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.

GODDESS OF LOVE. (2015) A SEXY-AS-HELL HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

goddess of love venus

GODDESS OF LOVE. (2015) WRITTEN AND PRODUCED BY ALEXIS KENDRA AND JON KNAUTZ. DIRECTED BY JON KNAUTZ. STARRING ALEXIS KENDRA, WOODY NAISMITH AND ELIZABETH SANDY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely loved, loved, loved this one, a kind of FATAL ATTRACTION or PLAY MISTY FOR ME for the modern era, with its themes of love, obsession and bloody revenge and the intriguing tagline of: Her Love Will Never Die. I only bought it by accident, too, which is what makes it all the more amazing.

A sweet old dear in a charity shop pointed out to me, when I was buying a DVD from their Halloween movie section, that for one extra euro I could get another DVD. So back I dutifully trot to the DVDs and I pick out GODDESS OF LOVE, only half expecting it to be any good. When it turned out to be one of my films of the year, I was thrilled with myself.

It was written and produced by the lead actress, and the reason it’s so good is that She. Knows. Women. She has clearly been through bad break-ups in her time (haven’t we all, lol) and known other women who have too, and she’s drawn on her knowledge and life experiences to make a devastatingly true-to-life film that most women will identify with.

Venus (hence the title) is an American stripper. That’s her real name in the film, by the way, even though her clients might doubt it. She’s a beautiful young woman who can make a fair few bob a night with her pole-dancing, her stripping and her lap-dancing, and she has a gorgeous flat with a balcony view but, as is probably the case with a lot of women who work in the sex industry, she isn’t a happy camper underneath the sexy exterior.

She drinks too much, she takes drugs and she also sees things. She has full-on visions, hallucinations of things that aren’t happening or aren’t there. Whether this is as a result of the drugs or a full-blown mental illness, we don’t know.

And there could be other underlying reasons why this happens. Sexual or other kinds of abuse in childhood, maybe. There could be many reasons why poor Venus is as messed-up as she is.

A lot of women who are abused in childhood end up working in the sex industry. To them, sex maybe equals love, and if they can get love this way, well, then, they will. And who could blame them, or judge them? Very few of us are morally fit to throw that first stone.

Anyway, one night at work Venus meets a punter called Brian, the guy whom all of us women are secretly dying to nab for ourselves. He’s tall, dark, bearded, handsome, rich, he drives a huge glossy SUV, he’s a successful photographer and… get this… he’s a widow to boot! His wife committed suicide and he’s very messed-up because of it. He’s hurt, grieving, wounded, sad… and gagging for sex. The perfect man, lol.

Venus, who can’t believe her luck, takes him home and makes love to him. They start a relationship, in which Venus immediately pulls out all the stops in order to make Brian’s life sweet, easy, loving and meaningful again. She completely forgets about her own life, needs and personality in order to make Brian’s life better and whole again.

I’ve done this many times myself in the past so I know how she feels and why she’s doing it. I got exhausted watching her do all the things I used to do with certain guys. Concentrating on her appearance to the point where she’s worn out, never able to just relax in her pyjamas in case he calls over for sex.

Cooking for him, keeping her flat exhaustively clean and tidy for him, dressing up in her hooker clothes to have sex with him, working hard to keep him amused, satisfied and interested in the bedroom and forgetting her own needs entirely.

There’s one really uncomfortable scene in which she’s all strippered up, doing a lap-dance for a bored and snoozy Brian, who says all he wants to do is sleep. How is it nice and relaxing for her to have sex with him, when she feels obliged to treat him like a punter who must always get his money’s worth? She feels like she has to put on a performance, a great big spectacular show, for him every time. It’s awful to watch, but it’s her own fault.

Clearly, like many of us, she feels like her own looks and personality aren’t enough to keep him. She has to become a complete and utter doormat for him as well. It’s so sad to watch, and yet we women do this for men all the time.

The only reason I’m not doing it myself for some guy right this very minute is because I took my frozen heart out of circulation for a bit so that I’d have time to write my romantic fiction novel, which I did. At least I did that. Maybe it was something of a self-protection thing too.

I pride myself on having learned from my previous mistakes, but probably all it’d take for me to be back living for some bloke twenty-four-seven would be for ‘some bloke’ to crawl out of the woodwork claiming he loved me too. That’s how easy it is to steal away a woman’s heart.

Anyway, even more embarrassing to watch is when Venus presents Brian with a beautifully wrapped package containing a statuette of the famous Venus De Milo after which Venus was named, the Goddess of Love with the arms lopped off at the elbows.

Not only does Brian, supposedly a photographer and connoisseur of beauty, not know who this iconic creature is, but he hasn’t a clue why Venus is giving him such a thoughtfully chosen gift. The cretinous philistine. Who doesn’t know who the Venus De Milo is, and what kind of photographer worth his salt hasn’t heard of it?

The work in the relationship is all being done by Venus. She sends the little loving ‘miss you’ texts, she arranges all the dates and the nights out, she puts her own life completely and utterly on hold while she waits for Brian to phone.

She even spies on him, sitting on the cold damp ground by the trees across from his fabulous gaff, for hours on end in the dark, to see if he’s doing what he said he’d be doing on nights when he can’t see her, ie, working away quietly at home by himself.

She has good reason to believe that he might be seeing another woman, a stunning-looking antiques shop owner called Christine LeGrande. Christine was his deceased wife’s best friend, she’s posed nude for his photography sessions and they had a ‘brief fling’ when Brian’s wife killed herself, because they each knew the kind of pain the other was going through.

I’d be 99.99% certain that Christine’s ‘pain’ on losing her friend was 100% assuaged by gaining the friend’s husband, whom I’ve already stated is the kind of man most women would kill for. And what an irony that is, given what happens in the second half of the film when poor, poor Venus goes round to Brian’s house one night and discovers the real truth about her snivelling, gutless and faithless so-called boyfriend…

I won’t tell you how the film ends because it’s just too good to spoil, but Venus’s descent into what the DVD box calls ‘the dark side of psycho-sexual insanity’ is fantastic to watch but we feel awful for Venus at the same time.

And the sad thing about it is that guys watching this film will just dismiss Venus as another mental-as-f*ck bunny-boiler, because doing that means that they won’t ever have to look at their own possibly faulty, irresponsible behaviour towards women. Guys never learn, and women continue to suffer.

That’s not to say that Venus is entirely blameless and put-upon in this whole mess. She doesn’t derive her self-esteem from herself (the clue’s in the name, apparently!), but has grown used to deriving it from the men in her life. As someone who’s done this their whole life, I can’t help but relate to this. At least I have the awareness about this now, but having the awareness is only half the battle, sadly. Lol…! Why can’t it ever be the whole battle?

Venus only feels good about herself when her relationships are going well; when they begin to unravel, so do her good feelings about herself. And then the downward spiral into drink, drugs and feeling shit about herself will begin to bubble over, and it’s never that far from the surface at any time anyway. Alexis Kendra is a film-maker whose work I’d love to see more of. I’ve said it earlier and I’ll finish on it. She knows women, and she knows the struggle 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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

 

FRANKIE AND JOHNNY. (1991) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

frankie johnny portrait

FRANKIE AND JOHNNY. (1991) BASED ON THE STAGEPLAY ‘FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIR DE LUNE’ BY TERRENCE MCNALLY. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY GARRY MARSHALL.

STARRING AL PACINO, MICHELLE PFEIFFER, NATHAN LANE, KATE NELLIGAN, JANE MORRIS AND HECTOR ELIZONDO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘You never choose love. Love chooses you.’

‘We were a couple before we ever met.’

This is a romantic comedy by the guy who’s to blame for PRETTY WOMAN, possibly the most unrealistic screen portrayal of a prostitute ever. Most prostitutes don’t look like Julia Roberts, and most prostitutes don’t get whisked away from their seedy, sordid lives by billionaires who look like Richard Gere.

It’s a pure fairytale, a princess-and-her-knight-on-a-white-charger fantasy, in which the woman gets ‘saved’ from her cruddy life by Some Guy. Some Controlling Asshole, more like. I never liked PRETTY WOMAN, partly because of the mad above-mentioned storyline and partly because I could never stand Richard Gere.

I adore FRANKIE AND JOHNNY, though, despite the fact that it, too, depicts Michelle Pfeiffer’s life as Frankie to be the saddest, loneliest most pointless existence ever. Until Al Pacino as Johnny, her knight-in-shining-armour, comes into it, that is.

Then she’s all fulfilled and happy as a woman, and it’s all thanks to This One Man. Grrrrrr. It’s a good thing that I happen to really like Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino. They were great together in SCARFACE and they have good chemistry here too.

Frankie is a waitress in Nick’s (Hector Elizondo) greasy spoon diner in New York. She wears the little cute pink waitress dress and the little scuffed trainers with the ankle socks, and she ties her limp greasy hair up in an anyhow old ponytail.

She has good friends at her job, even though the other three waitresses working at Nick’s are mostly there to portray for the viewer the Three Stages Of Spinsterhood. Cora is the past-her-prime slutty one with a heart of pure gold who can still pull a bloke for sex, but each subsequent rubbish one-night-stand at her flat, with her pet moggy watching, just takes another great big bite out of her empty soul which can ill afford it.

Nedda, whom I personally love for her don’t-give-a-shit individuality, is the dowdy virginal one who’s probably never had sex and who goes home alone every night to her pet turtle. A bit like twin spinster sisters Patty and Selma from THE SIMPSONS. And yet she’s funny and witty with a great dry sense of humour and a have-a-go attitude. Just look at her up dancing!

Helen, the eldest of all the waitresses who’s worked at Nick’s for donkey’s years, is the real cautionary tale as she dies alone and, we presume, unloved, near the start of the film. Although we can clearly see that each of the three waitresses is a wonderful woman with so much untapped potential, the film is clearly warning us lady viewers to Find A Man Sharpish Or We’ll End Up Like One Of The Waitresses In FRANKIE AND JOHNNY.

Anyway, Frankie has been messed about big-time by guys so, when we meet her, she thinks she’s off men for life. She has her little self-contained flat which has a terrific view of all her neighbours’ places (think Jimmy Stewart in REAR WINDOW), and she has her lovely funny Gay Best Friend Tim and his new boyfriend Bobby for company when she needs them.

She’s just bought a VCR for herself and there’s a pizza place nearby, so she’s totally sorted for her evening’s sustenance and entertainment when work finishes for the day. What the bloody hell does she want with a man? If she needs a lightbulb changing or a fuse mending, she’s got the two gay lads to rush to the rescue.

(Now, she might of course know how to do-it-herself but, having seen her efforts with the new VCR, this is doubtful. The film is heavily implying that, if she had a man in her life, she wouldn’t have to worry her fluffy little head about nasty things like recalcitrant VCRs. Hmmm.)

Frankie’s still immersed in her mind in the bad relationships of the past. She’s reluctant to move on and reluctant to relinquish the pain and suffering of this self- same past. We’ve all been there. Nestling the pain of past break-ups permanently close to our bosoms can excuse us from risking the doubts and uncertainties inherent in getting involved with someone new.

Frankie’s more used to the pain, you see. She carries it around with her everywhere. She wears it like a bloody badge. It’s all nicely and safely within her comfort zone and, in order to get her to leave it, you’d nearly have to prise her out of it with a knife like she was a piece of shellfish not at all keen to leave the safety and security of the shell. She might as well have FRAGILE: I HAVE BEEN HURT BY MEN BEFORE tattooed across her forehead for all to see.

And then along comes Johnny, ex-jailbird (don’t worry, it was only for petty fraud, nothing more serious!) and Nick’s new quirky short-order cook at the diner, to confound and confuse all Frankie’s sensibilities and all her nice neat notions of what love is meant to be like.

Johnny is open about his feelings for Frankie. Despite her best efforts, she’s attracted to him too and they start seeing each other. But Johnny very much believes in living in the here-and-now and judging people on their merits as he sees them, whereas Frankie is still dwelling in the painful territories of her disastrous romantic past and she now tars all men with the same brush.

You’re a man? Oh, right, well, you’re obviously a cruel abusive bastard like the other men I’ve known and I want nothing whatsoever to do with you. Johnny, however, takes great exception to being tarred with this rather grubby brush and tries to show Frankie that not all men are shits. He’s got an uphill job ahead of him, though.

Johnny’s trouble is that he won’t stay in his little box, in the neat little compartment in Frankie’s life marked ‘Men.’ Like when he shows up at her bowling night and she’s completely flummoxed because it’s her bowling night, not his. How dare he show up unscheduled, making himself popular with Tim and her gal-pals?

FRANKIE AND JOHNNY is another fairytale, another fantasy romance in which the woman is saved by a man, and not even a billionaire this time but a short-order cook and ex-con. The message being, I suppose, that if you’re a woman flirting with middle-age whose biological clock, let’s face it, is probably going like the clappers, then any man at all will do to arrest the rot, as it were. I hate that idea, but I really do love this film. Why?

Oh, it’s just everything, you know? It’s the chemistry between the two incredibly attractive leads, it’s the New York setting in which anything wonderful, however unlikely, might happen. It’s the beautiful and delicate signature tune by Claude Debussy.

It’s the soul and the indefatigable spirit of The Waitresses (Christmas Wrapping, anyone?), and it’s the hope that exists within each and every one of us that, no matter how shit things get, there’ll always be that one perfect person out there for us. So you didn’t know that I was a hopeless romantic, huh? Well, whaddya know? Ya learn something new every day…

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