MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) THE SCREENPLAY BOOK BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

MARK OF THE DEVIL. (1970)

PUBLISHED IN 2020 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

The witch-hunting film that was made from this screenplay we’re about to discuss was one of the most controversial releases of all time. I watched it recently, but, due to the horrifically realistic torture and mutilation scenes, I was watching it with my legs tightly crossed, my hands clamped firmly over my mouth, my ankles wrapped around each other and my eyes shut, lol, that’s how frightening it is. No part of the body goes unmutilated. No wonder vomit bags were issued at the box office along with your cinema ticket back in the day. I can’t really imagine getting through the movie without one…

MARK OF THE DEVIL started life as a screenplay called THE WITCH-HUNT OF DOCTOR DRACULA, penned by Adrian Hoven, an Austrian actor, film director and producer. Both he and his son Percy actually have small roles in MARK OF THE DEVIL, which is what the screenplay became when Michael Armstrong was invited on board the project as one of Britain’s most bankable, up-and-coming young directors, having just made THE HAUNTED HOUSE OF HORROR (1969).

Michael virtually re-wrote the entire script, also changing the title to a much snappier one, and then he filmed the whole shebang under difficult circumstances in a fabulous old castle in Austria that contained genuine implements of torture from the actual age of witch-hunting, a few hundred years or so ago. Michael Armstrong turned this film into a success story that out-box-officed Michael Reeves’ WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968), probably the Big Daddy of the witch-hunting films.

What were the difficult circumstances, I hear you ask? Well, how much time ya got, lol? There were language barriers amongst the multi-lingual cast and crew, everyone else spoke German but poor Michael, the sound equipment went AWOL and a certain Adrian Hoven, backed up by some of the crew and very obviously put out not to be making DOCTOR DRACULA, placed obstacles in Michael’s path at various stages.

Sometimes, Herr Hoven would even film things without Michael’s permission or cut some of Michael’s work without so much as a by-your-leave. In particular, a fabulous scene Michael intended to put at the end of the film was brutally chopped out, and I personally think that it would have been the perfect nightmarish ending for the movie. But don’t worry, anything that was left out of the film is in the screenplay, and you can read it at your leisure in the comfort of your own home when you buy the book.

Wikipedia politely maintains that ‘Producer Adrian Hoven and director Michael Armstrong disliked each other intensely and often argued over the slightest of things,’ but if you want the full low-down on just how hard it was for Michael to get the job done with Hoven’s constant interference, read the chapters entitled A HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY and THE 1970 FILM in the book. Michael personally debunks some myths about the film in a manner both painfully honest and wickedly bitchy. Not to be missed, seriously. A moment’s silence for DOCTOR DRACULA…? No? Okay, moving on…

‘In the name of our beloved master, the Prince, I hereby proclaim that an attack by the powers of darkness has been sent against us. Be warned: the Devil is everywhere and can tempt any one of you so, wherever the hand of the Prosecutor points- you must not hesitate to follow.’

‘… and that this person has confessed before God to have committed sacrilege four times in the eyes of our crucified Lord for which he is sentenced to lose four fingers of his right hand and be tarred and feathered before being set loose to be chased through the streets like an animal until he falls dead.’

‘For such blasphemies you shall first be stretched on the rack till you confess that this child is really the Devil’s. Then you shall have your tongue torn from your head by the roots! Next?’

‘She’s the one who had intercourse with the Devil on Goat’s Mountain! He took her to his den in the guise of a little donkey, and there they fornicated all night long!’

‘Having confessed practising witchcraft in the sight of God, both prisoners have been condemned to death by burning.’

‘It’s so lovely here. This is my truth!- What I can touch and feel. It’s wonderful! Don’t you feel it?’

‘Can you only see through his eyes? Can you be so blind?’

‘We must never weaken in performing God’s work.’

‘I couldn’t find the Devil’s mark, my lord.’

Picture the scene, a primitive little town in Austria in the Middle Ages. Largely illiterate, uneducated and superstitious peasants and yokels caught in the stranglehold of Mother Church. If the Church says that this woman or that man is a witch, well, then, we’d better burn them at the stake, but not before we torture them to within an inch of their lives first to get a ‘confession’ of witchcraft out of them. Never mind that, under hideous torture, a person will confess to being a fan of Showaddywaddy’s music in order to get the pain to stop.

This screenplay does an excellent job of showing us why the Church was so gung-ho for witch-burning. They could confiscate the estates and monies of any nobleman so accused, and they could rape and abuse terrified young women by threatening them with being burned at the stake if they refused to submit to unwanted sexual attentions.

Albino in the screenplay is not a churchman, but he’s as bad as one. He’s the self-appointed local witch-finder and he’s a really nasty, ugly-looking and sadistic character. He accuses a beautiful, feisty young barmaid called Vanessa Benedict of being a witch when she, not unnaturally, refuses his sexual advances. She is thrown in jail and brought before the ‘court’ of Lord Cumberland, the official state-appointed witchfinder who has just arrived in town.

Christian to Albino on Lord Cumberland: ‘He’s been sent here by your Lord and Master, the Prince, and entrusted with the difficult task of tracking down and punishing all the witches in the region.’

Lord Cumberland supplants Albino as the town’s head witch-burning guy, much to Albino’s disgust. The only difference between them, however, is that Albino is an ignorant peasant and Cumberland an educated, wealthy aristocrat with the might and riches of the Church behind him. In terms of sadism, however, they are very much equally matched.

Cumberland is attended by his apprentice, the extraordinarily handsome Count Christian Von Meru, who is secretly in love with Vanessa and she with him. The charges against Vanessa, as dreamed up by Albino, are utterly ludicrous: ‘She’s ridden in the Sabbath. She is a witch. She’s mixed frogs and toads with her own blood… to poison Lord Cumberland.’ It seems like you could make up any old gobbledy-gook about a supposed ‘witch’ and the local simpletons would lap it up. The script really emphasises this aspect of those terrible times.

Poor Christian. He loves Vanessa with all the strength and compassion of his young man’s heart. But Cumberland has been ‘like a second father to him.’ Christian is committed to helping his boss to ‘free the world from all evil.’ How can the two things be reconciled?

And won’t Christian have to realise sooner or later that Cumberland has massive feet of clay- and a limp willy to boot- and is advocating torture, cruelty and unlawful murder in the name of a diabolically corrupt Church? Absolute power has corrupted absolutely in Cumberland’s case. Can Christian find the courage to be his own man, and, just as importantly, the man Vanessa needs him to be right now…?

The torture of poor, poor condemned Deirdre von Bergenstein made me feel weak and sick to read about it. It might be quicker to tell you what wasn’t done to her, haha. All the implements of torture you’ve ever heard about, like the rack and thumbscrews and the Witch-finder’s infamous pricking needle, are in here, plus a few you probably haven’t, like myself.

What is done to Deirdre in the script just before her burning at the stake is possibly the main reason for the vomit bags that were handed out at screenings of the film in America. Just be warned, that’s all.

Poor old Baron Daumer and the nobleman who gets the water torture are equally to be pitied. Well, almost. You can practically smell the corruption oozing from the words Cumberland utters to Baron Daumer:

‘Sign everything over to the Church and I promise you your life- otherwise I must denounce you as a sorcerer and have you executed.’  

There are some gorgeous stills from the film, both in full colour and in black-and-white, in the screenplay book, which would make a fantastic gift for fans of the movie. You can buy this one and all of Michael’s other books as well at the following links:

http://www.michaelarmstrong.co.uk

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

I’ll leave you with two of the scariest, most chilling lines from the script:

Christian: ‘But, then… where does safety lie?’

Cumberland: ‘There is no safety! Anywhere!’

You said it, Pops…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE LAMIA. (1972) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong 2

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

THE LAMIA. (1972)

PUBLISHED IN NOVEMBER 2019 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

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

… her hands slowly slide upwards…

To her breasts…

And rest there for a moment…

Feeling the flesh of her perfectly formed bosoms beneath her dress…

Then her hands begin to slide upwards once more…

To rest upon the smooth incline of her throat…

Before continuing to slide upwards even further…

To her face…

Sliding, caressingly, over her cheeks…

As, with her thumbs,

She presses her eyes out from their sockets…

And lays them carefully on the bedside table…

I adored the story about how a sixteen-year-old Michael tried to sell his screenplay of The Lamia to the then thriving Hammer Studios, thinking that his Snake-Woman hybrid might be a nice addition to their stable of Draculas, Frankensteins, Wolfmen, Abominable Snowmen and other screen monsters. Thank you for your interest but it’s not for us at this time, came back the disappointing reply. Ah well. Them’s the breaks, sadly.

Of course, a few years later, Hammer made the hugely successful horror flick The Reptile, in which, if I’m not much mistaken, the monster is… you guessed it… a Snake-Woman hybrid. Sigh. Showbiz is indeed a hideous bitch-goddesssssss… Yes, the extra ssssssibilance is totally intentional, lol. Hisssssssss…

This story, by the by, can be found in the chapter entitled A History of the Screenplay in Michael’s latest luxurious film script book, The Lamia. Before we discuss the screenplay itself, I think you might get a kick out of Michael’s rather witty commentary on industry critics contained in the History chapter:

‘Most critics, in reality, are about as useful as wasps at a picnic and are best ignored. There’s no point in trying to swat them or they’ll only get angry. Put a critic on the defensive and they’ll sting you. All you can do is leave them to their own devices and hope they won’t crawl around on the food too much.’

Miaow…! Now where did I put the Raid…?

The Lamia is set in England in 1831, in and around the mansion home of the aristocratic Spencer family, the leading family in the otherwise poor district. We open on a homecoming, as the youngest son of the Spencer family, Jack, returns from a trip to Europe with his posh chum, Tristram Ryder.

As Jack’s father, local magistrate Sir Richard, his older brother Giles and his sister Ann are greeting the pair rapturously, however, they discover that their beloved Jack has brought more home from the Continent than a sun-tan and a few sticks of rock.

The main thing he’s brought back is a stunningly beautiful young Grecian woman called Helena Paxinou, a self-possessed creature he intends to marry who has Jack wrapped round her little finger. Although that’s nothing compared to the things that she could wrap around him, if she had a mind to… Ooops. I’ve said too much, lol.

Things in the village start to go awry pretty much from the time Helena Paxinou arrives in town.

There was a gypsy lad killed last night in the woods not far from here. They say it were done by someone in the village. The village says it were done by one of the gypsies’ own. Though the Constable says it were more likely to have been some wild animal.

Judging by the shocking state of the corpse, my money’s on the wild animal.

So far, from my initial examination of the body, I can only confirm that it was badly torn by enormous claws of some kind.

Jack’s sister Ann and his close friend Tristram each agree that there is something a trifle odd and unnerving about Jack’s new fiancée, Helena. And what kind of woman would order all the mirrors in her bedroom to be removed? I can imagine that a certain Dr. Van Helsing from a certain rather popular gothic novel would have plenty to say about people who don’t care to gaze upon their likenesses in the looking-glass…

Jack Spencer and Helena Paxinou are both keeping secrets from each other. On reflection, Helena’s is a million times worse. This is possibly the most graphically violent, graphically sexual of all of Michael’s screenplays that I’ve read and reviewed thus far.

If the film had been made, I’m not sure how far the film-makers would have been prepared to go with the scenes of physical and sexual torture. I definitely can’t imagine a certain tall, dark Prince of Darkness volunteering his nether regions for such indignities and appalling manhandling…!

Mindful of spoilers, I can only share a small amount of such graphic content here. This is one of the scenes involving Gammer (Grandma) Pilkington, an ancient and infirm crone from the village whose beloved grandson, Thomas, one of the Spencers’ groundsmen, has just fallen afoul of the terrible supernatural monster currently plaguing the area:

Gammer stumbles out of her room with a cry

And starts to crawl down the landing towards Thomas’s bedroom…

Crying out his name with a terrible desperation…

O.S. The unpleasant sound of what resembles suction…

It grows in strength as she nears the open door…

A gruelling, squelchy, sucking sound…

Well, bleurgh, lol.

It’s not all squelching and sucking, however. The wives of the Spencer family doctor, minister and solicitor provide plenty of light relief with their comic asides, their insatiable nosiness and their loudly-expressed opinions born out of pure ignorance. Here’s a snippet of a conversation I love:

Mrs. Ridgeway and the other wives are still gossiping, cheerfully.

Mrs. Armand, the doctor’s wife: Apparently, there were large bite marks on their necks.

Mrs. Cox, the minister’s wife: That is what carnal desire makes you do, so I hear.

Mrs. Ridgeway, the solicitor’s wife: Oh, I shudder at the very thought of such a gross act! Mr. Ridgeway would never dream of biting me in the neck! He would not dare!

Mrs. Cox: Men are such animals, Mrs. Ridgeway!

Mrs. Ridgeway: They are indeed, Mrs. Cox!

Mrs. Cox: It is why I thank the good Lord to have blessed me with a man of the cloth as a husband. It gives me such peace of mind, knowing Cyril’s holy work protects him from such impure thoughts.

Mrs. Ridgeway: As indeed with my own husband- being a solicitor…!

The ending is thrilling. Will Jack and the Spencer family discover the awful truth about Helena Paxinou before it’s too late? In a text filled with references to Greek mythology, who are ‘the filthy women,’ and are they the kind of broads you’d want at your stag or hen do? Will readers be able to ‘stomach’ the scene with The Rat in it? I’d advise an empty stomach before reading it, certainly!

I love the Hammer feel to this particular screenplay. There’s one tavern scene which absolutely calls for a jovial Michael Ripper to be behind the bar, dispensing the frothy, suds-topped pints along with the genial ripostes. And, of course, the feeling of impending horror and the atmosphere of encroaching dread is always in the background:

Above, in the night sky,

The dark silent shape of the screech owl circles…

Before disappearing into the blackness beyond…

Watch out for low-flying birds…

I will leave you with some words of wisdom of Mrs. Ridgeway’s for the women of today…

It is not fashionable for a young lady to have thoughts- especially of her own. She may be permitted to muse upon a subject from time to time but it would be most unbecoming were she to think about it. Who knows where that might lead?

And also with some invaluable words of Michael’s own from the History chapter:

Trust your soul. It is your voice. It is uniquely yours for the brief duration of your life. It will never be heard again for as long as Man survives. It is as sacred as your identity and who and what you are. Let it be heard in your work and let its truth echo out across countless generations. But let it be your voice and yours alone, because even the greatest ‘expert’ will never have sufficient expertise to be better than you at being you.

I couldn’t have put it better myself, if I’d tried for a thousand years.

FALCONFELL, MY SCARE LADY and THE LAMIA are all available to buy now. You can purchase them at either of these websites:

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: ROBIN HOOD. (1977) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

michael armstrong book trio

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

ROBIN HOOD. (1977)

PUBLISHED IN 2019 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

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

Did’st thou hear the one about the minstrel who bought his wife a musical chastity belt and then couldn’t find the right key?

Robin: So, thou would’st join me in Sherwood Forest?

Will Scarlett: Well, we can either go there or back to my place. I’m not fussy.

Robin: And can’st handle a weapon, good Will?

Will Scarlett: I’ve never had any complaints so far.

Robin: Then thou art most welcome to come live with me in merry Sherwood.

Will Scarlett: Well, there’s no need to get that involved, is there? I mean, a quick one in the bushes’ll do me fine.

Everyone loves a nice bit of Robin Hood. He cuts such a romantic figure, doesn’t he, in his green tights and tunic and the jaunty little hat with the feather in it, swashbuckling his way with sword and bow and arrow through Sherwood Forest, with of course his faithful Ye Olde Merrie Men at his side.

Errol Flynn is probably most people’s idea of a favourite screen Robin Hood (1938 with Olivia De Havilland, Claude Rains and the magnificent Basil Rathbone as Sir Guy of Gisborne), and I agree that he made a terrific Robin Hood, but me, I always fancied the arse off Michael Praed from the ’80s TV series ROBIN OF SHERWOOD, featuring the fabulous theme tune, Robin, The Hooded Man, by Irish band Clannad.

He had such beautiful long mullety hair, this Robin, and I always felt that I was much better suited to him than that ginger-haired long drink of water they cast opposite him as Maid Marian. Humph. I wanted so badly to do a Miss Piggy on her every week. Hi-yah…! Heh-heh-heh.

The latest script-book of screenwriter, actor and director Michael Armstrong’s to roll off the presses at his publishers,’ PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS, is a fantastically funny spoof of Robin Hood, surely as thoroughly English a subject as Chaucer’s CANTERBURY TALES or Shakespeare’s plays about the English Kings, two of which figure in Ye Olde Tale of Robin Hood. Here’s how Michael’s Narrator opens the story:

‘Tis merry England in ye twelfth century. Upon ye royal throne sitteth good King Richard ye Lionheart. It wath a time of much trouble and strife for ’twas a country torn betwixt two peoples: ye Saxons and ye Normans. But a far greater shadow was looming up o’er ye horizon- ye Saracens had gotten Jerusalem. And so it was that good King Richard called for a crusade; a call which stirred the very heart of his people; responding in that manner so typical of ye British man when facing a national crisis…’

So, the bumbling, somewhat thick-as-a-plank King Richard goes off to fight the Crusades- I’m never quite sure why it’s any of his business but never mind, lol- and rather unwisely leaves his treacherous brother John to keep his throne warm for him in his absence:

Richard: Brother John, into thy hands do I entrust this fair land of England. Rule wisely over her till I return.

John: Don’t you worry about a thing, Dickie. You just stay out there as long as you like and have yourself a good time. Get a nice suntan, fight a few battles, all that sort of thing. No need to rush back.

Then, a bit later during their goodbye scene:

Richard: Dear brother John- ever so honest and true. How it comforts me to know I’m leaving England in safe hands. Keep up her high moral standards, brother, and don’t drop ’em for anyone.

Well, of course it would suit the snake-in-the-grass John perfectly well if Richard never came back, as he quite fancies the throne for himself, the dastardly sneak. Backed up by the oily, unctuous Sheriff of Nottingham, his toady, he plans to cripple the peasants of England with more taxes and tariffs (Prince John: Right! Right! Screw ’em for every penny!- Dirty rotten peasants.) and to grab all the power of the throne and the crown for himself.

Egged on and even manipulated by the Sheriff, he also intends to marry the lovely Maid Marian to the truly odious man-beast, Sir Guy of Gisborne, one of their minions, so that they can claim her father’s wealthy estate. Marian, of course, is madly in love with Robert of Locksley, aka Robin Hood, who now robs from the rich to give to the poor, so she won’t be one bit happy about that. No-one likes a forced marriage.

Meanwhile, Robin Hood, already an outlaw with a price on his head, is gathering to himself a little band of followers who are prepared to back him up in his attempts to shaft the soldiers and tax collectors of Prince John’s and the Sheriff’s at every opportunity.

Still known as Robert of Locksley, he’s also trying to come up with a suitable name for himself and his men. Here’s a conversation he has with Allan A Dale, MC of a local nightclub and Bella Stark, the sexy hostess of same:

Allan: Er… Robert?… Robbie, love… let me get this straight. You say you’re going to rob the rich?

Robin: You got it!

Allan: So far I like it. Great idea!… It’s the next bit I didn’t quite follow?

Robin: I rob from the rich and give it to the poor.

Allan: Give it to the poor… yes. That’s the bit I don’t quite-

Robin: Look, it’s very simple. The money I steal from-

Allan: Yes, yes, the stealing bit I understand. It’s the giving away part that I don’t get.

Bella: Is it some kind of tax dodge?

Robin: No, no. Listen- I live in Sherwood Forest and get myself a band of men together-

Allan: You’re gonna form a band? Robbie, you’ll need proper representation.

Robin: Not that kind of band. I’ve told you what we’re gonna do. Robert Fitzooth and his Merry Men! Sounds good- huh?

Allan: Fitzooth, Fitzschmutter! What’s the difference? It’s a lousy name. What kind of bookings are you going to get with a name like that? It’s gotta be something that’ll grab the attention. Something that’ll really stand out on a ”Wanted” poster. Something like Clint Travolta or Dustin de Niro.

Bella: Dustin de Niro and his Merry Men?- For a hood who’s robbing people?

Allan: Hood! That’s it! Dustin de Hood!

Shirley: Sounds like he’s running a car cleaning agency.

Robin: What’s wrong with my own name?

Allan: Robert?- Too old-fashioned. The kids’ll never go for it.

Bella: Well, if he’s gonna be robbing people and he’s a hood- why not call him Robbing Hood?

Allan: Robbin’ Hood! That’s it! Robin Hood!

They got there in the end…! This book, even more so than the others, is jam-packed with hilarious puns and one-liners and witticisms, many of them pertaining to the culture of the day (the late 1970s) because, as every good writer knows, spoofs set in Ye Olden Times are funnier when you bring in characters and situations and slang from Ye Moderne Times. (Think Blazing Saddles!) The scenes where Prince John is watching DALLAS and KOJAK on the ‘television’ are especially funny.

And the characters in ROBIN HOOD are frequently breaking the fourth wall and saying things like: ‘How come Errol Flynn (or Basil Rathbone) never had these problems?’ (That was Robin.) With so many plays-on-words and general merriment on nearly every page, the book zips along at a rip-roaring pace. Here’s a touching meeting between the two romantic leads:

Marian, on her balcony: Oh, Robin, Robin, wherefore art thou, Robin?

Robin: I’m down here behind the bushes.

Oh, the beautiful, painfully doomed romance of it all! And later, in the same scene:

Robin: And now, sweet Marian, ’tis time I headed back to leafy Sherwood. Methinks the cock hath already risen.

Marian: I’m bloody sure it did, you randy sod!

Snigger. Such delicious naughtiness. I love it. Anyway, Robin gathers to himself his crew, as I said, in the form of Much Jr., the disturbingly flatulent Stutely, the outrageously camp Will Scarlett, Little John (a super-cool black guy formerly known as Akunt-Akunta; this wicked pun has its ‘roots’ in a popular television series of the day), Friar Tuck the Flasher (‘During Communion, it wasn’t just the wafer he’d stick in your mouth.’) and Allan A Dale, his PR guy:

Allan: Ah, Robin, love- the very man I wanted to see. I need to get your okay on these. (He hands Robin a green tunic, on the front of which is printed his picture. Robin looks at it, bewildered.)

Robin: Er- great. What is it?

Allan: Official Robin Hood T-shirts. We’re planning to put them on the market by the end of the week along with horse and cart stickers and these ‘I’m merry and proud of it’ badges.

Then:

Allan: I’m telling you, Robbie, you’ve become the hottest thing since King Arthur and Camelot. I’ve even had NBC on, wanting exclusive video rights to your next robbery.

Robin Hood is now the biggest thing since the Beatles. The cult of Robin Hood makes  Beatlemania look like a fassing pad. I mean a passing fad. Excuse my Spoonerism. The teeny-boppers love Robin. In between signing autographs and working on firming up the Robin Hood brand, how will he ever find the time to enter the evil Sheriff of Nottingham’s archery contest, specially rigged to catch Robin the outlaw? Here’s what the contest’s News commentator has to say about it:

NEWS COMMENTATOR: And now we’re taking you over to Centre Court for live coverage of ye olde archery contest and this- the first match of the day- is between the number one seed, John Muckyrow of ye yet to be discovered United States-

(And a John McEnroe lookalike stands there, unloading a veritable arsenal of longbows from neat little zipper-bags.)

NEWS COMMENTATOR: -and Bjorn Bouf of Sherwood Forest, seeded 1,642.

(Which proves to be none other than ROBIN; no longer dressed in a Harlequin costume but now sporting a perky little Wimbledon tennis outfit in Lincoln Green. Their respective names appear on the scoreboard while the archery version of ball-boys crouch down in readiness.)

So now, the game is on. Will Robin come up to the mark? Will he get the girl, having first to rescue her from the clutches of the ape-like Sir Guy of Gisborne? Will King Richard come back and foil Baldrick’s- I mean, the Sheriff’s- cunning plans for world domination?

There’s loads more to come before the finale, including an hilarious torture scene, an even more hilarious scene in which Prince John’s castle is attacked by a very, very small army, a scene straight out of MACBETH and an unintentionally funny and prophetic reference to… ahem… Jimmy Saville. Ahem. I’ll get the eye-wash so you can pretend you didn’t read that bit, lol. Share it around now. The eye-wash, I mean.

Anyway, even JAWS himself makes an appearance in this, the funniest and wittiest of all Michael Armstrong’s script-books to date. It’s like MONTY PYTHON meets BLACKADDER meets MAID MARIAN AND HER MERRY MEN (Baldrick’s absolutely marvellous TV series on this exact subject!). Would I advise that you buy it? Verily, forsooth and, erm, loads more Ye Olden Times talk. Run and get it now. You’ll bloody well love it.

E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL, THE MAZE and ROBIN HOOD are available to buy now from Michael Armstrong’s website and also from his publishers, Paper Dragon Productions. Don’t waste any time. Go get ’em!

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE MAZE. (1968) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong book trio

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

THE MAZE. (1968)

PUBLISHED IN 2019 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

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

Screen-writer, actor and director Michael Armstrong has written some absolutely cracking horror screenplays. Some were made into films, such as THE DARK (1960), MARK OF THE DEVIL (1970) and HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1982).

This last film, as well as being a rollicking great horror romp, has the distinction of being the only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

Some of his other screenplays, for one reason and another (showbusiness is a fickle and fluctuating mistress!), never made it onto the big screen, unfortunately for the public. These include the fantastic GHOST TOWN (1969), a comedy Western; BEELZEBUB (1984), the story of a haunted computer that would have made a terrific ‘Eighties horror movie; DEATH MASQUE (1988) and OUIJA-BOARD (1989).

Directors have been making films about ouija-boards for the last couple of decades now, but Michael Armstrong was one of the first, if not the first, to realise the potential of the humble ouija-board to be the subject of a major horror film.

Now, on to- or should I say into- THE MAZE (1968), a screenplay cut in the same mould as the excellent BEELZEBUB, GHOST TOWN and the aforementioned OUIJA-BOARD. I enjoyed it every bit as much as the screenplays of Michael’s (I can call him that; we’re great pals…!) that came before and after. I bet you guys can’t guess what it’s about, lol…

I’ll be kind and give you tons of clues. First off, we have a handsome young celebrity footballer fella called Bob Harding. Bob’s agent tells him one day that he’s positively got to go to this classy shindig on some dude’s private island, because the press will be there and a ton of other celebrities as well (‘-movie stars, pop, fashion- it’s a media coup!’), and this will be the perfect opportunity for Bob to grab some quick easy publicity.

What can Bob do but say yes? When he’s picked up at a Maltese airport by a handsome young Greek chappie called Alexis, who works for the island-owning millionaire, the pair have the following rather disturbing exchange:

Bob: This island we’re going to- I tried finding it on the map but it didn’t seem to exist. Does it have a name?

Alexis: No name. It isn’t on the map.

Bob: So, how far is it off the mainland?

Alexis: Far enough. Dr. Seresion likes privacy.

Okay. A mysterious island that’s not on any map, miles from anywhere, owned by some creepy-sounding doctor dude? (Remember THE ISLAND OF DR. HIBBERT from THE SIMPSONS?) I’d have turned the boat round and headed for home at this point, but dopey Bob has seemingly never watched that episode of THE SIMPSONS, lol.

Once on the island, he’s chauffeured by Alexis and Maurits, another hot Greek dude, to the magnificent palace of Dr. Seresion. The palace stands in beautiful, idyllic grounds with the following amenities: flower, rock and water gardens; tennis courts; croquet lawns; swimming pools and other sporting facilities; two theatres- one open-air, a butterfly house, a maze and a pagoda. See how the maze just sneaked in there, all innocent-like? Heh-heh-heh.

The rather sinister Dr. Seresion greets Bob and his other celebrity guests with the following speech. I’ve put in capital letters the sentence I feel to be the most portentous. The guests don’t seem to notice the undercurrents of menace running through the welcome speech, but then maybe I’ve seen more horror films than these guys have:

‘So, it is as fellow members of Mankind that I shall welcome you to my island. MAY YOUR YOUTH AND YOUR ENERGIES FILL IT WITH THE LIFE IT HAS SORELY CRAVED OVER THE YEARS. For that I welcome you- and wish you an enjoyable and fulfilling stay here.’

The guests include Bob, an obnoxiously brash and pushy journalist called Rowena and her photographer Mike, a young pop star called Brian who’s sweet on Rowena (unfortunately for him; she’s a total bitch!), a young heart-throb actor by the name of Simon and a ravishing young actress, Jenny Raine, who confounds expectations by not leaping into bed with every male starlet who looks at her twice. A woman of principles, eh? Curiouser and curiouser…

The press, as personified by Rowena, don’t come off very well in the screenplay at all. Here’s what Jenny thinks of Rowena and her ilk:

‘That’s what Ro and the rest of her species offer us: instant celebrity- ‘Be nice to me, do what I want, say what I want you to say and, if I feel like it, I’ll make you into a sexual icon to be worshipped and adored by millions.’

Jenny, a thoughtful and insightful woman, has this to say on the subject of her and Bob’s so-called ‘celebrity’:

‘And there we all are- society’s golden calves with more money than sense- hiding behind giant egos frightened someone’ll suddenly find out we’re not really divine at all… just pathetically mundane like everyone else.’

She’s rather an extraordinary woman, is this Jenny. I certainly hope she makes it to the end of the story. Some people don’t, you know, because there’s a serial killer loose on the Island of Dr. Hibbert (sorry!) who seems to be hell-bent on bumping off the famous guests.

But why? And who is it? And is it anything to do with the sound of underground drumming that’s been bothering some of the guests? Are The Rolling Stones secreted somewhere on the island, giving impromptu concerts to the moles and the fishes?

There’s also the titular maze, of course, ‘enormously tall, perfectly trimmed hedges eerily floodlit in the darkness.’ Nothing bad could ever happen in a maze, I hear you say. Don’t you believe it. There was a maze in THE SHINING, wasn’t there? The maze on the island seems to have almost a sentience about it, like it’s a living, breathing thing. Let’s hope that it never gets… gulp… hungry… and… eeek… needs f-f-f-feeding! Yikes, Scoob, let’s get outta here…!

Guests are disappearing and no-one is exactly sure where or why. An enormous shrine to the mother of Dr. Seresion, the mother he never knew, is discovered in a fabulous pagoda on the island. Dr. Seresion maintains ‘the island has no secrets’ but, the deeper you get into both the book and the island, the more you are disinclined to believe him.

Alex and Maurits, ‘Dr. Seresion’s creatures,’ who ‘grovel to do his bidding’ but don’t have humps and a snaggle-tooth apiece, haha, are at pains to reassure the guests that everything on the island is all nice and normal, but surely even the more cerebrally challenged among their number can read the writing on the wall…?

Now, I don’t want to give you any spoilers, but I’ve decided to share one maze-related passage with you which I found particularly frightening and atmospheric:

His head is surrounded by leaves on four sides

As he endeavours to breathe through the encompassing foliage-

One arm becomes twisted behind his back,

As the leaves press around his body

Like the tightening coils of a large snake-

Pathetically he struggles to free his legs-

Arms…

And still they continue to press in on him…

Slowly squeezing…

And crushing his body…

Compressing it…

And smothering his face…

Blocking his ability to breathe in or out…

The leaves are inside his mouth-

Twigs slowly skewering into his eyeballs-

Piercing into his ears-

Trickles of blood…

Seep through the tightly packed leaves…

I won’t go any further with this passage, but it’s the stuff of nightmares. The maze stands silently in the moonlight. All is quiet. Yeah well, all is quiet now, sure, but there are times when it’s all go in there, trust me.

The ending is truly terrifying. Stephen King himself couldn’t have done a better job. It’s put me right off going into mazes, anyway. Not that I’ve been in many. In point of fact, I’ve been in none, and I’m not too sure if we have any here in Dublin, but even if we did, I wouldn’t be tempted anywhere near them. Too leafy for me…

So here you are giving shelter to the local looney. All terribly Hitchcock and noire. So, now what? Do you both get handcuffed together and run around the windswept countryside trying to learn the secret of the thirty-nine hedges?

Come to bleed me some more, daddy dearest?

The maze!- I know what’s at the centre!

I have to be kept alive… for the maze.

It’s coming for us! It’s coming!-

THE MAZE, E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL and ROBIN HOOD (see illustration) by Michael Armstrong are available to buy now from:

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS. E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL. (1972) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong younger

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

‘E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL.’ (1972)

PUBLISHED IN 2019 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

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

You may have heard me mention this up-and-coming young fella before, this Michael Armstrong fella whose career as a film director and screenwriter is currently being immortalised in the form of some of the most beautiful books I’ve ever owned, books of all the screenplays he’s ever written, and he’s written a lot of screenplays. His productivity over the years puts most other writers to shame, and writers hate being put to shame, you can take that from me…! It makes us edgy, and we’re on edge enough of the time as it is.

Whether they were made into films or not, the screenplays are all being transformed into gorgeous books by Michael’s publishers, Paper Dragon Productions, and they really are the perfect present for film buffs of all ages. Well, not exactly all ages, lol. Some of ’em are a little blue…! Here are the films for which he’s penned the screenplays:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

Impressed much…? Thought so, heh-heh-heh. Now to E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL, the title of which you’ll see contains the acronym ENSA. What was ENSA? There’s a definition in the book’s Glossary Of References which will do perfectly nicely for our purposes, and here it is:

ENTERTAINMENTS NATIONAL SERVICE ASSOCIATION: Popularly known as ENSA; it was an organisation set up in 1939 by Basil Dean and Leslie Henson to provide entertainment for British Armed Forces personnel during World War Two. Infamously, quality of the shows varied considerably due to an insufficient number of good professional artistes to accommodate the number of shows required by the troops spread out fighting across Europe. As a consequence, ENSA became inundated by substandard acts and eager untalented amateur performers to such an extent that the troops created the acronym E.N.S.A. as ”Every Night Something Awful…!”

In other words, you’d be praying for a Bob Hope, a Marlene Dietrich, a Vera Lynn or a Glenn Miller, but you’d end up with some bozo playing the spoons. Still, I’m sure every act, no matter how amateur, gave it their very best shot and I’d personally maintain that any entertainment, however dodgy, is better than none at all. There was a bloody war on, after all. What right did anyone have to be picky…?

‘E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL’ (1972) is the hilarious story of one such company of wartime entertainers. Headed by flaming queen Ivor Short, they’re putting on a variety show for the lads called ‘Red, White And Blue,’ whether the troops want them to or not, and it’s bound to be Fab. U. Lous, darling. (Channelled my best Craig Revel Horwood from Strictly there…!) Or is it…? I think you already know the answer to that, readers.

There’s a really funny bit in the beginning where someone’s travelling to a top secret army camp in the New Forest and needs to ask directions from a local farmer and the farmer says: ‘But if it be the secret army camp you’re after?- That’s along there- about half a mile. You can’t miss it. You’ll see their sentries hiding behind the trees.’ So much for army confidentiality, anyway.

French heart-throb and international singing star Pierre Lamorisse, the main attraction of Red, White And Blue, is aghast to find that the English soldiers in this ‘top secret’ army camp don’t even have real weapons. I just have to include here the genuinely funny exchange between Pierre and one of the soldiers:

Soldier: Sorry, sir, I didn’t recognise you. I wouldn’t wander too far away, if I was you- just in case one of us mistakes you for an invasion force in the darkness.

Pierre: Oh yes… thank you. I wouldn’t want to get shot.

Soldier: Oh, no fear of that, sir. We ‘aven’t got real rifles- and even if we had, we ‘aven’t any bullets for ’em. No, all the real stuff’s over with our boys abroad. (He holds up his ‘rifle’ to show Pierre.) Not bad, is it? Looks like the real thing from a distance. Yeah, they’re makin’ ’em at Pinewood Studios; churnin’ ’em out, they are- tanks an’ all.

(Pierre stares at him in complete amazement.)

Pierre: Tanks?

Soldier: Only the outsides, mind you. Yeah. Make ’em out of hardboard, they do… spot of paint- looks all right from a long way off. Get a few ‘undred of ’em wheelin’ about on the cliffs makes old Jerry think twice about invadin’.

Pierre: But if they do invade, what will you fight them with?

Soldier: Well… we could always bash ’em over the ‘ead with one of these. They’re good and solid. You feel that. (He hands Pierre the ‘rifle’ to feel the weight.)

Pierre: It’s just wood.

Soldier: Yeah, but feel the quality. That’s good quality wood, that is. Jerry gets one of them round his mush, he’ll soon give up, I can tell you. Anyway, best be gettin’ back to my rounds. Can’t be too careful, you know. There’s spies everywhere, so we’re told. Been a right pleasure talking to you, sir. Have a nice night.

(And moves off as Pierre quickly calls after him:)

Pierre: Excuse me-?

(The soldier returns, so that Pierre can hand him back his ‘rifle.’ The soldier gives a rueful grin.)

Soldier: I’m always forgetting where I put it.

Talk about a Carry On…! However did England win this war anyway…?

Anyway, the company of entertainers includes the above-mentioned Pierre; Ginger, an attractive singer and femme fatale with a string of broken relationships behind her who just might be the perfect woman for Pierre, if they both but knew it; Bertie Rich, a jaded comedian who feels more dead than alive; Marilyn, a faded blonde bombshell whom Michael Armstrong envisoned being played by Diana Dors if the script had been made into a film (excellent choice, by the way); Constance, an older married lady with a theatrical repertoire, who never realises when she’s boring people (she also never uses the Horne when she’s performing); and Madam Merlin, aka Priscilla Clipthorpe, a lady magician (or should that be magicienne?) who never travels without her two bunny wabbits. It’s a motley crew but a good one.

Here’s what happens when French Pierre questions why he has to wear an Arabian Nights costume:

Pierre: Ivor, this is stupid. Why do I have to wear this?

Ivor: It’s part of a themed medley, sweetie: an exotic Arabian Nights fantasy… Ginger’s Scheherazade, I’m the cruel Sultan, the girls are my wives, Jack’s the Golden Slave and you’re a singing eunuch.

Pierre: Eunuch? What is that? I don’t get it.

Ivor: Neither did they, petal.

Bah-dum-tish, lol. This company of elite entertainers must travel abroad to a top secret destination (so secret not even the ship’s crew know where they’re going!) to dazzle their fighting boys abroad with their expertise and chutzpah. I love when Ivor says to Sally: Take it from the top again- and Sally dear, do try to make her sound more like an innocent young virgin and less like Gracie Fields? Heh-heh-heh. Lovely woman, Gracie Fields. Immensely talented.

Here’s what Bertie tells Madam Merlin to describe his feelings of jadedness and ennui:

Forgive me, dear girl, but after you’ve died in front of as many audiences as I have, you eventually cease to regard yourself as a living being anymore. Then: Actually, it was on the eve of my fiftieth birthday that I realised I was dead. Had been for some time, in fact. Just never really noticed it before.

Poor Bertie. And they say that showbusiness is glamorous… The main thing is that the show must go on, as the old showbiz motto goes. But can the show really go on when the troupe is in Rome but their band and props have somehow ended up in Norway? And why does everyone burst out laughing when Constance bursts forth with the song, O, for the wings of a dove?

What prompts Ivor the director to say: I know, to most people, I’m just a funny old queen but even funny old queens have feelings? There are some really touching moments amongst the comedy and quickfire one-liners which Michael Armstrong fires off with the ease of someone doing something they find really easy, lol. Good metaphors are not always readily available, even to a quicksilver brain like mine own. Michael Armstrong would probably have found a good one.

The troupe at least have each other, but what about the troops? Note the rather clever play on words there. Here’s the exchange between a sergeant and a young lieutenant when the ENSA party bus hoves into view of a little European village, where a garrison of soldiers is stationed like a sitting duck:

Sergeant: Think it could be some kind of enemy trick, sir?

Young Lieutenant: Worse, Sergeant. I think it’s ENSA…!

Sergeant: Oh, my God! Better warn the men, sir.

Young Lieutenant: Quite. Carry on, Sergeant.

Carry On, indeed…! All joking aside, folks, on page 192, you’ll find a scene that’ll show you the true worth of ENSA (popular as it may be to poke fun at them) to exhausted, demoralised soldiers far from home who just want to see their families again. I cried buckets at this scene, and you will too.

Can Pierre get to the root of Ginger’s commitment phobia and seeming inability to be faithful to one man? On page 236, he finally nails it. Will Marilyn get her man, or will she retreat gracefully from the arena so that the dreamily swoonsome Fabio can be with the woman he really loves? No woman’s that generous and big-hearted, surely? By the way, do you guys know what the words MINAS TERRESTRAS mean, because ENSA sure don’t…! And finally:

‘And here we have it!… A spectacular musical revue called Red, White & Blue… Ivor Short and Company: Jack Adair, Ginger Lawrence, Sally Meadows, Bertie Rich, Marilyn Turner, Constance Blythe with Speciality Madam Merlin and special guest star, Pierre Lamorisse. Acting understudy and ASM, Edith Nightingale. Band: Billy Rainbow & His Big Band. Touring Company- Category B.’

E.VERY N.IGHT S.OMETHING A.WFUL, in addition to THE MAZE and ROBIN HOOD, is available to buy now from Michael Armstrong’s website and his publishers, Paper Dragon Productions. Don’t waste any time. Go get ’em!

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

http://www.paperdragonproductions.com

By the way, Sherlock Holmes had his Irene Adler and Mr. Spode from Bertie Wooster his ‘Eulalie.’ If you ever want to see a grown man cry like a little girl, you have but to whisper one word into Michael Armstrong’s shell-like… Ryman…

See you guys next time!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: MICHAEL ARMSTRONG’S 1982 SCRIPT-BOOK REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

house shadows papa and victoria

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: THE SCREENPLAY. (1982) 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

‘Room for every nightmare… A nightmare in every room…’

The opening passage is lifted directly from Michael Armstrong’s own website and I think it describes his work better than I ever could, but I’ve been asked to say a few words myself in promotion of this fantastic new collection of books that he’s putting out, therefore I will now proceed to say several. Words, that is. Give me an inch and I’ll almost certainly take a mile. I’m a pushy broad and, anyway, there’s actually a lot to say about the man and his works.

Michael Armstrong (there’s a really cute photo of him on the back covers of all the books) is the screenwriter/director behind a load of films that you guys probably already know quite well. Some of you may even know his name already but, for others, this may be your first time hearing it.

Unlikely, as this rather prolific and obviously hard-working fella’s been penning film scripts for over fifty years, but you never know. Some folks who’ve been on Mars since the turn of the last century may need to be filled in on all the developments in the film industry since they’ve been ‘off-planet,’ so to speak…!

So, if you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

Michael Armstrong’s writing is an absolute treat to read. Reading the pictures he paints with his words, as it were, is not much different to seeing them played out in front of you on the cinema screen.

I read the script of HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS on a dreary Monday morning when I was supposed to be doing boring housework. It was a more than acceptable alternative, I can assure you.

While I was reading it, I first amused and then annoyed the hell out of the family members present by constantly bursting out with: ‘They actually say this in the film! This is in the film, and this is in the film, and Christopher Lee actually DOES this in the film!’ And so on until they threw the book at me. The book and several cushions and a plastic sheep to boot. I said no more from then on, humph. I sulked royally and kept my additional (m)utterings to myself.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, the film-script book of which features a darling haunted house on the cover, wasn’t just a great slice of ‘Eighties horror hokum. It had the distinction of being the first and, as it turned out, the only film to ever feature the four greatest horror icons of all time all together, namely, the aforementioned Christopher Lee, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and John Carradine as well. Horror royalty, every last one of ’em.

There was a great supporting cast starring alongside the lads as well, people like Desi Arnaz Jr., Sheila Keith, a smashing horror icon in her own right, and Julie Peasgood, you know, ‘er off BROOKSIDE. She played Fran Pearson in the early ‘Nineties.

I loved a nice bit of Brookie, I did, on a Sat’day afternoon back in the day. Eatin’ me dinner while the Omnibus was on the telly, like. I’m imagining these words in a Scouser accent, by the way, so you’d better be too, or I’ll ‘ave ta tell ya to do one, as it were. Quaite.

Anyway, Michael based his marvellous screenplay on the 1913 novel, SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE by the curiously named Earl Derr Biggers. (Incidentally, he was the writer of the Charlie Chan detective novels, so obviously he loved a good juicy mystery.) It’s the story of a young American novelist who holes up at the titular Baldpate Manor to speed-write a book in order to win a bet with his agent.

Baldpate Manor is in fact a magnificent old Welsh mansion that’s supposed to be deserted, the perfect oasis of peace in which to do some serious writing. Supposed to be deserted. In fact, it ends up being more populated than the post office on dole day, and the baffled novelist will have a hell of a job getting any writing at all done with all the famous faces popping up there continuously to distract him from his goal.

The script may have been based on someone else’s novel, but the little tributes and homages and nods in it to various other iconic horror movies like PSYCHO and THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER are all Michael’s idea and no-one else’s. His writing really sets a scene for the reader too. Here’s a passage in which the novelist, Kenneth, and the damsel-in-distress Mary (‘er off Brookie), are entering the fabulous old dining-room of Baldpate Manor:

‘They enter the dining-room and stare in amazement.

The enormous room is brilliantly illuminated by candles.

The long polished table is formally laid out: cut-glass and silver, sparkling royally.

By the fire: GRISBANE and VICTORIA and the mysterious figure of SEBASTIAN; a slight, gaunt-faced man in his sixties, wearing a wing collar and a dark suit.

The three of them are gathered in a conspiratorial huddle. They break quickly, like naughty children caught out. KENNETH stares in amazement at the scene before him.’

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: PAGES 73-74.

I don’t know about you guys, but I can totally picture that scene in my mind’s eye. I’m moving now to the scene where the motley crew enter Roderick’s room for the first time. I won’t tell you just yet who Roderick (perhaps I should say ‘Wodewick?’) is but, after reading these lines from the script, I reckon you’ll be bursting to know.

‘A silence hovers over the room as they move slowly about, looking in amazement at its bizarre sights: clues to Roderick’s warped mind.

A toy fort on the floor, laid out as for a savage battle…

Scores of soldiers scattered around as though dead; all horribly mutilated,

The aftermath of an imagined massacre.

MARY gives an involuntary shudder as she spies in the corner of the room…

Piles of small animal bones neatly arranged into heaps,

Skeletons of dead rats and mice…

Hundreds of tiny white bones glinting in the candlelight:

Tiny white bones picked clean.

KENNETH glances behind him to notice the back of the bedroom door…

Down which enormous scratch marks can be seen…

Indicating the powerful fury of strong fingernails having clawed deeply

Into the dark oak wood.

VICTORIA indicates a narrow panel at the bottom of the door.

VICTORIA: I’d slide food into him through there… every night…

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS: PAGES 105-106.

Cripes! Fair sent a shiver down my spine, that did, when I read it there in black and white. It’s every bit as effective as the corresponding scenes in the film, if not more so. Sometimes, when you read something really chilling, your mind works overtime visualising the scene and you do a better job yourself than the film-maker, almost.

It looks like Kenneth, the successful writer from America, isn’t going to get much work done in good old Baldpate Manor over this particular weekend. When the house is at its fullest, it contains the grim-faced Papa Grisbane and his daughter Victoria (Sheila Keith), his two sons Lionel (Vincent Price) and Sebastian (Peter Cushing), the posh rich property developer Mr. Corrigan (Christopher Lee) and the warring young couple (played by Louise English and Richard Hunter) who’ve lost their way while hiking.

Then, of course, there’s Kenneth the writer himself and also the blonde and bubbly Mary, his publisher Sam’s secretary. At least, that’s who she says she is, anyway. Sam the publisher (Richard Todd) even makes an appearance at Baldpate Manor at one point, and then there’s also the ever-present, rather sinister shadow of Roderick Grisbane.

Roderick (Wodewick!) is the one strangely absent family member who appears to have slipped through the rather gaping cracks in the family infrastructure somehow. And yet he’s tied up inexplicably in the reasons for the family’s converging upon Baldpate Manor on this particular night, this grim anniversary for which only the Grisbanes know the grisly reason.

What horrors lie behind Roderick’s stoutly locked bedroom door in the upper floors of the ramshackle old manor house and, once they are revealed, can the Family Grisbane withstand the after-shocks? Not to mention where all this intense Grisbane family stuff leaves Kenneth and Mary, the two truly innocent bystanders? Or are they? Truly innocent, I mean? I wouldn’t bet on it, dear readers. I wouldn’t bet on it…

In the extra features on the DVD of HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS, Michael Armstrong reminisces fondly, alongside ‘er offa BROOKIE, about the making of the film. He talks so passionately and enthusiastically about it that it’s lovely to see. He comes across as the kind of guy who’d sit chatting to you in the pub about films till the cows come home, or the landlord calls time, whichever comes first.

So that’s it, anyway. I’ve said way more than the few words I was asked for but whatevs, it was an interesting subject and I enjoyed myself. Michael’s books can be purchased through his website and from Paper Dragon Productions, Michael’s publishers, and they’d make the perfect present for film buffs and students of cinema everywhere. I’m keeping mine for myself, however. Ain’t no-one but me getting their hands on these babies…!

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER. (1961) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER. (1961) PUBLISHED IN 2018 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

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

Some of my regular readers might have heard me mention a certain Michael Armstrong, a screenwriter and film director whose luxurious script-books I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing over the past eighteen months or so, according as they roll off the presses at Michael’s publishers, PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS. If you want to know where or how you might have heard of Michael before, I can tell you that he wrote the screenplays for the following films:

THE DARK- 1960.

THE IMAGE- 1964. Starring David Bowie in his first screen appearance.

THE HUNT- 1965.

MARK OF THE DEVIL- 1970.

THE SEX THIEF- 1973.

ESKIMO NELL- 1974. A riotous sex comedy starring beloved English actor Roy Kinnear and a young and handsome Michael Armstrong himself.

IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU- 1975.

THREE FOR ALL- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A TAXI DRIVER #2- 1975.

ADVENTURES OF A PRIVATE EYE- 1976.

THE BLACK PANTHER- 1976. The story of Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer who abducted wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975.

HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT- 1979.

SCREAMTIME- 1981.

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS- 1982. The only film in the history of cinema to star horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine all together.

LIFEFORCE- 1983.

PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS are not only publishing the screenplays of Michael’s that got made into films, but also the ones that didn’t, for one reason or another. Of the scripts that didn’t make it onto the screen, I can’t wait to read THE KINKY DEATH-WISH OF VERNON SLIM (1967) and THE CURSE OF TITTIKHAMON (1977). I also strongly urge Michael to keep looking for the missing script entitled THE PUSSY CAPER (1975). I want, no, need to read that script…!

Anyway, THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER was penned in 1961 when Michael was still a teenager. A teenager with a burning urge to write, however, and who’d already watched enough films on TV and at the cinema to have amassed an extraordinary degree of knowledge around how they work, and also a healthy amount of cynicism regarding the way that Hollywood tries so hard to sell us various images and concepts.

Even the dedication is cynical, lol. The book is dedicated to ‘ALL THOSE OF US WHO STILL BELIEVE IN GREEN-COATED SANTA CLAUS BEFORE HE WAS MARKETED AS RED-COATED SANTA CLAUS AND SO NO LONGER EXISTED IN OUR IMAGINATIONS.’

Now, I’m not quite old enough to be able to recall the green-coated Santa to mind but I do remember someone telling me once that the image of the red-coated Santa Claus was first sold to us as an idea by the gigantic COCA-COLA corporation.

This means that our image of Santa didn’t come from Charles Dickens or evolve organically from a traditional Victorian fairytale but came directly from a massive, world-guzzling franchise.

From what I know of the world today, that sounds about right. Depressing, but right. Who came up with the idea of putting a Christmas tree in your home during the festive season? Probably it was SNICKERS or CHANEL NO.5 FOR MEN. I wouldn’t be surprised.

The screenplay tells the story of Peter Brent, ‘a sensitive young man in his early twenties’ who teaches Art. His students are ‘terribly influenced by Chagall’ and also, in a word, terrible. He’s depressed in his job and wants nothing so much as to direct a film using a script he’s written himself. He’s writing the script at the moment and he has high hopes for it.

He doesn’t get much support from his family. Here’s what his Dad Reg Brent thinks about his son’s proposed career in movies:

‘Anyway, what do you know about film directing? You’ve got to be old and have worked your way up before they’ll let you do that sort of thing. They don’t have young film directors. They’re all of ’em at least my age and upwards. I mean, look at Alfred Hitchcock. He’s no spring chicken. You’re wasting your time having all these wild ideas.’

Here’s what Peter’s Nan and his Mum Millie think about Peter’s big dreams of stardom:

Nan: ‘I say, Millie, I got two loaves from the bread man this morning. I got two large brown because Reg, here, won’t eat white. He won’t eat white, you know, so I had to get two large brown.’

Millie: ‘Oh Mother, you know I told you to get a large white.’

Nan: ‘Well, Millie- see here, Millie-‘

They both shout over each other. Peter rises and leaves.

Heh-heh-heh. So funny. Anyway, Peter moves out of his parents’ house and gets himself a swanky new girlfriend, a wanna-be actress called June Marlowe, and an ant-eater for a pet whom he calls Jack The Ripper because he- Jack, that is- loves tearing things like floorboards to shreds.

Unfortunately, Peter finds himself in the unenviable position of having to re-write his script from scratch when his Mum chucks it out while tidying his room, along with some comic books she deems him too old for at his age. It’s every nerd’s nightmare, is that. And I actually shuddered when she says in an offhand fashion about his script:

‘Well, if it’s something you need, I daresay you can always type it out again. It was only writing.’

IT WAS ONLY WRITING…? Jesus Christ, Ma, get a grip.

Speaking of Dickens, which we were earlier, I love Peter’s new landlady, Mrs. Gloom, Elderly Lady Of This Parish. Straight out of Dickens she is, like Mr. Bumble the Beadle, the holder of ‘porochial’ office responsible for naming Oliver Twist and blighting that lad’s youth with fear and hunger. I do love a bit of Dickens. His insight into the social problems of his day was, quite frankly, staggering in its accuracy.

Anyway, Peter tries to tout his screenplay idea round various film production studios like COLUMPIA and the RUNK ORGANISATION. Initially, he’s not terribly successful. I think he needs to work on his pitch:

‘I’ve written a screenplay- or rather- I HAD written one until my mother thought it was rubbish and threw it away- but I should be able to write it again because, luckily, I can remember most of it. So, if I could just see someone who-‘

Oh dear. I’ve been trying to tempt agents and publishers myself lately with my recently-penned, Zeitgeist-tapping-into and social-awareness-raising chick-lit novel and, believe me, you have got to have your pitch- and your shit-together if you’re to even have a hope of attracting someone’s attention.

Peter and June while away some time at the cinema. Michael says himself in the chapter entitled A HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY that ‘the screenplay abounds with parodies of cinematic clichés of the day and the world of screen advertising.’ 

He’s not wrong there, by Jove. There’s a wickedly merciless parody of the Walt Disney nature documentaries of the day between pages 80 and 90 that you absolutely have to read. It’s too long to include here but trust me, it’s bloody hilarious.

After a ton of Union-related problems and other mishaps, Peter eventually wangles a meeting with film producer Milton Kronowsky (lol, can you tell who he’s meant to be ’cause I totally can!) under false pretences.

Unfortunately, the meeting is scheduled for the exact same time that Peter is meant to be in court with his ant-eater Jack The Ripper answering a charge of causing a public disturbance. Can Peter pull a ‘Robin Williams in MRS. DOUBTFIRE’ and be in two places at once or will he need a little assistance?

Will Milton Kronowsky agree to make Peter’s movie? Will Mrs. Gloom, Elderly Lady Of This Parish, ever get the rent which is that good lady’s due and there’s no point saying it ain’t…? Will Jack The Ripper get to live out his days comfortably in an ant-filled paradise?

Will the hugely hilarious and highly hyperboled hullaballoo at Claridges’ be the ruination of Peter and June and Peter’s dreams of movie stardom? Or will it be the gateway to a whole new lease of life? You’ll have to read this wonderful book to find out, folks, and now stay tuned for these messages:

‘So, for a supremely satisfying pair of underpants: wear Snugjoy…’

A LARGE PAIR OF SUPER-IMPOSED UNDERPANTS FILLS THE SCREEN…

‘Snugjoy satisfies suddenly, satisfies supremely.’

Um, yes. Quaite…

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

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: OUIJA-BOARD. (1989) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

michael armstrong younger

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS: OUIJA-BOARD. (1989) PUBLISHED IN 2018 BY PAPER DRAGON PRODUCTIONS.

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 absolutely loved this latest book of Michael Armstrong’s, OUIJA-BOARD. Michael, as the piece above taken from his website informs us, is actually making history by being the first scriptwriter to publish almost everything he’s ever written in book form. So the history he’s making is both cinematic and literary, and I’m thrilled to bits to be a part of it.

I usually begin these reviews with a brief recap of the books of Michael’s that I’ve read so far, all of which are available to buy direct from Michael’s own website and also from Michael’s publishers, the lovely people at Paper Dragon Productions.

The books all have gorgeous glossy covers and they’re greatly improving the look of my personal library, I must say. Thus far I’ve read, or should I say devoured in one sitting, the following works:

HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (1982), filmed in 1983, is my favourite of all of Michael’s marvellous scripts, and there’s a lot to choose from. It’s a wonderful ‘haunted house’ story, which I would have adored anyway on its own merits.

The fact, however, that it features horror icons Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Vincent Price and John Carradine in the first and only film to ever star all four of them together, is the icing on an already terrific cake.

THE BLACK PANTHER (1976) was the name given to Donald Neilson, the British armed robber, kidnapper and murderer whose abduction of wealthy British teenager Lesley Whittle in 1975 was the subject of Michael’s controversial 1976 screenplay. 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.

Michael’s first movie was a short film called ‘THE IMAGE.’ (1964) 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.

Michael Armstrong had the pleasure, and it must have been a huge one, of directing Mr. Bowie first, though, and now the book of that script is also available to buy as part of Michael’s gorgeous collection.

GHOST TOWN (1969) is a terrific tongue-in-cheek Western comedy while A STAR IS DEAD (1977), another riotously irreverent comedy, was actually commissioned by Malcolm McLaren and intended to star The Sex Pistols in their screen acting debut. What a film that would have made!

BEELZEBUB (1984) is the story of a haunted computer that also would have made a great film and DEATH MASQUE (1988) is simultaneously an intellectual mystery thriller, a comedy and a social allegory, if you please. It contains the immortal words of operatic legend Anna Morenzi:

‘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.’

ESKIMO NELL (1975), starring Roy Kinnear and a ridiculously young and handsome Michael Armstrong in the flesh, is one of Britain’s most famous sex comedies. The dialogue is just so funny. Here are a few choice snippets:

‘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…!’

OUIJA-BOARD (1989) is a horror film-script that sadly never got made into a film, for reasons which Michael goes into, frankly and honestly, in the chapter entitled ‘THE HISTORY OF THE SCREENPLAY.’

It should serve as a cautionary tale to any budding young scriptwriters out there who still wear their rose-tinted glasses and think that everyone in the movie industry is as scrupulous as themselves…!

Michael admits himself that he wrote this script to a formula, the one that works so well for the horror movies we know and love and have been watching for years. It’s a deceptively simple formula that can be staggeringly effective.

You put a group of attractive young people in their twenties into a situation from which they absolutely can’t extricate themselves for a bit. In a ‘Cabin In The Woods,’ for example, on a weekend break from the city, and maybe their car’s broken down so they can’t go anywhere for the moment, or at least until the Park Ranger drives by on Monday morning to check on ’em. But by Monday morning, every last one of them could be stone-dead…

Throw in some booze and drugs, of course, to loosen everyone up a bit and lower their inhibitions, and make sure that several characters are wildly attracted to each other so that the chances of them having sex together are greatly improved. This beefs up the action no end, as any director worth his salt will tell you.

While all their guards and defences are down, a crazed serial killer will have no problem at all picking the horny young ‘uns off one by one, until no-one remains but the least slutty of the girls and maybe one guy, the guy she likes but thought was into the skank with the fake tits. And you can be sure that he was into her, at least at first. Until he found out that the skank with the fake tits is always the first to die…

In OUIJA-BOARD, we have a pair of young heart-throb teenage boy musicians, Brad Jackson and Li Lin, in a beach location filming a pop music video together. Also present are their three attractive backing singers, Sophie, Luanne and Marie. 

Then there’s Hugh, who’s directing the video, even though he’d rather be off directing an art-house movie somewhere and is only making this crappy video to pay the bills. I’m sure we can all relate. There’s also Larry, Brad’s manager, and Paul and Joe, two young cameramen. Debbie is Brad’s sort-of girlfriend.

Early on in the script, the young people- except for Debbie, who’s rightly nervous- all mess around with a ouija-board. Even though Sophie is initially the one who’s all for it, she gets scared quickly when the board makes it clear that it really, really wants to play games with the young folks. It also loves the words blood, death and danger. A good sign? You tell me…!

Sophie: ‘You see? It’s warning us. You start asking it things like that, you might attract the wrong kind of spirit.’

And:

Sophie: ‘I think we’re in touch with something real bad. I think we should stop.’

And:

Sophie: ‘They’re always looking for ways in, you know? To our world. That’s how people become possessed.’

And:

Sophie: ‘It’s all down to the vibrations our emotions give off. They all have different wavelengths and some of them can lay us open to- well, it’s like the radio- tuning into the wrong station.’

She’s bang on the money there. But remind us again, Sophie, why you wanted to fool around with the ouija-board in the first place? We all know the deal with ouija-boards by now. You might think you’re only trying to get in touch with your dear deceased old granny or Tweety the canary, who sadly departed this life when he mistook a pane of glass for the open air, but when you open that door to the Afterlife there’s no telling what kind of horrors you’re allowing in to your world.

A ghost is one thing, the ghost of someone who once lived, but if you attract the attention of a demon, something that’s never walked the Earth in human form, you are basically fucked. I learned this from demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren in James Wan’s THE CONJURING movies, lol. Who says you can’t learn anything from watching movies…?

Anyway, when something gory happens to Luanne as a direct result of the ouija-board session, Hugh and Larry decide that everyone on the team must move up to their mountain location and hang loose there while they, Hugh and Larry, take Luanne to the hospital. Larry comes out with what I can only refer to as Famous Last Words:

Larry: ‘There’s not much that can happen to them stuck on top of a mountain miles from nowhere.’

The demon unleashed by the young peoples’ unwise dabblings with the ouija-board of course follows Brad, Li Lin, Sophie, Marie, Debbie, Paul and Joe up the mountain, to the lodge where they’re supposed to be filming the mountainy parts of their pop video.

Oh Larry, you poor sweet fool! ‘There’s not much that can happen to them stuck on top of a mountain miles from nowhere.’ Are you FKM…? Killing this group of unsupervised high ‘n’ horny young ‘uns is going to be a piece of cake for the demon. The words shooting, fish and barrel come immediately to mind.

Brad, a cocaine addict, intends to spend this enforced sabbatical getting high and partying. Fair enough. With a blonde-haired-captain-of-the-football-team name like Brad, I guess he’s kind of morally obliged to.

Debbie wants to talk to Brad about Their Failing Relationship, but Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That. Marie wants to have sex with Li Lin, but there’s something pretty important she needs to learn about him first.

The sneaky Demon, meanwhile, has decided to confuse the issue by possessing first one and then another of the horny young ‘uns in turn, rather in the style of John Carpenter’s THE THING.

The killing scenes are gloriously gory (Now (s)he is cleansed from the squalor of the kill) as things go from seriously bad to much, much worse for the group of pop teens and their entourage abandoned, for the moment, to their own devices on the mountain-side.

When shit really starts going down, Paul the camera-man has kind of a Famous Last Words moment himself when he says:

‘Look… We’ll be okay. Nothing’s gonna happen to us just as long as we all stick together and don’t go wandering off on our own.’

Well, if everyone in horror movies paid attention to this little maxim, we’d have nothing good to watch. Thankfully, the dopes never do. Sophie, at whose door can be laid the blame for everything that’s gone wrong as the whole ouija-board thing was her idea, hits the nail on the head when she says:

‘It’s like it’s playing this horrible game with us. We’re its entertainment.’

Why don’t we ask the Demon itself what it wants…?

The Demon: ‘I want to play! Blood! Killing! I want to play!’

Can somebody please break out the travel Scrabble…?

OUIJA-BOARD and Michael’s other new book, THE CLICHÉ-CUTTER, are hot off the presses right now, direct from Michael’s own website and that of his publisher’s:

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

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

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