THE WIZARD OF OZ. (1939) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE WIZARD OF OZ. (1939) DIRECTED BY VICTOR FLEMING. BASED ON THE 1900 CHILDREN’S NOVEL, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ BY LYMAN FRANK BAUM.

MUSIC BY HAROLD ARLEN AND HERBERT STOTHART.

STARRING JUDY GARLAND, BILLIE BURKE, MARGARET HAMILTON, RAY BOLGER, JACK HALEY, BERT LAHR, FRANK MORGAN, CHARLEY GRAPEWIN, CLARA BLANDWICK AND TOTO THE DOG AS HIMSELF.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

The ultimate chick flick…two women killing each other over shoes.

Transported to a surreal landscape, a little girl kills the first person she meets, then teams up with three strangers to kill again…

‘There’s no place like home…’

‘How about a little fire, scarecrow…?’

‘I guess we’re not in Kansas any more, Toto…’

‘I’ll get you, my pretty… And your little dog, too…!’

‘Erm, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…!’

You can’t watch this classic film without singing along at the top of your voice to the terrific songs. It’s just not possible. Try it yourself and see. I’ve just re-watched the film and now the neighbours are banging on the walls in protest at my singing but I don’t care. I’ve had a lovely time and I don’t care who knows it, lol.

This is the story of Dorothy Gale, played by the then seventeen-year-old Judy Garland, who would forever be associated with the role. Dorothy is a much-loved little girl from Kansas who lives on a farm with her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry and her beloved terrier, Toto.

The only fly in Dorothy’s ointment is local citizeness of note, the grumpy and humourless Miss Almira Gulch, who has it in for Toto and keeps trying to get him put to sleep for biting her. On foot of Miss Gulch’s latest dirty rotten trick, a court order permitting her to take Toto to be euthanised, Dorothy determines to run away with her dog.

She picks a dodgy time to do it, though. A twister (tornado) blows into town unexpectedly and, while Uncle Henry, Auntie Em and the farmhands are all safely hunkered down in the family bunker, Dorothy and Toto are whirled up into the sky, knocked about a bit and finally deposited (with a witch-killing bump) in a land that’s about as far from Kansas as you can get… the merry old land of Oz.

Here, of course, is where she inherits the ruby slippers, meets the Munchkins of Munchkinland and is advised by the Good Witch Glinda to follow the Yellow Brick Road, which should eventually lead her to the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City. The Wizard, as if you didn’t already know, is the one person who might be able to help Dorothy to return home to Kansas, the one thing in the world she wants more than anything.

Along the way, she picks up the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, who all want to meet the Wizard too and ask him for, respectively, a brain, a heart and courage. The raggle-taggle motley crew will have many adventures together before they’re finished, not least of which is greatly incurring the ire of Miss Gulch’s dreaded and dreadful alter ego, the Wicked Witch of the West.

The Witch with the long pointy face and green skin is the best and most kick-ass character by miles. Enraged by the fact that Dorothy has (inadvertently) dropped a house on her, the Witch’s, sister, and ‘stolen’ her magical ruby slippers, she’ll stop at nothing to get those slippers back, even if it means killing the person whose feet are currently occupying them…

The colour scenery in this musical fantasy extravaganza is fantabulous and the songs plentiful. Follow the Yellow Brick Road, Ding Dong the Witch is Dead and Somewhere Over the Rainbow & Co. will all leave you breathless, and infused with an amazing sense of well-being.

Dorothy and her pals learn a few gentle moral lessons along the way, and we, the viewers, are highly entertained from start to finish. It’s a win-win situation. Dig this one out if you have it, along with CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL for a fun and musical Christmas.

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.

THE WICKER MAN. (1973) BRITAIN’S BEST HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

wicker man chop

THE WICKER MAN. (1973) DISTRIBUTED BY BRITISH LION FILMS. SCREENPLAY BY ANTHONY SCHAFFER. INSPIRED BY DAVID PINNER’S 1967 NOVEL ‘RITUAL.’

PRODUCED BY PETER SNELL. DIRECTED BY ROBIN HARDY. MUSIC BY PAUL GIOVANNI. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY HARRY WAXMAN.

STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, BRITT EKLAND, INGRID PITT, DIANE CILENTO AND EDWARD WOODWARD.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Welcome, Fool. You have come of your own free will to the appointed place. The game’s over.’

‘Oh Sergeant. You’ll just never understand the true nature of sacrifice.’

‘Come. It is time to keep your appointment with the Wicker Man.’

‘Here comes the chopper to chop off your head…’

‘And now for our more dreadful sacrifice…’

‘We carry death out of the village!’

‘That’ll make you sleep, my pretty Sergeant.’

This is a superior cult horror film by anyone’s standards. It’s deemed by many to be the best British horror film ever made- I concur- and legendary actor Christopher Lee is said to consider his performance as Lord Summerisle in the cult movie to be his finest. I graciously concur once more.

Mark Kermode, esteemed and delicious film critic, loves this film. Ditto moi-même. If I sat here for a thousand years, I couldn’t think of anything derogatory to say about the film, so yes, my review will be nothing more than a great big love-in, lol. Read on if that’s your thing.

Flawless performances by a superior cast make for mesmerising viewing. Edward Woodward of CALLAN fame plays Sergeant Neil Howie, a straight-laced, upright Christian police officer who travels to the nearby Scottish island of Summerisle to investigate a report of a missing child called Rowan Morrison from an anonymous source.

To the tune of ‘Corn Rigs’ by Paul Giovanni, Howie flies in the police seaplane over the bit of sea separating the Scottish mainland from Summerisle. (The movie was filmed in Dumfries in Scotland.) The green and rocky land looks like it hasn’t been inhabited since the time of the Druids. You immediately get the sense that something special- and dreadful- is going to happen here.

The old lads who greet Howie at the harbour are just brilliant. I wonder if they were actors or locals, some of which might well have been. ‘Have you lost your bearings, sir?’

Howie passes the photo of Rowan Morrison around amongst them and they hem-and-haw and reach into inside pockets for spectacle cases and say they’ve never seen the ‘gerril’ before in their lives, before eventually admitting that they do have a May Morrison on the island. She ‘keeps the Post Office in the High Street.’ ‘That’s not May’s daughter, though…!’

The motherly May Morrison does indeed preside over the Post Office-cum-sweet shop, whose window is filled with chocolate March hares and curious-looking cakes baked to commemorate God-knows-what kind of strange celebrations.

May is adamant that the girl in the picture is not her daughter and her ‘real’ little daughter Myrtle says that Rowan is, in fact, a hare, who ‘has a lovely time. She runs and plays in the fields all day long.’

The people of Summerisle are a mighty strange bunch in general and immediately set about leading poor old Sergeant Howie on a merry dance/wild goose chase. He is fed any number of conflicting snippets of information about Rowan Morrison, the supposedly missing child, which frustrate him no end and eventually cause him to doubt the veracity of anything he is told by these weird, insular people.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Howie is bewildered and befuddled by the apparent lack of any morals or good Christian values on the heathen island of Summerisle. Men and women engage openly in a sexual free-for-all that mortifies and horrifies the virginal Sergeant.

Men and women copulate openly on the village green at night. In the Green Man pub, where Howie is billeted for the duration of his fateful two-night stay, the regulars sing bawdy songs like ‘The Landlord’s Daughter,’ which are simply peppered with outrageous sexual innuendo.

Virginal young men are sent to the bedroom of Willow McGregor, the actual landlord’s daughter, for sexual deflowering and initiation. Gently now, Johnny! No-one, not the villagers, not even Alder McGregor, her gnome-like little father, bats an eye at such flagrantly unabashed conduct.

You see, the islanders on Summerisle worship what they call ‘the old gods,’ the gods of the sun and the gods of the sea and the goddess of the fields, and they don’t attend any kind of church services, even supposing they had any working churches in which to hold them. Their churches are in ruins and their grounds allowed to run wild. ‘Minister?’ repeats the Old Grave-digger-Gardener incredulously, before lapsing into mad fits of laughter at Howie’s ignorance.

There is a deliciously pagan feel to the film that quite simply transports the viewer back a thousand years to more primitive, godless ancient times. Young women, under the supervision of Miss Rose the school-teacher, dance naked around open fires in the hopes of being made fertile. (‘They do love their divinity lessons…’)

Schoolchildren- Miss Rose again!- are taught to ‘venerate the penis’ because that is the source of all life. Makes sense, I suppose, but do they have to rub it in like that? The islanders are encouraged to ‘appease’ their gods with sacrifices in order to ensure a plentiful harvest of apples, the main source of industry and income on Summerisle.

Howie has a big spat with Miss Rose about the way the schoolchildren are taught such things. She succeeds in completely bamboozling him with her skilful double-talk and innuendo and the clever way she has of never fully answering any of his questions. He becomes quite frustrated with her, and she’s not the only islander to so flummox him.

The people in the pub, as well as the good folks down at the school, swear they’ve never seen hide nor hair of a person called Rowan Morrison. The Old Grave-digger-Gardener says that the piece of skin hanging over one of the graves is ‘the poor wee lass’s (Rowan’s) navel-string,’ and ‘where else would it be but hung on her own little tree?’ The doctor who filled out Rowan’s death certificate says she was ‘burnt to death, like my lunch will be if I stand here talking to you.’

So, does Rowan Morrison exist or does she not? Do the villagers know her or not? Did she die or did she not? Is she buried somewhere or is she not? Howie rightly feels like he’s going insane. Everywhere he turns, he finds conflicting information. Come to that, did last year’s crops fail or did they not? And what does that have to do with the missing girl?

Christopher Lee puts on a show-stopping performance as the devastatingly handsome and aristocratic Lord Summerisle, lord of all he surveys and unquestioned leader of his people.

He is perfectly supported by three beautiful blonde females in the shape of Diane Cilento as Miss Rose, Ingrid Pitt as the Librarian and Britt Ekland as Willow McGregor. Ask Britt what she thought of the weather in Dumfries during the shooting of the film, by the way. Go on, ask her!

Lord Summerisle, tall and wild-haired and obviously sexually charismatic, condones all the naked dancing-over-fires and sexual permissiveness on the island. ‘Have these children never heard of Jesus?’ a horrified Howie demands of him.

Howie is quite simply flabbergasted by all the ‘fake biology’ and ‘fake religion’ and the bizarre Celtic paganism he observes going on around him. He won’t get any joy from Lord Summerisle. Jesus? ‘Himself the son of a virgin, impregnated, I believe, by a ghost.’ The strait-laced Howie nearly explodes with anger.

You’ll find out exactly what Lord Summerisle thinks of Howie’s devotion to the Christian religion in his monologue- ‘I think I could turn and live with animals’- outside Willow’s bedroom window while the snails are copulating.

This scene was butchered for the original theatrical release and Christopher Lee was rightly angry about this because the lazy, languorous, almost sensuous movement of the snails on the stalks exactly mirrors those of Willow and Ash Buchanan and is a metaphor for their off-camera coupling, which we hear but don’t see.

Lord Summerisle’s grandfather was the man who, in Victorian times, first grew the famous Summerisle apples on the island, availing himself of the handy soil conditions and the warm Gulf Stream to do so.

He was also the man who brought back ‘the old gods’ to the people, the gods of nature, and now Lord Summerisle carries on the tradition with all the gusto of his male ancestor. Nature is acting up, is she, getting all pissy? Chuck her a sacrifice. A chicken, a keg of ale, a human being, depending on the severity of the crisis.

Are you beginning to see where this is going? The horror mounts as the all-important Mayday celebrations approach and, by the time Sergeant Howie finally discovers exactly why he’s been summoned to Summerisle, the viewer is staring wide-eyed at the screen, appalled both at the poor man’s fate and at the knowledge that he’s not the first to which such things have happened and he may not even be the last.

The lead actors and actresses are wonderful, but the villagers are all so memorable too. The mighty Oak, who thrusts and dry-humps behind the petite blonde Willow during the pub rendition of ‘The Landlord’s Daughter.’

The harbour-master who from the outset proclaims himself as completely untrustworthy. The gentle, mild-mannered little Apothecary, who can’t remember if the ‘gerril’ in last year’s harvest festival was Rowan or not.

The hairdresser, whose blank but smug stare at Howie during his house-to-house search proclaims that she knows way more about Rowan Morrison than she’s letting on. Broome, the laird’s smirking manservant. The schoolteacher, who sings lewd songs about procreation to his pupils.

And, of course, we have the head-wrecking May Morrison herself, who might or might not be party to the terrible fate in store for her daughter, Rowan. If she’s even May’s daughter, that is. Howie still doesn’t know.

I can’t finish without mentioning Willow’s Dance, the one that’s designed to seduce the sexually uptight Howie, who’s still a virgin, if you please, despite the fact that he’s engaged to a nice wee girl from his church called Mary. ‘She’ll spend more time on her knees in church than on her back in bed…!’ That’s only the postman’s opinion, of course, lol. You don’t want to listen to him.

Howie is sorely tempted by Willow’s wild naked dancing. ‘How a maid can milk a bull, and every stroke a bucketful…’ He suffers agonies of temptation, in fact. Britt Ekland, whose Scandinavian accent was dubbed in the film, apparently only agreed to being topless in this iconic dance scene, but a body double was used for the lower body without her knowledge. To this day, she won’t sign photos of that other woman’s ‘big fat ass…!’

My favourite scenes? Howie in the deserted and decaying churchyard, fashioning a rough cross out of two sticks, watched by a breastfeeding young mother. Christopher Lee expertly playing a few bars of piano music while Miss Rose’s girls jump naked over the fire.

Howie doing his house-to-house search and ‘accidentally’ coming upon the truly beautiful Ingrid Pitt in her bath. Lord Summerisle prancing and cavorting down the road in his Cher wig and Laird-issue sneakers as if he were born to do it.

The swordsmen cavorting in the final, dreadful procession. Britt and Ingrid ‘anointing’ a shell-shocked Howie with their long hair. The first terrible sighting of You-Know-Who. The singing and swaying at the end. The huge structure collapsing into the sea while the blazing red sun goes down.

A word about the fabulous, fabulous music. Performed by the specially-formed folk-rock group Magnet, it’s seriously sexy and complements the action beautifully. I’m being totally serious when I say that I can never hear the opening strains of ‘Gently, Johnny’ without wanting to rip all my own clothes off and engage in the wildest, hottest, most primeval sexual activity imaginable with Christopher Lee. Ahem. Just watch the film. You’ll see what I mean…

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

CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

chitty childcatcher

IAN FLEMING’S (Yes, THAT Ian Fleming…!) CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. (1968) DIRECTED BY KEN HUGHES. MUSIC AND LYRICS BY RICHARD M. SHERMAN AND ROBERT B. SHERMAN. SCREENPLAY BY ROALD DAHL AND KEN HUGHES.

STARRING DICK VAN DYKE, SALLY ANN HOWES, ADRIAN HALL, HEATHER RIPLEY, GERT FROBE, ANNA QUAYLE, LIONEL JEFFRIES, JAMES ROBERTSON JUSTICE, ROBERT HELPMANN, BARBARA WINDSOR AND BENNY HILL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Aw, this family musical is a real Christmas cracker, or a cracker for any other time of the year you care to name as well. I remember watching this during childhood Christmases and being terrified by the evil Child-Catcher, enchanted by the real-life ‘dolls’ performing at the awful Baron Bomburst’s birthday and mildly annoyed by the repetitive nature of the theme song, lol. Here’s the deal, anyway.

The oddly-named Caractacus Potts (we’ll call him Pottsy here!) is a crackpot English inventor in either the late Victorian era or the early Whatever-Came-After-That era. He’s tolerably good-looking- not hideous, at any rate- and he’s a widow with two perfect little pre-teen Aryan youths for children. Well, excuse me but could they be any blonder?

Jemima and Jeremy are allowed to skip school and run wild around the English countryside dressed in rags, while their inventor father spends hours closeted in his laboratory tinkering about with the mechanics of yet another Truly hare-brained scheme. See what I did there? Their cut-glass accents can be a tad irritating (Oh Deddy Deddy, we DO love you so and all that type of thing) but they’re basically good kids, just badly in need of a mother. And a bath and a square meal.

A potential mother hoves into view in the form of the beautiful and divinely-dressed Truly Scrumptious, a wealthy young local lady who almost runs the young’uns down in her splendiferous motorised vehicle. She’s horrified to see the children dressed like ragged urchins and endangering themselves and the public on the good decent English highways and byways.

She comes home with the children to give Pottsy a piece of her mind. Why aren’t these children at school and so on and so forth. Pottsy sends her away with a flea in her ear. Mind your own business, young lady, these are my children and I’ll sorely neglect their moral and educational upbringing as I see fit or words to that effect. Now be off with you at once, young woman, or I’ll turn you into, erm, marzipan. That’s it, marzipan. Harrumph!

The gorgeous young lady turns out to be Truly Scrumptious of the wildly successful Scrumptious Family Sweetie Emporium, however, and the daughter of its wildly eccentric owner. (Not as wildly eccentric as Pottsy’s father, however, who can’t forget the time he was a soldier- and a brigadier’s batman- in India.)

This is awkward for Pottsy as he’s just invented a new sweet he wants to flog to Poppa Scrumptious, a stick of whistling candy that has the family dog’s seal of approval. Woof woof! Truly generously gives Pottsy tips on how to handle her brusquely-mannered father and, from then on, a beautiful friendship is born and Truly and the Potts family are as thick as thieves together.

Truly and Pottsy are deeply, truly attracted to each other. The attraction on Pottsy’s part is simple to understand, as Truly is a stunning bit of stuff who wears fabulous dresses and likes to be independent and speak her mind, which quality makes men thinks that chicks are feisty, see? Men love feisty women, or so I’m told. They never seem to like it when I get feisty…

The attraction that Pottsy holds for Truly is obvious too. There isn’t a woman alive who wouldn’t be drawn to a lonely widower with two lovely motherless children. Her desire to be a mother to the sproglets and a comfort and a helpmeet to their poor dear father is simply overwhelming. It over-rides all other desires.

Let’s just hope that Pottsy makes a better husband than he does an inventor. His Automatic Hair-Cutting Machine that leaves the user looking like that guy out of The Three Stooges is worse than Homer Simpson’s make-up gun that shoots women in the face with their daily requirement of cosmetics. CARRY ON star Barbara Windsor features in the hair-cutting section as the little blonde bombshell girlfriend of the poor bastard being so brutally barbered.

Danger strikes the little quartet, anyway, Pottsy and Truly and the kiddiewinks, when the awful Baron Bomburst of the little European monarchy of Vulgaria decides he wants to get his royal mitts on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This is the old vintage car lovingly restored by Pottsy at the kids’ behest. Oh Deddy Deddy please, you’ve got to save our precious automobile from the knackers’ yard and all that jazz.

Two nutty emissaries of the Baron’s kidnap Pottsy’s Dad and spirit him away in a hot-air balloon. They mistakenly believe him to be his son Caractacus, the eccentric British inventor whose magical car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, is able to float and fly.

Pottsy, Truly and the kids duly hop into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and fly to Vulgaria to save Grandpa Potts from a grisly fate at the hands of the Baron. Vulgaria is a very strange Kingdom indeed where no children are allowed because the Baron’s wife, the Baroness, is afraid of the sticky-fingered little blighters.

All the Kingdom’s children have to live in a gloomy underground cavern and the Child-Catcher, the terrifying but brilliant star of the whole shebang, is the guy who’ll catch any new kiddy-winks who turn up in town and sling ’em int’ chokey.

He captures Jeremy and Jemima neatly in his net with his blood-chilling cries of ‘Lollipops! Get your free lollipops and ice-cream here, and all free today, and not a penny to pay…!’ Kids are such dopes, lol. Imagine falling for that line. Oldest trick in the book, that is.

One good shove and they’re in the van, off to some place grim and grey from which they’ll never escape and, more importantly, from where their precious Deddy Deddy can’t spring ’em. (We hope, snigger. Serves ’em right, the headstrong, wilful brats. Maybe a spell in the Child-Catcher’s van will teach ’em that the world’s not their own personal bloody playground. Humph.)

So now Pottsy and Truly have a mammoth task on their hands. They have to rescue both Grandpa, who by now is gloriously immersed in growing ‘the roses of success,’ and the nippers from the Baron’s Guards, and then get themselves and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the hell out of Vulgaria before ze wicked Baron has them killed and made into cushion-covers.

And some would say that they now have a moral obligation to help the captured children and the oppressed downtrodden inhabitants of Vulgaria as well, now that they’ve seen what goes on there.

And especially as Pottsy has already crooned his Hushabye Mountain ditty to the kids in the underground cavern and given ’em a semblance of hope. You can’t sing that at ’em and then just bugger off with a ta-ra then, chuck. It wouldn’t be right.

Benny Hill the comedian is excellent as the Toymaker who can only make toys for the spoiled-brat Baron now that all the children of Vulgaria are imprisoned. My favourite bit of the film, next to the scary Child-Catcher scenes, is when Truly and Pottsy perform for ze Baron on his birthday as real-life, life-sized dolls. I always loved Truly’s song the best. ‘What do you see, you people gazing at me? You see a doll on a music box that’s wound by a key.’ She makes a Truly Beautiful Doll.

When Pottsy reacts the wrong way near the end of the film to the kids’ suggestion that he marry Truly, I always want to bonk him on the head with one of his stupid inventions. What a wuss.

The woman’s been to hell and back for him and his rugrats and he’s balking at the idea of marriage. You dope, Caractacus. She’s gagging for a ring. Give the lady what she wants. It’s simpler in the long run to just surrender now. You know she’ll get you in the end…

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

 

THE SOUND OF MUSIC. (1965) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

sound of music

RODGERS AND HAMMERSTEIN’S THE SOUND OF MUSIC. (1965) DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ROBERT WISE. BASED ON THE MEMOIRS OF MARIA VON TRAPP. MUSIC AND LYRICS BY RICHARD RODGERS (MUSIC) AND OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN THE SECOND (LYRICS).

STARRING JULIE ANDREWS, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, RICHARD HAYDN, PEGGY WOOD AND ELEANOR PARKER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,

Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens,

Brown paper packages tied up with strings,

These are a few of my favourite things.

………………………………………………….

When the dog bites and the bee stings

And I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favourite things

And then I don’t feel so bad.’

The sight of a nun with a guitar gives me the willies, straight up. Reminds me of Fourth Year in secondary school when Sister Assumpta, nicknamed ‘Stumpy’ for her lack of height inches, tried to teach me to play the guitar after school. After only two lessons, I was expelled forever from these after-school jamborees for Crimes Against Music. Well, we can’t all be good at everything. Music’s loss was writing’s gain, lol.

Anyway, there’s a nun with a guitar in the multi-award-winning THE SOUND OF MUSIC, set in the last days of the 1930s. Her name is Maria, she’s wonderfully played by Julie Andrews and she’s a source of constant frustration to the other nuns in the convent. Let’s just say she’s a little, well, different.

She sings all the time, not just in church, she’s late to everything- except meals- and she’s as scatty as a dotty old professor of physics who wastes a morning looking for the spectacles that were on his head the whole time.

Furthermore, she’s always up in the hills where she was brought up, singing and twirling and twirling and singing and generally acting like she’s taken leave of her remaining senses altogether.

The kindly and extraordinarily understanding Reverend Mother of this lovely little convent in Austria is convinced that Maria is not quite ready to take her final vows as a nun. She thinks that Maria hasn’t quite made up her mind what she wants to do with her life and she thinks that the girl might benefit from a spell back out in the world outside the convent walls once more.

With this in mind, she sends Maria to the Salzburg home of one Captain Von Trapp, a widowed and much decorated sea captain who is in urgent need of a governess for his seven children. Maria will be this governess. Off she duly repairs to the Captain’s magnificent abode.

She’s immediately struck by the tall, handsome and autocratic bearing of the Captain (Christopher Plummer), but she’s less impressed by the rather cold, super-regulated way that he treats his children as if they were little sailors under his command at sea. They march instead of play, they wear uniforms instead of normal kiddy clothes and they jump to attention when the Captain blows his shrill whistle.

Where’s the love? Where’s the heart? Where’s the music, the singing and dancing and, God forbid, the fun? The Captain does love his children very much but he seems unable to show them this love. Certainly it’s hidden beneath layers and layers of strict, in fact rigid, naval-style discipline, timetables, constant drilling and whistles. Always with the whistles.

Maria sets out to bring the heart, the music and the fun back to the sad Von Trapp household. Such things have been practically banned from the household by the Captain, because they remind him of his late wife and the pain of his bereavement.

That’s all well and good for Georg (inexplicably pronounced not as George but as Gay-org with two hard ‘g’s), but it’s surely a bit unfair on his children, isn’t it? After all, they lost their mother, didn’t they? Should they lose everything else that’s good and nice and fun in life as well?

The children, ranging from sixteen-going-on-seventeen-year-old Liesl to five-year-old Gretl, with Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta and Marta in between, all adore Maria and are more than willing to help her to restore the fun and games to their heretofore excessively regimented lives. With Maria encouraging them, they play to their hearts’ content, they sing and dance and run and climb trees and fall in the lake and get filthy dirty and soaking wet as kids are meant to do.

The Captain, though he won’t admit it, is enchanted by Maria, by the way she dispenses with rules and silly whistles and just whole-heartedly throws herself into loving the children and being there for them in a way that previous governesses were unable to comprehend.

There’s an immediate attraction between the two adults that quite flusters Maria and flummoxes the Captain. Who knows if they’d have ever done anything about it if it hadn’t been for a fly in the ointment in the form of the marriage-minded Baroness Schraeder? Marriage-minded for herself and the Captain, that is, not for Maria and the Captain, goodness me no. This one’s purely all out for Number One. 

The Baroness is the Captain’s girlfriend at first and then his fiancée. The children and Maria are deeply unhappy at the thought of the Captain marrying the Baroness. She’s blonde, attractive, uber-sophisticated and super-rich, but she’s cold and superficial also and probably older than the Captain.

She knows very little about children (‘Have you ever heard of a marvellous invention called boarding school?’ she says slyly to family friend Uncle Max) but her worldly-wise eagle eyes spot immediately the mutual attraction between Gay-org and the couldn’t-be-less-sophisticated-if-she-tried Maria. I love it when the Baroness says to Maria:

‘Come on now love, we’re both women, who are ya kidding? Let us not pretend that we don’t notice it when a guy is making eyes at us.’ Or words to that effect…!

The Baroness isn’t the only fly in Gay-org and Maria’s ointment. It’s the time of Nazism and the Third Reich and Hitler has just Anschlussed Austria to Germany, much to the seeming delight of most of the Austrian populace. Well, they lined the streets of Austria cheering for Hitler’s troops and they carpeted the Nazis’ path with flowers, didn’t they?

Anyway, Gay-org is at least one Austrian who is virulently opposed to Nazism and he’s brave enough to speak his mind on the subject. When, by virtue of his status as a naval war hero and his naval expertise, he’s given an important commission in the navy of the Third Reich, he finds himself with only two hard choices.

He can accept the commission for the sake of his family’s safety, but to go along with Nazi beliefs and ideology would sicken his stomach. Or he can throw the commission back in Hitler’s (represented locally by Gauleiter Herr Zeller) face and risk bringing the wrath of the powerful Third Reich down on his own and his childrens’- and Maria’s- heads. What to do? Richer men than he, who might have thought they were safe by virtue of their position, probably fell afoul of Hitler’s terrible regime…

The scenery and the songs are to die for. The hills are alive with the sound of music indeed. I love the clever lyrics and puppetry of ‘The Lonely Goatherd’ and I cried my eyes out when Gay-org sang ‘Edelweiss,’ with the poignant last line of ‘Bless my homeland forever,’ at Uncle Max’s precious folk music festival.

The Reverend Mother is an absolute boss when she belts out ‘Climb every mountain’ in an effort to show Maria that sometimes you have to work really fucking hard for what you want, lol. You go, girl.

It’s sad when Liesl’s childhood beau Rolph has morphed into a fully-fledged-and-indoctrinated member of the Hitler Youth, and the scenes in the beautiful Abbey crypt are nail-bitingly tense.

I only saw this film properly, from beginning to end, for the first time yesterday, but it’s going on my Christmas to-watch-every-year list from now on. All together now: ‘Doe, a deer, a female deer, ray, a drop of golden sun…!’

The Von Trapp Children:

Liesl: Charmian Carr.

Friedrich: Nicholas Hammond.

Louisa: Heather Menzies.

Kurt: Duane Chase.

Brigitta: Angela Cartwright.

Marta: Debbie Turner.

Gretl: Kym Karath.

Did any of ’em grow up to have eating disorders or take their clothes off for nudie mags or porn flicks? Hang on, I’m looking ’em all up now…!

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

WHITE CHRISTMAS. (1954) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

white christmas movieWHITE CHRISTMAS. (1954) A PARAMOUNT VISTAVISION MOVIE. MUSIC BY IRVING BERLIN. DIRECTED BY MICHAEL CURTIZ. STARRING BING CROSBY, DANNY KAYE, ROSEMARY CLOONEY, VERA-ELLEN, DEAN JAGGER AND MARY WICKES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘I once passed up the chance to buy Picasso’s GUERNICA for a song. Luckily that song was WHITE CHRISTMAS and I made billions…!’

Mr. Burns from THE SIMPSONS.

If you don’t cry when Bing Crosby sings WHITE CHRISTMAS in this beloved holiday favourite, then you’re a cold unfeeling monster. Either that, or you’ve had your tear ducts surgically removed for some reason, if there ever is a valid reason to have that particular procedure done, haha.

WHITE CHRISTMAS was the biggest-selling film of 1954 by miles and miles and miles and it was the first film to ever be released in VistaVision, a special kind of widescreen format developed by Paramount. Bing Crosby’s version of Irving Berlin’s beautiful song, WHITE CHRISTMAS, is still to this day the best-selling song of all time. Whaddya mean, what about AGADOO…? To hell with AGADOO…!

The plot is simple enough. It’s the songs that are magic. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play two old army buddies who, after serving their time together in World War Two, become famous song-and-dance entertainers and big-shot producers.

When they hear that their old wartime General, a chap called Thomas F. Waverly, is having difficulties making his post-retirement career of hotel owner work out due to lack of holiday snow and guests, Bing as Captain Bob Wallace and Danny as Private Phil Davis come up with a cunning plan.

Aiming to both fill the hotel with guests and prove to the ageing General that he hasn’t been forgotten about by all the men who cheerfully served under him, they bring their own show to the old guy’s hotel for Christmas. A nationwide appeal on the Ed Harrison television show is all the free advertising they need.

Stunning blonde sisters Betty and Judy, aka the Haynes sisters, form a very important part of the lads’ show with their own song-and-dance act. The two sisters fall, wholly expectedly(!), in love with the lads and vice versa. You can see it coming a mile off, lol. There’d be something badly wrong if they didn’t fall for each other, like Irish Guards and teachers on a boozy night out in Copperface Jack’s. (Local joke, you guys won’t get it…!)

But the path of true love never does run smooth, and it certainly doesn’t in this case. Will Cupid’s arrow strike the right people at the right time and in the right places, or will the love affairs between the lads and the perky-bosomed, wasp-waisted ladettes go the same way as the General’s snow-free holiday lodge? You’ll have to watch the movie to find that out, folks…!

Magic moments, for me, are all musical ones. Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen doing SISTERS with those fabulous blue dresses and huge fans. Bing and Danny doing a send-up of this exact song in their own personalised costumes.

Bing singing WHITE CHRISTMAS, and Rosemary Clooney crooning LOVE, YOU DIDN’T DO RIGHT BY ME in that dress! It’s a little black number, designed by Hollywood legend Edith Head, one of the earliest true fashionistas.

There’s a sassy little silver brooch or clip on the tushy that draws attention to Ms. Clooney’s fabulous hourglass figure, as if it needed it(!), and the sultry smokiness in her voice is sexier than anything Marilyn Monroe could have come up with. The whole number is sheer sizzling dynamite. Or, as Craig Revel-Horwood from STRICTLY COME DANCING would put it… ‘One word, darling. A-MAZ-ING…!’

Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen doing THE BEST THINGS HAPPEN WHEN YOU’RE DANCING is fantastic fun too. Vera-Ellen was a tremendously good dancer. Other memorable songs include COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS INSTEAD OF SHEEP, SNOW, GEE I WISH I WAS BACK IN THE ARMY and the rousing (WE’LL FOLLOW) THE OLD MAN (WHEREVER HE WANTS TO GO), a genuinely touching tribute to how much the army lads love their Old Man Waverly.

Of course, no-one ever spares a thought for the poor wives, children, parents, friends and other assorted relatives who are abandoned willy-nilly on Christmas Eve by the soldiers of the 151st Division, who are all hot-footing it to Vermont to help out their old gaffer on Bing Crosby’s say-so. To those sad, lonely people, I have only this to say. Suck it up, saddos! Do it for Bing and the Old Man…

white christmas moviewhite christmas movie

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