Nothing but the Night, 1973. Dir. Peter Sasdy. Watched on YouTube so you don’t have to.
Well… here we are. I finally caught Covid. The vaccinations have taken the sting out of it, of course, but I’m still feeling exhausted and fed up. So anyway – what’s a guy to do, riven with the ‘Rona and blue as can be, except settle down in front of a Peter Cushing film? I may be enfeebled, and I may be feverish, but at least I can retire into the Lye-breh-reh, where I can be miserable in a cheap, silk smoking jacket with a tumbler of scotch, and lose myself in a creepy old film called ‘Nothing but the Night’. Which sounds organic if nothing else. Undiluted night. No additives. Just add headphones and play…
00:03 A Charlemagne Production. Which apparently was Christopher Lee’s company. (I’d have gone for Cape N’Vape Productions. Maybe Fangs 4 the Features)
00:17 A romantic, sea-themed overture. Swirling flutes, horns, violins. Waves crashing onto rocks. The only scary thing about it is that it’s a bit dark and you might slip.
00:22 ‘Nothing but the Night’, superimposed over water sloshing about in rock pools. Nothing but the Crabs, so far.
00:31 ‘Gwyneth Strong as Mary’. Why do they credit some actors with their character names and not others?
00:53 Now we’re inside a cave getting shots of the sea outside. So – is this a film about smuggling?
01:30 Favourite name – Peter Sasdy. It’s like you’re drunk and someone asks you what day it is and you say ‘Ahm no’shore mate… Sasdy, issit…?’
01:37 Opening scene : a Morris Minor parked up on a cliff with its lights on. The Morris Minor has got the lights on, not the cliff. Since when did you see a cliff with lights on? Really? Well this is NOT THAT FILM.
01:51 There’s a pensive woman in the car. I wonder if it’s Gwyneth Strong as Mary?
02:01 A gloved hand opens the door. Takes the handbrake off. The pensive woman carries on being pensive as the car rolls forward, plunges over the cliff and bursts into flames. Whether this is more a warning about pensivity or Morris Minors, I’m not sure.
02:35 Cut to: a man standing out on a balcony in London. He’s also pensive. You can tell by the way he has his hands either side of him. Close up on the sign outside the house: ‘Park Lane Clinic’. So maybe he’s just worried about how he’s going to pay the bill.
02:47 But… uh oh! It’s that gloved hand again. It creeps up behind him and pushes him off the balcony. When he lands on the pavement the camera goes red, so I’m guessing it’s not a happy landing.
03:03 Cut to: The painting of another pensive woman above a fireplace. The camera pulls back to reveal the subject of the painting sitting pensively in a fireside chair. (The artist got it just right). At least it doesn’t have a handbrake or a long drop, but I suppose there’s a risk of an ember jumping out and setting off her tweeds.
03:09 Oh dear. This time the gloved hand is a bit more direct and shoots her right in the pensive face.
03:12 Cut to: a coach on an outing from the orphanage. The kids are singing ‘ten green bottles’, swatting balloons about and generally carrying on in a stage-school display of brattishness that’s infinitely worse than being rolled off a cliff or shot in the face. The coach driver certainly thinks so. He grabs a Rothman’s out of his jacket pocket and says ‘Noisy Bastard Kids’ – which is what coach drivers used to say pretty routinely about most things back in the 70s. There are three other adults on the coach, but they don’t seem that bothered by the singing, so they’re either sedated or pensive or both.
04:23 Suddenly the coach driver goes up in flames and the coach crashes. Mind you, that’s preferable to even ONE more chorus of ten green bottles…
04:38 Cut to: the main bratty kid in a cot in a bratty kids hospital. She’s delirious, saying ‘Flames.. burning! like a torch…!’ Doctor Haynes is sitting nearby. ‘The coach didn’t catch fire!’ he says. ‘It must be her mind’s way of releasing the trauma of the crash…’ A nurse clutches her clipboard. She can only dream of such brilliant medical insights.
05:23 Doctor Haynes walks through a montage of hospital environments, all on different levels. It’s like the director paid to have access to a medical facility and wanted their money’s worth. Ten minutes in and we’re still only in the Fracture Clinic.
05:37 Eventually he goes through a door that says ‘Pathology Department: Sir Mark Ashley’.
05:41 Turns out, Peter Cushing is Sir Mark Ashley. He’s sitting fondling a test tube in an emphatically sciency way. Christopher Lee is also there, but at this point I’ve no idea who he is (other than Christopher Lee).
05:50 ‘This is Colonel Bingham’ says Sir Mark Ashley. ‘Peter Haynes… how d’you do?’ ‘How d’you do?’ etc. Now we’re all properly introduced we can crack on. Dr Haynes is worried about the girl. He thinks she needs psychotherapy (and maybe some acting lessons, possibly Ritalin). Sir Mark Ashley says that if the orphanage wants her back, there’s nothing they can do about it. But he does agree to go and see the girl (after he’s finished fussing about with his test tubes. I mean – he’s VERY sciency, this guy.) ‘Why are you so interested in the accidental death of a coach driver?’ he asks, standing by some excitable beakers.
07:12 Turns out, the Colonel is a semi-retired detective (technically his moustache is still active). The Colonel has a theory that the intention behind the flaming coach driver was to crash the bus and kill everyone on board, including three wealthy patrons from the Van Traylen Trust – the wealthy owners of the orphanage. ‘During the last nine months, three trustees have died,’ says the Colonel. (I know – we saw the whole thing). The Colonel shows Sir Mark some photos (before shots, thankfully). He worked with one of them during the war. In military intelligence (an oxymoron, but whatever). ‘Those deaths are connected, Mark – I’m sure of it’ he says. Acting honours in this scene go to the moustache.
09:00 Cut to: The hospital foyer. Diana Dors marches up to the porter’s desk and demands to see her kid, Gwyneth Strong as Mary.
‘No kid with that name ‘ere, madam,’ smiles the porter. ‘Are you sure you’ve come to the right place?’
‘If you think I’m leaving ‘ere without seeing my kid, mate – you’re mistaken!’
She raps the counter and marches off.
‘Ere! Just a minute! Stop her…!’
09:30 Meanwhile, Sir Mark has followed the Colonel out to the car park. I’m surprised he’s not jiggling some test tubes at the same time, being a full-on, sciency geezer, as you know.
‘Find out what you can’ says the Colonel. ‘Please…’ , accompanying it with a smile so wide and fake his moustache slides to the left. Sir Mark is won over, though. He watches the car drive off, then thrusts his hands into his lab coat pockets (which are deep and could hold a LOT of tubes).
09:45 Sir Mark walks back into the hospital just as Diana Dors is being chucked out by the porters.
‘Get off ah’t of it!’ she shouts. ‘Take your hands off me…’ And then hits the porter with her handbag with a sound effect like chucking a sandbag out of a window onto a furniture truck.
09:55 At the same time, Dr Haynes is back walking through the busy hospital. He meets the porters coming back in, who say that all the fuss was about Mrs Harb… ‘Mrs HARB?’ …. ‘That’s right, sir… Mrs HARB…’ (It’s the kind of surname you can’t help shouting). And so it goes on. Sir Mark looks on, bemused. Life outside a petri dish is really quite chaotic…
10:09 ‘But she’s the girl’s mother!’ shouts Dr Haynes, ‘… she had her name changed’. Which is significant, for some reason. He runs outside to catch Mrs HARB.
10:34 Close up: Mrs HARB in a phone box.
‘It’s about a missing kid,’ she says.
‘Putting you through,’ says the voice on the other end.
‘Newsdesk’ says another voice.
‘I wanna report a stolen child’ says Mrs HARB, her tone softening for some reason. But then she’s right back on it again. ‘She’s my kid and I want her back,’ she says, like it’s the fault of the woman who just answered. This is why I never want a job working with the public.
10:37 Close up : a mynah bird in a cage. I’m not absolutely sure it’s a mynah bird. A minor character, anyway (pause for painfully loud laughter and calls for the author to be given an immediate and significant wage increase). A journalist who’s as sharp-looking as the mynah bird, except in a hat, loiters by the cage. Eventually she turns to speak to Mrs HARB, who has changed into a blouse with more scallops and frills than the Great Barrier Reef, sitting in a cane chair, stroking a cat – in that order. (Diana Dors strikes me as the kind of actress who might need things laying out in order).
‘It was your paper what put me on to her’ says Mrs HARB. ‘Poor little Mary! You’ve gotta help me get her back.’ (The character notes for Mrs HARB are the same as the notes for her makeup – i.e. thick & glossy).
‘I can’t promise we’ll print the story,’ says the journalist, Joan Foster, who for some reason is dressed like a bullfighter.
‘What’s so special about Mary?’ says Joan. (exactly! see 00:31)
Mrs HARB spins round with a noise like someone throwing a dart.
‘You tight little hustler!’ she snaps.
‘I know about you!’ says Joan. ‘Ten years Broadmoor. Triple killing. That’s why they took your Mary away.’
Mrs HARB looks off into the distance. That comment landed.
(NOTE: I don’t think it could’ve been a mynah bird; if it was, it couldn’t possibly have resisted saying something at that point…)
11:55 Back in the path lab, Sir Mark is on the phone to Lord Fawnlee or Brownknee or Haw Haw or someone, a big player in the Van Traylen Trust, anyway. Dr Haynes sits on the desk like an executive toy. Lord Fawnlee says that despite Dr Haynes’ request to keep Gwyneth Strong as Mary in the hospital, they want her back in their own facility. All the formalities will be dealt with.’ He hangs up. Sir Mark looks concerned – so much so, the skin above his nose rucks up and his ears move in an inch.
He crashes out of the office and starts messing about with test tubes again – his go-to displacement activity. Dr Haynes follows him, and they have an incomprehensible argument that winds up with Sir Mark saying : ‘Peter – there are some journeys we have to make alone…’ – which I suppose is Sir Mark’s way of of saying ‘now f*** off and leave me to my sweet tubes of pure science.’ But Dr Haines doesn’t. ‘Come and witness the hypnosis session,’ he says.. erm… hypnotically. ‘Once you see it, you’ll be committed, too.’ Sir Mark squeezes a teat pipette and gives Dr Haines a tender look. ‘Hmm,’ he says.
14:36 Cut back to : Lord Fawnlee in an oak panelled waistcoat. ‘The minister always had a soft spot for the Van Traylen Trust,’ he says, signing some important documents then leaning back like his job is just to sign things and that’s it, lunch. I don’t know much about the Van Traylen Trust, other than they sponsor orphanages and have a poor life expectancy. But one thing I DO know is I don’t Trust them very much.
15:06 Sir Mark and the Colonel are talking about the post-mortem on the coach driver.
‘Anything particular?’ says the Colonel.
‘Working class’ says Sir Mark. (Not really).
‘Burns’ says Sir Mark. ‘On the face. Left hand side. Quite inexplicable.’
(I dunno. Depends which side he smoked his Rothmans).
The Colonel puts his glasses back on, along with his moustache.
‘The coach didn’t catch fire,’ says Sir Mark.
‘Shame the coach driver didn’t live long enough to talk,’ says the Colonel.
(I know what he’d have said, though: ‘Noisy Bastard Kids’)
Sir Mark thinks Gwyneth Strong as Mary knows something and it’ll all come out at the hypnosis, so book early. The Colonel smiles and slaps him on the back, thereby transferring the moustache and all moustache related duties to him.
16:14 Back in the boardroom, an argument is raging from end to end of a VERY long and expensive table lined with a million things to sign. Lord Formsworth wants Gwyneth Strong as Mary back in the orphanage; Joan wants her to go back to Mrs HARB, even though she recognises that Mrs HARB is brassy and common and quite possibly a psychopath.
‘You’re denying a flesh & blood relationship,’ she says.
‘Gwyneth Strong as Mary is such a sweet child,’ says the Lord, creepily.
‘This woman is a common prostitute and murderer!’ says the other guy in the room, someone I’ve resisted talking about till now because honestly it’s like drawing attention to a suit on a hanger. But he’s got more lines now – other than on the phone saying ‘Yes’ and ‘Thankyou’ – so I suppose I’d better drag him in. If he turns out to be the hand in the murdering glove I’ll have to go back and edit him in. God dammit.
(NOTE: Yes – he DOES turn out to be significant – so let his name be known… as… Dr Yeats).
‘To twist a cliche,’ says Dr Yeats, ‘Would you let Mrs HARB be a mother to your daughter?’
Huh? What cliche? What does he mean? I wish I’d never let him into this script!
Joan is as annoyed as I am and stands up to go.
‘I didn’t invent motherhood, Dr Yeats,’ says Joan.
Dr Fawnlee isn’t impressed. He won’t allow Gwyneth Strong as Mary to be disturbed.
His face is impressively squashy. I bet when Joan leaves, he’ll have to ask Dr Yeats to thumb it all back into place above the collar.
18:09 Back at the hospital. A psychedelic, twirling mobile above the cot where Gwyneth Strong as Mary is lying sparko. The hypno session is about to begin!
‘Mary…?’ whispers Dr Haynes. ‘Mary…I want you to tell me about the fire…’
‘No!’ says Gwyneth Strong as Mary. ‘No! I don’t want to talk about it! Please!’
But she’s staring at the psycho mobile, and begins describing what happened. How the wind changed. It started in the hut. (Hut??) Cross the knocking pen. (What??) And steers stampeded. (Sorry – what?) The door was locked. She could smell burning. There’s a safe on the wall. A scatter gun? (What the hell, Gwyneth Strong as Mary?) She reads the inscription. The Lindsfield Corporation, Detroit. (Come again?) No-one helps. Then Dr Haynes snaps his fingers and she comes out of the trance. She smiles at Sir Mark, who is standing at the foot of the cot like an accountant who came into the wrong room and really only wanted the toilet. He attempts a smile back.
‘I want to go to Inver House’ says Gwyneth Strong as Mary – which makes about as much sense as the rest of her account. What are they treating her with – LSD?
A nurse comes in with a note: there’s someone to see Dr Haynes. She makes a huge deal going back out through the curtains and drawing them behind her. That was probably the best of a dozen takes. Dr Haynes goes out in one – but then, he doesn’t close them behind him, which is more efficient, but a bit of a cheat.
‘Inver House is in Scotland, on the island of Balla, hundreds of miles away,’ says Gwyneth Strong as Mary, helpfully.
20:50 Joan is talking to Dr Haynes.
‘Is it your policy to refuse to let a mother see her child?’ she says, from beneath a hat like a dustbin lid.
Dr Haynes says he wants to see Mrs HARB. Joan says she’ll arrange a meeting that afternoon – then waddles off. (Having a hat like a dustbin lid emphasises the waddling nicely, I have to say).
21:50 Joan is waiting outside Uxbridge tube station. She’s lost the hat (it’s not tube friendly). Dr Haynes walks up and shakes her hand.
‘I’m sorry I’m late,’ he says.
‘No. You’re ten minutes early!’ says Joan.
It’s going to be a long meeting.
They go into the market to have some tea.
They walk through a colonnaded market.
A flute plays.
(Does the director know this is happening? It’s like the actual filming has stopped and the actors are killing time).
They wander up to a tea counter.
There’s a guy in front of them. He has a walrus moustache and walrus expression.
‘Tea please, love,’ he says. He seems sad. Maybe he wanted his own film, a film fit for such a face. All he got was this walk-on part. Still – he’s doing a marvellous job. He takes his tea and sadly goes, leaving the way clear for Dr Haynes and Joan to have two teas, no sugar.
Cut to: Dr Haynes and Joan standing in front of an illuminated sign. The part that says Frozen Food points straight at Dr Haynes. Subliminal messaging there.
‘Have you got any ideas about heredity? Or genetics?’ says Joan, maybe seeing if he’s potential father material. She sips her deliciously warming and obviously fictitious tea.
Dr Haynes thinks she’s only interested in sensationalist stories, so they finish their tea and leave, walking moodily back through the market. Not quite so flutey now, I notice.
Joan just wants to interview Gwyneth Strong as Mary and get the story; Dr Haynes is worried about the clinical aspects.
‘Yeeeeeess Doctor’ says Joan, sassily. Must be all that fake tannin, firing her up.
24:46 Cut to: Mrs HARB lighting a fag with a long taper – a sensible safety precaution, given the lacquer she has in her hair.
‘She was taken away from you when she was seven years old’ says Joan.
‘I was on the game, wasn’t I?’ says Mrs HARB, strutting around, jiggling her hips to illustrate. She’s wearing a ruffled blouse, black waistcoat, mini skirt and strappy sandals. I’m surprised she hasn’t got a piece of paper with her hourly rate pinned on her back.
‘The orphanage has taken very good care of her,’ says Joan.
‘Oh yeah? Is that why she’s sick in the head?’ says Mrs HARB.
Dr Haynes says he’ll try to set up a meeting with Gwyneth Strong as Mary.
‘If this is some kind of trick,’ says Mrs HARB, ‘…I’ll kill you.’
(I mean – say what you like about Mrs HARB, but you always know where you stand with her. And how much you owe.)
27:04 Later, Dr Haynes is showing Joan into his flat. You know what’s coming because there’s cool jazz playing.
‘Aren’t you afraid I’ll dirty up your antiseptic world,’ says Joan, coquettishly shrugging off her handbag while Dr Haynes hides the files on his desk. He knows what journalists are like.
‘Coffee?’ he says. ‘Biscuits?’
(I’m not sure but I think ‘Biscuits’ is seventies code for ‘Do you want sex?’).
He slouches (coquettishly) on the counter. Describes how Gwyneth Strong as Mary has a morbid fascination with fire. Then wanders over to Joan for biscuits.
29:26 Back in the Pathology Department, Sir Mark and the Colonel are off to see Gwyneth Strong as Mary. The Colonel is wearing a different moustache for some reason – thicker, darker, more lustrous. Sir Mark wants a sample but the Colonel isn’t having it.
29:40 Mrs HARB is in the corridor, wrestling with Gwyneth Strong as Mary – which isn’t a good look for either of them. Sir Mark and the Colonel break them up.
‘I’ll make you pay for what you’ve done to her!’ snarls Mrs HARB, before teetering off on heels, pushing past any extra who gets in her way. Storms outside and gets in a car that was already knackered in 1973, the decal of a snarling cat on the back.
31:20 Joan tells Sir Mark and the Colonel that Dr Haynes is still on the ward where he’d been introducing Mrs HARB to Gwyneth Strong as Mary. They hurry in there – and find him dead, a starry hatpin sticking out of his forehead.
31:54 The very next scene, Sir Mark and the Colonel are wandering into a fancy office, quite relaxed, talking about the Home Secretary, for some reason, and poor Dr Haynes’ death. It’s amazing how quickly they’ve gotten over the killing, but they’re healthcare professionals, I suppose. The Colonel is convinced Mrs HARB was implicated in all the other deaths.
‘They’ve taken Gwyneth Strong as Mary back to the orphanage…?’
‘She ought to be as safe there as anywhere,’ says the Colonel, brushing the velcro of his moustache back into life.
32:37 Cut to: an old car with a snarling cat decal on the back, smoking up the M1. Actually – it’s got a snarling cat decal on the bonnet, tool – probably in reverse, so you can tell what it is in the mirror. On the seat next to Mrs HARB is a newspaper with the headling: Gwyneth Strong as Mary: Is She Safe?
That’s a No, then.
33:02 Moody shots of the Isle of Balla, with the swirling, sea-themed orchestra we had at the beginning. (The isle is named after the rocks just off the coast – the Ballacks). A Rolls Royce pulls up outside Inver House, against a jaunty oboe rendition of ‘ten green bottles’ – which gives me worse flashbacks than Gwyneth Strong as Mary. As it pulls up, approximately one thousand children run out to meet it, stage-school ad-libbing like the noisy bastard kids they are.
33:38 Joan is breaking into Dr Haynes’ flat. Louche jazz is playing again, but there’s no time for biscuits (and anyway – Dr Haynes is in a morgue with a hatpin in his forehead, so probably not in the mood). No – what Joan wants is the files he hid from her that night. She lights a fag and plays the tape – Gwyneth Strong as Mary talking about ‘Vincent’ (who?) and how ‘it was my fault he died’. (what?)
I don’t even smoke and I need a fag.
36:00 Sir Mark and the Colonel get a print out from some kind of extraneous but nonetheless useful police official of the clues so far. Presumably straight from the scriptwriter’s office.
‘Accident? Or murder?’
‘Suppose the last surviving trustee inherits all the money?’
‘All the deaths are too blatant.’
‘Then there must be someone else…?’
‘I’ll arrange for an exhumation order immediately’
The investigation is proceeding at pace. Quite where, no-one knows. Probably the Ballacks.
36:32 Back to Craggy Island. Mrs HARB coming over on the ferry. Luckily the police are there to meet it. They’re probably looking for any car with a scary cat decal front and back. Mrs HARB leaves on foot. The ferryman goes up to her empty car and says to the policeman: ‘What about this?’
‘You must be joking. It’s a Rover 2000 we’re looking for, stolen from Glasgow’
‘What’ll I do with this, then? It hasn’t been claimed.’
‘Put it ashore and I’ll check…’
(Not worried the owner might have fallen overboard? Are they really that lax? Welcome to the ballacks… )
38:36 Gwyneth Strong as Mary is sitting in a chair at Inver House, reading. A teacher walks in with some biscuits. (And how sorry I am I set THAT particular idea up).
‘You can have your milk and biscuits and get a good night’s sleep!’ says the teacher.
One thing I notice about Gwyneth Strong as Mary, now she’s out of the hospital – her arms are really long. The kind of arms that wouldn’t look out of place on a giant spider crab. Good for pelicans or coconuts. Or eminent scientists.
39:50 Gwyneth Strong as Mary goes a bit vacant. She says the hot milk reminds her of the hospital. She becomes agitated, talking about her mum visiting – how she didn’t understand what she was saying – how she might have followed her to the island.
‘You’re quite safe here’ says the teacher.
Tell that to Hat Pin Haynes.
The teacher throws a rug over her and leaves.
42:17 But then Gwyneth Strong as Mary opens her eyes, sees the fire in the fireplace and gets flashbacks. Oops.
42:26 Mrs HARB is running around in the dark trying to make her way to Inver House.
The teacher is walking with another teacher in the grounds.
‘It’s her birthday tomorrow. We must make it a memorable one.’
It’s pretty memorable already. Gruesome hatpin murder. Psycho mum on the island. But whatever. A cake might be nice.
42:47 The Colonel is back in London giving Sir Mark some papers and instructions and a packed lunch to take up to the island. A police officer comes in and hands him a note: Mrs HARB’s car has been found on the ferry!
‘Then – she’s on the island!’ says Sir Mark.
‘Exactly!’ says the Colonel – military intelligence’s finest. He grabs his hat (more polite than grabbing somebody else’s, I suppose). They fly North. On BEA. Which stands for British Everywhere Airplanes, or something.
‘The Chief Constable is in charge. They won’t let her get near the orphanage,’ says the Colonel.
Sir Mark inspects his orange juice. He’s sure it’s concentrate.
44:08 Back on the island, Mrs HARB is hiding in some gorse, studying a map. Her hair is a mess – which is to say, one strand is swinging free.
45:00 A constable tells the Colonel and Sir Mark it’ll take a couple of hours to get to the island and the press conference that’s being held by the Chief. (NOTE: this constable is played by Michael Gambon in an early role. I KNEW it was worth seeing this film!)
45:20 A construction site. One of the workers finds that the lock has been forced on the shed that keeps the explosives. ‘Bloody vandals!’ he says. They’ve taken explosives and detonators. Kids, eh?
46:12 The Chief is giving his press conference. (NOTE: This is Fulton Mackay! I bloody KNEW it was worth watching this film…). Joan stands up and asks if Gwyneth Strong as Mary is safe. Apparently she’s guarded by 12 of the island’s police officers, so yes, she’s safe. ‘Which leaves 7 men and a dog to search the island,’ says Joan – which gets a big laugh. When Sir Mark and the Colonel stride in, everything goes to hell.
‘This press conference is now ended!’ shouts the Colonel, his moustache barking.
49:00 Meanwhile, Mrs HARB is clambering over some rocks, hiding under a bridge, the usual fugitive memes. She’s carrying a bag – presumably full of explosives, although the way she’s slamming it about I wouldn’t rate her chances of making it through the day in one piece…although her hair would be fine, netted down from the top of a pine tree like a nest.
49:55 More jaunty Ten Green Bottle music as we see two policemen outside the gates of the orphanage looking in. The kids are playing ball, quite literally. They’re dressed like they’re in some kind of space cult: black polo shirts and trousers with strange disc patterns round the neck. It explains a great deal.
50:15 All the press are getting back on the ferry. That’s it. They’ve got their scoop. It’s back to the office for tea and biscuits. Joan is more reluctant, though. There’s more to all this, she thinks.
53:14 They all ride the ferry to some other bit of the island (not sure why they didn’t just drive?) On the ferry Joan tries to tell Sir Mark that she’d had biscuits with Dr Haynes and was responsible for his death (not the biscuits – the fact she arranged the meeting with Mrs HARB). He’s not that interested, and gets called away by the Colonel, who’s pointing out the Van Traylen personal launch going by. They’re all admiring how lovely it is and how nice for the children when it blows up.
54:12 Back ashore at the police station, Michael Gambon takes the call. ‘Ah ha’ he says. ‘Yes. I see.’ Then hangs up. ‘There were five trustees on the boat, but no children,’ he says. He has a theory. It might have something to do with the dynamite and detonators stolen from the local quarry. Sir Mark will help with the victims.
‘So long as I have this, I can manage,’ he says, swinging his lunch box.
The Colonel stands impassively by the window. His moustache looks like a padded coat hanger.
55:30 Cut to: Mrs HARB walking through more gorse. Of course. She’s making progress (I think).
55:40 Back at Inver House, the teacher rings the police to report a missing child. ‘A little boy’.
MIchael Gambon takes the details – in the same voice he used to take the details of the exploded boat. ‘Yep…Seven years old… yep… Sidney Moleson…tall for his age… fair haired… yep…. wears a dental brace…’
56:49 Hundreds of police are drafted in to search for the boy and for Mrs HARB. There’s even a helicopter (I wouldn’t be surprised to see a scary cat logo on it). Dogs that seem to bark at everyone, which isn’t helpful. A guy in a beanie hat swinging a stick back and forth even though he’s walking across open ground. I mean – talk about thorough.
57:33 Meanwhile, Mrs HARB is sprawled under some gorse, eating chocolate. She hears the helicopter and rolls to the side. Hardcore HARB!
57:50 Sir Mark is cutting up bits of gristle in the temporary mortuary. Not sure why. I’m not a pathologist, but I’m pretty sure whoever was on the boat died of being blown to bits. Wouldn’t he be better off helping with the search? But I don’t know. He’s the sciency one.
58:34 All the kids are still outside Inver House playing, skipping, improvising in that bratty stage school way. The headteacher refuses to have any police inside the house. It’ll upset the children she says. Fulton Mackay is furious, but his hands are tied. He seems a bit lost. It’s never normally this busy on Balla.
1:01:16 Dr Keats tries to fool Gwyneth Strong as Mary into thinking the police are only there to find out who killed some sheep on the other side of the island. They were worried it might be the orphanage dog. Gwyneth Strong as Mary doesn’t think it is. But she’s suspicious. Why would they send so many policemen to interview one dog? (Although the fact they’re sending ANYONE to interview a dog doesn’t strike her as odd).
1:02:08 Mrs HARB is getting closer (I think – it’s hard to say – gorse is tricky and doesn’t give much away).
1:02:42 Sir Mark is still busy putting fiddly, icky bits of shit into jars. He has an assistant with him, who struggles putting his JACKET on – but to be fair, he’s probably just exhausted from all the ick.
‘Well. At least death was instantaneous’ says Sir Mark (probably how he got the knighthood). He’s in his element, cramming shit into test tubes. Shredded trainer, that kind of thing.
Joan comes in.
They chat whilst Sir Mark de-bones some gristle.
He talks about the adequate security arrangements at the orphanage. It’s surrounded by gorse, if not policemen. What can happen?
Joan says she’ll go back to the hotel and fetch the tape so Sir Mark can have a listen.
1:05:04 Mrs HARB seems to be on gorse. Sorry, course.
1:05:45 Two clownish locals acting as part of the search team find the body of the missing boy, a star pattern carved in his forehead – the same star pattern as the hatpin that killed Dr Haynes. Quite what this means, I don’t know. I’m like Fulton Mackay, pacing around, ringing my hands. I’m still worried about the unclaimed car on the ferry, let alone all this.
1:06:07 Sir Mark and the Colonel are at Inver House telling the headteacher and others about the boy’s death. The patterns of stab wounds.
‘He was such a nice little boy. Friendly…’ says the headteacher, focusing on the wrong things.
‘It points to one thing – ritual murder,’ says Sir Mark.
It doesn’t help.
1:06:17 Cut to: someone peeling an apple. It’s Mrs HARB. She eats it off the blade of the knife, savouring it exactly like you’d imagine a fruit-loving psycho would. But hold on – turns out she’s in the grounds of Inver House, and all the kids are coming outside. They seem pretty happy-go-lucky, in a brattish, stage school kinda way. Maybe Mrs HARB is planning a ritual peeling.
1:07:03 Dr Yeats offers to show the Colonel the school grounds. ‘I’d like that very much,’ says the Colonel – not at all disturbed that there’s been a ritual killing, boat explosion etc. That’s military intelligence for you, I suppose. The bigger picture.
1:07:13 The kids are being shown round the garden, all of them improvising at once in a brattish, stage school kinda way. Dr Yeats still won’t allow police into the grounds because he doesn’t want to alarm the kids into making any further improvisations.
‘You’re patrolling outside the gates,’ he says. ‘And the other side is the sea. Come – I’ll show you.’
He leads the Colonel to the cliff edge.
‘Do the children have no idea?’ says the Colonel.
‘None!’ says Dr Yeats. ‘And tonight is a special treat: Gwyneth Strong as Mary’s bonfire night.’
With a guy to burn as well.
Which sounds like a threat, but whatever.
1:08:17 Joan is listening to the tape of Gwyneth Strong as Mary in a trance. Talking about what happened to Vincent (he died). Joan has a theory. She thinks Gwyneth Strong as Mary is channelling what happened to Mrs Van Traylen’s husband, Vincent – murdered, or something. That’s why Mrs Van Traylen always wore long gloves. Vincent was American. That’s why Gwyneth Strong as Mary was using American words like ‘steers’, ‘scatter gun’ and ‘kerosene’.
‘Could Mrs HARB be using her occult powers to destroy the trustees through the child?’
This is quite a theory. It’s probably why Joan works in journalism. And wears statement hats.
1:11:46 The Colonel is having dinner with Fulton Mackay. They’re discussing the island’s security arrangements, which is basically just flooding the place with police (except the orphanage, which won’t allow it). Meanwhile, Mrs HARB is squeezing through a broken gate into the school grounds. So not exactly ‘flooding’ the place, then?
1:13:47 Sir Mark and Joan have gone to the mortuary. Sir Mark wants to see all the cerebral tissue of the bodies that were collected that morning. ‘It’s urgent’ he says.
The mortician hands him a slide – which doesn’t seem big enough to really cover ‘all the cerebral tissue’ – but mind you, it was a big explosion.
Sir Mark looks at it under a microscope. He’s in his element. The next best thing would be to strip naked and force himself into a giant test tube. Then have someone shake it.
1:14:20 Mrs HARB is commando-prostitute crawling with her bag of explosives across the school lawn. Then trots like someone desperate for the loo up the steps. Goes into the school through a window. A light goes on – she spins round, confronted – but by who? Whom? Who? Whatever.
1:15:50 The Colonel drives towards the school just as the fireworks are being set off for Gwyneth Strong as Mary’s party.
1:16:07 Sir Mark has examined all the brain tissue on the slide. Took about a minute.
‘There’s no doubt about it,’ he says. ’The trustees aboard that boat were dead before the explosion’.
The mortician lets another bomb drop. The medical officer at Inver House used to be someone Sir Mark worked with – Laura Tyrrell. Her speciality was biochemistry. Dr Yeats is a brain surgeon. Between them they’re cooking up some special kinda trouble.
1:17:47 The Colonel is increasingly freaked out by the fireworks – especially bearing in mind there’s a psycho on the loose with a bag of explosives. He runs towards the bonfire, the kids dancing round it dressed up as navy captains, teachers and so on, singing oranges and lemons in a brattish, stage school way. They get ready to cut the rope holding the guy in place – whose mask slips to reveal Mrs HARB!
‘I order you not to cut that rope!’ yells the Colonel.
The kids – especially Gwyneth Strong as Mary – laugh, and cut the rope. Mrs HARB crashes face down into the flames. Then the kids tie up the Colonel. For an island swamped with police, there’s precious little intervention at this point.
1:19:01 Sir Mark and Joan have gone round to see Fulton Mackay to persuade him to take some action. Fulton Mackay thinks it’s all ‘hocus pocus’.
Sir Mark explains his theory. The trustees are old and wealthy. They have tried to achieve immortality by experimenting with transference into the children. Or something. Joan plays the tape, to help him understand. Although – I’m not convinced it will.
1:20:06 The Colonel is trying to talk to the kids from where he’s tied up on the ground.
‘You burned your own mother alive!’ he says.
‘Yes,’ says Gwyneth Strong as Mary. ‘She came here to plead her innocence. She knew too much.’
Stage school kids, eh?
1:20:46 ‘A total lifetime’s experience has been transferred to those children!’ says Sir Mark. Fulton Mackay is still struggling with this. And to be fair, if I hadn’t seen ‘Get Out!’, I would, too.
1:21:13 ‘You…are… Helen Van Traylen…!’ says the Colonel.
‘He knows! He knows!’ says Gwyneth Strong as Mary as Helen Van Traylen.
The trustees aka children gather round. One of them seems to have smoke coming out of his head – which is either incredible acting , or because he’s standing in front of the bonfire.
The Colonel is tied up by the neck now, his arms out to the side, his moustache unstroked.
‘We can play a game. Tug of war,’ says Gwyneth Strong as Mary.
They’re just about to pull him into the fire – but not before Gwyneth Strong as Mary handily confesses to all the killings she’d done, tying things up more quickly and comprehensively than the Colonel.
Sir Mark hovers overhead in a helicopter – which doesn’t help the fire, I’m afraid. It spreads out to catch hold of Gwyneth Strong as Mary’s dress.
She turns and curses their cruel god – then runs away and falls over the cliff.
Then all the other kids – realising the film’s up – line up on the cliff and throw themselves over, too (with surprisingly little fuss, given they’re from a stage school).
1:25:20 Sir Mark lands the helicopter and runs in with Joan, as the Colonel kneels on the ground and desperately struggles to reposition his moustache.
1:25:34 Close up on the ashes of the fire. Then a long shot of the waves, coastline etc. Cast list. Helpline numbers. And that’s it!
So what’ve I learned?
- If you MUST transfer your knowledge and experience into a kid to achieve everlasting life, don’t pick one that’s been to stage school.
- Coach driving is dangerous enough without smoking Rothmans.
- If you have one car left over on a car ferry, you’ve either got a passenger overboard or a psycho in the gorse.
- If someone offers you tea and biscuits, digestives are okay but say no to jammy dodgers.
- Try not to mix helicopters and bonfires. Especially near a cliff.