ROOTS. (1977) THE MINI-SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ROOTS. (1977) HISTORICAL DRAMA MINI-SERIES BASED ON ‘ROOTS: THE SAGA OF AN AMERICAN FAMILY’ BY ALEX HALEY.
STARRING LEVAR BURTON, JOHN AMOS, LESLIE UGGAMS, BEN VEREEN AND GEORG STANFORD BROWN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I watched this multi-award-winning and ground-breaking mini-series over Christmas and New Year, and was blown away by its great scope and depth of feeling. As the book on which it’s based says, it’s the saga of an American family, but, as the book title doesn’t say, the family in question is black and not white.

The series traces their multi-generation-spanning history from 1750, in which the head of the family is born a free man in Africa, to the aftermath of the American Civil War which freed the slaves, but didn’t exactly equip them with a blueprint for how to live after they’d been freed. The Ku Klux Klan also feature.

Kunta Kinte is born in the Gambia, in West Africa, in 1750, to a tribe of proud Mandinka warriors. He has a loving mother and father and grandparents, and, when he becomes a teenager, has no more to worry about than whether or not he’ll pass his manhood trials, a rite of passage for all young men that determines whether or not they can move into their own huts as fully fledged men and take a wife. I think it’s true to say that Kunta Kinte loves his life and embraces and accepts its many challenges.

Just after he finishes his all-important manhood training, he is captured by American slave traders while out alone one day, looking for some wood to make a drum for his little brother, and brought over to American to work on the rich white men’s plantations. He was stalked as if he were a wild animal and brought, chained and terrorised, to the waiting ship, The Lord Ligonier.

That hellish three-month journey, in which the captured slaves were chained to bunks while in a prone position, covered in their own vomit from the constant sea-sickness, was probably the part of the series that had the most profound effect on me.

I felt outraged on behalf of the free black people wrongly taken from their homes to work as slaves and harvest the white men’s crops and cotton, etc., in America. It was appalling to witness.

I even felt outraged to see Ralph Waite, aka the virtuous Pa Walton of THE WALTONS, as a seasoned slave overseer on this boat, encouraging the captain, played by Ed Asner, to rape young black women to provide himself with a night-time ‘belly-warmer.’ It was truly disgusting and distressing to watch, so, for the people to whom it actually happened, well, I can’t even begin to imagine.

Kunta eventually arrives in the Deep South of Northern America, and lives as a slave for the rest of his days. It takes him a long, long time to give up on his dreams of being a free man, and the cruel plantation overseer and catchers of runaway slaves have to whip him savagely and chop off part of his foot in order to ‘cure’ him of the desire to run away.

He probably gives up on his dream of someday being free again when he and his wife Belle, a fellow slave, have their one child, a daughter, Kizzy. At last, Kunta has something to stay put for. He teaches his daughter about Africa and all the old ways that the cruel overseers would have them forget.

Kunta and Belle love this little girl with all their hearts and souls, and one day have to endure the agonising pain of watching her be sold off to another plantation owner, one of the worst misfortunes that could befall a slave. Families were separated if it suited the owner, causing untold anguish for those sold, and those who remained behind to mourn.

Owners varied from understanding enough to brutally cruel, like Missy’s new owner, Tom Moore, brilliantly played by Chuck Connors. He rapes her on her first night away from her loving parents, and fathers her child, Chicken George, whom she adores.

But separation and pain await this mother and son too. Kizzy sadly doesn’t live to see her beloved son George, raised on tales of Africa and words of the Mandinka language (ko means fiddler, and kamby bolongo a river), leading his family into what amounts to their ‘promised land,’ a patch of land he acquires in Tennessee as a free man after that war to end all wars, the American Civil War.

You’ll see any number of familiar faces in the show, including: Sandy Duncan, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Reed, Brad Davis, Cicely Tyson, Lorne Greene, Scatman Crothers, George Hamilton, Maya Angelou, O.J. Simpson, Gary Collins, Ian McShane, Doug McClure and Louis Gossett Jr. It’s a case of spot-the-famous-face, which is always terrific fun, for me, anyway.

It’s a fantastic cast with great acting, great sets and great dialogue, but the message is, hopefully, what we’ll remember the most, and that is: that no man has the right to enslave another, and we are all born- or should be born- free and equal to one another.

Based on the true story of author Alex Haley’s own family, this is a saga that everyone should watch, or kids should watch and study in Irish schools. It’s on a par, is it not, to what the Nazis did to the Jews in the Holocaust…?

Whole swathes and tribes of people who’d never done anyone any harm were wrenched from their families, jobs, homes and homelands and brought somewhere halfway round the world against their will to serve the misguided purpose of a stronger, so-called ‘civilised’ people who wrongly thought that might meant right. ROOTS should be watched by everyone who’s not old enough to have seen it first time around. Lest we forget…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

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

THE THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS. (1996) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


THE THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS. (A 1996 CBS MINI-SERIES.) DIRECTED BY KEVIN JAMES DOBSON. BASED ON THE BOOK BY COLLEEN MCCULLOUGH. STARRING RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN, AMANDA DONOHUE AND MAXIMILIAN SCHELL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This made-for-television mini-series supposedly fills in the gaps left by the original mini-series, the phenomenally successful THORN BIRDS. In the original show, Meggie Cleary and the long-time love of her life, the handsome Fr. Ralph de Bricassart- yes, he’s a priest!- make love for the first time. Then, the action rather frustratingly cuts to ‘nineteen years later’ in the plot, when Meggie has two grown-up children; a daughter, Justine, by her husband Luke, and a son, Dane, by her beloved Fr. Ralph.

In THE MISSING YEARS, we start off when Dane is about ten and Justine a year or two older. Meggie left her he-man husband, sheep-shearer and cane-cutter extraordinaire Luke O’Neill, before Dane was born, because he promised her love and an equal marriage and then fecked off to cut cane and hang out with his boozy, womanising mates. All this while Meggie languishes with a family who need a housemaid. Quite the comedown for the lovely daughter of the Cleary clan, masters of Drogheda!

Now, Meggie is back home on the family ranch of Drogheda with her two children. Luke O’ Neill comes back, after all these years, at rather an opportune time. That part of Australia has been experiencing a two-year drought, and the ranch is desperately in need of a man about the place. Luke promises to give Meggie everything she’s been ‘missing’ in the way of love and affection and sex all these long, lonely years, and Meggie succumbs. She’s only human, after all.

Her kids in particular are delighted. Justine, who has never really had her mother’s love because she’s ‘only’ Luke’s child, is hostile to Meggie and absolutely determined to become a daddy’s girl straightaway. Dane, who thinks he’s Luke’s son, is happy too to suddenly have a dad, though his desire to be a Catholic or ‘mick’ priest doesn’t sit well with his he-man ‘father.’ Wonder where he gets his priestly leanings, lol…?

Meanwhile, we see how Fr. Ralph has helped Jews to escape the wrath of Hitler during World War Two, even going so far as to shelter them in the underground caves beneath the Vatican. He behaves heroically and selflessly and gets no thanks from his superiors for it.

Remember the way Fr. Ralph and the Church somewhat dubiously inherited Mary Carson’s millions and the estate of Drogheda in the original mini-series? Well, now, for using Drogheda money to help the Jews, Fr. Ralph is ‘banished’ by the Church to Australia once more, supposedly to hold talks with the Australian government about taking in some of the displaced victims of the war.

Not much in the way of politics gets done as Fr. Ralph is enmeshed once more in his love for the beautiful and feisty Meggie Cleary and hers for him. Fr. Ralph’s being back in Oz bodes ill for the touching re-union of Meggie and Luke, and both Luke and Justine are furious to see him back there, taking up all of Meggie’s time and thoughts.

A really dirty custody battle ensues over the one child Meggie would be truly devastated to lose. She could get her son back in an instant by proclaiming to the world at large whose boy Dane really is, but not even Ralph knows this fact. Also, Ralph’s career as an Archbishop would be ruined by the stunning revelation. Who does Meggie love more, and who will she choose to save, Dane… or Ralph…?

Richard Chamberlain is the only actor from the original mini-series who appears in THE THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS. Rachel Ward as the original Meggie is replaced by Amanda ‘get your kit off’ Donohue, so for this reason I was expecting the sex scenes to be practically x-rated, lol.

But no, surprisingly the show keeps its lovely romantic-rather-than-smutty feel, with the love scenes taking place this time around in an isolated cabin in the Australian outback rather than on the dreamy shores of Matlock Island, where the besotted pair first made the wild, passionate love that resulted in a son, Dane.

Fr. Ralph has a pretty sweet deal going on for himself in this show, as in the original. Much as I love- and fancy him- as a character, he led poor old Mary Carson on something rotten, and used her legacy, the legacy which was rightfully meant for the Cleary family, Mary’s true relatives, to better himself and climb the ladder of success in his precious Church.

He’s kept Meggie on a string for years, enjoying her adulation and her hero-worship and even her body, but always pulling away from her in the end, saying that he loves God more than he loves her. How that must have stung Meggie, but there’s nothing much she can do about it. The heart wants what the heart wants, allegedly.

This 1996 show was criticised for its many inconsistencies and deviations from the original plot, but we’re not going to get into these inconsistencies here. They’re fun to spot when you watch it, though! It’s a different big house and ranch too, as the ‘sequel’ is filmed in Australia and not in California, where the original was made.

There’s no topping the original mini-series for romance and sheer romantic pain and longing, but I feel that this second mini-series holds its own, after a ropey start. It becomes really exciting once the whole Meggie-Luke-and-Ralph love triangle kicks off, and the fist-fight between Luke and Ralph is genuinely entertaining and nail-bitingly enjoyable to watch. Luke, damn you, you had it coming…! Enjoy the ‘sequel,’ if for no other reason than you get to hear Henry Mancini’s dreamy score again.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

STEPHEN KING’S THE STAND. (1994) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

stand nadine stephen king

STEPHEN KING’S THE STAND. (1994) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY MICK GARRIS.

STARRING GARY SINISE, MOLLY RINGWALD, JAMEY SHERIDAN, LAURA SAN GIACOMO, RUBY DEE, OSSIE DAVIS, MIGUEL FERRER, CORIN NEMEC, MATT FREWER, ADAM STORKE, RAY WALSTON, BILL FAGERBAKKE, PETER VAN NORDEN, KATHY BATES, ED HARRIS, ROB LOWE, SHAWNEE SMITH, SAM RAIMI AND STEPHEN KING IN HIS TRADITIONAL CAMEO ROLE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘We are dead and this is hell.’

Nadine Cross, on the occasion of her ‘honeymoon’ with Randall Flagg.

I love a nice long Stephen King mini-series watched in film-format, ie, all at once, and this is probably his longest ever mini-series. It’s a whopping six hours long, making it twice as long as SALEM’S LOT or THE LANGOLIERS, so I felt like I was getting terrific value for money with it.

My viewing of it happily coincided with my cable TV’s deciding to go on the blink for the weekend, so that I had a working telly but no TV programmes. THE STAND kept my mind somewhat off missing STRICTLY COME DANCING and THE X FACTOR live Saturday night show. I said somewhat, lol. Nothing could keep my mind off that sad, sad loss entirely…!

We’ve got to synopsise an epic six hours into a few short sentences, so here goes. We’ll try to keep it as succinct as possible. There are four ninety-minute sections, entitled THE PLAGUE, THE DREAMS, THE BETRAYAL and finally THE STAND, so if you don’t have six hours to spare all at once you can just watch a section at a time.

First of all, we’re dealing with an American Apocalypse here, people. A terrible plague, ironically known as ‘the superflu’ because you start off by coughing and sniffling, is accidentally released from a top-security government containment facility in a little town called Arnette in East Texas.

The plague decimates everyone in America who comes in contact with it. Well, not quite everyone. A small number of people are, for some reason, immune to it. These are the lucky people who’ll eventually be called upon to re-populate the Earth, heh-heh-heh.

The United States gummint tries to isolate them and study them, but it’s not long before the doctors and the gummint officials in the white spacesuits are dead of the plague too, leaving the survivors free to go wherever they damn well please.

The survivors, of whom more exact details in a bit, are all having the same dream, a dream that tells them to go to Nebraska and find an elderly black woman called Mother Abagail Freemantle, who sits on the porch of her little country house playing her guitar and waiting for the ‘chosen ones,’ ie, the survivors, to come to her.

The survivors all make their way to Mother Abagail, who tells them that their real pilgrimage is only just beginning. Can you imagine the groan that Homer Simpson would let out to hear that his hard work was not ending but merely starting? Lol.

Yep, now the survivors have got to travel to Boulder, Colorado, from where they’ll presumably put down roots and from which they’ll make the titular ‘stand’ against the real evil, the Devil’s emissary on Earth, a chap called Randall Flagg.

Flagg’s base is Las Vegas, ironically the Mecca for those who want to spend their filthy lucre on fancy whores and roulette, and any survivors not called by Mother Abagail have made their way to Flagg to join his unholy army of the night .

Randall Flagg is an hilariously brilliant villain. With his long greying locks and his undoubtedly impressive supernatural powers, he looks like how Scottish comedian Billy Connolly might look if he were a country-and-western singer in cowboy boots and a denim jacket.

He has the ability to shapeshift into a crow or a demon at will (the demon make-up is great, by the way), and his real strength lies in knowing the weaknesses and secret desires of his enemies, even better than they know them themselves.

If Flagg and his minions (former convict Lloyd Henreid, escaped mental patient Trashcan; madcap and immensely volatile slut Julie Lawry, it’s a good group!) ever get to rule the world, it’ll end up being one big crap-table and a monument to the unholy Mammon. Four of Mother Abagail’s disciples set out from Boulder, Colorado to make their final ‘stand’ against the evil of Randall Flagg.

They are Stuart Redman, the only surviving occupant of the town of Arnette in East Texas; Larry Underwood, a singer with huge gambling debts whose career was just about to take off when the plague took hold (that is some bitchin’ luck, isn’t it? On the one hand, his singing career is dead in the water but, on the plus side, his debts are all automatically wiped out because his creditors are all dead of the plague!); a sweet and deeply patriotic retired college professor called Glen Bateman (and his mutt, Kojak!) and a lovely cuddly fella in a checked shirt and jeans called Ralph Brentner.

Stuart is a regular Joe Soap who finds his inner ‘leader’ when the plague hits town. The survivors look to Stuart to lead them out of the mess they’re in and, by golly, he gives it his best shot, when he’s not knocking up Molly Ringwald’s wide-mouthed Frannie, another survivor, that is, and stealing her away from the man who’s loved her his whole life, one Harold Lauder.

Harold is a touchy character, very sensitive, a poet-nerd suffering from unrequited love of the big-toothed Frannie. Frannie’s defection to Camp Stuart and her subsequent pregnancy wounds Harold deeply and makes him an ideal target for Randall Flagg, who sends his own fancy whore-wife Nadine Cross to seduce Harold and bring him over to the Dark Side.

Nadine, who’s also had relations with Larry Underwood but fails to convert him to Flagg’s evil cause because Larry’s now married to and in love with fellow survivor Lucy, is possibly the most interesting character in the movie next to Flagg himself.

She’s played by Laura San Giacomo (PRETTY WOMAN, SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE), an extraordinarily beautiful woman whom I personally could look at and listen to all day, she’s so striking-looking.

When she’s brutally raped by a demonic Flagg on their so-called ‘wedding night,’ a travesty of a genuinely lovely and happy wedding night, she loses her mind altogether, proving that she’s not entirely evil and not wholly on board with Flagg’s evil plans for world domination.

The rape scene and its disturbing aftermath, when we see how traumatised Nadine is and how white her hair has become as a result of it, is really quite shocking. On the plus side, however, Nadine’s lovely boobies stand straight up in their Wonderbra when she’s in a lying-down position and they look absolutely marvellous. If they’re fake, which I’m not entirely sure of, then the plastic surgeon has done a most commendable job.

Rob Lowe, an actor I’ve never really cared for, plays a deaf-mute survivor called Nick Andros. Nick Andros is only really interesting from the point of view that he discovers poor ‘retarded’ Tom Cullen, who later turns out to be quite the hero of the piece, living alone in his small town as the sole survivor of the plague.

Nick finds Tom re-arranging the local store mannequins into little tableaux on the village square, through which no traffic ever runs any more. Everyone who used to drive through the now-deserted town is long-dead. It’s really quite creepy, what he’s done with them there mannequins…!

Anyway, I loved THE STAND. It’s six good hours of pure enjoyable entertainment, and Stephen King himself makes his trademark cameo as one of the ‘chosen ones.’ He looks really well in jeans and a jacket and he has quite a few lines and appearances in this one as well.

There’s a good soundtrack that includes songs from ZZ TOP (Sharp-Dressed Man), Crowded House (Don’t Dream It’s Over) and Blue Oyster Cult (Don’t Fear The Reaper, what else?). 

The make-up for the plague victims is positively top-notch and it’s really freaky when the survivors go into the church to clean up the bodies and they see all these hideous corpses sitting silently there. Traditionally, people turn to God when an Apocalyptic event such as the plague occurs, we’re told, and we can well believe it, too.

Kathy Bates has a cameo role as a radio talk-show host whom the Marines have to shut down and Ed Harris (STEPMOM) as an Army Major who can’t stand the heat when the ‘superflu’ looks to be cutting an unstoppable swathe through the rapidly dwindling American populace.

Some of the scenes are really emotional, too. When the survivors are in the town hall of their new home singing the American National Anthem with such pathos, I actually really wanted to stand up and sing right along with them, with my hand on my heart and the tears streaming down my face. I’ve never in my life felt so American, despite the fact that I’m one million per cent Irish, lol. ‘Oh, say can you see…?’ 

I must say that the survivors have a nice cushy number in some ways. Was your pre-plague house a rubbishy crap-shack, or maybe you were paying through the nose to rent some dump that wasn’t big enough to swing a cat in? No problemo. Just take your pick of the fabulous now-empty houses whose owners have all died of the plague, no questions asked. And no pesky mortgages either…!

Tired of your old pre-plague husband or wife? Just get yourself a brand-new one from amongst the survivors and you’re right as rain. This new post-Apocalyptic America has its advantages. Larry Underwood rid himself of his debts and Harold Lauder of his disfiguring acne in this Brave New World of theirs. Every plague-cloud has a silver lining…

I have yet to read the really big long book that inspired this cracking mini-series, believe it or not. I might go and look it out now while I’m still on this major Stephen King buzz. The size of it is so impressive, I have a vague notion that, God and Stephen King forgive my terrible blasphemy, I might have been using it as a doorstop in one of the rooms…!

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

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