SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. (2007) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET. (2007) DIRECTED BY TIM BURTON.
BASED ON SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, THE MUSICAL, BY STEPHEN SONDHEIM AND HUGH WHEELER.
STARRING JOHHNY DEPP, HELENA BONHAM CARTER, ALAN RICKMAN, TIMOTHY SPALL AND SACHA BARON COHEN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I only saw this film for the first time recently, and was blown away by it, even though I’d been expecting to find it annoying after hearing that there was singing in it, lol. But the singing is fantastic, and so is pretty much everything else about this film based on a musical that in turn was based on a Victorian legend.

It’s the legend of the titular Sweeney Todd, the barber of old London who slits his customers’ throats and trapdoor-s the corpses deep down below into his girlfriend’s pie shop, where the flesh is baked into some of the ‘worst pies in London.’ Quite a neat little scam, though how they expected to get away with such a bold scheme indefinitely is a mystery to me.

Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd, formerly the barber Benjamin Barker, returns to London in 1846, after spending fifteen long years in exile in Australia, even though he’d committed no crime. The evil Judge Turpin, played by Alan Rickman, had him sent there on a pretext, purely so that he could put the moves on Sweeney Todd’s beautiful wife, Lucy…

Now Lucy is dead, and her and Sweeney Todd’s daughter Johanna is Turpin’s captive. He’s basically waiting till she’s old enough to take her as his wife, then she’ll be lost to her father, Sweeney Todd, forever…

Sweeney Todd, played bitterly and broodingly by the great Johnny Depp, teams up with Helena Bonham Carter as his literal soulmate, his perfect other half, the missing piece of the puzzle, one Mrs. Lovett who runs the pie shop. Helena Bonham Carter, by the way, was born to dress this way and play this kind of role. She’s practically perfick for it.

As the film is very faithful to the source material, Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett do exactly what I mentioned in an earlier paragraph: he slashes his customers ‘froats,’ as they say in London, then she bakes their nice juicy flesh into her pies in the bakehouse below.

They are assisted in this grisly work by local urchin, the highly Dickensian Tobias Ragge. He’s the former employee of one of Sweeney’s rival barbers, the faux-Italian Adolfo Pirelli. Wonderfully played by comic actor Sacha Baron Cohen, Pirelli finds out what it means to incur the wrath of Sweeney Todd and end up in a trunk with yer froat cut and yer features re-arranged by forty whacks with a boiling kettle…

Business for both the barber and the pie shop goes really well for a time, and it’s not long before Sweeney gets a crack at swiping a cut-throat razor across the manly jaw and chin of the hanging Judge, the whipping Judge, the nefarious Judge Turpin, and also that of the Judges’ toady and yes-man, the rat-faced Beadle Bamford, marvellously played by Timothy Spall.

There’s also a lovesick young man looking to rescue Johanna, Sweeney Todd’s daughter, from the clutches of Judge Turpin, who has placed his beloved ward in an insane asylum for refusing to marry him. But we won’t worry too much about that.

It’s much more interesting to watch the dead-inside Sweeney Todd interact with Mrs. Lovett, who’s pining away with unrequited love for him. Does she deserve her truly awful fate…? The movie’s not an 18s for nuffink, folks…

A suitably dark, brooding and heavy atmosphere hangs over London town the whole time. I also have a question, and this never occurred to me before: Did the female inmates of the insane asylums have their hair butchered against their will by the orderlies and sold to the wig-makers, to whom real, natural hair is always a boon and a bonus…? Just one of many violations of their human rights, I reckon.

The song lyrics are so funny and well-written, even razor-sharp if you’ll excuse the pun, and Depp and Bonham Carter can’t half sing! The costumes and grim settings are fabulous too, and, as is evidenced in nearly every attempt to film the Victorian era, the class differences between the rich and poor stand out a mile.

As a poor person, you can get hung for stealing a loaf of bread, or sent to Australia, branded a convict and a wrong ‘un forever, just because some high-faluting Judge has the hots for your wife. Well, I suppose, as in the case of Sweeney Todd, you can always come back and get revenge. Even revenge set to music. All together now: ‘It’s a hard knock life… for us…’

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

CASE 39. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

CASE 39. (2009) DIRECTED BY CHRISTIAN ALVART. STARRING RENEE ZELLWEGER, BRADLEY COOPER, IAN MCSHANE AND JODELLE MICAH FERLAND.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘We help families communicate and learn better ways to resolve conflict.’

I quite like Renee Zellweger, from such films as WHITE OLEANDER and the fantastic BRIDGET JONES trilogy of movies, but this supernatural drama film kind of sucks, if I may use the vernacular for a moment.

It seems a lot like a rip-off of ORPHAN, a much better horror film in which a married couple take the titular ‘orphan’ into their home out of the goodness of their hearts, only to find out that she’s the house guest from the very depths of hell itself. The girls in both films even look alike, pale-faced with scraped back long black hair and big eyes.

In CASE 39, Ms. Zellweger plays Emily Jenkins, an over-worked social worker from Oregon. Single, living alone and with a troubled past that still colours her life today, Emily has thirty-eight active cases on her books until her boss dumps a new case, the titular Case 39, into her lap as well.

The multitude of files in the social work department all equate to troubled kids and troubled families, and vice versa. But the files have to remain physically shut until one of the over-tired social workers has the time and energy to open it and engage with it. It’s a flawed and probably under-funded, under-staffed system, but it’s the only one we have.

Also, I’ll be honest, I resent the notion of a childless woman in her twenties or thirties telling me how to raise my children by using a series of throwaway platitudes like the quote at the top of this review.

The film pokes bitter fun at cliched social worker-speak and, I must admit, it’s not unpleasant to see the do-gooder social worker have his own words used against him for a change. That’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t genuinely good social workers out there who do genuinely useful work.

Case 39, aka Lily Sullivan, is a ten-year-old girl whose grades in school have fallen drastically of late and it is assumed that she has problems at home. Emily duly investigates, and finds out that the Sullivan parents are definitely a strange pair.

Lily she finds charming and vulnerable, on the other hand. She develops a friendship with the child, an action that probably would be advised against in the Social Workers’ Handbook. Boundaries and maintaining a distance and not getting too involved, and all that jazz.

When Emily arrives at the Sullivan house in the dead of night in answer to a worrying call from Lily and finds the parents trying to cram the child into a lit gas oven, she quite rightly removes the little girl from her parents’ custody.

Pressure from the sad-faced Lily leads Emily to beg her superiors for a most unusual and unorthodox favour. It’s for the best if Lily comes and lives with me, I absolutely know what’s best for her, she manages to convince her board of management. Lily leaves her temporary children’s home placement and moves in with a delighted Emily. This is the start of Emily’s worst nightmare…

Emily manages to drag her would-be boyfriend and co-worker, Doug, played by Bradley Cooper, into her mess as well. Doug’s one big horror scene is pretty terrifying and probably the scariest scene in the whole shebang, followed by Ian LOVEJOY McShane’s in the car park as Emily’s other close friend, Detective Mike Barron. Thanks a bunch, Emily. Remind me never to apply to be your close friend, yeah? Ian McShane looks bloody amazing in this film, by the way, considering he’s nearly seventy.

The one thing I was really happy about while watching this film was the fact that Emily chooses to save her poor little innocent goldfish from the incineration towards the end of the movie. Why should sweet little JAWS 2 be made to suffer simply because he drew the short straw and wound up as the pet in a Bad Horror Movie…? Good on ya, Moby Dick.

The way the film ultimately plays out is boring and predictable and not at all scary. A few demon voices, some crackly, static-y phone calls with no-one on the line, a broken door, some long pointy demon nails, a few hallucinations and a couple of failed attempts to kill the demon, and Bob’s your uncle. Nothing we haven’t seen before, folks. Unless you count the director’s obvious interest in filming bare female tootsies picking their way delicately through broken glass and other debris

And the least the film could have provided for the viewers was a twist in the tale, but no dice. The ending is just that, an ending. Maybe it’s for the best…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

STEPHEN KING’S 1922. (2017) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

1922. (2017) WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY ZAK HILDITCH. BASED ON THE 2010 NOVELLA OF THE SAME NAME BY STEPHEN KING.
STARRING THOMAS JANE, MOLLY PARKER, NEAL MCDONOUGH, DYLAN SCHMID, KAITLYN BERNARD AND BRIAN DARCY JAMES.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an excellent film adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, but, man, it’s as grim as the grimmest thing you can think of on the grimmest day of the year which also happens to be your first day at Grim College where you work grimly towards a Higher Certificate of Grimness. I mean, it is grim. As grim as all get-out. But I happen to like grim, lol.
  
For a start, the times in which the film is set and its physical setting are pretty damn grim. Thomas Jane (aka The Punisher, my kinda tough guy…!) does a superb job of playing Wilfred James, a surly and dour corn farmer in Nebraska, who lives with his wife Arlette and their fourteen-year-old son, Henry.

Wilf talks in that slow, sort of countrified way you hear in the movies. Like, he might say to his wife, ‘Ahrlette, ah bin thinking it might jes’ be time to git that there boy of ours hitched to the Cotterie girl; she’s big in the hips and ah reckon she kin pop out a passel o’ chilluns whut can work the land when ah’m six feet under, if yeh ketch mah meaning.’

Or Arlette might say to him, ‘Wilf, ah’m fixin’ teh leave yer and ah’m bringin’ the boy wid me; there ain’t nuthin’ left here for us no more. You-all can come if you want, but if’n yeh don’t, I ain’t gon’ lose a lick o’ sleep over it no-how. Yo’ pecker ain’t worked right since nineteen-nought-eight, teh speak the Gawd’s honest truth. Ah swear ah’ll take a chopper to it if’n yeh point it in mah direction agin.’

As a matter of fact, the James’s marriage is in a bad way. Arlette is sick to the back teeth of country living and being stuck on their isolated farm in the middle of nowhere. She wants Wilf to sell the eighty-acre farm, which she brought with her to the marriage as her dowry, and buy somewhere for them to live in the city.

Wilf James ain’t fixin’ teh be citified no way, no-how. He digs his heels in and says nope. But Arlette threatens him with selling the land herself, as she has the legal right to do because it’s her family’s land, and she even brings a city slicker solicitor with fancy duds into the equation, which is like a red rag to a bull in Wilf’s eyes.

He decides that there’s only one sure-fire way of stopping Arlette from making good on her threat to sell the farm, which Wilf sees as his legacy and which he hopes to pass on to his boy one day. As the film takes the form of Wilf’s confession from some time in the future when he’s older, greyer and beardier, we’re not entirely surprised when we see what he intends to do.

The biggest surprise is that he involves the boy, Henry, in his nefarious scheme. The murder is horrific to watch and unnecessarily cruel, but to involve the boy and make him an active accessory to the crime is both shockingly irregular and, dare I say, highly unusual in cinema. At least, I personally haven’t seen another movie where this happens.

The stuff with the well and the poor, poor moo-cow and then the rats is all so, so grim. Jes’ like whut ah told yeh right from the git-go, see? And we all know that murder for financial gain never, ever works out, right? As this is an adaptation of a Stephen King novella, you can imagine that the King of Horror is going to make one Wilfred James, Esquire, atone for his dastardly deeds. Crime doesn’t pay.

Someone should have told that to poor little Henry James as well, and he might well have reconsidered his ill-advised crime spree across the country with his knocked-up girlfriend, Shannon Cotterie, that gets the star-crossed pair dubbed ‘the Sweetheart Bandits.’ Crime doesn’t pay…

Nothing in this film ends well, except maybe for the rats, who are going forth and multiplying like nobody’s business. I recently met up with a couple of the rodents who had a big part in the film, hoping to chat with them about their role in this top-notch adaptation, but it wasn’t a huge success, if I’m being honest.

Long story short, before I could glean so much as an anecdote about what it was like to star in a Stephen King adaptation, the furry little bastards ate my notes, and also my purse containing the money with which I intended paying for our lunch. What’s that they say, never work with children and animals? You said a mouthful, bud. You said a mouthful.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

CASTING JONBENET. (2017) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


CASTING JONBENET. (2017) DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY KITTY GREEN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I watched this eighty-minute documentary on Netflix recently, and was struck by how it managed to tell a twenty-five-year-old story in a new and unusual way. Various actors and actresses, adults and children alike, are taking part in auditions for the roles of players in the story of the real-life murder of a little American girl called JonBenet Ramsey.

The story is told through the auditionees’ recital of their various lines and actions, and frequently they get to voice their own opinions as well regarding the guilt- or innocence- of the various characters in the real-life drama. The still-unsolved murder has been referred to as ‘the ultimate cold case,’ and seemingly everyone has an opinion on it.

So, what are the facts as we actually know them? Well, on the day after Christmas in 1996, a wealthy and outwardly happy family called the Ramseys, resident in Boulder, Colorado, had their lives turned upside-down forever by the discovery of the death of its youngest member, pretty little blonde angel JonBenet, aged only six.

This is what supposedly happened. The mom of the family, Patsy, who never appeared in public without her flawless make-up on and co-ordinating outfits, came down the back staircase of their home between five and six in the morning. Lying across the bottom step of this spiral staircase were three pages of closely-written handwriting.

Patsy read part of the first page. Realising that it was a ransom note that stated that ‘a small foreign faction’ had taken her daughter and wanted $180,000 for her safe return, she ran back upstairs to check JonBenet’s bedroom. Finding it empty, she screamed for her husband John, a very rich and successful businessman. Their nine-year-old son Burke apparently ‘slept through the whole thing.’

The Ramseys called the police, who did an initial search of the house that yielded no results. The Ramseys also phoned various friends and asked them to come over. Soon the house was crowded with people wandering all over the place. Shortly before lunch, John Ramsey and a male friend wandered away from the crowd and found little JonBenet’s body on the floor under a white blanket in a room off their basement.

Seemingly forgetting that a crime scene should be left untouched in order for the police to be able to investigate a case properly, John Ramsey removed the duct tape over the child’s mouth and loosened some of the ties that bound her. Then he carried her up to the living room and laid her under the Christmas tree, almost like a little wrapped present.

The media went nuts for the case. It was a slow news period, those quiet days between Christmas and New Year, and the case was ‘sexed-up’ considerably once it emerged that Patsy Ramsey, a former Miss West Virginia, had entered her beautiful little daughter into beauty pageants, and had been planning to ‘put her through the pageant system’ all the way had the child not passed away.

Photos began to appear in the media of JonBenet in full pageant make-up and regalia. She was a darling little girl and looked lovely in photos, being super-photogenic, but some of the pictures sexualised her and basically turned her into a certain type of paedophile’s dream: a little blonde angel in make-up and high heels.

Some of the professional photos of Jonbenet that Patsy had paid big money for made the child look about ten years older. Even in some of the family photos, JonBenet is pouting in a highly suggestive manner with heavy red lipstick on.

Some people were very critical of Patsy for decking her daughter out to look like a tiny, pocket-sized Lolita. She was accused of trying to live vicariously through her daughter. Seriously, six years old is a bit young for that kind of adult carry-on, surely…?

The autopsy conducted on JonBenet’s body found that she had been killed by asphyxiation. She’d also had a blow to the head and, distressingly, as if all that wasn’t bad enough, there was some blood in her underwear and signs of rough handling in her vaginal area.

It was thought at the time that semen was found on her corpse, which immediately put a sexually mature, adult male in the frame. I’m not entirely sure of myself here, but I think that later investigators were found to have been mistaken about the presence of semen on the body. But what about the ‘rough handling’ of the child’s vagina, and the fact that someone had supposedly wiped down her genital area with a cloth…?

Theories abounded, some of which you’ll hear from the actors auditioning for the parts of Patsy and John. Did Burke kill his pageant queen sister in a fit of jealous rage, and his parents then covered up for him by staging a kidnapping?

Did Patsy slam the little girl’s head against a wall in response to yet another aggravating bed-wetting by JonBenet? Did a complete stranger, or a friend, neighbour or disgruntled former employee of John’s sneak into the house and kill the little girl? Was it planned or opportunistic? Or purely accidental?

The three-pages-long ‘ransom’ note, addressed to John Ramsey, was found to have been written in the house, with a pen and pad of paper belonging to Patsy. The note was thought to have contained certain stock phraseology from crime movies. The Ramseys were known to be big movie fans and had some movie posters on display in the house.

I read the note myself and thought some of it honestly sounded like a pissed-off wife taking the opportunity to have a few sly digs at her ‘perfect’ husband. Don’t try to grow a brain, John…! Why not use some of that famous Southern common sense of yours, John…?  The tone of the note was thought to be more likely female than male, and plenty of people seem to think that Patsy Ramsey wrote it.

A garotte was found around the child’s neck and included part of a paintbrush also belonging to Patsy. The police were unable to find evidence of any forced entry into the house, all of which suggests it may have been an ‘inside job,’ rather than a crime committed by an outsider.

Also, for quite a while Patsy and John Ramsey more or less refused to co-operate with police or be interviewed by them at the police station, but their considerable wealth allowed them to hire expensive attorneys, private investigators and even a publicist to handle their TV and other media appearances. They appeared on CNN shortly after the murder, before they’d even spoken to the police, and body language analysts had a field day deconstructing their on-screen behaviour.

This film makes the most of a strikingly different approach to story-telling. I can’t get the image of all those red-sweatered, fully made-up Patsies all acting out scenes from the murder/kidnapping out of my head.

Ditto the house all dressed up for Christmas. One of the boys auditioning for the part of Burke walloping a water-melon with a blunt object to see if a young lad would have the strength to kill a younger child in such a way. The beefy chap who works nights as a ‘sex educator’ who’s auditioning for the part of one of the cops. In a film about a genuinely tragic event, this guy is a ray of sunshine.

 AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

SOPHIE: A MURDER IN WEST CORK. (2021) A NETFLIX SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SOPHIE: A MURDER IN WEST CORK. (2021) A NETFLIX TRUE CRIME DOCUMENTARY SERIES DIRECTED BY JOHN DOWER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Once upon a time at Christmas, a beautiful young French woman travelled from France to West Cork in Ireland to stay in her isolated holiday home by the sea. Left behind in France, her husband and young son eagerly awaited her return.

She pottered round the small village of Schull, getting in a few groceries and probably passing the time of day and exchanging season’s greetings with the locals she met. Most of them knew her by sight, if not to speak to. She was a popular visitor to the town. The lights could be seen on in her house at night, indicating that the desolate cottage was occupied for the festive season.

Then, one fateful morning just before Christmas, the beautiful French woman was found beaten to death by the gateway to her house, clad in only her nightdress and a pair of boots. That woman was Sophie Toscan du Plantier, and this Netflix documentary attempts to tell her story…

Sophie was thirty-nine years old when she was brutally murdered outside her holiday home in Schull, prounounced ‘Skull.’ It was a quiet seaside town peopled with lots of artistic ‘blow-ins’ as well as the native inhabitants.

The ‘blow-ins’ were people who came to this isolated part of the world to paint and draw and write and sculpt and craft things and design things, because it’s a dream location for anyone who wishes to create anything.

Sophie herself was a writer, a film-and-television producer in her native France and a lover of Irish poetry. I’m guessing William Butler Yeats & Co. She was married to a famous French film producer called Daniel Toscan du Plantier, and their life together sounds like a hectic showbizzy round of red carpets and movie premieres and glittering parties attended by celebrities like themselves.

She was Daniel’s third wife, and a good sixteen years younger than him. She had a son from her first marriage, Pierre Louis, who was about fifteen at the time of his mother’s murder. In the photos of Sophie and her son, with their identical freckly faces and giant grins, Sophie looks like the happiest woman in the world.

So, who called to Sophie’s windswept cottage long after dark on the cold, frosty night of the 23rd December, 1996, somehow inveigled her out of the house wearing only her nightie, chased her across the fields, maybe, to the gateway to her property and there bashed her brains out with a concrete block and then left her there to die…?

Two upturned wine glasses were found on the draining board of her sink, leading the police to think that maybe she’d offered hospitality to her killer before he turned nasty and frightened her enough to flee from him. Sophie, who’s been described by friends and family as having a side to her that was attracted to all things gothic and mysterious, had had unsettling premonitions of doom shortly before her murder…

This Netflix documentary is possibly unique in the history of documentaries in that it features, alive and well and actually walking and talking, the man accused of Sophie’s murder but never charged with it, Ian Bailey. He’s a former journalist from Manchester and a massive hulking brute of a man who moved to Ireland in 1991 after the failure of his marriage.

He has lived in Schull since then, and, from 1992 to earlier on this year, he lived with his partner of thirty years, Jules Thomas, an artist with three daughters. Ian Bailey, according to nearly everyone who takes part in the documentary, especially the locals of Schull, is not a man you would want to see within a mile of your daughter, sister, mother or female friend…

The account of the injuries he inflicted on Jules Thomas while drunk is so sickening I won’t recount it here. That just means, of course, that he’s a man who’s committed violence towards a woman, and it doesn’t necessarily mean he murdered Sophie. So, what makes so many people think it was him?

On the night of the murder, he claimed to have been in bed with Jules all night. Then he admitted having got up, after all, and gone down to his writing studio a little way down the road and stayed up all night working. A witness who later strangely retracted her statement said she’d seen him on the bridge near Sophie’s house at 3am on the night of the murder, wearing his trademark long black coat and acting oddly.

As a local journalist ‘on the spot,’ so to speak, he covered the story himself for different newspapers, often suggesting that the clue to Sophie’s death lay in France and not Schull. There were things he knew about before other people knew about them that suggested he had some ‘insider knowledge’ of the murder.

A guest at the Thomas house around this time claimed to have seen Bailey’s long coat soaking in a bucket of cold water in the shower of the house, not the usual way of cleaning such a garment. You normally only soak a garment like that if it has blood on it.

On St. Stephen’s Day- the day after Christmas Day- Bailey lit a bonfire in his back garden. Forensic experts later found the remains of a coat and wellington boots amongst the ashes, but nothing that constituted solid evidence, apparently.

Strangest of all, Bailey confessed to more than one inhabitant of Schull that ‘he’d done it; he’d gone too far and bashed her head in with a rock.’ He denied knowing Sophie, but locals say otherwise.

Bailey, an obvious narcissist and known attention-seeker who apparently, when he moved to Schull, would shush an entire pub without warning so he could dramatically recite one of his poems, was the man whose name was on everyone’s lips. (In the film, he quotes his own poetry whenever a chance crops up.) To hear him talk, he seems to relish the publicity and being in the limelight, even if it’s mostly notoriety he’s gaining.

He was arrested more than once, but released each time for lack of evidence. Files were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the fellow who decides if there is enough evidence to go ahead and charge someone and commit them for trial, but they came back with the directive that the evidence against Ian Bailey was all circumstantial and not hard fact.

So, the man who nowadays effects an eccentric style of dress- in the film, he’s writing a poem on a public bench dressed in shorts, sandals, a big wide-brimmed hat and fringed scarf- still walks free. He apparently runs a village stall in Schull these days selling pizzas, if I’m not mistaken, and, erm, his poems, and Jules Thomas has finally ditched him…

The French held their own trial, urged on by Sophie’s now grown-up son and her friends and relatives. They found Ian Bailey guilty of murder in absentia and sentenced him to twenty-five years in prison.

The Irish courts apparently are not going to boot him across the Channel to face the music, so, to all intents and purposes, he’s a free man. Until the next development in this sensational case, and, trust me, it’s not the last we’ve heard either of Ian Bailey or Sophie Toscan du Plantier, the beautiful Frenchwoman who met a horrible death in a lonely field in the dead of night one fateful Christmas…

It was kind of chilling, yet strangely endearing, to see all the old television news reports and the coverage of the death by the Irish state broadcaster, RTE, and watch all the old familiar faces reading the News and commenting on the murder. Marian Finucane is dead now; Brian Dobson retired. Pascal Sheehy is still going strong. The scenery is stunning and as gothic as Sophie could ever have wished for; the haunting music ditto. A few local legends and rumours of hauntings are thrown in for good measure.

The film is crystal-clear about who is the villain. They might as well put horns and a tail on Ian Bailey. Is he just a bullying, controlling asshole who beats women and craves and cultivates constant attention, or is he something even worse?

Feel free to convict him yourself in your own mind, as the Irish courts seem oddly reluctant to do so, or you can of course plump for ‘innocent until proven guilty.’  Or does the latter go out the window when a man has already been convicted by the court of public opinion? If Ian Bailey isn’t actually guilty of Sophie’s murder, then he’s had a hell of a rough quarter of a century…

     AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

HOUSE OF WAX. (1953) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

HOUSE OF WAX. (1953) DIRECTED BY ANDRÉ DE TOTH. BASED ON A SHORT STORY BY CHARLES S. BELDEN AND THE 1933 FILM, MYSTERY AT THE WAX MUSEUM.

STARRING VINCENT PRICE, CAROLYN JONES, PHYLLIS KIRK, PAUL CAVANAGH, DABBS GREER AND CHARLES BUCHINSKY, AKA CHARLES BRONSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

(WRITTEN IN 2016, IN PRE-PANDEMIC TIMES!)

This film is a fantastic horror classic starring legendary horror maestro Vincent Price. I had the great pleasure of watching it recently on the big screen at Dublin’s Lighthouse Cinema. The film was in 3-D and I’ve honestly never been happier to sit in the dark for ninety or so minutes wearing a pair of ridiculous oversized glasses that cut into my poor little ears and nose.

Vincent Price is superb as always as Professor Henry Jarrod, who spends his days lovingly crafting wax sculptures whom he thinks of almost as his children, he loves them so much. He specialises in aesthetically-pleasing historical figures and considers his Marie Antoinette to be the pièce de resistance of his magnificent collection. And rightly so, if you ask me. She’s a proper little corker.

His business partner Matthew Burke is more concerned with the figures on their balance-sheets than with the stunning figures moulded by Jarrod, however. He wants Jarrod to sculpt more sensational pieces that could form the basis of a Chambers Of Horrors-style exhibition and bring more paying customers into their premises. Jarrod is naturally repulsed by the idea and refuses point-blank.

I don’t personally see anything wrong with the idea of a Chamber of Horrors. We have one here in Dublin in our little wax museum with Hannibal Lecter in it and Buffalo Bill from SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, as well as Dracula (modelled on Christopher Lee in the Hammer films) in his coffin and Freddie Krueger from the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movies.

I’d love to see a Jack the Ripper waxwork set against a Victorian backdrop, or any other famous serial murderers either from real life or from films; Dr. Crippen, say, or John Christie, the Rillington Place murderer, Burke and Hare, the infamous body-snatchers, or even- thinking outside the box here!- Countess Elizabeth Bathory of Hungary. She supposedly retained her legendary youth by bathing in the blood of virgins, whom she obviously had to murder first. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum in London probably features some of these lads.

People love a good scare, and they’re more than willing to pay for it if it’s good enough. That’s why we buy horror DVDs and books and true-life crime magazines, and why we go to a Chamber of Horrors or, in the old days, to a travelling freak exhibition or for a ride on the ghost train at a funfair. Although I’m on Vincent Price’s character’s side overall, I kind of see where Matthew Burke is coming from too, wanting to make a few bucks out of a horror show.

Burke is even more desperate for money than Jarrod realises, however. He sets fire to the museum, nearly killing poor Jarrod in the process. Jarrod survives, but he is horrifically disfigured from trying to save his precious creations.

The scene where the wax figures are melting in the terrific heat from the fire is so powerful that it’s one I’ve remembered from my childhood. It’s, quite simply, unforgettable. Unforgettable and so very sad. Those poor wax figures…! They didn’t deserve that horribly gruesome end.

Fear not, gentle readers. The Wax Museum rises again, under the direction of Jarrod once more, but it is a Jarrod with crippled hands who is unable to sculpt the way he used to. His deaf-mute assistant, Igor, played by a young and deliciously muscular Charles Bronson, does the work for him now, following his employer’s instructions, of course.

The Wax Museum, oddly enough, has a new feature, one that is welcomed with positively blood-thirsty glee by the punters of early twentieth century New York. It now features a Chamber Of Horrors, something Jarrod always maintained he wanted no truck with. The juicy crimes and sensational recent events that the public crave can now be seen here, recreated painstakingly in waxen sculptures.

The Chamber Of Horrors even carries, strangely enough, a waxwork likeness of Jarrod’s former business partner, Matthew Burke, who apparently committed suicide, or did he…? Was Burke actually murdered by a mysterious cloaked and disfigured man who then made his death look like a suicide…? I’ll never tell.

And I certainly won’t tell you that Burke’s gold-digging fianceé, Cathy (played by Carolyn Jones, once wed to television producer Aaron Spelling and who starred as Morticia Addams in the original black-and-white television series of THE ADDAMS FAMILY), was murdered soon afterwards and then her body disappeared from the morgue.

Tsk, tsk. If I tell you that, then I might as well tell you that Cathy’s friend, Sue Allen, who herself has been pursued by the same cloaked and disfigured man we mentioned earlier, visits the Wax Museum and is deeply disturbed to observe that Jarrod’s Joan Of Arc bears more than a passing resemblance to her dead friend, Cathy…

This film is great fun. The sets and costumes are all spot-on and Charles Bronson is terrific- and dangerously sexy- as Jarrod’s new right-hand-man, Igor. You might recognise the stiff-upper-lipped Paul Cavanagh, who plays art critic and Egyptologist Sidney Wallace, as having acted in three of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films, made between 1939 and 1945.

Also, you’ll surely know the actor portraying the energetic sergeant Jim Shane from having also played the Reverend Alden in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE for years in the 1970s. He and Dr. Baker were the mainstays of the town of Walnut Creek, along with storekeeper Nels Oleson and upstanding local citizen, Charles ‘Pa’ Ingalls.

A great musical score by David Buttolph adds to the creepy atmosphere and Vincent Price was born to play the creator of the Wax Museum who is driven insane by the unfortunate circumstances in which he finds himself.

The film got bad reviews at the time, but for the life of me I don’t know why. It’s a much better film than the original early talkie on which it’s based, MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM from 1933. This movie features some excellent screaming from Fay Wray of KING KONG fame, but sadly not much else. I didn’t like it half as much as the 1953 re-make, and that’s the truth.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. (2006) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


WHEN A STRANGER CALLS- THE RE-MAKE. 2006. DIRECTED BY SIMON WEST. STARRING CAMILLA BELLE, TOMMY FLANAGAN, LANCE HENRIKSEN, KATY CASSIDY, DEREK DE LINT AND KATE JENNINGS GRANT.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The calls are coming from inside the house…’

The original film of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS (1979), directed by Fred Walton, has one of the best opening sequences of any horror film I’ve ever seen. The first twenty minutes, with the babysitter alone in the house getting increasingly frightening phone calls from an anonymous psychopath, is pure cinematic perfection. The rest of the film is good too, but it’s those first twenty minutes that really grab you by the throat and scare you witless.

I was surprised to find out that such a great film had been re-made. But hey, unnecessary remakes of brilliant films are seemingly where it’s at these days. This time round, Camilla Belle- what a pretty name!- plays Jill Johnson, the high school student who has to babysit for the super-rich doctor and his wife as punishment for running up a massive bill on her cellphone gabbing to her boyfriend.

Jill isn’t too keen on the prospect as all her friends are at the school bonfire party and she would much rather be with them. She’s also fed-up because her so-called boyfriend has recently been caught snogging her bezzie mate, the slutty blonde alcoholic Tiffany. Ouch. Dontcha just hate it when that happens…!

Her dad drives her to the doctor’s fantastic big house, with a lake and tons of polished decking and a little forest and a posh guesthouse and everything. He drops her off without even checking that it’s the right house. He could have been dropping her off at the Manson compound or Ted Bundy’s gaff for all the attention he pays, the self-involved git. It’s not like he was even keen to get to that chamber music concert his wife’s making him go to, haha.

The filthy-rich doctor and his glamorous missus toddle off to their swanky soirée and Jill is left all alone in the huge, remote house in the middle of nowhere. Then the phone starts ringing and the anonymous caller starts asking:
‘Have you checked the children…?’

They’ve done a few things differently this time round. They’ve added a live-in maid, a son who may conceivably return from school at any time to the guesthouse where he lodges, and a completely implausible visit from a schoolfriend, incidentally the one who got off with Jill’s boyfriend.

I mean, this chum (the slutty blonde alcoholic Tiffany) is apparently able to find this out-of-the-way house in the arse-end of nowhere in the dark without any difficulty and get herself inside the doctor’s posh fortress of a house without setting off the alarm. A bit far-fetched, if you ask me. They’ve also gotten the children up and about and running around the place like mad things, something which didn’t happen in the original film.

Mind you, in this re-make the killer isn’t remotely interested in the children, thanks be to God. They’ve changed him into your average sex-killer this time round. Young women are his focus and he’s concentrating his energies on tormenting, terrifying and tracking down the vulnerable Jill with a view to doing (presumably) you-know-what to her when he gets her in his clutches.

God love her, though. She’s a nice enough girl but she’s sooooo dumb. She says every stupid wrong thing imaginable to the anonymous phone-caller.

‘Who are you? How do you know my name? Why are you doing this to me? Are you trying to scare me? Can you see me? How do you know I’m here? Why won’t you leave me alone?’ And of course, the classic ‘victim’ line:
‘Why are you doing this to me…?’ And so on and so forth.

That’s right, love. Keep saying the stuff he wants to hear. Keep reacting to him and feeding his ego and letting him know how scared you are. That way, he’s bound to stop. He’ll probably be all contrite and all like:

‘Oh, I’m sorry, I totally didn’t know I was scaring you! I am sooooo sorry, I’ll just toddle off right away to the nearest cop-shop and turn myself in. Goodnight now and, once again, a thousand apologies for the misunderstanding…!’

That reminds me of that funny post that’s doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment. You hear an intruder in the darkened house at night (or whenever) and you call out:
‘Who’s there? Who is it?’
The joke is, of course, that the killer or intruder is hardly like to call back:
‘Oh hi, it’s only me, I’m just in the kitchen making a sandwich! Would you like me to fix you one…?’

The film-makers basically expanded the first twenty minutes of the original film and made an entire movie out of it, which I suppose is good because after all those were the best twenty minutes of the whole thing. There’s plenty of scope for a good horror flick in a scenario like that. You could come up with probably a million variations on ‘The calls are coming from inside the house’ and some of them could actually be quite effective. Remember the horror movie BLACK CHRISTMAS? Such a good film.

They’ve left out the killer’s back story, though, and the bit where Jill’s a grown woman with kids of her own and a husband. They’ve also left out the sub-plot which sees the detective searching for the killer on the orders of the bereaved Dr. Mandrakis. They’ve literally just concentrated on the babysitter’s night of horror alone in the house with the killer and the sleeping children. Fair enough, I suppose.

The ending is good and the atmosphere throughout is actually pretty spooky, thanks to the amazing house with all its creepy little nooks and crannies, so this is by no means a bad re-make. It’s really more a question, I feel, of whether the re-make was strictly necessary in the first place. Some might say it wasn’t. Others probably feel that anything that’s out there is fair game for a re-make.

And me…? I love ’em both, but the original edges it for me every time because of the era in which it was made. That was a great era for horror. You can make up your own minds, though. There’s a lot to be said for both films. Let me know what you think.

Don’t phone me, though. For the love of God don’t phone me. I’ve been scared off phones for life thanks to these two films. Send me an e-mail instead. Or write me a letter. No harm ever came from reading a letter, did it? Did it…? 

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. (1979) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS. (1979) DIRECTED BY FRED WALTON. STARRING CHARLES DURNING, CAROL KANE, COLLEEN DEWHURST, RUTANYA ALDA, CARMEN ARGENZIANO AND TONY BECKLEY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The calls are coming from inside the house…’

The first twenty minutes or so of this film make for pure, perfect cinematic horror. Pretty American babysitter Jill Johnson has no more on her mind when she goes to babysit for a doctor and his wife than whether or not her crush, some guy named Bobby, will give her a tinkle on the old dog and bone. That’s cockney rhyming slang for phone, me old china plate. That’s slang for mate, by the way. Oh, never mind. Let’s get to the film.

Jill does get a call while she’s babysitting, as it happens. In fact, she gets several, but none of them are from Bobby. They’re from a sick and twisted psychopathic killer who phones every few minutes to ask Jill:

‘Have you checked the children…?’

Jill is such a bad babysitter, however, that not once in the whole time she’s there has she so much as peeped in on the two little cherubs. They could’ve gone off clubbing for all she knows. I wouldn’t hire her to watch my precious rugrats, that’s for sure.

Any-hoo, while Jill has been creeping nervously around the darkened house- the best darned darkened house I’ve ever seen on film, by the way- the killer has been doing away with the doctor’s two little sproglets in a particularly gruesome way which we don’t need to go into here.

Jill is saved by a cop named John Clifford and the killer, Curt Duncan, who’s a dead ringer for Hugh Cornwell from The Stranglers, is incarcerated in a mental asylum. I wonder if Hugh Cornwell has seen this film and, if so, what he thinks about being a doppelganger for a murderer in a ‘Seventies horror film…! Anyway, that’s the end of that chapter. Or is it…?

Well, no, it’s not, because we’re only twenty minutes into the film at that point. It’s these opening twenty minutes that have garnered this superb film its cult following, by the way. Also, these same twenty minutes are considered by many horror fans to contain some of the scariest, most nerve-wracking scenes ever to be committed to celluloid. I absolutely agree. There’s no ghost, but then there doesn’t need to be.

What could be more frightening than the thought that there’s someone in your house, an alien being, someone who’s not supposed to be there? Even if you’re only the babysitter and it’s not your own house, that doesn’t make the idea any less chilling. If anything, maybe it’s even more scary to have this happen to you in a strange gaff.

Some years later, the evil Duncan escapes from the mental asylum in which he’d been incarcerated after his grisly deeds. The lovely cuddly John Clifford, now retired from the police force and working as a private detective, is hired to recapture him by the doctor whose kids were killed by Duncan.

John Clifford, by the way, is played by Charles Durning who a few short years later fell heavily for Dustin Hoffman dressed as a middle-aged feminist in the comedy movie TOOTSIE. Boy, was he red-faced when he found out what that feisty little ‘popsy’ was packing in her pantyhose…!

We get to follow Duncan around for a bit then as he kips in hostels for homeless men and tries to pick up embittered, lonely, middle-aged women in bars. Well, one middle-aged woman in particular, anyway.

I love the scenes in which he’s following the afore-mentioned lonely single woman home through deserted streets and tunnels and into her crappy apartment in the dead of night. They’re just so seedy. This part of the film is really quite sleazy and even sad. There are a lot of lonely, dysfunctional people out there, and that’s one of the saddest facts of life there are.

We catch up with Jill the babysitter then who, in the seven years since the murder of the children in her care, has gotten married and acquired two sproglets of her own and also quite a decent life for herself. Nice posh house, charity work and prospects of advancement in her hubby’s job. Huh. Well, let’s just hope she takes better care of her own kids than she did of the doctor’s. Snigger.

Anyway, all-grown-up Jill and her husband Steven go out to dinner in a fancy restaurant to celebrate Steven’s getting a raise at work. I got the most terrible feeling of déja vu when they headed off in their fancy duds leaving the teenaged babysitter in charge of their napping nippers…

You guessed it. Duncan’s tracked Jill down through a newspaper cutting and so poor hysterical Jill gets a call at the posh restaurant from a male caller who says: ‘Have you checked the children…?‘ Well, as you can imagine, the s**t really hits the fan then.

I won’t tell you the ending so as not to spoil it for you, but I will say that there are plenty of shocks and tension along the way and lots of lovely shots of the interior of Jill’s darkened house.

This director does bloody brilliant shots of darkened houses at night. I honestly think that they’re among the best I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen… well, a few, anyway. However, I did keep wanting to scream at the screen: ‘Why don’t you turn on some feckin’ lights, you brainless bimbo…?’

I enjoyed every second of this horror film, especially the legendary first twenty minutes. It was a great ninety-minute romp through some of the best horror movie tropes ever. The babysitter being scared half to death by the anonymous caller. The calls are coming from inside the house.

The retired cop who could never quite get that one horrible murder- and murderer- out of his mind and who won’t retire easily until he’s settled old scores and avenged the innocent. You should watch it. Alone. In the dark. While babysitting. Oh, hang on, listen, is that the phone…? Can you get that? I’ve just done my nails…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

MILDRED PIERCE. (1945) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MILDRED PIERCE. (1945) BASED ON THE BOOK BY JAMES M. CAIN. DIRECTED BY MICHAEL CURTIZ. STARRING JOAN CRAWFORD, ANN BLYTH, EVE ARDEN, BUTTERFLY MCQUEEN, JACK CARSON, BRUCE BENNETT AND ZACHARY SCOTT. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

JOAN CRAWFORD: THE ULTIMATE MOVIE STAR- A FEATURE-LENGTH DOCUMENTARY. (2002) WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY PETER FITZGERALD. NARRATED BY ANJELICA HUSTON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

What perfect viewing for a lockdown Saturday! I absolutely love Joan Crawford, she of the fur coats with the wide shoulders and the imposing eyebrows. She’s every bit as good an actress as Bette Davis, her one-time screen rival and her co-star in one of the best psychological horror films of all time, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962).

Maybe more people have a soft spot for Bette Davis than they do for Joan Crawford, though, and I suppose the book (1978) and the subsequent film (1981), MOMMIE DEAREST, about Joan’s alleged mistreatment of her children and especially her daughter Christina, didn’t do the lady any favours. I still love her work though. She really was an incredible actress, a true star in an era when that word truly meant something.

MILDRED PIERCE is the film for which Joan Crawford won the coveted Oscar. Along with another of Ms. Crawford’s wonderful old films, GRAND HOTEL, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library Of Congress as being ‘culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.’ That’s a great honour, by the way, as if you didn’t know…!

MILDRED PIERCE is the story of a downtrodden, unhappily married housewife who makes a conscious decision to improve her lot for the sake of her daughter Veda, whom she thinks deserves only the best things in life.

Mildred leaves her deadbeat husband, Bert, who may or may not be seeing a certain blonde Mrs. Biederhof on the sly, and then works her fingers to the bone until she’s the proud owner of a chain of successful restaurants. Now that’s how you do it, ladies.

The heartbreaking thing about this film, of course, is this: the more riches, treats and goodies Mildred bestows on her spoilt, selfish ungrateful daughter, the more Veda throws the whole lot back in her face. Nothing is good enough for the snobby Veda.

Except, maybe, for her mother’s second husband, the caddish and weak Monte Beragon… That little bitch. She gets one good backhanded wallop from Joanie in the film for her despicable rudeness and ingratitude, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough by a long shot. That kid is poison, pure poison.

Joan Crawford gives a powerhouse of a performance as the mother whose efforts to improve and enrich her daughter’s life have not yielded the results for which she would have hoped. On the contrary, they’ve ended in disaster. It’s a lesson for the parents of today who lavish too much of everything on their kids. As a result, the kids don’t value or appreciate things the way they should.

Poor Mildred, busting her hump for a child who will never repay her with the love and gratitude she thinks she deserves. Veda is an extremely unlikeable character and it’s hard not to root for Joan to cut her off without a cent. She’s possibly one of the most easy-to-dislike characters in a film from that era. The actress who plays her is still alive, actually, an amazing feat of longevity.

I much prefer the character of Wally Fay, Joan’s dynamic business partner and would-be lover. He sure does dig a dame with a pair of gams that don’t quit…! Mildred’s first husband Bert is weak and doesn’t put his foot down about Veda to Mildred. A pity. A few good spankings from her father might have turned Veda into a nicer person. Monte Beragon is that most despicable of swines, the gadabout cad-about-town who sponges off women and cheats on them to boot.

Prissy from GONE WITH THE WIND (aka Butterfly McQueen) does a nice job of playing Mildred’s maid. Remember in GWTW when Prissy told Scarlett she was an expert at ‘birthin’ babies,and then when Scarlett found out she was lying she gave poor old Prissy a backhander that you could probably hear all the way out to Tara? Happy days.

I also love Ida, Mildred’s manageress, beautifully played by Eve Arden. She’s a game broad who’s been there, done that and hand-stitched the bloody T-shirt. She’s wise to men and their tricks, in other words. She’s a good friend to Mildred, probably more of a friend than any of Mildred’s husbands, lovers or suitors have ever been.

Also, check out the scene with the typically American policeman from the ‘Forties who doesn’t feel like ‘taking a swim.’ That’s one way of putting it. American movie cops and health workers, eg, sanatarium olderlies, are always being portrayed as horribly unsympathetic, cold and short on understanding in the films of the period. Can you imagine having been a female rape victim in these times and bringing your story to the police? It doesn’t really bear thinking about, does it? I suppose it was the same in all countries back then.

My own copy of MILDRED PIERCE comes complete with some rather spiffing extra features, the best of which is undoubtedly the feature-length documentary from 2002: JOAN CRAWFORD: THE ULTIMATE MOVIE STAR. My kids and I watched this over the Saturday night takeaway and we were so glued to it our chips went cold.

It literally tells the story of Joan Crawford, from her birth as Lucille Le Sueur in the early 1900’s to her death in 1977, by which time she’d cemented her position as one of the greatest stars of the Golden Era of Hollywood. Her oeuvres are mostly truly marvellous films.

Women will certainly love the films and guys will too, if they love classic movies from the days of the big studios when a film was called a ‘picture’ and a real star made some of the so-called ‘celebrities’ of today look like total nobodies. Miaow…! Sorry about that.

Joan started her career as a dancer and a chorus girl. She was apparently a brilliant dancer and she loved to dance. In the ‘Twenties, she was seen as the perfect embodiment of the flapper: the gay girl-about-town who danced till all hours and was never seen without a fancy martini in her hand.

‘Early Joan,’ as I call her, does indeed make the ideal ‘Twenties girl. She’s stunningly attractive and doesn’t even look like the Joan Crawford she eventually grows into, the Joan with the strongly-defined lips and eyebrows and the glamorous fur coats and massive shoulder-pads.

A whole host of people who knew Joan, including her former husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and her adopted daughter Christina Crawford, talk on-screen about their memories of Joan. Some of these memories are very moving, while others are humorous or just plain fascinating.

We know that Christina wrote her infamous book, MOMMIE DEAREST, after the reading of her mother’s will at which it was revealed that Joan hadn’t left so much as a penny to Christina or her brother, for reasons which are well known to them.’

I’ve read the book myself and it does make for uncomfortable reading. If it’s all true, then Christina deserves our sympathy. I still love Joan’s movies, though. Am I allowed to say that? Well, I’ve said it anyway.

One of the interviewees in the documentary comments that it’s a shame that the book kind of overshadows some of the accomplishments that Joan actually achieved, such as making her way all alone in a man’s world, first as a movie star and then as the ‘First Lady of Pepsi-Cola’ after she married Alfred Steele, its managing director.

We hear about Joan’s rivalry with fellow stars Norma Shearer and Bette Davis, and how she outlasted all the big female MGM stars of her day except for Davis herself. We hear about how Joan’s unhappy and maybe even abusive childhood caused her to constantly seek approval, admiration and adulation from the people around her. In fairness to her, she treated her fans really well and was never too tired to sign autographs or reply to fan letters.

We’re told of her obsession with cleanliness that probably has its roots in her childhood and the alcoholism that seems to have gone largely undetected by the public until Joan was quite old.

We hear about her many husbands and about the way in which she was a consummate professional in her work. Not only could she cry on demand but if she was asked to produce a tear, she’d even say: ‘Which eye…?’ I’m a woman too, but even I can’t cry on demand, never mind out of a specified flippin’ eyeball. I need to work up to it, lol.

As a big horror fan, I was thrilled to see Betsy Palmer, otherwise known as Mrs. Pamela Voorhees from the FRIDAY 13TH films, sharing her memories of Joan for the camera. Joan apparently treated actress Mercedes McCambridge as a rival. The name Mercedes McCambridge will of course also be familiar to horror fans, as this lady went on to do some rather famous voice work in the most iconic horror film ever made, THE EXORCIST.

‘Your mother sucks cocks in hell, Karras…!’

We hear about how Joan slept with her directors in order to bind them to her and how she was once upstaged at a grand event by Marilyn Monroe in a tight, low-cut dress with her legendary tits locked, loaded and ready to fire. Now that was kinda funny…!

Christina Crawford talks about the notorious ‘night raids’ which resulted in the infamous ‘NO WIRE HANGERS!’ scene in the movie MOMMIE DEAREST, in which Joan was wonderfully played by Faye Dunaway who looked uncannily like her subject.

We hear about the horror films that were the only films that Joan could find work in towards the end of her career. There is no shame in working in a horror film. Bette Davis, who incidentally turned down the leading role in MILDRED PIERCE when it was offered to her, starred in BURNT OFFERINGS, one of the best horror flicks ever made, when she was in her sixties. Starring in horror is nothing, I repeat, nothing to be ashamed of. Some of Joan’s horror films, like STRAIT-JACKET and SUDDEN FEAR, are films I’m now dying to get my mitts on.

The documentary is every bit as good as the film itself, MILDRED PIERCE. It’s a fascinating insight into a Hollywood that doesn’t exist any more, and an absolute must-have for fans of Joan Crawford’s.

She always felt like it was her fans who made her a star. Wherever she is right now, I’m sure she’s ticking off names on a list and writing her famous thank-you notes, about which she was most assiduous, to the folks who still watch her movies. If you want to be sure of getting yours, then watch the film. Happy Monday.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN. (1967) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN. (1967) BASED ON THE BOOK BY MARY SHELLEY. DIRECTED BY TERENCE FISHER. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY NELSON KEYS. WRITTEN BY JOHN ELDER (ANTHONY HINDS).

STARRING PETER CUSHING, THORLEY WALTERS, SUSAN DENBERG, ROBERT MORRIS, DUNCAN LAMONT, PETER BLYTHE, DEREK FOWLDS, BARRY WARREN, PETER MADDEN AND COLIN JEAVONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

O-ho. The cunning and self-serving, though undoubtedly charming-when-he-wants-to-be, Baron Frankenstein is up to his old tricks again, this time in the little village of Karlsbad in the Hammer-created ‘mitt-Europe’ that often features people in traditional Tyrolean dress and has stunning mountain ranges and forestry as its backdrop.

This time, the ambitious Baron, always greedy for still more knowledge and scientific advancement, has managed to capture the soul of an executed man and transplant it into the body of a woman who, before her suicide, suffered from terrible distortion and paralysis of the body and extensive scarring and disfigurement of the face.

The young man in question is Hans, the attractive, well-built but also decent and compassionate assistant to Baron Frankenstein and Dr. Hertz, the village doctor, who work together. When Hans was a child, he saw his father executed by the village guillotine, which stands on a little hillock on the way out of town.

Despite his criminal antecedents, Hans grows up as the kind of man who knows right from wrong and who will stand up for what’s right if he sees people around him acting the maggot.

Because he’s poor, though, and his father was a known executed criminal, the villagers tend to look down on him and not defend him when his own neck is on the line after a terrible crime has been committed in the village. Poor Hans is an easy target. Talk about round up the usual suspects.

The young woman is Christina Kleve, daughter of the local innkeeper. Because of her facial deformities and physical handicaps, she runs afoul of three local fops, Anton, Karl and Johann, who mock her afflictions mercilessly in the cruellest way imaginable. They’ve even composed a horrible personalised song to taunt her with, if you can believe that. Fops can be so cruel…!

Not only is Christina devastated by their mockery, but her lover (yes, she has a lover!) is aroused to ire on her behalf also. When the new and improved Christina emerges from her Baron Frankenstein-imposed chrysalis in the Baron’s house, under the ‘care’ of said Baron and the doddery but well-meaning Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters), a campaign of murderous revenge is entered into by a mysterious and unknown killer that appals and frightens the villagers in general and the fops in particular. They can’t say they didn’t have it coming…

Peter Cushing is ice-cool, calm and collected once more as the Baron, and Susan Denberg is a beautiful addition to the range of stunning actresses known collectively as Hammer Glamour.

The ‘science’ in this one is very dodgy, far-fetched and tenuous indeed, perhaps more so than in any other Hammer film featuring the rather dubious experiments of Baron Frankenstein. I daresay it wouldn’t stand up to too much scrutiny.

But then, we don’t watch Hammer horror for the accuracy of its scientific knowledge, do we? We watch it for the blood-lust, the boobs, the costumes and the settings, innit? We watch it for the high production values and everything else the Hammer brand stands for.

But FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN‘s metaphysical elements and all the talk of ‘capturing the soul’ put me very much in mind of a 1972 British horror film called ‘The Asphyx,’ starring Robert Powell and Jane Lapotaire, in which a Victorian gentleman scientist attempts the same feat with no less disastrous consequences. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. It’s an eccentric little gem of a film.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

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