This is the companion series to THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE, and, as far as I know, there are more to come, so yay. I enjoyed them both but, as in HILL HOUSE, there’s an awful lot of repetition in BLY MANOR that could have been chopped out, reducing the sprawling series from nine episodes to a tighter, more condensed six or even seven.

The story is basically a modern day re-telling of Henry James’s chilling novella, THE TURN OF THE SCREW, brilliantly filmed as THE INNOCENTS in 1961, in which two wealthy orphaned children are haunted, if not possessed, by the ghosts of two deceased servants. Bly Manor is the seat of most of the action, and fans of a good linear style of story-telling will be tearing their hair out after only a couple of episodes, so be warned, lol.

Dani Clayton is the pretty young American au pair who comes to Bly Manor to care for eight-year-old Flora and ten-year-old Miles, whose parents died in an accident in India, where they’d gone to try to repair a troubled marriage.

Dani is engaged by the children’s uncle, the stiff-upper-lipped business toff, Henry Wingrave, who only wants to be notified by Dani if someone actually dies or has a leg hanging off. And, even then, the doctor should still be the first port of call. Henry has his reasons for being stand-offish. Henry has his secrets. They will all out, in time.

The staff at Bly, besides Dani, includes Hannah Grose, the housekeeper, Owen the chef- yep, little Timmy and Tammy Snot-Nose have their own Paris-trained chef, the little snots!- and Jamie, the female gardener (yes, I suppose women can do that job now if they like), who takes a shine to Dani. A shine which is reciprocated. A reciprocated shine. In short, lesbians, lol. In a Henry James television adaptation, of all places, who’d have thunk it…? Well, it’s 2020 here, after all.

There are a lot of dead people floating around Bly Manor, including but not limited to Miss Jessel, the previous governess who committed certain deeds upon her own person, and Peter Quint, her lover and Henry Wingrave’s sort of go-fer or valet. Dominic and Charlotte, the children’s posh parents, are still hanging around as well.

People who die at Bly don’t seem to know they’ve died. It’s a real problem, and causes a lot of congestion in the passageways. I won’t spoil it for you by hinting at who’s dead and who’s not. Suffice it to say, in the immortal words of Homer Simpson, that Bly Manor is the kind of place where people throw ducks at balloons and nothing is as it seems.

Doors open here into the past, the present and even the future. Faces appear at the window, or in the bath-water. It’s like a carnival of the dead, and no-one ever moves on to wherever they’re supposed to go to when they croak. What they need here is some kind of conductor, you know?

‘That’s right, move along here now, no queue-jumping, we’ll all get where we’re going in plenty of time. ‘Ere, wot you fink you’re doing, skipping the queue wivvout a ticket? Lord luv-a-duck! You’ll be the death of me one day, you lot will. ‘Ere, you! I thought I said NO BLEEDIN’ QUEUE-JUMPING…!’ And so on, etc.

The episodes in the middle are so repetitive they’ll do your head in and could easily have been slimmed down to make for easier viewing. The presence of the plague-doctor and the Lady in the Lake are explained eventually, which I appreciated.

Ironically, my favourite of all the nine episodes was the black-and-white one near the end, in which the origin story of the ghosts of Bly Manor is laid out for us. The story of the two noble sisters, Viola and Perdita Willoughby-Lloyd, is gripping and really, really sad.

The scenes with Viola locked in the room that represents death, until such time as her sister inadvertently frees her, really captured my imagination, and as for the Lady of the Lake, doomed to fade over time like cushion covers in the sun (Every mother ever in the summer; ‘Quick, the sun’s out, close the curtains! The sun will fade the cushion covers!’), well, I loved that story but wept over it too. It’s just too sad, and yet, we’ll all end up the same way, won’t we? It’s too sad to even contemplate…

The gorgeous Carla Gugino from GERALD’S GAME and THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is narrating the story to an American wedding party. Victoria Pedretti is excellent as the au pair who won’t give in to the ghosts who are trying to take Miles and Flora. There’s more to like than dislike about this Gothic drama-slash-ghost-story, I think, and, overall, I enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to the next instalment in the series.

THE HAUNTING OF WOKING PIZZA EXPRESS, maybe, an emporium sure to be haunted one day in the future by the ghost of a non-sweating monarch who only ever wore a suit when he came to town and had never been upstairs in a certain person’s house, so that couldn’t be him in the photograph? We viewers are eagerly awaiting confirmation…


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:

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

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:


quo vadis royal couple




‘Tigellinus, bring me my weeping vase…!’

Now, this is a Biblical epic you can really get your gnashers into, and perfect viewing for my Holy Saturday night this year. The DVD box informs me that it features ‘110 speaking parts, 30,000 participants and a filmed-on-location panoply of marching legions, magisterial pageantry and massive spectacle that includes the martyrdom of Christians thrown to the lions before cheering Coliseum throngs.’ You’d better believe it, lol.

Robert Taylor, maybe not quite as handsome or charismatic as Richard Burton in THE ROBE, another famous Biblical epic, but a perfectly acceptable leading man nonetheless, plays Marcus Vinicius, a legion commander in Rome’s powerful army.

At the time we meet him, he’s just returned to Rome after three long years spent conquering Britain and Gaul (France) and, believe me, he’s got some very unflattering things to say about the British and French women he met there, the cheeky sod!

Anyway, he returns to Rome to much fanfare and immediately falls in love- or lust!- with a beautiful young woman called Lygia. (She’s played by Deborah Kerr, who feels in this instance completely inter-changeable with Jean Simmons in THE ROBE, if you know what I mean! Stick-thin and passionate in love, with long hair and a devotion to doing the right thing, whether it comes from the religion of Christianity or not.) 

Once the high-born daughter of the Lygian king, Lygia has resided in the house of the now elderly General Plautius and his wife Pomponia since Rome conquered the kingdom of Lygia and the girl was taken prisoner. The Plautius family adopted her and love her as if she were their own daughter.

Now she’s all grown-up and a committed Christian, or follower of Jesus Christ, the carpenter from Nazareth, born in Bethlehem, who was crucified by the Romans some thirty years before. The followers of Jesus believe that it’s a sin to kill, to rape, murder or pillage, and to keep any man, however lowly-born, in chains and bondage.

None of this sits well with the beliefs of Rome and her legions of armies. When Marcus Vinicius first sees Lygia, he can’t understand why she’s not keen to be clubbed on the noggin, dragged off to his cave by her hair and raped repeatedly, which is what his initial attempts at ‘wooing’ amount to.

He gets angry at her obvious reticence and goes over her adoptive father’s head to the Emperor Nero, who kindly consents to give Marcus ‘ownership’ of the ‘slave’ girl, Lygia. After Nero establishes, mind you, (with the help of Petronius, his yes-man, who actually tells him what to think, the dope!) that she’s ‘too narrow in the hips’ to be of interest to his royal self…!

Nero, played wonderfully by a very young Peter Ustinov in one of his career highlights, is every bit as capricious and wicked an emperor as Jay Robinson’s magnificent Caligula in ‘THE ROBE’ and ‘DEMETRIUS AND THE GLADIATORS.’ He plays Nero like a spoilt, emotionally disturbed child who’s pleasant enough when he’s getting his own way but who can be very, very dangerous when crossed.

When we first meet Nero, he has just had his wife and mother brutally murdered and replaced the former with another, the conniving, hard-faced Poppaea. She’s a striking-looking woman with the most fabulous wardrobe and a terrific line in hair accessories and jewellery.

It is Poppaea’s job to come up with ever more sick and twisted entertainments for her husband, to keep him from the boredom that’s always threatening and that can be perilous indeed for his minions.

She delights in this mission and it seems she’s well suited to her spoilt brat of a husband, who resembles nothing so much as a nasty fat little bully of a schoolboy who’d be quite happy to pull the wings off the birds of the sky if they declined to sing for him. And speaking of singing…!

‘Oh, lambent flames…!’ Nero is under the fond illusion that he is a master at song composition and poetry. It’s the job of his toady, Petronius, who also happens to be Marcus Vicinius’s uncle, to tell Nero he’s the best thing to hit the open mic scene since Ed Sheeran.

Petronius inwardly loathes Nero and has nothing but contempt for him and his stupid musical compositions, but sometimes you gotta kiss up to the king if you want to keep your head. That’s certainly what it’s like under Nero in the corrupt and sleazy Rome of the day.

Nero, who infamously was said to have fiddled while Rome burned, is not a fitting, worthy ruler of the empire that brought so much progress, knowledge, learning and improvements to the world.

A worthy ruler would have tempered justice with mercy and freed the thousands of slaves and allowed them to go back to their homes. He also wouldn’t have considered whipping, torture and execution the correct way to get more work and loyalty from these slaves. That kind of enlightened rulership was still quite a long way off.

There are some highly dramatic but terrifying scenes in the movie, which is rated PG, but I’m not sure little kiddies would be okay with the scenes of Rome burning and her inhabitants panicking while fleeing their deadly collapsing city.

There are also the dreadful scenes of the crucifixion of an elderly man who’s never harmed anyone in his life, and of dozens of innocent Christians, wrongly blamed for Nero’s deliberate arson of their city, being fed to the lions who, by the way, are very, very real lions and are not holograms or computerised in any way…!

You could actually compare Nero to Hitler in a couple of quite significant ways. Both men held the Wagnerian fantasy of the world ending in a flame-licked Armageddon close to their hearts, or to the places where these organs should have been, anyway. Both men wanted to create new, bigger and better cities from the ashes of their ruined ones.

Nero wanted his new city- Neropolis, if you please- to rise like a phoenix after he’d burned the original Rome to the ground. Such wanton death and destruction truly beggars belief. Hitler wanted his metropolis- Hitlerland, no doubt- to arise out of the ruins left behind in his country after World War Two had ravaged it. Neither of them were too bothered either about the lives and homes that had to be destroyed utterly first before their precious new cities could be born.

Both men pored for hours over scale-models of their new cities. When the Second World War was nearing its end and Hitler was trapped in the bunker with his minions, he retired from reality altogether and just spent his days playing with his models of a new city that would never be built, because the man who’d dreamed it  up would be dead, in disgrace for all eternity.

And the way that Nero scapegoats the Christians for the arson he committed, does that remind you of anything else? Hitler’s scapegoating of the Jews for everything that was wrong with Germany, from the Versailles treaty to mass inflation and unemployment, maybe?

They could almost be twins, Nero and Hitler. Hitler had artistic pretensions too, don’t forget. Thought he could paint, just like Nero fondly imagined he could sing and compose songs and poetry to rival anything the gods themselves could come up with. Just wait until Nero reads Petronius’s parting jibes…! Methinks a rude awakening is on the cards.

So, let’s leave these two nutcases behind and briefly return to Marcus Vinicius and the lovely Lygia. How can they find love and happiness together when Lygia believes deeply in the teachings of Christ and Marcus is a firm non-believer and a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen to boot?

Lygia admits she’s attracted to him, despite his caveman ways, and could easily love him if only he’d keep an open mind on the subject of Jesus. Can Marcus overcome his jealousy of the carpenter dude he’s never met and accept Lygia’s overwhelming love for Christ and his precepts? Or is it all doomed to end in tears on the sandy floors of the Coliseum? You’ll have to watch this cracking Biblical epic to find out, readers. Happy Easter to one and all.

‘O Lambent Flames’ is Number One on iTunes and Spotify this Easter Sunday.


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, 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:

You can contact Sandra at: