NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT. (1973) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

nothing night lads

NOTHING BUT THE NIGHT. (1973) DIRECTED BY PETER SASDY. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY NELSON KEYS. SCREENPLAY BY BRIAN HAYLES. STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, PETER CUSHING, DIANA DORS, GEORGIA BROWN, GWYNETH STRONG AND KEITH BARRON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an odd little curiosity of a film which I was thrilled to discover recently on DVD. It stars two of Britain’s most iconic horror stars, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, as well as the ravishing Diana Dors, one of that country’s most beautiful actresses ever.

I would have given the film a different title, as I’m not sure exactly what ‘Nothing But The Night’ refers to and it sounds a bit wishy-washy. Maybe it’s part of a quotation or something. Even something like ‘Island Of Terror’ or ‘Island Of Horror’ might have been a slight improvement. Weak as both suggested alternatives undoubtedly are, at least you’d know from the off what kind of film you were dealing with.

It starts off with a group of annoying schoolchildren on a bus. Was it their screechy rendition of ‘Ten Green Bottles Standing On A Wall’ that caused the bus driver to crash the bus and kill himself? Whatever it was, the bus driver is dead and the lead child, a girl called Mary, is hospitalised.

A doctor called Peter Haynes decides that she’s suffering from repressed trauma because she has repeated nightmares about fire. He enlists Peter Cushing, as his supervisor and the head pathologist of the hospital Dr. Mark Ashley, to help him get to the bottom of it. What can a pathologist do to help? Well, if Mary dies in a fire, I suppose he can perform the autopsy, lol.

Christopher Lee as a retired copper called Colonel Bingham then asks his friend Mark Ashley- yes, our pathologist- for help as well, because a good chum of his has died and Colonel Bingham suspects foul play. The chum who died was a Trustee of the Van Traylen Foundation, a foundation which runs an orphanage in Scotland, and three Trustees in all are dead by now in mysterious circumstances. That’s well suspicious, obviously.

By an incredible coincidence, Mary Valley, the fire girl (played by Gwyneth Strong, aka Rodney’s bird from ONLY FOOLS AND HORSES), is one of the Trustees’ orphans. Also, there were three more Trustees aboard the bus that crashed. Curiouser and curiouser, as they say.

Dr. Haynes is convinced that there’s more to Mary’s case than meets the eye. He gets involved with a sexy, supercilious reporter lady called Joan Foster, who thinks she knows it all and who is trying to re-unite Mary with her birth mother Anna Harb, and therein hangs an interesting tale. Could there be a story in it for Joan?

Played by Diana Dors in a messy red wig, Anna Harb is portrayed as a crude, common-as-muck ex-prostitute who spent ten years in Broadmoor and had Mary taken away from her for working as a prostitute while the child was in her care. That seems unfair, as clearly Anna Harb was only doing it so that she and Mary could eat, but whatever. The state (in most countries) has always been unfair to women.

Now Anna wants her child back but the Trustees are determined that this won’t happen. They whisk Mary from the hospital off to the island on which their orphanage is situated, leaving poor distraught Anna Harb with no choice but to follow her daughter to the island in secret.

Sir Mark and Colonel Bingham head to the island also, to investigate the deaths (suicides or murders?) of the three former Trustees. They are accompanied by Inspector Cameron, well played by Fulton Mackay (one of the stars of the sitcom PORRIDGE) with his brilliant Scottish accent.

What they discover on this isolated island would put you in mind of poor old Sergeant Neil Howie coming to Summerisle to investigate what he thinks is the case of a missing child in the 1973 mystery film THE WICKER MAN. What he discovers there is the stuff of nightmares, and Christopher Lee as the arrogant and aristocratic Lord Summerisle is the puppet-master expertly pulling the strings behind the nightmare.

Now the boot is on the other foot for Christopher Lee. Here, as the terribly English and upper-crust ex-copper Colonel Bingham, he experiences first-hand the terrors that the island holds for strangers and outsiders such as himself, while his chum Sir Mark unravels scientifically the exact truth behind what has been happening here on the mysterious island.

There’s at least one very gruesome death in the film, as well as a rather spectacular end scene involving Christopher Lee which, without giving anything away, made me want to yell at the screen: ‘Come on Chris, you’re Dracula, you’re Saruman, kick their asses! Knock ’em down! Flatten the little bastards! Are you gonna let them tread all over you like that?’ It felt rather demeaning to see him lying in the mud like that, but he was clearly overpowered, lol.

He looks so handsome too in his lovely hound’s-tooth jacket and beige overcoat (probably both his own), with that furry caterpillar of a moustache clamped to his upper lip for dear life. I prefer him without the moustache but it does make him look even more distinguished than usual. He’s more than manly enough to carry it off.

Peter Cushing looks and sounds immaculate here, as always, and the two leading men are so natural and easy with each other that it’s not at all hard to picture them being friends with each other in real life, two good mates who worked together and genuinely liked and respected each other. God bless ’em both. They were magnificent. Hope they’re resting in peace together now, the pair of ’em.

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, 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

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HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S 1982 SCRIPT-BOOK REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

house shadows papa and victoria

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: THE SCREENPLAY. (1982) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘Room for every nightmare… A nightmare in every room…’

The opening passage is lifted directly from Michael Armstrong’s own website and I think it describes his work better than I ever could, but I’ve been asked to say a few words myself in promotion of this fantastic new collection of books that he’s putting out, therefore I will now proceed to say several. Words, that is. Give me an inch and I’ll almost certainly take a mile. I’m a pushy broad and, anyway, there’s actually a lot to say about the man and his works.

Michael Armstrong (there’s a really cute photo of him on the back covers of all the books) is the screenwriter/director behind a load of films that you guys probably already know quite well. Some of you may even know his name already but, for others, this may be your first time hearing it.

Unlikely, as this rather prolific and obviously hard-working fella’s been penning film scripts for over fifty years, but you never know. Some folks who’ve been on Mars since the turn of the last century may need to be filled in on all the developments in the film industry since they’ve been ‘off-planet,’ so to speak…!

So, if you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

Michael Armstrong’s writing is an absolute treat to read. Reading the pictures he paints with his words, as it were, is not much different to seeing them played out in front of you on the cinema screen.

I read the script of HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS on a dreary Monday morning when I was supposed to be doing boring housework. It was a more than acceptable alternative, I can assure you.

While I was reading it, I first amused and then annoyed the hell out of the family members present by constantly bursting out with: ‘They actually say this in the film! This is in the film, and this is in the film, and Christopher Lee actually DOES this in the film!’ And so on until they threw the book at me. The book and several cushions and a plastic sheep to boot. I said no more from then on, humph. I sulked royally and kept my additional (m)utterings to myself.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, the film-script book of which features a darling haunted house on the cover, wasn’t just a great slice of ‘Eighties horror hokum. It had the distinction of being the first and, as it turned out, the only film to ever feature the four greatest horror icons of all time all together, namely, the aforementioned Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and John Carradine as well. Horror royalty, every last one of ’em.

There was a great supporting cast starring alongside the lads as well, people like Desi Arnaz Jr., Sheila Keith, a smashing horror icon in her own right, and Julie Peasgood, you know, ‘er off BROOKSIDE. She played Fran Pearson in the early ‘Nineties.

I loved a nice bit of Brookie, I did, on a Sat’day afternoon back in the day. Eatin’ me dinner while the Omnibus was on the telly, like. I’m imagining these words in a Scouser accent, by the way, so you’d better be too, or I’ll ‘ave ta tell ya to do one, as it were. Quaite.

Anyway, Michael based his marvellous screenplay on the 1913 novel, SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE by the curiously named Earl Derr Biggers. (Incidentally, he was the writer of the Charlie Chan detective novels, so obviously he loved a good juicy mystery.) It’s the story of a young American novelist who holes up at the titular Baldpate Manor to speed-write a book in order to win a bet with his agent.

Baldpate Manor is in fact a magnificent old Welsh mansion that’s supposed to be deserted, the perfect oasis of peace in which to do some serious writing. Supposed to be deserted. In fact, it ends up being more populated than the post office on dole day, and the baffled novelist will have a hell of a job getting any writing at all done with all the famous faces popping up there continuously to distract him from his goal.

The script may have been based on someone else’s novel, but the little tributes and homages and nods in it to various other iconic horror movies like PSYCHO and THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER are all Michael’s idea and no-one else’s. His writing really sets a scene for the reader too. Here’s a passage in which the novelist, Kenneth, and the damsel-in-distress Mary (‘er off Brookie), are entering the fabulous old dining-room of Baldpate Manor:

‘They enter the dining-room and stare in amazement.

The enormous room is brilliantly illuminated by candles.

The long polished table is formally laid out: cut-glass and silver, sparkling royally.

By the fire: GRISBANE and VICTORIA and the mysterious figure of SEBASTIAN; a slight, gaunt-faced man in his sixties, wearing a wing collar and a dark suit.

The three of them are gathered in a conspiratorial huddle. They break quickly, like naughty children caught out. KENNETH stares in amazement at the scene before him.’

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: PAGES 73-74.

I don’t know about you guys, but I can totally picture that scene in my mind’s eye. I’m moving now to the scene where the motley crew enter Roderick’s room for the first time. I won’t tell you just yet who Roderick (perhaps I should say ‘Wodewick?’) is but, after reading these lines from the script, I reckon you’ll be bursting to know.

‘A silence hovers over the room as they move slowly about, looking in amazement at its bizarre sights: clues to Roderick’s warped mind.

A toy fort on the floor, laid out as for a savage battle…

Scores of soldiers scattered around as though dead; all horribly mutilated,

The aftermath of an imagined massacre.

MARY gives an involuntary shudder as she spies in the corner of the room…

Piles of small animal bones neatly arranged into heaps,

Skeletons of dead rats and mice…

Hundreds of tiny white bones glinting in the candlelight:

Tiny white bones picked clean.

KENNETH glances behind him to notice the back of the bedroom door…

Down which enormous scratch marks can be seen…

Indicating the powerful fury of strong fingernails having clawed deeply

Into the dark oak wood.

VICTORIA indicates a narrow panel at the bottom of the door.

VICTORIA: I’d slide food into him through there… every night…

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: PAGES 105-106.

Cripes! Fair sent a shiver down my spine, that did, when I read it there in black and white. It’s every bit as effective as the corresponding scenes in the film, if not more so. Sometimes, when you read something really chilling, your mind works overtime visualising the scene and you do a better job yourself than the film-maker, almost.

It looks like Kenneth, the successful writer from America, isn’t going to get much work done in good old Baldpate Manor over this particular weekend. When the house is at its fullest, it contains the grim-faced Papa Grisbane and his daughter Victoria (Sheila Keith), his two sons Lionel (Vincent Price) and Sebastian (Peter Cushing), the posh rich property developer Mr. Corrigan (Christopher Lee) and the warring young couple (played by Louise English and Richard Hunter) who’ve lost their way while hiking.

Then, of course, there’s Kenneth the writer himself and also the blonde and bubbly Mary, his publisher Sam’s secretary. At least, that’s who she says she is, anyway. Sam the publisher (Richard Todd) even makes an appearance at Baldpate Manor at one point, and then there’s also the ever-present, rather sinister shadow of Roderick Grisbane.

Roderick (Wodewick!) is the one strangely absent family member who appears to have slipped through the rather gaping cracks in the family infrastructure somehow. And yet he’s tied up inexplicably in the reasons for the family’s converging upon Baldpate Manor on this particular night, this grim anniversary for which only the Grisbanes know the grisly reason.

What horrors lie behind Roderick’s stoutly locked bedroom door in the upper floors of the ramshackle old manor house and, once they are revealed, can the Family Grisbane withstand the after-shocks? Not to mention where all this intense Grisbane family stuff leaves Kenneth and Mary, the two truly innocent bystanders? Or are they? Truly innocent, I mean? I wouldn’t bet on it, dear readers. I wouldn’t bet on it…

In the extra features on the DVD of HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, Michael Armstrong reminisces fondly, alongside ‘er offa BROOKIE, about the making of the film. He talks so passionately and enthusiastically about it that it’s lovely to see. He comes across as the kind of guy who’d sit chatting to you in the pub about films till the cows come home, or the landlord calls time, whichever comes first.

So that’s it, anyway. I’ve said way more than the few words I was asked for but whatevs, it was an interesting subject and I enjoyed myself. Michael’s books can be purchased through his website and from Paper Dragon Productions, Michael’s publishers, and they’d make the perfect present for film buffs and students of cinema everywhere. I’m keeping mine for myself, however. Ain’t no-one but me getting their hands on these babies…!

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS. (1983) SCREENPLAY BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG. FILM REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

House shadows big 4

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS. (1983) DIRECTED BY PETER WALKER. PRODUCED BY MENAHEM GOLAN AND YORAM GLOBUS. SCREENPLAY BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG. BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE’ BY EARL DERR BIGGERS. MUSIC BY RICHARD HARVEY.

STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, PETER CUSHING, VINCENT PRICE, JOHN CARRADINE, SHEILA KEITH, JULIE PEASGOOD, DESI ARNAZ JR., RICHARD TODD, LOUISE ENGLISH AND RICHARD HUNTER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

‘Room for every nightmare… A nightmare in every room…’

Aw, I love this marvellous old gothic horror-comedy film, famous for starring four of the most iconic horror legends of all time. Namely, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine, the daddy of Bobby, Keith, Bruce and David and the founding member of what you might like to call the Carradine acting dynasty.

The screenplay was penned by Michael Armstrong, a screen-writer whose luxurious script-books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing over the last year or so. As the blurb above says, he’s actually publishing his entire screen-writing output in physical book form, and the books are utterly gorgeous. As I think I’ve remarked in another review of his work, they’re greatly improving the look of my personal library.

The film itself was shot in Rotherfield Park, an absolutely fabulous manor house in rural Hampshire in England. It’s the ‘House Of The Long Shadows’ all right, lit by guttering candles, furnished with all manner (all manor?!) of wonderfully gothic bits and pieces and riddled with tunnels and secret underground passages and tower bedrooms atop the winding staircases without which no self-respecting haunted house would be seen dead, as it were.

It’s the perfect setting for this darkly comic murder mystery movie set in Wales, in the house known as ‘Baldpate Manor’ to the taciturn locals. The film-makers, in fact, couldn’t have found a better, more atmospheric place in which to weave their cinematic web of lies, intrigue, deceit, betrayal, a little bit of lust and a giant dollop of honest-to-goodness tongue-in-cheek humour. It’s a film well worth your time and effort.

The four horror greats ham it up wonderfully as members of an ancient aristocratic family known as the Grisbanes. They’ve all converged on the magnificent old mansion house in the middle of a terrible thunderstorm to commemorate a grim and grisly deed that took place in the house forty years ago on this very night. It turns out to be a momentous family reunion…

John Carradine (1906-1988) plays the oh-so-prim-and-proper English paterfamilias, complete with one of those terrific old velvety smoking caps with the tassels hanging down from them that you don’t see anymore.

Despite the fact that, as we see in the film, he’s actually committed a rather dreadful crime, he’s a real stickler for the more pettifogging rules and regulations regarding manners and etiquette. He even calls other men ‘Sirrah!’ when he’s giving ’em a bollocking, lol. How posh is that?

His two sons Lionel and Sebastian are played by Vincent Price (1911-1993), who camps it up as theatrically as only he could do (‘I have returned…!), and a touchingly old-looking and humorously-lithping Peter Cushing (1913-1994).

He calls his brother Roderick his bwother Wodewick! According to the film’s back-story, Peter Cushing came up with the idea of the ‘lithp’ himself and the screen-writer Michael Armstrong was delighted with the actor’s little improvised bit of characterisation.

Christopher Lee (1922-2015), as handsome and as forbidding as Count Dracula himself, plays an upper-class property developer called Mr. Corrigan who has gate-crashed the Grisbanes’ grisly commemoration dinner for reasons of his own.

Cult horror actress Sheila Keith (1920-2004), she of FRIGHTMARE fame, does a top-notch job of playing Victoria, the only daughter of the Grisbane family. In her stiffly-starched black dress and severe hairstyle, she’s straight out of the Victorian era and therefore utterly perfect in the role. She’s known heartache in her time too, has Victoria. ‘He DID love me, I know he did! We were to be married! Oh, Ashley, Ashley…!’ Shades of GONE WITH THE WIND, much?

Desi Arnaz Jr., himself of good Hollywood stock, plays the American writer who holes up at Baldpate Manor for a couple of days to write a completed gothic novel and thereby win a bet with his agent. A twenty-thousand-dollar bet, to be precise, and most definitely not to be sniffed at.

I’ve often longed to be able to speed-write summat myself, only to be faced with the indisputable fact that I’m more of a literary marathon-runner than a sprinter. Still, you know what they say. Slow and steady wins the race.

Julie Peasgood, the blonde actress from long-running Scouser soap opera BROOKSIDE (I used to live for it!), is cast as the essential love interest. In the lovely ninety-minute documentary that accompanies the long-awaited DVD release of this cult horror-comedy, she acknowledges how absolutely lucky, lucky, lucky she was to have been included in the one and only film project ever to have involved these four horror greats. Damn right she was lucky, lol. It was the experience of a lifetime by anyone’s standards and only a handful of people were privileged enough to receive invites, as it were, to the party.

The film, directly or indirectly, references a load of other films in an affectionate homage, everything from PSYCHO to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, from GONE WITH THE WIND (see above) to James Whale’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE. 

Not to mention just about every horror picture ever made that featured a revolving bookcase leading to a secret tunnel by which the killer could freely roam about gaining access to every room in the house and all his hapless victims, too.

The murders are terrifically gruesome and grisly and the plot twists really do come thick and fast. So much so, in fact, that to this day I still don’t understand the very final plot twist, the one that comes just as the film is ending. Never mind, though. It doesn’t really matter.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS is a superb piece of horror memorabilia that every collector should own. The four horror legends have great fun sending each other- and themselves- up, to the point where they’re almost parodying themselves and their old horror roles, and the fun they’re having really does show.

What a labour of love. What a smashing souvenir to have of a wonderful old era of film that can never come again, what a perfect- and permanent- reminder of those golden days. Watch it and love it. How could any of us horror fans do otherwise…?

Michael’s books can be purchased through his website and from Paper Dragon Productions, Michael’s publishers, and they’d make the perfect present for film buffs and students of cinema everywhere. Here are the direct links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

If you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

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

ASSAULT, also known as IN THE DEVIL’S GARDEN. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

assault tessa screaming

ASSAULT. (1971) BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘THE RAVINE’ BY KENDAL YOUNG. DIRECTED BY SIDNEY HAYERS. STARRING SUZY KENDALL, LESLEY-ANNE DOWN, JAMES LAURENSON, FRANK FINLAY, TONY BECKLEY, DILYS HAMLETT, ALLAN CUTHBERTSON, DAVID ESSEX AND FREDDIE JONES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an excellent British horror-slash-murder mystery from my absolute favourite British horror period, the early ‘Seventies. The stuff they made back then just can’t be surpassed: THE WICKER MAN, THE APPOINTMENT, CRUCIBLE OF TERROR, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and so many, many more.

In fact, the first six minutes of ASSAULT (the title is the only thing about this that I’d change, it made me word-associate it with rifles, for some reason…!) reminded me of the first five minutes of THE APPOINTMENT, a proper British chiller starring Edward Woodward from THE EQUALISER and THE WICKER MAN.

When the schoolgirl called Sandie is walking home alone from school through the lonely, forbidden path in the forest in THE APPOINTMENT and strange eerie voices are calling to her by name from inside the forest, it gives me chills every time, even though I already know what’s coming.

Speaking of the title, ASSAULT, by the way, the movie does have another title, IN THE DEVIL’S GARDEN, which might have been a little more atmospheric. It’s such a wonderfully atmospheric movie, very of the time in which it was made, and something of a sex pervert’s dream as well, featuring as it does all these sexy, sexually mature seventeen-and-eighteen-year-old schoolgirls in the tiny little pink skirts no longer than gym-slips and pristine white knee-socks they wear to school.

Is it any wonder, then, that an actual sex pervert is loose in the movie, choosing for his victims the girls from Mrs. Sanford’s School For Girls who unwisely walk home alone from school through the adjoining forest…?

The action all seems to take place in a lonely part of the forest called the Common or Devil’s End. He rapes them initially, this dreadful sex pervert, before graduating to rape coupled with strangulation leading to death. It’s a shocking state of affairs.

Lesley-Anne Down in one of her earliest roles plays Tessa Hurst, the first girl from Mrs. Sanford’s to be pursued through the woods and then brutally raped. Lesley-Anne Down (UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS, COUNTESS DRACULA, ARCH OF TRIUMPH with Anthony Hopkins, blockbuster mini-series NORTH AND SOUTH) is one of the most beautiful women ever to grace a cinema screen. Her expressive eyes, her rose-red luscious lips, her lustrous long dark hair all add up to a most pleasing picture indeed.

Her character of Tessa Hurst goes into a state of catatonic shock after the terrible attack. Even I know that, and I’m not a doctor. No amount of throwing a ball at her mid-section and expecting her to catch it will help her to snap out of her coma-like state, are you hearing this, attractive psychiatrist Dr. Greg Lomax…? Heh-heh-heh.

Within six or seven minutes of the first attack, another schoolgirl has been raped and, this time, she’s been choked to death as well. This time round, though, there’s a witness to the murder, the art teacher Julie West as played by Suzy Kendall. She’s an extremely attractive young lady, with her long glorious hippy hair, purple-tinted spectacles, knee-boots and mini-skirts. Very jazzy and of the time.

When she describes the assailant to the Judge at the inquiry as looking just like ‘the Devil,’ the Judge laughs at her and dismisses her as an over-imaginative female. The Judge is played by the same chap (Allan Cuthbertson) who attends Basil Fawlty’s first- and last- ever Gourmet Night at Fawlty Towers when the only item on the menu is, well, duck. And what do you do if you don’t like duck? Well, if you don’t like duck, I’m afraid you’re rather stuck…!

Any one of the men in the film could be the sex killer, which is what keeps the plot ticking over nicely all the way to the end. Every male character is a possible suspect.

There’s John Velyan (Frank Finlay), the copper investigating the dastardly crimes, but you never really get the feeling that he’s anything other than a straight-up copper who’s just dying to put this kinky murdering bastard behind bars where he belongs.

Then there’s the aforementioned attractive investigating psychiatrist Dr. Greg Lomax, who’s played by the devastatingly handsome James Laurenson. He’s sweet on Miss West, the beautiful art teacher, but what’s in all those pills he keeps giving her, that she obediently swallows without even questioning what’s in them? She must indeed be mesmerised by his delicious, chocolatey-brown come-to-bed peepers, because I know I certainly was, tee-hee-hee.

The most obvious suspect is probably the most odious, one Leslie Sanford who’s the husband of Mrs. Sanford who runs the Girls’ School, the school from which all the victims are chosen. Mrs. Sanford, who’s a good deal older and more staid than her husband, is utterly distraught about what’s happening to the good name of her school.

Her husband Leslie, on the other hand, is enjoying seeing his wife’s good name being dragged through the mud. His older wife’s money is what keeps him in the lap of relative luxury and boy, doesn’t he hate her for it! He feels emasculated, so he blames his wife. He even rewards her fidelity and generosity by lecherously groping the schoolgirls under her care.

Leslie Sanford loses no opportunity to slag his mortified wife off to John Velyan, the investigating police officer, but Velyan won’t play ball with the odious little man. He sees right through the nasty piece of work, who even confesses to the rapes but Velyan won’t arrest him. Why not? Let’s just say that Velyan’s got this nasty little scrap of humanity sussed…

There’s also Mr. Bartell, the principal of the local hospital, and Mr. Denning the obnoxious journalist, who absolutely should not get away with terrorising and shadowing Miss West the way he does. Just because he’s a newspaper man in search of a story doesn’t give him the right to behave the way he does.

That just leaves Milton, the police officer assigned to be Miss West’s bodyguard, to round up the list of possible suspects. There’s even a rather sinister-looking electricity pylon in the woods that looks like it might be culpable of some wrong-doing at some point.

Grip, the Sanfords’ dog, is a male all right but he definitely isn’t a suspect. Popular singer David Essex as the chap who comes into the pharmacy with his girlfriend isn’t a suspect, exactly, but he’ll certainly think twice before he whips out his lighter in public again…!

ASSAULT is one of the finest films of its time. I’m only surprised it’s not better-known. It’s got a fantastic cast and a great plot which sees a crazed sex killer running amok amongst the lovely nubile pupils of a local girls’ school. What’s not to love…?

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

 

ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG. (1927) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

lodger scarf

THE LODGER: A STORY OF THE LONDON FOG. (1927) DIRECTED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK.

BASED ON THE NOVEL BY MARIE BELLOC LOWNDES AND THE PLAY CO-WRITTEN BY MARIE BELLOC LOWNDES.

STARRING IVOR NOVELLO, MALCOLM KEEN, JUNE TRIPP, MARIE AULT AND ARTHUR CHESNEY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This fog-wreathed silent movie has the distinction of being the first real thriller ever directed by a certain Alfred Hitchcock, and the distinction also of being a bloody good film as well.

It already bears some of the future hallmarks of the great man’s directing and, in fact, it’s a jolly polished product for a first-timer. Not many thriller directors could have achieved such perfection on a first try.

Thirty-eight years have elapsed since Jack The Ripper held the city of London to ransom in the infamous ‘Autumn of Terror’ in 1888, and here now we have Alfred Hitchcock presenting us with this spooky tale in which a serial killer of women murders an attractive blonde female every Tuesday, regular as clockwork. Well, it’s good to be regular, lol. There’s a whole branch of the pharmaceutical industry devoted to that very end, after all. (Excuse the pun…!)

This is probably one of the first ever films to make reference to Jack The Ripper or be based on him. The man who savagely slaughtered Polly Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Kelly in the Autumn of Terror in 1888 gave rise to an absolute plethora of books, films, magazine articles and word-of-mouth stories all detailing his horrific crimes for the reading public who, seemingly, couldn’t get enough of him. We could be looking here at one of the first few films based on his infamous career of butchery and hate.

Funny too, that Alfred Hitchcock should begin his illustrious career almost mythologising blondes, when we all know now that he had a big thing for them in his later works. Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, Eva Marie Saint, Grace Kelly, even Doris Day, all gorgeous glamorous ice-cool blondes to set the pulses racing and the temperatures soaring. Someone had a definite fetish, heh-heh-heh.

Anyway, off we pop now back to London in the ‘Twenties, as fog-wreathed, dark and mysterious a city as it was in Saucy Jack’s time. A bevy of beautiful blondes are being done to death every week by a madman calling himself ‘The Avenger,’ leading blondes to wear dark wigs as a means of protecting themselves from the marauding murdering maniac.

We go now to the Buntings’ house. Ma and Pa Bunting, a traditional middle-aged English couple, have rooms to let. Pa Bunting sits at the kitchen table reading the newspaper in his shirt-sleeves while Ma Bunting cooks up the vittles.

Now meet Daisy Bunting, their ravishing blonde (yes, blonde!) daughter who works as a model or mannequin for a nearby fashion-house. She’s a thoroughly modern Millie, is Daisy, with her ‘golden curls’ cut short in the style of the time and her legs, shown off to perfection, encased in the hose and high-heeled shoes that were all the rage amongst the young women of the day. Long skirts and dresses were out. Showing off yer shapely pins was in, in in…!

She’s a proper little flapper, this one, with her smart little cloche hats hugging her neat little head, and of course she has a suitor. The Boyfriend is a tall strapping capable fellow, a police detective no less, and one who’s investigating the ‘Avenger’ murders to boot.

Daisy and The Boyfriend rub along together just fine, and no doubt the Buntings are thrilled skinny that a chap with such a good pensionable job is taking an interest in their Daisy, an interest which might very easily lead to matrimony. After all, doesn’t The Boyfriend himself remark to the Buntings:

‘As soon as I’ve put a rope around the Avenger’s neck, I’ll put a ring on Daisy’s finger!’

However, along comes the titular ‘Lodger’ to set the cat royally among the pigeons. One dark foggy night, Mrs. Bunting opens the door to a tall dark-haired young gentleman with a scarf wound round his face. He’s come about the room to let. As he’s willing to pay a month in advance, Mrs. Bunting is more than happy at first to accommodate the handsome stranger.

He’s a queer duck though, is this one. For a kick-off, he asks Mrs. Bunting to take away the pictures in his room, which are all of golden-haired young women. Hmmm. Very odd indeed, wouldn’t you say?

He’s certainly a bit of a rum cove and no mistake. When he meets the golden-haired Daisy, however, he demonstrates no such aversion to blonde females. The pair are instantly attracted to each other.

The Lodger, with his air of mystery and his chalk-white face painted to resemble a chorus girl’s, complete with Clara Bow lippie, is utterly enchanted by Daisy, much to The Boyfriend’s disgust.

How dare this poncy fly-by-night swoop down and take Daisy away from him? How dare he buy her an expensive dress from the fashion-house where she models? Such a gesture smacks rudely of an intimacy which disturbs The Boyfriend no end.

The Buntings are none too pleased either, especially when The Lodger’s mysterious nightly comings and goings seem to coincide with the movements of The Avenger, who’s continued to commit his ghastly murders even while we’ve all been caught up in the super-exciting love triangle between Daisy, The Boyfriend and The Lodger.

The Buntings and The Boyfriend all come to the same dreadful conclusion. If The Lodger is The Avenger, who signs his killings with his chosen moniker so we know whodunnit, then isn’t Daisy’s life in the most appalling danger? And hasn’t she this very night gone off into the fog with The Lodger without so much as a by-your-leave to the Buntings or The Boyfriend…?

The scenes near the end, that are not quite the end, resemble the grim finale of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA from 1925. I’ll say no more than that. The foggy gaslit streets of London deserve a credit all their own, and Alfred Hitchcock an even bigger credit for managing to make his debut thriller so marvellously, gothically atmospheric.

There’s a twist in the film- you know Uncle Alfred’s a big fan of a twist in the tale/tail- and to think that he made this film nearly a hundred years ago boggles the mind. I love that something so completely perfect and perfectly complete was made so long ago. It’s a must-see for Hitchcock fans. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.

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

BASIL RATHBONE AND NIGEL BRUCE IN THE SHERLOCK HOLMES FILM COLLECTION: 1939-1945. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

house of fear

BASIL RATHBONE AND NIGEL BRUCE AS SHERLOCK HOLMES AND DR. WATSON IN A COLLECTION OF FOURTEEN SUPERB OLD FILMS FROM 1939-1945: BASED ON THE BOOKS BY SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

These fourteen marvellous old films will always be my favourite of all films. I lapped them up as a teenager desperate to escape the drudgery of school and exams. Back then, of course, I had to watch ’em on television as and when they came up, which was probably infrequently. Now, in this blessed age of DVD and Blu-Ray, I have my own little box-set and can view the films whenever I choose. Which is often, lol.

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce work so well together as Holmes and Watson. Holmes has of course a superior intellect but also a deep fondness and affection for the sometimes bungling but unswervingly loyal Watson. Either one of them would die for the other, that’s how deep this fondness goes.

There’s a small cast of regulars too, such as Dennis Hoey as Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard, whose rivalry with Holmes is tempered with a genuine feeling and respect for the great detective. He’s good for a laugh but he usually gets his man in the end, albeit with much prompting from Sherlock Holmes.

Mary Gordon, who was privileged to unwittingly give old Frankie’s Monster a helping hand out of the burned-out ruins of the old mill in the second Universal FRANKENSTEIN film, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), is marvellous as Holmes’s and Watson’s long-suffering landlady, cook and housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson.

She’s had to put up with a lot, the poor old dear. Clients and villains coming and going to and from Holmes’s book-lined rooms at 221B Baker Street in London at all hours of the day and night, some of them with murder in mind. The assassination of one Sherlock Holmes, to be precise.

Then there’s the bullet-holes with which Holmes is known to ‘adorn’ her ‘beautiful plaster’ walls, and the fact that you can take food and drink to the detective but you can’t necessarily make him partake of it.

‘See that he drinks a drop, will you?’ she begs the rotund and loveable Dr. Watson, who laughingly replies: ‘I will, my dear,’ while knowing full well that there’s only a slim chance that Holmes won’t be rushing off to solve a mystery before the steam has even vanished from the breakfast kippers.

Sherlock Holmes’s old adversary, some would even say nemesis, Professor Moriarty, is played variously by Lionel Atwill, George Zucco and the coldly chilling Henry Daniell. Holmes needn’t expect any mercy from that quarter, although the one-upmanship between the two, who are not without a little vanity, is often hilarious.

‘No doubt everything I have to say has already crossed your mind,’ Henry Daniell as the slippery Professor comments quietly but firmly in THE WOMAN IN GREEN. ‘And no doubt my answer has already crossed YOURS,’ retorts Holmes, equally firmly.

See what I mean? Their intellects are both so superior that they don’t even need to have a conversation in order to have a conversation. They’re too smart for their own good, lol. And each is as stubborn as the other.

‘I’ll not rest until I see you hang for the Finger Murders,’ Holmes tells his old enemy a moment later in the same movie. ‘And I tell you,’ Moriarty replies a little later on, ‘that I shall never stand upon the gallows.’ Well, I guess that that’s that, then…!

There’s a whole host of actors (and actresses) who regularly appear in the films as butlers, cabbies, policemen, customs officials and criminals. These would include: Holmes Herbert, Alec Craig, Olaf Hytten, Vernon Downing, E.E. Clive, Miles Mander, Halliwell Hobbes, Gavin Muir, Paul Cavanagh, Gerald Hamer, Ian Wolfe, Harry Cording, Arthur Hohl, Frederick Morlock, Montagu Love, Leyland Hodgson, Reginald Denny, Sally Shepherd and even John Carradine.

If I’ve left anyone out, please feel free to contact me and let me know. I’d like this list to be as comprehensive as possible. One of the many fascinating things about these lads (and ladettes!) is that many of them were born in the 1890s, like Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce themselves, or the 1880s or even the 1870s. That they’ve all, without exception, gone to their eternal reward saddens me more than I could ever tell you.

Evelyn Ankers (Universal’s THE WOLFMAN with Lon Chaney Junior), Hillary Brooke, Eve Amber, Patricia Morison, Ida Lupino and Gale Sondergaard all take turns as the eye candy in the films, although the phrase ‘eye candy’ doesn’t do justice to the passion and style with which they play their parts. It almost implies ‘dumb,’ although these gals are anything but.

All beautiful, all dressed in the most magnificent ‘Forties furs and jewels with elaborate hats or hairstyles (except for Evelyn Ankers in THE VOICE OF TERROR and THE PEARL OF DEATH, she’s meant to be from the lower classes, lol), some play helpless females throwing themselves on Holmes’s mercy and others play stone-cold villains.

Holmes treats all of the ladies he encounters with the same courtesy and respect, making the innocent ones feel safe and the criminals like they’ve finally met someone who could match them, move for move, in the elaborate chess game of catch-the-murderer.

Dr. Watson, of course, is an incorrigible flirt and brightens up considerably when he’s in the company of an attractive woman. He tends to forget all else, however, when he’s entranced by the sight of a shapely ankle or a Cupid’s-Bow of a lipsticked mouth, leading more than once to Holmes having to pull his (Dr. Watson’s) chestnuts out of the fire for him.

‘I’m sorry, Holmes,’ mumbles a shame-faced and chastened Watson after he’s screwed up yet again. ‘Never mind all that,’ replies his friend and mentor generously. ‘The game’s afoot, and I shall need you!’ ‘Will you, Holmes, will you really?’ says a much brightened Watson. Then it’s all ‘Grab your hat and coat, Watson!’ and out the door and down the stairs they rush, Watson grumbling nineteen to the dozen once more about Holmes’s peremptory manner.

The two of them rub along very nicely together in their smoky shared rooms at 221B Baker Street, filled with the fug of Holmes’s perpetual tobacco, stored in the toe of the Persian slipper, and the eternal scraping of Holmes’s bow across the violin he loves to play. Yes, as a roommate I’d say he wouldn’t be the easiest to live with. Kudos to Watson for putting up with him.

Watson’s something of a writer too, as well as a retired medic, and whenever one of his accounts of his and Holmes’s adventures appears in THE STRAND magazine, he couldn’t be more pleased.

Not even Holmes begging him to be more fact-oriented and scientifically logical in his accounts and less lurid can’t blight his pleasure. Something tells me, however, that Holmes is somehow secretly pleased with being thus lauded and celebrated. He’s only human, after all, and we all have our little vanities.

What I now propose is to quickly synopsise each of the fourteen films in one or two sentences, including a highlight or notable moment for each. All made between 1939 and 1945, the exact years of World War Two, several of them even allude to the War and to Hitler and his naughty Nazis. In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SPIDER WOMAN, you even get to shoot the big dictators of the war ‘right where their ‘earts ought to be!,’ implying of course that they lack them. Hearts, that is.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES sees attractive young actor Richard Greene taking top billing as Sir Henry Baskerville, but Holmes is the real star as he figures out the mystery behind the sudden and violent deaths of so many of Sir Henry’s ancestors.

Highlight? Holmes disguised as an old beggar and mortally offending a disgusted Dr. Watson with his peddler’s prattle…!

Like THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is the only other film set in the Victorian era. It’s top hats, frock-coats, gloves and canes at the ready as Holmes tries to find the connection between a terrified young woman (played by Ida Lupino) and the imminent arrival of a precious jewel at the Tower of London.

Highlight? The evil Moriarty chiding a butler over the death of a plant while a mournfully eerie tune plays from behind a closed door…

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (bom-ba-ba-bom!) helps the revered detective to foil a nasty Nazi plot to invade Britain and bring it under the dreadful aegis of the Third Reich.

Highlight? The gorgeous Evelyn Ankers as Kitty, exhorting her fellow Englishmen and women to help Mr. Holmes by going out and about to discover the true meaning of the word ‘Christopher…’

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON sees Holmes again attempting to foil the Nazis by keeping a certain scientist, Dr. Tobell, and his invaluable bomb-site safe from Hitler’s sweaty grasp.

Highlight? Holmes’s decidely unbecoming brushed-forward hairstyle, for one, and then he and Moriarty politely discussing ever more imaginative ways for Moriarty to murder the captive detective once and for all. Stop giving him ideas, Holmes! For Chrissakes, he’s trying to bloody well kill you, after all. No need to make it so easy for him.

In SHERLOCK HOLMES GOES TO WASHINGTON, Holmes doesn’t do a Mister Smith but instead foils an international spy ring that’s going mad trying to locate a secret document which, if it falls into their enemy hands, could be disastrous to England.

Highlight? Holmes playing the part of a fussy, know-it-all antiques collector in order to beard the lion in its den. The thing to remember about this one is that the person who has it (the document) doesn’t know he has it…

SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH has always been one of my favourites in the series of films. The creepy old Musgrave Manor, now a rest-home for convalescent soldiers run by Dr. Watson MD, is unaccountably the scene of several brutal murders. Is the key to the whole ghastly affair tied up in the mish-mash of ancient words known as The Musgrave Ritual…?

Highlight? The murderer’s confession down in the damp old crypt and also Watson’s dilly-dallying on the stairs with the convalescent soldier, each of them undecided for several minutes as to whether to go up the stairs, come down the stairs or go outside and risk being shot by the copper on duty. Vernon Downing, who plays the soldier Clavering, also features in THE SPIDER WOMAN and is a very interesting actor about which, sadly, little is known.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SPIDER WOMAN is one of the best films in the series. Insurance policies, a series of highly-publicised ‘pyjama suicides,’ a killer spider and a suspiciously familiar-looking Indian gentleman called Rajniv Singh all feature as Holmes tries to best a feminine mind that’s nearly as sharp as his own. And that’s saying something, let me tell you.

Highlight? The marvellous Gale Sondergaard as Adrea Spedding doing her hilariously fake-as-f**k Mother India act, and also the genuine grief and sense of loss of Inspector Lestrade when he thinks that the great detective has drowned on a fishing holiday to Scotland.

‘Why didn’t you go in after ‘im?’ he berates the devastated Dr. Watson. ‘I wasn’t there, I tell you!’ replies the poor doctor, choked with grief. ‘And neither was he. He was gone, I tell you, he was gone…’

And then, enter the funny little postman, the one who thinks that ‘Sherlock ‘olmes was nothing but a’ old ‘erring-gut…’ Don’t worry, Watson won’t let him away with such shocking blasphemy…!

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE PEARL OF DEATH is an absolute cracker of a film. Holmes has his work well and truly cut out for him trying to solve a string of horrible murders, in which the victim is each time found ‘with his- or her- back broken, in a litter of smashed china…!’ The whole thing holds a chilling ring of familiarity to Holmes, but the beast he thinks might be responsible for such grim deeds is dead, isn’t he? Isn’t he…?

Highlight? Without a doubt, Rondo Hatton as The Creeper, or ‘the Oxton ‘orror, I calls him,’ as Detective Lestrade so succinctly puts it. The Creeper gave me nightmares when I was a kid. ‘Go to the room at the top of the stairs. You know what to look for. If you should happen to meet Dr. Boncourt… pay him your respects…’

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SCARLET CLAW is another humdinger of a movie. The little town of La Morte Rouge in Canada (yes, Canada!) is living up to its rather gruesome name as a seemingly supernatural killer strikes its victims randomly and without reason, leaving them in a terrible state with their throats torn out. But Holmes and Watson don’t really believe in the supernatural. ‘No ghosts need apply,’ remember? They rather sensibly decide to look for the killer amongst the living instead…

Highlight? Dr. Watson falling in the various bits of boggy marsh…!

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUSE OF FEAR, an insurance agent begs Holmes to investigate why the members of ‘a most singular club,’ situated in an ancient pile called Drearcliff House (the clue’s in the name, folks!), are being killed off one by one. ‘No man goes whole to his grave.’ Is a pouch of tobacco going to be the key that will unlock this complex mystery for the great detective?

Highlight? Dr. Watson again, this time fighting off imaginary assailants in the dead of a dark rainy night while he’s supposed to be ‘protecting’ the surviving members of the Good Comrades Club. You might as well ask the cat…

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN PURSUIT TO ALGIERS sees the famous detective escorting a king in danger back to his home country while unravelling the mystery of why a beautiful woman is afraid of her life of the contents of her own music-case. And to think it all starts with a humble plate of fish and chips…

Highlight? Dear old Dr. Watson singing ‘You take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll get to Scotland afore you.’ It fair warms the cockles, does that.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN THE WOMAN IN GREEN is a tale of murder and mesmerism, blackmail and missing digits as Holmes and Moriarty come face-to-face in Holmes’s rooms to discuss, of all things, Moriarty’s extremely cheeky idea for a nice pension plan for himself. It’s a case of Holmes’s will against Moriarty’s as Holmes gets to the bottom of the Finger Murders…

Highlight? Dr. Watson ‘paddling’ in the ‘brook’ with only one shoe and sock removed because ‘the other leg is waterproof…!’ The cheek of that hypnotist fella. Humph.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN TERROR BY NIGHT sees our chums hunting down a jewel-thief on a moving train while a killer picks off the passengers like ducks in a row. We have a coffin with a false bottom, a teapot-thief and a man who’s not whom he pretends to be. ‘Curry? Filthy stuff, I never touch it…!’ Can Holmes find the killer and the thief before they reach their destination…? And is there any chance of a cup of tea on this bleedin’ train?

Highlight? Dr. Watson in fine form as he quizzes the passengers ‘as a representative of the law,’ only to find that some of them don’t take too kindly to people who aren’t in fact policemen sticking their noses into other peoples’ private business. And it was Holmes himself who set him up for this fall. For shame, Holmes.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN DRESSED TO KILL features the most dazzling of all the femmes fatales to show up in this series of films. She’s extremely anxious to get her hands on a little old music box in the collection of one of Watson’s old school friends, the endearingly named Stinky, and she’s not too fussy about how she gets it…

Highlight? Stinky entertaining the femme fatale. Her furs and jewels are to die for. But little old Stinky, however charming he may be, is punching way, way above his weight with this single-minded beauty. Quite frankly, he has more chance of getting Dr. Watson and Holmes to agree to a threesome…

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed Holmes off in his serialisation of the story in the STRAND magazine, there was such an uproar that he was obliged to bring the legendary detective back from the dead. Of all the fictional characters ever created, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most enduring. Long may he flourish in our minds and in these wonderful old films.

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

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