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.

SUNSET BOULEVARD. (1950) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SunsetBlvd

SUNSET BOULEVARD. (1950) A PARAMOUNT PICTURE. DIRECTED BY BILLY WILDER. STARRING GLORIA SWANSON, WILLIAM HOLDEN, ERICH VON STROHEIM AND NANCY OLSON. ALSO FEATURING CECIL B. DEMILLE, HEDDA HOPPER AND BUSTER KEATON AS THEMSELVES. COSTUMES BY EDITH HEAD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Say, don’t I know you from someplace? Aren’t you Norma Desmond, the silent movie star? Didn’t you used to be big?’

Joseph Gillis.

‘I AM big. It’s the pictures that got small.’

Norma Desmond.

‘They (the silent movie stars) had the eyes of the world back then. But that wasn’t enough for them. They wanted the ears as well. So they opened their mouths, and what came out? Talk, talk, talk…!’

Norma Desmond.

‘We didn’t need words back then. We had faces!’

Norma Desmond.

This magnificent film lost out on the Best Picture Oscar for that year to ALL ABOUT EVE, another excellent film. SUNSET BOULEVARD should have won, but some of the bigwigs in Hollywood weren’t exactly thrilled at the way their precious industry was portrayed as being so cynically soul-destroying and merciless towards the stars it routinely chewed up and spat out, and also ruthlessly dismissive of its older, washed-up stars. If you were hot, you were hot, and if you were not, well then, goodbye for ever and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. Still, we know SUNSET BOULEVARD should’ve won the Best Picture Oscar and that’s what matters.

Beefcake William Holden does a stellar job as Joe McGillis, the hack writer who keeps trying to write that bestselling Hollywood film script that’ll make his name and keep him in clover for the rest of his days. At the moment, however, all his ideas are dull and derivative and he’s up to his cojones in debt, because Hollywood doesn’t pay you for rubbish script ideas, only for good solid polished script ideas, see?

Joe has just about decided to throw in the towel and return home to Dayton, Ohio, where he’ll go back to working for the local rag and live out his working life reporting on Bonnie Baby beauty contests and charity bring and buy sales, when a strange thing happens.

Whilst fleeing from a pair of heavies who want to re-possess his jalopy, he accidentally finds himself in the grounds of a fabulous but decaying old Hollywood mansion from the ‘Twenties, the kind of house that was built by the super-rich silent movie stars of bygone years for them to enjoy their wonderfully privileged lifestyles in.

Swimming pool, deserted now, ruined tennis court, unswept deserted courtyard. Joe is inclined to think that the queer but fascinating place has actually been abandoned when a strange female figure appears from behind a curtain and imperiously bids him to hurry up and get his arse inside. He’s just been mistaken for a monkey-undertaker (that’s right, you heard me, lol!), and he’s also just had his first experience of Norma Desmond, star of the golden era of the silent screen…

Norma Desmond is rude, haughty, selfish and self-obsessed. She lives in her crumbling mansion surrounded by framed photographs of herself in her hey-day and the memorabilia of her long-lost film career, including a home cinema on which she never tires of playing her old movies. Talk about narcissism.

She’s all alone but for a solemn little foreign man called Max who carries out her every wish and whim, no matter how ludicrous. Max has gone to ridiculous lengths to hide from ‘Madame’ the fact that her legions of fans have not only deserted her, but forgotten her as well. He’s an enabler to Norma’s sick visions of herself as still a huge star.

It would have been kinder altogether to let her know the real truth about her washed-up career twenty years ago, but Norma’s so used to thinking of herself as Queen of the Cinema Screen that maybe Max feels that the shock of a good hard dose of reality might actually kill her. Well, he should know. After all, he’s her butler, ex-husband and the film director who discovered her, all rolled into one obliging package, lol.

This is the bizarre household in which Joe finds himself suddenly embroiled. Madame takes an enormous liking to Joe, the prime slice of ‘Fifties beefcake, and immediately hires him to live in her house and edit a long messy screenplay she’s written, with herself in the starring role of Salome.

She has every intention of presenting it to her old director, Cecil B. DeMille, when it’s finished. It’ll be her comeback film, even though she hates that word, lol (she prefers ‘return’), and it will be humongous. The notion of a comeback is entirely in her own head, by the way, and everyone but Norma knows it, even the mysterious little Max.

Joe soon finds himself rapidly becoming more than just an editor to the delusional Norma. He’s her gigolo now too, her toyboy, her plaything, and with every gift of cufflinks, gold cigarette cases and vicuna coats she buys him, he feels worse about himself. (What’s a vicuna, by the way? Does anyone know? Is it an animal or summat?) Norma has bought him lock, stock and barrel, and they both know it, and their card-playing friends (the waxworks) know it too.

Worst of all, he gives up writing altogether and just gives in to this meaningless lifestyle of indolence and luxury. Just look at the most uncomfortable New Years’ Eve party ever at Norma’s house! This is his life now, and how sad it is too.

In case you guys think all this indolence and luxury sounds terrific, and nice work if you can get it, etc, hear ye this. Anyone with a gift for writing, or indeed painting, playing music or running very, very fast, can’t just squash this gift into an old biscuit tin and slam a lid on it. It will out, like a plague of zombies under the stairs.

Joe’s real gift for writing ‘outs’ when a pretty young reader of scripts for Paramount Pictures, Betty Schaefer, encourages him to re-write a tired old script of his into something new and vibrantly exciting. He enters into this project with Betty with great enthusiasm, but their writing sessions have of necessity to be a secret from the jealous and possessive Norma.

Norma, you see, has a disturbing habit of harming herself, or even just threatening to, every time Joe’s five minutes late coming back from ‘t’ privy. Max and now Joe have got to watch her pretty closely because of it, just like Norma is watching Joe. What a strange, uncomfortably paranoid household it is!

It’s not like Norma wouldn’t have any reason to be jealous, either. Pretty soon, the sparks flying between Joe and Betty are enough to ignite a fire on the Paramount lot where they meet in secret, in Betty’s little office.

But there are two things standing in the way of their happiness. One thing is Joe’s own hatred of himself for submitting to being Norma’s kept man. After all, he could have said no, couldn’t he, if he wasn’t so morally weak and detestable in his own eyes? The other thing, of course, is Norma Desmond herself…

There are so many iconic scenes to single out for praise. I adore the monkey burial ceremony, carried out in the dead of night ‘with all the solemnity of a state funeral.’ Also, Buster Keaton and two other stars of the silent era, Anna Q. Nilsson and H.B. Warner, playing cards (bridge?) with Norma while Joe looks on, bored, emptying the ashtray when Norma tells him to like a good, obedient little stud. (H.B. Warner, by the way, plays Mr. Gower who clouts George Bailey over the ear in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE!)

Then there’s Cecil B. DeMille, resplendent in his riding boots, playing himself when Norma makes her first visit to Paramount Studios since her career as a silent film star ended, and the uncomfortable scenes where poor Norma undergoes a series of gruelling ‘beauty treatments’ in order to look young and beautiful for her big ‘comeback.’

The poor, poor woman. It’s all an illusion, a big rip-off. Being boiled, squeezed into bandages and made to look like a gimp-slash-mummy will not lead to her appearing one iota younger or feeling a jot happier.

(Joan Crawford goes through the same ridiculous tortures in the film MOMMIE DEAREST). It’s hard for women to look at these scenes when we’re fully aware that Norma’s only fooling herself. How out of pocket would she have been as well?

Her final scenes- ‘I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille’- are pretty damned near heart-breaking to witness. Oh Norma, poor poor Norma. Has she cracked under the strain of it all? And will Joe find the courage to walk away from all that lovely money for ever, to live as an impoverished script-writer with the real love of his life, Betty Schaefer? You’ll have to watch this legendary movie for yourselves to find out, folks. Enjoy your stroll down Sunset Boulevard…

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

WUTHERING HEIGHTS. (1978) THE BBC DRAMATISATION REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

wuth couple

WUTHERING HEIGHTS. (1978) THE BBC ADAPTATION BASED ON THE NOVEL BY EMILY BRONTE. DIRECTED BY DICK COLES. STARRING KEN HUTCHISON, KAY ADSHEAD, PAT HEYWOOD, JOHN DUTTINE, CATHRYN HARRISON, ANDREW BURLEIGH, DAVID ROBB, DAVID WILKINSON, BARBARA KEOGH, BRIAN WILDE AND CAROLINE LANGRISHE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath- a source of little delight, but necessary.’ Catherine Earnshaw.

Oh wow. I’ve seen a fair few film-and-TV versions of Emily Bronte’s classic novel in my time, but this one has by far the most rain, the most wind, the most mist, the most water-logged, treacherous moors, the most whipping, and the most destructive, messed-up inter-personal relationships you’ll ever see. I bloody well love it, lol, for all these reasons and more.

It’s the bleakest, grittiest, most depressing and most violent (emotionally and physically) version there is, I do believe, but this is a positive thing and not a bad one. It’s how this book was meant to be filmed, my dears. No Jane Austen light comedy-of-manners, this. This is a book about pain, obsessive love, revenge and endless suffering, and any screen version would do well to remember this as this version does.

In this version, the sins of the father (and mother) are not only visited on the children, but they (the sins!) have brought a mountain of bloody luggage with ’em an’ all, and announced their intention of occupying the back bedroom for the foreseeable future so forget what plans you’ve made for ‘t’ back bedroom, the sins are here to stay and there’s nowt you can get do about it, so you’d best put up and shut up, lol, and get ‘t’ bloody kettle on sharpish.

Wuthering Heights is the rain-washed farmhouse on the Yorkshire moors that houses the Earnshaw family, the family into which the young foundling Heathcliff is first brought by Daddy Earnshaw as an interloper, an outsider, the cuckoo in the nest. Hindley, the real son of the family, loathes Heathcliff with all his being, but the same can’t be said for Hindley’s sister, Catherine…

Catherine grows up mostly without a mother. She’s a tomboy, an expert rider and tree-climber, a free spirit with a wild, tempestuous nature as wild and tempestuous as the moors where she grows up. This wildness and longing for freedom in Cathy’s soul, this contempt for the conventions, finds an answering call in the boorish and brooding Heathcliff’s tormented being. Thus begins the love affair that flies in the face of God and transcends the years and even, eventually, Death itself…

Cathy and Heathcliff are perfect for each other, but that’s not to say that they’re perfect. Their relationship is a passionate, spiteful destructive one, in which two similarly selfish, self-willed, self-centred people butt heads and vie for mastery of each other. Cathy is particularly spoiled and wayward. Heathcliff, one supposes, is merely the product of his painful upbringing, in which Catherine Earnshaw was the only person to show him anything approximating love.

Cathy rejoices in making Heathcliff jealous, in watching him twist himself up in knots for love of her. It hurts him greatly when she discovers the Linton family of Thrushcross Grange across the moors, and makes a favourite of posh Edgar Linton, the rather sissified toff with the stiff upper lip and aristocratic bearing who nonetheless cannot hold a candle to Heathcliff’s enduring passion.

Cathy and Heathcliff bring pain and suffering to those around them. They should really be quarantined and kept apart from other people, the better to not taint them with their particularly vicious brand of twisted love. 

But they seem to almost enjoy bringing hurt to others (Heathcliff in particular), and so their fates and fortunes become inextricably linked with those of the Lintons, Edgar of Thrushcross Grange and his younger sister Isabella, and the Lintons will be the worse off by far for it.

They’ll drag their children into it too, and make them good and miserable as well. There’ll be nothing but misery, in fact, for all who are tainted by this destructive affair or amour fou, a crazy, messed-up kind of love. (There’s so much inbreeding going on here, as well, that it makes mental illness in some of the protagonists a very real prospect.) 

Throughout it all, Ellen (Nelly) Dean, Cathy’s nurse, stands true and faithful to her darling Catherine, Catherine’s lover Heathcliff and any of the various offspring who are placed in her care and clasped to her motherly bosom.

I daresay she’s frequently an enabler, too, for the most toxic and poisonous man-woman relationship that ever soiled the face of the earth, but at least no-one can question her fidelity to her mistress (Cathy) and master (Heathcliff).

This screen version of the book has the most capricious and temperamental Catherine, the most steadfast Nelly, the most tortured and tormented Heathcliff and the wettest, windiest moors. I remember enjoying my solitary bike rides as a child to a ruined castle on the outskirts of town, where I clambered over the uneven surfaces of the castle floor and looked out the glassless windows across the fields, imagining them to be moors and myself the much-loved and fought-over Cathy.

I couldn’t, at that age, conceive of anything more divinely romantic than a man who loved his girlfriend so much that he would dig up her rotted corpse some twenty years after her death and make love to it, at least with his lips. I guess a career in horror writing was already beckoning, lol.

Graveyards already held a special charm for me and, when I discovered a single unattended grave in the grounds of my ruined castle, well, of course, it just had to be Cathy’s, lying quietly awaiting the arrival of a Heathcliff with a good strong shovel. It might wait there still, for all I know. (Or, most probably, some poxy businessmen might have bought and ‘developed’ the land and turned it into ‘luxury’ apartments, boooooo!)

Kate Bush, my favourite singer of all time, male or female, had obviously felt a similar attraction to this gothic story of doomed love, because she wrote that timeless hit song that had more wildness and passion about it than most of the screen versions of same. This is the kind of story that appeals to people with a gothic, maybe even slightly flawed turn of mind, lol.

If you like the frilly, flouncy, fluffy kind of love that has a happy ending and ties up neatly with a big chocolate-boxy bow, you’d best stick to Jane Austen. But if you want your romance stories to end mainly tragically with only a little teensy-weensy bit of hope left for the future, then Emily’s your man.

Her own sister Charlotte nearly managed to out-romance her in the fabulous classic JANE EYRE, but Emily still pips her to the post. A book with a male character in it who wants, who begs, to be haunted by his dead lover’s ghost on the stormiest of stormy nights on the wiliest and windiest of wiley, windy moors would pretty much pip anyone else’s book to any mouldy old post.

‘Cath-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…!’

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

FEAR IN THE NIGHT and STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING: A DOUBLE BILL OF HAMMER HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

straight on till morning peterFEAR IN THE NIGHT and STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING: A DOUBLE BILL OF HAMMER HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

FEAR IN THE NIGHT. (1972) DIRECTED, PRODUCED AND CO-WRITTEN BY JIMMY SANGSTER. STARRING RALPH BATES, JUDY GEESON, JOAN COLLINS, JAMES COSSINS AND PETER CUSHING.

STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING. (1972) DIRECTED BY PETER COLLINSON. PRODUCED BY MICHAEL CARRERAS. STARRING RITA TUSHINGHAM, SHANE BRIANT, JAMES BOLAM AND KATYA WYETH.

‘Second star to the right, straight on till morning…’

I love, love, LOVE these two films, which I recently watched back-to-back courtesy of my lovely new twenty-one film Hammer Horror boxset. Yes, I know that I’m late to this party but I’ve always liked to make a spectacular entrance, lol.

It’s both ironic and apt that I should have chosen these two horror movies to go together. I hadn’t a clue when so doing that they’d been released together as a double bill back in the day, a double bill I would have adored to see on the big screen. The theme of both films revolves around female hysteria and mental fragility so they do actually sit really well together.

As it is, I was nearly incoherent with excitement at having brilliant new Hammer films to watch. New to me, that is. And at first I thought that FEAR IN THE NIGHT couldn’t be topped, so fantastic was it. Until I saw STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING, that is

FEAR IN THE NIGHT sees the darkly attractive Ralph Bates (THE HORROR OF FRANKENSTEIN, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE, TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA) playing a school-teacher called Robert Heller, who has just married a woman he’s known for only a few weeks. Nothing like a whirlwind courtship, eh?

Peggy, who works as a carer to an elderly woman before her marriage to Robert, is blonde, pretty but possibly a bit dim. She also has some unresolved mental issues. Robert must really love her to have taken her on as his wife, with all her mental and emotional baggage, eh…?

The night before Peggy is to leave her job and go to live with Robert, she is attacked in her flat by a seemingly one-armed man dressed in black. This isn’t a good omen, surely.

The police aren’t called because the doctor and Peggy’s elderly charge both agree that poor Peggy’s been under a lot of strain lately. That’s tantamount to saying that she’s imagining things, isn’t it…? Not terribly complimentary, anyway.

The newly-weds are going to live in a nice chalet or lodge-house on the grounds of the posh boys’ boarding-school where Robert works. Term hasn’t started yet and the school is empty of snobby little schoolboys when Peggy takes a tentative look around it by herself.

Well, she’s not quite by herself. She bumps into Michael Carmichael, the school’s headmaster, played by Hammer royalty Peter Cushing. He unnerves her by asking her to let down her pretty blonde hair, an intimate request that it would be more appropriate for a husband to make than a complete stranger, surely. Peggy is glad to get away from him.

If Michael Carmichael has unnerved her, then his wife Molly, played by a young-looking and glamorous Joan Collins, sets her teeth on edge with her patronising, bitchy and rather bossy treatment of Peggy.

Well, she is a headmaster’s wife after all and probably used to bossing people around, but this headmaster’s wife is a glossy, brittle super-bitch whose artificial veneer of hospitality doesn’t fool Peggy. Which is funny, because Peggy, as we see later, is exceptionally easy to fool. She’s malleable, pliable, vulnerable, impressionable and a prime target for ‘gaslighting…’

To her absolute horror, Peggy soon discovers that her one-armed attacker has followed her here to her safe little country abode. Robert has serious fears for her mental state.

Is Peggy crazy, or is there something nasty and sinister going on in this supposedly empty boarding- school? Is the school really as empty as we’re meant to believe? These are questions to which we’ll need answers before the curtain comes down on the final act…

All the four leads are excellent but I also loved the inclusion of James Cossins here as the doctor who looks Peggy over after the first attack by the, um, one-armed bandit, lol. He co-starred in THE ANNIVERSARY as one of Bette Davis’s messed-up sons, the cross-dressing one, and he’s given memorable performances also in SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM and FAWLTY TOWERS.

In SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM, he plays a man giving a course on Public Relations. All good so far, except that one of his pupils is the socially inept and accident-prone Frank Spencer. Suffice it to say that he’ll need time off after he’s given his course to have his Frank-induced nervous breakdown.

In FAWLTY TOWERS, Mister Cossins plays the man who sells outboard motors for a living but whom Basil has mistaken for the dreaded Hotel Inspector. ‘The wine has reacted with the cork and gone bad.’ The relief felt by Basil when he realises that he’s got the wrong man- yet again- is positively palpable. James Cossins is excellent at playing that type of well-spoken posh bloke.

STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING, its title taken from childrens’ fairytale PETER PAN by J.M Barrie, blew me away completely. Rita Tushingham plays Brenda, a young woman who writes fairy stories for fun and whose head is permanently in the clouds. She could even have mental problems or be delusional. She’s not quite the full shilling by a long stretch.

Her behaviour at the start of the film is bizarre. Though she’s not pregnant, she tells her Mum that she is and that she’s off to London to find a father for her baby. Cuckoo…! She gets a job in a boutique and moves into a flat-share with one of her co-workers, the beautiful party-girl Caroline, and even goes to her first party, dressed of course like Ma Ingalls, lol.

A small dog is the means by which she meets and moves in with Peter, a stunningly good-looking, languid blonde hippy-ish type who lives in a fancy apartment and swans about doing nothing all day, or so it seems.

He’s seemingly independently wealthy and doesn’t need to work. At least, he’s got a drawer full of cash and he won’t say where it comes from, which is odd and even a little suspicious. It’s hard to imagine him working at anything, anyway. He’s just too damned languid…!

They’re an unlikely pairing, but Peter sees something in the Plain-Jane Brenda that strikes a chord within him. She’s not beautiful like he is but for some reason he’s okay with this. This is what he wants from a woman right now. He re-christens her ‘Wendy’ to his Peter (as in Peter Pan) and they sit around telling each other fairy stories. Ever so languidly, of course.

One of Peter’s stories, in particular, should make the dozey Brenda want to run for the hills but Brenda believes she’s finally found a man she can have her longed-for baby with. Astonishingly, Peter says he’s agreeable to fathering this kiddie but Peter is as mad as a box of frogs.

There’s no two ways about it. He’s damaged goods and his grip on reality is tenuous to say the least. It’s even more fragile than Brenda’s, and she’s a fruit-loop. What has happened to the divinely attractive Peter to send him off his rocker like that? The key is in the story he tells, the one that Brenda fails to interpret correctly.

How can one broken, mentally unsound person cure another? They can’t, of course. The pair can only enable each other to fulfil the worst of their potential until irreparable damage has been done. Peter and Brenda are on a collision course to disaster. Will anyone be left standing after the crash…?

Both these films kept me gripped right till the end, especially STRAIGHT ON TILL MORNING. The friend with whom I watched both films said that she didn’t know that Hammer made horror movies that weren’t about Dracula, the Mummy or Frankenstein’s Monster and she kept expecting Christopher Lee to pop in, fangs and cape and all. Well, anyone who knows me knows that I’d be all in favour of that, lol.

Anyway, we both absolutely loved these tense, taut and infinitely atmospheric psychological horrors. Perfect specimens from the Hammer vault of terror and suspense. Marvellous viewing for whenever you feel the need for the icy-cold, clammy fingers of Death on your shoulder…straight on till morning peterstraight on till morning peter

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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

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