SCROOGE THE MUSICAL. (1970) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

scrooge musical

SCROOGE THE MUSICAL. (1970) BASED ON THE BOOK BY CHARLES DICKENS. DIRECTED BY RONALD NEAME. STARRING ALBERT FINNEY, DAME EDITH EVANS, KENNETH MORE, DEREK FRANCIS, ROY KINNEAR, GORDON JACKSON, JAMES COSSINS AND SIR ALEC GUINNESS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Awwwww, I never get tired of seeing film adaptations of this timeless story. Albert Finney, as far as I know the only Scrooge young enough to himself play Young Scrooge in these movies, plays, you guessed it, Ebenezer Scrooge, the miser who makes all other misers ashamed of their woeful under-performances.

Albert Finney of course had played the swoonsome Tom Jones (positively not the Welsh crooner!) only a few short years before (1963) in the film adaptation of Henry Fielding’s massive tome of the same name. The book, in fact, was one of the first English-language novels, along with Samuel Richardson’s PAMELA.

I’m always threatening to read both of these huge big books but I haven’t gotten around to it quite yet. The film of TOM JONES was terrific too, made by Woodfall Film Productions and containing such gems of dialogue as ‘Where is she? Where’s Tom’s pussy?’ and ‘Tom, thou art as hearty a cock as any in the kingdom.’ Snigger.

He’s brilliant as Scrooge too, Albert Finney, though it’s a shame to have his handsome face all twisted up into the famous miser’s crotchety countenance. He works away in his freezing cold (cold is good; cold is free, like the dark) moneylenders’ office until 7pm on Christmas Eve, and his poorly-paid clerk Bob Cratchit practically has to boot him out the door, telling him it’s Christmas Eve and time to jack it all in till December the 26th.

Scrooge goes home to his dark, cheerless chambers, where he is met by Alec Guinness as the ghost of his deceased partner in the moneylenders’ business, Jacob Marley. Jacob Marley now dwells in Hell, doomed to carry around with him for all eternity ‘the chains he forged in life,’ the giant cash-boxes and heavy old ledgers that came with his old business.

Not to mention the guilt of knowing that he never did a hand’s turn for his fellow man while he was alive. That dreadful knowledge has manifested itself physically in the form of huge chains that wrap and wind themselves around his body. You can’t miss ’em, lol.

Jacob Marley has a grim message of hope for Scrooge. Change your miserly ways and start being more generous and compassionate towards your fellow man or else. Or else what? Well, or else he’ll end up like Jacob Marley, carting those awful clinking-clanking chains around with him till the cows come home. Which, apparently, they never do.

To reinforce this terrible message, Scrooge will be visited this very night by three ghosts, one at a time, and he’d bloody well better learn the lessons they’ve got to teach him. Dame Edith Evans, as the Ghost Of Christmas Past, shows Scrooge visions of himself as a young boy in school, lonely, motherless, neglected by his harsh father and obliged to spend Christmas at school, catching up on his studies.

Scrooge isn’t at all happy to be reminded by this Lady Ghost of how he loved and lost his devoted girlfriend Isabelle when he was a young man working at Old Mister Fezziwig’s rubber chicken factory. Sorry, I mix up all these versions with The Muppets’ one! They both had such high hopes of marriage and a family, Scrooge and Isabelle, but then she dumps him when she realises that he loves another more than her. His true mistress? Money…

The Ghost Of Christmas Present forces Scrooge to look into the lives of his clerk Bob Cratchit and Bob’s little family. Making merry for Christmas over a scrawny goose and a drop of watered-down punch, they’re as poor as church mice thanks to Scrooge’s scabby wages. Subsequently, they can’t afford a good doctor for Tiny Tim, the youngest member of the family, who will die if he’s not properly treated.

Scrooge has the wind up good and proper by now. He’s already repenting of his terrible stinginess, and by the time the frightening Ghost Of Christmas Future gets to wag a bony finger at him in silent reproach, he’s on his knees begging for a second chance.

The Ghost Of Crimbo-Still-To- Come isn’t taking any chances, though. He gets Alec Guinness’s Jacob Marley to take Scrooge on a terrifying tour of Hell, just in case Scrooge has any ideas about not bothering to change his godless ways.

Everyone loves the ending of all the versions, of course.

Scrooge: You there, boy, what’s today?

Ragged Urchin: Today, Sir, why, it’s Christmas Day!

Scrooge: Christmas Day? Why, then, I haven’t missed it! The spirits must have done it all in one night! Of course they did, they can do anything they like, you know!

Then he raids the butcher’s shop, the toyshop, the confectionery shop and so on and brings the largesse round to the gobsmacked Cratchits (Miss Piggy is the best Mrs. Cratchit, and Robin the Frog is the bestest Tiny Tim!) and to Fred, his sorely neglected nephew.

Fred is the son of Scrooge’s dear deceased sister Frannie, who had asked Scrooge before she died to look after her boy. Up to now, he hasn’t made such a great fist of it, but that was before the Three Spirits came…

This is a musical version, so of course there’s a song at every turn. I especially love Scrooge’s devastatingly honest version of ‘I HATE PEOPLE!’ It’s probably the most honest the old miser has ever been, in fact, in any of the film versions and, some days, I know just how he feels, lol.

It feels a bit like the film is trying to be the new OLIVER! (1968), with the Charles Dickens/Victorian England/Christmas card background, all the big group numbers and everyone singing and dancing in the street but, fun as SCROOGE THE MUSICAL is, it doesn’t even come close to snatching OLIVER!‘s golden crown.

All the old favourite lines of dialogue are in there too:

‘If I had my way, every man who goes around with Merry Christmas on his lips would be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart…!’

‘If they are going to die, then they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population…!’

‘Falling in love? Bah! That’s the only thing sillier than a Merry Christmas!’

‘Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?’

‘Bah humbug!’

Bah humbug to you too, Scrooge, you old coot. Don’t get too pissed now on that Milk Of Human Kindness there. That’s some pretty powerful stuff, you know.

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

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DERANGED. (1974) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

deranged mary table

DERANGED… THE CONFESSIONS OF A NECROPHILE. (1974) AN AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL FILM. DIRECTED BY JEFF GILLEN AND ALAN ORMSBY. WRITTEN BY ALAN ORMSBY. PRODUCED BY TOM KARR. SPECIAL EFFECTS BY TOM SAVINI.

STARRING ROBERTS BLOSSOM, COSETTE LEE, LESLIE CARLSON, MARIAN WALDMAN, MICKI MOORE, ROBERT WARNER, MARCIA DIAMOND, BRIAN SMEAGLE AND PAT ORR.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The wages of sin are gonorrhea, syphilis and death. Remember that, boy!’

Amanda Cobb, Ezra’s Mother.

This film is loosely based on the story of real-life American boogeyman and murderer Ed Gein (1906-1984), although in this film he’s called Ezra Cobb for some reason. Maybe because the real Ed Gein was still alive at this time, I don’t know what the deal is with that.

Ed Gein, known as the Butcher of Plainfield, was the Wisconsin farmer-cum-handyman who achieved permanent notoriety when he was found to have peopled his house with the mutilated corpses of women, and mostly elderly women at that, after his mother’s death in 1945 at the age of sixty-seven.

He was the inspiration for Robert Bloch’s horror novel PSYCHO, which in turn went on to become Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous movie PSYCHO in 1960. Iconic weirdo Norman Bates (‘A boy’s best friend is his mother’) was probably the first cinema character to portray what might happen when a fatherless boy with an uber-domineering mother who gives him some very messed-up ideas about women and sex is abandoned in death by that mother. Unable to cope with her very significant loss, his mind gives way and he devises a method that ensures that he can hold onto her forever. If a few other women are sacrificed along the way, well sure, what harm?

The bonkers Ed Gein was also the inspiration behind the character Leatherface in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974) and the character Buffalo Bill in the 1991 smash hit movie THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, which introduced the character of Hannibal ‘the Cannibal’ Lecter to the world, played so immaculately and memorably by Anthony Hopkins.

The Ezra Cobb in DERANGED is heavily emotionally attached to his own extremely domineering, deeply religious mother, Amanda Cobb. She’s bedridden and about to die when we meet her, but her venomous mouth has lost none of its power to shock and scare the child of her loins.

With her last breath, she’s telling her virgin son Ezra, who’s fifty if he’s a day, to watch out for the filthy, disease-ridden gold-digging whores who will flock to him now he’s such an eligible bachelor, with his own farm and a house to go with it and no doubt a few bucks in the bank as well. She’s filled Ezra so full of misogynistic poison that it’s a wonder he’s not scared off women for life.

He misses his mother so much that, one night, he imagines that he hears her calling to him from the grave. ‘Bring me home, boy! It’s cold and dark down here! Bring me home, I tell you!’ It’s his own voice mouthing the words but he thinks it’s his mother talking to him. Off he drives to the cemetery to dig her up, as happy as Larry once he gets her home and back in her own nice warm bed.

Over the coming weeks and months, he tries to patch her up with bits and pieces of animal skin, but it’s not long before he realises that human skin would work so much better for this purpose. What to do, what to do…?

When he hears about the recent death of his old Sunday-School teacher Mrs. Johnson, he digs her up, decapitates her gruesomely and uses her ancient facial skin to patch up his old Ma’s disintegrating kisser. The results, hideous beyond belief to the viewer, are mighty pleasing to Ezra Cobb, whom we can already see is completely and utterly mad.

His meeting with the equally bonkers Maureen Selby- is this what it sounds like when doves cry…?- leads to death and horror for poor lonely Maureen. And in front of her Herbert’s lovely photo, too! What in the wide world are things coming to?

The fate of attractive barmaid Mary Ransom is much more frightening. Ezra meets her in a bar and begins immediately to fixate on her. He cunningly slashes Mary’s tyres in secret one night so that she’s obliged to take a lift home with him.

This proves that his abduction of Mary is no spur-of-the-moment action but very much a premeditated one. What it proves legally I don’t know, but the educationally backwards and even mentally retarded Ezra can be as sly as a fox when pursuing his own twisted ends.

When the stunning Mary, described unflatteringly by the narrative voice-over as ‘thirty-four and already over the hill,’ follows Ezra into his isolated farmhouse and sees the little gathering of ‘women’ waiting to receive her in the parlour, it’s like the scene in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE where the screaming girl meets Leatherface’s ‘family.’ It’s just horrible. Poor Mary, initially brought here to be Ezra’s ‘bride’ rather than just another ‘companion’ for Ma Cobb, goes into shock. 

Major spoiler alert here now, folks. If she’d known as she clocked in for work at the bar that night that, before the night was over, she’d be beaten to death with a human thigh-bone that she’d earlier seen being used as a drum stick by a transvestite freak wearing a titty-vest made of human skin and real titties, she might well have called in sick.

It’s funny when Ezra admits openly to his one friend, Harlan Kootz, that he’s got all the missing women up at his place. Harlan, who’s known Ezra since they were schoolboys together and who regards him as a harmless simpleton who does a bit of work around his- Harlan’s- place, just laughs and then berates Ezra for telling fairy stories. Well, he can’t say he wasn’t forewarned.

What happens to pretty little Sally-Mae, the high school girlfriend of Harlan’s son Brad, mirrors closely the fate of the real-life victim of Ed Gein’s, poor old Beatrice Wordern, whose naked body was found hanging upside-down in the Gein barn, gutted like a deer. Jesus wept.

It’s apparently the closest the film gets to reflecting the real-life murderous career of Ed Gein, who’s today known as a serial killer and serial defiler of the dead. Ezra doesn’t have sex with any of the corpses in DERANGED although Ed Gein is very much known as a man who liked a nice bit of necrophilia.

Still, we must remember that the word ‘necrophilia’ can have two meanings. Yes, it means having sex with corpses (Ted Bundy definitely did this, until the corpses became too discomposed for comfort), but it can also mean someone who is obsessed with death, corpses and cemeteries. Both Ed Gein and Ezra Cobb fit this bill.

Apparently, Ed Gein denied having sex with any of his corpses but only because they ‘smelled too bad.’ Would he have had sex with them then if they’d smelled as fragrant as a lily-of-the-valley Christmas bath-set? Is that what he’s saying?

I read in a biography of Ed Gein’s that he was as happy as a sandboy to be carted off to a state mental institution for the remainder of his life for his crimes. He never gave the authorities there a lick of trouble. I can kind of understand why.

He had company there and people who spoke kindly to him, it was clean and presumably warm and he would have been given three square meals a day. A far cry from the cold, dirty, cluttered isolated charnel-house where he lived alone with his ‘Mother’ and her ‘friends.’ I can’t say I really blame him. Anything’s better than that, even for a man like Ed Gein.

What a kick in the knickers Ed must have been for the Plainfield Tourist Board all the same. They can have as much good hunting (for shame!) and lovely picturesque snow there as they please, but will Plainfield ever be known for anything but being the home of the man who, by digging up his dead mother and preserving her corpse, simultaneously dug his way right into the annals of crime history and also into the very pysche of the American people?

You know what, I bet there are mothers in Plainfield today who still use old Ed as the boogeyman to fractious children. ‘Hush up now and get to sleep, you pesky young’uns, or Ed Gein will come and cart you away and make a lampshade out of you!’ Aw. It’s good to know he’s useful for something.

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

MARY SHELLEY’S ‘FRANKENSTEIN’- THE BOOK. (1816) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

mary shelley frankie

MARY SHELLEY’S ‘FRANKENSTEIN.’ (1816) BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

2018, a full two centuries after Mary Shelley wrote her first and most celebrated novel, was what I now refer to as my Frankenstein year. In April, I got to see James Whale’s fabulous horror movie FRANKENSTEIN (1931) and its sequel, THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935), on the big screen as part of a one-day James Whale festival, which was fantastic as I’d loved those two films for such a long time.

Then, in October, as part of the Irish Film Institute’s annual Halloween Horrorthon, I saw Hammer Horror’s FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974) on the big screen also. This was preceded by a brilliant ninety-minute lecture on FRANKENSTEIN, THE FIRST 200 YEARS by film historian and well-known FRANKENSTEIN expert Sir Christopher Frayling, whose book of the same name I purchased on the break and got him to sign for me.

He wrote the words ‘It’s alive…!’ under his signature! I felt so special. I later found out that he’d signed everyone’s books with the same phrase but whatever, it was all good, lol. I read the book and enjoyed every page, then I went and found the 1910 Thomas Edison film version of FRANKENSTEIN on Youtube and watched this too. It’s less than a quarter of an hour long but it’s freakishly memorable, with a pretty terrifying-looking Monster.

Anyway, after this wonderful experience I had no choice but to read the book behind all the films for the first time ever. I started reading it on November the nineteenth and I finished it on December the first.

I’d been told that it was difficult to read and even boring at times, but I didn’t find it so, except when the Creature went on for nearly fifty pages about how marvellous and saintly and sweet his precious cottagers were. Personally, I could take ’em or leave ’em, these irritating paragons of woodland virtue and candidates for the bloody sainthood…!

I shall attempt now to synopsise the plot for y’all in as simple and easy-to-remember a fashion as possible, as much for my own benefit as for anyone else’s. Having gone to the trouble finally of reading the book, I don’t want to ever forget it. It’s literally too good to be forgotten. This is to be my written record of this most exceptional year and this most exceptional Gothic novel.

The framing story involves an Englishman called Robert Walton writing to his married sister back in England of his expeditions to the polar ice-caps of the world. Whilst up there in the cold and snow, he and his crew rescue an exhausted solitary male who’s about to expire out on the ice.

The traumatised and lonely poor man is one Victor Frankenstein from Geneva in Switzerland, who is pursuing to the ends of the Earth a Creature of whom Robert Walton and his crew realise that they may already have caught a glimpse, out on the ice all alone just like his pursuer, Victor Frankenstein. This is Victor Frankenstein’s story.

After a positively charmed and privileged early life (‘No human being could have passed a happier childhood than myself.’), Victor goes off to college after the death of his beloved Mother and resolves to make the best of these important years. He’s a whizz at Science and Chemistry and whatnot and very quickly impresses his tutors with his hard work and willingness to apply himself. He quickly works out where his real interests lie.

‘It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn; and whether it was the outward substance of things, or the inner spirit of nature and the mysterious soul of man that occupied me, still my inquiries were directed to the metaphysical, or, in its highest sense, the physical secrets of the world.’

Long story short, he discovers that he has a burning urge to create life himself from the no-longer-living bits and pieces of cadavers. He gets the idea from all the ‘natural philiosophers’ he’s been reading up on and now sees as his idols.

For two whole years he works day and night on his personal project (‘I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.’), pretty much to the exclusion of all else. Finally, he is successful. ‘On a dreary night of November… I saw the dull yellow eye of the Creature open.’

The awful thing about all this exhaustive labour is that, when Victor beholds the hideousness of the thing he has created, he’s so horrified that he runs away in terror and leaves the poor just-birthed Creature to fend for itself in the wilds for several long months. In this respect, Victor, I feel, has only got himself to blame for the nightmare which ensues.

Victor eventually travels home to Geneva, where he learns that his younger brother William has been brutally murdered by a stranger. A servant and friend of the house, a sweet and kind-hearted young lady called Justine, is to be executed for his murder.

Victor’s widowed father and Victor’s Cousin Elizabeth, in reality an adopted daughter of the family and Victor’s betrothed and, indeed, beloved, are utterly distraught. Justine could not be capable of such a monstrous, cold-blooded act of hatred and disdain, they feel sure of this.

Victor learns the truth of the matter from his recently-turned-up-again Creature but, alas, it’s too late to save Justine from the gallows. From this point on, if he didn’t already feel this way, Victor is living in a nightmare from which he can’t wake up. There is no waking up. He feels like he murdered William and Justine, ‘the first hapless victims to my unhallowed arts,’ with his own hands.

The Creature tells Victor what he’s been up to this past couple of years, but it’s not an amiable catch-up between friends in a Starbucks over a skinny latte and a poppyseed muffin. The Creature Victor deliberately imbued with life has lived a miserable existence thus far. He’s been hiding out, lonely, cold, hungry and isolated from everything that is good in life.

After telling Victor how he was forcibly rejected by the sickly-sweet-and-saccharine cottagers to whose life he’s been an outside observer for some time, he informs his maker in no uncertain terms (and he’s right!) that it’s his, Victor’s, fault that he’s so wretched, alone and miserable.

‘Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.’ The poor wee Creature!

I don’t know about you guys, but I blame Victor entirely for the miserable life in which the Creature finds himself trapped. How dare Victor give him life and then abandon him to a horrible fate just because he’s ugly?

Surely it’s Victor’s responsibility to put things right? That’s certainly what the Creature thinks, anyway. Finally Victor comes round to this way of thinking. ‘For the first time, also, I felt what the duties of a creator towards his creature were, and that I ought to render him happy before I complained of his wickedness.’ Darn tootin.’ Quite honestly, it’s about bloody time he honoured his responsibilities to the Creature he himself created.

So what is it exactly that the Creature wants? Well, he jolly well wants a girlfriend, a girlfriend like himself, made in the same mould as himself. ‘I am alone, and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species, and have the same defects. This being you must create.’ Sounds perfectly fair to me.

Victor reluctantly agrees to make the Creature a hot girlfriend, lol. The Creature warns him that he’ll be keeping an eye on the proceedings from a discreet distance so Victor isn’t even to dream of welching on the deal. ‘I shall be with you on your wedding night,’ he famously- and ominously- threatens his maker.

So off Victor goes to an isolated spot in England to start work on a lady friend for his Monster. ‘To England, therefore, I was bound, and it was understood that my union with Elizabeth should take place immediately on my return.’ Then:

‘I now also began to collect the materials necessary for my new creation, and this was to me like the torture of single drops of water continually falling on the head.’

Halfway through the sickening, grisly operation, however, he decides he can’t possibly risk bringing another dangerous, malevolent and mankind-hating Creature into the world (‘To create another like the fiend I had first made would be an act of the basest and most atrocious selfishness.’) and he downs tools, in plain sight of the Monster whose murderous rage will now know no bounds.

The horror just keeps on being ratcheted up. The murders of Victor’s best mate Henry Clerval and of the beautiful bride Elizabeth Lavenza on her wedding night to Victor, just like the Creature foretold, and then the death of Victor’s father, probably from stress and worry, now take place. (‘He could not live under the horrors that were accumulated around him: the springs of existence suddenly gave way.’) These dreadful killings extinguish for all time the last rays of light and goodness and happiness from Victor’s life.

‘The cup of life was poisoned forever; and although the sun shone upon me as upon the happy and gay of heart, I saw around me nothing but a dense and frightful darkness, penetrated by no light but the glimmer of two eyes that glared upon me.’

He resolves now to chase his foul Creature to the ends of the Earth, if needs be, and there kill him and avenge his beloved dead. Only then can Victor, exhausted and heartbroken, find peace in death himself.

After a long and arduous chase, fraught with terrible perils that leave Victor clinging onto life by only the most tenuous of threads, he meets Robert Walton’s ship in the very midst of the polar ice-caps.

There he tells the spellbound sea-captain the story of his life, his life’s work and his life’s miseries before he expires, his revenge mission unsatisfied. So much for: ‘But revenge kept me alive; I dared not die and leave my adversary in being.’

A conversation between Robert Walton and the Creature over Victor’s death-bed (‘Never did I behold a vision so horrible as his face, of such loathsome and appalling hideousness.’) apprises us of the Monster’s lonely and heart-rending final intentions.

He regrets what he has done to Victor (‘But now crime has degraded me beneath the merest animal.’) and now he’s going off alone to die in the ice-caps. ‘I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly, and exult in the agony of the torturing flames.’ Then finally: ‘He was soon borne away by the waves and lost in darkness and distance.’ It’s a truly heart-breaking ending.

I’m thrilled that I’ve finally read the horror story written by Mary Shelley (Godwin as was) during that fateful wet summer of 1816, when she stayed in the Villa Diodati with her husband-to-be Percy Shelley, their friend Lord Byron and Mary’s half-sister Jane ‘Claire’ Clairmont, one of Byron’s groupies who was already pregnant with his child when she arrived at the Villa. Byron’s personal physician, Dr. John Polidori, whose story ‘THE VAMPYRE’ can still be read today, was also present at the Villa Diodati.

What a summer. What a back-story. What a personal triumph for the eighteen-year-old Mary, to write something so powerful that had such amazing longevity! I really hope that, wherever she is today, she knows how successful and popular her little horror novel turned out to be. It probably wouldn’t make up for all the personal tragedies she suffered in her short enough lifetime, but it might help to ease the pain a little.

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

VAMPYR. (1932) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Vampyr leone

CARL THEODOR DREYER’S ‘VAMPYR.’ (1932) BASED ON JOSEPH SHERIDAN LE FANU’S WRITINGS, ‘IN A GLASS DARKLY.’ DIRECTED BY CARL THEODOR DREYER.

STARRING JULIAN WEST (BARON NICOLAS DE GUNZBURG), MAURICE SCHUTZ, RENA MANDEL, SYBILLE SCHMITZ, JAN HIERONIMKO, HENRIETTE GERARD AND ALBERT BRAS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘This is the phantasy-experience of young Allan Gray, who engulfed himself in studies of demonology and vampire-lore. Preoccupation with the crazed ideas of past centuries turned him into a dreamer and a fantasist, lost at the border between fantasy and the supernatural.’

This surreal, fog-wreathed German-French early talkie, with so few words of dialogue that it could nearly pass for a silent movie, is the most gorgeous, ethereal and dream-like old vampire film I think I’ve ever seen.

It doesn’t have a linear storyline, in which, say, a Jonathan Harker is ordered by his employer to travel to Transylvania, there to meet with a Count Dracula to discuss a property the Count is desirous of purchasing in England, and then everything that happens after that follows a straight enough course to the climax.

Rather, it’s non-linear and dreamlike, and the lines between fantasy and reality are very much blurred. Also, some of it makes little or no sense but it looks so good ‘n’ spooky that it doesn’t matter in the slightest.

It has a sub-title of THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF ALLAN GRAY, Allan Gray being played by the handsome young aristocrat, Baron Nicolas De Gunzburg, who put up the money for the production in return for being allowed to play the lead role. Well, if it’s your money, then I guess you can ask for that privilege…!

Allan Gray is first seen travelling to an inn close to the village of Courtempierre with his fishing tackle slung over his shoulder. He locks his bedroom door at night because of very uneasy feelings he has about the place, but the sanctity and safety of his chamber is nonetheless breached later that night by a terrified old man.

‘She mustn’t die, do you hear?’ he says cryptically before depositing a wrapped parcel on Allan’s nightstand. ‘TO BE OPENED UPON MY DEATH,’ the old man has written rather ominously on it. It is an ancient book on vampire lore, and the man is the owner of the local chateau, who is at his wits’ end because he and his two adult daughters are under siege by vampires.

Next day, Allan finds this fabulous, rather run-down old chateau, but the master, his nocturnal visitor from last night, has just died in mysterious circumstances. Was he already dead when he came to Allan in the night, begging Allan’s aid for his two daughters? According to the book of ancient vampire lore, much, much stranger things have happened. Allan is involved now, and the fate of the chateau-dwellers is now to be his fate too.

The master’s daughter Leone is confined to bed, her life-blood being drained away from her bit by bit by the local vampire. Two marks like the bite of a rat can be seen on her neck. The scariest sequence in the whole film is when she rises from her sickbed and her eyes follow the progress of an unseen entity around her sickroom, even on the ceiling, while a manic, evil grin adorns her face. Her horrified sister Gisele, played by a beautiful young woman who worked as a Paris photographer’s nude model in real life, looks on helplessly.

Gisele is glad to have Allan’s help with her dreadful problem. The local doctor, played by a Polish poet who’s a dead ringer for Nobel prize-winning scientist Albert Einstein, is in league with the vampire so he’s deliberately not being much help at this terrible time.

The old servant at the chateau is really the hero of the hour. He reads the old book of vampire facts and thus learns what must be done if the chateau, and even the village, is to be saved from this demonic plague of creatures of the night.

He spearheads the operation of tracking the vampire down to an old grave in the churchyard and staking it through the heart with the help of Allan in a scene that bothered the censors greatly back in 1932. He even has a nasty surprise in store for the evil doctor in another scene that drew the censors’ wrath down on the film back in the day.

While Allan is sitting on a bench in the cemetery waiting for the trusty family retainer to bring the staking instruments, he drifts off into two Allans and has an horrific nightmare. He is in his coffin now, not dead but merely paralysed by nefarious means, and he is fully conscious while watching a man above him apply the turnscrew to the coffin nails and lock him away inside his forever-box.

The vampire also looks triumphantly down on him as his coffin screws are nailed down. Then the paralysed Allan sees the sky and the trees above him for the last time as his coffin is carried in a solemn procession to the cemetery. It’s a terrifying scene and one that could easily have inspired film legend Roger Corman when he made THE PREMATURE BURIAL for American International Pictures a few short decades later.

A few random facts about the film now, if you will. No sets were used, the whole thing was shot on location in a real inn, a real but marvellously derelict chateau, a real disused ice-factory (there’s nothing spookier than an abandoned factory, unless it’s an abandoned hospital or mental asylum) and a fully-operational plaster works for the grand finale.

The chateau looks truly magnificent in the film. I especially love the room randomly discovered by Allan in his wanderings (it’s not in the chateau, I think) which contains the old dusty books, the skull and what looks like a child’s skeleton standing intact upon a window-sill. If that’s not a room where you can practise your black magic or study the occult and the dark arts, then I don’t know what is. The whole film is stunning to look at. Catch it if you can at all, that’s my advice to you.

‘Imagine that we are sitting in an ordinary room. Suddenly we are told that there is a corpse behind the door. In an instant, the room we are sitting in is completely altered; everything in it has taken on another look; the light, the atmosphere have changed, though they are physically the same. This is because WE have changed and the objects ARE as we conceive them. That is the effect I want to get in my film.’

Carl Theodor Dreyer on describing to his crew the kind of film he wanted to make.

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: DEATH MASQUE. (1988)

michael armstrong

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS. DEATH MASQUE. (1988)

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Michael Armstrong is creating history by being the first film-maker to publish his entire screenwriting output. With the original uncut screenplays in print for the first time ever and peppered with a mixture of wildly entertaining anecdotes, astounding behind-the-scenes revelations, creative and educational insights and brutal ‘no holds barred’ honesty, these books are guaranteed to provide a completely new kind of reading experience while offering a unique insight into the movie industry. Starting from his first professional screenplay written in 1960 when he was only fifteen and which he subsequently directed in 1968, the books will ultimately encompass a career that has spanned over fifty years. The books will include not only those screenplays which made it onto a cinema screen but, for the first time ever, all those that didn’t- and the reasons why…’

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I’m super-excited about this new book of Michael’s. As some of my readers will know, for the past while I’ve had the privilege of reading and reviewing some of Michael Armstrong’s gorgeous script books which are now being made available to the reading public, with the weight of half a century of screenwriting knowledge and know-how and juicy gossip firmly behind them.

Incidentally, anyone looking for a really decent Christmas present for a loved one who’s obsessed with the cinema and related matters, these books would be ideal. Just saying, lol. Not trying to give you the old hard sell or anything.

So far I’ve read the script books for HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, THE IMAGE, THE BLACK PANTHER, GHOST TOWN, A STAR IS DEAD, BEELZEBUB, ESKIMO NELL and now DEATH MASQUE, all of which are for sale on Michael’s website (see above).

Each book comes with a glossy cover, the relevant screenplay in its entirety, a history of that particular screenplay written by Michael himself and also a chapter on the screenwriting style. For anyone interested in screenwriting who wants to learn to do it right, these books would actually make a terrific how-to guide. I’ll tell you one salient fact about each of the ones I’ve read so far.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS was made into the enjoyably entertaining horror movie of the same name, starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine. It has the distinction of being the only film to star all four of these horror legends together and it has a really cracking storyline as well.

An American writer holes up in a supposedly deserted old English country mansion to win a bet against his agent, the bet being that he can’t speed-write a novel in a certain amount of time. The key phrase here is ‘supposedly deserted…’

Michael’s first movie was a short film called ‘THE IMAGE’ and, as far as I know, it marked the first screen appearance of a certain David Bowie, who later went on to make flicks like THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH, LABYRINTH and THE HUNGER. The book cover features an old ghostly picture of the now deceased star and the book is certainly a fitting and lovely memento by which to remember him.

THE BLACK PANTHER was the name given to Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer whose abduction of wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975 is the subject of Michael’s controversial screenplay of the same name. The 1977 film was even banned for a bit but a change of heart by the British Film Institute saw it taking its rightful place amongst other important British films of the period.

GHOST TOWN is a horror-slash-spoof Western which sees a group of handsome, reckless young outlaws, consisting of two groups of brothers, robbing a bank and then hiding out in a town that they don’t realise has its very own gathering of ghosts…

The moon is full.

The derelict buildings stand

Like towering black tombstones coldly bathed in the moonlight.

The only sounds to break the silence come from the Saloon,

From which lights are now flickering.

A STAR IS DEAD, though it was never made into a film, tells the fictional story of how the management team of notorious punk band The Sex Pistols tried to clean up their grubby image by getting them to star in a family film, a musical version of Alexandre Dumas’ book THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Enough said? ‘Nuff said…!

BEELZEBUB is a fantastic horror story about a haunted or possessed computer which could so easily have been made into a great ‘Eighties horror film, if only circumstances had been different. ESKIMO NELL is a rambunctious sex romp-slash-sexploitation comedy with a terrific cast.

It stars a young and dashingly handsome Michael Armstrong himself, Christopher Timothy before ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL, Roy Kinnear who was Verruca Salt’s Dad in WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, Rosalind Knight from ABOUT A BOY (‘Are you a professional Santa?’) and porn star Mary Millington before she was widely-known.

Some of the lines in ESKIMO NELL are pure comedy gold. Here’s a sample:

‘I can’t do it, Benny, I just can’t do it! I’m just not capable of writing the first all-British pornographic Kung Fu musical western: least of all when three different girls and a drag queen all think they’re going to be playing the same part!’

‘Right then, the opening shot of the film is a big close-up of this bleedin’ great pair of tits…

but do it with integrity…’

‘Acting? Acting? You didn’t tell me I had to act! Listen, I don’t mind getting screwed but I’m not doing any of that acting stuff! What sort of a girl do you take me for?’

‘It’s all terribly wholesome family entertainment, like Hamlet… but nicer.’

‘Yes, but what’s my motivation for having an erection…?’

‘Oooooh, what lovely buns…!’

The superb and undeniably clever DEATH MASQUE is the latest script-book to roll off the presses at Michael’s publishers, PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS. It’s a screenplay about opera, one of the arts about which I’m afraid I know only the old joke:

Kid: Mammy, why is that man threatening that fat woman with a stick?

Mammy: Don’t be ridiculous, dear. Of course he’s not threatening her.

Kid: Then why is she crying…?

I hope, therefore, that Michael will forgive me for glossing over the heavily operatic bits and concentrating as always on the plot and the writing, both of which are again top-notch and a pleasure to read.

The book, by the way, in case I’ve alarmed you with all the opera stuff, can be read just as easily by non-opera buffs such as myself as by experts or aficionados of the art, and there’s a full glossary of references at the back of the book if you want to know the meaning of some of the fancy words.

There’s a lot of fascinating information in there too about Masques, not the masks with which you hide your face but the other kind of Masque, which is defined in the book as:

‘a spectacular court entertainment involving music, dancing, singing, and acting, within an elaborate stage design, to present a deferential allegory flattering to the patron. They would end with a celebratory dance, led by the monarch and his favourite courtiers.’

There’s a ‘Masque’ in the book, in fact a Masque is pretty much the central feature of the book, so now at least we know what it is. Forewarned is forearmed, isn’t that what they say?

The twisty-turny plot sees two young holiday-makers, Carrie and Tim, finding themselves staying in the fabulous Italian villa of operatic legend Anna Morenzi after they have all their money and passports and airline tickets and stuff pinched by a couple of hitch-hikers. Here’s where they meet their slightly-less-than-gracious hostess:

‘But before anything can be said,

Their attention is directed upwards-

Where, at the top of the grand staircase:

ANNA MORENZI stands;

Resplendent in her shimmering golden dress and diamonds.

Although she may be in her-mid sixties;

Like the youthful beauty of her portrait,

She has remained undiminished by time.’

There’s kind of a Norma-Desmond-from-SUNSET BOULEVARD vibe about the splendiferous but undoubtedly ageing Anna Morenzi. Her household is no less curious than Ms. Desmond’s, consisting as it does of the following:

Miles, her devoted (but definitely not her first!) husband; Edgar, her stunning but much younger lover; George, the sort-of-butler and Miles’s step-brother, who has the misfortune to be wildly in love with Miles; Drake Cauley, a lawyer, and his alcoholic lush of a wifey, Helen.

Now there’s the Americans, Carrie and Tim (Tim’s a would-be actor), also and even the two hitch-hikers, once believed to be thieves, Sean and Dorothy, are all part of the big happy family now as well.

Anna should have more than enough bodies now to participate- whether they want to or not- in her enormous annual deathly ‘Masque’ in honour of her birthday. Although you’d think at her age, wouldn’t you, that she’d be better off not marking the passing of time quite so publicly…! 

The screenplay begins most promisingly with a young couple running away, through a forest at night, from something so horrible that they’d prefer to entomb themselves in a crypt with the long-departed rather than stand and face it.

The pace never lets up once after that. As you might have guessed, there are some extremely strange goings-on at Anna Morenzi’s palatial villa, goings-on that can’t all be explained away by Miles’s and Edgar’s sick little game-playing in which they freely admit to indulging:

Edgar: It’s this crazy game we play. I screw his wife so he gets even by murdering me. That way I keep them both happy. At first, it felt kinda strange but now I’ve gotten used to it; it’s kinda fun and I enjoy it.

Tim: You enjoy pretending to be killed? That is seriously weird, pal.

Edgar: No more than all those business guys who go off for weekends where they dress up to play war games and shoot each other with little blobs of paint. What we do’s much more creative… and sexy. Sometimes I even get a hard-on.

Tim: You’re sick, fella.

Edgar: You think so? You should try it sometime.

DEATH MASQUE is intended to be read and enjoyed on three levels: as a mystery thriller (who exactly is Ulrica-ca, the Woman In Black, and what does she want?), as a comedy and, finally, as a social allegory. Me, my low-brow mind goes straight for the smut as always. I’ll leave you with my two favourite quotes from the screenplay, the first of which is spoken by the great and glorious Anna Morenzi herself: 

‘Always give the audience what it wants. Lots of T. & A. Never fails, dear: ‘Tits & Art.’ If they don’t like the show, at least give ’em something to drool over. Helps keep the snoring down.’

I love it. This last one then is uttered by Tim, who has big dreams of being a Hollywood actor but you just know that a career as a bus-boy is all that beckons:

‘My God! He’s screwing his mother! The guy’s actually screwing his own goddamn mother… in the grass!’

A man who would screw his own mother in the grass- in the grass, mark you- is not fit to consort with decent civilised people. ‘Nuff said? I think so.

Michael Armstrong’s script-books are available from retailers, Amazon and direct online at:

www.paperdragonproductions.com/shop

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk/publications

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

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

FRITZ LANG’S ‘M.’ (1931) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

fritz lang m

FRITZ LANG’S ‘M.’ (1931) DIRECTED BY FRITZ LANG. SCREENPLAY BY FRITZ LANG AND THEA VON HARBOU. STARRING PETER LORRE AND OTTO WERNICKE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘10,000 marks reward.

MISSING

Believed to have been murdered.

ELSIE BECKMANN.

Age 6-a-half years. Fair hair. Brown eyes. About 3 ft 4 in height. Last seen outside the Barclay School For Infants on April 14th at about ten minutes past twelve.

Any person able to supply information, please communicate with

CARL LOHMANN,

Chief of police or any police station.’

People are always calling ‘M’ Fritz Lang’s masterpiece. I love this film very much but I just want to point out that Fritz Lang’s ‘METROPOLIS’ exists too and might be an even better candidate for the title of this director’s actual masterpiece.

That’s not to say that ‘M,’ possibly the earliest film ever made on the disturbing and grisly subject of child murder and Fritz Lang’s first ever talkie, isn’t a masterpiece. It is, it absolutely is. But the guy can have two masterpieces, can’t he…? That’s all I’m saying, lol.

People usually think that the film is based on the murderous career of serial killer Peter Kurten, the so-called ‘Vampire of Dusseldorf,’ but Fritz Lang himself points out that Kurten was never an admitted child killer and also that the script for ‘M’ was already done and dusted before Kurten was ever apprehended. But serial killers did already exist back then, so it’s certainly more than possible that they gave Lang his idea for the film.

The German city in the film is a city living in terrible fear when the movie starts. A spate of child murders have the inhabitants on the edge of their seats, worrying themselves sick about their kiddies who are every day at risk from becoming the next murder statistic until this fellow is caught. And what won’t they do to the bastard when he is…! Temperatures run very, very high in the city at the moment.

In fact, the movie starts with a murder. Pretty, lively little Elsa Beckmann, the daughter of an impoverished and exhausted washerwoman, is cajoled away from her life by a man whose distinctive profile we first see against the background of one of the ‘WANTED! MURDERER!’ posters. It’s an effective introduction for the man the whole city is just longing to meet.

The images that imply Elsie’s death at the hands of this man, who jauntily whistles the theme from Grieg’s PEER GYNT while he lures the child casually away (his signature?), are stunning in their simplicity.

Her ball rolls away into a patch of wasteland; her new balloon is caught in some telegraph wires and flaps helplessly in the breeze. Two simple but strikingly powerful images, and pretty little Elsie Beckmann is lost to the world of man forever.

The whole city is up in arms. The police are working flat out to catch the killer. This is a good thing, right? Well, not, apparently, for certain elements of the city’s criminal fraternity.

They can’t take a step now without being caught up in a police raid to catch the child murderer. The constant police presence across the city is interfering big-time with their criminal activities. If this keeps up, they’ll be on the breadline, grumble grumble grumble. Ya gotta feel sorry for them.

A group of burglars and safecrackers, headed by a man who couldn’t look more like a Nazi if he tried, in his belted overcoat, hat, black gloves and stick (for whopping things…!), decide to catch the killer themselves and thereby loosen the coppers’ grip on the collar of the city’s criminal underbelly. Then they can go about their unlawful business in peace and quiet once more without the bleedin’ fuzz breathing down their necks all the livelong day.

The funny thing about all this is that the leader of this group, the guy in the Nazi overcoat (incidentally played by an actor who went on to have a rather succesful career under Nazi rule, so we’re not too far out), is wanted by the police on three separate counts of manslaughter.

But because the victims are presumably only adult males who got in the way of his criminal enterprises, then that’s totally okay, see? They weren’t little children. This gives us an idea of the special place reserved in hell (and in the minds of their peers) for the people who do harm to children.

The criminals, with the aid of the city’s population of beggars and down-and-outs, do actually manage to catch the murderer. They haul him in front of a secret kangaroo court consisting of criminals and their pals and there’s very much a feeling that these could tear the child murderer to shreds like wolves, if their leader so much as gives them the signal.

The man chosen to ‘defend’ the murderer brings up some very good points about the notion of capital punishment, the penalty for murder in those days. Should a man be penalised, he argues eloquently after a heartfelt speech from the murderer, if he has no control over his actions and is therefore not responsible for them? The kangaroo court are sceptical. They’re all for execution, and the sooner the better.

The counsel for the defence begs that the murderer be turned over to the police for justice to take place in a civilised fashion, rather than let him be subject to mob justice. We, the viewers, all probably know at this point that the murderer, rather than being summarily hanged or guillotined or shot by a firing squad, needs to be taken into protective custody, preferably in a mental hospital, and there analysed and given whatever treatment, if any, was available to the paedophiles of the day. The mob, however, might have other ideas…

Peter Lorre is brilliant here as You-Know-Who. His eyes are so big and expressive! He did an English language version of the film too, a version which up until only fairly recently was considered lost, and here he gives his first ever English-speaking performance in any movie ever. This makes it a very exciting discovery indeed for Peter Lorre aficionados.

The English language version of the film is a full twenty minutes shorter than the original German version, however, so for this reason I much prefer the German version with English subtitles. The two films have different, though similar, endings, if you get me, and the better ending of the two is in the German version, in my humble opinion.

The film really brings home to the viewer the vulnerability of children, the fact that they can be lured away from their parents, their friends, their homes, their schools and their very lives by an apple, a balloon, a piece of candy.

The kiddies in the film seem particularly impoverished, if Elsie Beckmann’s home and (I’m guessing) overworked single mother are anything to go by, so all the killer has to do is flash a toy or a few sweets to get the child to follow him anywhere he wants.

The spoilt brats of today with all their fabulous, expensive technology might be a little harder to lure away. You’d almost certainly have to be technology-savvy and offering something rather exceptional to get them to glance up, bored, from their iPads.

‘M’ is a truly haunting film. The lovely lost children, the terror of the murderer when faced with the kangaroo court, and the desolation of the downtrodden, impoverished mothers who’ve each lost children in this sinister way all combine to give us some genuinely disturbing images and memories that we won’t forget in a hurry. I can’t say exactly that you’ll enjoy the film, purely because of the grisly nature of the subject matter, but you’ll definitely remember it anyway.

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

 

ASSAULT, also known as IN THE DEVIL’S GARDEN. (1971) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

assault tessa screaming

ASSAULT. (1971) BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘THE RAVINE’ BY KENDAL YOUNG. DIRECTED BY SIDNEY HAYERS. STARRING SUZY KENDALL, LESLEY-ANNE DOWN, JAMES LAURENSON, FRANK FINLAY, TONY BECKLEY, DILYS HAMLETT, ALLAN CUTHBERTSON, DAVID ESSEX AND FREDDIE JONES.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an excellent British horror-slash-murder mystery from my absolute favourite British horror period, the early ‘Seventies. The stuff they made back then just can’t be surpassed: THE WICKER MAN, THE APPOINTMENT, CRUCIBLE OF TERROR, THE VAMPIRE LOVERS, LUST FOR A VAMPIRE and so many, many more.

In fact, the first six minutes of ASSAULT (the title is the only thing about this that I’d change, it made me word-associate it with rifles, for some reason…!) reminded me of the first five minutes of THE APPOINTMENT, a proper British chiller starring Edward Woodward from THE EQUALISER and THE WICKER MAN.

When the schoolgirl called Sandie is walking home alone from school through the lonely, forbidden path in the forest in THE APPOINTMENT and strange eerie voices are calling to her by name from inside the forest, it gives me chills every time, even though I already know what’s coming.

Speaking of the title, ASSAULT, by the way, the movie does have another title, IN THE DEVIL’S GARDEN, which might have been a little more atmospheric. It’s such a wonderfully atmospheric movie, very of the time in which it was made, and something of a sex pervert’s dream as well, featuring as it does all these sexy, sexually mature seventeen-and-eighteen-year-old schoolgirls in the tiny little pink skirts no longer than gym-slips and pristine white knee-socks they wear to school.

Is it any wonder, then, that an actual sex pervert is loose in the movie, choosing for his victims the girls from Mrs. Sanford’s School For Girls who unwisely walk home alone from school through the adjoining forest…?

The action all seems to take place in a lonely part of the forest called the Common or Devil’s End. He rapes them initially, this dreadful sex pervert, before graduating to rape coupled with strangulation leading to death. It’s a shocking state of affairs.

Lesley-Anne Down in one of her earliest roles plays Tessa Hurst, the first girl from Mrs. Sanford’s to be pursued through the woods and then brutally raped. Lesley-Anne Down (UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS, COUNTESS DRACULA, ARCH OF TRIUMPH with Anthony Hopkins, blockbuster mini-series NORTH AND SOUTH) is one of the most beautiful women ever to grace a cinema screen. Her expressive eyes, her rose-red luscious lips, her lustrous long dark hair all add up to a most pleasing picture indeed.

Her character of Tessa Hurst goes into a state of catatonic shock after the terrible attack. Even I know that, and I’m not a doctor. No amount of throwing a ball at her mid-section and expecting her to catch it will help her to snap out of her coma-like state, are you hearing this, attractive psychiatrist Dr. Greg Lomax…? Heh-heh-heh.

Within six or seven minutes of the first attack, another schoolgirl has been raped and, this time, she’s been choked to death as well. This time round, though, there’s a witness to the murder, the art teacher Julie West as played by Suzy Kendall. She’s an extremely attractive young lady, with her long glorious hippy hair, purple-tinted spectacles, knee-boots and mini-skirts. Very jazzy and of the time.

When she describes the assailant to the Judge at the inquiry as looking just like ‘the Devil,’ the Judge laughs at her and dismisses her as an over-imaginative female. The Judge is played by the same chap (Allan Cuthbertson) who attends Basil Fawlty’s first- and last- ever Gourmet Night at Fawlty Towers when the only item on the menu is, well, duck. And what do you do if you don’t like duck? Well, if you don’t like duck, I’m afraid you’re rather stuck…!

Any one of the men in the film could be the sex killer, which is what keeps the plot ticking over nicely all the way to the end. Every male character is a possible suspect.

There’s John Velyan (Frank Finlay), the copper investigating the dastardly crimes, but you never really get the feeling that he’s anything other than a straight-up copper who’s just dying to put this kinky murdering bastard behind bars where he belongs.

Then there’s the aforementioned attractive investigating psychiatrist Dr. Greg Lomax, who’s played by the devastatingly handsome James Laurenson. He’s sweet on Miss West, the beautiful art teacher, but what’s in all those pills he keeps giving her, that she obediently swallows without even questioning what’s in them? She must indeed be mesmerised by his delicious, chocolatey-brown come-to-bed peepers, because I know I certainly was, tee-hee-hee.

The most obvious suspect is probably the most odious, one Leslie Sanford who’s the husband of Mrs. Sanford who runs the Girls’ School, the school from which all the victims are chosen. Mrs. Sanford, who’s a good deal older and more staid than her husband, is utterly distraught about what’s happening to the good name of her school.

Her husband Leslie, on the other hand, is enjoying seeing his wife’s good name being dragged through the mud. His older wife’s money is what keeps him in the lap of relative luxury and boy, doesn’t he hate her for it! He feels emasculated, so he blames his wife. He even rewards her fidelity and generosity by lecherously groping the schoolgirls under her care.

Leslie Sanford loses no opportunity to slag his mortified wife off to John Velyan, the investigating police officer, but Velyan won’t play ball with the odious little man. He sees right through the nasty piece of work, who even confesses to the rapes but Velyan won’t arrest him. Why not? Let’s just say that Velyan’s got this nasty little scrap of humanity sussed…

There’s also Mr. Bartell, the principal of the local hospital, and Mr. Denning the obnoxious journalist, who absolutely should not get away with terrorising and shadowing Miss West the way he does. Just because he’s a newspaper man in search of a story doesn’t give him the right to behave the way he does.

That just leaves Milton, the police officer assigned to be Miss West’s bodyguard, to round up the list of possible suspects. There’s even a rather sinister-looking electricity pylon in the woods that looks like it might be culpable of some wrong-doing at some point.

Grip, the Sanfords’ dog, is a male all right but he definitely isn’t a suspect. Popular singer David Essex as the chap who comes into the pharmacy with his girlfriend isn’t a suspect, exactly, but he’ll certainly think twice before he whips out his lighter in public again…!

ASSAULT is one of the finest films of its time. I’m only surprised it’s not better-known. It’s got a fantastic cast and a great plot which sees a crazed sex killer running amok amongst the lovely nubile pupils of a local girls’ school. What’s not to love…?

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