TAXI DRIVER. (1976) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

TAXI DRIVER. (1976) DIRECTED BY MARTIN SCORSESE. SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY PAUL SCHRADER. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN.
STARRING ROBERT DE NIRO, JODIE FOSTER, CYBILL SHEPHERD, LEONARD HARRIS, PETER BOYLE AND HARVEY KEITEL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

So much has been written and said about TAXI DRIVER, one of Martin Scorsese’s best and most memorable movies. It’s too violent. It’s a vigilante film, but one in which the vigilante is experiencing a severe existential crisis. Travis Bickle is an anti-hero-slash-murderous thug. Jodie Foster as Iris was too young to be witnessing such violence as takes place in the climactic shoot-out. The film’s too dark/too bleak/too grim. It has no redeeming features. Well, these things might be true or they might not be true, but one thing is for sure. TAXI DRIVER is an unforgettable slice of cinema pie.

Robert De Niro is superb as lead character, Travis Bickle, an ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran who’s trying to find his way back to the world after the horrors of war. Even if we didn’t know he was a Vietnam veteran, we’d still know he was someone who’d been away somewhere for a while- prison, maybe, or a mental asylum- and who was having trouble adapting or acclimatising back to real life. He looks at the world and its occupants like he’s seeing them for the first time and doesn’t quite know what to make of it all.

He lives in one room, a room which he doesn’t know how to make comfortable for himself or how to make it feel like a real home, which surely he must have had once. Travis Bickle suckling on mother’s milk? Hey, everyone, even a half-baked vigilante assassin-type, had a mother once…

He works nights as a taxi driver because his nights are miserable, too long and fraught with insomnia and over-thinking. He occasionally mixes with the other cabbies, who’ve all been in the cabby-ing game for a long time now. He even confides in the much older, worldy-wise driver Wizard, but Wizard hasn’t got the answer to Travis’s problems.

After messing up his fledgling relationship with posh girl Betsy (a gorgeous Cybill Shepherd), who’s working on the political campaign to elect Senator Charles Palantine as President, Travis’s existential crisis comes on him like a cloak of fog on a country road at night. What the hell is the point of living, anyway? What’s it all about?

Travis stocks up on guns and teaches himself to shoot in order to fill the emptiness inside him that started long before Bitchy Betsy left him outside the porno theatre where he’d taken her for an ill-judged night out.

God Almighty, Travis man! You don’t take your classy Uptown Girl to a seedy porno cinema where the only other customers are sleazy old men with their hands inside the raincoats they wear to cover their shame! That’s Dating 101, that is. It’d be like taking the fucking Queen to see Roy Chubby Brown in fucking concert, that would.

Anyway. Alone Again, naturally. Travis spends hours alone in his untidy, uncomfortable bedroom, which resembles at this stage a sort of overnight army camping spot, practising his moves with his guns in the mirror and perfecting his by now iconic speech:

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?”

He’s the only one here. How very true that is. Travis is desperately lonely, unsure of his purpose in life. He sees the people all around him interacting effortlessly with each other, and wonders in the back of his mind why he can’t manage to do the same himself. Is it the post-Vietnam PTSD that’s responsible? Or maybe Travis is autistic and doesn’t know it. It would explain his difficulties talking to people, his lack of social skills.

Travis then attempts to save twelve-year-old prostitute Iris, played by an already competent and professional Jodie Foster, from herself, her grim situation and her manipulative pimp Matthew (Harvey Keitel, but he’s not running around in the nip in this one, that’s THE PIANO you’re thinking of!), nicknamed Sport. She hasn’t asked to be saved, by the way.

It’s Travis’s way of going some good in the world, of making his mark, whether little Iris wants to be returned to her parents or not. After all, didja see ‘em in the newspaper? They’re no spring chickens, I’ll say that for them…!

Travis may even be feeling that he won’t come out of the showdown alive. He could be contemplating suicide-by-cop, or suicide by lowlife, drug-dealing pimping scumbags. He might equally be thinking of taking his own life.

Either way, Travis Bickle will meet his destiny in the scruffy, ill-lit landings of the shabby brothel where Iris works. He acts like a man on a mission that must be kept secret at all costs, a man preparing for a war that only he knows about. God help us all.

What kind of guys do you think carry out school or mosque shootings? Guys like Travis, maybe, who think that society has abandoned them and nobody cares about them? If only we could look into everyone’s bedrooms and see which people are standing in front of their mirrors trying on guns for size and practising the speech they’ll make if they ever get the audience they crave. But of course privacy laws wouldn’t allow it. We will have to figure out some other way to identify these ‘involuntary celibates,’ as they’re becoming known, before they commit their ill-judged crimes.

What do you think of the very last scene, anyway? I prefer to pretend it doesn’t even exist, lol. TAXI DRIVER ends when Travis Bickle puts his fingers, gun-shaped, to his own head, and don’t you be telling me any different. Are you talkin’ to me, or what…?

I adore the musical score, composed by Bernard Herrmann, who also did the iconic theme tunes to Alfred Hitchcock movies, PSYCHO, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and NORTH BY NORTHWEST. He also did the music for the stone-cold classic film, CITIZEN KANE. What fabulous stuff to have on your CV. There’s one guy I’d like to play Celebrity Dinner Party with.

This is one of my personal favourites of Martin Scorsese’s films. I love GOODFELLAS too, of course, and CAPE FEAR, CASINO, MEAN STREETS and RAGING BULL. Robert De Niro’s association with the director has done him no harm at all, and vice versa. Travis Bickle is a guy we can alternately pity, admire, identify with and be repulsed by. He’s a complicated mix of good and bad, scared and fearless, repugnant and loveable. Love him or hate him, you won’t forget him.

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 new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/
 
 

FROM HELL. (2001) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

FROM HELL. (2001) DIRECTED BY THE HUGHES BROTHERS. STARRING JOHNNY DEPP, HEATHER GRAHAM, IAN HOLM, ROBBIE COLTRANE, IAN RICHARDSON, SUSAN LYNCH AND LESLEY SHARP. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This film tells the story of notorious English sex-murderer, Jack the Ripper. Well, it tells one of the stories. Theories abound as to the identity of the killer, who was never caught and brought to justice and this film, loosely based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell, concentrates on just one of these theories. I bought the graphic novel, and a massive tome it is too, a couple of years ago but I haven’t read it yet. I must get around to it.

Not to give away the plot or anything, but the top-hatted, cloaked and medical-bag-wielding baddie is really, really bad in this film. He brutally murders and eviscerates five East End prostitutes because they were all witnesses to the secret marriage between Prince Edward, the Queen’s grandson, and Alice Crook, their friend and a commoner like themselves. Don’t worry, that’s not really a spoiler, as it’s made dead, dead clear from fairly early on.

Edward, who has clearly been leading a double life, now has a child by Alice, and that child is the legitimate heir to the English throne. Oh, shit… I don’t know if this marriage ever happened in real life or not, but I do know that the prince is supposed to have incurable syphilis in the film and he’s not expected to live too long on it, in which case, what was he doing getting married and having children he wouldn’t be around to help raise…? Bit irresponsible, if you ask me.

The poor prozzies, though, being killed wholesale like that. Yeah, as if their lives weren’t miserable enough already. That’s one of the things that struck me most about the film, the sheer, unrelenting misery, drudgery and uncertainty of their horrible lives, which in all fairness, the film does manage to capture. Every last one of the actresses portraying the ‘bangtails’ turns in an excellent performance. Their on-screen deaths are disturbing to watch and very, very sad.

Anyway, enter handsome devil Johnny Depp as the absinthe-swigging, opium-addled Inspector Frederick Abberline, whose job it is to catch the killer. This he does with the aid of his subordinate and friend, Sergeant Peter Godley, ably played by Hagrid. Ooops, sorry, I meant Robbie Coltrane. Abberline is a smart cookie, if a bit of a loose cannon. He quickly figures out the identity of the villain, but the powers-that-be close ranks to protect said villain.

What happens to poor hapless Alice Crook, mother to the little heir to the throne, is appalling. That was another thing that really struck me about the film, the way that people could be dragged away from their homes and families and locked up for life in a Victorian asylum- the worst kind of asylum- with the front part of their brain missing. Is that even a legitimate medical procedure? Is it still done today?

And all because it was decided that they, the unfortunate, ill-starred patients, knew too much about a delicate matter or even just because someone somewhere didn’t like the cut of their gib. It’s a terrifying concept, and sadly not the sole preserve of the Victorians either, which makes it even scarier to contemplate.

Women in particular seem to have had zero rights and zero say over what happened to them back then. As far as I know, if your husband wanted rid of you, desired control of your fortune and wished to install a new woman in your place, all he had to do was say you were out of your tree with insanity and have you committed, and all with the stroke of a quill from the husband and probably the family doctor as well. The husband might even have promised the doctor a cut of his wife’s inheritance for agreeing to collude with him.

Johnny Depp, whose cockney accent ain’t half bad, guv’nor, makes the mistake as Abberline of falling for one of the hookers. And the film-makers have given him a tragic back-story as well. The poor fellow has been unlucky in love. I can’t imagine that a love affair with the most tragic of all Jack the Ripper’s victims will help advance him much in his own life.

The film is a bit too slick, stylish and sort of Hollywood-y for me, but it still does a more than passable job of capturing the bleakness of life in Victorian Whitechapel and the horrible fates in store for people who had neither money, power, nor control over their own lives.

The hookers, played by Susan Lynch, Lesley Sharp, Katrin Cartlidge, Annabelle Apsion, Samantha Spiro and, of course, Heather Graham, all positively steal the show. Much as I love (and fancy!) Johnny Depp, these so-called ‘bangtails’ act the men off the stage, for the most part.

I do love Ian Richardson as the stiff-upper-lipped and heavily mutton-chopped Sir Charles Warren, though, Ian McNeice as the coroner who clearly hates his job and Robbie Coltrane’s Sergeant Godley, Ian Holm as the Queen’s physician, Dr. Gull, and David Schofield as the thug McQueen.

Quite a good cast here actually, including the beautiful Estelle Skornik as a French or Belgian prozzie who befriends the women. You might know her as the woman who starred as ‘Nicole’ opposite Max Douchin’s ‘papa’ in those famous old Renault Clio advertisements donkeys’ years ago. Fun fact for you there!

If you’re an armchair Ripperologist like myself, you’ll probably be annoyed by any little inconsistencies and liberties taken by the script. Roll with it, though, and you’ve got yourself an entertaining little murder mystery that’ll nicely fill a couple of hours on a dark and stormy night. Make sure you lock your doors and windows, though. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, isn’t it? And they never did catch that fella. Did 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 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 new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv

OLOTURE. (2019) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

OLOTURE. (2019) DIRECTED BY KENNETH GYANG. STARRING SHARON OOJA, OMONI OBOLI AND BLOSSOM CHUKWUJEKWU.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

One of the great things about Netflix is that it’s introduced me to a load of world cinema titles that I probably wouldn’t otherwise have had access to. Thanks to Netflix, I’m now a committed Bollywood fan and I’m also starting to dip my dainty cinematic toe into African cinema as well, something I wasn’t even aware existed to the extent it does.

OLOTURE, pronounced Ollo-turay, a Nigerian crime drama, is one of the most gripping but also horrifying movies I’ve seen in a long time. It’s based in Lagos, which is the capital city of Nigeria and the biggest and most densely populated city in Africa as well.

Sharon Ooja plays the titular Oloture, a stunningly beautiful black journalist who goes undercover as a prostitute for a story for the newspaper she works for, THE SCOOP. She keeps in touch by phone with her editor, boss and friend Emeka, or they might occasionally meet up secretly and at great risk to Oloture, as the people she’s mixing with now do not take kindly to cops, snoopy journalists or spies.

The world Oloture now inhabits is an ugly, cruel and merciless one peopled by savagely violent pimps, cold, unsympathetic madams, rich, privileged punters and prostitutes often in the last stages of poverty, desperation and helplessness.

The first time we see Oloture on the job, as it were, she’s climbing out a bathroom window at a sex party to avoid sleeping with a client. The client is furiously angry, though, and Oloture gets in trouble with the madam, who is also the landlady of the dump she sleeps in with the other prostitutes. And when I say, she sleeps there, I literally mean she has a camp bed there and nothing else. It’s purely functional.

Next time Oloture attends a sex party, wearing a wig like the other hookers and a short garish outfit that leaves little to the imagination, she doesn’t get off as lightly. She is drugged and raped by a grossly overweight politician called Sir Philip.

She’s devastated. I’m not sure what her intentions are when she goes undercover as a sex worker. I mean, I don’t know if she intends to have sex with the punters or if she’s hoping to avoid it or what, but the fact is that the situation she’s in is perilous and precarious, and she must have known, deep down in the back of her mind, that sex was on the cards at some point. Ah well. It happens, and poor Oloture tries to wash away the ignominy and degradation in the shower, and we all know how well that works…

Oloture hears from another prostitute of a woman called Miss Alero who, for a hefty sum of money, will take these poor broken women away from their shitty lives to a wonderful, magical place called… Europe.

That’s right, Europe is the holy grail for the prostitutes, and Oloture, traumatised and all as she is, decides that she wants in, for the sake of her story. The story in the newspaper has become even more important to her now, more personal, even more than ever worth fighting for, since the rape at the party.

What Oloture and the other girls don’t know yet is that the trip to Europe is a front for the worst kind of human trafficking. Once they pay their money, they are herded onto a bus and taken to a secret destination.

Angry, frighteningly aggressive muscular black men then take over from Madam Alero. Well, let’s tell it like it is! They take the girls’ phones- no contact with the outside world is allowed- and ‘train’ them to strut, bump and grind and lap-dance, all the skills they’ll need to attract male customers wherever they’re going. They subject the women to terrifying voodoo rituals to terrorise them into not running away, to make the superstitious young ones think they’ll be cursed if they try to leave.

It’s tragic the way one of the girls has earlier sent for her younger sister, thinking that the two of them will have a lovely new start in Europe together. All the young woman has unconsciously, unknowingly done is, she’s just provided Madam Alero and her crew with a much-prized ‘virgin’ for their ‘collection.’ Can you imagine how shit that must feel…?

Seeing Oloture making quick, clandestine visits to her loving mother, before the whole ‘Europe’ thing kicks off, really highlights the difference between the sleazy twilight world of the prostitutes and the light, bright clean world of fresh air, personal freedom, home cooking and motherly love.

The film also shows us that the era of the traditional pimp, working alone, with his gold-knobbed pimp cane, fur coat and broad-brimmed, feathered hat like every black pimp in every blaxploitation movie ever, is dying out, to be replaced, I suppose, by a sort of communal madam in a brothel or group of ‘controllers.’

Oloture gets into terrible trouble for trying to get a battered and abused hooker called, heart-breakingly, Blessing, to leave her pimp, Chuks, who makes Ike Turner look like Barney the Dinosaur, but it’s poor Blessing who gets the mother of all hidings as a result…  
 
Oloture has gotten herself into the worst situation imaginable. These men Madam Alero runs with don’t let the girls go once they have them under lock and key. Can Oloture be the exception to the rule? Can Emeka, her editor, manage to secure her release? This is an excellent eye-opener from a social justice point of view, but it’s a cracking good story as well. Watch it if you can. Did I mention it’s on Netflix…?

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
 

ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S ‘MARNIE.’ (1964) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MARNIE. (1964) BASED ON THE 1961 BOOK BY WINSTON GRAHAM. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES. DIRECTED AND PRODUCED BY ALFRED HITCHCOCK. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY ROBERT BURKS.

STARRING TIPPI HEDREN, SEAN CONNERY, LOUISE LATHAM, DIANE BAKER, BRUCE DERN, MARTIN GABEL AND MARIETTE HARTLEY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘You Freud, me Jane?’

‘If you tell my Momma about me, I’ll kill you.’

‘We don’t talk smart about the Bible in this house, missy.’

‘Why don’t you love me, Momma? I’ve always wondered why you don’t.’

‘… always pulling her skirt down over her knees as if they were some sort of national treasure…!’

Ah, now this is the stuff. This has long been one of my favourite Hitchcock movies, although it never seems to receive as much attention as, say, PSYCHO or THE BIRDS. It’s every bit as good, though.

It’s a sort of psycho-sexual thriller rather than an outright horror (Hitchcock himself went to great lengths to bill it as a sex mystery, no doubt to give it some extra clout at the box-office), and I have great memories of watching it in the middle of the night during Christmases past, the usual time for the screening of old Hitchcock movies on television, both now and then.

I love the story of how Hitchcock’s first choice for the plum role of Marnie, Princess Grace of Monaco, was discouraged from taking the role by her new subjects in the principality of Monaco.

Apparently, they didn’t want their new Princess playing ‘a sexually disturbed thief’ who gets raped into the bargain. Well, I suppose that that wouldn’t have been too good for the old squeaky clean image, haha.

Some people do maintain, though, that Grace Kelly and Cary Grant would have been better choices for the roles of Marnie and her adversary/husband Mark Rutland than Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. I disagree.

Tippi Hedren was the perfect choice, and she more than justified any faith placed in her. And would Cary Grant have been able to rape his screen bride in the same shockingly decisive way that Sean Connery does it? I don’t know.

I know Cary Grant had his more serious roles- SUSPICION, for one- and I’m not for one moment implying that he was only suited to frothier, lighter, less heavyweight roles, but I just don’t see him as Mark Rutland.

Marnie Edgar is a fascinating character, probably one of Hitchcock’s most complex. Norman Bates in PSYCHO is another prime example of how the great director had a profound understanding of how a person’s childhood can basically f**k them up twelve ways till Sunday, as it were.

Norman, of course, had perfectly acceptable reasons, deeply rooted in his upbringing, for why he grew up into a mother-fixated, sexually deviant transvestite killer. In MARNIE, Hitchcock is delving once more into the end products of a messed-up childhood.

Marnie is probably a slightly more sympathetic character than Norman, though, because she’s stunningly beautiful and doesn’t actually kill anyone…! Let’s go ahead anyway and have a look at the plot of this excellent film.

Marnie is a thief and a compulsive liar and a woman who’s so afraid of men that it’s made her sexually frigid. Long story short, she ends up being unwillingly married to rich, handsome and highly eligible widower Mark Rutland, played by Sean 007 Connery.

Mark is wise to Marnie’s tricks as a kleptomaniacal con-woman with more aliases than Homer Simpson’s fugitive mother Mona in hit animated comedy THE SIMPSONS. Remember Muddy Mae Suggins?

Anyway, Mark is deeply infatuated with the gorgeously blonde Marnie and is endlessly fascinated by her seemingly screwed-up mental condition. I’ve never liked the way he ‘studies’ her as if she’s a butterfly pinned to a bit of card, even when she’s in the midst of the most terrible distress. How about actually helping her there, bud, or is that too radical…?

Fancying himself as something of an armchair psychologist, he’s determined to get to the bottom of Marnie’s terrible fear of men and, incidentally, her seeming over-reaction to the colour red. Some of his methods are highly suspect, to say the least, and could have damaged Marnie irreparably.

Forcing a woman who’s afraid of men to submit to his sexual attentions would probably have disastrous consequences in real life, but this is a film. Maybe he thought a good ride was all she needed to loosen her up a bit. Highly suspect, as I said.

I’ll never forget the time I saw Sean Connery doing a television interview in which he was asked if he ‘minded’ his character in MARNIE having to ‘rape’ the gorgeous blonde Tippi Hedren. Cue a giant cheesy grin and a slow but emphatic shake of his handsome head…! The saucy little devil.

The scenes with Marnie’s mother in Marnie’s childhood home would all make you sympathise solely with poor Marnie. Louise Latham does an excellent job of portraying the messed-up woman whose overwhelming fear of her daughter growing up slutty actually turns said daughter into a psychological ticking time-bomb who can’t bear to be touched by anyone at all, ever. Nice work there, Momma…!

Diane Baker plays the minxy sister-in-law Lil Mainwaring to perfection. What a nosey, spiteful little bitch! She’s just dying of jealousy because Mark loves Marnie and not her.

Clearly she was hoping she’d take her dead sister’s place in Mark’s bed and Mark’s life, not to mention Mark’s chequebook, but it ain’t gonna happen. That being the case, she’s going to stir up as much trouble for Marnie as she can, just as if poor Marnie didn’t already have enough problems to be going on with.

If you’re a horsey person, there’s a lot of equine action in the film for you to oooh-and-aaaah over, plus a very sad animal scene that will probably leave you traumatised for life, haha. Remember Marge and Lisa Simpson in THE SIMPSONS settling down for a girlie afternoon of doing each others’ nails and watching the saddest pony movies Marge could find in their local video store? Great fun altogether…! 

I love all the views of the terraced street on the docks where Marnie’s childhood home in Baltimore is situated. The giant ship looks like a beautiful old painting. Apparently some of Hitch’s crew advised him that the ship looked fake and that they could fix it right up for him, but he refused, and I’m glad he did.

I mentioned earlier that, these days, Hitchcock’s films are only screened on Irish television around midnight at Christmas, after the main evening’s programming has ended.

Before I acquired the DVD, I therefore only usually got to see those iconic closing scenes with the ship in the harbour at around two or three in the morning, through a bleary-eyed fog of exhaustion in which everything on the screen looked surreal. Best way to watch the film really, for me. Happy days.   

I love Hitchcock’s rather mischievous cameo, without which his films wouldn’t be the same, in a deserted hotel corridor. I love all the marvellous early ‘Sixties glamour and Tippi Hedren’s shining blonde hair and perfect voice and face and I love also the similarities to PSYCHO. Both heroines are on the run from their old bosses, after all, with a goodly amount of said boss’s dosh secreted away in a suitcase.

Those poor girls. One of them comes to a bad end. The other might just have a shot at a half-decent life. We’ll have to wait and see if it all pans out for poor dear Marnie, won’t we, dear readers? We’ll just have to wait and see

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.https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64

BAND OF GOLD. (1995-1997) A GRITTY, SEXY TV SERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BAND OF GOLD. 1995-1997. CREATED AND WRITTEN BY KAY MELLOR. PRODUCED BY GRANADA TELEVISION.

STARRING GERALDINE JAMES, CATHY TYSON, BARBARA DIXON, SAMANTHA MORTON, RACHEL DAVIES, LENA HEADEY, FIONA ALLEN, TONY DOYLE, DAVID SCHOFIELD, RAY STEVENSON AND RICHARD MOORE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I absolutely love this drama series about a group of sex workers who live and work in Bradford’s red-light district. They work a particular patch known as ‘the Lane,’ or, more correctly, they work ‘on t’ lane,’ if you can do the accent, and God help you if you’re a young ‘un who tries to ‘work t’ lane’ without the permission of Rose, an older prostitute who’s in charge of t’ lane, see?

Rose, brilliantly played by Geraldine James, is the original tart with a heart. She’s had a hard life, has poor Rose, but she still manages to be kind and compassionate towards her fellow sex workers. She makes numerous attempts to better herself and ‘get off t’ lane’ by going to college, starting up a cleaning company with her mates on t’ lane and taking a job as a local outreach worker, with varying results.

The biggest tragedy of Rose’s life is that she gave away her baby twenty-odd years ago, and she’s never stopped wanting that baby back. She goes in search of her child, who’s now a young woman, and when she finds her is gobsmacked to find that the apple, in this case, hasn’t fallen very far from the tree. Will Rose dare to make herself known to the emotionally damaged and dangerous S&M specialist her little girl has grown up to be…?

Gobby Carol, played by Cathy Tyson, is a terrific character. She works t’lane so that her beloved daughter Emma doesn’t have to go without, and she’s had to learn to be as hard as nails to survive as a black single mum sex worker in Bradford, not a particularly rich city to begin with.

Her illicit affair with DCI Newall, the copper in charge of investigating the murder of Carol’s hooker friend Gina, is a bit sick and twisted. I like the guy, but does he actually give a genuine toss about Carol or is he only sleeping with her because he has a self-confessed thing for sex with black women? It’s hard to tell. (Gina’s mum Joyce and abusive ex-husband Steve have sex together after Gina’s death, by the way, they’re such a lovely pair!)

Carol’s other admirer is sausage-maker ‘Curly,’ terrifically played by Richard Moore who was Jarvis Skelton in EMMERDALE from 2000-2005. Curly has a stocking fetish, and pays Carol a generous sum of money to simply ‘walk’ for him, up and down and round t’ living-room wi’ stockings and high heels on. Well, it beats walking up and down t’ bloody lane in all weathers, I suppose…!

Anita Braithwaite, played by Scottish chanteuse Barbara Dickson, is an hilarious character. Talk about loose lips sink ships. She’s the biggest gossip going. For God’s sake don’t tell her your secrets, because she’s got a gob on her like the Mersey tunnel, that one. You just ask Rose or Carol.

Anita’s the mistress of rich but dodgy (is there any other kind?) married businessman George Ferguson (Irish actor Tony Doyle, sadly deceased since 2000), who treats her shabbily, and she lets the prozzies from t’ lane use her flat for indoor sex with their punters. It’s safer than going off in a car with a total stranger, innit?

That was the modus operandi of Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, who, only a decade-and-a-half earlier, had been terrorising both prostitutes and non-prostitutes for real in the Leeds-Bradford area. He cruised the area in his car looking for victims and was interviewed several times by police and cleared, before eventually being properly nabbed in 1981.

When poor little prostitute Tracy, the saddest of all the sex workers, gets bashed on the head by an unknown assailant and left for dead in a patch of waste-ground, there won’t be many viewers who won’t immediately think of Peter Sutcliffe and his reign of terror from the mid-Seventies to 1981.

Peter Sutcliffe is not mentioned in the script, as far as I know, but he casts a shadow over it nonetheless. I wonder if he was allowed to watch BAND OF GOLD in t’ nick, and if he was sexually excited by it. Ted Bundy got a thrill from examining crime scene/victim photos, after all. Shudder. What a slimy thought.

Superbly played by Samantha Morton, Tracy, as I said, is the saddest of all the hookers who work t’ lane. She’s only fifteen, and she ran away from her luxurious home because she couldn’t take her father’s sexual abuse any longer. On drugs and taken advantage of by every man who buys her services, she doesn’t even seem to care what happens to her.

Carol and Rose have gumption and a bit of get-up-and-go in them. They want to better themselves and they’re trying to do it, even if their efforts sometimes go tits-up. But Tracy is a tragic figure. She’d rather someone physically hurt her, just so that she can feel something and know she’s alive. And look who she goes to looking for love! Someone as damaged and emotionally fragile as herself, but dangerous with it…

The first two series of BAND OF GOLD are top-notch. The third series, or spin-off if you like, GOLD, is as batty and incomprehensible as the last days of BROOKSIDE. I do really like the transsexual prostitute Sherrie, who’s only working t’ lane to save up the money for her final sex-change operation.

When Sherrie is brutally raped by a man in very high places, the show deftly details the difficulties inherent in charging a rich white older man with the rape of a young black transsexual prostitute. I mean, who are the cops gonna believe? Exactly. Nicely handled, BAND OF GOLD.

Popular actress Sue Cleaver, better known as Eileen Grimshaw from CORONATION STREET, has a small recurring role in the series as the barmaid in the boozer where all the girls and pimps from t’ lane gather for a bevvy. In 2000, she coincidentally plays a copper in the mini-series THIS IS PERSONAL: THE HUNT FOR THE YORKSHIRE RIPPER. There’s that Yorkshire Ripper connection we were talking about earlier again…

By the way, check out Carol in that dreadful multi-coloured Versace outfit that no doubt costs a small fortune. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, right? Common is as common does, lol. Or maybe it would be more apt to say that you can take the girl out of the estate…

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.

BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ. (1928) A BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

berlin mieze franz

BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ. (1928) A NOVEL BY ALFRED DŐBLIN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘There is a mower death yclept.’

This book is considered to be the magnum opus-slash-masterpiece of Alfred Dőblin’s. Dőblin was a German writer and doctor who, having come from Jewish stock and with, understandably, plenty of reasons to be apprehensive, fled Germany in 1933 when the Nazis came to power, only returning in 1945 when the war was over.

His great work BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ was made into a fifteen-hour movie by iconic director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who was a huge fan of the book. This epic piece of cinema originally aired as a German miniseries on German television in 1980. I bet it absolutely smashed all the TV ratings for that year.

Clocking in at a spectacular nine-hundred minutes, it watches like a mini-series, divided up into digestible blocks of one hour approximately, with credits coming at the start and finish. So you needn’t fret that you don’t have the time to watch a fifteen-hour movie. If you prefer, of course, you could just read the book…!

I won’t deny that it’s a tough read. I found it rough going at times and I really had to push myself to keep at it. Dőblin’s style of writing in it, with long passages of what feels like stream-of-consciousness and the way you frequently can’t tell who’s saying what as he doesn’t differentiate between the quotations, has been compared to James Joyce’s in ULYSSES. I’m so glad I persevered with it though. Perseverance brings its own rewards.

It’s the story of Franz Biberkopf, a working-class man who, when we meet him first, is just being released from Tegel prison after a four-year stretch for manslaughter. He has battered his live-in girlfriend to death with a kitchen implement (that’s not as humorous as it sounds…!), thinking that she was about to leave him.

Now he’s done his time and you’d think he’d be glad to be free, but poor Franz is disorientated, discombobulated and generally all of a flutter to be at liberty once more to come and go as he pleases.

I say ‘poor Franz’ because he’s such a likeable character from the start. He’s an Everyman, as it were, an ordinary working stiff who’s had a bit of bad luck, you might say. I’d say it was very bad luck for the woman he killed, but how-and-ever…!

His first experiences as a free man are worthy of note. A ginger-haired and ginger-bearded Jewish man who helps him up when he falls down in the street tries to tell him a story, some sort of parable maybe, and Franz later refers to this man and his Jewish companions as friends of his.

In only a very few years time, of course, Hitler will have come to power and Jewish people such as this man will find their rights to walk freely on the public streets severely curtailed. For now, however, the bewildered Franz is probably just grateful for the human contact, for the chance to ‘ground’ himself once more on the Jewish guys’ sitting-room floor.

Shortly after getting out of Tegel, Franz goes to visit a middle-aged but still attractive blonde woman called Minna whom he knows from before. Once he’s established that she’s alone in her apartment, he rapes her and gives her a black eye and some finger-marks around her throat as well, for good measure. This is how Franz likes his sex, by the way, rough and ready.

We see that Franz later compensates her for the rape by bringing her some aprons to replace the one he apparently messed up. We also discover that this woman, Minna, is the- probably older- sister of the poor unfortunate Ida. The women of that family have surely been sorely wronged by Franz Biberkopf.

So much, anyway, for his fervent promises to only ‘go straight’ from now on. Of course, in his mind, that probably just means going straight in a business sense. It clearly doesn’t include sexual battery, which Franz may not even consider to be a crime at all.

Franz seems to find it ridiculously easy to pick up women. He’s not described as being particularly good-looking, but he’s big and burly, confident and obviously an alpha male type, to whom any broken or damaged women will flock like z-list ‘celebrities’ to the opening of an envelope.

Speaking of which, Franz quickly finds himself a live-in girlfriend in Lina, a nervous Polish woman who almost certainly has a troubled past and some kind of inner sadness. She regards herself as being in the Last Chance Saloon when it comes to bagging a man, and is pathetically grateful for Franz’s attentions. The relationship doesn’t last, however.

Before Lina exits stage left forever, though, she introduces Franz to a family friend called Otto Luders. Franz and Luders go into the business of selling shoelaces together door-to-door in the big old blocks of apartments near the titular Alexanderplatz.

It’s not a great job, obviously, that of door-to-door shoelace salesman, but good honest work in Germany at that time was hard to come by. The country was by then in the grip of a massive depression. The words ‘unemployment’ and ‘inflation’ are synonymous with the Germany of the day.

That’s one of the reasons Hitler and the Nazi party were able to grab power in 1933. They saw what was happening in the country and they promised the voters ‘Arbeit Und Brot,’ or work and bread, which was all that men like Franz were asking for.

By this stage, Hitler had already written his notorious book MEIN KAMPF and been released from Landsburg Prison for his part in the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. Both the SA (Sturm Abteilung) and the SS (Schutz Staffeinel) had been formed by this stage and Joseph Goebbels already had responsibility for Propaganda within the growing Nazi Party. Within five short years, Hitler would be Chancellor of Germany and the rest, as they say, would be history.

Luders and Franz have a major falling-out, anyway, which leaves Franz shaken and down one business partnership. Then, out of the blue, the despondent Franz is offered a job by a man in a pub. Isn’t that the way it so often happens? The man in the pub is satisfied, for his part, that Franz is a ‘true German.’ ‘Germany for the Germans,’ after all, and none of your Commie Reds or Jews or any of that. Hmmm.

So, what exactly is this new job? Franz is now the latest street vendor, if you please, of the VOLKISCHE BEOBACHTER, a real-life anti-Semitic newspaper. It was the official newspaper of the NSDAP or Nazi party from 1920 until 1945. On his first day of work, Franz is presented with the armband he’s meant to wear while he’s working. On the armband is a swastika…

This job doesn’t last long. Franz is once more on the unemployment line with about half the men of Germany for company. He devotes his time to boozing and engaging in complicated affairs with women, who are irresistibly drawn to Franz’s big, strong rough-and-ready maleness. His ex-girlfriend Eva, with whom he still remains ‘friends with benefits’ and for whom he used to pimp, offers Franz sexual, financial and emotional support whenever it’s needed. It’s well for some.

When Franz finally comes out of the drunken stupor into which he falls after the Luders fiasco, he meets an ugly poisonous man in the pub (where else?) called Reinhold. Reinhold is a cowardly shit who persuades Franz to take first one, then another, of his own mistresses off his hands because he’s tired of them and doesn’t want the hassle of breaking up with them himself, if you can believe that.

Franz is happy to oblige and has many a happy hour getting the most out of the two comely enough exes, Franze and Cilly, before Cilly (Cilly by name and silly by nature, huh?) ends up back with the odious Reinhold. Well, she’s a grown woman. She can make her own decisions. And her own mistakes…

Another consequence of Franz’s ill-fated association with Reinhold costs him dearly. Reinhold is a gangster whose boss, Pums, takes a liking to Franz and involves him in a ‘job’ they’re pulling off. Franz isn’t much cop at being the gang’s ‘lookout’ and he loses his right arm when he’s pushed out of a moving car by Reinhold during the burglary they’re carrying out.

Franz, the big cheery ‘hail fellow well met’ character who always tries to bounce back when he’s down, makes jokes about his amputated arm but we get the impression he’s not as okay about the loss of it as he makes out. Well, how could he be?

He probably feels like half a man now, working at shit jobs like being a carousel barker (he’d be the guy who shouts ‘roll up, roll up!’ and gets people into/onto the attraction) that don’t require a man to have two arms. He spends a lot of time moping around his apartment with only his faithful prostitute-lover Eva and her boyfriend/john/ pimp Herbert for company.

And there’s always the booze. Franz and the booze go back a long way. Now he’s talking to it like it’s an old friend which, in a way, it is. Franz, no longer a young man and now he’s physically disabled to boot, is clearly lacking direction. 

He meets a sneaky little crook called Willy in the pub (that’s where he meets everyone!) and decides to join with him in his dirty little stolen goods business. Wanna buy a watch? You know the type of thing. Franz obviously feels it’s about all he’s able for at the moment, with just the one arm. Talk about a slippery slope, though.

Whatever happened to the oath he swore when he came out of prison to only ever go straight again? It looks like Franz feels like there’s not much point in keeping his oath anymore. Going straight is for schmucks, right? Guy never got rich going straight.

We know ourselves that there’s more to life than getting rich but maybe Franz is tired of being dirt-poor, one of those Between-The-Wars forgotten men. We don’t know anything much about Franz’s record in World War One but we do get to read about the hilarious moment when he decides to buy an Iron Cross replica to account to people for his missing arm, the cheeky liar…!

Franz is on the verge of another life-changing moment but he doesn’t know it yet. Eva thinks he needs a new woman to raise his spirits, among other things, lol. The resourceful Eva’s already found someone she deems suitable, although why she’s fixing Franz up with someone who might be a threat to herself, Eva, is a mystery to me.

Her gift to Franz is a beautiful, shy much younger woman called Sonia, whom Franz christens ‘Mieze.’ He falls for her immediately because of her looks and her sweet, gentle disposition. She falls for him too, though he’s at least twenty, twenty-five years older than her.

She’s clearly looking for a father figure- she even dresses like a little girl and talks like a little girl and wears little-girly pink ribbons in her hair- and there’s no need to analyse why an older man is attracted to a beautiful younger woman. They go for walks in the woods together and she buys him a canary. It’s love all right.

The money Mieze makes from working as a prostitute certainly comes in handy. She immediately accepts Franz as her new pimp. Why should Franz work when he has Mieze’s earnings? Why indeed? He’s a very liberal man when it comes to sharing his woman around. However, it would appear that even Franz Biberkopf has his limits.

Mieze is being paid for sex by a rich older man and Franz has no problem whatsoever with that because the money she makes goes to him. When Mieze is daft enough to admit her attraction towards the rich older man’s good-looking young nephew, however, Franz proves that he’s still a big man by beating the living daylights out of her with his one remaining hand and choking her half to death. Shades of Ida…

Mieze is spared Ida’s fate by the intervention of the odious Reinhold, who is suspiciously close at hand that very night. After the savage beating, Franz expresses guilt and shame- only verbally, mind you- and a loving Mieze forgives him immediately. She pours oil on the troubled waters and smooths everything over with her customary docility.

I personally think that she has deeply masochistic tendencies. She doesn’t react at all like you’d expect a battered woman to react after an assault. Instead, her beatific, almost martyr-like manner as she holds ‘her Franz’ to her again tells us a lot about Mieze, who’s even allowed Franz to change her name, a deeply personal thing about her, from Sonia to Mieze.

I think her behaviour tells us that she’s severely damaged after her upbringing and her life as a prostitute, which can’t all have been plain sailing and rich benefactors. I also think it tells us that she won’t live to see forty, the way she’s going. Will she die at Franz’s hands, a death I could swear she’d almost relish, or does the fickle finger of Fate have something else in mind for her? Let’s move swiftly on…

Franz who, by the way, bears no ill-will against Reinhold for the whole amputated arm thing, makes the mistake of formally introducing Mieze to his partners-in-crime, including Reinhold, down at the bar where they all hang out.

She has an instantaneous powerful effect on Franz’s old friend Meck, who thinks her beautiful, and also on Reinhold, whom she’s met once before but not formally, that is, when he was pulling her out from under Franz before Franz killed her the way he did Ida.

Meck and Reinhold both think that she’s much too good for Franz, and they’re each jealous that Franz has managed to pull such a pretty young thing who’s clearly devoted to him. The spiteful, if not downright evil, Reinhold is determined that he’ll get his mucky paws on the lovely Mieze’s body, and before too much more time has elapsed.

He sneakily orchestrates some alone time for himself and Mieze, all behind Franz’s back, of course. Why doesn’t he just ask Franz straight out if he can sleep with the girl for a few Deutschmarks? After all, Franz doesn’t mind pimping her out for a few quid.

Reinhold takes her to the Freienwalde, the forest in the gorgeous rural area where she is accustomed to sometimes walk with her beloved Franz. Poor silly Mieze’s fate is immediately sealed. What happens to her at Reinhold’s hands is sad, grubby and shockingly inevitable, given her profession, her damaged psyche and her vulnerability.

When Franz finds out, he goes temporarily insane and is taken to Buch Mental Hospital, where he is force-fed by doctors who are stumped by his insanity and intent on keeping him alive to face the hangman’s noose if it turns out that Franz is responsible for what happened to Mieze, as the police seem to think.

If only Franz had broken from the disgusting evil Reinhold, the snake in the grass who not only cost Franz his arm but who has now taken away from Franz, his so-called friend, the only precious thing Franz had left in his life.

If only Franz had had the strength to sever the unhealthy, unholy alliance between himself and the dangerous criminal Reinhold. Will he ever see that Reinhold has feet of clay and is perhaps the worst thing that’s ever happened to him? Reinhold, Pums, the whole gang, it’s all poisonous and polluted. It was a bad day for Franz Biberkopf when he fell in with them.

Will the odious Reinhold ever pay for his crimes? And can Franz ever rise again after this latest body-blow sees him come face-to-face with Death Himself? Well, that, folks, is the sixty-four-million dollar question. Read Dőblin’s wonderful masterpiece of the Weimar Republic for yourself and find out.

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