I’ve always loved this strange, disturbing film, and it’s only today, as I’m researching it, that I’m finding out that, A, it’s a re-make of a much more popular 1988 film of the same name, and, B, it’s considered to be one of the worst re-makes ever made.

Well, that sure told me, didn’t it? George Sluizer, a Dutch-Jewish film-maker, now deceased, made both films, although why he made the second one only five years after the original, I’m not sure, unless it was to have both the Dutch and English versions out there. Elementary, my dear Watson…

I’ll concentrate on the later version here, as it’s the only one I’ve seen. Kiefer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock play attractive young American couple, Jeff and Diane (A little ditty, ‘bout Jeff and Diane, two ‘Merican kids doing the best they can…!). Okay, yes, I know that it’s meant to be a song ‘bout Jack and Diane, and not Jeff and Diane, I just had a brief moment of levity, is all. So sue me, John Cougar Mellencamp, lol.

Anyway, Jeff and Diane are really annoying together. Jeff is a bit of an insensitive prick, and Diane the kind of woman who has a panic attack if Jeff leaves her alone for two minutes to go to the bathroom.

She’s clingy and emotionally controlling, making Jeff give her endless promises and reassurances that he’ll never leave her. Well, of course we know men just love that kind of thing. They can’t get enough of extreme neediness in a bird. How Jeff doesn’t leave her ass in the tunnel where their car breaks down is some kind of miracle.

Jeff and Diane are on their way back home from a less-than-successful driving holiday when Diane vanishes into thin air after paying a quick visit to a gas station convenience store. For three long years, Jeff obsesses about the disappearance night and day, posting fliers featuring Diane’s mugshot all over the place and appearing on television and talk radio shows.

He even acquires a new girlfriend, Rita the waitress (freshen your drink, sugar…?), she of the fabulous curly hair-do and the determination to make Jeff, a complete stranger who wanders randomly into the diner where she works, into the Perfect Boyfriend for herself.

Perfect in every way, except, of course, for the all-consuming obsession with his missing girlfriend. But there’s no underestimating the ruthlessness of a diner waitress in the matter of love. She’s onto a good thing here, is Rita.

Living with would-be writer Jeff beats the hell out of serving hash browns and eggs over-easy to auld lads who think her body comes with the price of the check. (Pandering by using ‘Merican spelling.) Rita won’t give up on Jeff. But will Jeff give up on Diane? Not bloody likely.

I don’t even think that it’s a matter of Jeff’s being in love with Diane any more, like poor Nancy fears. After all, he’s now got Nancy to tickle his fancy, innit? I honestly think it’s more the case that his male pride is hurt by having had his girlfriend swiped from him, right out from under his nose, and now he just wants to find out for certain what happened to Diane.

He needs to know. He needs closure. He needs the answer to the question, what happened to her, almost as much as he needs air to breathe, and not even the feisty Nancy can change his stubborn mind. Enter the villain of the piece, Jeff Bridges as the weird and shambling University chemistry professor, Barney Cousins…

This is the only film of Jeff Bridges’ in which I don’t fancy him. I loved him in films like JAGGED EDGE and THE FABULOUS BAKER BOYS. Here, he has a horribly unflattering hairstyle and a funny accent, which I’ve only just worked out is probably meant to be Dutch, given the earlier version of the film and the Dutch director George Sluizer.

Barney is creepy. The scenes where he’s in his car, rehearsing how to abduct a defenceless female, would certainly give you the willies. Barney is super-intellectual and detached and curious about things. You could imagine him staring impassively, with scientific objectivity and no compassion, at an animal or a human being in pain or distress.

Jeff, on the other hand, is impetuous, hot-headed and inclined to punch first, ask questions later. Who will win in their battle of wits? Will intellect win out over stubbornness and tenacity, or will a bunch of fives annihilate intellect every time…? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out, folks.

I love the scenes where the feisty Nancy squares up to the evil Barney, and also the fact that her co-waitress and partner-in-crime is played by Park Overall, who once co-starred in a great old ‘Eighties sitcom called EMPTY NEST with Dinah Manoff, Kristy McNichol and David Leisure. She herself portrayed a nurse called Laverne. Her heavy Southern accent and no-nonsense personality is kind of her trademark.

Enjoy the movie anyway, folks, whichever version you see. And steer clear of anyone called Barney, as they are clearly bonkers. Exceptions include the big purple dinosaur on kiddies’ TV, the character from THE FLINTSTONES and Barney, the resident drunk in THE SIMPSONS.

This list is subject to change, just as soon as I can think of any more Barneys. Hey, wasn’t there a posh New York department store called BARNEYS in FRIENDS where Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel Greene used to shop? I’ll look into it. Over and out…


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

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

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

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



MUTANTS. (1967)



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

I absolutely adored this sort of science fiction mystery thriller, penned by legendary screen-writer Michael Armstrong a few years after he himself holidayed in Venice, in the same area which he writes about in the screenplay.

His youthful exploits there nearly cost him his life on more than one occasion (just boyish high jinks, folks, nothing to see here, move along, lol), so I’m guessing the holiday had a profound effect on him, enabling him to write MUTANTS so easily and quickly, and with such feeling and a genuine sense of being there in the moment the action is taking place.

The story of why it didn’t get turned into a film, despite its massive potential and the fact that Michael had originally intended the main male role to go to iconic rock star David Bowie, star of his debut film, THE IMAGE, is told with honesty and poignancy in the chapter of the book entitled A HISTORY OF THE SCREEN PLAY.

In which, I must add, he also gives a stunningly familiar-seeming description of A Writer’s Insecurity and our general feeling that every word we’ve ever written is not fit to use as toilet paper with which to wipe Saddam Hussein’s arse, to gloriously misquote Bridget Jones in that terrific first film. You don’t mind, do ya, Bridge love…?

These books would make a fabulous Christmas present for the film fan in your life, by the way. If you’re strapped for cash, you can just buy one or two (or three!), but if you’re feeling flush, why not go for the full monty? The books come with gorgeous glossy covers and more film industry know-how and gossip inside than you can shake a stick at. I positively treasure my own copies.


The sea-water splashing against the quayside-

Against the sides of moored gondola …

The pools of water on the streets …

Puddles reflecting the city’s antiquity …

Desolate now …

Barely a sound now …

Old …

So very, very old …

Now we move to a Venice beach in the late ‘sixties, which I’m guessing was a rather cool place to be. Not cool in the temperature sense, of course, as it’s pretty damn hot in the book and the sun presents as a fiery, unusually red ball in the sky.

Cathy Hinton and her older brother David are on holiday in the area, as are their two chums, Ann and Nick, who are boyfriend and girlfriend. They’re all camping at the exact site at which Michael himself once stayed as a penniless drama student on his holliers from the RADA, a place called Punta Sabioni. It’s across the lake from Venice proper, and it’s obviously cheaper than staying in one of the beautiful city’s posh hotels.

While on the beach one day, the quartet of youngsters attract the attention of a fellow English tourist, a Sarah Thornton whom Michael describes as ‘an attractive, over-dressed woman in her late forties, trying to look older.’

She immediately, and rather pushily, insists on taking the four under her obviously mature, cougar-ish wing, treating them to expensive meals, suites in the hotel where she’s staying and nights filled with champagne and laughter.

She has no family of her own and the day on which she introduces herself to them is allegedly her birthday, plus she’s got oodles of dosh and she’s paying for everything, shelling out money hand-over-fist, so the teens kind of feel like, well, if she wants to do all that for them, let her do it. They’re being shown a glimpse of the high life without having to pay a penny for it.

Sarah: Oh … well, maybe for tonight, you should stay over here? There’s plenty of space in my hotel room. I have a suite. You’d be more than welcome to stay the night- and that way we don’t have to break up the party … right?

The two boys exchange another glance, and grin back, ruefully.

Sarah beams back at them.

She has what she wanted.

What’s in it for this strange older woman who’s gone out of her way to become a feature in the youngsters’ lives? Well, the first thing she wants is David, who’s still in school and only about seventeen years old. She gets him blind drunk- on Sarah’s champagne, they all get blind drunk- and seduces him, the dirty cougar!

Sarah: You’re a beautiful child … so very young, so very, very beautiful. Are you glad you met me?

David’s younger sister Cathy can see the dangers of David getting involved with a woman who’s old enough to be his granny, but naturally David, thinking with his willy and not his head, is oblivious. Who cares, he says nonchalantly? Loads of young blokes hang out with older birds. Where’s the harm?

Sarah says some pretty far-out things. Like: You see that stretch of water over there? Well, it’s very, very deep- just that section; like an enormous black hole dug out of the sea. They once sent divers down to find out just how deep it was but they never came back and no one’s tried to find out since.

Shudder. Like the Marianas Trench in the west of the Pacific Ocean. The deepest oceanic trench there is. God knows what’s down there. Have you ever heard it said that we know more about what’s in outer space than we do about what’s in our oceans? I’d well believe it. In the meantime, our four young holiday-makers continue to swelter under a sun of an unnaturally red colour…

The last third or thereabouts of the book deals with What Happened To Poor David. I’m giving nothing away, but I will challenge you to find the Frankenstein moment in the script. A loving nod, I’m guessing, to the films Michael would have adored as a child and then a young man starting out in his career.

Okay, you’ve twisted my arm. Here’s a teensy-weensy hint of what’s to come, but don’t tell anyone I told you or I’ll send the boys round. Ah, I’m only kidding. There are no boys.

People everywhere are screaming;

Running away in alarm-

And that’s positively all I’m giving you. It’ll be well worth the suspense, I promise you.

MUTANTS is available to buy now at the following web addresses, along with other books in the Michael Armstrong collection. Get out your wallets, lads. Don’t be stingy now…!

Man: It’s extraordinary the way they can move separately when they grow or expand outwards...

I just want it all to stop … so we can go home. I want to go … home … I’m so scared. I just want to go home.


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: