THE PHOTOGRAPHER OF MAUTHAUSEN. (2018) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE PHOTOGRAPHER OF MAUTHAUSEN. (2018) DIRECTED BY MAR TARGARONA. STARRING MARIO CASAS.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a superb film, the kind of concentration camp movie that looks so real you can hardly believe it’s a movie and not actual documentary footage. It’s the story of Francisco Boix, a young Spanish Republican and communist who was an inmate of Mauthausen concentration camp between January 1941 and the time of liberation in May 1945.

Mauthausen, built in Austria after the annexation of that country in 1938, was the place where the Germans sent the bulk of their Spanish political prisoners, most of whom were being held in French camps when they fell into Nazi hands. When France capitulated to Germany in 1940, these prisoners were just handed over to the Nazis and many of them ended up in Mauthausen.

Mauthausen was a pitiless camp, though the others weren’t exactly holiday camps and day spas! It was known for its gigantic quarry, featuring the ‘stairs of death,’ in which thousands of inmates were literally worked to death, carrying huge slabs of rock up and down the gargantuan staircase, the rock which was used in many Third Reich monuments.

There were many ways to die in Mauthausen, some of which are named in the film. Being worked to death on poor rations, as we’ve just mentioned. Gas chambers and gas van. (Our photographer was meant to die in one of these vans, but a vital part of the mechanism, the part through which the gas was filtered, had been disabled, presumably by inmates.) Torture. Starvation. Exposure, standing naked on the parade ground in all weathers. Cold showers in winter. It was a dreadful place, a true hell on earth.

Francisco arrived at the camp aged just twenty. He could speak German and therefore worked first as a translator, but he graduated from here to working in the camp’s photography laboratory, under Paul Ricken of the SS.

Ricken documented camp life and was creating a photographic memorial to the Third Reich, and Francisco was an invaluable help to him in this work, to the point that Ricken rewarded him with visits to the camp brothel, where one could have sex with female prisoners who were dead behind the eyes after what they’d been through.

Unknown to Ricken, however, Francisco was hard at work creating his own memorial; a testament to the evils and atrocities the Nazis had committed in Mauthausen. At great personal risk to himself, he secreted these negatives in different hiding places for retrieval after the war. He even recruited various prisoners he thought he could trust to hide and hold more negatives for him.

‘They’ll never believe us otherwise,’ he kept telling people. ‘Without proof, no-one will believe what happened here.’ Throughout the bloody history of the concentration camps, we have testaments from many different prisoners who kept records, as best they could, by means of their art.

Some composed poems or songs, those with access to art materials drew pictures, and Francisco took his photographs. Sometimes they dug holes to hide these diaries or drawings, and, years after the war ended, their memories and records were still being unearthed and added to the massive canon of proof that the concentration camps happened, that the Holocaust happened, that the brutal deaths of millions of innocent people happened. No matter what the deniers say…

In one scene, Francisco loses his temper and beats up his boss, Ricken, accusing him of being a dirty, disgusting voyeur who gets his kicks out of photographing death, the dead and the dying, such as the grotesque hanging that had just taken place on the camp parade, accompanied by the sick and obscene sense of the theatrical so beloved of the Nazis.

Francisco is tortured as a result of this attack, and told to give up his precious negatives. He manages to hang on just long enough for the SS to flee the camp because they know the war is lost and the jig is up. Francisco goes on doing what he does best, taking pictures, documenting camp life, bearing tangible witness to what happened there.

After the Nazis lost the battle of Stalingrad, the SS in Mauthausen- and other camps- are told to destroy any photographic evidence they have of the camps, in particular, any evidence of bigwigs like Himmler and Kaltenbrunner having ever been there.

Later on, a little closer to the end, even things like evidence of the equipment of death at places like Auschwitz were ordered to be dismantled. Crematoria, the chimneys, the gas ovens, written records of who was murdered and when, log books.
 
Francisco has photographic proof of Himmler, the former chicken farmer, the little grinning Reichsfuhrer with the receding hairline and the little glinty specs, actually ascending the notorious ‘stairs of death’ in Mauthausen, chatting and laughing away with the accompanying SS men.

At the trials that took place after the war, Francisco is able to stand up and point to people he saw there, in the camp, although of course Himmler had committed suicide early on and thus escaped all earthly justice.

Tragically, Francisco never recovers- how could you, anyway- from what he’s seen and experienced, and he dies of kidney failure at age thirty, but not before he’s given his photographs to the world as a permanent legacy.

 I only took pictures, whinges Ricken to Francisco when the war ends. I just took pictures. Yes, Ricken, you did, of the deaths, the hangings, the bodies of the suicides on the electric fence, the gas chambers and the gas vans, the ‘scientific’ experiments on the prisoners like our poor friend the dwarf who were ‘different,’ and you did nothing. Nothing at all to prevent the ill-treatment and murder of the inmates in your care.

We’re not told what happens to Ricken after the war. Like a lot of former Nazis, he probably died in his bed at age ninety after having a successful re-invention as a pub landlord or the owner of a lovely Bed and Breakfast, having managed for years to convince himself and others, his loving family included, that he hadn’t really been a Nazi at all and he’d personally never killed anyone, so he had nothing to reproach himself with.

The people who knew him in his re-incarnation as a private citizen will say you couldn’t meet a nicer, kinder more compassionate individual if you walked the length and breadth of the land, and his headstone probably reads, Beloved Husband and Devoted Father of Whoever. But Francisco Boix’s photographic testament still exists to give the lie to such flannel. Amen to that.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

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

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

ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR: THE 1987 AND 2018 FILM VERSIONS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS.

ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR: THE 1987 AND 2018 FILMS.

ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR. (1987) DIRECTED BY JACK GOLD. STARRING RUTGER HAUER, JOANNA PACULA, ALAN ARKIN AND HARTMUT BECKER.

ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR. (2018) DIRECTED BY KONSTANTIN KHABENSKY. STARRING CHRISTOPHER LAMBERT, KONSTANTIN KHABENSKY AND FELICE JANKELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Both these films are based on actual events. On the fourteenth of October 1943, an uprising occurred in the Nazi extermination camp known as Sobibor, in which a core group of prisoners killed a number of SS guards and fled the camp through the main gate, along with most of the rest of the inmates.

The group of organisers and leaders consisted of Jewish prisoners who’d been in the camp for a while, led by a quiet, unassuming man called Leon Feldhendler, and Russian Jewish POWs, led by Alexander ‘Sasha’ Pechersky.

In the 2018 film, Sasha Pechersky is so quiet and unassuming himself and so realistically dirt-covered that it took me ages to figure out just which character he is. There’s no mistaking him in the 1987 film, lol.

Here he’s played by the tall, blonde handsome Rutger Hauer, and he marches confidently into the camp with his fellow POWs about halfway through the movie and immediately starts looking for a means of escape.

Sobibor was an extermination camp, one of several employed by Nazi Germany to rid themselves of the ‘undesirables’ of Europe; mostly Jews, of whom six million died in the Second World War, but also homosexuals, Roma Gypsies, political troublemakers and insurgents, and generally people considered to be ‘enemies of the Reich.’

The ‘procedure’ for ‘receiving’ prisoners at Sobibor is well laid out in both films. A train full of hungry, thirsty terrified Jews, chug-chug-chugs into Sobibor station, to be greeted by hordes of SS men with vicious dogs on leads and scores of Sonderkommando.

These last were Jewish prisoners permitted to stay alive only because they manned the crematoria and disposed of the bodies after gassing. They were the men in the ‘striped pyjamas,’ who knew full well that their days were numbered too and that, as soon as they’d outlived their usefulness to the SS, they’d be killed also. It was a nightmarish existence.

A pretence was maintained at the station, however, that all was well and there was nothing to be at all worried about. A voice on a PA system repeats words to exactly that effect on repeat. ‘Welcome to your new lives. You will be given useful work here and will be fed and warm. The separation of men and women is only temporary. Please don’t be alarmed. You will be re-united later, once we’ve assigned you your barracks.’ An orchestra comprising prisoners and stationed on the ramp plays classical music to make the new arrivals feel at home.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that, because of outbreaks of typhus in the concentration camp system, the new inmates, the ones without useful trades who’ve all been safely stood to one side by now, will have to take a ‘shower’ first, before being integrated into the camp.

Well, that’s not so bad, murmured the new arrivals. Maybe things won’t be so bad here after all. The women and children and old folks say cheerio for now to the younger, stronger, healthier men and women left on the station ramp, and are chivvied along the forest path to the gas chambers and crematoria, never to return…

The 2018 film shows us the frightened, naked young women with their hair cut short being ushered into the gas chambers by young soldiers with guns. The heavy door clangs shut with a resounding finality.

The gas is switched on by the young man outside the door. A moment or two of puzzlement, bewilderment on the part of the women, and then they start vomiting, coughing, struggling to breathe. A powerful scene, but emotionally very hard to watch.

Both films show first the disbelief, then the anger, rage and desire for revenge in the young boys and older men who’ve survived the selection, when they first realise that their whole entire families have been murdered in the camp’s gas chambers, and they are now possibly the sole survivors.

Many of these young lads played an active part in the uprising, even killing SS men when they had to. ‘You’ve turned the Jews into killers,’ mutters one such boy in the 2018 film to the SS man he’s just killed. Killing would never have been in the natures of most of these men, but needs must when the devil drives…

The men and women who’ve survived the initial selection on the ramp are put to work at the trades that saved their lives, trades such as shoe-maker, leather worker, seamstress, tailor, jeweller, goldsmith and so on.

Other prisoners will be put to work sorting the belongings of the dead Jews. The Germans were notoriously greedy and the stuff they stole from their captives would fill, and probably have filled, several museums of remembrance.

They even took the women’s hair and stuffed mattresses and pillows with it, and one of the worst jobs of the Sonderkommando was to pull the gold teeth from the mouths of the dead with pliers. The gold was melted down, often to make trinkets for the SS. How greedy, how petty, how unnatural was that?

Even the bones that remained after cremation were used as fertiliser, to enrich the fields and crops of the Reich. How clever they must have thought themselves, these Nazis: there’s not a bit of the Jew that can’t be put to work for the Fuhrer!

Rutger Hauer as Sasha is by far the most dominant, most charismatic and most handsome (lol) character in the 1987 film. I cried when he tells Joanna Pacula (GORKY PARK, 1983), who plays his ‘pretend’ girlfriend Luka, that he can’t be with her the way she wants because he has a wife and child back home in Russia whom he loves very much.

She can’t stop loving him, though, naturally (in all fairness, you’d need a heart of stone not to love him), and the film tells us that the shirt she gives him to wear for good luck on the day of the uprising is today displayed in a war museum somewhere.

Hartmut Becker is excellent, too, in the 1987 film as the sadistic Nazi Gustav Wagner, whose cruelty to the inmates was legendary. He came up with some really nasty ways to make the inmates as a whole pay for the actions of a few escapees, and I think we can be fairly confident that, when he was found dead with a knife in his chest in Sao Paulo in 1980, it wasn’t his own hand who’d inflicted the death blow, as his solicitor tried to maintain…

Highlights in the 2018 film include the first killing of an SS man on the day of the uprising. Can a man’s face really end up looking like that? Not usually outside of horror movies…!

Also, there’s Christopher Lambert (HIGHLANDER, GREYSTOKE: THE LEGEND OF TARZAN, LORD OF THE APES) as war criminal Karl Frenzel rather inappropriately telling a roomful of captive Jews that he was once in love with a beautiful Jewish girl but his father put paid to the romance. Our hearts aren’t exactly bleeding for you, Frenzel, you lunatic, you.

Also, possibly the most disturbing scene in the newer film is the one in which the blind-drunk SS hold a bacchanal in front of the Jews, who’ve been kneeling on the appel-platz since roll-call, starving and exhausted.

Trigger happy, shooting indiscriminately, whipping inmates for fun, harnessing inmates to carts and racing them, boozing till they puke, Hitler’s precious SS show themselves up in this disgusting orgy of out-of-control violence to be what they really are, a loutish, drunken raggle-taggle bunch of thugs and bullies, with neither dignity nor decency.

I prefer the 1987 film because it’s got more heart, more warmth and more Rutger Hauer, but both films are well worth a watch. I’m dedicating this review to my mate Caroline, who adores Rutger Hauer, and I want to wish a happy Christmas and a happy, healthy (hopefully COVID-free!) and peaceful New Year to Caroline, Gary and all my lovely loyal readers.

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.

SOPHIE’S CHOICE: THE BOOK. (1979) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

SOPHIE’S CHOICE: A NOVEL BY WILLIAM STYRON. (1979) PUBLISHED BY RANDOM HOUSE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

It took me several weeks to read this epic doorstop of a novel, 684 pages of densely-written prose with only a few chapter breaks to break up the denseness. I’d seen the 1982 movie SOPHIE’S CHOICE, starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, of which I only remembered the bits set in Auschwitz, so a lot of the book was completely new to me.

It tells the story of Stingo, a young white male and wanna-be writer from the American Deep South, who is looking back on his life, in particular the year 1947 in which he wrote his first novel, and who in turn tells the reader the story of the titular Sophie. Sophie is a beautiful Polish Catholic woman who’s spent time in Auschwitz concentration camp during the war and has the tattoo on her arm to prove it.

Stingo (a nickname carried over from his school days) moves into a boarding house in Brooklyn run by a Jewish lady, Yetta Zimmerman, with the intention of ‘working on a novel,’ which he actually does do, in between sticking his nose into the lives of the other boarders, most of whom are Jewish like their landlady.

Culturally shell-shocked by the move from his quiet home in the Deep South to the noisy, more cosmopolitan Brooklyn, Stingo becomes fascinated by and obsessed with his upstairs neighbours in the boarding house.

His first experience of them is when he hears them fucking like rabbits (very vocal rabbits, lol) in the bedroom overhead, and he first meets them for real when they are slap-bang in the middle of one of their many fights. They take to Stingo immediately and quickly become his closest friends, and the people about whom he cares most in all the world.

Who are these people, and why do they exert such a strange and strong influence over Stingo? Nathan Landau is a handsome, dazzlingly charismatic research scientist at Pfizer, one of the companies involved today in creating the vaccine for COVID-19, the virus that all but shut down the world in 2020.

Nathan is brilliantly intelligent, and he and Stingo clash on the subject of slavery in the Deep South almost straightaway. Stingo is extremely sensitive on this subject. Not surprisingly, as the money that allows him to live independently today came from the sale of a slave.

Still, he can’t stay mad at Nathan for long. He shows Nathan his Work in Progress and is thrilled beyond belief when Nathan says he likes it and that Stingo is the best young writer writing in America today. Stingo makes a hero of the older man, even though deep down he has a strong feeling that Nathan is fatally flawed. He just doesn’t know how fatally…

Sophie is the one who really interests the virginal, twenty-two-or-three-year-old Stingo. She is beautiful, blonde, from Poland, with a sexy accent which, even when she mixes up her English words terribly, just endears her to him even more.

Sophie adores classical music, as does Nathan, and she works as a secretary to a chiropractor, a job which Nathan reviles and dismisses as being merely ‘assistant to a quack.’ But for Sophie, it’s just a living, and she needs it.

Sophie and Nathan together are a toxic combination. Nathan is seriously mentally ill and a drug-abuser to boot, although Stingo doesn’t realise this at first. It takes the intervention of Larry, Nathan’s elder brother, to fill Stingo in on the grisly details.

When he’s in one of his ‘moods,’ Nathan is manic, physically violent and grossly verbally abusive. He takes his moods out on Sophie, who has a deeply masochistic streak in her and puts up with everything Nathan throws at her. Literally. It’s not a healthy relaionship.

Part of her masochism certainly derives from her strong feelings of being a ‘bad’ person who’s done ‘bad’ things for which she deserves to be punished. In this instance, Nathan is the one dishing out all the punishment, and Sophie takes it all and almost wears her bruises as some kind of badge of honour, which is deeply disturbing to read about.

Although we writers are constantly being told to show in our writing, rather than tell, William Styron breaks this long-held rule by having Stingo relate Sophie’s personal story back to us, without us having been privy to any of the conversations they have together. He’s telling us something that Sophie told him, in other words, once the events of which she spoke were long since past. It’s a bit weird, but we have several hundred pages in which to get used to it!

Thus, we learn from Stingo that Sophie, whom I’d always assumed was Jewish because she’d been in Auschwitz, is not Jewish at all but a Polish Catholic who’d lived in a ghetto with her two children, Jan and Eva, during the war. She’d had friends and acquaintances who were in the Polish Resistance, but she took no part in it herself as she was afraid for herself and her children.

Sentenced to Auschwitz for the petty crime of meat-smuggling, Sophie’s skills as a stenographer-typist and her superb knowledge of the German language saw her being brought to live and work in the Commandant’s villa for a time.

The Commandant in question was war criminal Rudolf Hoess, whose two stints as the Commandant of Auschwitz saw him perfecting the use of pesticide Zyklon B in the furtherance of Himmler- and Hitler’s- vision for the so-called Final Solution of the Jewish Question.’

The Auschwitz scenes were my favourite in the whole novel, and the ones I’d been eagerly awaiting. It is here, at the infamous labour and extermination camp, that Sophie is forced to make the titular choice. Obviously, I wouldn’t ruin it for you with spoilers, but it’s a hell of a ‘choice’ all right, and not a choice at all, really. Whichever side you choose, you lose.

A final word about the sex. Le Sexe. Rumpy-pumpy. Nookie. Hide the Salami. Make no mistake about it, SOPHIE’S CHOICE is a filthy book in that sense. It’s told from the point of view of a twenty-something- year-old virgin who’s always trying to lose his virginity, after all, and is full of his sexual fantasies and longings and his many offerings at the sticky altar of Onanism.

And Sophie herself (please excuse my slut-shaming) is an absolute trollop. I had worked this out for myself, by the way, long before the scene where she bathes her face in a certain man’s ejaculate, declaring spunk to be ‘good for the complexion,’ if you please. The hussy. I didn’t know where to look, honestly.

The book is hard work in places (Stingo sure goes in for the most long-winded of introspections!) but overall worth the effort. Styron, I believe, made Sophie a Polish Catholic rather than a Jew because he wanted to move away from the notion that the Holocaust, and Auschwitz, only affected Jews and no-one else. The book was apparently quite controversial from this point of view, back in the day.

It won the US National Book Award for Fiction in 1980, pipping several other worthy contenders to the post. It’d be a great book to read over Christmas, or when you have a decent block of time to yourself. I’m off now to dig out the movie again. Happy viewing!

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 BUNKER. (1981) DEFINITELY NOT A FILM ABOUT GOLF!!! REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

bunker film

THE BUNKER. (1981) BASED ON THE BOOK BY JAMES P. O’DONNELL. STARRING ANTHONY HOPKINS, SUSAN BLAKELY, CLIFF GORMAN AND PIPER LAURIE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I loved this made-for-television film rendition of Hitler’s last weeks and days in the Bunker, the little underground kingdom in the nearly ruined gardens of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin where the doomed German dictator ended his life and reign of terror simultaneously.

Anthony Hopkins was brilliant as Hitler, as you might expect, because Anthony Hopkins doesn’t do anything by half-measures, but what really fascinated me here was the timing of the gradual emptying out of the bunker as the Russians came ever closer to taking Berlin and ending the Second World War, the worst war in the history of the world.

At first, when Hitler first descends in January 1945 to its murky depths, life in the Bunker is relatively civilised. Hitler takes tea at four every day with his secretaries, Gerda Christian and Traudl Junge, and Constance Manziarly (played here by Pam St. Clement, aka Pat Butcher from EastEnders!), his treasured cook, who is able to create both the bland vegetarian diet he preferred but also the home-made cakes for which he has a weakness. O-ho, so somebody likes cakes, eh…? Lol.

Hitler treats his captive female audience to the long boring monologues for which he is notorious, speeches about dogs (his dog Blondi has puppies while in the Bunker), his vegetarianism (which caused him to suffer excessive flatulence, and I’m sure the ladies would have noticed!) and the evils of smoking.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda and head toady and boot-licker, is present full-time in the bunker at this stage. So too is Martin Bormann, one of Hitler’s top men, Otto Gunsche, Hitler’s personal adjutant, Rochus Misch, the guy who works the all-important switchboard, getting messages in and out of the Bunker, and Hitler’s personal doctor, Dr. Theodor Morell, pops in and out, administering the highly unorthodox injections and (allegedly!) the cocaine eyedrops that keep the dictator going.

The situation conferences around the big table to discuss the progress of the war take place daily, and Hitler’s generals, like Guderian, Keitel, Jodl & Co. are either issued with wholly impractical orders or bawled out publicly for not having carried out the last batch. Of wholly impractical orders, lol.

Hitler in the last days of the war is moving armies around on his little maps that no longer exist, because they’ve been wiped out by the Russians, but he keeps up his outward insistence that the tide could still turn in Germany’s favour.

These situation conferences become more and more stressful for all concerned. Towards the end, when time has lost all meaning and no-one in the Bunker any longer keeps to a schedule, they could start at 1am and go on till daylight.

Hitler frequently loses his temper with his generals, whose failure to win the war for him feels like a betrayal, and his screaming fits are legendary. You can’t have a Hitler film without the little guy with the funny moustache and the queer hairstyle throwing a good old screaming fit in it.

In the last few weeks and days of April 1945, when even Hitler knows that the war is lost, things become incredibly tense and gripping to watch. Hitler’s staff beg him to leave the Bunker and flee to the relative safety of his mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden, in Bavaria. He’s adamant that he won’t leave Berlin, however.

His long-term mistress Eva Braun has joined him in the Bunker by this stage, and even her forced air of desperate oh-look-how-frightfully-gay-we-all-are has had the shine well and truly worn off of it.

She won’t leave Berlin either, however, or her Fuhrer. Whatever fate is mapped out for her Adolf, she will share it, even unto Death. She gives an expensive fur stole of hers to one of the secretaries. ‘Think of me when you wear it,’ she trills gaily. Hmmm. Even for the secretaries, who survive the war, there won’t be any opportunities to wear that fur stole for a while.

Albert Speer, Hitler’s pet architect and the Minister for Armaments, features heavily in the film. Knowing now that their dreams of rebuilding Germany together after the war are as dust in the wind, Hitler puts Speer in charge of his despicable ‘scorched earth’ policy: destroying what’s left of Germany so the Russians won’t get their hands on it. Not just bridges and military installations, but houses and shops and farms and factories as well.

The German people will have nothing left to live on when this policy has been carried out. That was probably partly what Hitler wanted all along, to take everything with him when he himself went out in a blaze of glory, like in Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods or the Götterdämmerung he’d always admired and wanted for himself and Germany.

Also, the German people had let him down, hadn’t they, by not going all out to help him win the war, so maybe they didn’t deserve to live on after he did. What a mindset. I’m fucked so all you lot are fucked as well. It seems like a pretty typical Hitlerian mentality.

Luckily for the German people, Speer in the end only pretends to Hitler that he’s been carrying out this disastrous policy. He doesn’t believe that the fate of Germany should be tied inextricably to that of one sick and twisted individual, and he’s right. He confesses to Hitler what he’s done as he’s leaving the Bunker and saying goodbye to his former Fuhrer forever, but Hitler is too far gone to give a shit by then.

Poor Hitler. His health is wrecked, his friends are deserting him right and left, his bezzy mate Himmler has actually crawled into bed with the Allies, his trademark glossy black locks are as grey as a badger’s arse now and his lovely dream of the Thousand Year Reich is in ruins.

Oh, and Eva Braun’s pregnant sister Gretl’s husband, Hermann Fegelein, has been caught trying to scarper without permission and is now paying for his crime by being left to dangle on a meathook. (Other film versions have Fegelein being shot.) What’s to live for now?

The Bunker inmates can be divided into those, like Speer, who choose to leg it while Hitler is still alive, and those who hang on till the bitter end. These include Eva Braun, Gunsche, Goebbels and his wife Magda and their six children, who are all living in the Bunker by this stage, Misch the transmissions technician, Constance Manziarly the cook (who was never seen or heard from again after the war) and the secretaries.

On the night before their joint suicide, Hitler marries Eva Braun. The next day, they say goodbye formally to their remaining acolytes, and then they retire forever to bite into cyanide capsules (previously tested on Hitler’s beloved dog, Blondi), and Hitler also shoots himself in the head for good measure. He won’t let himself be captured and hung upside-down and naked in the town square, which is what has happened to his crony Mussolini, the Italian dictator, and Mussolini’s missus.

Otto Gunsche carries the bodies outside, then sets them on fire as per Hitler’s wishes. Magda Goebbels poisons her six children with cyanide capsules, then allows her husband to shoot her dead outside in the garden before in turn shooting himself.

With the bigwigs gone, it’s every man for himself. It’s the moment when the musicians playing ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ on the Titanic pack up their instruments, wish each other well in a gentlemanly fashion and then scramble desperately for a place on a lifeboat.

The Bunker descends into chaos as Gunsche, the secretaries, Martin Bormann and assorted others pack up and try to make it through the Russian lines to the British armies, who don’t seem to be as terrifying to the Germans as their Russian counterparts.

The secretaries paint lipstick spots on their faces to give themselves the appearance of smallpox. ‘Do you want to be raped (by the Russians)?’ one says to the other. Her terrified friend promptly yanks the lippy out of her hands…!

When even the loyal and dutiful Rochus Misch eventually leaves his post and the final transmissions squawk their contents to the empty air, there’s a definite feeling in the Bunker that the fat lady has well and truly warbled her last note.

The Bunker is empty, the Fuhrer is dead, Berlin is in ruins, the war is lost and the Russians are knocking- none too politely- on the doors of the Reich Chancellery. Years and even decades in Russian prison camps await some of those fleeing from the Bunker.

What ghosts would haunt the silent corridors of the Bunker today, if it still existed, which of course it does not? Hitler is supposed to have told an underling, a young man, that his spirit would remain on duty within its walls for all eternity, keeping an eye out for those pesky Russians.

A pretty pathetic story, probably not true, but I still wouldn’t have ever wanted to be down there alone in those days after the war ended when the Bunker was dark, waterlogged and filled with the flotsam and jetsam of all those disappeared lives.

It must have been a bit like being alone on the wreck of the aforementioned Titanic. This film captures that eerie feeling perfectly, which is why I loved it. Historians are fascinated by the events that took place in the Bunker. Watch this film and you’ll get a fair idea why this is.

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

THE LANDLADY BY CONSTANCE RAUCH. (1975) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

landlady uk

THE LANDLADY BY CONSTANCE RAUCH. (1975) PUBLISHED BY FUTURA PUBLICATIONS LIMITED. BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a little paperback book I found in a charity shop the other day. The gems I’ve found in places like that over the years! Just recently, in a box of free-to-take-away old books, I’ve discovered paperback copies of JAWS, PSYCHO 2, THE EXORCIST and ROSEMARY’S BABY. Not bad at all for a free box!

THE LANDLADY, with a distinct BURNT OFFERINGS feel to it, is in a similar vein to these ’70s paperbacks I’ve mentioned. On the cover, it’s referred to as ‘A mind-wrenching tale of malevolent horror.’

There’s a circle cut out of the title page through which you can see a woman’s face, then when you open it up you see that the face belongs to an old-fashioned doll with ‘Twenties make-up, a torn white dress and a grotesquely cracked bare left breast. So far so good, eh?

 It concerns a young married couple called Sam and Jessica Porter and their two-year-old daughter Patience. They move into a gorgeous big old house in upstate New York that has a fabulous view of the mighty Hudson river. Unfortunately, the house isn’t theirs; they’re only renting from a Mrs. Frederick Falconer, the titular ‘landlady.’

The house is so big that it straddles two streets and has two entrances and even two addresses. Mrs. Falconer lives on the Maynard Hill side, and her new tenants, the Porters, occupy the Granite Terrace end that faces the Hudson.

A door in the middle of the house, referred to as the side door, connects the two houses from the inside, but Mrs. Falconer makes it clear she doesn’t want her tenants using this door to come into her part of the house and, to be honest, the Porters don’t much like the idea of their pushy, frequently stroppy landlady waltzing willy-nilly into their side whenever the fancy takes her, either.

Not that she waltzes, you understand. She’s a heavy-set old dear pushing eighty, who walks with a big heavy cane that makes clumping noises overhead as she moves around upstairs.

She has disturbing mood swings; sweet as pie one minute, then screaming blue murder the next. She’s intrusive, nosey and judgemental and feels free to criticise Jessica’s parenting, which outrages Jessica, and she never knows (or cares) when she’s outstayed her welcome downstairs at the Porters.’

Worst of all, Jessica’s new friend from the area, Mary Smith (the Porters still keep in touch with their old eclectic group of friends), tells Jess that tenants who rent the Falconer place don’t tend to stay there long, and they don’t tend to leave with their marriages intact, either.

Mrs. Falconer has a strange, but unerring, habit of coming between couples and pouring poison into the cup of their marital bliss. The locals, in other words, don’t have anything good to say about the widowed Mrs. Falconer.

A word about Sam and Jess as a couple. Sam is thirty-three and can’t settle to anything since he gave up acting as a bad lot. He currently works in building maintenance with a French chap called Pierre Villard, but he’s failing at this enterprise now too and Pierre wants shut of him. Friendship and business don’t mix well, but Sam makes big errors of judgement that usually result in he, Jess and Patience having to up-sticks and move to a new place.

There’s not much stability in this for Jess and her child. You get the impression that the clever, intellectual and well-educated Jess might be better off striking out on her own with Patience, rather than waiting around for Sam to find his ‘dream job’ and finally be happy and settled. (It’s never gonna happen…!)

Sam seems to love his wife and child but he’s absent, either working or drinking heavily, for most of the scary incidents in the book, and I see him as a deadbeat father and a neglectful, selfish husband, thinking of only his own needs and rarely of his family’s.

Twenty-four-year old Jess, on the other hand, is devoted to her family. She’s devastated when, one night not long after they move in, the bright and curious little Patience has an horrific screaming fit in her cot and, afterwards, when she’s calmed down, she seems to have regressed back into being a baby rather than a toilet-trained and sociable toddler.

The discovery of a smoked cigar butt and a hideous female sex doll, covered in slime, in and around the baby’s cot, leads Jess to the horrible realisation that there must have been an intruder in her precious baby’s room, an intruder who possibly committed a heinous sex act near, or even with, the baby. What the hell is she going to do?

Sam is no help, as he’s running around trying to pin down an elusive acting job with the help of an old flame (grrrrr…!) while Jess is trying to cope with everything on her own. Patience’s mental state –– and future mental stability and well-being –– are at stake here and Jess is worried sick about her.

And there’s also the disturbing notion of the intruder coming back to finish what he started with Patience. If he got in once he can get in again, especially… especially if he’s coming from inside the house…

There’s also the murder of local clerk Nora Kelly in the mix, the murder that occurs just as Sam and Jess move into the Falconer place, and the fact that old Mrs. Falconer seems to have an extreme allergy to the police calling to the gaff. What exactly is the old dear trying to hide, upstairs in the Maynard Hill side of the house…?

I guessed the twist just before it came but it was still a great twist. I really enjoyed the book as a whole. It’s the kind of short horror book that used to come out in the ’70s with some regularity, but they don’t seem to make ’em like that any more. Ah well. Thank heaven for the charity shops…!

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor