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

Advertisements

THE RAVEN (1935) and THE BAT (1959): A DOUBLE BILL OF HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

bela lugosi the raven

THE RAVEN WITH BELA LUGOSI AND BORIS KARLOFF AND THE BAT WITH VINCENT PRICE: A DOUBLE BILL OF CLASSIC HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE RAVEN. (1935) DIRECTED BY LEW LANDERS. BASED ON THE POEM BY EDGAR ALLAN POE. STARRING BELA LUGOSI, BORIS KARLOFF, IRENE WARE, SAMUEL S. HINDS AND LESTER MATTHEWS.

THE BAT. (1959) STARRING VINCENT PRICE, AGNES MOOREHEAD AND GAVIN GORDON. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY CRANE WILBUR. BASED ON ‘THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE’ (1908 NOVEL) BY MARY ROBERTS RINEHART AND ‘THE BAT’ (1920 PLAY) BY MARY ROBERTS RINEHART.

These are two marvellous old horror films starring no fewer than three of the horror genre’s most iconic legends: Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Vincent Price. All we’re missing here is Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. If we had those two guys as well, we’d have ourselves a real horror party, haha.

Bela is absolutely magnificent in the deeply atmospheric gothic movie THE RAVEN as the demented Dr. Richard Vollin, a talented surgeon who’s obsessed with the writer Edgar Allan Poe. He adores Poe’s famous poem, THE RAVEN, but his main interest in the melancholy scribe is in the whole torture thing that Poe espouses in his grim writings.

Dr. Vollin, an expert on Poe, has gone so far as to recreate one of Poe’s torture chambers in his basement. It comes complete with its very own pit and pendulum, and Dr. Vollin is thrilled with himself at the thought of how state-of-the-art it all is. All he’s lacking, really, is a victim on whom to inflict all these delightful tortures…

His opportunity for victim-finding comes when he befriends the Thatcher family after saving the life of the movie’s eye-candy, Jean Thatcher. Judge Thatcher, Jean’s father, however, thinks that Dr. Vollin is stark staring mad and inappropriately in love with Jean, who’s engaged to a rather stodgy and dull but worthy chap called Jerry. The Judge doesn’t want Jean involved in any way with the rather odd Dr. Vollin. Quite rightly, says you. The man’s clearly a nutcase…!

Dr. Vollin invites Jean, her father, Jerry and a few friends to a get-together in his creepy old mansion in the countryside. A storm is raging outside as the mad doctor prepares to lure his guests to his evil torture chamber.

Don’t even ask me how he’s planning to get away with murdering a number of the town’s prominent citizens. Probably half the town knows they’re there, as well. This doesn’t seem to bother Dr. Vollin one iota. That’s what makes him a madman, see? Madmen don’t give a shit about piddly little trifling details like that. Details are for shmucks, haha. Madmen have their minds on higher things.

He’s particularly excited about torturing Judge Thatcher, who doesn’t think that he, Vollin, is good enough for his precious daughter. Bela is looking forward to scoffing down a nice dish of revenge, which we all know is best served cold, haha.

He’s going to need a bit of muscle, though, to carry out his fiendish plans. Enter Boris Karloff, who gives a wonderful performance as Edmond Bateman, the pitiful escaped killer who is unwise enough to let Dr. Vollin operate on his face. Bateman only wanted his face altered a little bit so that he could escape detection for a while longer.

The spiteful Dr. Vollin has other ideas, however. If Bateman wants Vollin to undo the terrible damage he’s done to poor Bateman’s kisser, Bateman will have to go along with Vollin’s plans for torture and revenge. Not to mention a little spot of… murder…

Vincent Price is suave, smooth and terribly sexy as yet another doctor in THE BAT, a fantastic black-and-white mystery thriller. He plays Dr. Malcolm Welles, a medic who’s conducting extensive research on… you guessed it, bats!

Could he also be the deadly murderer who’s terrorizing a small American town, the killer known as ‘The Bat’ because of the way he tears out women’s throats with his sharp claws? He’s certainly Suspect Number One, according to the local constabulary, anyway.

The film also stars Agnes Moorehead, an excellent actress still retaining here most of the gorgeous bone structure and beauty of her youth. She plays a murder mystery writer who’s staying in the town that’s currently going in fear of its life because of this so-called ‘Bat.’

She’s staying with her loyal maid Lizzie in the town’s most haunted old house and the fun really starts when ‘The Bat’ starts targeting the two game old gals personally. Is it really them he’s after, though, or could it be the missing million-dollar stash of bank securities secreted somewhere about the old house that’s drawing him ever nearer…?

Both films, especially the older one, are super-atmospheric. I think I have a soft spot for THE RAVEN in particular, though, simply because it’s so old, a mere four years older than the DRACULA movie that made Bela Lugosi’s name and cemented his place forever in horror movie history.

Boris Karloff, of course, made his name in horror when he did THE MUMMY in 1931. Vincent Price was already famous when he made those fabulous Edgar Allan Poe adaptations with Roger Corman for AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES in the middle of the twentieth century.

THE RAVEN and THE BAT are two of my favourite old horror films from Lugosi, Karloff and Price. Hopefully, any of you guys who have yet to see them will feel the same about them after you’ve watched them.

And hopefully too, you’ll agree with me when I say that they just don’t make ’em like that any more. Let’s be thankful for these old cinematic treasures and continue to carefully preserve them. God knows, they’re worth their weight in old.

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

 

 

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN/THE WRONG MAN: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

strangers-on-a-train-2THE WRONG MAN/STRANGERS ON A TRAIN: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF ALFRED HITCHCOCK THRILLERS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE WRONG MAN. (1956) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE TRUE STORY OF CHRISTOPHER EMMANUEL BALESTRERO’ BY MAXWELL ANDERSON. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN.

STARRING HENRY FONDA, VERA MILES AND ANTHONY QUAYLE.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. (1951) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. BASED ON THE 1950 NOVEL BY PATRICIA HIGHSMITH. SCREENPLAY BY RAYMOND CHANDLER. MUSIC BY DIMITRI TIOMKIN.

STARRING FARLEY GRANGER, ROBERT WALKER, RUTH ROMAN, PAT HITCHCOCK, LEO G. CARROLL, MARIAN LORNE, JONATHAN HALE AND LAURA ELLIOTT.

I love these two Alfred Hitchcock movies. One of them is about a man wrongly accused of a crime, robbery to be exact. The other is about a man who is being blackmailed into committing a much worse crime, the crime of murder, by a psychopath with whom there is simply no reasoning. Because he’s a psychopath, haha. They’re both cracking little films which would each make for terrific festive viewing right about now.

Henry Fonda turns in an understated powerhouse of a performance in THE WRONG MAN as Manny Balestrero. The film is based on a true story, by the way, a fact of which Mr. Hitchcock makes us cognisant at the beginning of the film.

Manny is a nightclub musician whose salary barely keeps a roof over his little family’s heads and food in their mouths. He seems like a decent quiet man and a good caring husband to his missus Rose, played by Hitchcock actress Vera Miles, and their two little boys.

When Manny, in a terrible case of mistaken identity, is accused of holding up an insurance office, his life takes a distinct turn for the nightmarish. Henry Fonda does a brilliant job of showing us Manny’s quiet desperation. It looks to us like Manny is in shock as the police take him in for questioning, charge him and put him in a holding cell until he can be arraigned.

The police station and courtroom stuff is exceedingly well done. As this is based on a true story, there’s no wickedly Hitchcockian twist at the end but THE WRONG MAN remains one of the best films ever made about a man wrongly accused of a crime he not only didn’t commit, but wouldn’t even have ever dreamed of committing because it was just so out of character for him. The cops really did finger ‘the wrong man’ for this particular crime.

STRANGERS ON A TRAIN is a case of ‘You do my murder and I’ll do yours.’ Farley Granger and Robert Walker are utterly superb as the two titular strangers who meet on a train journey.

Guy Haines (Farley Granger) is a well-known tennis player whose bitchy wife Miriam won’t give him a divorce to marry the love of his life Anne Morton, a Senator’s daughter.

Well, in all honesty, why should she if she doesn’t feel like it, especially now that Guy’s making a few quid on the tennis circuit? I’d hang in there for dear life if I were her. I actually think that Miriam’s a much maligned character in this film. As Guy’s wife, she’s got rights, hasn’t she? Not that anyone ever acknowledges them…

Bruno Anthony, the aforementioned psychopath, is a mentally unstable idle layabout who thinks that the death of his rich but overbearing father would be the answer to all his prayers.

By the end of the train journey, Bruno, unaware and uncaring of how sick his mind actually is, thinks that he’s persuaded Guy to do a ‘criss-cross,’ beautifully-parodied in one of THE SIMPSONS’ Treehouse Of Horror Halloween episodes. It means ‘You do my murder and I’ll do yours.’

Bruno fondly imagines that he has arranged for Guy to bump off his, Bruno’s, old man while Bruno himself will murder Guy’s unfaithful wife Miriam. Guy dismisses Bruno’s nonsense as the ramblings of a lunatic, but when the bespectacled Miriam turns up dead, he suddenly finds himself having to sit up and take notice of Bruno’s wild ravings…

Farley Granger, you might remember, played Philip, the weaker of the two college-boy murderers in Alfred Hitchcock’s ROPE (1948), in my opinion one of the best films he ever made.

As Philip was a nervous wreck throughout the whole of ROPE, we never really got to see him smile. In STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, we get to see how handsome Farley Granger really is and what a gorgeous lopsided grin he’s got. ‘Twould melt the knickers off a nun, that would.

He does a great job of portraying Guy’s desperation as he unwillingly gets more and more entangled in Bruno’s mad plan. Robert Walker turns in no less of a masterful tour-de-force as the madman to whom other people’s lives don’t matter a jot. They are merely inconveniences to be swept out of one’s way when necessary.

I love the scene when Guy’s girlfriend Anne goes to see Bruno’s mum in an attempt to straighten things out. Mrs. Anthony, having presumably been caught between her domineering husband and insane son for years, is so steeped in denial that it would take more than the slightly vapid Anne Morton to reach her. The Anthony house is magnificently-furnished and old, by the way.

I adore Leo G. Carroll’s presence here as the stuffy Senator, but it’s always genuinely surprised me how he was okay with his beloved eldest daughter taking up with a married man who was then suspected of his wife’s murder. And him being such a stickler for the proprieties!

And he should certainly have spanked his younger daughter Barbara for her constant cheeky interruptions, so unbecoming in a female of the time but, then again, maybe Barbara’s real-life father Alfred Hitchcock might not have liked that idea so much…!

Hitchcock’s cameo in this film is rather delightful, by the way, and the scene where Bruno attempts to retrieve Guy’s lighter from a storm drain is deliciously suspenseful.

There you go, anyway, dear movie buffs. Two great old Hitchcock films for you to enjoy over Christmas and New Year along with the remains of the eggnog and the selection boxes. Happy New Year and may all our 2017s be filled with brilliant films, new and old.

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

A KISS BEFORE DYING/DIAL M FOR MURDER: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF MURDER MYSTERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

grace-kelly-dial-m-for-murderA KISS BEFORE DYING/DIAL M FOR MURDER: A FESTIVE DOUBLE BILL OF MURDER MYSTERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

A KISS BEFORE DYING. (1956) BASED ON THE DEBUT 1953 NOVEL BY IRA LEVIN. DIRECTED BY GERD OSWALD.

STARRING ROBERT WAGNER, JOANNE WOODWARD AND MARY ASTOR.

DIAL M FOR MURDER. (1954) BASED ON THE 1952 PLAY BY FREDERICK KNOTT. SCREENPLAY BY FREDERICK KNOTT. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK.

STARRING RAY MILLAND, GRACE KELLY, ROBERT CUMMINGS, JOHN WILLIAMS AND ANTHONY DAWSON.

I watch these two cracking murder mysteries every Christmas, even though they have nothing to do with Christmas whatsoever. And I always watch ’em back-to-back as well, because of the similarities between them and the fact that they each have leading men with murder in mind heading up the proceedings. Let’s look at them now in more detail. After you, gentle readers…!

A KISS BEFORE DYING is an American film noir in colour, if you please, and DIAL M FOR MURDER is a detective movie superbly filmed in 3-D, which is quite impressive given how old it is. A KISS BEFORE DYING could so easily have been filmed by Hitchcock, I always think. It’s almost more Hitchcock than Hitchcock himself. Maybe Gerd Oswald (this was his directorial debut) was a fan!

In A KISS BEFORE DYING, Robert Wagner (who later starred alongside Stephanie Powers as the handsome charismatic billionaire Jonathan Hart in ‘Eighties drama series HART TO HART) plays the leading male, college boy Bud Corliss. Bud’s devastating good looks are equalled only by his devious mind and sleight of hand when it comes to solving the number one problem in his life.

He’s knocked up his girlfriend, fellow college student Dory, see? Her future hubby Paul Newman might have had summat to say about that, haha. Anyway, Dory is thrilled about the pregnancy because she adores the criminally handsome Bud and also wants to get away from her overbearing millionaire father. She hears wedding bells and is clingy and needy to an irritating degree.

Bud, however, as he’s been courting Dory only for her Daddy’s moolah, is horrified by the news of the impending visit of the stork. He smells a disinheriting in the air for Dory and sees all his cunning plans for self-enrichment coming to nothing. He concocts a plan so fiendish it’s actually hard to watch it unfold on the screen. It’s also, to my mind, needlessly complicated.

If he’d only just married the bloody girl, her Pops would’ve come round in the end! But no, he has to weave a web so tangled that surely it’s only a matter of time before he gets caught up in it himself…

The book on which the film is based was written by Ira Levin, who also wrote ROSEMARY’S BABY and THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, so you know the film is gonna be good. The 1991 re-make of the film starring Matt Dillon and Sean Young is actually excellent as well.

DIAL M FOR MURDER is set in a marvellously British London and has an older but no less handsome and charming Ray Milland as the leading man with murder in mind, former tennis star Tony Wendice.

His beautiful wife Margot, played by Grace Kelly, one of Hitchcock’s favourite blonde leading ladies, has been more or less flaunting her affair with American mystery writer Mark Halliday, for which sin he plans to bump her off. Plus she has a nice few bob in the bank as well, which will definitely come in handy for Tony, who’s a bit strapped for cash at the moment.

Tony’s own plan is no less needlessly complicated than Bud Corliss’s. Furthermore, he even engages an outside party to do his murder for him, a circumstance practically guaranteed to foul things up.

The scene in which he positively bamboozles poor old petty crook Captain Lesgate with his double-talk and sinister threats is probably the best one in the film. It certainly shows us just how determined the evil Tony is to get what he wants. He was a brilliant actor, Ray Milland.

The plan goes equally spectacularly awry in the 1998 re-make of the film, A PERFECT MURDER, starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen. It’s a f***ing terrible plan, haha, and so is Bud Corliss’s. Too many variables, as the fella says. Too many flippin’ imponderables. Way too many things that can, and do, go wrong.

My favourite character here, beside Tony Wendice himself, is the absolutely super-British Chief Inspector Hubbard, whose valiant attempts to finger the real villain in DIAL M FOR MURDER provide entertainment and some rather spiffing bursts of dialogue.

It’s a film linked together with latchkeys (none of which are on nice sensible key-rings, by the way!), ladies’ stockings and handbags and, together with A KISS BEFORE DYING, will make perfect festive viewing for the older members of the family. And remember, folks, not every super-villain wears tights and funny face-paint, you know. Some are right under your nose the whole time…

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