FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN. (1967) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN. (1967) BASED ON THE BOOK BY MARY SHELLEY. DIRECTED BY TERENCE FISHER. PRODUCED BY ANTHONY NELSON KEYS. WRITTEN BY JOHN ELDER (ANTHONY HINDS).

STARRING PETER CUSHING, THORLEY WALTERS, SUSAN DENBERG, ROBERT MORRIS, DUNCAN LAMONT, PETER BLYTHE, DEREK FOWLDS, BARRY WARREN, PETER MADDEN AND COLIN JEAVONS.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

O-ho. The cunning and self-serving, though undoubtedly charming-when-he-wants-to-be, Baron Frankenstein is up to his old tricks again, this time in the little village of Karlsbad in the Hammer-created ‘mitt-Europe’ that often features people in traditional Tyrolean dress and has stunning mountain ranges and forestry as its backdrop.

This time, the ambitious Baron, always greedy for still more knowledge and scientific advancement, has managed to capture the soul of an executed man and transplant it into the body of a woman who, before her suicide, suffered from terrible distortion and paralysis of the body and extensive scarring and disfigurement of the face.

The young man in question is Hans, the attractive, well-built but also decent and compassionate assistant to Baron Frankenstein and Dr. Hertz, the village doctor, who work together. When Hans was a child, he saw his father executed by the village guillotine, which stands on a little hillock on the way out of town.

Despite his criminal antecedents, Hans grows up as the kind of man who knows right from wrong and who will stand up for what’s right if he sees people around him acting the maggot.

Because he’s poor, though, and his father was a known executed criminal, the villagers tend to look down on him and not defend him when his own neck is on the line after a terrible crime has been committed in the village. Poor Hans is an easy target. Talk about round up the usual suspects.

The young woman is Christina Kleve, daughter of the local innkeeper. Because of her facial deformities and physical handicaps, she runs afoul of three local fops, Anton, Karl and Johann, who mock her afflictions mercilessly in the cruellest way imaginable. They’ve even composed a horrible personalised song to taunt her with, if you can believe that. Fops can be so cruel…!

Not only is Christina devastated by their mockery, but her lover (yes, she has a lover!) is aroused to ire on her behalf also. When the new and improved Christina emerges from her Baron Frankenstein-imposed chrysalis in the Baron’s house, under the ‘care’ of said Baron and the doddery but well-meaning Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters), a campaign of murderous revenge is entered into by a mysterious and unknown killer that appals and frightens the villagers in general and the fops in particular. They can’t say they didn’t have it coming…

Peter Cushing is ice-cool, calm and collected once more as the Baron, and Susan Denberg is a beautiful addition to the range of stunning actresses known collectively as Hammer Glamour.

The ‘science’ in this one is very dodgy, far-fetched and tenuous indeed, perhaps more so than in any other Hammer film featuring the rather dubious experiments of Baron Frankenstein. I daresay it wouldn’t stand up to too much scrutiny.

But then, we don’t watch Hammer horror for the accuracy of its scientific knowledge, do we? We watch it for the blood-lust, the boobs, the costumes and the settings, innit? We watch it for the high production values and everything else the Hammer brand stands for.

But FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN‘s metaphysical elements and all the talk of ‘capturing the soul’ put me very much in mind of a 1972 British horror film called ‘The Asphyx,’ starring Robert Powell and Jane Lapotaire, in which a Victorian gentleman scientist attempts the same feat with no less disastrous consequences. Check it out if you haven’t seen it. It’s an eccentric little gem of a film.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

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

NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT. (1967) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

night of the big heat 1967

NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT, AKA ISLAND OF THE BURNING DAMNED. (1967) RELEASED BY PLANET FILM PRODUCTIONS. BASED ON THE SCI-FI BOOK BY JOHN LYMINGTON. DIRECTED BY TERENCE FISHER. STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, PETER CUSHING, PATRICK ALLEN, SARAH LAWSON, KENNETH COPE AND JANE MERROW.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is very similar to another Planet film I reviewed recently called ISLAND OF TERROR. It starred Peter Cushing on a remote island off the Irish coast with a lone pub on it, and he was trying to save the islanders (and also, I presume, the pub!) from a breed of artificially created monsters called silicates, who made a funny whirring noise and moved along the ground like the Blob from THE BLOB.

In NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are on a remote island off the Scottish coast with a lone pub on it, and they’re trying to save the islanders (and also, I presume, the pub!) from alien beings from another planet who make a funny whirring noise and move along the ground like the Blob from THE BLOB.

This film has tremendous heat in it as well though, a heat caused by the aliens which, if it’s allowed to continue, will turn Earth into a scorched wasteland like the planet Mars, and humans will no longer be able to survive on it. You can see, therefore, why the situation is somewhat pressing and why the aliens need to be eliminated post-haste.

At first, Christopher Lee, tall and dark and devastatingly handsome in his white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, dark slacks and professorial glasses, is the only person on the island who realises that there’s a problem. He plays Godfrey Hanson (Godfrey Handsome, more like!), a scientist with an abrupt and rude manner who’s staying at the island’s one pub. (Which is why it’s so crucial to save it from the aliens, lol.)

He strides around the island by day, being abrupt and rude and scientist-y, trying to find proof that the island is, in fact, being targeted by aliens. Everyone else just thinks he’s nuts at first, but the terrible increasing heat on the island, unheard-of for winter, gradually forces the islanders into a communal change of mind. The island itself is heating up, and if the islanders don’t want to end up as barbecue, they’d better start listening to crazy old Professor Hanson…

Peter Cushing plays the suave and sociable intellectual, Dr. Vernon Stone, who proves an ally of the right intelligence for Professor Hanson. Which is just as well, as I don’t know how much help the womanising novelist Jeff Callum will be.

Beefcake Jeff (not for me but I can see why some women would) and his wife Frankie (Sarah Lawson; THE DEVIL RIDES OUT) own the Swan pub, the village’s one inn, and this cheating bastard Jeff is carrying on a sizzling affair with his hussy of a secretary Angela Roberts, right under his wife’s nose.

Sexy saucepot Angela has come to the island against his wishes, but now she’s here I don’t exactly see him fighting her off. And his wife Frankie is a real diamond as well. It’s a clear case of going out for hamburger when you’ve jolly well got steak at home. Tsk tsk, Jeff.

And in the meantime, telephone wires are melting in the ever-increasing heat, the bottles containing the precious booze are exploding (nobody tell Homer Simpson…!) with the high temperatures and the villagers are going mad. How long before their eyeballs melt and their blood begins, literally, to boil…?

One villager in particular, Tinker Mason (Kenneth Cope; CARRY ON, MATRON and CARRY ON AT YOUR CONVENIENCE), previously of good character, is driven to commit a heinous rape by the sweltering heat. Let’s hope that, once again, a good clout around the ear-holes with a giant ashtray will bring a man hell-bent on crime to his senses before too much damage to virtue has been caused, heh-heh-heh…

If you encounter the aliens yourself, here’s what will happen. You will see a great light on a lonely road and be drawn to it. Your eyes will widen in horror. You’ll take a few steps forward, then draw back in terror, your arms in the air. You will scream at the top of your lungs as the blinding white light envelops you in its deadly heat.

The next time we see you, you will look worse than the pizza I accidentally left in the oven for an hour and a half when the proper heating time was seven minutes. In short, you will be cremated. Not happy? Sorry, but them’s the breaks. The film is called NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT, after all, not NIGHT OF THE MILD DISCOMFORT.

A poor old tramp is burnt to a crisp in this film. He looks like one of the tramps I used to read about in my beloved Enid Blyton books, one of those auld lads who used to ‘tramp’ the highways and byways of Britain in the good old days, living off the land and the goodwill of the folks who resided on it. Whatever happened to these poor old guys, anyway?

They adhered, of course, to a strict dress code: straggly long hair and beard, old torn mackintosh belted at the waist, several layers of grimy shirts and cardigans and, naturally, the shoes with the holes in the soles and that flapping effect at the front that no self-respecting tramp would be seen dead without. A wide-brimmed hat was optional, but only if the crown was completely missing. They kipped in hay-ricks and under hedges with a piece of straw in their mouths and told anyone who’d listen that this was the life for them.

They’d sniff around the bins of any given household and, in Enid Blyton’s THE FIVE FIND-OUTERS books, Pip or Larry or Fatty’s mum would give them a pair of old but still good shoes belonging to the man of the house. And if the auld lad was really lucky, he might be told to go round the back of the house to the kitchen door where Cook would give him a hot meal or a cup of tea. I presume this stuff doesn’t happen any more in real life. I really do wonder what happened to these staples of children’s fiction from the ’50s, the ’60s and the ’70s. Answers on a postcard, please.

Anyway, the ending of NIGHT OF THE BIG HEAT kind of annoyed me. Handsome people who should have lived are shockingly permitted to die, and big cheating bastards, who should be spending eternity in the flames of hell with little devils poking them in the arse with red-hot pokers, are allowed to live. Grrr. It’s still a great film though, and very similar to ISLAND OF TERROR, lol. Catch it if you can. How does that song go again? Hey, it’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

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

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

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

ISLAND OF TERROR. (1966) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

island of terror

ISLAND OF TERROR. (1966) PLANET FILM DISTRIBUTORS LTD. DIRECTED BY TERENCE FISHER. STARRING PETER CUSHING, EDWARD JUDD, NIALL MACGINNIS AND CAROLE GRAY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE FURY OF A LIVING CELL- A NEW EXPERIENCE IN DEVOURING HORROR…!

HOW COULD THEY STOP THE DEVOURING DEATH… THAT LIVED BY SUCKING ON LIVING HUMAN BONES…!

This 1960s horror-slash-creature-feature is a proper little curiosity. It stars Peter Cushing as the eminent Dr. Brian Stanley, a medical man who’s called in to help when an isolated little island off the coast of Oireland, of all places (I’m from there, lol!), is experiencing a problem of, shall we say, monster proportions.

It seems that the equally eminent but reclusive Dr. Phillips, who lives in a fabulous mansion on Petrie Island dubbed ‘Wuthering Heights’ by the droll Dr. Stanley, has been trying to find a cure for cancer in his industrial-strength laboratory.

Unfortunately, one of the steps he’s taken has gone horribly wrong and, instead of saving lives, he’s accidentally created a little army of creatures called ‘silicates’ who feed by literally sucking out the bones from their victims’ bodies through puncture holes they inflict themselves. Sounds yummy, right? They leave their prey looking the way Imhotep’s victims do in the brilliant Stephen Sommers’ THE MUMMY movies; all dried up and dessicated, with expressions of sheer horror on their faces. Yuk, lol.

On Dr. Stanley’s team is the dreamy pathologist Dr. David West, who is hopelessly embroiled with spoilt brat Toni Merrill, a millionaire’s daughter who apparently wrapped her Maserati round a tree and broke her leg just to get to meet David. (‘Oh, David darling, I’m so frightened, save me, darling, don’t leave me alone!’ She’s a proper whinger an’ all.)

Well, as he’s a pathologist and deals in death, she could have actually gotten more than she bargained for with her little piece of high jinx and ended up on a slab in his mortuary. The grave’s a fine and private place, but none, I think, do there embrace…!

I’ve been keen as mustard to meet certain blokes at times in my life as well, but I’ve never gone that far. Toni’s like Tippi Hedren’s character Melanie Daniels in THE BIRDS, another millionaire’s daughter who has nothing better to do with her day than motor on up to Bodega Bay with a pair of lovebirds in the boot for her crush’s little sister, just to get on her crush’s good side. Sad in the extreme, lol.

Anyway, the race is on to kill the pesky silicates before they destroy everyone on the island. Their appearance is rather vacuum-cleaner-like; they even have a long wavy tentacle protruding from their body’s one, erm, hole, that retracts just like the hoover wire and plug when you press the rewind button! Their method is hoover-like also, in that they literally vacuum out the bones through the aforementioned punctures or perforations.

Niall MacGinnis, a magnificent actor and the star of one of the best British horror films ever made, NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957), plays Mr. Campbell, the ‘head of the island,’ the way that Christopher Lee as the charismatic Lord Summerisle is head of the island of Summerisle in that other contender for the title of best British horror film ever made, the superb THE WICKER MAN (1973).

Irish actor Niall MacGinnis is terrific as Mr. Campbell. He’s dressed exactly like a rich Irish landowner in Aran sweater, faded brown corduroy trousers, hat and sheepskin coat, and he’d remind you of one of those millionaire lads whose horses win the Grand National every year. Where there’s muck, there’s brass, mind. A gal could do a lot worse.

I like the character of Peter Argyle too, the gentle, duffle-coated proprietor of the local shop who looks a lot like a young Daniel O’Donnell, the Irish crooner who inspired the character of Eoin McLove in the clerical sitcom FATHER TED. He looks like the kind of chap who’d let a woman come first, if you know what I mean, and who’d say sorry a dozen times when he went to put it in, lol.

The real star of the show for me, apart from the silicates themselves, is Peter Cushing’s immaculate-as-always acting. Just look at his face when the silicates have hold of his wrist. The look of pure terror on his face is testament to his amazing acting skills.

I should probably mention Carole Gray’s fabulous blow-job lips and enormous eyes as well. That scene where she’s looking up at the roof of the car in horror when she hears the eerie, electronic outer-spacey sound of the silicates certainly showcases them to perfection, anyway. I really hope you get to see this film. It’s a proper old gem, so it is. Oh, and the silicates have just reminded me; I need to hoover the gaff before Christmas…!

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

HAMMER’S FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974) AND MEETING CHRISTOPHER FRAYLING AT THE HORRORTHON: BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

frankie monster from hell couple

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. (1974) BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY MARY SHELLEY. WRITTEN BY JOHN ELDER. MUSIC BY JAMES BERNARD. DIRECTED BY TERENCE FISHER. PRODUCED BY ROY SKEGGS.

STARRING PETER CUSHING, SHANE BRIANT, MADELINE SMITH, DAVID PROWSE, JOHN STRATTON AND PATRICK TROUGHTON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘His brain came from a genius. His body came from a killer. His soul came from Hell…!’

Yesterday was my favourite day of the year so far. I turned my back for one day only on my hermit-like writerly existence and mosied on down to the Irish Film Institute on Eustace Street, which was holding its annual Horrorthon, or five days of non-stop horror movies.

Esteemed film historian Sir Christopher Frayling gave a superb ninety-minute talk on FRANKENSTEIN: THE FIRST 200 YEARS, all the material for which can be found in his latest book, a gorgeous and sumptuous hardback of the same name. He signed my copy for me after the talk, and guess what he wrote in it under his signature? He wrote… ‘IT’S ALIVE…!’ Methinks it wasn’t his first book-signing, lol.

Anyway, he talked to us about the life of Mary Shelley, concentrating on that fateful summer in the Villa Diodati in which her famous gothic horror novel was written. He talked about how it wasn’t an overnight success but rather, a slow burner that only went viral, so to speak, when plays of it began to be produced a few years later. He had the most stunning-looking slides prepared for us as well, all of which can be found in his book.

He went on to talk about all the film versions of FRANKENSTEIN that have appeared over the years, and he confided in us that THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is his personal favourite of all the Frankie films. Snap! My favourite movie scene of all time is when the deliciously evil Dr. Pretorius is dining off a tomb in the crypt. Frankie’s Monster comes up behind him and he literally doesn’t turn a hair. ‘Oh…!’ he smirks in his cut-glass English. ‘I thought I was quite alone…!’

A screening of Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL followed Sir Chris’s talk. This is a really dark addition to Hammer’s FRANKENSTEIN canon, the sort of film where you’re constantly asking yourself how the hell did they manage to slip this or that past the ever-vigilant censors, who were always on poor Hammer’s case, lol. That nightdress better not be see-through or you’ll never eat lunch in this town again type of thing.

Shane Briant (Hammer’s FEAR IN THE NIGHT, DEMONS OF THE MIND) is a blonde Adonis who surely was born to wear a frilly white shirt and black frock-coat. He plays Simon Helder, a posh, sardonic, arrogant, privileged young doctor with the deeply inbred sense of entitlement that can surely only come from being an upper-class twat with an Oxbridge education, lol.

He’s arrested for ‘sorcery,’ as in he’s been avidly studying the life’s work of one Baron Frankenstein and trying to create life out of the body parts of cadavers. ‘You’re gonna get caught one day!’ Patrick Troughton’s grave-digger-upper ominously warns him. And he does. Get caught, I mean.

The judge is not at all impressed with Helder’s uppity demeanour. He sentences him to a good long stint in the local insane asylum for his trouble, a fate which even the constable who delivers Helder to the loony bin pities him for. ‘Rather you than me, son,’ he says, and ‘Good luck, son…!’ Cor blimey. If even the delivering copper is pitying you, you know you’re in for a bumpy ride…

And he most assuredly would be in for a rough ride (if the ‘bath’ with which he’s initiated into the horrors of the Asylum is anything to go by) if it were not for one salient fact. Peter Cushing’s fellow Asylum inmate Baron Frankenstein is the real power behind the nasty, blustering Asylum Director…

Calling himself merely Dr. Carl Victor now and firmly maintaining that Baron Frankenstein is dead and buried in the Asylum graveyard, he’s overseeing the care of all the Asylum patients while keeping a few ‘special’ patients back for himself only. And, of course, he’s been continuing on the sly with his experiments to create new life out of old, stitched-together body parts…

Simon Helder is thrilled skinny to meet the Baron, his idol, and be given the job of his assistant. Dr. Victor, as he’s now known, is delighted to have for his helper such a qualified and knowledgeable groupie, a doctor in his own right.

Helder feels like he’s been given the keys to the kingdom when he’s even introduced to Dr. Victor’s ‘special’ patients. What must he feel like, then, when one night he accidentally stumbles upon the good Doctor’s real secret, the truly monstrous-looking ‘creation’ he’s cobbled together from the parts of cadavers from the Asylum’s various tombs…? He’s both thrilled and, I think, appalled…

Still, he quickly offers to help the Baron to continue with his researches and the eternal search to give the Monster real, thinking life. The Monster is a true abomination, unlike, say, Boris Karloff’s Creature which we still recognise clearly as a man.

This Monster is not a man, or even remotely human-looking. It’s hairy, lumbering and utterly hideous. It’s the saddest, most pathetic thing you could possibly imagine. The kindest thing you could do for it would be to put it out of its misery. Put an end to its terrible suffering.

And yet Peter Cushing’s Baron is as proud of it as any parent on School Prize-giving Night. Can any good really come from the two doctors continuing to try to improve on this dreadful ‘thing’ by adding sundry bits and pieces from yet more cadavers to its monstrous frame? The bit where they’re opening up a corpse’s skull and taking out a brain to transplant into the Monster’s head is one of those bits I’m shocked got past the censors.

Madeline Smith (THE VAMPIRE LOVERS with Ingrid Pitt) is a true thing of beauty here as Sarah, the deaf-mute Asylum inmate who, until the arrival of Goldilocks Helder, has been performing the Baron’s secret surgeries for him because the Baron’s hands are all burned and useless now. This bit’s a bit far-fetched but whatever. The Asylum inmates call Sarah ‘the Angel’ and certainly she’s visually an improvement on the hideous Monster, lol.

This was legendary horror director Terence Fisher’s last film and the last outing, I believe, for Peter Cushing as Baron Frankenstein. He’s looking tired here, a far cry from the fresh-faced young fella who first played the immaculately-turned-out Baron for Hammer in 1957 with his role in the iconic THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN. He’s still magnificent here though, and he still gives it his absolute all.

Apparently, he didn’t much care for the somewhat curly-wurly wig he was made to sport in FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. Hee-hee-hee. I think it looks nice on him. And he goes out on a nice little question mark too, as in, is the Baron actually planning to put himself and his minions through all this horror again…? Well, you know the Baron’s motto, guys. If at first you don’t succeed…

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

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA: THE HAMMER VERSION. (1962) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Phantom of the Opera Lom

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. (1962) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION. A UNIVERSAL INTERNATIONAL RELEASE. BASED ON CHARACTERS CREATED BY GASTON LEROUX IN HIS NOVEL OF THE SAME NAME.

STARRING HERBERT LOM, MICHAEL GOUGH, THORLEY WALTERS, EDWARD DE SOUZA AND HEATHER SEARS. FEATURING MICHAEL RIPPER AND MILES MALLESON AS CABBIES AND PATRICK TROUGHTON AS THE RAT-CATCHER!

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This fantastic Hammer Horror has as its central character one of the greatest horror icons of all time, Gaston LeRoux’s Phantom Of The Opera, a chap made immortal by Lon Chaney’s stunning silent movie performance of same in 1925. Lon Chaney’s Phantom will always be the best, but Claude Rains turned in a great performance too in the 1943 movie and so does Herbert Lom in this version we’re discussing today.

So, we’ve got a gorgeous London theatre (sorry but it’s not a patch on the Paris Opera House, sorry sorry sorry, lol) in which Michael Gough’s Lord Ambrose D’Arcy is about to stage for le premier fois an opera about Joan of Arc he’s written himself (ahem!). More about this scurrilous lie later on.

Lord Ambrose is the meanest villain you’ve ever seen. He’s rude, haughty, proud and arrogant already because he’s aristocracy, although aristocratic is as aristocratic does, surely? He’s a diva-like little uppity snob, this fella. And as for his behaviour on the casting couch, well! He makes some of today’s disgraced ‘celebrities’ look like amateurs and also-rans…

He engages as his Joan a pretty and immensely talented chorus singer called Christine Charles. He takes her out to dinner as part of the deal and tries to entice her home to his apartment afterwards so that she can show him exactly how ‘grateful’ she is for his having given her the job. The dastardly devil!

Christine, however, has the common sense and good morals to be repulsed by the Lord’s odious intentions. She turns for help to Lord Ambroses’s detested producer, the much younger and handsomer Harry Hunter, played by the darkly delicious Edward de Souza (KISS OF THE VAMPIRE). Harry is only too delighted to save Christine’s honour by performing as we say in ze French, le cock-block for the furious Lord Ambrose. Heh-heh-heh. So funny.

Christine gets the sack, unfortunately, for not putting out. You could totally sue for that nowadays. Harry resigns in sympathy with her and these two are an item from now on. Their troubles aren’t over, however. Far from it.

‘There’s something evil in this theatre,’ as an astute Harry observes. Someone has committed ‘suicide’ there during a performance and there have been odd little things happening that have led the theatre staff to think that the place is haunted. The deserted Box Five is the place from which You-Know-Who watches the performances. His beloved music continues to be his life.

And certainly, Christine has been spoken to in her dressing-room by a disembodied male voice, cultured and authoritative, who seems to want to turn her into the greatest singer the world has ever known. Well, that’s not to be sniffed at, I daresay.

I must say that I thoroughly approve of the Phantom’s musical Boot-Camp, which comes later on in the film. If I’d had someone to slap me about, shout abuse at me and throw water in my face every time I looked to be putting down my pen, I might have gotten more writing done in my lifetime, lol. Some people would pay good money for that kind of encouragement. It’s worth its weight in gold, truly.

When we learn of the tragic Professor Petrie’s story, it really is perfectly obvious that Lord Ambrose D’Arcy is a thief, a bully, a scoundrel and a villain of the highest order. How dare he do what he does to Professor Petrie, a musical genius and an honest if impoverished man of morals? A come-uppance is sorely needed here for the evil Lord Ambrose.

The performance of Joan is so moving I was in tears at the end of it. I was also thinking of two things during it. Firstly, did Heather Sears really have to cut her lovely long hair in order to give her that sleek, utterly boyish cap she sports at the end of the performance? That would have been a shame, because her crowning glory is so gorgeous.

Secondly, I was thinking of THE SIMPSONS. In one of their historical anthology episodes, Lisa Simpson plays the martyr Joan of Arc and, in one scene, when she’s sitting down, the voice of God calls out and says: ‘Joan, give me your dessert!’ and you just see this chocolate eclair ascending into Heaven in a ray of heavenly light accompanied by celestial music. Sweet.

The scene in Joan where she’s being ‘tried’ for heresy by a court full of men makes me so freaking angry. They sentence her to burn at the stake because she refuses to say that she no longer believes in what she believes in, that in fact she now believes what they believe.

The timing of me re-watching this film is kind of funny because yesterday, October 26th 2018, the Irish people (those that could be bothered, that is, because a lot of us apparently didn’t) went to the polls to decide whether or not they want blasphemy to no longer be a crime. As in, you can no longer be charged with blasphemy if you say something that someone else doesn’t agree with, or say something derogatory about God.

I don’t know if that many people were ever charged with blasphemy here in Ireland, but it’s probably just as well to do away with such an out-moded concept. When you think of all the women- and men- in Joan’s day who were tortured and/or executed in horrific ways for saying or believing things the Church didn’t agree with, well, it’d make your blood run cold.

The Salem Witch Trials are another terrible example of such ridiculous fears and intolerances taking hold of a community and rampaging through it like wildfire. Anyway, the lovely Christine Charles’s Joan is an absolute triumph. If you don’t sob like a baby when she’s going up those stairs towards the flames, well then, you must have a heart of stone, lol. Enjoy le film. It’s another marvellous triumph for Hammer Horror.

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:

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