I didn’t grow up or ever live in Maggie Thatcher’s England, otherwise I mightn’t have bawled so hard at this rather emotional and sentimental depiction of the Iron Lady’s life and times.

Meryl Streep is fabulous, as always, as the woman who went from being a grocer’s daughter to Britain’s longest serving (in the twentieth century) and first ever female Prime Minister.

The story is told partly in flashbacks depicting Mrs. Thatcher’s ascent to power in the Conservative party, and partly in scenes from the ‘present day,’ about eight years after the death of her beloved husband, Denis, beautifully played by that old stalwart of the British screen, Jim Broadbent.

That places the action in 2011, two years before Margaret Thatcher died in 2013. (Did she see this film? It’s not particularly unflattering, but she may have been made uncomfortable at the scenes in which she was depicted as being not in her right mind, or in which her late husband appears.)

The bits from the present are very sad, hence me crying my eyes out for the old lady with dementia who talks to her deceased husband all the time because she’s actually seeing visions of him; it’s as if he never left. In these ‘present day’ clips, she is finally going through Denis’s clothes and other effects with a view to sending them to charity, never an easy thing to do.

This is what her daughter Carol thinks she should do, put away the past and get on with her life. Carol is left with the main care of her mother, though the elderly former Prime Minister has a staff who make sure she’s always ready- suited, pussy-bow-tied, made-up and coiffed- to be wheeled out for yet another appointment, such as another fancy dinner at which her opinions on current affairs are sought, or the unveiling of yet another portrait of her for posterity.

Carol Thatcher is one hundred percent present for her ageing mum, but, typically, it’s the deceased Denis and the absent son Mark, ensconced with his own family on the other side of the world, for whom the old lady pines day and night. What’s that they say? A daughter’s a daughter for all of her life; a son’s just a son till he gets him a wife…

Via the flashbacks, we see the Iron Lady (this very apt nickname came from the Russians) grappling with some of the major issues and incidents from her eleven years in office as the Prime Minister; the Brixton riot in 1981; the Miners’ Strike from 1984-1985; the bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative Party Conference of 1984. Some despicable people obviously found the presence of so many Tories in the one place, including Maggie and Denis, to be just too irresistible.

Then there was the Falklands War in 1982. Men on both sides of the short but bloody conflict died, and poor Prince Andrew sadly lost forever his ability to sweat, but Maggie and her Brits seized those islands back from the pesky Argentinians, giving her the reputation of a leader with balls of steel, though she concealed them handsomely beneath her well-tailored blue skirt suits.

Her heyday was the 1980s. In the film, she is portrayed in the 1990s as something of an anachronism, squabbling with her ministers, in particular Geoffrey Howe, who resigned after one such public bollocking (yes, I could have said ‘dressing-down’ there but saying bollocking instead is keeping it real, man!).

She also insists that poor people should pay as much as rich people pay in the deeply unpopular Poll Tax, a tax for simply existing, as far as I can make out. She has no choice but to step down when she realises she’s lost the support of much of her cabinet for her draconian policies.

Comedy sketch show SPITTING IMAGE did very well out of her, and also out of her successor, the mild-mannered John Major. ‘The peas are good today, Norma.’ But it’s the sketch of Maggie and her cabinet out to dinner on one occasion that I’ll never forget. Maggie orders her meat course, and then the waiter asks her what about the vegetables?

‘They’ll have what I’m having,’ replies the Lady who is not for Turning.







I absolutely love survival horror films like this one. FALL is very similar to one whose name I can’t remember, featuring a cable car stuck up in the mountains after the booking office has closed and the staff have all gone home for the weekend, maybe even the long weekend. And you know the way that the kids in horror films often do the stupidest things, the exact things that will guarantee them both disaster and a short life?

The kids in the cable car movie (it’s on the tip of my tongue; was it called DROP? SNOW? CABLE CAR? MOUNTAIN? FREEZE? ROCK? SWING? CREAK? THREE THICK EEJITS STUCK IN A ROCKING CABLE CAR HALFWAY UP A FUCKIN’ MOUNTAIN AFTER HOURS?) can’t have known that their cable car would turn out to be faulty, so I suppose you can’t really call them stupid, but the two lasses in FALL do the stupidest thing ever while in their right minds, so they deserve every Darwin Award ever awarded to stupid people who improve the human gene pool by killing themselves in ever more idiotic ways. It’s a bit like the rubbish kerbing itself, if you get me.

FALL adheres strictly to a formula, but it’s a formula that still really works. Put your protagonists in a dangerous situation, then just keep turning the screw on the little blighters till they figure a way out for themselves. THE POOL and CRAWL and 47 METERS DOWN all come to mind as examples of fairly recent survival horror films that stick to the formula, but really work well as well.

American gals Becky and Hunter decide to climb a 2,000 ft high tower in the desert so that they can take photos at the top for Hunter’s YouTube channel, for which she carries out dangerous ‘challenges.’

Well, people will always like and subscribe to watch other idiots killing themselves, we know that. They’ll film you while you’re dying, too, but don’t expect them to call 911 because they’re busy trying to film something, goddammit…!

Anyway, Becky doesn’t want to climb the stupid tower. She’d rather stay home and booze it up and mourn the loss of her hubby, Dan, who died this time last year in, yes, you guessed it, a climbing accident also involving Becky and Hunter. (Dan is played by Mason Gooding, the son of Cuba Gooding, Jr.)

Becky doesn’t want to climb stairs, never mind a stupid rickety old tower in the desert, but Hunter, hungry for Likes & Subscribes, manages to persuade her that, if she doesn’t, she’ll be giving in to fear and fear will dominate her for the rest of her life.

Is that what you want, Becky? For fear to be the boss of you your whole freakin’ life? Do you want to be enjoying a quiet evening in and suddenly fear calls round and ruins everything by insisting you cook for him (yep, fear’s a guy!) and give him the best seat on the couch so he can watch his Netflix series, which, by the way, has one-hundred-and-twenty episodes in it and he’s only watched about four to date? Get a grip, Becky!

About thirty-five minutes in to the film, the shit hits the fan. The girls, Wonderbras firmly in place because ‘tits get clicks,’ suddenly find themselves stuck up the tower and in the worst peril of their stupid lives, and all to get clicks and views for ‘Danger D,’ as Hunter calls herself online.

Putting your own and a friend’s life in jeopardy for your viewers’ pleasure and enjoyment is almost criminally wrong. What sort of desperate character does that? Is someone officially looking into it? Seriously…

I’m not really going to give away any more, but the tension is terrific and the girls’ predicament just keeps getting grimmer and grimmer, as the buzzards circle ominously and the gals can’t get a signal for their phones. Well, it can’t be because they’re not up bleedin’ high enough!

There’s the usual trope of a confession needing to be made by one of the parties stuck up 2,000 feet in the ear, and the other party needs to hear it, regardless of what a dodgy and dangerous situation they find themselves in.

One of the girls is estranged from one parent as well, and would really appreciate said parent reading her mind and coming to her rescue right about now. Oh, wouldn’t that be luverly…?

The two female leads are excellent in their roles, although I found it strange that neither of them seemed to be suffering from vertigo and there were virtually no shots of the ground coming sickeningly up to meet them like in Alfred Hitchcock’s VERTIGO. They were standing around as bold as brass, not even holding onto the pole thing and looking down in gut-wrenching terror.

There’s a pretty good plot twist that I did not see coming, and an ever-so-slightly disappointing ending. It’s just a tad confusing, that’s all. Hopefully it won’t ruin your enjoyment of an otherwise cracking little survival horror film. And remember, it’s a survival film, isn’t it, so someone has to, right…?  




I’ve absolutely loved this sitcom right from the first episode, though I’ve never seen MAN ABOUT THE HOUSE, the sitcom from which it derived. George and Mildred Roper are a total hit as a couple.

George is a ‘working class layabout’ who loves to sit around watching telly and smoking and only getting up to change the channel on the box when he can’t find the remote control…

Mildred is a social butterfly who wants nothing more than to move to a nice posh area and make a few nice posh friends with whom to share coffee mornings, book clubs and charity fund-raising drives.

Mildred has an adorable little wuff-wuff called Truffles. She’s (Mildred, that is, not the dog!) always togged out in her favourite skirt-and-blouse ensembles in the fluorescent colours she loves, with the make-up on and the wonderful but garish costume jewellery in place.

After a ‘bit of trouble’ with their old council house, the Ropers move to 46, Peacock Crescent in Hampton Wick, a posh area with ‘decent schools,’ where Mildred is so determined to social climb that you wouldn’t be at all surprised if she’d brought along her climbing boots, helmet and crampons to help her do the job.

George, not unsurprisingly, hates the house and the area, saying it’s a place for upper class, toffee-nosed twits and Conservative tossers. And he’s not entirely wrong, either. Next-door-neighbour, Geoffrey Fourmile, is a snobby real estate agent who thinks the Ropers are povvos lowering the tone of the neighbourhood.

His biggest dread is having George Roper’s working-class ideas inculcated into the brain of his own cute blond son, Tristram, who, at aged six or eight or whatever it is, is as absorbent as a sponge.

Geoffrey tolerates his wife Anne’s friendship with the brash and good-taste-less Mildred, but he has a special place of loathing in his heart for the perpetually unemployed George. The one time George gets a job, it’s as a traffic warden and he has the nerve to give Geoffrey a ticket!

Anne Fourmile is a rare gem, even in the days when women traditionally stayed home to look after husbands and children. She cooks, cleans and sews like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

She’s ash-blonde, sweet and pretty in a soft, feminine way (a sort of really soft, pink cashmere sweater kind of way), but she can be feisty and funny too, and she’s definitely sexy, with the Fourmiles still enjoying a healthy sex life even after several years of marriage. A second son-with-a-silly-posh-twit’s-name, Tarquin, is born about halfway through the show’s duration.

Geoffrey is traditionally tall, dark and handsome, but he’s no friend to the unemployed, whom he’d see as scroungers and layabouts who should all be made to pave the roads or something to get them off the dole.

His spats with George are hilarious, but stuffed shirt, stiff-upper-lipped Geoffrey isn’t entirely without feeling, as when he replaces George’s old dad’s dead ferret (dead because he, Geoffrey, backed the car over it!) with a live one to say sorry.

George and Mildred don’t seem to have had sex for years. Mildred makes the most cutting remarks about George’s impotency or lack of libido, whichever it is. George seems absolutely petrified at the thought of having sex with his own wife, and all Mildred’s attempts at penetrating the fortress that is George’s side of the bed usually end in failure. Not surprisingly, Mildred buys her Yorkshire Terrier, Truffles, to counter-act the loneliness of having no offspring of her own to love.

Mildred’s old mum is played by EASTENDERS actress Gretchen Franklin, who for years portrayed Ethel Skinner, Dot Cotton’s best pal, in the long-running soap. I can’t believe she was old even in the ‘Seventies!

In GEORGE AND MILDRED, her finest hour is probably when she hosts the Christmas knees-up to end all knees-ups while George and her daughter sit alone and friendless in their house. The joke being, of course, that even an octogenarian has more pals than George and Mildred…

Poor childless Mildred, for all her bling and brashness, has a sad life, really. Her husband never compliments her or even really ever notices her. He never even tries to touch her, never mind throwing her down on a bed and making her feel like a real woman with the strength and depth of his passion.

Her only friend is Anne Fourmile, who’s got her own family to worry about at the end of the day. Her mother can never remember which daughter Mildred is, and Mildred’s sister Ethel (more below) just uses her as someone to show off to and flaunt her wealth in front of. Poor Mildred.

Avril Elgar and Reginald Marsh play Ethel and Humphrey Pumphrey (love it!), Mildred’s sister and brother-in-law. Ethel married rich, and shows off her wealth and good fortune to poor Mildred in a way that would put Hyacinth Bucket (that’s Boo-kay, if you please, not Bucket!) of KEEPING UP APPEARANCES to shame. Mind you, we know that Humphrey is a bit of a womanising, sleeping-with-his-secretary type, so all is not completely perfect chez Humphrey.

My favourite recurring character is Roy Kinnear’s Jerry, the ‘cowboy’ builder, who’s so crooked he even freely admits it himself. He’s like O’Reilly in FAWLTY TOWERS, the cowboy builder Basil employs to work on the hotel because he’s cheap and cuts corners. But when George engages his mate Jerry to build ‘Mildew’s’ (that’s what Jerry calls her) dream shower, it’s not the Ropers but the Fourmiles who, erm, get the benefit…

Fun fact: George’s 1933 motorcycle-with-sidecar combination is now on permanent display at the London Motorcycle Museum. It also appeared in the BBC military sitcom, DAD’S ARMY.

Sad fact: Poor dear Yootha Joyce died prematurely of portal cirrhosis of the liver in 1980, thereby preventing further episodes of the show from being made. This just makes the ones we have all the more precious. It’s a terrific show. Watch it if you can.   






This is a fantastic film for mothers and daughters to watch together. Myself and my own daughter were positively glued to it yesterday afternoon (Sunday). That’s not to say that men and other folks can’t enjoy it too; it’s just that it’s such a brilliant mother-daughter picture, with Glenn Close and Mila Kunis each giving phenomenal performances as, guess what, a mother and daughter, lol.

Glenn Close of FATAL ATTRACTION fame plays Deb, the mom. She lives in suburban America and works as a massage therapist to rich wimmins. Deb’s daughter Molly (Mila Kunis, who plays Meg in FAMILY GUY) has just turned up on Deb’s doorstep like a bad penny. She is absolutely rotten with drugs, the really bad kind.

She begs her mum to let her come back home to allegedly ‘get clean,’ but Molly has no fewer than fourteen failed attempts at de-toxing under her belt already, and we get the feeling that Deb has been right alongside her the whole time. So: Go away, Molly. Come back when you’re clean. We’ve been through all this before, remember? Come back when you’re clean.

Molly has all but ruined her mum’s life with her nonsense. As a heroin addict, she has lied to her mother, stolen from her mother’s purse, nicked her stepdad’s guitars to sell for drugs money, caused a divide between her mum and her stepdad and gotten her two young children taken away from her. I’m pretty sure that Molly hasn’t forgotten about this category of woe.

But Molly has her mother’s stubbornness. If you let me in, Mom, I swear that this time will be different. I really mean it about wanting to get clean this time. Well, her poor mother’s not made of stone. Deb agrees- reluctantly- to let Molly come home, but this absolutely, definitely has got to be the last attempt at ‘getting clean.’ It will be Molly’s fifteenth stab at it.

Deb is heartbroken at the state of Molly. Her lovely teeth have all rotted away. Her bleached blonde hair is so dry it’s a fire hazard. She’s stick-thin. Her once-beautiful face is covered in ugly sores.

Molly hasn’t seen her two children, who are living with their dad, in God-knows-how-long. Everything she’s ever had, she’s lost. Self-esteem, self-confidence, pride in herself, another child which she carried to term and then gave up for adoption. It’s a tragic old story.

Deb helps Molly to go ‘cold turkey’ at home. Deb’s husband, Molly’s stepfather, stays mostly out of it, having been robbed blind by a drug-addled Molly in the past. For Deb, it’s a long few days, full of watching, and waiting, and worrying, and wondering. It’s cool the way the things all started with a ‘w,’ isn’t it…? Lol.

Molly’s doctor tells her something electrifying. If Molly can stay drug-free for only four more days- four good days- he will give her a drug called an opioid antagonist, which will help her body to reject any highs for up to a month. After that she can take the tablet again, and for however many times she needs it after that. (I think that’s how it works!)

Can Molly stay clean for four more days? She and her mum are both doubtful, but to think past this weekend is to be able to imagine a future without drugs blighting all their lives. It’s looking grim there for a while, especially when Molly decides she’s going to look up an old friend who just so happens to live in a crack den/flop house. Can Molly resist temptation? Can Deb hold it together? Will these ladies have their four good days? We can only wait and see, folks. Wait and see…

The story is based on the true-life goings-on of Amanda Wendler and Libby Alexander, Molly and Deb respectively. Glenn Close is still acting up a storm at seventy-five, and I was so impressed at Mila Kunis’s willingness to make herself look truly down-and-out for the role of an habitual junkie. Terrific film, doesn’t just have to be watched by mother-daughter combos! Watch it by yourself or with a roomful of people, it’s a cracking piece of work whatever way you look at it.

PS, having just done my online researches, I’ve discovered that the film’s director, Rodrigo Garcia, is actually the son of Nobel-prize-winning literary royalty, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. GGM penned works such as the famous One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), and was referred to on his death in 2014 as ‘the greatest Colombian who ever lived.’ It was the then President of Colombia who said this, by the way, not some mad randomer.

Rodrigo’s mum was a stunningly beautiful woman, known for being the supportive woman behind Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I wonder if it was hard going for Rodrigo, growing up in the shadow of an internationally famous dad? I did own One Hundred Years of Solitude at one point, but I gave it away to charity without reading it because I thought it looked a bit hard, lol. You know, literary and that. And how right I was!

Anyway, Rodrigo needn’t worry about having to live up to his famous Pops. If even half his oeuvres are as good as FOUR GOOD DAYS, he’s doing all right.



THE HUNT. (1965/1969)



‘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…’

The screenplay for Michael Armstrong’s THE HUNT was actually written twice, if you please. Once in 1965 as a sort of story-telling exercise to satisfy Michael’s own insatiable desire for learning and self-improvement (and, I daresay, his need to be Always Writing Something, an affliction from which most writers, including myself, suffer!) and again in 1969 with the intention of filming it as a short film of about twenty-five minutes duration.

It could then appear in cinemas accompanying a longer film. There were backers and a wonderful location and no-one was breathing down Michael’s neck trying to stunt his creativity. Happy Days!

He was inspired to write the screenplay after seeing his RADA chum Kenneth Cranham performing a mime of a soldier jumping in to a lake to avoid captivity, then swimming like billy-o, being shot and gracefully sinking to his death in an elegant slow motion.

The 1965 version of THE HUNT is shorter and simpler than the later one. We know straightaway that a young man, no more than a boy, really, is desperately running away from something or somebody, and we get a very real sense of his terror:

He glances behind him,


Through foliage-

Which becomes-



. . .

He stops,

For a moment,

Against a tree-

Almost hiding-

Almost crouching-

And looks behind him-

. . .

On, he runs-


His face is scared-

He runs-



It’s impossible not to want to offer the poor young fella a place to hide and a bed for the night with some hot food, especially when we find out that he is being pursued by a trio of determined soldiers.

What do they want him for? I very much doubt if it’s to give him a medal, or the chocolates and fragrant bath oils he lavishes on all his employees! (A Mr. Burns joke from THE SIMPSONS there, forgive me!)

In fact, one gets the disturbing feeling that something very unpleasant is coming down the track for this poor lad, and, even as we urge him on with all our might, things just keep going from bad to worse with him:

Gone are the sounds of the forest-

The hunt is on again-

As panic flashes into his face-

The terror has returned,

The fear,

As he frantically looks for somewhere,

Anywhere to run-

The THREE SOLDIERS are nearer,

Still at the same steady jogging trot-


Darts away-

Flashing through the forest-




And they follow-

The ending is shocking, and wholly unexpected. I won’t give it away. You’ll have much more fun reading the screenplay and finding out for yourself, hint hint, lol.

The 1969 screenplay has been filled out a good bit so that it could be made, as I said, into a short film of about twenty-five minutes in length. We still have our soldiers in pursuit, but this time we are shown the reason they are pursuing the young man. The chase is on once more, but with one or two little differences, or should I say, additions.

The bit where the young man being pursued meets up with a beautiful young girl and they start laughing and dancing and cavorting all around the meadows and whatnot really speaks to me. Michael, as a posh RADA type, had Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2 in mind for the music, but, for this scene in particular, I would personally use either of these two pieces of music:

  1. Men Without Hats; the Safety Dance. (We can dance if we want to, etc.)
  2. The Turtles: Happy Together.

Michael will probably choke on his posh-person coffee when he reads these suggestions, lol, but I could see them working, I totally could! (It’s the kind of scene you might see in the aforementioned SIMPSONS; a scene where Homer is happily prancing about singing or laughing joyfully, only for it to be revealed that he’s actually asleep at the wheel and about to unwittingly drive off a cliff . . .)  

Anyway, things go pear-shaped for the poor young fugitive almost immediately after his brief dalliance with his beautiful maiden:

THREE FIGURES can be seen moving through the trees-

Gone is the silence-

The hunt is on again-

As panic-

Sets him running frantically-

The THREE SOLDIERS are nearer-

He darts away-




Will the desperate young man ever ‘reach the winning post,’ and ‘the gleaming, prize-winning cup it has to offer,’ or will he go the way of our hero in the 1965 screenplay version? I’ll never tell, but it would be well worth your while to check the story out for yourself.

The foreword of the screenplay book is written by Kenneth Cranham, Michael’s RADA chum who pretty much inspired the whole shebang, and Michael himself has penned detailed, affectionate accounts of what it was like to shoot the 1969 production, which make for fantastic reading:

Michael: My favourite image of that day, however, will always be that of seeing Olive Negus-Fancey (Michael’s backer, whose farmland he was using for the shoot) perched on a tractor, happily ploughing a field.

Aw, wish I’d been there!

By the way, what ultimately happened to ‘the only film I ever shot and edited to my own satisfaction?’ (Michael’s words.) Well, again, reader, you’ll have to read this beautiful, glossy-covered screenplay book to find out.

One last word, though it’s neither Michael’s nor my own.

Q. What three things go to make a great film?

A. The screenplay, the screenplay, the screenplay!

Find out to whom these words are attributed in the book . . .

  You can buy this book and all of Michael’s other works as well at the following links:



I absolutely loved this low-budget British horror film set largely in council flats in a deprived part of England. There’s something very eerie about council flats when they’re in any way rundown, dilapidated or even deserted. Who knows what might lurk behind those closed doors along with the peeling paint, the black mould conditions and the lonely drip-drip-drip of the kitchen tap…?

This film is more of a haunting by a person of a person, rather than the flat itself being haunted, but it’s still good. If you want to watch a phenomenal low-budget British horror film about a haunted block of deserted council flats which are slated for demolition, please, please, please watch Christopher Frampton’s 2014 masterclass in spookiness, THE FORGOTTEN.

It’s terrifically scary and atmospheric, with the broken-down flat complex becoming a character in itself, filled with menace, threat and dread. Like in THE DISAPPEARED, it also features a troubled adolescent boy living with a deadbeat father because there’s no mother in the picture, and, as always, the lead character, the person being haunted, has to decide whether he’s losing his mind or if there actually is someone, or something, out there in the supernatural realm with a message they need him to hear…

Anyway, in THE DISAPPEARED, Matthew Ryan is a young man fresh out of a psychiatric hospital after the abduction one night of his little brother Tom, who is still missing. Matthew suffers terrible, terrible guilt about Tom, because he was celebrating his own birthday with his pals instead of looking after Tom, who wandered off- at night-time- and was taken, just one of a number of kids who’ve gone missing from the local area in recent years.

But if Tom was abducted and is most likely dead, then how come Matthew hears his voice in his ear night and day, and actually sees Tom too in physical form, looking exactly as he did in life, as robust and corporeal as ever he was…? Until Matthew tries to catch hold of him, of course, and then he’s gone like a light being snuffed out.

Matthew’s dad Jake, played by Emma Thompson’s hubby Greg Wise, can barely stand to look at his one remaining son, blaming Matthew as he does for Tom’s disappearance. Life in their council flat is fraught with unresolved tension and unspoken blame. Local thugs beat up Matthew because he’s that ‘weird kid’ with the missing brother. It’s not very nice being Matthew Ryan just now…

Poor Matthew, depressed, guilt-ridden and shadowed by ghosts, is not without support in his grief and confusion. A beautiful young girl called Amy moves into the flat next door and they become fast friends. She points him in the direction of a psychic mum-of-one in a nearby block of flats who might be able to make sense of the visions he’s having of Tom.

Matthew also has his best friend Simon, played by Tom Felton who was posh boy Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, and local priest Adrian Ballan, one of those do-gooder types who take an interest in the fate of local youths. You know the type.

Encouraging the lads to stay in school, to not do drugs and to not knock up Emma from Fourth Year because that’s their future good and fucked then. I shouldn’t think it’d be all that great for poor Emma from Fourth Year either…

Things take an even more sinister turn when Simon’s twelve-year-old sister Sophie goes missing. A tip-off from ‘the other side’ sends Matthew hurtling to the place where he thinks he’ll find both the abductor-killer and possibly some of the victims, maybe even live ones? The final showdown scenes are good ‘n’ gripping.

The atmosphere was lovely and gloomy throughout the film, helped by some gorgeous scenes of old high-rise flats and deliciously ancient-looking churches, crypts and woodland. The director even managed to make some of his shots look like they came from much earlier times, to wit, the ‘Seventies, which I personally appreciated a great deal.

I might have called the movie something else, perhaps, to avoid confusion with the group of people collectively known as ‘the Disappeared’ who went missing, believed murdered by the IRA, in Northern Ireland during the period called ‘the Troubles.’

Even a quick google search of that movie I mentioned earlier, THE FORGOTTEN, yields only a slew of items about a Julianne Moore Hollywood movie from 2004. So, we need some original, snappy and difficult-to-confuse-with-something-else titles here, peeps. THE HAUNTING OF MATTHEW RYAN, perhaps? I like that. We’ll call it that, lol. And top marks to all concerned for making a really smashing horror film.       






A note from the author, Sandra Harris: Hi guys, I’m re-posting this review which I penned last September 2016 because, last night, something rather wonderful happened to me. I turned up at the Irish Film Institute here in Dublin to see acclaimed writer Laura Albert talk about her work after a special screening of  AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY, and see Laura I most certainly did.

We met quite by accident in the Ladies’ Toilet, yet another occasion on which I’m thrilled and infinitely thankful to have been born female, haha. She’s absolutely beautiful to look at, with a wicked sense of style, and she’s a really lovely person to boot. She was so generous with her time and more than happy to sign the four copies of her books I’d brought along with me. Yes, four…!

Actually, Laura enjoyed the story I told her of how my now grown-up daughter was sneakily reading her books in the early-to-mid ‘Noughties, and also watching the film THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS on the sly at a sleepover with a bunch of her teenaged chums, all without my knowledge, of course…!

I think I would have had a stroke on the spot had I known what my darling little girl was reading in her leisure time, haha. Now she’s an adult herself, we can talk about the books openly so it’s all good. Laura seemed tickled pink by this story of mother-daughter literary shenanigans.

Laura deserves all the success and happiness the future can bring her and I sincerely hope this happens for her. In the meantime, read the books and watch AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY. It’s a stunningly mesmerising watch and Laura is a character whom, I promise you, you’ll never, ever forget. Love and best wishes, Sandra Harris, film critic extraordinaire and a legend in her own lunchtime. Now read on… 

I’ve watched or read a lot of author biopics/biographies in my time, but this one- how do I put this?- stands out somewhat. To be blunt, it was possibly the most bizarre, outrageous and yet strangely compelling author story I’d ever come across.

I’d missed seeing it when it came out in the cinema over the summer this year (2016), so I was thrilled to get a chance to review it for its home release debut. Whatever you think of it, it’s the author movie not only of the year but, let’s face it, probably of the millenium. You’ll most likely never hear a story like this again, so let’s take a peep at what exactly this superb documentary film is trying to tell us.

Okay, where to start? My mind is still blown from watching the film. Okay, let’s focus. A few years ago, a friend of mine (I can now admit that it was my own daughter!) handed me a book and told me to read it. I did, and thought that THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS (2001) was a terrific but really harrowing read.

It was supposedly written by a young American male called JT (or Jeremiah ‘Terminator’) LeRoy, whose tragic back-story included child prostitution, drug addiction, homelessness, all kinds of physical and sexual abuse and even the dreaded HIV. (You’ll have noted my use of the word ‘supposedly’ there…)

He was brought up (or dragged up, if you prefer) by his single mother, a truck-stop prostitute or ‘lot lizard’ whose succession of boyfriends all used her little son for their own nefarious purposes. It’s a story to make your blood run cold, frankly.

JT LeRoy famously brought out two books which were absolutely huge at the time they were published. The one I read myself, THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS (2001), is a series of ten linked short stories narrated by the boy ‘Jeremiah’ and telling the story of his miserable life on the road with his prostitute mother.

Mom apparently was a real headwrecker who alternately showed the boy both love and abusive behaviour, while little Jeremiah just craved her love and even wanted to be like her. The scenes of abuse Jeremiah received at the hands of his mother’s boyfriends and also his ultra-religious, child-beating grandparents are hard to read. I admit freely that I nearly didn’t make it all the way to the end, though of course I’m glad now that I did.

SARAH (2000) is narrated by an unnamed boy who details his grim existence as the son of Sarah, a ‘lot lizard’ who works the truck-stops in West Virginia. Like the mother in THE HEART IS DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS, she by turns rejects him and shows him affection. It’s a sad, sad story. I’m getting depressed just thinking about it.

Anyway, the thing about these two iconic books is that they were presented to the reading public as the autobiographical experiences of this shy, troubled young man, JT LeRoy, who only ever appeared in public heavily disguised in a blonde wig and huge visor sunglasses.

Celebrities flocked- and I do mean flocked- to his side, all anxious to take the reclusive author under their wing. Bono from rock group U2 (of course…!) was one of the first in the queue, armed with the apparently legendary ‘Bono Talk’ about the industry and the fickle, heartless Bitch-Goddess that is Showbusiness. Well, I wouldn’t know about that now, Ted…!

Courtney Love, BLONDIE‘s Debbie Harry, Lou Reed, Shirley Manson, the front woman from the band GARBAGE, Billy Corgan from THE SMASHING PUMPKINS and Asia Argento, daughter of horror maestro Dario Argento, are all clearly shown in the documentary sucking up big-time to JT, the then shit-hot ‘It’ boy of the literary world. Heh-heh-heh. Celebrities, honestly! Such utter twats. I’m actually sooooo fucking embarrassed for them. The state of them.

Anyway, then comes the bombshell. Rumours begin to circulate that JT is not only not whom he claims to be, but also that he never wrote those two books at all and therefore couldn’t even lay claim to having had those terrible experiences that had people feeling so sorry for him.

News about ‘the biggest literary hoax of the century’ began to hit the news-stands. The two people closest to the so-called ‘JT LeRoy’ knew the answers that an outraged media and literary public were seeking but, the thing was, were they talking…?

This is such a fascinating story. My friend (okay, daughter!) who’d given me that book to read a few years back watched the documentary with me and she’s still fuming over the reveal of the author’s true identity. She’d never heard anything about it before and she was stunned, to say the least.

For her, it was probably a bit like finding out that, say, JK Rowling hadn’t written the Harry Potter books or that her childhood heroine Jacqueline Wilson hadn’t really penned those lovely books about the trials and tribulations of being the daughters of divorced parents, haha.

I’ll let you guys in on a little secret. I actually much prefer the real author to the impersonator (who really bloody annoyed me) and that’s a fact…! I think the film will be of interest to non-writers as much as writers. It’s a gut-wrenching human interest story of gender confusion, real child sexual and physical abuse and overwhelming feelings of being unloved and unwanted (feelings that many people can identify with) that, frankly, I think everybody should try to see. There now, enough from me. I’ve done my bit. Now you guys can go watch the fim and do yours…!





‘The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?’ Jeremiah 17.9

Oh, wowee-wow. This is a hard film to watch, as is any film with sustained child abuse in it. The book, along with two others, were supposedly autobiographical novels written by teenage boy author sensation, JT LeRoy.

About halfway through the ‘Noughties, however, the whole JT LeRoy thing was revealed to be both fraudulent and JT himself the relative-in-law of Laura Albert, the real writer of the books.

Ms. Albert is actually a lovely, open and friendly woman whom I met when she came to Dublin about five or six years ago for a screening of the documentary AUTHOR: THE JT LEROY STORY.

She stated at the time of the big ‘Exposure’ that using the avatar-slash-persona-slash-alias of JT LeRoy to ‘hide’ behind helped her to write things she might otherwise have found too tough to commit to paper.

Nothing wrong with that, except that convincing people that JT LeRoy was the author of the books was construed as, ahem, fraud, and there might have been some, er, legal unpleasantness attendant upon the whole thing…

The whole thing was viewed as quite the literary swizz, in fact, and some people were really not very happy at all about being swizzed, and I suppose you can’t really blame them. But let’s move on to the plot, shall we?

Asia Argento, stunning Italian actress and the daughter of legendary film-maker Dario Argento, is excellent and very believable as the main character Sarah. Sarah is a trashy wench indeed, a drug addict prostitute and alcohol abuser, and the America she inhabits, the America of truck-stops and cheap motel rooms, is portrayed as a bleak and unforgiving place to be.

The daughter of physically abusive and, frankly, terrifying, Christian Fundamentalists, played by Peter Fonda and Ornella Muti, Sarah is probably the most effed-up person you’ll ever see on screen.

When we first meet her, she’s getting her seven-year-old son Jeremiah back from his stable foster family. She’s not much cop at mothering, to put it mildly. Neither is she doing him any favours by taking him away from the only decent home he’s ever known…

First, she convinces the terrified boy that his foster parents don’t want him, then she wallops him over the head (metaphorically at first) with the full impact of her dysfunctional lifestyle. Poor kid doesn’t stand a chance.

No school, no regular meals- just what he can find or forage- and physical and sexual abuse by the bucketload, courtesy of Sarah’s long parade of dead-beat truck-driving boyfriends. Sometimes they all just live in the trucks for a while because it’s handier.

The child is also left alone in the house for days at a time while Sarah goes on holiday with some guy. But don’t worry, folks! There might be some crackers in the cupboard…

Poor Jeremiah lives with his grandparents’ brutal cult for three years while a drugged-up Sarah goes gallivanting with her men, each one more unsuitable than the last.

Then she swans in and takes him back again. Thus begins the next phase of Jeremiah’s miserable existence; dressing up as Sarah’s ‘little sister’ so her boyfriends won’t be put off by the fact that she’s saddled with a kid. Nice, huh?

Jeremiah becomes even more messed up with all the cross-dressing stuff. Throw in an exploding meth lab and Sarah’s deteriorating mental state and you’ve got yourself a recipe for certain disaster. The film is well-acted but so, so bleak.

Marilyn Manson has a small role as a dead-beat boyfriend who succumbs to Jeremiah’s sexual advances- yes, you read that right- while the child is dressed in his momma’s ‘seduction’ gear. It’s just so effed-up.

One disturbing footnote to the film is the following. Jimmy Bennett, who plays young Jeremiah, received a large cash settlement from Asia Argento after he claimed that she’d sexually assaulted him in a hotel room in 2013, when he was seventeen and she was thirty-seven. It’s all a bit sordid. Watch the film if you think you can handle it, but don’t say you weren’t warned.





Who doesn’t love a story like this, in which a rich toff lady gets with a nice hairy bit of rough, who’s got good garden soil under his fingernails and fire and a nice pork pie in his belly? LADY CHATTERLEY’S LOVER is one such story.

Emma Corrin plays the titular Lady C., or Constance ‘Connie’ Reid, the gorgeous young brunette who marries Baronet Clifford Chatterley, who in turn owns a huge bit of real estate in the countryside called-you guessed it- Chatterley.

Anyway, Connie and Clifford manage to consummate their marriage the night before Clifford goes off to fight World War One, and presumably write a shit-tonne of war poems as well, lol, as was the style of the time. When he returns, he’s an impotent as a Nevada Boxing Commissioner, a line used by Montgomery Burns in popular cartoon THE SIMPSONS.

He can’t now get Connie pregnant with an heir- or even a ‘spare,’ eh, Prince Haz?- so he suggests, rather open-mindedly of him, I think, that Connie should sleep with someone else in order to conceive. Enter the deliciously ‘reserved’ (a pun!) gamekeeper of Chatterley, Oliver Mellors, who lives in a darling little rustic hut on the estate.

The sex is hot and raunchy. Just think of long shapely legs in silk stockings wrapped round a trim male waist and firm buttocks. Think of a wail of desire and a woman’s fingers entwined in a man’s curly hair while her lips seek out his and their tongues lap together like waves on a seashore.

Think of his magnificent organ, sliding inwards and upwards in a sauce of feminine arousal, and of his proud, upstanding soldiers, each one ready, willing and able to hit the spot and do the honours on behalf of his battalion. Crikey, I’m confused now. Do I describe the female orgasm or hand out the Victoria Cross? Oh well. It’s much the same thing, you know…!

Oliver the gamekeeper has feelings, apparently. He’s angry at the thought of Constance’s using him to conceive a child, but it must be obvious to everyone at Chatterley that Connie doesn’t give a fig for her injured husband and is head-over-heels in love with the gamekeeper. Utterly besotted doesn’t even cover it.

After all, it’s Oliver she dances naked in the rain with, Oliver to whom she gravitates every minute of the day. And, when she realises she’s pregnant with Oliver’s child, it’s not Clifford (the Big Red Dog???) with whom she’s planning on settling down and playing House. But what’s Stuffed Shirt Clifford going to have to say about all this…? Constance is still his Awfully Wedded Wife, after all, isn’t she…?

Not a whole lot happens in this film except for gorgeous scenery and inter-class sex, is that what you’d call it? The housekeeper, Mrs. Bolton, is played by Joely Richardson who, of course, played Lady Chatterley in the 1993 BBC TV serial version, with Sean Bean as her lover.

Finally, there’s a lot of sex in the fillum as I may have mentioned, but it’s not a very sexy film at the same time. Not a lot of chemistry between the two leads, you see, and no scenes at all where the viewer would be positively transported with passion out of their own circumstances and into the lovers’. It’s a very ploddy, ‘meh’ sort of film.

Here’s a short wee sketch I wrote myself that might have livened the film up a bit.

Characters: Constance is the wife; Clifford the husband; and Oliver the lover.

Constance: Right, well, I’m off then, Clifford. I’m leaving you for Oliver, remember?

Clifford: Bugger. Was that today? I was sure it wasn’t until next week.

Constance: Clifford, you’re fucking hopeless, you know that?

Clifford: Well, at least I’m not the laughing stock of Chatterley like you, doing it with that gardener fellow every time my back is turned.

Constance: Clifford, your back is always turned, silly! It happened at the Battle of the Somme, don’t you remember? The doctors couldn’t turn you back around the right way again, remember?

Clifford: Thanks for reminding me, bitch. So, anyway, how do you and your gardener fellow propose to live without my millions?

Constance: We shall live deliciously, my gardener and I, feasting on fresh air and sunshine and poetry and art and Oliver’s massive knob.

Clifford, savagely disappointed: And to think I spent all that time trying to teach you that money is the only thing worth living for. I’m ashamed of you, Constance.

Constance: Oh, fuck off, Clifford, you old dullard. Here’s Oliver now, anyway. Now you’ll really see something. Oliver, honey, over here!

The couple start fucking, much to Clifford’s utter disgust. A crowd gathers round to praise Oliver’s exceptional swordsmanship.

Constance, moaning in mid-coitus: Lend us twenty quid, would you, Clifford? I’m a bit stoney, and you only pay Oliver once a year. It takes forever to come round.

Clifford: Give me one good reason why I should give you a brass farthing, woman?

Constance: Well, seriously, Clifford, old chap, you’re sucking Oliver’s cock right now. He’s not a bloody object, you know. A sex-thing on sale to the highest bidder. He’s very sensitive on the subject of being used for sex, as it goes.

Clifford: Ah balls. He reaches mournfully for his wallet and does the necessary.

Oliver grins broadly, carries on sucking and waves to the camera.




I’m on my local street

And it’s raining

It’s the second Monday in January

Not even the third one

The one that everyone calls

The most depressing day of the year

That’s next Monday;

I just seem to be having mine

A little early

That’s all

I’m wet and my back hurts

From humping these shopping bags around

And I’ve a mountain of worries

Stored up in my head

For careful use throughout the coming year

I’m starting to categorize them singly

(I’m very particular about my worries)

Fearful of losing one

Of letting one fall in the gutter

And roll away down the street like a frisbee

When a one-legged man

Whizzes past me in a wheelchair

His aura trailing behind him

Like a birthday party banner

So that I can read it clearly

‘Count yer blessings, love,’

It calls to me

‘’Cause yeh never know the day nor the hour.’

And I pack away my piddly little troubles

I’m sure that they won’t mind

Waiting another week

To be allowed out