POSSESSED. (1947) A FANTASTIC FILM NOIR REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

POSSESSED. (1947) BASED ON A STORY BY RITA WEIMAN. DIRECTED BY CURTIS BERNHARDT. STARRING JOAN CRAWFORD, VAN HEFLIN, RAYMOND MASSEY AND GERALDINE BROOKS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love Joan Crawford, she of the fur coats with the wide shoulders and the imposing eyebrows. She’s every bit as good an actress as Bette Davis, her one-time screen rival and her co-star in one of the best psychological horror films of all time, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962).

Maybe more people have a soft spot for Bette Davis than they do for Joan Crawford, though, and I suppose the film MOMMIE DEAREST (1981), about Joan’s alleged mistreatment of her children and especially her daughter Christina, didn’t do the lady any favours. I still love her work though. She really was an incredible actress, a true star in an era when that word truly meant something.

POSSESSED is my favourite Joanie film ever, after BABY JANE. Maybe it shouldn’t be, lol, because it reminds me painfully of every instance in which I ever tried to cling on to a guy who was just looking for no-strings-attached fun ‘n’ games and not a commitment for life, but it’s just such an excellent film noir that I can’t help loving it.

Still, I think we women like to watch films in which other women make the same cringeworthy mistakes we’ve already made a million times over in our own lives. It makes us feel better about ourselves, heh-heh-heh. I love watching FATAL ATTRACTION and feeling as virtuous as hell because I never went as far as boiling some guy’s bunny to pay him back for his nonsense…!

Joan’s character Louise Howell makes a lot of mistakes in this film. She’s completely obsessed with Van Heflin’s character, talented engineer David Sutton, even though David’s had his fun and now he wants to move on. The bastard…! Ooops, sorry. I promised myself I’d keep calm while writing this review and not get annoyed all over again at the cavalier ways of the male sex.

David is Louise’s lover initially, though we’re not sure for how long they’ve been together. But she says the maddest things to him, the kind of things guaranteed to send a man running for the hills. Things like, Oh, I never truly felt any emotions in life until I met you, David, and Don’t ever leave me, David, I can’t go back to being on the outside of other people’s lives, looking in!

No wonder David is a bit iffy about the whole thing. She dumps all the responsibility for her own happiness squarely on his shoulders, because she doesn’t realise that she’s actually responsible for her own happiness, and not David. It’s a hard lesson for anyone to have to learn, and sometimes we go through life without ever learning it properly.

Is David really as much a villain as he appears? He enjoys the fun and games of the relationship at first, but when Louise becomes too clingy, he tells her honestly that he doesn’t want it and he can’t handle it and he’s bailing out.

It’s hard to hear and it hurts like hell, but at least he’s being straight with her. It’s his right to bow out of the relationship if he wants to, even if it breaks Louise’s heart. It’s only when Louise refuses to let him go that he turns into the wise-cracking, heart-breaking bastard we see later on in the film.

The story moves on, and Louise, a private nurse, has married her rich employer, Dean Graham, whose deceased invalid wife was Louise’s patient. At their wedding, David meets Dean’s beautiful college-age daughter, Carol, and there’s a mutual attraction between them. Not surprisingly, as Carol, played by the actress Geraldine Brooks, resembles no-one so much as a baby Gilda, the role made famous by the stunning Rita Hayworth.

David, in this instance, should probably walk away, knowing that his affair with Carol is bound to cause Louise pain. But he doesn’t, and it does cause Louise, the second Mrs. Graham, the most terrible emotional pain imaginable.

Louise goes through agonies of jealousy and rage, and she even starts to hallucinate that her husband’s dead wife, her former patient, Pauline, is talking to her and urging her to kill herself. There are some fantastically spooky, very dark and shadowy scenes cast almost in the German Expressionism mould in which Louise hangs on to her sanity by the merest thread.

Shades of Alfred Hitchcock’s REBECCA (1940) abound here, as in the dead first wife in the water, the inquest held in an informal local setting rather than in a grand courtroom somewhere, and the rich man’s wife going under a false name to see a doctor who’s not her usual physician, because she wishes to keep her visit, and possible condition, a secret from her husband.

Raymond Massey (THE OLD DARK HOUSE, A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH) does a brilliant job, by the way, as Louise’s rich husband. It heartens the soul to see how much he loves her and is prepared to side with her, especially at the end.

Anyway, Louise’s steadfast inability to relinquish her hold on David causes nothing but agonies for Louise herself and the people around her. She winds up in a hospital bed miles from home in a strange city, telling her tragic story to a bunch of medics, medics who, by the way, make some pretty alarming snap diagnoses for conditions that I’m sure would require a battery of complicated tests today, but hey, it was the ‘Forties and it was a movie. There’s probably no point in my being too nit-picky…!

This is a truly marvellous film, as I said earlier. Women will certainly love it and even guys will too, if they love classic movies from the days of the big studios when a film was called a ‘picture’ and a real star made some of the so-called ‘celebrities’ of today look like total nobodies. Miaow…! Sorry about that, lol.

Women in particular should watch POSSESSED if they’ve ever felt inclined to do a Glenn Close on some guy’s beloved Mr. Floppy Ears or Fluffy Tail. It’s a cautionary tale that (hopefully) should keep you well away from the bunny- hutch…

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.

KWAIDAN. (1965) A STUNNING JAPANESE ANTHOLOGY HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

kwaidan

KWAIDAN. (1965) BASED ON THE STORIES OF PATRICK LAFCADIO HEARN. DIRECTED BY MASAKI KOBAYASHI.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a magnificently-coloured supernatural fantasy anthology film, beautifully photographed entirely on handpainted sets. Based on the ghost stories/Japanese folk tales of Lafcadio Hearn, an Irish-Greek American writer who adored Japan and who settled there permanently in 1889, the four stories feature ghosts who were once human beings, wraiths, phantasms, demons (who were never human to begin with) and the terrified Earth-folks on which they preyed.

THE BLACK HAIR tells the story of a bloke who’s married to the most beautiful, loving, faithful hard-working woman he could ever hope to meet, and yet, because they’re poor and the whole village in which they live is poor, he allows his greed and ambition to get the better of him. He leaves his wife in search of richer pickings.

He gets his wish, anyway. He finds a rich wife and a fancier lifestyle in another town, but his new young wife is spoilt and selfish, and the man finds himself yearning for the loving good nature and undying devotion of his first wife. He decides to go back to her. He makes the long trek back to his village, only to find things not quite as he left them. ‘Undying’ is right…

THE WOMAN OF THE SNOW sees a young man witnessing the strange murder of a friend one freezing cold, snowy night in winter. The murderer lets him go free, probably because he’s young and handsome, on the strict proviso that he never, ever breathes a word of what he’s seen to another living soul. Fair enough. The guy goes forth to live his life.

Ten years later, he has a good living making shoes, he has three happy children and a beautiful, loving wife who never seems to age, no matter how many children they have or how hard they have to work. One night while she’s trying on some rather snazzy sandals he’s made for her, he catches a sudden, shocking glimpse of someone he thought never to see again…

HOICHI THE EARLESS is the longest and probably the saddest and most gorgeously-photographed of all the vignettes. It begins with a terrific battle between two clans of ancient Japan, the Heike and the Genji. The Heike lose the battle, and huge numbers of the clan are drowned or commit suicide in the sea that runs red with their blood.

The sea where the tragic battle was fought and so many Heike perished has been haunted ever since. Ships that sailed that sea afterwards and swimmers who sought recreation in it were pulled to their deaths by the vengeful spirits, who clearly want everyone they come across to be as miserable and restless as they are themselves.

To appease the spirits, a Buddhist temple was established near the beach, and a cemetery also, containing monuments inscribed with the names of the drowned infant emperor and his many dead vassals.

Time passes, and a gentle, blind young man called Hoichi comes to live at the Buddhist temple, under the care of the monks. He is extremely skilled at playing a stringed instrument called the biwa, and he is particularly masterful at reciting stories and poems about the great battle between the Heike and the Genji.

So much so that, one misty night, the ghost of a long-dead Samurai comes to visit Hoichi at the temple and tells him that his masters require the presence of the blind biwa-player at their palace.

They are keen to hear his wonderful recitations of the epic battle story and all the songs and poems that go with it. Hoichi, as always anxious to please, agrees immediately and goes with the Samurai willingly…

IN A CUP OF TEA is a rather strange story about a man who finds that it is not always prudent to try to fight a man whose image you first encounter… you guessed it… in a cup of tea!

This last one feels somewhat unfinished, and is probably the weakest link in an anthology that still remains one of the most breath-takingly beautiful things to come out of Japan. And that’s saying something, considering how many weird and wonderful things have come out of Japan since the dawn of time.

I hope you get to watch this film, which, by the way, clocks in at a whopping three hours and three minutes long, and which contains one brief flash of bare boobs. In fact, now that we’re in lockdown and have, supposedly, all the time in the world in which to amuse ourselves, this might be the ideal time to do it. Enjoy it, and stay safe, y’all!

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

BLACK SUNDAY aka THE MASK OF SATAN. (1960) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

black sunday

BLACK SUNDAY, aka THE MASK OF SATAN. (1960) DIRECTED BY MARIO BAVA. LOOSELY BASED ON THE SHORT STORY ‘VIY’ BY NIKOLAI GOGOL.

STARRING BARBARA STEELE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This Italian horror movie is the most magnificently gothic film you could ever watch. The scenery and settings are as eerily, dustily gothic as you could possibly wish for, and scream queen Barbara Steele is infinitely watchable as the two lead characters. (She plays a dual role here.) It made stars out of both Steele and Mario Bava, the Italian director.

Steele’s face and figure are exquisite, her hands beautiful, slender and expressive, but that face! The camera is right to focus on it for much of the movie. Close-up, she really is the most striking creature to ever draw breath. Surely no actress has ever played a gothic princess quite so perfectly.

Here, she does a brilliant job of portraying the poor doomed Princess Asa, sister of the ruler of Moldavia, a European kingdom in the seventeenth century, about 1630, to be exact. Her horrible brother, Prince Vajda, has condemned her and her manservant Javutich to death for supposedly being witches, vampires and cohorts of Satan (I accidentally typed ‘cohorts of Stan’ there by accident, which is much less menacing…!)

The first five minutes of the film show Asa’s agonising death. The scene is so controversial that the film was banned in England till 1968. It shocked the living daylights out of me when I saw it first, especially the bit with the enormous executioner-type guy wielding the heavy mallet…! Repeat viewings showed me clearly that the scene has lost none of its power to shock, just because sixty years have elapsed.

I won’t describe the death here; it’s just too gruesome. My sympathies are entirely with the poor persecuted Asa, who curses her brother and all his descendants, not just for three months (a joke from The Simpsons), but for all eternity.

Then the action moves to two hundred years later, in the same God-forsaken kingdom of Moldavia. Two doctors are on their way to a medical conference when their carriage breaks down outside the tomb of Princess Asa, the witch.

They are fascinated to see her face, still covered by the mask of Satan, and the older doctor, Choma Kruvajan, makes the mistake of allowing the blood from a cut on his hand to drip onto the witch’s face, an action which we just know will bring the vengeful witch back to life. Well, if it was good enough for Hammer’s Dracula…!

The handsome younger doctor, Andrej Gorobec, falls head-over-heels in love with Princess Katia of the House of Vajda, the descendant of Asa who also happens to be a dead ringer for the deceased witch.

Katia’s haunting beauty and the air of sadness that envelops her like a cloud of Chanel No.5 draw Andrej to her like a fly to an open jam pot. But is now a good time to be wooing a princess of the doomed House of Vajda, especially given that Asa and her servant Javutich are back and baying for blood…? On his own head be it, then…

The crypt and castle here are the best and most atmospheric I’ve ever seen in a gothic movie. The monochromatic black-and-white is eminently suitable to the fearful tone of the film. Dread and terror are in the air, and no-one is exempt, not Katia, not her brother Constantine and not her father Vajda or her new lover, Andrej. Beware the mask of Stan. There, you see? I’ve done it again. Beware the mask of Satan, I meant to say. It’s like the mask of Stan, only deadlier…

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

 

INSIDE. (2007) A GORY FRENCH EXTREMITY HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

inside bathroom

INSIDE. (2007) A FILM BY JULIEN MAURY AND ALEXANDRE BUSTILLO. STARRING BEATRICE DALLE AND ALYSSON PARADIS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Ralph: Do you like French cinema at all, Ted?

Ted: I wouldn’t know about that now, surr.

Ted and Ralph, The Fast Show.

This is a very pointy, stabby film in the genre known as ‘French extremity.’ Well, it’s both these things all right, French and extreme, and I don’t mind telling you right away that it’s much too extreme for me. It’s nothing but stabbing and blood, blood, blood. I don’t mind a bit of blood but this film is all blood. And stabbing. With big sharp scissors mostly, but also with anything that you can make a pointy shiv out of and stab with.

‘Extreme’ in this case just seems to mean lashings, and I do mean lashings, of body horror, gore, blood and, occasionally, guts. It’s the most blood-soaked film I think I’ve ever watched, and I once watched a film on giving birth in my pre-natal classes. Put me right off giving birth, it did, but by that stage it was too late to reverse the process that was already well under way in my uterus.

I like a nice psychological or supernatural horror, for example, where a family moves into a lovely new house and then they find out they’re sharing it with the Amityville Horror. Stuff like that, or where a woman is pregnant but then she discovers that she was unknowingly raped by Satan on a night out where she can’t remember a smidgeon of what happened, and the baby she’s carrying is actually slated to be the next Anti-Christ, stuff like that. That’s what I like.

Some of my favourite horror films, like BURNT OFFERINGS or THE CHANGELING, both about haunted houses, don’t have any blood in them at all and no-one gets stabbed. That’s what I prefer. I think what happened with INSIDE is that the film-makers decided that they were going to make the film as ‘extreme’ as they could to garner good reviews and plenty of attention, but the only way they could think to do that was to put a ton of blood and gore in it. Gore to me equals bore.

This home invasion film actually did get a load of positive reviews, probably from people who thought, oh wow, there’s so much blood and stabbing in this film that it must be great! Hmmm. I’m not saying the film isn’t well-written and executed (no pun intended), in fact it’s extremely well-scripted and acted, but I still didn’t like it because of all the gratuitous stabby, shooty killings.

Here’s the plot, anyway. A sulky, mopey French photographer woman called Sarah is due to give birth and, on Christmas Eve of all nights, her home is invaded by a mysterious madwoman about whom we know nothing, except that she’s beautiful in an odd, off-kilter way, she’s come impractically dressed for stabbing in an over-long black, trippy-uppy dress and her weapon of choice is a big scary pair of scissors.

She’s come, not so much for Sarah, but for the package Sarah is due to deliver any time now… the baby. The home becomes a place of terror (and the film’s title takes on a sinister double meaning) as this un-named madwoman rampages through the house trying to catch a petrified Sarah who, mopey or not, is not about to give up her bambino without one hell of a fight. That’s the maternal instinct right there, fighting for survival.

The cops come (all big, burly and extremely attractive), and a random criminal called Abdul, who all have to be dealt with by the mysterious crazy lady. The bodies pile up and the blood flows freely as Sarah’s baby, of whom we’re given distressing little 3-D snapshots from time to time, comes ever closer to being born.

Sarah, incidentally, if you like a little bit of showbiz gossip, is played by the younger sister of Vanessa Paradis, the French actress and one-time child pop star (Remember Joe Le Taxi?) who has two children by her ex-partner Johnny Depp. These are all very, very good-looking people we’re talking about here. Showbiz good-looking, I mean, not just regular good-looking. We peasants are not fit to grace their radars, even as temporary blips. Remember that, peasants. Lol. 

It’s a really good plot, the plot of INSIDE, well acted and everything, but the amount of gore in the film means that it’s just not for me, not my cup of tea. Each to their own, though. Someone else might love it, depending on their tolerance for blood and stabbings. Check it out, anyway, see what you think. Me, personally, I won’t be going anywhere near this one again. Did I mention it has way too much blood…?

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 BLACK CAT. (1934) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

black cat skinning

THE BLACK CAT. (1934) FROM THE STORY BY EDGAR ALLAN POE. DIRECTED BY EDGAR G. ULMER. PRODUCED BY CARL LAEMMLE, JR. DISTRIBUTED BY UNIVERSAL PICTURES.

STARRING BELA LUGOSI, BORIS KARLOFF, DAVID MANNERS, JULIE BISHOP, LUCILLE LUND, EGON BRECHER AND HARRY CORDING.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This excellent old vintage horror classic has the distinction of being the first film ever to pair Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff together, so it’s a real case of Dracula versus the Mummy, isn’t? My money’s on the Fanged One rather than Mr. Bandages over there, but you never quite know how these things will pan out, do you?

The story begins on a train. American newly-weds Peter (a mystery writer, ironically enough) and Joan Allison are honeymooning in Hungary when they are asked to share their train compartment with a stranger, a handsome and charming Hungarian psychiatrist with an exotic accent by the name of Dr. Vitus Werdegast (Bela Lugosi). They’re put out, naturally, as they wanted to be alone, but graciously invite Dr. Werdegast to sit with them nonetheless.

Dr. Werdegast is not just a stranger, but also a strangely intense man with a dark past. He reveals some of it to Peter while Peter’s wife Joan is asleep. She’s every inch the early ‘Thirties starlet, by the way, this one, and she spends most of the film screeching in fear at everything she sees and swooning elegantly into the arms of the nearest man.

Peter is obviously the love of her life and he shouldn’t have any trouble whatsoever controlling this docile, biddable little woman. I imagine he’d only slap her as a result of extreme provocation and not as a matter of course, which is always nice to know.

Anyway, I digressed there, lol. Vitus, who’s en route to visit a friend, as yet un-named, reveals to Peter that he has spent the best years of his life rotting away in a horrible prison in Siberia.

He was captured as a POW during the Great War of 1914-1918 and incarcerated for nearly two whole decades, thanks to the betrayal of a friend. His physical body may have survived the ordeal but his soul is in pieces, such was the horror of the place. His eyes are haunted with the memory of it all, and maybe other memories too that we don’t yet know about.

The young couple and Vitus and his wordless servant Thamal seem to be travelling in the same direction, so they all opt to share a carriage. In the lashing rain, however, the carriage overturns in a mudslide.

The driver is killed and Mrs. Allison, the frail little flower-petal, is injured a tiny bit. Vitus says, well, the friend’s house that I’m going to visit is just up the road a piece, come with me and my friend will fix us all up. So that’s what they do…

The ‘friend’ isn’t really a friend at all but Vitus’s worst enemy, the man whose terrible betrayal led to Vitus’s imprisonment for so long. Boris Karloff plays Hjalmar Poelzig, or ‘Pigslowe,’ if you prefer. Just ask Mrs. Allison. She knows what I mean!

Anyway, Poelzig is an architect who has built a very strange, rather futuristic-looking house in a mountainy region on top of Fort Marmarus, which he commanded during the war. Dr. Werdegast was one of his men.

The odd-looking house is surrounded by the graves of hundreds of soldiers who died in the war. It’s a weird, mysterious and atmospheric place, and the perfect location for the dark events that are about to play out there.

Causing Vitus to be imprisoned for so long is only half of what this sinister Poelzig fella has done to poor Vitus. There’s at least one woman in Poelzig’s household who can testify to just what wrongs have been done to her and Vitus and one other party, who shall remain nameless. Vitus is here to revenge himself on Poelzig, but not until the very end of the film does he know to what extent Poelzig has wronged him.

There’s a supernatural element to the film, of course, as Poelzig is involved in some very dodgy practices with their basis in the occult. Mrs. Allison is in grave danger, as Poelzig has decided he likes the look of her and wants to use her in an upcoming ritual. Well, if he needs a bird who can do little else but squawk and swoon into the arms of the nearest bloke, she’ll do just fine.

There is a black cat in the film but he seems to be there only to give Boris the chance to remark sarcastically to a bemused Peter Allison that Bela has a terrible fear of cats. It’s not really integral to the plot.

However, a lot of these old movies liked to be able to say at the beginning of the credits that the movie was inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, whereas in reality the connecting link was often quite tenuous, as it is here. Still, Poe was a popular fellow and, if his name got butts-on-seats, the producers were prepared to use it, see?

The handsome, suave and still young Bela isn’t the villain as such in this one, oddly enough. He wants to avenge himself against the evil Poelzig who is the real villain but, not only that, he’s taken a liking to the pleasant young couple who invited him to share their train compartment and they like him well enough too. (Even though the husband caught Bela stroking the wife’s hair while she was asleep, lol!)

He’s damned if he’s going to let the dastardly Poelzig and his queer V-shaped futuristic hairstyle ruin the young couples’ lives by taking the wife to use as a pawn in his deadly Satanic ritual. The stage is set for a terrific battle of wits between Bela and Boris which might just end in a big bang for someone, but we won’t of course say who. Or is it whom?

Either way, this film is a marvellous watch, with up-tempo classical music playing throughout just as if this were a silent film. Bela is wearing dark lippy and Boris is fully made-up in the style of the stars of silent cinema.

We’re only four years into the talkies by this stage, remember, so the film still retains the look and feel of a silent movie. Luckily for us, though, it’s a talkie and so we get to hear Boris’s charming lithp and Bela talking in his wonderful Dracula voice, which was actually his real accent.

Pre-Code but not, I believe, by much, the film features Satanism, the occult and the skinning alive of a human being and it also hints at abduction, necrophilia, rape and domestic abuse. For a film from the ‘Thirties that’s so old as to be almost a silent movie, it really kicks some serious ass.

What a delicious treat this old black-and-white movie is. It’s only one of a handful of films that were all released with the same title, lol, which must have been terribly confusing for the poor flummoxed viewer. Just how many movies called ‘The Black Cat’ were filmed, anyway? Never mind, dear reader. We don’t need to know. Maybe, as Bela himself remarks in the film, there are more things in heaven and earth…

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

HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER. (1973) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

high-plains-drifter-2

HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER. 1973. DIRECTED BY CLINT EASTWOOD. WRITTEN BY ERNEST TIDYMAN. MUSIC BY DEE BARTON. CINEMATOGRAPHY BY BRUCE SURTEES.

STARRING CLINT EASTWOOD, VERNA BLOOM, MARIANA HILL, BILLY CURTIS, STEFAN GIERASCH AND GEOFFREY LEWIS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I love my Westerns, spaghetti or otherwise. This film was shot in California but was heavily influenced by Clint Eastwood’s regular collaborator, Sergio Leone, he of decidedly spaghetti western fame.

Thanks to Leone’s DOLLARS trilogy (A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY), Clint Eastwood was already an international cinema star with his own film production company, the Malpaso Company, by the time he made HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER.

It’s an excellent and entertaining revenge Western with a possible bit of a ghost story thrown in. No-one plays a Mysterious Stranger Who Rides Into Town And Does A Bunch Of Macho Stuff like Clint Eastwood does, and in this film he’s possibly at his most mysterious and macho, or at least the most so that I’ve ever seen him.

His ‘Man With No Name’ character was already well established by now. Clint had played him in each of the DOLLARS trilogy. Though he was given nicknames like ‘Joe’ or ‘Blondie’ or even ‘Boy’ in the trilogy, he essentially remained formally nameless and without an identity or back story.

We may find out the back story of characters like Colonel Douglas Mortimer (FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) or Tuco the Bandit (THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY) but Clint’s character remains an enigma. He’s the ultimate Mystery Man, A Man Without A Past. We know nothing of his past or possible future, only his present.

Anyway, in HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER, Clint, again nameless, arrives in the tiny seaside mining town of Lago and immediately starts stirring things up big-time, putting the townspeoples’ backs up and having forced- or is it…?- sexual congress with what can only be described as… ahem… the town slut.

Within his first few minutes of landing in Lago, he shoots three men dead in self-defence and rapes a beautiful local woman called Callie Travers who deliberately singles him out and starts an argument with him. He decides to ‘teach her some manners’ by dragging her into a nearby barn and raping her. That’ll learn her, lol.

You see, I think she’s seeking out Clint’s attentions on purpose on account of he’s the best-looking man to arrive in Lago in many a day. And she looks like she’s enjoying herself to me. Sure, she cries ‘rape’ afterwards to save face but later in the film she joins Clint for dinner and goes to bed with him willingly, openly this time.

Of course, the feminists and the ‘me too’ brigade would be up in arms if such a thing happened in a film today but, back then, stuff like that happened all the time and no-one batted an eyelid.

Just like no-one bats an eyelid in Lago when Callie Travers runs around screaming ‘Rape! Rape!’ after the event in the barn. Some of the townspeople might even decide that that slut Callie got what was coming to her.

I’m a woman and I enjoy watching that scene and find it exciting. I don’t think it means I want to be dragged down a dark alley by a knife-wielding stranger and violated. I just think that Clint Eastwood was one of the handsomest film stars of all time and it’s exciting to watch him having rough sex with a woman in the rather Neanderthal style of the time, that’s all. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, lol.

Anyway, it turns out that the people of Lago need the super-tough, enigmatic Stranger a ‘hell’ of a lot more than he needs them. (See what I did there?) They need him, in fact, to protect them from a trio of lowlifes who are being released from prison in the near future and who are expected to be gunning for the people of Lago who’ve previously double-crossed them in a deal.

The deal apparently involved a previous Marshal of the town called Jim Duncan who, when he became a painful inconvenience to the townspeople, was bull-whipped to death on the main street of Lago by Stacey Bridges (Geoffrey Lewis, the grave-digger from SALEM’S LOT) and the Carlin brothers, Dan and Cole, the trio of degenerates.

Well, I suppose that in prison you have a lot of time to think, and it seems like most screen villains don’t waste a minute repenting of their sins and former lifestyles but only entertain thoughts of revenge. Fantasising about vengeance against the person or people who put them in jail is what gets them through their sentence. 

So now the trio of gurriers- that’s what we call lowlifes in Ireland- are riding to Lago to revenge themselves on the townspeople, who have plenty on their consciences themselves. They stood by and did nothing while a man, a fellow human being, endured an agonising death at the hands- and whips- of the three thugs. How can they live with themselves after what they did? A little too easily, it seems to me. 

The Stranger decides to stay and help out the undeserving citizens of Lago when the townspeople promise him that he can have anything he wants, free, gratis and for nothing, from any of the establishments in Lago.

He makes good use of their offer, partaking liberally of free wine and steak dinners while enjoying the willing company of Callie Travers, the blonde woman he ‘raped’ when he first landed in Lago. It’s not a terribly politically correct film, but then again, it probably wasn’t a terribly politically correct era for film-making, as we’ve already discussed.

The Stranger also has sexual congress with Verna Bloom as Sarah Belding, an unhappily married woman who at first appears to resist the Stranger’s advances but who then capitulates to his stubbly and no doubt ever-so-slightly malodorous charms.

Her husband, the hotel-keeper, is so useless and lily-livered that he stands by like a mouse and does nothing when he thinks that his wife, whom he presumably promised to love, honour and cherish till death do them part, is about to be raped by Clint. He doesn’t deserve a good strong woman like Sarah, the only person in the whole miserable town of Lago to speak out against the horribly inhumane death of Marshall Duncan.

The Stranger, aided and abetted by a dwarf called Mordecai, the only person he troubles to befriend in Lago and whom he has ‘promoted’ to the twin roles of Marshal and Mayor, wreaks havoc in Lago.

He forces the townspeople to paint every building in town bright red and paints the word ‘HELL’ over the town sign as an ominous welcome to the little gang of hoodlums. He trashes the town completely in the name of ‘helping’ them, and I think it’s because he figures they deserve it. They got away scot-free after the death of Jim Duncan, after all.

Anyway, the three lads eventually turn up and start shooting up the town but it’s not too long before Clint, at his enigmatic best, dishes out some good old-fashioned Wild West retribution with a little whip-action of his own.

“So, you guys all like whipping then, do you…?” he so easily could have said, though he doesn’t. “Well then, me buckos, let’s see how you like THIS…” Whip crack away, whip crack away, whip crack a-WAAAAAY and so on and so forth…

I love the character of the cowardly sheriff because he openly admits that he only got the badge by sort of default when Jim Duncan died. (That’s how Police Chief Wiggum in THE SIMPSONS got HIS badge…!)

I love the cowardly- and mercenary- town preacher too and I’m certain I’ve seen him in other films before in a similar role. I like the cowardly greasy barber with his comb-over as well. There are some great characters amongst the townspeople.

I love that Clint, who’s accused of being ‘cruel’ by the townspeople, is openly kind, decent and generous to the Native American Indians and the Mexicans in Lago. They’re treated like dirt by the townspeople who abuse them (the Indians) and make them do their dirty work for them (the Mexicans). What a rotten lot the townsfolks of Lago are. Clint should leave ’em all to rot in Hell…

You should watch this brilliant sort-of-spaghetti Western if you want to see Clint all bristly and manly and shooting up a storm with, as usual, one hand tied behind his back. Well, not literally, but you know what I mean. Hey, it works for me.

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

DEATH WISH. (1974) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

death wish

DEATH WISH. (1974) BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘DEATH WISH’ BY BRIAN GARFIELD. DIRECTED AND CO-PRODUCED BY MICHAEL WINNER. MUSIC BY HERBIE HANCOCK. STARRING CHARLES BRONSON, HOPE LANGE, KATHLEEN TOLAN, VINCENT GARDENIA, STEVEN KEATS, STUART MARGOLIN, WILLIAM REDFIELD AND JEFF GOLDBLUM.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Big-shot company engineer-architect Paul Kersey is a very unlucky man. Every time he steps outta his New York/Manhattan apartment, he gets mugged by some jive-talking ‘Seventies cats with the Afros and everything who say things like, give us the money, honey and who think they’re cool just ’cause they’ve got flick-knives. Let me tell you cool cats, any asshole can carry a flick-knife. It doesn’t make you remotely special. Think about it.

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning of this, one of Charles Bronson’s biggest ever films, to which I believe there were many sequels made. He plays a family man, the above-mentioned Paul Kersey who, at the start of the film, is enjoying a sexy beach holiday with the wife he still loves, Joanna, even though they’ve been married for years and years and years. It’s sweet that they’re still hot for each other after all this time and still enjoy some nice cosy old-people sex.

They have a nice big apartment thanks to Paul’s nice comfortable well-paid job and a grown-up married daughter called Carol whom they both adore. One fateful day, when Paul is at work and Carol’s husband Jack is presumably at work also in his own place of business, something terrible happens to Joanna and Carol.

They are followed home from the grocery store by three scumbags, a trio of disgusting anti-social losers who gain access to the Kersey family apartment by pretending to be the grocery delivery boy. In a truly horrific home invasion scene, they rape Carol and beat her mother to death in front of her eyes.

Carol never recovers from the shock and ends up being put in a sanatorium by her devastated husband and heartbroken father. Here, catatonic, drugged up to the eyeballs and no longer able to talk, she may well spend the rest of her days.

Jeff Goldblum (THE FLY, JURASSIC PARK, FRIENDS) in his debut film role plays one of the assailants. He has this brilliant, jerky manic quality about him, as if he’s just downed a bucket of amphetamines chased down by a gallon of Coca-Cola and Skittles in order to calm his ADHD or something. He’s all jittery, tense, edgy, nervy.

Already he’s memorable, someone you’d recognise anywhere and whom you know has the capability to one day be good, really good. Although, of course, one wonders what esteemed scientist Ian Malcolm would make of these highly dubious anti-social shenanigans, breaking and entering and referring to one’s John Thomas as a ‘paintbrush,’ as in, ‘I’m gonna paint her mouth...!’ Oh yes, jolly good show, lads, do please carry on.

The effect of the rape-murder on Paul Kersey is what matters here. He’s not a violent man to begin with. In fact, he’s referred to as a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ and he hasn’t touched a gun since his hunter father was accidentally shot dead by another hunter after being mistaken for a deer. Also, Paul was a conscientious objector or ‘conchie’ during the Korean War. He’s still a really good shot though.

After being gifted with a lovely gun by a grateful business acquaintance, Paul takes to carrying the gun around with him on the darkened streets of night-time New York. He uses it to pepper any would-be muggers full of lead, and trust me when I say that a lot of folks are lining up to mug Paul, and they’re all carrying flick-knives. Gun beats knife. That much I do know.

The body count climbs ever higher as Paul start to really get into his role as a self-styled vigilante on the streets of New York. He starts to go out at night deliberately looking for lowlife criminals to shoot, instead of waiting until they just happen along by chance. He’s like a walking one-man protest against crime in New York, which was really bad in real life during this period.

The press pick up on his actions and soon the newspapers, magazines (yes, they still had them back then!) and TV news bulletins are all full of talk of ‘The Vigilante,’ as he now becomes officially known. You can’t just take the law into your own hands, though. That would set a very bad precedent and would be disastrous for the police force.

I love NYPD Lt. Frank Ochoa, the hard-bitten New York detective tasked with getting ‘The Vigilante’ off the streets. In fact, he’s so world-weary, worldly-wise and hard-bitten that he makes Columbo and Kojak look like two girly sissies on their way to ballet class via the ribbon store and the candy kiosk. He’s brilliant.

The higher-ups don’t even need to have this mysterious lone gunman put behind bars or otherwise brought to justice or anything. They just need him to stop doing what he’s doing ’cause he’s setting a very bad example to the public who, like the Hatpin Granny, are all now becoming ‘have-a-go heroes’ themselves in the style of their idol, ‘The Vigilante.’

The rape-and-murder scene is by far the most effective and memorable in the film. The rest of the film is mostly just Charles Bronson shooting at black people. Although I love the film, before I ever saw it I always assumed the premise of it would be to have Charles Bronson track down and kill his wife’s murderer and his daughter’s rapists.

This never seems to occur to him, however, even though they’ve got a fairly big clue in the form of the grocery store where the Kersey ladies did their shopping. He takes his revenge on crimmo lowlifes and society’s drop-outs in general, but not specifically on the perpetrators of the one act from which he’s suffered so badly and which has cost him so dearly. Strange, that. Ah well. Charles Bronson is well fit and handsome in this and he looks great holding a shooter, even an imaginary one. I’ll take that.

Here’s some random stuff about the film which you might or might not know. I bloody well knew I recognised a young Sonia Manzano, who played Maria in SESAME STREET for a whopping forty-four years, on the checkout till in the supermarket early on in the movie. Score one for me, lol.

I did not, however, recognise Olympia Dukakis as a cop at the precinct. Also, Denzel Washington swears blind that he did not make his film debut here as an alley mugger, and I don’t see any reason in the world for him to lie about it.

Finally, I am never, ever going to New York because of all the muggings and the high crime rate in general. I don’t care if it’s years later and things have changed, I’m still not going and you can’t make me.

I’ll stay here in good old Ireland where we don’t have that level of crime. Here we just have junkies who’ll jab you with a syringe-full of HIV-infected blood on 0’Connell Street unless you hand over your smartphone and wallet pronto. What’s that they say? It’s better the devil you know…? I should say it is an’ all.

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