

Anyway, even JAWS himself makes an appearance in this, the funniest and wittiest of all Michael Armstrong’s script-books to date. It’s like MONTY PYTHON meets BLACKADDER meets MAID MARIAN AND HER MERRY MEN (Baldrick’s absolutely marvellous TV series on this exact subject!). Would I advise that you buy it? Verily, forsooth and, erm, loads more Ye Olden Times talk. Run and get it now. You’ll bloody well love it.

E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL, THE MAZE and ROBIN HOOD are available to buy now from Michael Armstrong’s website and also from his publishers, Paper Dragon Productions. Don’t waste any time. Go get ’em!

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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