Michael Armstrong: The Screen Plays
HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS
Available from London Repertory Company
Screenwriter Michael Armstrong is responsible for a collection of cult favourites, from genre classic Mark of the Devil to sex comedy Eskimo Nell. Collaborating with London Repertory Company, Michael Armstrong will be releasing all of his written screenplays, many of which have never been filmed, in a series of hardback limited edition books. Each book will be dedicated to a specific screenplay and individually numbered, whilst signed by Michael Armstrong himself. Armstrong has donated all royalties of the books to regenerate traditional repertory theatre and allied apprenticeship training in the UK.
The first of the collection to be released is the screenplay of HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS. Based on the book Seven Keys To Baldpate by Earl Derr Biggers, Armstrong had to create a gothic treatment using Baldpate as a basis that would impress the four giants of the horror genre: Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine. Once they all agreed to be in it providing the screenplay would satisfy, Armstrong was then tasked to write the screenplay in just two weeks! In this book, Armstrong describes the whole process and how his own story funnily enough mirrored that of lead character Kenneth Magee in HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS.
With an introduction to how his screenplays are styled (which differs to the conventional Hollywood screenplay layout), Michael Armstrong presents his entire HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS screenplay, unaltered from when it was created. Although there are only minor differences in this particular screenplay compared to the film, the ones for Armstrong’s other original screenplays showcase Armstrong’s intentions in full which were dramatically altered for the screen in some way. Seeing these original screenplays thrusts you into Armstrong’s shoes and you can finally see what his vision was all along. With Armstrong’s particular style of screenwriting, everything is laid out in an easy-to-read format, complete with descriptions, so that the story flows effortlessly as if you were indeed watching the film play out in front of you. Having seen the movie of HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS from director Pete Walker, I am pleased to say he has stayed extremely loyal to Armstrong’s screenplay and it plays out almost exactly as written. Armstrong’s style is a director’s dream as he’s specific about his setting and is keen to describe the shot in great detail so that the work for the cast, crew and editor is that much simpler with no excess material needed.
For someone who loves movies or is a filmmaker themselves, these screen plays are fascinating to read, particularly considering the fact they are uncut and contain information about the casting process and production. With many of Michael Armstrong’s screenplays unfilmed, the publishing of the screenplays will finally let us enjoy those unseen stories which he wrote over the decades and discover potential hidden gems.
The book itself is quite simple in appearance with its A4 size, black hardback cover and gold embossed writing. This particular screenplay book at 134 pages has no pictures, just text, but I believe that some of the other Armstrong screenplays will include stills, photographs, storyboards, artwork and set and costume designs. These books aren’t cheap but for a limited edition release, signed personally, this really is a collector’s item and as a collection would be quite a valuable series, not just in monetary value but in a creative sense too.
Each of the screenplays are being released gradually with House of the Long Shadows and unfilmed comedy western Ghost Town the first two to be published, with Eskimo Nell next in line. The screenplays are available direct from London Repertory Company.