POSSESSED. (1947) A FANTASTIC FILM NOIR REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

POSSESSED. (1947) BASED ON A STORY BY RITA WEIMAN. DIRECTED BY CURTIS BERNHARDT. STARRING JOAN CRAWFORD, VAN HEFLIN, RAYMOND MASSEY AND GERALDINE BROOKS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love Joan Crawford, she of the fur coats with the wide shoulders and the imposing eyebrows. She’s every bit as good an actress as Bette Davis, her one-time screen rival and her co-star in one of the best psychological horror films of all time, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962).

Maybe more people have a soft spot for Bette Davis than they do for Joan Crawford, though, and I suppose the film MOMMIE DEAREST (1981), about Joan’s alleged mistreatment of her children and especially her daughter Christina, didn’t do the lady any favours. I still love her work though. She really was an incredible actress, a true star in an era when that word truly meant something.

POSSESSED is my favourite Joanie film ever, after BABY JANE. Maybe it shouldn’t be, lol, because it reminds me painfully of every instance in which I ever tried to cling on to a guy who was just looking for no-strings-attached fun ‘n’ games and not a commitment for life, but it’s just such an excellent film noir that I can’t help loving it.

Still, I think we women like to watch films in which other women make the same cringeworthy mistakes we’ve already made a million times over in our own lives. It makes us feel better about ourselves, heh-heh-heh. I love watching FATAL ATTRACTION and feeling as virtuous as hell because I never went as far as boiling some guy’s bunny to pay him back for his nonsense…!

Joan’s character Louise Howell makes a lot of mistakes in this film. She’s completely obsessed with Van Heflin’s character, talented engineer David Sutton, even though David’s had his fun and now he wants to move on. The bastard…! Ooops, sorry. I promised myself I’d keep calm while writing this review and not get annoyed all over again at the cavalier ways of the male sex.

David is Louise’s lover initially, though we’re not sure for how long they’ve been together. But she says the maddest things to him, the kind of things guaranteed to send a man running for the hills. Things like, Oh, I never truly felt any emotions in life until I met you, David, and Don’t ever leave me, David, I can’t go back to being on the outside of other people’s lives, looking in!

No wonder David is a bit iffy about the whole thing. She dumps all the responsibility for her own happiness squarely on his shoulders, because she doesn’t realise that she’s actually responsible for her own happiness, and not David. It’s a hard lesson for anyone to have to learn, and sometimes we go through life without ever learning it properly.

Is David really as much a villain as he appears? He enjoys the fun and games of the relationship at first, but when Louise becomes too clingy, he tells her honestly that he doesn’t want it and he can’t handle it and he’s bailing out.

It’s hard to hear and it hurts like hell, but at least he’s being straight with her. It’s his right to bow out of the relationship if he wants to, even if it breaks Louise’s heart. It’s only when Louise refuses to let him go that he turns into the wise-cracking, heart-breaking bastard we see later on in the film.

The story moves on, and Louise, a private nurse, has married her rich employer, Dean Graham, whose deceased invalid wife was Louise’s patient. At their wedding, David meets Dean’s beautiful college-age daughter, Carol, and there’s a mutual attraction between them. Not surprisingly, as Carol, played by the actress Geraldine Brooks, resembles no-one so much as a baby Gilda, the role made famous by the stunning Rita Hayworth.

David, in this instance, should probably walk away, knowing that his affair with Carol is bound to cause Louise pain. But he doesn’t, and it does cause Louise, the second Mrs. Graham, the most terrible emotional pain imaginable.

Louise goes through agonies of jealousy and rage, and she even starts to hallucinate that her husband’s dead wife, her former patient, Pauline, is talking to her and urging her to kill herself. There are some fantastically spooky, very dark and shadowy scenes cast almost in the German Expressionism mould in which Louise hangs on to her sanity by the merest thread.

Shades of Alfred Hitchcock’s REBECCA (1940) abound here, as in the dead first wife in the water, the inquest held in an informal local setting rather than in a grand courtroom somewhere, and the rich man’s wife going under a false name to see a doctor who’s not her usual physician, because she wishes to keep her visit, and possible condition, a secret from her husband.

Raymond Massey (THE OLD DARK HOUSE, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH) does a brilliant job, by the way, as Louise’s rich husband. It heartens the soul to see how much he loves her and is prepared to side with her, especially at the end.

Anyway, Louise’s steadfast inability to relinquish her hold on David causes nothing but agonies for Louise herself and the people around her. She winds up in a hospital bed miles from home in a strange city, telling her tragic story to a bunch of medics, medics who, by the way, make some pretty alarming snap diagnoses for conditions that I’m sure would require a battery of complicated tests today, but hey, it was the ‘Forties and it was a movie. There’s probably no point in my being too nit-picky…!

This is a truly marvellous film, as I said earlier. Women will certainly love it and even guys will too, if they love classic movies from the days of the big studios when a film was called a ‘picture’ and a real star made some of the so-called ‘celebrities’ of today look like total nobodies. Miaow…! Sorry about that, lol.

Women in particular should watch POSSESSED if they’ve ever felt inclined to do a Glenn Close on some guy’s beloved Mr. Floppy Ears or Fluffy Tail. It’s a cautionary tale that (hopefully) should keep you well away from the bunny- hutch…

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.

DEMONS OF THE MIND. (1972) A SEXY HAMMER CLASSIC REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

DEMONS OF THE MIND. (1972) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION DIRECTED BY PETER SYKES. BASED ON A STORY BY FRANK GODWIN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Blood will have blood…’

This Hammer classic is such a frilly film. It’s a gorgeously dark, gothically atmospheric foray into madness, sex, blood-red murder, incest and sicknesses of the mind, that was rated 18s, and no wonder. It’s filthy, but so beautiful to look at!

It stars Robert Hardy (ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL) as a wealthy widower called Zorn, who lives a secluded and troubled life, largely of his own making.

His family background has mental illness and suicide in it, as a result of which Zorn keeps his two adult children imprisoned in his grand old mansion, just in case they end up going the same way.

He thinks they already show signs of wanting to mate with each other, for one, but I think that ship has already sailed, lol. They spend the whole film trying to get at each other, shure. They’re mad for each other, but not necessarily made for each other, as they only enable each other’s madness and self-destructive ways.

Shane Briant, a man who was surely born to wear the frilly blouse and tight trews of a handsome young fop from Ye Olden Times, plays the tall, blonde brother Emil, the older of the two ill-starred siblings. Gillian Hills, once tipped by Roger Vadim to be the next Brigitte Bardot, portrays the dewy-eyed, moist-lipped sister, Elizabeth.

She’s a dozy, night-gowned wench who can only speak one word, apparently, her brother’s name, ‘Emil,’ and Emil in his turn seems only capable of uttering the lines, ‘Let me see her! Elizabeth, come back!,’ which is really quite hilarious to watch.

The incestuous pair are literally kept under lock and key by their father, Zorn, who at times appear to be encouraging their madness, and their father’s big bald bodyguard, Klaus.

The young peoples’ Aunt Hilda, who believes in their terrible inheritance of madness even more than her brother does, engages in such old-fashioned medical practices as blood-letting on her two charges, which appear utterly barbaric to our modern minds.

Patrick Magee plays the sinister Dr. Falkenberg, the medic of dubious reputation employed by Zorn to oversee the ‘treatment’ and ‘cure’ of the two young ‘uns, when all they really need is to be separated from each other and brought up as normal people in a healthier and more wholesome atmosphere than Castle Zorn, which, let’s face it, wouldn’t be too hard to find. The very walls of the mansion ooze death, decay and insanity.

Meanwhile, down in the village, beautiful busty women are going missing and turning up dead in the lake or on the forest floor, artistically sprinkled with blood-red rose petals.

This component gives the film the juicy, sexy feel of a good old Hammer vampire/Dracula movie, and is always welcome. I mean, what’s a Hammer flick without a few slaughtered glamour models with their throats torn out and bodices ripped to buggery, lol…?

Shakespearean actor Michael Hordern turns up as a Bible-thumping cleric ready to cast out the village’s demons, which the villagers themselves are already suspecting might be witchcraft, and Paul Jones as Carl Richter, a young medical student who is in love with Elizabeth and is determined to save her (but not Emil, heh-heh-heh) from the ghastly ministrations of Dr. Falkenberg and Aunt Yvonne.

My favourite scene is probably the one where the village woman is drafted in up at Chateau Zorn to portray Elizabeth in a ‘sort of play,’ and it drives Emil over the edge. It doesn’t turn out too clever for the poor unfortunate village woman, either. And after all the fun she had choosing dresses for ages in the nip, as well…!

It’s such a sexy, gothic film, a kind of sick love story that has disease and sickly-sweet rotteness at its core, like a perfect-to-look-at-on-the-outside peach that would corrode your insides if you took a bite. I love it. It’s what Hammer horror does best. If you haven’t seen it yet, do it soon. You’ll love it too.

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.

DIARY OF A MADMAN. (1963) A VINCENT PRICE HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

vincent diary odette

DIARY OF A MADMAN. (1963) DIRECTED BY REGINALD LE BORG. BASED ON STORIES BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT. STARRING VINCENT PRICE, NANCY KOVACK AND IAN WOLFE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This isn’t one of the Roger Corman-Edgar Allan Poe adaptations that horror legend Vincent Price made for American International Pictures, but it’s every bit as mysterious, atmospheric and luxurious as those gorgeous films, even if it doesn’t have a crumbling old mist-wreathed castle by the sea for a setting.

Vincent Price stars as Simon Cordier, a rich, well-respected French magistrate living in Paris. He has all the trappings of wealth, but the pain of the death twelve years ago of his wife and baby is his constant bedfellow. Which just goes to show us that money can’t always bring you happiness, even if it can bring you all the snazzy new material stuff you could ever wish for. (Which, of course, is nice…!)

Simon visits a condemned prisoner called Louis Girot in prison on the eve of his execution. Girot, who has requested the meeting, has apparently murdered several people without motive, for which he’s going to get an all-expenses paid trip to Madame La Guillotine. He’s hoping to convince the magistrate of his innocence, by explaining how he wasn’t at all in his right mind when he carried out the killings. He wasn’t really even himself, if you get me.

He tells a sceptical Simon that he was possessed by an evil spirit when he did the murders, a spirit that can order him to kill at any time. When Simon leaves the man’s cell, this murderous curse no longer inhabits Girot’s doomed carcass, but Simon’s vibrant living one…

To soothe his troubled mind, which by the way has started imagining things and hearing voices, Simon takes up sculpting, a subject in which he has always had an interest. He meets a stunning young(ish) artist’s model called Odette Mallotte who, unknown to Simon, is married to a struggling artist called Paul Duclasse and is desperate to claw her way out of the poverty trap in which she is currently enmeshed.

The unscrupulous, materialistic Odette sees Simon as her meal ticket out of the slums. While he is sculpting her perfect head and shoulders, he falls in love with her sunny demeanour and her ability to laugh at life and all its follies. Which was precisely what she was hoping would happen and what she was trying to manipulate into happening…

To Odette’s delight, Simon, who is blissfully unaware of her marital status, proposes marriage. She’s not going to let a little thing like her living husband, Paul Duclasse, stand in the way of her advancement. Surely he can be easily brushed aside?

In the meantime, poor Simon is convinced that he is possessed by the evil spirit that transferred itself to him from the convicted prisoner Louis Girot. The spirit is an invisible entity called the Horla, who speaks to Simon when he is alone.

It has telekinetic powers and can move furniture about and throw things and smash things just like a poltergeist can. Poor Simon can’t decide whether he’s going mad or whether there really is a race of evil spirits known as the Horla, who can inhabit the bodies of men while manipulating their minds into committing the most heinous murders. When the Horla orders him to carry out a killing so dreadful it makes his blood run cold to think of it, he finds out first-hand what’s real and what’s not…

The titular diary is the journal kept by Simon Cordier from the moment he suspects he is going insane. He leaves it ‘to be opened in the event of my death’ and, in it, he hopes to convince the reader- and, by extension, the world- of the existence of the heretofore unknown Horla, and of the very real menace they represent to mankind.

You’ll know if you’ve been possessed by the Horla because a greenish glowing rectangle will appear across both your eyes and you’ll get a sudden uncontrollable urge to go all Norman Bates on someone with a fair-sized carving knife. There’s a definite PSYCHO moment in DIARY OF A MADMAN, complete with metaphorical shower curtains breaking free of their loopy things one by one as a desperate victim clutches at them for support. Very enjoyable stuff, lol.

Ian Wolfe you might recognise. Here, he plays Pierre, Simon Cordier’s devoted old retainer. He’s appeared in a few of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies of the ‘Forties, in at least one case playing- you guessed it!- a faithful old retainer, this time to the cold fish of a toff whose wife was found in the deserted church ringing feebly on the bell to attract attention. To the fact that she’d had her throat torn out by the same fiend who’d torn out the throats of various poor sheep in the area… Anyway, it’s lovely to see Ian Wolfe here in this gorgeous, sumptuously-coloured gothic horror movie. Any friend of Holmes’s is a friend of ours, right?

DIARY OF A MADMAN is as good a horror film as any of Vincent Price’s other works. Nancy Kovack is deliciously seductive as she takes the pins out of her hat and settles herself down on the model’s stool to loosen her long dark hair and pull down the front of her dress to bare her shoulders for Simon’s sculpting chisel to get to work on.

Remember her as Medea, the sexy, dark-haired priestess of the temple at Colchis whom Jason fishes out of the sea in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS? Covered in gold paint and nearly nude, the foxy wench does her frenzied dance with pure abandon in the temple, much to the delight of the watching males. She’s a real hottie, but dames like that ain’t nuthin’ but trouble. Just ask Simon Cordier…

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

NIGHTMARE. (1964) A VINTAGE HAMMER HORROR REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

nightmare

NIGHTMARE. (1964) DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS. WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY JIMMY SANGSTER. STARRING JENNIE LINDEN, MOIRA REDMOND, CLYTIE JESSOP, BRENDA BRUCE, GEORGE A. COOPER, IRENE RICHMOND AND DAVID KNIGHT.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a terrific old vintage Hammer Horror that’s similar in theme to another of their films, TASTE OF FEAR (1961), in that it deals with a woman who is a victim of the phenomenon known as ‘gaslighting.’

The term derives from the 1938 Patrick Hamilton play GASLIGHT and the two subsequent film adaptations of the play in 1940 and 1944. The 1944 film starred Ingrid Bergman and was a huge hit.

The term ‘gaslighting’ means to make another person doubt their own sanity or perceptions of reality by, basically, playing tricks on them and causing them to think that they’re losing their mind. It’s a nasty, despicable thing to do and is nearly always carried out for nefarious reasons and not for good ones.

Women are usually the victims and men the perpetrators, certainly in films anyway. I suppose you could ‘gaslight’ a man but it would just be harder, naturally, in view of their being made of sterner stuff than we hysterical, weak-minded females, who are so vulnerable and impressionable compared to our male overlords. Hahaha…

Anyway, NIGHTMARE is a gorgeously gothic and atmospheric black-and-white horror film in which a young woman at boarding/finishing school, Janet, is haunted by the shadowy memories of something that happened to her in her past.

Janet saw her mother stab her father to death when she was only eleven years old. The mother was declared insane and locked up in an asylum for life. Janet not only has the nightmares about the stabbing to contend with, but she’s also plagued with the most terrible fears that she’s going to end up like her mother, that she’ll inherit her mother’s insanity and end up going out of her mind and being incarcerated for life just like her Mum. They do say that these things run in the family, don’t they?

A nervous, impressionable young girl like Janet, with all her doubts and fears and issues regarding her traumatic past, would be a prime candidate for a spot of gaslighting. After a particularly severe bout of nightmares, Janet is sent home from school and back to High Towers, her old home, where she is now under the care of a man called Henry Baxter. Quite how he became her guardian after the death of her father and the incarceration of her mother I’m not exactly sure, but her guardian he indisputably is and he decides what’s good for her.

Accompanied by her teacher, Miss Lewis, Janet returns to High Towers to be greeted by the housekeeper, Mrs. Gibbs, and the chauffeur-cum-gardener-cum-handyman John, played by the wonderful character actor George A. Cooper. These two are old family retainers and are faithful friends to Janet and staunch defenders of hers as well. They give her all their loyalty, which is lovely to see.

There’s a new member of staff at High Towers now too though, an attractive nurse called Grace Maddox whom Henry Baxter has hired to be Janet’s ‘companion.’ Once she’s installed back home, however, Janet’s nightmares only seem to worsen.

Now she’s seeing a white-shrouded woman with a hideously scarred face roaming around the house wherever she looks. Janet feels like she’s going crazy with fear and doubt. These visions culminate in a horrible, unforeseen murder at High Towers. Who is the murder victim?

And who is the real victim here, the victim of a cruelly sadistic gaslighting campaign that causes a young woman to be locked up in an insane asylum and two vicious murderers to crawl out from under their stones for a brief period of basking in their mutual cleverness?

Of course, the evildoers in films nearly always get their richly-deserved come-uppances, as you know, and NIGHTMARE is no exception to this rule. I won’t tell you what happens but the ending is brilliantly worked out.

Those ingenious Hammer lads, Freddie Francis and Jimmy Sangster, have done it again. NIGHTMARE is well worth your time, and it’s vintage Hammer gold as well. Make sure you watch it.

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