THE VAMPYRE: THE SECRET HISTORY OF LORD BYRON. (1995) BY TOM HOLLAND. BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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THE VAMPYRE: THE SECRET HISTORY OF LORD BYRON. BY TOM HOLLAND. (1995) BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Not since INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE was published almost twenty years ago has a novel of this genre appeared that’s half as good as Tom Holland’s THE VAMPYRE… a powerfully atmospheric tale.’

COMPANY.

‘Vampire fiction gets a transfusion… a classical alternative to the traditional tale; Byron himself would have been pleased by such an eerie, erudite addition to his myth.’

TIME OUT.

‘A tour de force of scholarship and gothicity.’

LOS ANGELES TIMES.

Well, way to make Lord Byron (1788-1824) even cooler, lol. The early nineteenth century Romantic poet had already acquired the reputation of being quite the cool dude of mystery and danger; hadn’t Lady Caroline Lamb said of him that he was ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know…?’

And then along comes Tom Holland, writer, to make Byron a vampire as well as a cad, a rake, a bounder, a club-footed seducer of women and writer of such poems as CHILDE HAROLD’S PILGRIMAGE, SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY and ODE TO NAPOLEON BUONAPARTE. He might as well have made him into the next James Bond or successor to Indiana Jones while he was about it…!

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I must say, having an affinity for both vampires and the Romantic poets, especially Byron and his pal Percy Bysshe Shelley, both of whom were present at the Villa Diodati on Lake Geneva in Switzerland that fateful stormy summer during which Mary Shelley penned FRANKENSTEIN, the most famous book of gothic fiction ever written, besides Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, of course.

The book THE VAMPYRE is fiction, but it follows the course of Lord Byron’s life pretty closely from the time he first decides to leave England for ‘a tour of the Continent,’ and the characters in Lord Byron’s real life are all present here also, as well as some rather toothsome and bloodthirsty new creations of Tom Holland’s.

The book has been likened to Anne Rice’s INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and, indeed, Lord Byron is, in fact, relating the story of his ‘fall,’ as he calls it, to a young woman called Rebecca, a descendant of his who has been mysteriously summoned to Byron’s house in modern day England.

Here’s what he tells her about his European travels: ‘It was the custom then for men such as myself, well-bred and hopelessly in debt, to perform a tour of the Continent, long seen by the English as the most suitable place for the young to take rapid steps in the career of vice. I wanted to sample new pleasures, new sensations and delights- everything for which England was too narrow and tight, and which I knew, abroad, would be easy to procure.’

He travels with his friend Hobhouse. In Greece, he is turned into a vampire by a terrifying man-being called Vakhel Pasha, who finds Byron beautiful and clever and a unique individual worthy of all the knowledge of the Universe which the Pasha is keen to impart to him. The Pasha calls this transference ‘the Gift;’ Byron has reason in time to view it as ‘the Curse.’

Byron has become a ‘vardoulacha;’ ‘The vardoulacha drinks blood,’ we’re told in the book. ‘It is an evil thing. You must beware of it, for it prefers to drink from a living man.’

If you think you don’t know the word, you do, lol, if you’ve ever seen Mario Bava’s genuinely frightening movie BLACK SABBATH (yes, yes, the band took their name from this film!). The middle section stars Boris Karloff and it’s about vampires or vardoulacha, that’s all I’ll say…!

The Pasha has much to teach Byron before he vampirises him: ‘Do not be afraid, milord. Be young and old; be human and divine; be beyond life, and beyond death. If you can be all these things together in your being and your thoughts, then- then, milord- you will have discovered immortality.’

That’s kind of a tall order, is that. I mean, if we could all do this stuff, we’d all be going around achieving immortality all the time. The fact that we’re not is possibly testament to how difficult it is. ‘I give you knowledge,’ the Pasha says then another time. ‘Knowledge and eternity. I curse you with them.’ Clearly the one-for-all gift voucher hadn’t yet been invented…!

Byron likes the idea of being immortal, but not of drinking blood. At first, the notion revolts him. But if drinking blood is what he has to do to survive, he’ll do it. ‘I felt the incisors extend from my gums- the skin gave- blood, in a soft silken spurt, filled my mouth. I felt a shuddering delirium, as the blood was pumped by the dying man’s heart, and rain flooded out across my parched skin and throat. I drained my victim white. When I had finished, his gore in my blood felt heavy like a drug.’ Intoxicating stuff.

With a fellow vampire, Lovelace, Byron embarks on an orgy of blood and debauchery. He also learns everything there is to know about being a vampire. ‘Much as a lover is instructed by a courtesan, so I was taught the arts of drinking blood. I learned how to enter a victim’s dreams, how to master my own, how to hypnotise and generate illusions and desires.’

A return to England, and Byron finds much to amuse him in the salons of upper crust London, and much to slake his thirst in the back alleys. ‘I returned to London, that mighty vortex of all pleasure and vice, and climbed the giddy circles of its delights. In the dark places of the city, where misery bred nightmares far worse than myself, I became a whispered rumour of horror, stalking the drunk and the criminal; I fed with a greedy compulsion, cloaked in the filthy mists of the slums.’

After an incestuous affair with his half-sister Augusta Leigh and an unsuccessful marriage to Annabella Millbanke (why does the vampire Byron want a child so much, and what is the ‘golden blood’ he desires above all else?), Byron leaves England forever in 1816.

While in Brussels, he desires to see ‘the fields of Waterloo, where the great battle had been fought a year before.’ The bit where the legions and battalions of dead soldiers rise up from their graves to salute Byron as their ‘Emperor of the Dead’ is magnificently chilling and my personal favourite bit of the book, even over and above the fabulous Villa Diodati stuff, which soon follows.

In Switzerland, Byron, his physician Polidori, the poet Shelley, his mistress Mary and Byron’s teenage mistress Claire Clairmont (whom he’s desperate to get rid of because she’s too clingy!) all play the game of ‘Who can write the best ghost story?,’ to which history has already testified.

Byron, who swings both ways in the book, is extremely attracted to the intelligent, soulful and golden-haired Shelley. He is also desperate to get Shelley to come over to the dark side and become a vampire like him, but he is reluctant to force vampirism on him and wants Shelley to come to him willingly. He might be in for a bit of a wait, so…!

One person who’s mad keen to be vampirised by Byron is the young Dr. Polidori, who’s half-crazed with jealousy of Byron’s well-deserved fame as a poet and the fact that Byron’s been given the gift of eternal life and more knowledge than you can shake a stick at. Whether Byron chooses to share his ‘Gift’ with the odious, poisonous Polidori or not, he will find his former friend a thorn in his side from this time onwards…

The descriptions of Venice, where Byron spends some time, are gorgeous too. ‘Venice had grown into a playground of depravity. Everything about her was extraordinary, and her aspect like a dream- splendid and filthy, graceful and cruel, a whore whose loveliness conceals her disease. I found in Venice, in her stone and water and light, an embodiment of the beauty and vileness of myself. She was the vampire of cities. I claimed her as my right.’ The images of buildings of decaying grandeur sliding over time into the slimy waters of the canals are firmly established in the reader’s mind.

Then there’s Byron’s overwhelming love for the beautiful slave girl of his ‘creator,’ Vakhel Pasha’s, and his disconcerting discovery that he may have gained immortality, in that he will now live forever, but this won’t stop him from growing older and more hideous with time. Only drinking ‘the golden blood’ can prevent this; but where is he going to find a shop that stocks it at this hour of the night…?

There’s also his real-life desire to help the Greeks in their time of revolution, and finally the crippling loneliness that strikes every vampire, unless they are lucky enough to find suitable companions for themselves down through the centuries. Catherine Deneuve’s character Miriam Blaylock in vampire flick THE HUNGER (1983) is a lady who refuses to be lonely; but how happy are her consorts?

Anyway, I’ll leave you with the stern words of wisdom imparted by Lord Byron to the loathsome Polidori: ‘You must steer your own course… We are all lonely, we who wander the Ocean of Time…’ For secret reasons which I am forbidden to share with you, I couldn’t have put it better myself…

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

MARY SHELLEY’S ‘FRANKENSTEIN’- THE BOOK. (1816) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

mary shelley frankie

MARY SHELLEY’S ‘FRANKENSTEIN.’ (1816) BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

2018, a full two centuries after Mary Shelley wrote her first and most celebrated novel, was what I now refer to as my Frankenstein year. In April, I got to see James Whale’s fabulous horror movie FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and its sequel, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), on the big screen as part of a one-day James Whale festival, which was fantastic as I’d loved those two films for such a long time.

Then, in October, as part of the Irish Film Institute’s annual Halloween Horrorthon, I saw Hammer Horror’s FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974) on the big screen also. This was preceded by a brilliant ninety-minute lecture on FRANKENSTEIN, THE FIRST 200 YEARS by film historian and well-known FRANKENSTEIN expert Sir Christopher Frayling, whose book of the same name I purchased on the break and got him to sign for me.

He wrote the words ‘It’s alive…!’ under his signature! I felt so special. I later found out that he’d signed everyone’s books with the same phrase but whatever, it was all good, lol. I read the book and enjoyed every page, then I went and found the 1910 Thomas Edison film version of FRANKENSTEIN on Youtube and watched this too. It’s less than a quarter of an hour long but it’s freakishly memorable, with a pretty terrifying-looking Monster.

Anyway, after this wonderful experience I had no choice but to read the book behind all the films for the first time ever. I started reading it on November the nineteenth and I finished it on December the first.

I’d been told that it was difficult to read and even boring at times, but I didn’t find it so, except when the Creature went on for nearly fifty pages about how marvellous and saintly and sweet his precious cottagers were. Personally, I could take ’em or leave ’em, these irritating paragons of woodland virtue and candidates for the bloody sainthood…!

I shall attempt now to synopsise the plot for y’all in as simple and easy-to-remember a fashion as possible, as much for my own benefit as for anyone else’s. Having gone to the trouble finally of reading the book, I don’t want to ever forget it. It’s literally too good to be forgotten. This is to be my written record of this most exceptional year and this most exceptional Gothic novel.

The framing story involves an Englishman called Robert Walton writing to his married sister back in England of his expeditions to the polar ice-caps of the world. Whilst up there in the cold and snow, he and his crew rescue an exhausted solitary male who’s about to expire out on the ice.

The traumatised and lonely poor man is one Victor Frankenstein from Geneva in Switzerland, who is pursuing to the ends of the Earth a Creature of whom Robert Walton and his crew realise that they may already have caught a glimpse, out on the ice all alone just like his pursuer, Victor Frankenstein. This is Victor Frankenstein’s story.

After a positively charmed and privileged early life (‘No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself.’), Victor goes off to college after the death of his beloved Mother and resolves to make the best of these important years. He’s a whizz at Science and Chemistry and whatnot and very quickly impresses his tutors with his hard work and willingness to apply himself. He quickly works out where his real interests lie.

‘It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or, in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.’

Long story short, he discovers that he has a burning urge to create life himself from the no-longer-living bits and pieces of cadavers. He gets the idea from all the ‘natural philiosophers’ he’s been reading up on and now sees as his idols.

For two whole years he works day and night on his personal project (‘I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.’), pretty much to the exclusion of all else. Finally, he is successful. ‘On a dreary night of November… I saw the dull yellow eye of the Creature open.’

The awful thing about all this exhaustive labour is that, when Victor beholds the hideousness of the thing he has created, he’s so horrified that he runs away in terror and leaves the poor just-birthed Creature to fend for itself in the wilds for several long months. In this respect, Victor, I feel, has only got himself to blame for the nightmare which ensues.

Victor eventually travels home to Geneva, where he learns that his younger brother William has been brutally murdered by a stranger. A servant and friend of the house, a sweet and kind-hearted young lady called Justine, is to be executed for his murder.

Victor’s widowed father and Victor’s Cousin Elizabeth, in reality an adopted daughter of the family and Victor’s betrothed and, indeed, beloved, are utterly distraught. Justine could not be capable of such a monstrous, cold-blooded act of hatred and disdain, they feel sure of this.

Victor learns the truth of the matter from his recently-turned-up-again Creature but, alas, it’s too late to save Justine from the gallows. From this point on, if he didn’t already feel this way, Victor is living in a nightmare from which he can’t wake up. There is no waking up. He feels like he murdered William and Justine, ‘the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts,’ with his own hands.

The Creature tells Victor what he’s been up to this past couple of years, but it’s not an amiable catch-up between friends in a Starbucks over a skinny latte and a poppyseed muffin. The Creature Victor deliberately imbued with life has lived a miserable existence thus far. He’s been hiding out, lonely, cold, hungry and isolated from everything that is good in life.

After telling Victor how he was forcibly rejected by the sickly-sweet-and-saccharine cottagers to whose life he’s been an outside observer for some time, he informs his maker in no uncertain terms (and he’s right!) that it’s his, Victor’s, fault that he’s so wretched, alone and miserable.

‘Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.’ The poor wee Creature!

I don’t know about you guys, but I blame Victor entirely for the miserable life in which the Creature finds himself trapped. How dare Victor give him life and then abandon him to a horrible fate just because he’s ugly?

Surely it’s Victor’s responsibility to put things right? That’s certainly what the Creature thinks, anyway. Finally Victor comes round to this way of thinking. ‘For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness.’ Darn tootin.’ Quite honestly, it’s about bloody time he honoured his responsibilities to the Creature he himself created.

So what is it exactly that the Creature wants? Well, he jolly well wants a girlfriend, a girlfriend like himself, made in the same mould as himself. ‘I am alone, and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species, and have the same defects. This being you must create.’ Sounds perfectly fair to me.

Victor reluctantly agrees to make the Creature a hot girlfriend, lol. The Creature warns him that he’ll be keeping an eye on the proceedings from a discreet distance so Victor isn’t even to dream of welching on the deal. ‘I shall be with you on your wedding night,’ he famously- and ominously- threatens his maker.

So off Victor goes to an isolated spot in England to start work on a lady friend for his Monster. ‘To England, therefore, I was bound, and it was understood that my union with Elizabeth should take place immediately on my return.’ Then:

‘I now also began to collect the materials necessary for my new creation, and this was to me like the torture of single drops of water continually falling on the head.’

Halfway through the sickening, grisly operation, however, he decides he can’t possibly risk bringing another dangerous, malevolent and mankind-hating Creature into the world (‘To create another like the fiend I had first made would be an act of the basest and most atrocious selfishness.’) and he downs tools, in plain sight of the Monster whose murderous rage will now know no bounds.

The horror just keeps on being ratcheted up. The murders of Victor’s best mate Henry Clerval and of the beautiful bride Elizabeth Lavenza on her wedding night to Victor, just like the Creature foretold, and then the death of Victor’s father, probably from stress and worry, now take place. (‘He could not live under the horrors that were accumulated around him: the springs of existence suddenly gave way.’) These dreadful killings extinguish for all time the last rays of light and goodness and happiness from Victor’s life.

‘The cup of life was poisoned forever; and although the sun shone upon me as upon the happy and gay of heart, I saw around me nothing but a dense and frightful darkness, penetrated by no light but the glimmer of two eyes that glared upon me.’

He resolves now to chase his foul Creature to the ends of the Earth, if needs be, and there kill him and avenge his beloved dead. Only then can Victor, exhausted and heartbroken, find peace in death himself.

After a long and arduous chase, fraught with terrible perils that leave Victor clinging onto life by only the most tenuous of threads, he meets Robert Walton’s ship in the very midst of the polar ice-caps.

There he tells the spellbound sea-captain the story of his life, his life’s work and his life’s miseries before he expires, his revenge mission unsatisfied. So much for: ‘But revenge kept me alive; I dared not die and leave my adversary in being.’

A conversation between Robert Walton and the Creature over Victor’s death-bed (‘Never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face, of such loathsome and appalling hideousness.’) apprises us of the Monster’s lonely and heart-rending final intentions.

He regrets what he has done to Victor (‘But now crime has degraded me beneath the merest animal.’) and now he’s going off alone to die in the ice-caps. ‘I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames.’ Then finally: ‘He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.’ It’s a truly heart-breaking ending.

I’m thrilled that I’ve finally read the horror story written by Mary Shelley (Godwin as was) during that fateful wet summer of 1816, when she stayed in the Villa Diodati with her husband-to-be Percy Shelley, their friend Lord Byron and Mary’s half-sister Jane ‘Claire’ Clairmont, one of Byron’s groupies who was already pregnant with his child when she arrived at the Villa. Byron’s personal physician, Dr. John Polidori, whose story ‘THE VAMPYRE’ can still be read today, was also present at the Villa Diodati.

What a summer. What a back-story. What a personal triumph for the eighteen-year-old Mary, to write something so powerful that had such amazing longevity! I really hope that, wherever she is today, she knows how successful and popular her little horror novel turned out to be. It probably wouldn’t make up for all the personal tragedies she suffered in her short enough lifetime, but it might help to ease the pain a little.

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

HAMMER’S FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974) AND MEETING CHRISTOPHER FRAYLING AT THE HORRORTHON: BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

frankie monster from hell couple

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. (1974) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY MARY SHELLEY. WRITTEN BY JOHN ELDER. MUSIC BY JAMES BERNARD. DIRECTED BY TERENCE FISHER. PRODUCED BY ROY SKEGGS.

STARRING PETER CUSHING, SHANE BRIANT, MADELINE SMITH, DAVID PROWSE, JOHN STRATTON AND PATRICK TROUGHTON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘His brain came from a genius. His body came from a killer. His soul came from Hell…!’

Yesterday was my favourite day of the year so far. I turned my back for one day only on my hermit-like writerly existence and mosied on down to the Irish Film Institute on Eustace Street, which was holding its annual Horrorthon, or five days of non-stop horror movies.

Esteemed film historian Sir Christopher Frayling gave a superb ninety-minute talk on FRANKENSTEIN: THE FIRST 200 YEARS, all the material for which can be found in his latest book, a gorgeous and sumptuous hardback of the same name. He signed my copy for me after the talk, and guess what he wrote in it under his signature? He wrote… ‘IT’S ALIVE…!’ Methinks it wasn’t his first book-signing, lol.

Anyway, he talked to us about the life of Mary Shelley, concentrating on that fateful summer in the Villa Diodati in which her famous gothic horror novel was written. He talked about how it wasn’t an overnight success but rather, a slow burner that only went viral, so to speak, when plays of it began to be produced a few years later. He had the most stunning-looking slides prepared for us as well, all of which can be found in his book.

He went on to talk about all the film versions of FRANKENSTEIN that have appeared over the years, and he confided in us that THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is his personal favourite of all the Frankie films. Snap! My favourite movie scene of all time is when the deliciously evil Dr. Pretorius is dining off a tomb in the crypt. Frankie’s Monster comes up behind him and he literally doesn’t turn a hair. ‘Oh…!’ he smirks in his cut-glass English. ‘I thought I was quite alone…!’

A screening of Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL followed Sir Chris’s talk. This is a really dark addition to Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN canon, the sort of film where you’re constantly asking yourself how the hell did they manage to slip this or that past the ever-vigilant censors, who were always on poor Hammer’s case, lol. That nightdress better not be see-through or you’ll never eat lunch in this town again type of thing.

Shane Briant (Hammer’s FEAR IN THE NIGHT, DEMONS OF THE MIND) is a blonde Adonis who surely was born to wear a frilly white shirt and black frock-coat. He plays Simon Helder, a posh, sardonic, arrogant, privileged young doctor with the deeply inbred sense of entitlement that can surely only come from being an upper-class twat with an Oxbridge education, lol.

He’s arrested for ‘sorcery,’ as in he’s been avidly studying the life’s work of one Baron Frankenstein and trying to create life out of the body parts of cadavers. ‘You’re gonna get caught one day!’ Patrick Troughton’s grave-digger-upper ominously warns him. And he does. Get caught, I mean.

The judge is not at all impressed with Helder’s uppity demeanour. He sentences him to a good long stint in the local insane asylum for his trouble, a fate which even the constable who delivers Helder to the loony bin pities him for. ‘Rather you than me, son,’ he says, and ‘Good luck, son…!’ Cor blimey. If even the delivering copper is pitying you, you know you’re in for a bumpy ride…

And he most assuredly would be in for a rough ride (if the ‘bath’ with which he’s initiated into the horrors of the Asylum is anything to go by) if it were not for one salient fact. Peter Cushing’s fellow Asylum inmate Baron Frankenstein is the real power behind the nasty, blustering Asylum Director…

Calling himself merely Dr. Carl Victor now and firmly maintaining that Baron Frankenstein is dead and buried in the Asylum graveyard, he’s overseeing the care of all the Asylum patients while keeping a few ‘special’ patients back for himself only. And, of course, he’s been continuing on the sly with his experiments to create new life out of old, stitched-together body parts…

Simon Helder is thrilled skinny to meet the Baron, his idol, and be given the job of his assistant. Dr. Victor, as he’s now known, is delighted to have for his helper such a qualified and knowledgeable groupie, a doctor in his own right.

Helder feels like he’s been given the keys to the kingdom when he’s even introduced to Dr. Victor’s ‘special’ patients. What must he feel like, then, when one night he accidentally stumbles upon the good Doctor’s real secret, the truly monstrous-looking ‘creation’ he’s cobbled together from the parts of cadavers from the Asylum’s various tombs…? He’s both thrilled and, I think, appalled…

Still, he quickly offers to help the Baron to continue with his researches and the eternal search to give the Monster real, thinking life. The Monster is a true abomination, unlike, say, Boris Karloff’s Creature which we still recognise clearly as a man.

This Monster is not a man, or even remotely human-looking. It’s hairy, lumbering and utterly hideous. It’s the saddest, most pathetic thing you could possibly imagine. The kindest thing you could do for it would be to put it out of its misery. Put an end to its terrible suffering.

And yet Peter Cushing’s Baron is as proud of it as any parent on School Prize-giving Night. Can any good really come from the two doctors continuing to try to improve on this dreadful ‘thing’ by adding sundry bits and pieces from yet more cadavers to its monstrous frame? The bit where they’re opening up a corpse’s skull and taking out a brain to transplant into the Monster’s head is one of those bits I’m shocked got past the censors.

Madeline Smith (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS with Ingrid Pitt) is a true thing of beauty here as Sarah, the deaf-mute Asylum inmate who, until the arrival of Goldilocks Helder, has been performing the Baron’s secret surgeries for him because the Baron’s hands are all burned and useless now. This bit’s a bit far-fetched but whatever. The Asylum inmates call Sarah ‘the Angel’ and certainly she’s visually an improvement on the hideous Monster, lol.

This was legendary horror director Terence Fisher’s last film and the last outing, I believe, for Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein. He’s looking tired here, a far cry from the fresh-faced young fella who first played the immaculately-turned-out Baron for Hammer in 1957 with his role in the iconic THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. He’s still magnificent here though, and he still gives it his absolute all.

Apparently, he didn’t much care for the somewhat curly-wurly wig he was made to sport in FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. Hee-hee-hee. I think it looks nice on him. And he goes out on a nice little question mark too, as in, is the Baron actually planning to put himself and his minions through all this horror again…? Well, you know the Baron’s motto, guys. If at first you don’t succeed…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1964) A HAMMER HORROR REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

evil of frankenstein caron gardner

THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1964) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION/A UNIVERSAL RELEASE. WRITTEN BY JOHN ELDER. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY HINDS. DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS. STARRING PETER CUSHING, SANDOR ELES, PETER WOODTHORPE, DUNCAN LAMONT, DAVID HUTCHESON, KIWI KINGSTON, KATY WILD AND CARON GARDNER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a marvellous Hammer Horror film that sees Peter Cushing reprising his signature Hammer role as the mad scientist Baron Frankenstein, the man who created a hideous monster out of the body parts of cadavers from horribly plundered graves.

In this film, however, he’s seen as more rational and tolerant than the thoroughly reprehensible townspeople, who torment him at every turn, steal from him and destroy his life’s work. All the peaceable, own-business-minding Baron wants to do is to create life- albeit in a rather gruesome way- and he just can’t catch a break, lol.

Having made the current little mid-European hamlet where he lives and works too hot to hold him, Baron Frankenstein and his young idealistic assistant Hans make the journey back to Karlstaad.

This is the Baron’s home-town, from which he fled some ten years ago after the locals discovered that he was robbing graves and making a monster out of the body parts. Very nit-picky of the locals, I must say, to make such a humongous fuss out of such a trifling matter.

They hounded the Baron out of town and murdered his precious creation, the Monster, a frighteningly huge fellow played by a real-life enormous wrestler from New Zealand called Kiwi Kingston.

The Baron’s taking a bit of a chance in returning to Karlstaad, but he’s confident that the townspeople will have forgotten all that bad business about the Monster by now and that his castle will provide a safe and comfortable place from which to start his grisly experiments anew.

Not so, sadly. The rotten townspeople have ransacked the castle and nicked anything that wasn’t nailed down, and a few things that were, lol. A trip into the village sees the Baron falling afoul once more of his two old enemies, the Chief of Police and the Burgomaster of Karlstaad, an old duffer who’s sporting Baron Frankenstein’s beautiful old ring, a family heirloom, on one hand and a large-breasted, young blonde trophy wife on the other. She’s clearly only in it for the sex…! 

(The funniest scene in the whole film is when Baron Frankenstein breaks into the Burgomaster’s bedroom where he’s just about to consummate his new marriage to Busty St. Clair/Chesty LaRue/Hooty McBoob and so on.

It’s obvious from the giant grin on the bride’s face that she’s not at all averse to the sudden arrival in her bridal bedchamber of a man who’s clearly more virile and dynamic and pro-active than her new husband…!

When Peter Cushing as the Baron turns to her before abseiling out the window on her best bedsheets and says a polite ‘Goodnight,’ you can almost hear her saying sadly to herself: ‘Awwwww, he was nice…!’)

Anyway, the Baron is so angry at the thieving townspeople that he could positively spit. Forced to flee the village in a hurry under pain of arrest, he is thrilled beyond belief (whilst seeking shelter from a thunderstorm with a deaf-mute peasant girl) to find his beloved Monster frozen in the ice in a cave on the mountainside.

He and Hans thaw out the Monster and bring him back to the castle. The deaf-mute peasant girl accompanies them because she’s developed some kind of a bond with the Monster. After all, they’re both outcasts, both shunned and scorned and spat upon by the townspeople. The four of them make strange housemates indeed.

Now comes the desperate attempt to make the Creature ‘live’ again. After ‘shocking’ him with volts of electricity repeatedly fails, the Baron is forced to turn for help to a hypnotist called Zoltan, a fairground attraction whom he met on his disastrous jaunt to the funfair in Karlstaad.

Zoltan is a wonderfully funny villainous character. An oilier, more odious, more self-serving human being would be hard to find. He wakes up the Creature with his superior powers of hypnotism, but he cuts himself a decent whack of the Monster-business too by ensuring that the Monster will only follow his orders and not the Baron’s. The Baron is furiously angry.

Furthermore, the unscrupulous Zoltan intends on using the Creature to steal gold and monies for him from the villagers and also to wreak a terrible revenge on the townspeople who’ve wronged him, namely, the Burgomaster and the Chief of Police.  Haha, his enemies are the same as the Baron’s, maybe they should pool their resources…?

Can Baron Frankenstein wrest his precious Creature back from the grasp of the evil Zoltan, so that it- the Creature- can be used only to further the cause of science and not for nefarious purposes? Will the Baron ever get to live in safety and serenity in his own chateau and study in peace and quiet the processes of life and death?

Will Hans ever get together with the red-haired deaf-mute peasant girl, for whom he seems to have a soft spot? And, most importantly of all as I see it, will the ludicrously night-capped old Burgomaster ever get laid on his wedding night? I wouldn’t bet on it, gentle readers. I wouldn’t bet on 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

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN. (1943) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Frankenstein-Meets-the-Wolf-Man_01

FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN. (1943) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES. DIRECTED BY ROY WILLIAM NEILL. WRITTEN BY CURT SIODMAK.

STARRING LON CHANEY, BELA LUGOSI, LIONEL ATWILL, DENNIS HOEY, MARIA OUSPENSKAYA, REX EVANS, DWIGHT FRYE, ILONA MASSEY AND PATRIC KNOWLES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

“Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.”

This sounds like another hilarious horror movie monster crossover but it’s actually very dark, with the very real anguish of Lon Chaney Jr. as the Wolfman running the whole way through it, like the line of writing down the middle of a stick of seaside rock. He’s never played the Wolfman as a comedic character, but rather as a terrible curse forced upon him by the bite of a werewolf.

It happens on the moors one night while Lon Chaney Jr.’s human character, rich boy Lawrence Talbot, is back staying in his ancestral home with his father, played by Claude Rains, after an absence of some years. He’s a tragic character from the start, unable to live with this fiendish curse that causes him to turn into a wolf and kill people every time there’s a full moon. Howwwwwwwwwwwl…!

The film opens very atmospherically in a dark windswept graveyard by night in the little Welsh village of Llanwelly. A couple of grave-robbers are breaking into the tomb of Lawrence Talbot, who’s been dead for four years now, hoping to pinch any jewels or money that might have been buried with him.

Lawrence Talbot isn’t really dead however, and is thrilled of the opportunity to abscond from his crypt as his alter-ego the Wolfman. He ends up injured on a Cardiff street without any knowledge of how he got there.

He’s immediately deposited in the local hospital, where he gives Dr. Mannering and local copper Inspector Owen a cock-and-bull story about turning into a wolf when the moon is full. In march the orderlies with the strait-jacket for the nice crazy man…

Inspector Owen is played by Dennis Hoey, who brings the exact same detective’s outfit and brusque bedside manner to Inspector Owen as he does to Inspector Lestrade in the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies (1939-1945).

He doesn’t believe Larry’s mad story for a minute but, when Larry escapes from the hospital to go in search of the gypsy woman Maleva, whom he thinks can help to lift the curse from him, both he and Dr. Mannering are forced to take Larry’s wild claims seriously.

When Maleva tells a distraught Larry that she can’t take the curse away from him, Larry decides that, in that case, he wants to just die instead and have the whole thing over and done with. The two of them travel together to the little village of Vasaria somewhere in Europe in search of Dr. Frankenstein, whom Maleva has heard is a brilliant doctor who can cure the ailments other doctors can’t.

But Dr. Frankenstein is dead, and so is his creature, the Monster who wreaked such havoc in the town and caused such distress and horror to the townspeople. Would he have left a diary by any chance, some written records that might have the secret of life and death in them? Maybe the Baroness Elsa, the late Dr. Frankenstein’s attractive grown-up daughter, will know if such records exist and, if so, where to find them?

Elsa is only too happy to assist the handsome and tortured (a winning combination with the broads, lol) Larry Talbot, who by the way has come across an astounding discovery in the ruins of Dr. Frankenstein’s castle in the form of… well, I can’t tell you that, lol, but maybe you can guess?

Can Larry and Dr. Mannering- who’s caught up with them by now- recreate the conditions under which the original Dr. Frankenstein created life from the body parts of corpses and, if they can do that, can they reverse the process to end poor Larry’s tormented existence?

Oh, and, while they’re at it, can they manage to rid Vasaria of the mad Dr. Frankenstein’s evil creation once and for all? They can if the power of being able to play God doesn’t go right to Dr. Mannering’s head…

Dwight Frye is on the ‘right’ side of the law for once here, as a mouthy villager with a sharp haircut who calls for the destruction of Castle Frankenstein and all its warped inhabitants. Screen villain Lionel Atwill in a twirly moustache plays the Mayor of Vasaria and Bela Lugosi is brilliant- if voiceless- as Frankenstein’s Monster. Frankie’s head is flatter than ever, God bless his little electrodes…!

Check out the fabulous bling on the Baroness Elsa too, the pearls and the furs which I’m prepared to bet my bottom dollar are all real. This rather stunning Hungarian actress looks like a Viking Queen in her long blonde bedtime plaits. She really brings a touch of cool blonde glamour to the proceedings in Vasaria.

She’s clearly attracted to Larry but she’d be better off setting her sights elsewhere, like on Dr. Mannering, for instance. Larry is doomed, there’s no point at all in her hitching her wagon to his star. It’s a dead horse, a non-runner, a foregone conclusion. Dr. Mannering is smitten by the Baroness. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with, that’s what I say.

The showdown between the Monster and the Wolfman doesn’t take up too much time but it’s massively endearing. I love them both so much I don’t want them to hurt each other but they don’t really.

It’s the external forces that will bring about their inevitable destruction, not a bit of petty in-house squabbling between the two monsters, lol. Who’d your money be on though, if they really did have a big pay-per-view showdown on d’telly? I’m undecided…!

It’s a visually beautiful film to look at, deliciously atmospheric and wreathed in swirling mist. There’s a very catchy song in it too, a song sung with gusto by all the villagers to celebrate the season of the new wine. Wine, in my humble opinion, is always worth celebrating. Will you join me in a rousing chorus or two? All together now: ‘Faro-la, faro-li…!’

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

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1939) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

son of frankie

SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1939) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT SHELLEY. PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY ROWLAND V. LEE. PRODUCTION/DISTRIBUTION BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES.

STARRING BASIL RATHBONE, BELA LUGOSI, BORIS KARLOFF AND LIONEL ATWILL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This vintage black-and-white horror film is an absolute cracker, containing four of the biggest name stars of the day, namely Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lionel Atwill.

It’s a sequel to FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN that sees Basil Rathbone arriving in his father’s home town of Frankenstein as his father’s son, Wolf Von Frankenstein. That’s an awful lot of FRANKENSTEINS, as I think you’ll agree.

The setting is somewhere in that sort of ambiguous ‘mitt-Europe’ favoured by Hammer Horror films as well as UNIVERSAL ones. It’s that sort of blurry Germany/Austria area that has men wearing Tyrolean hats and lederhosen while they’re dancing gaily to old folk songs from their native soil or downing the kind of massive tankards of ale that normally come with bratwurst on Oktoberfest. Well, that’s an awful lot of racial stereotyping to begin with, let’s quickly move on to the plot…!

The opening scenes are tremendously atmospheric. Wolf von Frankenstein arrives in Frankenstein by train, via London and Paris, with his attractive wife Elsa and adorable curly-headed young son Peter. It’s dark and lashing rain when they disembark from the train, facing straightaway into a sea of umbrellas owned by the waiting villagers, the welcome committee, as it were.

Except that it’s not very welcoming, lol. They’ve only come along to express their deep dissatisfaction, not to mention disgruntlement, that yet another member of the accursed Frankenstein family is moving into the village to bring more trouble down on their heads. At least, this is what they think.

If they only had the least idea of what was going to happen, they’d have run the little family of Frankensteins outta town on a rail, ‘the same way we got ridda Laura Ingalls Wilder,’ heh-heh-heh. (SIMPSONS reference there!)

Basil Rathbone (the Sherlock Holmes films with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson) is marvellous as the handome and aristocratic- and neatly moustached- Dr. Wolf Von Frankenstein, who initially has no intention in the world of following in his father’s ultimately murderous footsteps.

His father was, of course, the fantastic Colin Clive’s character in FRANKENSTEIN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, the ‘mad scientist’ who created life, ie, the Monster, out of the dead body parts of cadavers which his mad assistant Ygor dug up for him from local cemeteries. What a wholesome thought.

His triumph ended in catastrophe for the locals, however, who don’t even want to hear the word of ‘Frankenstein’ mentioned in their hearing ever again, never mind nestling and nurturing a further generation of mad Monster-creators in its collective bosom.

They don’t even like the idea that the mad scientist’s old laboratory is still there, glowering down at the town from its lofty position on the top of a mountain just across from the Frankenstein’s family domicile, the fabulous old castle. I bet they’d just as soon see it burned down in one big inferno and be done with it.

But when Bela Lugosi (DRACULA, 1931) as the still-living Ygor takes Wolf to view the still-intact but comatose remains of the Monster in the Frankenstein family crypt, Wolf can’t resist Ygor’s suggestion that he use his father’s old notes and records to… You’ve guessed it. Revive the Monster…

Of course, when he inevitably succeeds in bringing Boris Karloff’s superb Frankenstein’s Monster back to grisly life, the Monster predictably runs amok in the town, just like the cookie foretold. (Another SIMPSONS reference there, heh-heh-heh.)

He’s particularly gunning for Ygor’s enemies, the last of the eight men who sentenced Ygor to hang for his part in Colin Clive’s character’s crimes. They did hang him, in fact, but it didn’t fully take and so now Ygor feels invincible, untouchable, like he’s unkillable or something.

Certainly he can’t be sentenced to death again, as he’s already been declared legally dead by the town council, headed by the Burgomaster, without which no self-respecting town in a UNIVERSAL FRANKENSTEIN movie would be complete. No wonder Ygor feels that he can safely send Frankie out into the streets of the darkened village to kill the last two still-living members of the posse of eight that initially sentenced him to death.

Screen villain Lionel Atwill (SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON, THE VAMPIRE BAT) is brilliant as Inspector Krogh, the local copper who knows full well that there’s skullduggery afoot in Castle Frankenstein but he and Wolf have to play this elaborate game of cat-and-mouse with each other first before he can get to the real truth of the matter.

Inspector Krogh has first-hand experience of the horror of the Monster. When he was a child, presumably during the initial period when Frankie was brought to life by Colin Clive’s character, he bumped into the Monster during one of his rampages. He had his little right arm ripped out by the roots for his trouble. Now he wears a fake arm, and he’s understandably wary when he hears rumours from the worried townspeeps about the possibly monstrous goings-on up at the old castle.

Little curly-headed Peter is the one who gives the game away to Krogh when he talks about a friendly ‘giant,’ wearing a big furry jacket, who comes to visit him in his bedroom at night through a hole in the wall… Sounds well dodgy to me, does that…!

By the way, the chap who plays Peter- Donnie Dunagan- is still alive at the ripe old age of eighty-four. Furthermore, it may interest you film buffs to know that in 1942, this child star was the voice of Bambi in the famous DISNEY film that’s been tugging at heartstrings everywhere for nearly eighty years now, which is no mean feat. 

THE SON OF FRANKENSTEIN is so atmospheric, and it brings out a wonderful nostalgia as well in the viewer for the original Frankie films. Basil Rathbone hams it up marvellously as the slightly manic Dr. Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi is deliciously evil as Ygor. And with those fake teeth he’s wearing, he looks like the cartoon character Muttley from the pairing of Dastardly And Muttley, remember, the doggie who was always sniggering? Aw. Such a sweet film. You’ll love 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