AND SOON THE DARKNESS. (1970) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

and soon the darkness

AND SOON THE DARKNESS. (1970) SCREENPLAY BY BRIAN CLEMENS. DIRECTED BY ROBERT FUEST. STARRING PAMELA FRANKLIN, MICHELE DOTRICE, JOHN NETTLETON AND SANDOR ELES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is exactly the kind of super-atmospheric 1970s British chiller I adore. It reminds me very much of ASSAULT (1971), aka IN THE DEVIL’S GARDEN, starring James Laurenson and featuring Lesley-Anne Down in her debut role. In it, a serial killer-slash-rapist terrorises the students of a girls’ college situated near a creepy forest.

In AND SOON THE DARKNESS, two pretty little English nurses from Nottingham taking a cycling holiday in northern France are terrorised in a similar fashion by an unknown assailant, and the film becomes a bit of a who-dunnit in that we have at least four plump, juicy, positively succulent suspects to choose from.

The two girls are Jane, played by Pamela Franklin (from THE INNOCENTS (1961) with Deborah Kerr), who actually looks as French as French can be with her chic bobbed brown hair and the little blue scarf knotted jauntily about her neck, and Cathy Mercer.

Cathy, a luscious blonde with long hair and a delectable figure, is portrayed superbly by none other than Michele Dotrice. Michele went on to experience television immortality for playing Betty Spencer, the long-suffering wife of the accident-prone Frank Spencer (Michael Crawford) in the hugely successful sitcom, SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM.

Jane and Cathy are, as I said, cycling through northern France on their holidays. Jane seems to be enjoying the fresh air and the scenery, but Cathy is bored to death with the empty roads, the wide-open spaces and the lack of hot night-spots. Or night hot-spots, if you prefer.

They are being followed at a distance by a strikingly attractive dark-haired French male on a moped, and having a good time with this stranger, to whom she’s never addressed so much as a word, would be much more the flirtatious Cathy’s idea of fun than endlessly cycling along these deserted French roads till her butt grows numb.

The two girls argue about this very subject. Cathy decides to mutiny and she downs tools- ie, her bicycle- and proceeds to lie down to sunbathe in a little clearing by some woods at the side of the road. You might as well bugger off, she tells Jane, if you’re so eager to keep cycling all bloody day. Me, I’m stoppin’ ‘ere! Ooooooh Betty…! You never made a worse decision.

Jane gets the hump and cycles off, stopping for a drink outside a really crappy café down the road a bit. After a while, she grows uneasy and decides to go back for her friend. But Cathy is gone. So is her bicycle, her backpack and the knickers she draped over the bushes so that they could dry in the sunlight. Jane doesn’t know what to think.

Thanks to a British woman who lives in the area and works as a teacher, she knows that a young tourist girl was murdered hereabouts only two or three years ago. More than just murdered, the British woman tells her with a snooty, disapproving face that can only mean that the girl was raped as well. It was a sex murder. But it was the girl’s own fault, of course, the woman is quick to point out, for being ‘alone on the road…’ Well, Jane is ‘alone on the road’ now. And so was her missing friend, Cathy…

Jane is starting to dread that something awful, something unthinkable, has happened to Cathy. The feeling of dread, for me, begins building up in this film right from the start, when you first see the two girls, cycling two abreast (cycling to a breast, tee-hee-hee) on a foreign country road.

Nothing but miles of open road and open sky. There is as much capacity for horror in wide-open spaces as there is in cramped basements and dusty attics, and this film portrays that really, really well. I mean, when there’s nobody around for miles and miles it can be nice and peaceful, sure, but it also means that there’s no-one around to come to your assistance if you get into trouble. The suspense and tension here just keep on being ratcheted up, until our jangling nerves are in shreds and we want to screech, tell us who it is already!

It’s one of those films that portrays not only sexy, half-dressed young women (come on, just LOOK at those short shorts!) in peril but also the holiday-maker in distress. Jane is careering around madly, looking for someone to help her find her friend, and she keeps coming up against both the language barrier (her French is barely functional) and also the difficulties inherent in trying to impress upon bored policemen who don’t speak your language that there really is a missing girl. Pamela Franklin’s face, like that of Michele Dotrice, is just so incredibly expressive. I’d give ’em both Oscars just for their brilliant facial expressions alone.

Hungarian actor Sandor Eles as the smoulderingly sexy Paul Salmont is just fantastic. Is he evil or does he really just want to help out Jane, a damsel in some very obvious distress? Frankly, I wouldn’t care how evil he was, he’s so devastatingly good-looking, and so super-cool too in his sunglasses and with his little moped tightly clamped between his brown-trousered thighs, lol. Hold me, he commands Jane. Phwoar! He wouldn’t have to ask me twice.

Locations of note? The little clearing by the woods at the side of the road where Cathy decides to have her nice lie-down, and the derelict caravan park. It’s not exactly Tom and Pippa’s homely, wholesome family-run caravan park from Antipodean soap opera HOME AND AWAY, is it? What horrors will we find there? God alone knows.

The scene at the edge of the woods reminds me of the five minutes at the beginning of another superb old British horror film called THE APPOINTMENT (1981). A schoolgirl called Sandie is making her way home from school by way of… you guessed it… a short-cut through the woods. It’s the last thing she ever does. It’s terrifically spooky.

Woods can be perilous, as well we know. As can going abroad on holiday to a place where you don’t speak the language, and the three inhabitants of the one village you pass all seem so inbred as to make the guys in that fine example of French extremity cinema, THE ORDEAL, look like models of deportment and sanity. The moral of the story? Forget your foreign holidays and bloody well stop at home. End of.

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 EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1964) A HAMMER HORROR REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

evil of frankenstein caron gardner

THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN. (1964) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION/A UNIVERSAL RELEASE. WRITTEN BY JOHN ELDER. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY HINDS. DIRECTED BY FREDDIE FRANCIS. STARRING PETER CUSHING, SANDOR ELES, PETER WOODTHORPE, DUNCAN LAMONT, DAVID HUTCHESON, KIWI KINGSTON, KATY WILD AND CARON GARDNER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a marvellous Hammer Horror film that sees Peter Cushing reprising his signature Hammer role as the mad scientist Baron Frankenstein, the man who created a hideous monster out of the body parts of cadavers from horribly plundered graves.

In this film, however, he’s seen as more rational and tolerant than the thoroughly reprehensible townspeople, who torment him at every turn, steal from him and destroy his life’s work. All the peaceable, own-business-minding Baron wants to do is to create life- albeit in a rather gruesome way- and he just can’t catch a break, lol.

Having made the current little mid-European hamlet where he lives and works too hot to hold him, Baron Frankenstein and his young idealistic assistant Hans make the journey back to Karlstaad.

This is the Baron’s home-town, from which he fled some ten years ago after the locals discovered that he was robbing graves and making a monster out of the body parts. Very nit-picky of the locals, I must say, to make such a humongous fuss out of such a trifling matter.

They hounded the Baron out of town and murdered his precious creation, the Monster, a frighteningly huge fellow played by a real-life enormous wrestler from New Zealand called Kiwi Kingston.

The Baron’s taking a bit of a chance in returning to Karlstaad, but he’s confident that the townspeople will have forgotten all that bad business about the Monster by now and that his castle will provide a safe and comfortable place from which to start his grisly experiments anew.

Not so, sadly. The rotten townspeople have ransacked the castle and nicked anything that wasn’t nailed down, and a few things that were, lol. A trip into the village sees the Baron falling afoul once more of his two old enemies, the Chief of Police and the Burgomaster of Karlstaad, an old duffer who’s sporting Baron Frankenstein’s beautiful old ring, a family heirloom, on one hand and a large-breasted, young blonde trophy wife on the other. She’s clearly only in it for the sex…! 

(The funniest scene in the whole film is when Baron Frankenstein breaks into the Burgomaster’s bedroom where he’s just about to consummate his new marriage to Busty St. Clair/Chesty LaRue/Hooty McBoob and so on.

It’s obvious from the giant grin on the bride’s face that she’s not at all averse to the sudden arrival in her bridal bedchamber of a man who’s clearly more virile and dynamic and pro-active than her new husband…!

When Peter Cushing as the Baron turns to her before abseiling out the window on her best bedsheets and says a polite ‘Goodnight,’ you can almost hear her saying sadly to herself: ‘Awwwww, he was nice…!’)

Anyway, the Baron is so angry at the thieving townspeople that he could positively spit. Forced to flee the village in a hurry under pain of arrest, he is thrilled beyond belief (whilst seeking shelter from a thunderstorm with a deaf-mute peasant girl) to find his beloved Monster frozen in the ice in a cave on the mountainside.

He and Hans thaw out the Monster and bring him back to the castle. The deaf-mute peasant girl accompanies them because she’s developed some kind of a bond with the Monster. After all, they’re both outcasts, both shunned and scorned and spat upon by the townspeople. The four of them make strange housemates indeed.

Now comes the desperate attempt to make the Creature ‘live’ again. After ‘shocking’ him with volts of electricity repeatedly fails, the Baron is forced to turn for help to a hypnotist called Zoltan, a fairground attraction whom he met on his disastrous jaunt to the funfair in Karlstaad.

Zoltan is a wonderfully funny villainous character. An oilier, more odious, more self-serving human being would be hard to find. He wakes up the Creature with his superior powers of hypnotism, but he cuts himself a decent whack of the Monster-business too by ensuring that the Monster will only follow his orders and not the Baron’s. The Baron is furiously angry.

Furthermore, the unscrupulous Zoltan intends on using the Creature to steal gold and monies for him from the villagers and also to wreak a terrible revenge on the townspeople who’ve wronged him, namely, the Burgomaster and the Chief of Police.  Haha, his enemies are the same as the Baron’s, maybe they should pool their resources…?

Can Baron Frankenstein wrest his precious Creature back from the grasp of the evil Zoltan, so that it- the Creature- can be used only to further the cause of science and not for nefarious purposes? Will the Baron ever get to live in safety and serenity in his own chateau and study in peace and quiet the processes of life and death?

Will Hans ever get together with the red-haired deaf-mute peasant girl, for whom he seems to have a soft spot? And, most importantly of all as I see it, will the ludicrously night-capped old Burgomaster ever get laid on his wedding night? I wouldn’t bet on it, gentle readers. I wouldn’t bet on it…

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