FRITZ LANG’S ‘M.’ (1931) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

fritz lang m

FRITZ LANG’S ‘M.’ (1931) DIRECTED BY FRITZ LANG. SCREENPLAY BY FRITZ LANG AND THEA VON HARBOU. STARRING PETER LORRE AND OTTO WERNICKE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘10,000 marks reward.

MISSING

Believed to have been murdered.

ELSIE BECKMANN.

Age 6-a-half years. Fair hair. Brown eyes. About 3 ft 4 in height. Last seen outside the Barclay School For Infants on April 14th at about ten minutes past twelve.

Any person able to supply information, please communicate with

CARL LOHMANN,

Chief of police or any police station.’

People are always calling ‘M’ Fritz Lang’s masterpiece. I love this film very much but I just want to point out that Fritz Lang’s ‘METROPOLIS’ exists too and might be an even better candidate for the title of this director’s actual masterpiece.

That’s not to say that ‘M,’ possibly the earliest film ever made on the disturbing and grisly subject of child murder and Fritz Lang’s first ever talkie, isn’t a masterpiece. It is, it absolutely is. But the guy can have two masterpieces, can’t he…? That’s all I’m saying, lol.

People usually think that the film is based on the murderous career of serial killer Peter Kurten, the so-called ‘Vampire of Dusseldorf,’ but Fritz Lang himself points out that Kurten was never an admitted child killer and also that the script for ‘M’ was already done and dusted before Kurten was ever apprehended. But serial killers did already exist back then, so it’s certainly more than possible that they gave Lang his idea for the film.

The German city in the film is a city living in terrible fear when the movie starts. A spate of child murders have the inhabitants on the edge of their seats, worrying themselves sick about their kiddies who are every day at risk from becoming the next murder statistic until this fellow is caught. And what won’t they do to the bastard when he is…! Temperatures run very, very high in the city at the moment.

In fact, the movie starts with a murder. Pretty, lively little Elsa Beckmann, the daughter of an impoverished and exhausted washerwoman, is cajoled away from her life by a man whose distinctive profile we first see against the background of one of the ‘WANTED! MURDERER!’ posters. It’s an effective introduction for the man the whole city is just longing to meet.

The images that imply Elsie’s death at the hands of this man, who jauntily whistles the theme from Grieg’s PEER GYNT while he lures the child casually away (his signature?), are stunning in their simplicity.

Her ball rolls away into a patch of wasteland; her new balloon is caught in some telegraph wires and flaps helplessly in the breeze. Two simple but strikingly powerful images, and pretty little Elsie Beckmann is lost to the world of man forever.

The whole city is up in arms. The police are working flat out to catch the killer. This is a good thing, right? Well, not, apparently, for certain elements of the city’s criminal fraternity.

They can’t take a step now without being caught up in a police raid to catch the child murderer. The constant police presence across the city is interfering big-time with their criminal activities. If this keeps up, they’ll be on the breadline, grumble grumble grumble. Ya gotta feel sorry for them.

A group of burglars and safecrackers, headed by a man who couldn’t look more like a Nazi if he tried, in his belted overcoat, hat, black gloves and stick (for whopping things…!), decide to catch the killer themselves and thereby loosen the coppers’ grip on the collar of the city’s criminal underbelly. Then they can go about their unlawful business in peace and quiet once more without the bleedin’ fuzz breathing down their necks all the livelong day.

The funny thing about all this is that the leader of this group, the guy in the Nazi overcoat (incidentally played by an actor who went on to have a rather succesful career under Nazi rule, so we’re not too far out), is wanted by the police on three separate counts of manslaughter.

But because the victims are presumably only adult males who got in the way of his criminal enterprises, then that’s totally okay, see? They weren’t little children. This gives us an idea of the special place reserved in hell (and in the minds of their peers) for the people who do harm to children.

The criminals, with the aid of the city’s population of beggars and down-and-outs, do actually manage to catch the murderer. They haul him in front of a secret kangaroo court consisting of criminals and their pals and there’s very much a feeling that these could tear the child murderer to shreds like wolves, if their leader so much as gives them the signal.

The man chosen to ‘defend’ the murderer brings up some very good points about the notion of capital punishment, the penalty for murder in those days. Should a man be penalised, he argues eloquently after a heartfelt speech from the murderer, if he has no control over his actions and is therefore not responsible for them? The kangaroo court are sceptical. They’re all for execution, and the sooner the better.

The counsel for the defence begs that the murderer be turned over to the police for justice to take place in a civilised fashion, rather than let him be subject to mob justice. We, the viewers, all probably know at this point that the murderer, rather than being summarily hanged or guillotined or shot by a firing squad, needs to be taken into protective custody, preferably in a mental hospital, and there analysed and given whatever treatment, if any, was available to the paedophiles of the day. The mob, however, might have other ideas…

Peter Lorre is brilliant here as You-Know-Who. His eyes are so big and expressive! He did an English language version of the film too, a version which up until only fairly recently was considered lost, and here he gives his first ever English-speaking performance in any movie ever. This makes it a very exciting discovery indeed for Peter Lorre aficionados.

The English language version of the film is a full twenty minutes shorter than the original German version, however, so for this reason I much prefer the German version with English subtitles. The two films have different, though similar, endings, if you get me, and the better ending of the two is in the German version, in my humble opinion.

The film really brings home to the viewer the vulnerability of children, the fact that they can be lured away from their parents, their friends, their homes, their schools and their very lives by an apple, a balloon, a piece of candy.

The kiddies in the film seem particularly impoverished, if Elsie Beckmann’s home and (I’m guessing) overworked single mother are anything to go by, so all the killer has to do is flash a toy or a few sweets to get the child to follow him anywhere he wants.

The spoilt brats of today with all their fabulous, expensive technology might be a little harder to lure away. You’d almost certainly have to be technology-savvy and offering something rather exceptional to get them to glance up, bored, from their iPads.

‘M’ is a truly haunting film. The lovely lost children, the terror of the murderer when faced with the kangaroo court, and the desolation of the downtrodden, impoverished mothers who’ve each lost children in this sinister way all combine to give us some genuinely disturbing images and memories that we won’t forget in a hurry. I can’t say exactly that you’ll enjoy the film, purely because of the grisly nature of the subject matter, but you’ll definitely remember it anyway.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

 

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MISS LESLIE’S DOLLS. (1973) A NAUGHTY VIDEO-NASTY REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

miss leslie's dolls split screen

MISS LESLIE’S DOLLS. (1973) DIRECTED AND CO-WRITTEN BY JOSEPH G. PRIETO. STARRING SALVADOR UGARTE, TERRI JUSTON, MARCELLE BICHETTE, KITTY LEWIS AND CHARLES PITTS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I loved this one, as fine a low-budget piece of exploitation cinema as you’ll find anywhere. It’s a cross between a video-nasty, an early slasher movie and a porno flick, with a really cool ‘Seventies music soundtrack and tons of lady-nipples, lol. It reminds me a bit of DON’T GO IN THE HOUSE, another ‘Seventies film that would also fall into the category of video-nasty. The basic premise is as follows.

A young University teacher called Alma Frost is travelling somewhere with three of her students, two beautiful young ladies called Martha and Lily and then there’s Roy, who’s driving. Their old jalopy runs out of gas in the middle of the night. In the middle of a cemetery. In the middle of a storm. They really planned that well, didn’t they? Snigger.

There’s a spooky old abandoned-looking house by the cemetery. Miss Frost thinks it might be a good idea if they sought shelter there, although personally I’d rather sleep in the car with the doors locked than try to deal with whatever dwells within the walls of that old mausoleum. Still, the folks in horror movies, they just won’t be told, will they?

The house is owned by one Miss Leslie Lamont, a queer old duck who’s only too happy to be receiving company as she lives alone in her isolated house (except for her cat, Tom) with little or no contact with the outside world. It’s a strange set-up but then we gotta live and let live, right? To each their own.

The little school party don’t seem to notice that she’s distinctly masculine-looking and built like a brick outhouse with hands and feet the size of dinner plates, but I did. I was onto that rum dame in the blue dress right from the start, lol.

She’s awfully forthcoming about her private and personal business, and so in no time at all the schoolies and their teacher have discovered the following snippets of information about her.

Her mother is dead, but when she was alive Mother owned a small doll factory. I don’t know if it’s the factory or the dolls that was/were small…! Anyway, the factory mysteriously burned down years ago, killing Maw Lamont and a young woman who worked for her.

Miss Leslie is a self-confessed student of the occult, reincarnation and all things other-worldly.  She moves and speaks slowly and deliberately while all the time stroking her pussy (cat, that is, Tom the cat!) and there’s something distinctly odd about her, even once you get past the fact that she’s built like a WWF wrestler in a very big frock. She’s both calm and placid and yet also highly sensitive and emotional as well, a lady who obviously feels things deeply.

While Miss Leslie’s off kindly organising some ham and cheese sambos for the little lost lambs, the lambs are off sticking their noses into a room of hers which she calls her ‘sanctuary.’ It contains five or six life-sized dolls that look suspiciously like dead human females and which would put you in mind immediately of Vincent Price’s HOUSE OF WAX.

Anyway, bedtime comes and the three silly-billy females have seemingly only packed see-through shorty nightdresses of the kind that used to be called ‘baby doll.’ They must all be freezing with the cold. There’s a storm on, after all. There are so many perky little nipples on show that you’d hardly know where to look. 

There’s even one scene in which Miss Leslie appears to be confiding in a pair of bare breasts with some lovely standy-uppy nipples…! I know I talk to my own boobies sometimes (in you go, girls, that’s it, easy now, like when I’m squishing them into a brassière) but this is ridiculous.

There’s a very permissive ménage-à-trois thing going on between the sex-mad Roy and the two beautiful, horny-as-feck young ladies, Martha and Lily. He’s sleeping with both of them, the dirty dog, with the full knowledge and consent of all parties. I know it was the permissive ‘Seventies, but still…!

So Roy has sex with Martha while the seemingly uptight and sexually repressed Miss Frost whips off her frumpy librarian spectacles, unpins her glorious strawberry-blonde hair and strips off her teacher clobber to commit an act of what these days would pass for rape against Lily, the student who’s not having sex with Roy at this moment in time. (But don’t worry, readers, she soon will be…!)

Still unsated after her unexpected bout of lesbian sex, Lily afterwards goes in search of Roy and Martha for a spot of heterosexual shenanigans just to mix things up. Meanwhile, Miss Leslie, who’s already rather creepily told the schoolies that Martha is the living image of a girl she once knew who’s now dead, is having a full-on earnest conversation down in the basement with what remains of her mother. Cuckoo, right…?

All we need now is for the four schoolies to suddenly decide they urgently need to wander around the house in their ridiculously skimpy nightwear in the middle of the night and the stage is set for the bloodiest high-jinks since Carrie got her first period in the Stephen King novel of the same name.

Will the college party unwittingly be the cause of Miss Leslie’s finally achieving her lifelong dream, which I can’t tell you about because it would be a definite spoiler? We’ll see, gentle reader. We’ll see…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

VAULT OF HORROR (1973) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971): A DOUBLE BILL OF AMICUS FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

house dripped blood salome

VAULT OF HORROR (1973) and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (1971) : A DOUBLE BILL OF AMICUS MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘CAN’T YOU DO ANYTHING NEATLY…???’

Ah, wonderful Amicus Productions, the brainchild of Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky. Every bit as good as its rival and counterpart Hammer in its own way. Two of my favourite films are Amicus films: TALES FROM THE CRYPT, a portmanteau or anthology film like VAULT OF HORROR, and THE WITCHFINDER GENERAL starring horror legend Vincent Price at probably his most evil, ever, and that’s saying something, lol.

You might say that Amicus specialised in the portmanteau or anthology film, a film that tells four or five short stories all under the umbrella of a piece that links them all together. The films we’re looking at today are two such films, VAULT OF HORROR and THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD. So come on then, gentle readers. Enter my crypt if ye dare. I made vol-au-vents…

In VAULT OF HORROR, five separate, affluent-looking middle-aged businessmen types enter the same lift and are taken to a place they definitely didn’t press the button for, a comfortable room down in the basement that looks like it might be a gentlemen’s club, a place they never knew existed in their building.

The men decide to stay and avail of the comforts of the club for a while. The conversation turns to the topic of dreams, and each of the men waxes lyrical as he reveals the details of a gruesome recurring nightmare from which he’s been suffering.

The handsome and authoritative-looking Daniel Massey goes first as a man who pays a private detective to track down his sister- played by his real-life sister Anna Massey- for devilishly nefarious purposes. When he then travels to the out-of-the-way town where his sister apparently now resides, he decides to stop off for a ‘bite’ in a most unusual restaurant after he concludes his business with her. ‘Juice, soup, roast, sweet, coffee’ indeed…

Next up, the plummy-voiced Terry-Thomas gets his come-uppance when his character of Arthur, a middle-aged businessman obsessed with tidiness- a place for everything and everything in its place, Eleanor– drives his younger trophy wife to commit a heinous crime…

This is followed by a tale in which an unpleasant husband-and-wife magic act travel to India to get some inspiration for their act. When they think they’ve found it in the form of a beautiful young woman’s ability to charm a rope out of its basket with her haunting musical stylings, it clearly never occurs to them that trying to steal this magic trick from her by violent means might have the most dreadful repercussions…

Next up, an insurance scam artist takes his life in his hands when his deeply unwise decision to ‘play dead’ leads him straight into the open arms of a pair of medical student body-snatchers.

This is follwed by a fun story in which a bizarrely red-bearded artist turns to voodoo to help him to get revenge on a trio of crooked art dealers, headed up by Denholm Elliott, who’ve tricked him royally. Truly, ye shall reap what ye have sown, gentlemen…

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD gifts us with five more marvellous vignettes that each take place within a particular old country house which the estate agent, a certain Mr. Stoker, would have us believe is haunted. Stoker, eh? Where have we heard that name before? Heh-heh-heh, good one.

Anyway, this Stoker fella is attempting to convince not just us viewers, but also a police detective called Holloway who’s been called in to investigate the recent mysterious disappearance of a famous horror actor from the house.

The actor playing the detective, incidentally, John Bennett, is the living image of one Joseph Goebbels, a certain Propaganda Minister from a certain now-defunct regime. I’m just saying, is all, lol. Did Goebbels not after all then die in the flames that accompanied the demise of his precious regime, but instead escape to England to become an actor?

In fact, actor John Bennett who plays Detective Inspector Holloway did portray Joseph Goebbels in the 1973 film known as HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS. Legendary actor Alex Guinness does a superb job as the nasty little man with the toothbrush moustache and unflattering side-parting, and he has as his toady a man who bears an uncanny resemblance to Joseph Goebbels, our man John Bennett. It’s a marvellous film, but I wonder what it must have been like to go through life looking like a former Nazi Propaganda Minister? I know, I know, maybe I should just mind my own damn business, right? Gotcha, lol.

Denholm Elliott (again!) is first up here as a famous horror writer called Charles who comes to the house with his pretty wife Alice to work on his new book, which features as its protagonist a thoroughly unpleasant character called Dominick, a strangler and escaped lunatic. When Charles actually starts to see the strictly fictional Dominick around the place in the flesh, however, one can’t help but feel that something is deeply amiss in the house…

Next up is Peter Cushing as a retired, cravat-wearing and genteel stockbroker called Philip Grayson, who becomes utterly fascinated by the waxwork figure of a beautiful woman in a local Museum of Horrors.

When the wax dummy has the exact same effect on Philip’s visiting friend and former love rival Neville, played by Joss Ackland, the viewer starts to wonder just what it is about the direct gaze of this beautiful waxwork that draws men to her like magnets. Let’s just hope that the two chaps don’t lose their heads over her, that’s all I’m saying…

The devastatingly handsome Christopher Lee is up next as John Reid, a wealthy country gentleman who advertises for a governess- companion for his pretty little daughter Jane, who has no friends and no toys and has never been to school. In fact, she is utterly isolated from other people in every way her father can think up. An attractive governess duly arrives at the house in the form of Miss Anne Norton.

It doesn’t take her long to work out that something is very, very wrong in the Reid household. But is it the uptight Mr. Reid who’s to blame for any strangeness or is it his angelic-faced little daughter? When Mr. Reid starts to suffer terrifying pains about his person, Miss Norton thinks that she’s starting to see the light…

Finally, Jon Pertwee (Wurzel Gummidge, Dr. Who) plays Paul Henderson, the ageing, diva-like horror actor whose disappearance while working on a new film and living in the so-called haunted house is what initially draws Detective Inspector Goebbels into the case, lol.

He’s working on a low-budget horror film called ‘CURSE OF THE BLOOD-SUCKERS’ that he thinks is beneath him. Beggars can’t be choosers, however, and his obvious love and enthusiasm for the horror genre leads him to visit a costumier’s in the village in search of something authentic to wear as part of his costume.

In what is possibly the most delicious part of the whole film, Mr. Von Hartmann, the ancient costumier in his old-fasioned emporium, sells Paul a vampire’s cloak that makes Paul behave in a very uncharacteristic way when he puts it on. You might even say that, like Red Bull if you’re to believe the TV ads for it, it gives him wings…

The fabulously divine Ingrid Pitt (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, COUNTESS DRACULA, THE WICKER MAN) steals the show here as Paul’s gorgeous co-star in the film, Carla. With her blonde tresses, cigarette holder, pearls and white fox fur, she’s enough to take the sight out of your eye, as we say here in Oireland. But there might be more to this foxy wench than meets the eye, if you get me, so Paul had better be careful that he doesn’t get out-foxed by her…

Both films are drawn together in the finale in such a way as to tie up the loose ends neatly. In VAULT OF HORROR, we find out just who these shady businessmen are and why they’re re-enacting for our edification their terrible recurring nightmares.

THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD sees Detective Inspector Goebbels (no offence intended here, only joking!) visiting the house of mystery for himself and finding out exactly why it’s earned its evil reputation…

As the red velvet curtain falls on this joint review, let’s take a minute to fondly remember Amicus Productions. Featuring regular everyday streets and taxi-cabs and people and apartments rather than the forest paths and carriages and Counts and Countesses and castles atop mountains that Hammer favoured, the colours they used were quite extraordinary and blow my mind anew every time I see them. The portmanteau or anthology film deserves a re-birth. Any takers…?

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

 

BLACK FRIDAY, BLACK DRAGONS and SCARED TO DEATH: A TRIO OF BELA LUGOSI FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

bela lugosi headshot

BLACK FRIDAY, BLACK DRAGONS AND SCARED TO DEATH: A TRILOGY OF BELA LUGOSI HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love everything that the mysterious Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi ever did. If he’d advertised cat food, I would have loved those adverts as much as anything else he ever made. He and Boris Karloff, the two Lon Chaneys (father and son), Christopher Lee, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing are the Kings, the undisputed Kings, of the horror movie genre.

Everything that Bela does, every movement he makes, every word out of his mouth, is fascinating to me. I love the way he’s nearly always playing a mad scientist or a mad doctor who’s trying to take over the world with his eye power or clawed hand power, or maybe by building a monster or some kind of unholy army of the night, and it’s up to a feisty newspaper reporter and his best gal to stop him from attaining the world domination he always seems to crave, lol.

In BLACK DRAGONS (1942), he’s a mad medic once more, a Dr. Melcher, who pulls off possibly the most amazing feat of plastic surgery since, well, since I don’t know when. He travels to Japan to turn six members of the fiendish Black Dragon Society, all Japanese, all in cahoots with the Nazis, into six upstanding American industrialists, all through the magic of plastic surgery.

The real American industrialists will, of course, be killed, leaving the six Japanese impostors to step neatly into their lives in America. It’s the most improbable scheme ever devised and no foolin.’ Dr. Melcher, meanwhile, has to remain imprisoned in Japan so that he doesn’t give the game away.

But, in America, someone is killing off the fake industrialists one-by-one. Who could it possibly be? Nobody knows their true identities, except for Dr. Melcher and the lads back in Japan who commissioned the life-swapping plastic surgeries.

Each of the murder victims is found clutching an exquisite and obviously expensive-looking Japanese dagger, so I say look for the man who owns a Japanese dagger shop or who otherwise has access to an unlimited supply of Japanese daggers somehow.

Good thing there’s a reporter on the trail, and a young lady whom he likes called Alice, whose Uncle Bill is at the centre of the murders. The film contains the most blatant sexism I’ve ever seen in a ‘Forties movie, and ‘Forties movies are already pretty damned sexist. But just wait till you hear this little lot. It’ll make your jaw drop.

The reporter wants to keep Alice safe and away from all the commotion occasioned by the murders. He says something at one point along the lines of: ‘I wish we were married, so I could beat you up and then you’d have to stay home and you’d be nice and safe.’

There’s a lot I could say to that right now that I’m not gonna say. Just keep telling yourself, ‘that’s the way it was back then, it was the style of the times, all relationships were like that back then, fuhgeddaboutit, things have changed since then…’

BLACK FRIDAY (1940) sees Boris FRANKENSTEIN Karloff performing the almost obligatory surgery as a Dr. Ernst Sovac. This time, he’s transplanting part of the brain of a criminal called Red Cannon into the brain of his friend, Professor George Kingsley, who’s been badly injured in a car accident caused by the criminal. Fair enough, I suppose, lol. And it’s very FRANKENSTEIN-y too, isn’t it?

Anyway, though, the criminal part of his friend’s brain keeps asserting itself over the nice scholarly part of the friend’s brain. It’s like when Homer Simpson from THE SIMPSONS finally gets his longed-for hair transplant, but the thick luxurious quiff of hair has come from the show’s resident criminal and petty thug, Snake, who’s just been killed in the electric chair.

Every now and then, Snake’s thuggish personality comes out in Homer, much to the alarm of Homer’s son Bart, who’s unfortunately on Snake’s to-kill list. In BLACK FRIDAY, Red Cannon’s evil brain vies for supremacy over George Kingsley’s much more moderate one.

Dr. Sovac observes these transitions back-and-forth from evil to good and back again with interest. Red Cannon apparently stashed away a half a million bucks before he died and Dr. Sovac allows greed to get the better of him.

He wants to find that money for himself and use it to further his scientific research, no matter what the consequences for poor old George Kingsley, who’s supposed to be his oldest and closest friend. For shame, Dr. Sovac, for shame…

Bela plays a criminal called Eric Marnay in this film. He’s one of Red Cannon’s gang, even though you might have expected him to play the lead role, that of the mad scientist-doctor. He often was made to play second fiddle billing-wise to Boris Karloff, with whom he doesn’t play any scenes here.

He was included in films frequently just so that the film-makers could say, hey, lookee-here, Bela Lugosi’s in this flick! Sometimes, the roles were actually quite small and didn’t reflect his status as the man who’d played the most famous role of all time, Universal Studios’ DRACULA in 1931.

Anyway, Marnay’s desperate to get his hands on Red’s cash, and when members of Red’s gang start being mysteriously bumped off one-by-one, just like the fake Japanese industrialists in BLACK DRAGONS, Marnay is initially complacent. More dosh for me, is what he’s obviously thinking. But his time will come too, and maybe sooner than he thinks…

SCARED TO DEATH (1947) is the strangest little film I’ve ever seen. It looks a great deal older than it is and it’s filmed in something called ‘natural colour,’ so it has the distinction of being Bela’s one-and-only colour film.

It’s based on a play called MURDER ON THE OPERATING TABLE by Frank Orsino, and at times the film actually looks like a play, but a kind of scrappy one where everyone keeps chiming up at the wrong time and nothing makes a lick of sense.

George Zucco, who’s played Moriarty twice in the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce SHERLOCK HOLMES movies, portrays a Dr. Van Ee, whose daughter-in-law Laura has somehow died of fright and the flashbacks are going to try to explain how.

Dr. Van Ee’s son Ward has been trying to get an unwilling Laura to divorce him and Dr. Van Ee has been treating Laura for mental illness. As she’s a reluctant patient, you can see that a lot of suspicion should really attach to both Van Ees for her sudden death-by-fright. They both want her out of the picture, after all.

Bela plays a visiting cousin of Dr. Van Ee’s called Professor Leonide. Resplendant in a red-lined black cloak (just like Dracula’s!) and wide-brimmed black hat, he apparently used to be a stage magician in Europe. He’s accompanied by a little malignant dwarf called Indigo and, together, they present a source of terror for Laura, the wife of Ward Van Ee. What’s the deal with that, we wonder?

A floating green mask appears to be the main source of horror for the beleaguered Laura, however. Who’s behind these ghostly apparitions, and what does it mean for the three Van Ees, locked together in a ghastly dance of death and mutual dislike?

The plot is further complicated by the intrusion of a nasty newspaperman, desperate for a story, who is absolutely horrible to his ditzy blonde girlfriend. From what I’ve seen of these ‘Forties relationships, I shouldn’t be at all surprised if the ditziness turned out to be caused by repeated blows to the head from her tyrannical newspaperman boyfriend…!

Anyway, Bela is marvellous in all three films, no matter how small or bizarre the roles he plays. I love him in anything he does. He was the best Dracula ever filmed- as well as one of the first- and he’s credited with turning Bram Stoker’s creation into the handsome, suave, sexy, domineering lust-object later perfected by Christopher Lee in the HAMMER HORROR films. Good old Bela. May he never be forgotten.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

SEE NO EVIL: THE MOORS MURDERS. (2006) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

myra maureen

SEE NO EVIL: THE MOORS MURDERS. (2006) BASED ON TRUE EVENTS.

DIRECTED BY CHRISTOPHER MENAUL. WRITTEN BY NEIL MCKAY.

STARRING SEAN HARRIS, MAXINE PEAKE, JOANNE FROGGATT, MATTHEW MCNULTY, GEORGE COSTIGAN , SUSAN TWIST AND JOHN HENSHAW.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Does a dog have a soul…?’

This one originally aired on ITV over the course of two nights in 2006, and I’d say there was hardly a family in the whole of England and Ireland that wasn’t glued to it. I was watching it myself and I thought it was phenomenally well done, despite the horrific subject matter. Having re-visited it recently as a two-hour-and-seventeen-minute film, the impact was no less powerful.

It’s the story of the infamous Moors Murders as seen through the eyes of Myra Hindley’s younger sister Maureen, whom Myra called Mo or Moby and genuinely seemed to love, if such a cold-hearted woman could be deemed capable of love.

It’s 1963 and the death of her baby Angela Dawn with David Smith, her young husband, sees a distraught Maureen turning to her older sister Myra for comfort. A side-effect of Myra and Maureen’s spending more time together is that David Smith and Ian Brady are thrown together a lot too.

At first, David isn’t terribly keen on Ian, an egotistical show-off proud of his high intellect and the fact that he’s well-read. Ian loves an audience. He spouts a lot of nonsense about philosophy, relativism (whatever that is) and existentialism that goes right over Dave’s head at first. As it did mine, I must say.

Gradually Ian, with his narrow, pinched-looking nose and cruelly thin lips, gets inside Dave’s head. He gives Dave books to read by the Marquis de Sade, books that Ian has studied carefully himself along with books on Nazi ideology and Nazi atrocities.

Dave finds himself reading about the rape and physical abuse and torture of young women, but his wife Maureen tells him that she can’t understand how either he, Dave, or Ian for that matter, can get their kicks out of reading about men beating and/or raping women. We don’t know what Dave makes of all this but it’s pretty obvious how Ian feels on the subject.

Ian and David plan a bank robbery together, unknown to Maureen but not to Myra, who will drive their getaway car. (Ian doesn’t drive, you see.) They take guns out onto the nearby Saddleworth Moor for shooting practice.

The four young people, Ian, Myra, Maureen and Dave, spend a lot of time out on the beautiful wild Moors because it’s Ian’s and Myra’s favourite place. Maureen is heard to remark that she doesn’t know what they see in the cold, windy expanse of grass and muck.

I can certainly see the attraction of moors, they’re wild and windy and gloriously sort of primeval as in Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but these moors in particular are hiding Ian and Myra’s grim secrets.

During a drunken conversation between Ian and David, Ian reveals that he has killed people in the past and, what’s more, that David has unwittingly stood on their graves out on the Moors. Dave doesn’t know what to believe at first. Then he decides that it’s all just big talk on Ian’s part as usual. He’s a boaster and a show-off, after all.

Dave changes his mind when Ian entices a young man called Edward Evans back to his and Myra’s council house which they share with Myra’s old grandmother. In front of Dave’s eyes, Ian murders Edward Evans with an axe. Afterwards, he coldly orders Myra and Dave to clean up the blood.

Dave, feeling like he’s in a nightmare, does what Ian orders him to do before stumbling home in the early hours of the morning, sick and frightened, to a sleeping Maureen.

In the morning, the terrified pair go to the police, which was a pretty brave thing to do on their part. Maureen was reluctantly ‘shopping’ her beloved sister, and Dave was risking the wrath of a man he was obviously very afraid of, that is, Ian. Their action was the catalyst that broke the horrible state of affairs that became known as the ‘Moors Murders’ case wide open…

Maureen and Dave can’t believe it when Ian and Myra are arrested for the murders of missing local young people Lesley Ann Downey, John Kilbride and now Edward Evans, whose body was recovered by the police in Ian and Myra’s council house the day after his brutal murder.

The bodies of Lesley Ann Downey and John Kilbride were discovered buried out on Saddleworth Moors. George Costigan (Bob in RITA, SUE AND BOB TOO) is brilliant here as DCI Joe Mounsey, the careworn detective who never gave up hope of finding little John Kilbride and who, in fact, was the one to first uncover the little boy’s lonely resting place.

Ian and Myra were each sentenced to life in prison for these three murders. It wasn’t until much later that they confessed to the murders of Pauline Reade and little Keith Bennett.

The latter had broken his glasses the day before he was murdered and so he went to his death not being able to see properly, a fact which haunted his poor mother and which makes his fate all the more devastatingly poignant.

The evil couple, who nicknamed each other Neddie and Hessie (Neddie after a character in THE GOON SHOW and Hessie after British pianist Myra Hess) were reviled for all time after the details of their heinous actions became known to the public.

The tape made by the couple of Lesley Ann Downey begging and pleading for her life and the pornographic photos they took of her did nothing to endear them to the courts. Their addiction to documenting their gruesome activities was at least part of their undoing.

It was even Ian and Myra’s habit to get all incriminating materials out of the house before they committed another murder, so if the police came round they’d find nothing out of the ordinary. The level of premeditation here is quite extraordinary.

They packed everything up into two suitcases which they placed in the left-luggage section of Manchester Central Railway Station. When the police found a couple of these ‘treasure-troves’ after Ian and Myra were arrrested, let’s just say that they now had a lot more evidence to go on…

Maureen and Dave, with another baby on the way, attempted to rebuild their own lives but the public wouldn’t let them forget who they were and the couple had a long way to go to find peace, if they ever did. They were hugely affected by the fallout from the Moors Murders.

Maureen did in 1980 of a brain haemorrhage, twenty-two years before her born-again Catholic sister Myra passed away in custody, the short peroxide blonde hairstyle, no longer her trademark, replaced by her own longish, natural brown hair.

Ian Brady lingered on till 2017, somewhat bearing out the old Irish saying that ‘you can’t kill a bad thing.’ The absolute secrecy surrounding his cremation and the scattering of his ashes in the sea will tell you just how reviled a person he remained even until after his death.

Maxine Peake does an excellent job here of portraying Myra, one of the most hated women in Britain ever. Not only does she look like her but she plays her as she apparently really was, surly, secretive, unco-operative and stand-offish.

The real Myra didn’t do herself any favours with her unhelpful, abrasive attitude towards the police, and certainly there was at least one set of parents of the Moors Murders victims who died without knowing where their child- Keith Bennett, the smiley-faced boy who broke his glasses- was buried. To this day I believe his remains are still somewhere out on the Moor.

This drama serial handles the explosive material with sensitivity and compassion. The film-makers are careful not to distress the parents and families of the victims any more than they already have been. Some of the relatives helped Neil McKay, the writer, with his research. It’s a grim subject, maybe one of the grimmest, but it needed to finally be told.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

TARTAN ASIA EXTREME PRESENTS: KOMA. (2004) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

koma

TARTAN ASIA EXTREME PRESENTS: KOMA. (2004) A HONG KONG HORROR-THRILLER DIRECTED BY LO CHI-LEUNG. LANGUAGE: CANTONESE. STARRING ANGELICA LEE, KARENA LAM, LEE SINJE AND ANDY HUI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Crawls under the skin and stays there.’

VARIETY.

This is kind of an odd one. I really liked and enjoyed it but that’s not to say that there aren’t loopholes in it or places where the plot, frankly, verged on the ever-so-slightly nonsensical. It’s the story of Ching, a beautiful, privileged rich girl whom we first see getting pissed at a friend’s wedding. Fair enough, lol. We’ve all been there…

Ching, however, gets spectacularly pissed and goes for a wander by herself through the hotel where the wedding’s being held. She discovers two things. A strange woman in a coat and high heels walking in the hotel’s deserted upper corridors, and a naked, nearly dead woman who’s just woken up in a bath of ice. With one kidney missing…

Then the fun really starts. The strange woman in the coat and high heels turns out to be Ling, whom it is revealed has been sleeping with Ching’s boyfriend, a good-looking doctor fellow called Wai. Ling is as pretty as Ching though sort of sturdier where Ching is very obviously delicate and too thin, for reasons we’ll discover later.

Ling is as poor as Ching is rich and her mother is a comatose invalid in the hospital, the only person in the film who could be said to be in an actual ‘koma.’ At first accused of complicity in the kidney murders, Ling is quickly declared by the police to be cleared of any involvement. But she did sleep with Wai and even borrow money from him for her mother’s care, so it looks like poor Ching has been taken for a right mug.

Ching also can’t rid herself of the niggling feeling that Ling is evil and intends her real physical harm, aside from merely bonking Ching’s boyfriend and getting money out of him that should be spent on gifts for Ching, by rights, and on his future with Ching. Ching has an horrific dream in which she sees Ling coming for her at night with a scalpel. A scalpel for harvesting a nice, fat juicy kidney…

The kidneys bit reminds me of the time in THE SIMPSONS that Grandpa Simpson needed a new kidney because Homer wouldn’t let him stop for a whizz on the long journey home from the Wild West village, the one with all the prostitutes, lol. ‘Hello, sweet cheeks!’

Homer is eventually talked into giving Grandpa one of his own kidneys but then he gets scared and runs away, finding himself on the Ship of Lost Souls with a motley crew of extremely strange people. But not before togging himself out in some sharp nautical threads purchased from an emporium for sea-faring men: ‘I’m fleeing in shame and I’d like to look my best…!’

Anyway, in the most ridiculous and unbelievable scene in the whole film, Ching is saved from the evil kidney-harvester by none other than Ling, a tiny slip of a girl not much bigger than Ching herself. You’ll have to suspend disbelief for this bit…!

Ching is eternally grateful to Ling, but Ling’s savage jealousy of Ching’s wealth and beauty- and let’s not forget that Ching also has Wai, he’s a dubious prize but both women seem to love him- won’t allow her to be properly friends with Ching. It seems like Ling the Friend is even deadlier and more malicious than Ling the Enemy, so either way, Ching is screwed. Isn’t she…?

As I said, this is a really entertaining Asian horror film, if you don’t mind a few mad plot twists. Probably the scariest thing about it is the very real kidney-and-other organs harvesting business it brings to the forefront of our minds.

Imagine, for a paltry few grand, someone could try to steal your kidney or, even worse, mine. Okay, fine. What can’t be cured must be endured. Just let me run a few gallons of wine through there first…

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

komakoma

DOUBLE INDEMNITY. (1944) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

double indemnityDOUBLE INDEMNITY. (1944) DIRECTED BY BILLY WILDER. SCREENPLAY BY BILLY WILDER AND RAYMOND CHANDLER. FROM THE NOVEL BY JAMES M. CAIN.

STARRING FRED MACMURRAY, BARBARA STANWYCK AND EDWARD G. ROBINSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I killed him for the money. And for a woman. I didn’t get the money, and I didn’t get the woman.’

Walter Neff, insurance agent.

You can tell from the writing credits (Wilder, Chandler, Cain) just why DOUBLE INDEMNITY is one of the best and darkest film noir thrillers ever made. And the performances don’t exactly suck either.

On the contrary, they shimmer and steam with tension and desire all the way through. Not just with sexual desire, although there’s plenty of that, but with the desire to enrich oneself financially while simultaneously ridding oneself of the millstone around one’s neck, a husband who’s outlived his usefulness. It’s the old, old story, isn’t it?

Fred MacMurray, a fine handsome slice of ‘Forties beefcake, plays Walter Neff, an insurance agent who finds himself one afternoon in the lavish home of bored housewife Phyllis Dietrichson, portrayed here by Barbara Stanwyck. Walter doesn’t mind that her husband, the wealthy breadwinner to whom he would have pitched his sales spiel, is out. He couldn’t care less about the husband once he claps eyes on the wife.

Phyllis, the second wife of this Dietrichson fella, is stunningly beautiful, and don’t she just know it? Her glossy blonde hair falls in artlessly silky rolls and waves, her make-up is flawless and she dresses to seduce, with bling and cling wherever you choose to look.

Walter is immediately smitten with her. The sight of the slim, slinky gold chain winking expensively around one elegantly crossed ankle is his undoing. Bam! He’s in love, head-over-heels in love, and the attraction is mutual.

The conversation turns to murder surprisingly quickly. Walter initially walks out on Phyllis when he susses out that she wants to take out a whopping insurance policy on her cruel, abusive husband, then arrange a little ‘accident’ for the unfortunate man shortly afterwards.

But it doesn’t take long for the spider to lure the fly back into her parlour, which smells heavily of honeysuckle. ‘Murder smells like honeysuckle,’ I betcha ya didn’t know that. The fly takes the bait.

The stage is set for the demise of Mister Dietrichson. The two conspirators concoct a plan that has always seemed to me to be needlessly complex and dangerous. Too much could go wrong. Too much does…

Why does Walter do it? He loves her, of course, and he desires her more than he’s ever desired any woman in his life before. The money is not to be sniffed at either. But there’s another reason. It’s almost a matter of pride with him.

He’s an insurance agent, right? Day after day, he sits in his office reading fraudulent claims put in by people who think that they can fiddle their insurance. Walter and his boss Keyes, played by Edward G. Robinson in magnificent form, know every single trick in the book. Hell, they wrote the goddamned book.

Walter quite fancies the idea of being able to use his eleven years of inside knowledge to pull off the ultimate fool-proof insurance scam. But there’s no such thing as the perfect murder. And Walter always knew that Keyes would worry and worry at this case from the moment he got the bit between his teeth. Keyes can smell a fraud a mile off.

What Walter doesn’t know is that Dietrichson’s daughter Lola, between whom and Phyllis there is no love lost, has some rather disturbing information on Phyllis. It might just shed some light on the character of the woman whom, after all, Walter barely knows. It concerns Dietrichson’s first wife and the manner in which she died…

The sexual tension between the two leads is palpable. The swift, snappy quickfire dialogue they utter in their first few scenes together is a sheer delight to watch. It positively crackles with electricity. It was written by men who knew their stuff, goddammit.

double indemnitydouble indemnitydouble indemnityWhen Walter and Phyllis first sleep together in Walter’s apartment on a gorgeously rainy night, you’ll see no more than the aftermath of Phyllis adjusting her blouse and Walter smoking on the couch with his shoes off, but it’s as suggestively sultry as if you’d seen them actually engage in sexual intercourse.

Of course, they knew how to do things back then. These old ‘Forties thrillers were masterful at showing without telling, if you know what I mean. A fierce embrace and the music rising to a powerful crescendo was all they needed back then to imply mind-blowing, life-changing sex, the kind of sex you’ll remember for the rest of your days.

Those were the good old days, huh? And DOUBLE INDEMNITY is one of the best examples of its genre, one of the finest of all the film noir thrillers. If you haven’t already seen it, go and find it and watch it. It’ll weave its magic on you too. I say let it.

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