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. MY SCARE LADY (1989). REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

my scare lady

MICHAEL ARMSTRONG: THE SCREENPLAYS.

MY SCARE LADY. (1989)

PUBLISHED IN SEPTEMBER 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

I was thrilled to have a new consignment of Michael Armstrong screenplay books to read over Christmas: FALCONFELL (1983), THE LAMIA (1972) and the one I’ve just finished reading, MY SCARE LADY (1989). Readers of my blog will be well familiar with Michael Armstrong and his oeuvres by now, but just to refresh our memories, here’s a list of the screenplays he’s penned that were turned into 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.

He’s written plenty more screenplays that never made it on to the big screen for whatever reason; lack of funds or people going back on things they’d said or promised and what-have-you. There are all kinds of showbizzy reasons why a screenplay might not find its way to the big screen, reasons that would have nothing to do with the merits of the work itself.

We, the readers, are getting all the benefits of Michael’s works now, as they roll hot and steaming off the presses at Paper Dragon Productions, and MY SCARE LADY is one of the most enjoyable and entertaining film books of his I’ve read so far. Here’s how it starts. How’s this for an opener?

Through a huge field of corn waving in the night breeze…

Runs a terrified GIRL…

She is being pursued by BOBO;

A ferocious giant of a man of Neanderthal appearance.

The GIRL stumbles and falls…

Crawls, helplessly, through the corn…

In a futile attempt to escape-

Then BOBO is on her-

Okay, well, I don’t know about you guys, but I really want to read a book that starts with lines like that, lol, and can you only just imagine what a killer opening to a horror movie it would have made? I know I’m teasing you now, but let me just transport you to a few lines further on:

Gleaming white walls…

Intricate scientific apparatus…

Complementing an area set aside as an operating theatre.

BOBO drags the terrified GIRL across…

And, flinging her down onto an operating-table-

Proceeds to strap her down, firmly.

Heh-heh-heh. The story then moves on and introduces us to Ben Hyatt and Kirk Dillon, the two male sort-of-heroes, although Kirk is a very unlikely hero at first. He’s a famous male model to Ben’s photographer, and to call him a sexist male chauvinist pig would be to paint him in a good light. He’s used to women throwing themselves at him, and he treats them like dirt. Here’s a few examples of the charming speeches he makes about women:

Once your dick’s inside ’em, who cares what name they answer to?

Oh, man! See the tits on that one? Imagine sinking your teeth into those juicy water melons!… Shit! Now, that’s what I call a body! Get those legs wrapped around you? Jesus! Could I do disgusting things to her! Oh, man! Did you see?

We’ve gotta go find out where there’s some action. Watching all this meat go by’s making me horny. I gotta score, bro. I can’t believe I’m sitting here in London, England, with no pussy lined up for tonight. I gotta have pussy! Gotta have pussy!

What a nice guy, right? We’re not altogether sorry when the truly obnoxious Kirk is lured away from his jet-set lifestyle to an isolated farmhouse somewhere in rural England by a beautiful and mysterious woman called Selina.

Selina, who implies she wants to have sex with him, has no trouble at all getting Kirk to the farmhouse, where some very strange and macabre things have been going on. It’s a bit like when the dopey teens in THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE meet Leatherface & Co. for the first time in the backwoods home filled with unimaginable horrors.

Selina’s Fine Art-loving plastic surgeon father, Algernon, has a laboratory filled with body parts, the family bodyguard Bobo is as unlike his cuddly teddy bear name as you can picture, and Selina’s sister Galatea, who rather oddly wears a mask over most of her face for most of the book, is desperate to make the-beast-with-two-backs with Kirk, her long-time obsession after seeing him star in numerous television commercials. But Kirk is terrified by the very sight of Galatea, and that’s before she takes off her mask and reveals the art-inspired monstrosities that lie beneath…

Here are some snippets of an hilarious conversation between Algernon and Selina:

Algernon: Look how shocked they all were when I turned to Surrealism in rhinoplasty! What’s wrong with having two noses? What’s so aesthetically terrible about having one bigger than the other? And with only one nostril?… Sideways?

Selina: Father, you’re having one of your megalomania attacks again!

Algernon: I’ll admit my Francis Bacon period may have been a little disturbing. Maybe the world wasn’t quite ready to accept a woman with her face completely melted down into a single enormous mouth- but what artist hasn’t suffered for trying to break with convention?

Lol. Here’s something illuminating Galatea said to Algernon earlier on: I don’t want you to think I’m being ungrateful asking for outside help. [A choreographer called Meredith and his pianist, Endymion.] I appreciate how you’ve fought and struggled and sacrificed and cut up lots of people into little pieces just to give me a better chance than most girls get in life…

What a lovely family. Kirk is now at the mercy of Algernon, the plastic surgeon from the very depths of hell, and his dotty household. It’ll be up to Ben, Kirk’s photographer mate, to try to spring Kirk from captivity, but he can’t do it alone.

He’ll need help from Meryl, a woman of large build whom Ben really likes, despite the fact that she’s not an anorexic supermodel, and also from Nathalie, a chick who likes Kirk but who quite rightly wasn’t prepared to put up with his sexist bullshit.

Will any lessons be learned? Will the horrible Kirk learn that there’s more to women than tits and a pussy (Kirk’s language, not mine!)? Will Ben pack in photographing stick-thin models and take the pictures of real women and other artistic subjects that he really wants to take instead? Will Galatea find that she’s come all this way in search of something that was right under her nose the whole time? Will Kirk ever get his beloved pussy again, and will he treat it any better if he does…?

I’ll leave the last words to Algernon, aka Dr. Frankenstein, my favourite character in the screenplay, whom Michael Armstrong envisioned being played by either Vincent Price, Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee if the screenplay ever made it onto the big screen:

Splendid! Well, I think after all that fresh air, I’m going to take a little nap for half an hour or so, then settle down to a quiet evening of dismemberment and bottling…

My sentiments exactly!

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

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor