4.4 Events during the film but before the murder

Did the girls really pretend to be Biggles?

[jp] I have not been able to find an explicit reference to Biggles in existing quotes from Pauline's diaries.

Did the girls really invent all of those characters?

[jp] Yes, and then some. This was one of the significant simplifications made by the filmmakers, and it is an understandable one. The police reported seizing fourteen school exercise books filled with stories written by Pauline and Juliet (handwriting was from both, according to testimony) from the Rieper house. There were also innumerable letters written by both girls which contained their stories, apparently written over a much longer period of time than simply the time spent by Juliet in the sanatorium.

According to court testimony (which also simplified the whole thing significantly) the girls eventually constructed two imaginary kingdoms/dynasties. Juliet's, more or less, was the one shown in the film.

Hilda Hulme testified that Juliet first wrote as Charles II, Emperor of Borovnia. She then became Deborah, the Emperor's mistress, and they had a son, Diello (Dialbo according to some news accounts. Dialbo is a rather obvious anagram of Diablo, Spanish for "the Devil."). Diello was crowned King of Borovnia by the girls in a lavish Coronation ceremony in December 1953.

Pauline first wrote as Lancelot Trelawney, a Cornish soldier of fortune, who eventually wed the Empress of Bolumnia (Volumnia in some accounts) and thereby became Emperor of that Kingdom. They had a daughter, Mariole.

Many other characters were also mentioned as having had their identities assumed by Pauline or Juliet at one time or another: Nigel, Philip, Justin, Dominic among them.

The tales gradually became more and more violent in a kind of gory one-upmanship, eventually featuring extreme violence, sadism, bondage, the rape of maidens and the torture of knights, according to testimony.

The question is, would these stories be viewed any differently today? Were they really an indication of serious mental imbalance? Or, just the products of healthy imaginations?

Did the girls really invent 'the Saints?'

[jp] Yes, the Saints shown in the film are accurate, and Mario Lanza figured prominently in trial testimony. However, in real life there were also many more Saints, the status of being a Saint was given and revoked often, and the whole interpretation of the meaning of 'Saints' was debated by psychiatrists and lawyers extensively. James Mason was undeniably the most important Saint in real life, not Mario Lanza. The girls also had the concept of Gods, a state higher than being a Saint, which was not made part of "Heavenly Creatures." Among the Gods were: Rupert Brooke, Caruso, Julius Caesar and Charles II.

It is probably fair to say that the concept of 'Saint' was much more complicated in real life than the way it was depicted in the film, and it probably changed with time. From Pauline's diary entries, in particular, it would appear that the concept of the Saints gradually became more and more sexual and erotic as time progressed, and it appeared as if Pauline eventually used them as a code or euphemism for erotic fantasy and/or sexual activity (see 7.4). The importance of the Gods seemed to increase with time.

Also, the girls differentiated between Saints and Gods and promoted and demoted from these categories. In fact, the whole religious/theological structures created by JMH and PYP were largely glossed over in "Heavenly Creatures," which is understandable because they were really quite complex.

Did the girls really have a shrine at Ilam?

[jp] Yes, although they apparently erected it as a monument to "dead ideas" as well as a place to worship the Saints and their Gods. Trial testimony mentioned that they also interred small dead animals there, such as dead mice. Medlicott testified it was a temple to Minerva. Its significance may have been overstated in trial testimony.

According to trial testimony, the girls would spend all night at the shrine and would conduct 'religious ceremonies' to Raphael, their favourite angel and Pan, their favourite God, on the lawns of Ilam in the middle of the night.

It is true that religious and theological musings made up a significant part of the girls' writing and conversations, and this was omitted from the film. They had much more to say about the nature of the "Fourth World" and its religious significance, the nature of the Gods there, death, Heaven, life after death etc than was portrayed in "Heavenly Creatures."

Did Dr Bennett exist?

[jp,lfr,sb,mc] Yes. He was a general practicioner, active in the Christchurch Marriage Guidance Council and friend of Henry Hulme. He was consulted privately by Dr Hulme in early December 1953 and again in May 1954 concerning the girls' relationship. This is an important fact, and explains the filmmakers' portrayal of Henry Hulme as a man with a manipulative streak and many hidden agendas. However, these incidents may have been more complicated than they were portrayed. At Dr Hulme's suggestion, Honora Parker did take Pauline to be examined by Dr Bennett a week after Dr Hulme's first consultation, just before the start of Christmas holidays that year (which were very eventful and stressful, as described in section 5).

According to trial testimony, the Hulmes did not subject Juliet to "psycho-analysis" as Dr Bennett had told them there was no need, and it might even prove to be damaging to one so young. However, it had apparently been decided by Dr Bennett and the Hulmes that it was alright to subject Pauline to examination, although his examination could hardly be called a psychoanalysis. In addition, Honora Parker may have played a more active role in the decision to examine Pauline than was portrayed.

In his trial testimony, Dr Bennett admited he got little more than "yes" or "no" from Pauline in his examination, although he had no hesitation in 'diagnosing' her as a homosexual.

Dr Bennett eventually acted as a witness for the defense, after he had performed "extensive" examinations of both girls following the murder. As a professional and trusted family friend, he may have played a key role in convincing the defense to enter a plea of 'not guilty by reason of insanity.'

Did Rev Norris exist?

[jp,se,sb] I haven't been able to confirm the existence of Rev Norris, but Juliet's maternal grandfather was an Anglican minister.

How accurate was the portrayal of the school?

[jp] Except in a very few small details, the school was portrayed very accurately (see section 3.1.5). All uniforms shown, for example, were exact (there is a school photograph with Pauline recreated exactly in the film). The opening hymn "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" would not have been part of the girls' school experience (see 3.1.19). Grades would have been reported as percentages and also as rankings in class, rather than using 'As and Bs'.

How accurate was the Riepers' home?

[jp,G&L] This was the only physical location that no longer existed. The filmmakers had to recreate the Riepers' home from photographs and the living memory of neighbours. The Riepers' home was located right downtown in an area that had mixed residential and small-business buildings and was probably slightly less clean and residential and a bit more gritty than depicted.

How accurate was Ilam?

[jp,jl,ad] The filmmakers shot on location in Ilam and its grounds. The house is virtually the same on the exterior as it was in 1954, as it is owned and maintained by the University. Peter Jackson stated in an interview that Juliet's 'balcony scene' was a special effect because the balcony has been remodelled (glassed in) since 1954. Interiors had to be reconstructed (see 3.1.7 and 5.4.1).

Are Pauline's diary entries real and accurate?

[jp] Yes, they are real, and yes, with certain provisos, they are reasonably accurate, though many used in the voiceover were edited for dramatic impact. The diary entries used in the film are among the entries entered into evidence at the trial. There are also many existing diary quotations that were not used in "Heavenly Creatures" and these have also been collected in section 7.4.3.

The only caveat, of course, is that the existing quotations may not actually be representative of Pauline's diary entries. This is a point made emphatically by Glamuzina and Laurie in their book. Naturally, the police would have abstracted the entries most directly related to the murder, and the psychologists would have abstracted diary entries which would tend to support their points of view. We may get a distorted view of Pauline from these quotes.

Do Pauline's diaries still exist?

[mf] Michelanne Forster: "I was told [in 1989] by the [New Zealand] Justice Department and the [Christchurch] police that Pauline's diaries no longer existed."

Did the girls make plasticine figures?

[jp] Jackson maintains that Juliet made plasticine models and these were displayed on the mantle at Ilam, according to several eye witnesses. It isn't at all clear that both girls made plasticine figures of their characters; this may have been a clever and effective artistic device used by Jackson to bring the girls' imaginations to life for the audience.

Anne Perry (Juliet Hulme) denies that she made plasticine figures as part of role-playing games.

There is considerable documentation to support the notion that Pauline Parker made plasticine figures to represent fantasy characters in exactly the way shown in "Heavenly Creatures" and that there were elaborate ceremonies performed with them.

What 'character' references were left out of the film?

[jp] Jackson left out many contemporary 'character' references abstracted from Pauline's diaries and from the girls' writings and statements after the murder which tended to paint the girls in an unflattering light. Some may be found in section 7.4, though caution should be exercised in taking reports at face value, especially from secondary or tertiary sources. And, when it comes to statements made at trial, the motivations of those making the statements needs to be weighed carefully, too.

For example, it was stated in testimony that the girls had listed the Ten Commandments and had kept a running tally of which ones they had broken. By the time of the trial, Pauline noted she had broken all ten, while Juliet had broken nine out of ten. This exercise was taken to be extremely telling, and damning, during the trial, but more complete diary entries for the day make the whole thing seem quite childish and quite ordinary (see 7.4.3).

The girls were accused of having blackmailed Walter Perry over his relationship with Hilda Hulme but there is compelling evidence that this is an incorrect interpretation of the events.

Pauline did make a half-hearted attempt to steal money from Herbert Rieper's shop, but she did not succeed. The girls did perform petty shoplifting at Woolworths and other stores. They apparently did steal and pawn some items from Ilam, as shown in the film.

Pauline and Juliet made statements about becoming prostitutes to earn money for their escape, calculating what could be earned and what would have to be done to earn it. Much was read into these statements during the trial, but they seem quite naive, ludicrous and fanciful in hindsight. There is absolutely no evidence that these 'plans' were ever considered seriously by either girl, let alone that any were carried out. On the other hand, much more conventional, and practical, plans such as checking steamship departure dates, finding out the cost of fares, trying to find jobs to earn money were pursued. This makes the whole issue of the few, off-the-cuff remarks about prostitution seem insignificant, the point rather belaboured.

Trial testimony noted considerable evidence of juvenile delinquency such as lying, cheating, blackmailing, thieving, shoplifting and truancy but, in hindsight, these may have to be weighed by the contemporary attitudes of the community before coming to any judgement about their seriousness.

In their interrogations after the murder, both girls made clear statements to the effect that they had no regrets and considered the killing justified, on many occasions. These need to be examined and weighed carefully, in my opinion. Some of the existing statements may have been quoted out of context and there is always the issue of the girls indulging in mind games with their interrogators. For example, Dr Bennett testified to this exchange with Juliet Hulme:

FO Bennett: "I asked Juliet about hell and she said:"

JMH: "No. There is no hell The whole idea is too primitive and too inartistic."
FOB: "Do you believe that in heaven or paradise you'll meet all the people you knew on earth?"
JMH: "Of course."
FOB: "Then you probably will meet Pauline's mother."
JMH: "I suppose so."
FOB: "With blood on her face."
JMH: "Well, she wouldn't arrive in that state. Anyway, she'll be in heaven and we'll be in paradise. Even if we didn't meet her, it wouldn't matter. She wasn't a happy woman. The day we killed her she seemed to know and she didn't seem to bear any grudge."
FOB: "Do you have any regrets?"
JMH: "None whatever. Of course, I did not want my people to get involved in this, but we have been so terribly happy since. It was well worth it."
FOB: "Who then are the best people?"
JMH: "The best people are those who fight against all obstacles in the pursuit of happiness."
FOB: "Even to murder?"
JMH: "Oh yes, if necessary."

These and many other quotations in a similar vein, presented in testimony by Medlicott and Bennett both, paint a picture of an extraordinarily callous person. Of course, it is equally possible that Juliet was a girl seriously disconnected from reality, and not necessarily a cold sociopath. In any event, this testimony inflamed the public and had a direct consequence in the sentencing.

And, of course, there is the evidence about the relationship between Juliet and Pauline, which was quoted and misquoted and edited heavily in press reports. Much of the available evidence has been collected in section 7.

Was Pauline's encounter with 'Nicholas' accurate?

[jp,jb,G&L] There were diary references which suggested that Pauline had two sexually-significant encounters with a boarder, referred to as 'Nicholas' in the trial, and these were vaguely similar to what was depicted in the film. However, 'Nicholas' played a much bigger role in real life than was depicted in "Heavenly Creatures." He apparently spent two nights in Pauline's bed before being discovered by Mr Rieper but Pauline's relationship with him lasted much longer and had a significantly different tone to it (much more intellectual) than the version we see in the film and the time line of her relationship with 'Nicholas' was quite different. One psychiatrist was careful to point out in testimony that Pauline only wrote of one incidence of completed intercourse.

Evidence was presented that Pauline frequently slipped out of her room at night during 1952 and 1953, sometimes meeting with Juliet and sometimes with boys. Some of Pauline's trysts were with boys (University students) from Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and this inter-racial aspect was used by the prosecution to support their description of her as "immoral, criminal and bad."

Did the girls really go to see "The Third Man?"

[jp, jg] Alas, no they didn't. Pauline actually didn't refer to Orson Welles by name in any of the diary extracts which still exist, but by his "Third Man" character name "Harry Lime." It was as "Harry Lime" that he was tabulated in her table of the Saints.

This is an interesting fact, and illustrates the influence of pop culture on the girls. Orson Welles supported himself in the early 50s, among other ways, by 'milking' the tremendous popularity of Harry Lime. There were serialized radio shows, some written by Welles, based on the Harry Lime character and these were very popular, world-wide. The shows played in the U.K., the U.S. and were even translated, by Welles, into French for the French/euro market. Also, Anton Karas' 'Harry Lime' theme was an extremely popular recording on the radio. Pauline does mention that she had seen pictures of Harry Lime, too, so the girls also devoured film magazines, no doubt.

The scene itself is directly pulled from Pauline's diary- it is the night they first made love. On that night, however, the film they went to see was "Trent's Last Case" (1954- British Lion Films). directed by Herbert Wilcox, screenplay by Pamela Bower from the novel by E.C. Bentley and starring Michael Wilding, Margaret Lockwood and Orson Welles. It was released in July 1953, so it still took a year to get to Christchurch NZ, but this is a bit smaller delay than the three years implied by "The Third Man" in "Heavenly Creatures."

Since Welles' makeup in that film makes him unrecogniseable, Jackson decided to use "The Third Man" because that was the film where Welles first appeared without any makeup and therefore would be more recogniseable. So, the use of "The Third Man" in "Heavenly Creatures" was a little bit of justifiable artistic license on the part of Jackson.

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