‘Keep your hand at the level of your eyes.’

This is one of my favourite musicals, next to CABARET!, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and OLIVER! I can’t think of any others just at the moment, except for maybe THE SOUND OF MUSIC and CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG.

It’s the film version of music genius Andrew Lloyd Webber’s fantastic stage musical from 1986, and it’s absolutely bursting at the seams with vibrant colours, luxurious settings, magnificently opulent flower arrangements and costumes that are literally to die for, they’re so fabulous. It would take the sight out of your eyes, as we say here in Ireland, it’s such a glorious spectacle.

And the hilariously witty lyrics and songs are just terrific, and the storyline is sooooo sad, as you will probably remember from previous re-tellings of the story, the best of which is of course the Lon Chaney silent version from 1925. Just in case there’s any confusion, this 1925 film version is the best of all the film versions, including this 2004 musical adaptation of which I’m speaking so highly today. But this musical might well run a close second.

You know the story, of course. The beautiful young singer/chorus girl, Christine Daae of the Paris Opera, has been secretly trained by a mysterious voice she calls ‘the Angel of Music,’ which we know is actually the Phantom of the Opera, or the Opera Ghost, or the anonymous occupant of Box Five, someone who has lived in the dark, winding bowels of the Opera House for most of his lonely life.

Gerard Butler plays the hideously scarred Phantom, who wears a mask to conceal his ruined visage as much as to hide his identity. Some people, like Miranda Richardson’s Madame Giry, the ballet trainer, aid and abet him in his often funny communiques with the management of the opera, amusingly played by Ciaran Hinds and Simon Callow.

For example, the Phantom insists on being paid a ‘salary’ for his trouble, and is no slouch at reminding his ‘employers’ when they are late with payment of same! He also demands of them that they keep Box Five free for his private use during all performances. Looks like someone’s been consulting pgs. 77 and 142 of the Union of Phantoms’ rule book…

The Phantom has been training the exceptionally submissive and malleable Christine Daae to be the principal singer of the Paris Opera. But the Paris Opera already has a principal singer, a super-spoiled diva in the form of Minnie Driver’s beautifully costumed Carlotta, so the Phantom will have to make it impossible for Carlotta to sing the lead if he wants his precious little protegee to be Numero Uno in the tra-la-la stakes…

The Phantom has another little niggle to contend with, and it’s a wee bit trickier than just making sure that Christine reaches the dizziest of dizzy heights as the Opera House’s premiere chanteuse. Christine, played by Emmy Rossum who looks like a cross between Angelina Jolie and queen of the period drama, Jane Seymour, has another admirer, by Jove, what the Phantom ain’t too pleased about, see?

Yes, folks, and you’ll never guess who plays the Comte Raoul de Chagny, Christine’s devoted admirer and lover! That’s right, it’s Patrick Wilson, who goes on to play the part of Vera Farmiga’s handsome hubby and baby-daddy and fellow ghostbuster in the CONJURING and ANNABELLE films. You’ll hardly recognise him here, with his gorgeous long floppy hair and a pretty damn good singing voice to boot.

You’ll love the underground part of the Opera House, in which the Ghost has made himself comfortable, with an underground lake, ‘room for a pony,’ a la Hyacinth Bucket, a portcullis and various security measures that ensure that the Phantom sees you a lot sooner than you see him.

He has also booby-trapped the shit out of the place so that he can feel safe in his realm, but God help anyone who wanders down there without knowing the lay-out and the pitfalls, which would be most people, if not all people. No wonder Madame Giry more or less says to Raoul at one point, this is as far as I dare go, you’re on your own, bud…!

But is it horribly unreasonable of the Phantom to expect the attractive, talented and vibrant Christine to spend most of her young life beneath the Opera House with him, living and sleeping in the dark and almost never coming up for air or a taste of the rich, varied human life of Paris?

She feels a deep debt to him, and pity for what he is, but pity and indebtedness are very different from love, if you see what I mean. What will the curly-headed songstress decide to do…? (PS, she does look sexually blissed-out when the Phantom touches her and sings to her, so maybe that sexual attraction could help sustain an underground relationship/marriage after all…?)

Such a spectacular, visually stunning film, sandwiched between two black-and-white bits featuring the Comte de Chagny and Madame Giry in ‘old-face,’ as they attend an auction of memorabilia from the ruined Opera House’s hey-day and the Comte goes to visit Christine’s grave in the snow.

Jennifer Ellison from BROOKSIDE as Madame Giry’s ballerina daughter Meg is not strictly necessary to the plot, but she has lovely blonde hair and big fake (I think!) bazookas which look adorably bouncy in the little low-cut ballet dress, so, for those reasons possibly, she was left in, lol. Little Emily Shadwick offa Brookie is possibly the last person you’d expect to see in any version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, but there you go. Boobs are a key that opens many doors…

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 new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:


Phantom of the Opera Lom




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.


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:

You can contact Sandra at:


frank spencer beret



‘I’m a man…!’

‘Ooooooooh, Betty…!’

‘I’ve had a bit of trouble.’

‘They were a family of slippers.’

‘The cat’s done a whoopsie in my beret.’

‘I’ve been very worried about the coal shed door.’

‘He don’t go to work, he just goes to interviews…!’

‘It’s alright, darling, it’s just Daddy breaking something!’

‘That’s Jessica Spencer’s son. Nobody don’t love the Spencers. They just keep out of their way!’

‘I didn’t want to join the brain-drain, Betty, but the way things are going, the sooner my brains are removed the better.’

Frank Spencer, one of television’s most ‘trying’ characters (‘Betty, no-one’s more trying than me!’) is instantly recognisable in his tight ‘Seventies slacks (not too tight please, I’m a married man…!), wimpy tank-top, ‘Humphrey Bogart raincoat’ and trademark beret.

Frank is a young married man, who’d have gotten ahead in life long ago if it hadn’t been for all the ‘harassments’ he’s had to endure. Was it Frank’s fault that the bedroom floor is no more, or that the coal shed door has inexplicably gone missing? ‘I’ll put a bit of wood across it!’ says Frank sheepishly. ‘It had a bit of wood across it!’ wails Mrs. Fisher, Frank’s mother-in-law. ‘It was called a door…!’

Series One:

Episode One: THE JOB INTERVIEW: Frank’s interview for the position of bathroom fittings door-to-door salesman goes horribly wrong when he banjaxes the firm’s lift, gives the manager Mr. Lewis a nervous breakdown and gets trapped under a bookcase. Hammer Horror beauty Linda Hayden co-stars as a pretty secretary and Betty, Frank’s wife, thinks that Frank’s new suit makes Frank look like ‘one of them,’ much to Frank’s outrage. His greatest fear in life is being taken for ‘one of them…!

Episode Two: GEORGE’S HOUSE: This is my son’s second favourite episode of this series. Frank and Betty spend time at Betty’s posher brother George’s house just as a major industrialist is coming to view the gadget-filled abode with a view to putting in a big order to George’s company. Frank gets his slippers stuck in the U-bend of the toilet but that’s only the start of his troubles. Can Betty deal with ‘the Frank matter’ before the big industrialist notices that anything’s amiss…?

Episode Three: LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR: Frank’s poorly mother-in-law is in need of a doctor. But why call a doctor when a script-writer lives just next door? A charge of breaking-and-entering into his own house ought to round off Frank’s day nicely…

Episode Four: HAVE A BREAK, TAKE A HUSBAND: Frank and Betty have a second honeymoon at a little boarding-house run by Mr. Bedford. Betty’s uncharacteristic ‘failure’ to pack a lino knife has catastrophic results for their bedroom’s furnishings. The wardrobes are all on the move and a suit of clothes just might contain a ‘message from the other side’ as Frank does his best to keep his demolition work under wraps.

‘Put that over there! It can go out in the morning…’

Episode Five: THE HOSPITAL VISIT: Frank’s been coping poorly while Betty’s been in the hospital. Now that she’s been ‘done’ (‘we’ve all been ‘done’ in this ward!’), he’s keen to get her home as soon as possible. Does anyone have a trolley handy?

Hospital visitor to Frank: ‘I’m here to see my wife, are you?’

Frank: ‘I don’t think I know her…!’

Episode Six: THE PSYCHIATRIST: Frank attempts to convince a head-shrink that he is, in fact, a failure. Several traumatic reminiscences later, and the head-shrink is inclined to agree with him whole-heartedly. Frank wears his failure like a badge of honour and, in fact, he seems rather pleased to have it confirmed. He’s a failure…! Well, his old Auntie Dingle could have told him that…

Episode Seven: THE EMPLOYMENT EXCHANGE: This is one of my personal favourites. The bad-tempered Mr. Hooper at the Labour Exchange bets the enthusiastic new manager of the Exchange that he can’t find the eternally job-seeking Frank Spencer a job that he can hold down for a week. One bucket of sudsy slop water later and they might all be on the dole again… Edward Hardwicke (Dr. Watson to Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes) guest-stars here as the pessimistic Mr. Hooper.

Frank: ‘I’ll pay for any damage.’

Mr. Bradshaw:’That machine cost three million pounds!’

Frank: ‘I’ll work nights…!’

Series Two:

Episode One: CLIFFHANGER: Will Frank’s limited knowledge of the mating habits of chickens be any help to him at all when he and Betty are suspended terrifyingly over the edge of a cliff in the loaner car from Frank’s new job? I suppose he could always tell her to ‘pullet…’

Episode Two: THE RAF REUNION: He’s half-blinded, half-deafened and disorientated, with flat feet and a tendency to get trapped in wardrobes during kit inspections. Could Frank Spencer be the greatest airman ever to march on Her Majesty’s socks? Let’s just say that he’s ‘one of the few all right…’

‘Couldn’t I just have THE DEATH OF NELSON?’

Episode Three: THE PUBLIC RELATIONS COURSE: This is another one of my favourites. Mr. Watson’s lovely residential Public Relations course is ruined by Frank’s inability to desist from ordering beans for dinner. Still, as Mr. Watson is seemingly ‘a parasite prostituting his talents to hoodwink the people,’ he probably had it coming. James Cossins (THE ANNIVERSARY, FAWLTY TOWERS) co-stars.

Episode Four: FRANK AND MARVIN: Frank’s got to perfect his ventriloquism act if he’s to earn enough money at the holiday camp to keep Betty in the carrots she’s suddenly developed a fierce craving for. But Marvin’s head is missing and so, apparently, is Frank’s ability to sing songs ‘the kids of today’ want to hear. Maybe Frank’s ‘Vesuvius’ will go off with a bang and liven things up a bit… Christopher Timothy (ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL) co-stars as Roy.

Episode Five: FATHERS’ CLINIC: Frank nearly goes off with ‘one of them’ by accident while looking for the maternity clinic. Don’t worry though, he gets there in plenty of time to aggravate the doctor giving the class and possibly maim him for life as well. Meanwhile, ‘Auntie Betty’s in the family way’ and a spot of recreational roller-skating leads to Frank’s ‘shopping’ for the baby a lot sooner than he’d intended…

Episode Six: THE BABY ARRIVES: After many, many, many false alarms, Betty’s ‘contradictions’ have started and the big day is finally here. Frank is mistaken for a pervert while he hangs around the nurses’ station looking for someone to ‘come outside with me for a minute’ and the family priest, Father O’Hara, is all at sea in the little matter of stolen kippers. At least the baby will be here at the end of it all. Trouble is, is she an Horatio or a Sidney…?

Series Three:

Episode One: MOVING HOUSE: Frank and Betty have to move to another council estate as Frank’s little ‘alterations’ to their first home have left it unsafe for occupation. After being humiliatingly ‘oiled and lubricated in all my personal areas,’ Frank finally reaches his new abode. A shared ‘cock-stop’ leads to an angry confrontation with his new neighbour, Mr. Lewis, and it won’t be the last by a long shot. Frank is set to be a boil on Mr. Lewis’s backside for the foreseeable future. Milton Johns (‘standing there in your semi-detached council trousers!’) and Glynn Edwards co-star.

‘Fear not, Mr. Lewis, your troubles are over, I am beneath you!’

Episode Two: WENDY HOUSE: Columbo pays a visit to the Spencer household but he’s lacking his trademark overcoat and quizzical expression. What gives? Well, as long as the egg foo-yung doesn’t get cold, we’ll be alright. An insurance claim for the furniture damaged in transit on the way to the new house falls disappointingly short of Frank and Betty’s expectations. Good job Frank’s got his woodwork class, eh? A sticky situation arises after the class, however, that sees Frank on his knees in front of a lady that most definitely isn’t his wife. Whatever will Betty say? Richard Wilson (ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE) co-stars.

Episode Three: SCOTTISH DANCING: Frank worries that Betty might be having a ‘highland fling’ with the oily Mr. Quincy from next door. Will a bit of canvassing for a political candidate take Frank’s mind off things? As long as he doesn’t ‘fall down’ during a display of traditional Scottish dancing, he might just get away with his dignity, never mind his ‘trouble,’ intact. Jean Boht (BREAD) co-stars.

Episode Four: MEN AS WOMEN: All the doctors of Frank’s acquaintance have suddenly turned transvestite and Frank can’t understand it. There’s a letter from Australia and Frank gets to demonstrate his taste for international cuisine:

‘I am a little Dutch girl, done up with paint and powder. I’m here to please, with Edam cheese, and half a pound of Gouda…!’

Episode Five: KING OF THE ROAD: Frank’s job as a motorcycle courier of some rather dodgy ‘holiday snaps’ leads to him defending himself in a British court of law on an obscenity charge. The Judge’s patience wears thin as Frank calls an array of witnesses, from the beleaguered Mr. Rumford of the Employment Exchange to the cinema usherette who delivered him at the pictures during the Blitz. Will Frank get sent down? It might be quicker to just send him home… Gretchen Franklin (Ethel from EASTENDERS) co-stars as the cinema usherette.

‘I do have some court experience. I won my last case…!’

Episode Six: AUSTRALIA HOUSE: After failing in his elocution lessons (‘Harry’s hoop is hanging in the hall…!’), Frank runs afoul of the Chief Migration Officer whose permission he needs to start a new life Down Under with Betty as a shepherd on his Grandfather Spencer’s sheep-farm. One broken chair arm and a pair of busted spectacles later, poor Mr. Lawrence, the CMO, is willing to agree to anything just to get rid of him. Frank displays his gas-fitting know-how just in time to end the final series with a decided bang… (‘That’s the best I can do for the moment…!’) Edward Hardwicke co-stars once more.

Betty: ‘Frank, your Grandfather’s been washing his long johns in the bathroom again!’

Frank, perplexed: ‘Well, what’s wrong with that?’

Betty: ‘I was in the bath at the time…!’

Well, that’s Frank anyway, folks. A right dozey heir-sole if ever there was one, lol. I’ll leave you all with one of his Mum’s little titbits:

‘I will not linger at your door,

Away I have to race.

But I can tell you wish me well

By the look that’s on your face…!’

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger 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:

 You can contact Sandra at: