YIELD TO THE NIGHT. (1956) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

diana yield glamour

YIELD TO THE NIGHT. (1956) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY JOAN HENRY. DIRECTED BY J. LEE THOMPSON. STARRING DIANA DORS. MICHAEL CRAIG, HAMMER ACTOR MICHAEL RIPPER AND YVONNE MITCHELL.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a superb film, if you can bear the unrelenting bleakness. I love bleakness in movies, so I happily got stuck in and wallowed in it, lol. And I adore La Dors, the woman they dubbed ‘the English Marilyn Monroe,’ but whom I personally love much more than I ever loved Marilyn. There’s just something so real, so human, about Diana Dors, something that makes her feel like so much more than just a fabulous pin-up girl.

In this film, she gives a career-best performance as Mary Hilton, a shop-girl under sentence of death for murdering her lover’s lover. The story is similar to the real-life Ruth Ellis’s, although it’s not meant to be based on it. In the sweltering heat of July 1955, the year before YIELD TO THE NIGHT premiered, Ruth Ellis became the last ever woman in England to be hanged.

Opinion was divided on whether or not Ruth should have been put to death. There was no doubt that she murdered her lover, David Blakely, as she walked right up to him outside an English pub on Easter Sunday evening and shot him, pretty much point-blank, several times.

There were mitigating circumstances, however, that were not really taken into account when sentence of death was passed: David’s infidelity and extreme physical violence towards Ruth, the miscarriages and abortions she’d had while she was with him, including one miscarriage she’d had a few days before the shooting.

The balance of Ruth’s mind was shot to hell at the time of the murder, yet the judge decided to hang her anyway, as the concept of ‘diminished responsibility’ had not yet become part of British law. It was a sickening end to a tragic story, and a disgusting blot on the copybook of so-called ‘British justice.’

It also looks highly likely that another man in Ruth’s life had given her the newly-oiled and fully loaded gun and urged her, in her altered state of mind, to kill David, but this aspect of the case was not thoroughly enough investigated in time for the verdict.

The whole trial, therefore- and its outcome- was something of a farce. Ruth was raced to the gallows in Holloway Women’s Prison with unseemly haste, and there hanged by Albert Pierrepoint, a ghoulish figure indeed in British criminal history. (He has the necks of murderers John Christie and Neville Heath to his credit in addition to Ruth’s.) What kind of man volunteers to hang people, women as well as men? I don’t care if his father was the hangman before him and it ran in his family.

In YIELD TO THE NIGHT, blonde bombshell Diana Dors is sublime as Mary Hilton, a stunningly beautiful shop-girl who falls in love with an impoverished musician called Jim, who is not at all worthy of the lovely Mary and her overwhelming love. In time, however, Mary grows to realise that Jim has lost interest in her and is seeing an older, presumably wealthy woman called Lucy Carpenter.

The film centres around Mary’s detention in prison in the days and weeks before her execution. Just like in Ruth Ellis’s case, the condemned cell has a locked door in it, a door without a handle, that leads to the execution chamber beyond. Even if Mary were ever inclined to forget about her forthcoming death for a blissful moment or two, how can she with this door literally at the foot of her bed? It’s like a kind of emotional torture, isn’t it, surely?

Mary is treated as well as can be expected in the condemned cell, just like Ruth Ellis was in hers. Both their final days were a rigidly controlled and timetabled round of meals, exercise in the prison yard (separate from the other prisoners), baths, cocoa at bedtime and regular visits from the governor, the prison chaplain and doctor, their lawyer when requested, and any friends and family whom they might wish to come.

Mary is upset by the visits of her younger brother Alan and her mother. It kills her to see Alan, no more than a boy, trying unsuccessfully to cope with the enormity of the situation. Her useless ex-husband Fred, a true nonentity of a figure, only annoys her with his visits and meaningless babble about love. Where was he when Mary was crippled with love for the dysfunctional Jim, and going through the torture that led her to kill Lucy in so-called ‘cold blood?’

The light remains on in the condemned cell around the clock, and there are two female prison officers in the room with Mary at all times. Prisoners under sentence of death must be closely watched in case they feel like committing suicide and cheating the hangman.

The prison guards are all lovely to Mary though, knowing to what she’s been condemned. They invite her to join in their games of chess and cards and they chat and have a nice smoke together, even though the wardens are forbidden from smoking by the prison rules. It becomes a nice little friendly conspiracy between Mary and her wardens, something to smile about.

Mary, like Ruth Ellis, says she’s not sorry for what she’s done. Ruth Ellis was adamant that she wanted to die (‘an eye for an eye, a life for a life’) and go to ‘join David.’ I don’t think Mary wants to die, however, as she nearly jumps out of her skin every time she hears the kindly female governor tap-tapping down the corridor, possibly carrying a reprieve from the Home Office, and possibly not.

A sympathetic prison visitor and activist for prison reform called Miss Bligh meets with a sullen, obviously depressed Mary and tells her that, if she accepts what’s coming, if she in effect ‘yields to the night,’ the sentence of death will become easier to bear.

But Mary is dead-eyed and hopeless; can she take Miss Bligh’s very good advice on board, or will she shuffle resentfully and disbelievingly to the room of execution in her shapeless prison dress and slippers, a plaster on her poor blistered foot caused by wearing ill-fitting shoes?

The film does an excellent job of portraying the boring, tedious soul-destroying days and weeks leading up to an execution. It’s a big strain on the officers too, some of whom really like Mary and might have their own views on capital punishment that don’t happen to coincide with the law’s more stringent ones.

If Mary stays calm, the governor tells her, it will make things easier all round, for Mary herself as well as the prison staff who, after all, are ‘only doing their job.’ Routine is key, too, to keeping things on an even keel. There’s an awful lot to be said for it, and I mean that sincerely.

If things were perpetually in chaos and everyone was rushing around weeping and wailing and tearing their hair out, it wouldn’t be much use to anyone. Keep calm and carry on, as the famous slogan on my tea mug goes.

Poor tortured Mary, plagued by bad dreams, marks off the days on her calendar with a feeling of dread. Maybe she believes that they won’t hang a young woman who has only committed what some folks would refer to now as a ‘crime of passion,’ then not yet recognised by the British justice system, which by the way was made up in those days mostly of rich, highly educated white upper class males. Don’t be so sure, dear Mary. After all, they hung Ruth Ellis, didn’t they…?

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 DEVIL BAT (1940) and THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933) : A DOUBLE BILL OF BATTY HORROR FILM REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

 

bela devil bat

THE DEVIL BAT (1940) and THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933): TWO BRILLIANT OLD CLASSIC HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When he’s not playing his most famous role of Dracula, Bela Lugosi is at his absolute spine-tingling best when he’s playing a mad scientist or doctor who’s hell-bent on either getting revenge on the world for some real or imagined slight, or on gaining world domination just for the hell of it. Because he can, in other words, lol.

In THE DEVIL BAT, a genuine little gem from 1940, he plays Dr. Carruthers, a well-respected and well-loved scientist living in a small American village. The village’s biggest employer seems to be the Heath and Morton Cosmetics Company, for whom Dr. Carruthers also works, developing new formulae for successful perfumes, aftershave lotions and other lotions and creams that you slap on your skin so that you smell real nice like to the opposite sex.

In fact, it was Dr. Carruthers’s excellent work that’s made the Heath and Morton Cosmetics Company the multi-million-selling business it is today. Old Doc Carruthers has no shares in the company. All he got for his trouble was a lousy bonus cheque. The rage and resentment he’s been feeling against the two Heath and Morton families know no bounds.

When we meet the embittered old Doc first, he’s perfecting a sort of deadly monster killer bat who can be trained, in the same way that a dog can be trained, to murder anyone who smells of a certain scent. Like, say, aftershave? Like, say, aftershave indeed, heh-heh-heh.

He gives different male members of the two families his new patented aftershave to ‘try out,’ knowing full well that when he releases the hounds or, in this case, the killer bats, the mens’ lives aren’t worth tuppence any more. They’re toast, in other words. Dead men walking on the Green Mile, so to speak.

While the bodies pile up, an ace reporter by the name of Johnny Layton is called in to get a story for his paper about the murders. His sidekick, a photographer with the dubious nickname of ‘One Shot Maguire,’ provides the comic relief and Mary, the beautiful daughter of one of the families, the love interest for the dynamic newshound Layton.

Bela and his killer bats are the undisputed stars of the show, however. The gleeful grins on Dr. Carruthers’s face when he realises that his fiendish plans are working is just joyous to behold. Bela in general is just a sheer joy to watch.

His face definitely lends itself to an array of marvellously devious expressions. Just look at him cackling his ass off through the laboratory door at the sight of his super-bats becoming bigger and bigger and bigger. It’d warm the cockles of the coldest heart.

THE VAMPIRE BAT (1933) has pretty much everything you could possibly want in an old horror movie: a Burgomeister, a dark little village somewhere in Europe, worried townspeople, a concerned little town council, an angry mob, complete WITH torches, lol, and Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas and Dwight Frye as the stars. What else could you really ask for?

Certain selected villagers in the little hamlet of Kleinschloss (the little castle?) are being found dead in their beds of a dreadful blood loss. Drained of their precious life’s haemoglobin, all that’s left behind is a sack of skin and bones that’s truly horrible to behold.

The villagers, naturally, are up in arms about the murders and talk of vampires is rearing its ugly head no matter how superstitious and backwards it makes the villagers look. They don’t care a flying fig about how they appear, all they care about- quite rightly, too- is not being murdered in their beds by some unknown gruesome entity.

Screen villain Lionel Atwill (he plays Moriarty to Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes in SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON) here portrays Dr. von Niemann, the town’s one medic and well-respected scientist who’s as baffled about the murders as anyone else. And if you believe that, you’ll believe anything, lol.

Screen royalty Fay Wray, whom you might be more used to seeing in her scandalous scanties being carried up the Empire State Building by a big hairy ape (KING KONG, 1933) is Dr. von Niemann’s attractive young assistant, Ruth, whose scientific knowledge you could probably write on the back of a stamp, but she shore is mighty purdy…!

Melvyn Douglas (James Whale’s THE OLD DARK HOUSE, 1932) plays Fay Wray’s boyfriend and the detective assigned to the murders. He has a logical scientific approach to the hideous blood-lettings and he thinks that all this talk of vampires is a load of superstitious old twaddle and old wives’ tales, more suited to the Dark Ages than these modern times. Will he have cause to eat his words? Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, place your bets…

The star of the show here is Dwight Frye, best known for playing Renfield in the Bela Lugosi DRACULA (1931) and Dr. Frankenstein’s humpbacked servant Igor in James Whale’s FRANKENSTEIN (1931). Like Bela with his mad scientists, Dwight Frye seems to have been typecast as insane loners and outcasts, but he does it so wonderfully!

Here, as Herman Gleib, the local misfit and pariah who’s not the full shilling- an Irishism for someone who’s not playing with a full deck- he cackles just like Renfield and scares the horrified locals, amongst whom he’s totally persona non grata.

His penchant for befriending bats and acting weird and secretive in general causes him to be blamed for the murders by the locals. He’s just a handy and natural scapegoat. Poor Herman, with his manic grins and his criminally bad haircut. He just can’t catch a break. There’ll be tears before bedtime. You mark my words…

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

BASIL RATHBONE AND NIGEL BRUCE IN THE SHERLOCK HOLMES FILM COLLECTION: 1939-1945. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

house of fear

BASIL RATHBONE AND NIGEL BRUCE AS SHERLOCK HOLMES AND DR. WATSON IN A COLLECTION OF FOURTEEN SUPERB OLD FILMS FROM 1939-1945: BASED ON THE BOOKS BY SIR ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

These fourteen marvellous old films will always be my favourite of all films. I lapped them up as a teenager desperate to escape the drudgery of school and exams. Back then, of course, I had to watch ’em on television as and when they came up, which was probably infrequently. Now, in this blessed age of DVD and Blu-Ray, I have my own little box-set and can view the films whenever I choose. Which is often, lol.

Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce work so well together as Holmes and Watson. Holmes has of course a superior intellect but also a deep fondness and affection for the sometimes bungling but unswervingly loyal Watson. Either one of them would die for the other, that’s how deep this fondness goes.

There’s a small cast of regulars too, such as Dennis Hoey as Inspector Lestrade from Scotland Yard, whose rivalry with Holmes is tempered with a genuine feeling and respect for the great detective. He’s good for a laugh but he usually gets his man in the end, albeit with much prompting from Sherlock Holmes.

Mary Gordon, who was privileged to unwittingly give old Frankie’s Monster a helping hand out of the burned-out ruins of the old mill in the second Universal FRANKENSTEIN film, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), is marvellous as Holmes’s and Watson’s long-suffering landlady, cook and housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson.

She’s had to put up with a lot, the poor old dear. Clients and villains coming and going to and from Holmes’s book-lined rooms at 221B Baker Street in London at all hours of the day and night, some of them with murder in mind. The assassination of one Sherlock Holmes, to be precise.

Then there’s the bullet-holes with which Holmes is known to ‘adorn’ her ‘beautiful plaster’ walls, and the fact that you can take food and drink to the detective but you can’t necessarily make him partake of it.

‘See that he drinks a drop, will you?’ she begs the rotund and loveable Dr. Watson, who laughingly replies: ‘I will, my dear,’ while knowing full well that there’s only a slim chance that Holmes won’t be rushing off to solve a mystery before the steam has even vanished from the breakfast kippers.

Sherlock Holmes’s old adversary, some would even say nemesis, Professor Moriarty, is played variously by Lionel Atwill, George Zucco and the coldly chilling Henry Daniell. Holmes needn’t expect any mercy from that quarter, although the one-upmanship between the two, who are not without a little vanity, is often hilarious.

‘No doubt everything I have to say has already crossed your mind,’ Henry Daniell as the slippery Professor comments quietly but firmly in THE WOMAN IN GREEN. ‘And no doubt my answer has already crossed YOURS,’ retorts Holmes, equally firmly.

See what I mean? Their intellects are both so superior that they don’t even need to have a conversation in order to have a conversation. They’re too smart for their own good, lol. And each is as stubborn as the other.

‘I’ll not rest until I see you hang for the Finger Murders,’ Holmes tells his old enemy a moment later in the same movie. ‘And I tell you,’ Moriarty replies a little later on, ‘that I shall never stand upon the gallows.’ Well, I guess that that’s that, then…!

There’s a whole host of actors (and actresses) who regularly appear in the films as butlers, cabbies, policemen, customs officials and criminals. These would include: Holmes Herbert, Alec Craig, Olaf Hytten, Vernon Downing, E.E. Clive, Miles Mander, Halliwell Hobbes, Gavin Muir, Paul Cavanagh, Gerald Hamer, Ian Wolfe, Harry Cording, Arthur Hohl, Frederick Morlock, Montagu Love, Leyland Hodgson, Reginald Denny, Sally Shepherd and even John Carradine.

If I’ve left anyone out, please feel free to contact me and let me know. I’d like this list to be as comprehensive as possible. One of the many fascinating things about these lads (and ladettes!) is that many of them were born in the 1890s, like Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce themselves, or the 1880s or even the 1870s. That they’ve all, without exception, gone to their eternal reward saddens me more than I could ever tell you.

Evelyn Ankers (Universal’s THE WOLFMAN with Lon Chaney Junior), Hillary Brooke, Eve Amber, Patricia Morison, Ida Lupino and Gale Sondergaard all take turns as the eye candy in the films, although the phrase ‘eye candy’ doesn’t do justice to the passion and style with which they play their parts. It almost implies ‘dumb,’ although these gals are anything but.

All beautiful, all dressed in the most magnificent ‘Forties furs and jewels with elaborate hats or hairstyles (except for Evelyn Ankers in THE VOICE OF TERROR and THE PEARL OF DEATH, she’s meant to be from the lower classes, lol), some play helpless females throwing themselves on Holmes’s mercy and others play stone-cold villains.

Holmes treats all of the ladies he encounters with the same courtesy and respect, making the innocent ones feel safe and the criminals like they’ve finally met someone who could match them, move for move, in the elaborate chess game of catch-the-murderer.

Dr. Watson, of course, is an incorrigible flirt and brightens up considerably when he’s in the company of an attractive woman. He tends to forget all else, however, when he’s entranced by the sight of a shapely ankle or a Cupid’s-Bow of a lipsticked mouth, leading more than once to Holmes having to pull his (Dr. Watson’s) chestnuts out of the fire for him.

‘I’m sorry, Holmes,’ mumbles a shame-faced and chastened Watson after he’s screwed up yet again. ‘Never mind all that,’ replies his friend and mentor generously. ‘The game’s afoot, and I shall need you!’ ‘Will you, Holmes, will you really?’ says a much brightened Watson. Then it’s all ‘Grab your hat and coat, Watson!’ and out the door and down the stairs they rush, Watson grumbling nineteen to the dozen once more about Holmes’s peremptory manner.

The two of them rub along very nicely together in their smoky shared rooms at 221B Baker Street, filled with the fug of Holmes’s perpetual tobacco, stored in the toe of the Persian slipper, and the eternal scraping of Holmes’s bow across the violin he loves to play. Yes, as a roommate I’d say he wouldn’t be the easiest to live with. Kudos to Watson for putting up with him.

Watson’s something of a writer too, as well as a retired medic, and whenever one of his accounts of his and Holmes’s adventures appears in THE STRAND magazine, he couldn’t be more pleased.

Not even Holmes begging him to be more fact-oriented and scientifically logical in his accounts and less lurid can’t blight his pleasure. Something tells me, however, that Holmes is somehow secretly pleased with being thus lauded and celebrated. He’s only human, after all, and we all have our little vanities.

What I now propose is to quickly synopsise each of the fourteen films in one or two sentences, including a highlight or notable moment for each. All made between 1939 and 1945, the exact years of World War Two, several of them even allude to the War and to Hitler and his naughty Nazis. In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SPIDER WOMAN, you even get to shoot the big dictators of the war ‘right where their ‘earts ought to be!,’ implying of course that they lack them. Hearts, that is.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES sees attractive young actor Richard Greene taking top billing as Sir Henry Baskerville, but Holmes is the real star as he figures out the mystery behind the sudden and violent deaths of so many of Sir Henry’s ancestors.

Highlight? Holmes disguised as an old beggar and mortally offending a disgusted Dr. Watson with his peddler’s prattle…!

Like THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is the only other film set in the Victorian era. It’s top hats, frock-coats, gloves and canes at the ready as Holmes tries to find the connection between a terrified young woman (played by Ida Lupino) and the imminent arrival of a precious jewel at the Tower of London.

Highlight? The evil Moriarty chiding a butler over the death of a plant while a mournfully eerie tune plays from behind a closed door…

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (bom-ba-ba-bom!) helps the revered detective to foil a nasty Nazi plot to invade Britain and bring it under the dreadful aegis of the Third Reich.

Highlight? The gorgeous Evelyn Ankers as Kitty, exhorting her fellow Englishmen and women to help Mr. Holmes by going out and about to discover the true meaning of the word ‘Christopher…’

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON sees Holmes again attempting to foil the Nazis by keeping a certain scientist, Dr. Tobell, and his invaluable bomb-site safe from Hitler’s sweaty grasp.

Highlight? Holmes’s decidely unbecoming brushed-forward hairstyle, for one, and then he and Moriarty politely discussing ever more imaginative ways for Moriarty to murder the captive detective once and for all. Stop giving him ideas, Holmes! For Chrissakes, he’s trying to bloody well kill you, after all. No need to make it so easy for him.

In SHERLOCK HOLMES GOES TO WASHINGTON, Holmes doesn’t do a Mister Smith but instead foils an international spy ring that’s going mad trying to locate a secret document which, if it falls into their enemy hands, could be disastrous to England.

Highlight? Holmes playing the part of a fussy, know-it-all antiques collector in order to beard the lion in its den. The thing to remember about this one is that the person who has it (the document) doesn’t know he has it…

SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH has always been one of my favourites in the series of films. The creepy old Musgrave Manor, now a rest-home for convalescent soldiers run by Dr. Watson MD, is unaccountably the scene of several brutal murders. Is the key to the whole ghastly affair tied up in the mish-mash of ancient words known as The Musgrave Ritual…?

Highlight? The murderer’s confession down in the damp old crypt and also Watson’s dilly-dallying on the stairs with the convalescent soldier, each of them undecided for several minutes as to whether to go up the stairs, come down the stairs or go outside and risk being shot by the copper on duty. Vernon Downing, who plays the soldier Clavering, also features in THE SPIDER WOMAN and is a very interesting actor about which, sadly, little is known.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SPIDER WOMAN is one of the best films in the series. Insurance policies, a series of highly-publicised ‘pyjama suicides,’ a killer spider and a suspiciously familiar-looking Indian gentleman called Rajniv Singh all feature as Holmes tries to best a feminine mind that’s nearly as sharp as his own. And that’s saying something, let me tell you.

Highlight? The marvellous Gale Sondergaard as Adrea Spedding doing her hilariously fake-as-f**k Mother India act, and also the genuine grief and sense of loss of Inspector Lestrade when he thinks that the great detective has drowned on a fishing holiday to Scotland.

‘Why didn’t you go in after ‘im?’ he berates the devastated Dr. Watson. ‘I wasn’t there, I tell you!’ replies the poor doctor, choked with grief. ‘And neither was he. He was gone, I tell you, he was gone…’

And then, enter the funny little postman, the one who thinks that ‘Sherlock ‘olmes was nothing but a’ old ‘erring-gut…’ Don’t worry, Watson won’t let him away with such shocking blasphemy…!

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE PEARL OF DEATH is an absolute cracker of a film. Holmes has his work well and truly cut out for him trying to solve a string of horrible murders, in which the victim is each time found ‘with his- or her- back broken, in a litter of smashed china…!’ The whole thing holds a chilling ring of familiarity to Holmes, but the beast he thinks might be responsible for such grim deeds is dead, isn’t he? Isn’t he…?

Highlight? Without a doubt, Rondo Hatton as The Creeper, or ‘the Oxton ‘orror, I calls him,’ as Detective Lestrade so succinctly puts it. The Creeper gave me nightmares when I was a kid. ‘Go to the room at the top of the stairs. You know what to look for. If you should happen to meet Dr. Boncourt… pay him your respects…’

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SCARLET CLAW is another humdinger of a movie. The little town of La Morte Rouge in Canada (yes, Canada!) is living up to its rather gruesome name as a seemingly supernatural killer strikes its victims randomly and without reason, leaving them in a terrible state with their throats torn out. But Holmes and Watson don’t really believe in the supernatural. ‘No ghosts need apply,’ remember? They rather sensibly decide to look for the killer amongst the living instead…

Highlight? Dr. Watson falling in the various bits of boggy marsh…!

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUSE OF FEAR, an insurance agent begs Holmes to investigate why the members of ‘a most singular club,’ situated in an ancient pile called Drearcliff House (the clue’s in the name, folks!), are being killed off one by one. ‘No man goes whole to his grave.’ Is a pouch of tobacco going to be the key that will unlock this complex mystery for the great detective?

Highlight? Dr. Watson again, this time fighting off imaginary assailants in the dead of a dark rainy night while he’s supposed to be ‘protecting’ the surviving members of the Good Comrades Club. You might as well ask the cat…

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN PURSUIT TO ALGIERS sees the famous detective escorting a king in danger back to his home country while unravelling the mystery of why a beautiful woman is afraid of her life of the contents of her own music-case. And to think it all starts with a humble plate of fish and chips…

Highlight? Dear old Dr. Watson singing ‘You take the high road and I’ll take the low road, and I’ll get to Scotland afore you.’ It fair warms the cockles, does that.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN THE WOMAN IN GREEN is a tale of murder and mesmerism, blackmail and missing digits as Holmes and Moriarty come face-to-face in Holmes’s rooms to discuss, of all things, Moriarty’s extremely cheeky idea for a nice pension plan for himself. It’s a case of Holmes’s will against Moriarty’s as Holmes gets to the bottom of the Finger Murders…

Highlight? Dr. Watson ‘paddling’ in the ‘brook’ with only one shoe and sock removed because ‘the other leg is waterproof…!’ The cheek of that hypnotist fella. Humph.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN TERROR BY NIGHT sees our chums hunting down a jewel-thief on a moving train while a killer picks off the passengers like ducks in a row. We have a coffin with a false bottom, a teapot-thief and a man who’s not whom he pretends to be. ‘Curry? Filthy stuff, I never touch it…!’ Can Holmes find the killer and the thief before they reach their destination…? And is there any chance of a cup of tea on this bleedin’ train?

Highlight? Dr. Watson in fine form as he quizzes the passengers ‘as a representative of the law,’ only to find that some of them don’t take too kindly to people who aren’t in fact policemen sticking their noses into other peoples’ private business. And it was Holmes himself who set him up for this fall. For shame, Holmes.

SHERLOCK HOLMES IN DRESSED TO KILL features the most dazzling of all the femmes fatales to show up in this series of films. She’s extremely anxious to get her hands on a little old music box in the collection of one of Watson’s old school friends, the endearingly named Stinky, and she’s not too fussy about how she gets it…

Highlight? Stinky entertaining the femme fatale. Her furs and jewels are to die for. But little old Stinky, however charming he may be, is punching way, way above his weight with this single-minded beauty. Quite frankly, he has more chance of getting Dr. Watson and Holmes to agree to a threesome…

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed Holmes off in his serialisation of the story in the STRAND magazine, there was such an uproar that he was obliged to bring the legendary detective back from the dead. Of all the fictional characters ever created, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most enduring. Long may he flourish in our minds and in these wonderful old films.

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

JANE EYRE. (1943) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

jane eyre- weddingJANE EYRE. (1943) BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY CHARLOTTE BRONTE. DIRECTED BY ROBERT STEVENSON. STARRING JOAN FONTAINE, ORSON WELLES, AGNES MOOREHEAD, MARGARET O’BRIEN, HILLARY BROOKE, HENRY DANIELL AND ELIZABETH TAYLOR AS HELEN. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

It’s so funny that this film should have been on the good old BBC2 today, because just this very week I’d been telling people that I wanted to properly read and, in some cases, re-read a selection of the classics.

Books like JANE EYRE and Charlotte’s sister Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS, not to mention Jane Austen’s and Charles Dickens’ works in their entirety. That’s some tall order, innit, but watching this fabulous screen adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s deliciously Gothic novel has only whetted my appetite and now I’m raring to go. Let’s see how far I get, shall we…?

Joan Fontaine, whose sister Olivia De Havilland is miraculously still alive aged over one-hundred, is sublime as the poverty-stricken governess Jane Eyre. This and REBECCA and SUSPICION are my favourite films of Joan Fontaine’s. She has the face and voice of an angel and was absolutely the perfect choice for Jane in this movie.

Actually, there are a lot of similarities between her roles in JANE EYRE and REBECCA. In REBECCA (1941), she plays the un-named female companion who is obliged to trail behind the obnoxious Mrs. Van Hopper in Monte Carlo because she’s utterly impoverished since the death of her father and, frankly, urgently needs the pay-check.

Here she comes to the attention of the rich and embittered Maxim De Winter, who marries her after a whirlwind courtship and whisks her off to his fantastic Gothic family home of Manderley in Cornwall, England. Nice work if you can get it, eh? From poorly-paid and looked-down-upon ‘friend of the bosom’ to mistress of Manderley in one easy step…

The little paid companion couldn’t be happier, of course, but it seems that there is some mystery surrounding the first Mrs. De Winter, the deceased and titular Rebecca and, whatever it is, it’s making Maxim desperately unhappy. Worse, it’s stopping the newly-married couple from enjoying themselves, their new-found love and their marriage…

In JANE EYRE, Joan Fontaine plays a dirt-poor little English governess who is employed to take care of a little French girl called Adele, in the country household of the rich and mysterious Mr. Edward Rochester.

This is only, however, after she’s endured ten hard cold years at the brutal Lowood Institution For Girls and nearly a decade more as the un-wanted orphaned niece of her hard cold Aunt Reed and her fat bully of a son, Jane’s Cousin John.

As this is England in the first trimester, as it were, of the nineteenth century, you can imagine how rough it was for anyone but the rich and privileged. An impoverished female would have been at the very bottom of the totem-pole, so to speak.

Jane probably falls head-over-heels in love with the dashing Mr. Rochester the instant she meets him by accident on the moors at night. How romantic is that, eh? The moors at night? Beats locking eyes over an over-priced bag of chips and a battered sausage in Dublin’s Temple Bar on a crowded Saturday night, does that…!

Mr. Rochester, the Heathcliff of this book/film, is superbly played by that lion of a man, Orson Welles. He cuts a magnificent figure in his knee-boots and riding breeches, with the confidence and arrogance that comes with a lifetime of privilege and giving the orders.

He’s as taken with the stubborn, virtuous Jane as she undoubtedly is with him, but he toys with her and makes her think he’s going to marry the proud and haughty aristocratic Blanche Ingram before eventually crushing Jane to his manly bosom and declaring his undying love for her. Handsome and overpoweringly charismatic he might be, but he’s still a total prick when it comes to how to treat women…!

Jane and Edward’s tragic story plays out against the fabulous, awe-inspiring backdrop of the oh-so-Gothic Thornfield Hall, with its forbidden tower that houses a strange occupant whom Jane hears laughing maniacally in the night but never sees. An occupant that may have tried to kill Mr. Rochester by burning him to death in his bed, who must be watched night and day by a dour and forbidding-looking woman called Grace Poole…

No fewer than three actors appear here who have also popped up in the Basil Rathbone- Nigel Bruce SHERLOCK HOLMES movies (1939-1945). Henry Daniell is wonderful as the mean old Mr. Brocklehurst who runs the charitable institution of Lowood. He once played Moriarty to Basil Rathbone’s world-famous detective, even bearding him rather cheekily in his own den at 221B Baker Street.

This was in THE WOMAN IN GREEN, an utterly ‘mesmerising’ watch, heh-heh-heh. In the same film Hillary Brooke (Blanche Ingram) tried to hypnotise the great detective, with limited results, it must be said.

In SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE HOUSE OF FEAR, Aubrey Mather, in JANE EYRE a genial house-guest of Mr. Rochester’s and an uncle to Blanche Ingram, plays Alastair. He’s the only Good Comrade not trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the law (represented ably here by Dennis Hoey as Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard) by illegally profiting from the mysterious ‘deaths’ of his friends.

I feel all romantic and dreamy after watching this. Reality, sadly, is much less Gothically romantic, so I’m off now to see about the dinner and get some clothes sorted out for the week to come. Yes, yes, I know, boring…! Enjoy the film if you watch it. As an escape from the daily grind, you honestly couldn’t do better.

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

jane eyre- wedding

 

THE LOST WEEKEND. (1945) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

ray milland & jane wyman - the lost weekend 1945

THE LOST WEEKEND. (1945) DIRECTED BY BILLY WILDER. BASED ON THE BOOK OF THE SAME NAME BY CHARLES R. JACKSON. STARRING RAY MILLAND, JANE WYMAN, PHILIP TERRY, HOWARD DA SILVA, DORIS DOWLING, MARY YOUNG AND FRANK FAYLEN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

That a film of this calibre was made as early in cinematic history as 1945 is a fact that constantly staggers me. This is a powerhouse of a screenplay, but don’t just take my word for it. Ask the Academy, the Academy that bestowed upon it the Award for Best Screenplay in the year of its release.

The writing translates itself easily into a fantastically tight film about the grim subject of alcoholism that I’ve watched several times now without once getting bored. Let’s take a look at the film and see if I can’t infect you guys with a little of the enthusiasm I feel for it myself. Don’t worry, it’s a nice infection, not the kind that leaves you with rheumy eyes and a shiny red hooter to rival Rudolph’s…!

Ray Milland, an actor who’s also co-starred with the divine Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock’s DIAL M FOR MURDER and the screen adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s THE PREMATURE BURIAL, is utterly superb as the alcoholic would-be writer, Don Birnam.

I say ‘would-be writer’ instead of actual ‘writer’ because he hasn’t written a word since University, when his Hemingway-esque short stories were the pride of the college rag.

Now, some twenty-odd years later, he’s a full-blown alkie, unemployed (and unemployable?), living on his brother Wick’s charity and wallowing in self-pity, self-loathing and self-disgust every day until the pubs open. Then you’ve lost him. Till he’s chucked out at closing-time, that is…

Even his barman and confidante Nat, of Nat’s Bar, knows that Don Birnam’s an alkie. Nat’s not without human feelings, though, and he can’t help his revulsion when Don bails out of a cleansing weekend away in the country with his brother Wick on account of the booze. As in, Don is hoping to get in some serious boozing while the cat’s away.

Desperate for a drink, Don’ll do anything to get one. He’ll beg, borrow, steal, wheedle and cajole until he’s got one. But you can’t stop at just one, of course. Or ‘natch,’ as Gloria would say. You’ve got to have another one, and another one, and so on until you eventually wake up on your own couch without any memory of how you got there. Given all the things that could have happened to Don, he’s lucky it was only the couch…!

Don isn’t so lucky the time over this particular ‘lost weekend’ that he wakes up in the alkie ward of a hospital. You’ll be back, matey, the rather smug orderly tells him. It’s got you in its grip and it won’t quit. I’m paraphrasing here but you get the gist.

Don breaks out of this terrible place, convinced he’ll never get the DTs as the orderly Bim has foretold for him. Another guy in the drunk-tank of the hospital had those. Surely nothing like that can ever happen to him, he’s not a lowlife scumbag loser like those lads at the hospital. But the dreaded DTs follow Don home. After meeting them in person, Don begins to feel like there’s only one way out for a washed-up failure like him…

A word about the ladies in the film. Helen St. James, Don’s girlfriend, is passionately played by Jane Wyman, who later went on to portray the fearsome, ball-breaking business tycoon Angela Channing in glamorous television soap opera FALCON CREST.

Helen adores Don, despite his affliction or maybe even because of it. Maybe she’s the kind of dame who finds herself a mess of a guy and tries fervently to fix him. She devotes herself to Don, probably to the detriment of her own work at TIME magazine. She worries about him incessantly and vows to stay with him regardless of his alcoholism, but she’s deluded. Don is the only one who can fix Don, but Don isn’t ready to man up yet and just quit.

What Don does to Gloria, the feisty but lonely prostitute who frequents and meets clients at Nat’s Bar, Don’s favourite spot, is not nice. Even Nat thinks it’s despicable for Don to make the needy girl think he’s going to take her out on a date when all he’ll ever want from her is a few bucks to buy his next fix of booze. Taking Gloria for a fool is not Don Birnam’s finest hour.

I sympathise with Don up to a point. Not the alcoholic bit, I hasten to add! But I was the bright shining star of the school and college magazines also, who then got all caught up in the business of ruining relationships and having kids and who subsequently never wrote another word for nearly twenty years. I allowed myself to be distracted by the nuts-and-bolts of life instead of just sitting down and damn well writing about it.

Every time I had a spare minute, which luckily wasn’t very often, I hated myself with a passion for not writing. Now I write every day, thank God. But this is why I totally feel Don’s pain. No-one self-loathes like a writer who’s not writing. Trust me, I know. Do make sure you watch this magnificent tour de force of a movie. Your life will be the richer for it.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

ray milland & jane wyman - the lost weekend 1945

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