Hungry wives and evil husbands

I’ve been writing a piece on the science fiction of Ira Levin for an upcoming book project. This led me to re-reading his amazing novel Rosemary’s Baby, which led to a re-watch of the 1968 film, which got me to thinking, why there seemed to be a preponderance of cinema in the late 1960s/early 1970s which involve supposedly ordinary women having witchcraft used against them or using it for empowerment.

Roman Polansky’s version of Rosemary’s Baby abides fairly closely to Levin’s book and I suspect regular readers of this site don’t need any introduction to how good the book and film are. Obviously, the story has a very strong feminist tone, as did a lot of Levin’s work. An innocent woman, Rosemary, has her young, fertile body quite literally sold to a group of Satanists who, unbeknownst to her, live in the same New York apartment block, by her husband, Guy, in return for success in his chosen profession as an actor.

What is really good about the film, and even better about the book, is the way Levin leaves a trail of small clues as to what is going on – that Satan has raped her and Guy, in league with the Satanists, is manipulating her to carry the child to full term – often seemingly inconsequential or coincidental details, just enough to move the plot forward, but which all add up to a horrifying, inescapable trap.… Read more

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Post coital fondue with Harry & Ellen

On his site, Hard Boiled Wonderland, Jedidiah Ayres is currently doing a series of posts In February on the theme of ‘Felonious Valentines’ – romance in crime cinema. I stopped by with a few words on one of my favourite scenes in 1970s American cinema and (to my knowledge), the only one featuring post coital fondue. The scene, featuring Gene Hackman and Susan Clark, is in, Arthur Penn’s existentially bleak 1975 neo noir, Night Moves. You can my post in full here.

Pass me a fondue fork.

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The Lighthouse

I loved Robert Eggers’s 2015 film, The Witch, so had high hopes for his second big screen effort, The Lighthouse. While The Lighthouse is not without problems, it is a satisfyingly creepy brew of nautical themed horror and troublesome masculinity. You can read my take on the movie for Australian Book Review Arts Update in full here.

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Pulp Friday: Australian pulp’s Spanish Connection

One of the tasks I set myself over the Christmas/New Year period was to start putting my pulp paperback collection into plastic bags. It is amazing that these fragile constructions of cheap paper, glue and card, never meant to last more than one read, have survived for almost half a century, and for a while now I’ve been thinking I should treat them with far more care.

Among my collection are a number of Larry Kent novels, which are incredibly hard to find in the wild nowadays. Most of these were purchased as a single lot on a random visit to a second-hand bookshop in the New South Wales coastal town of Ballina (better known as the home of the Big Prawn statue) during a beach holiday many years ago.

In the process of bagging these books I took the chance to do a little digging into Larry Kent’s little-known Spanish connection, which this post will examine, as well as being a long overdue coda to Cleveland Publications, until it closed early last year the last remaining player in the once large and boisterous post-war pulp publishing industry in Australia.

Cleveland was founded by Jack Atkins in Sydney in 1953. New Zealand born, Atkins was an entrepreneur and horse lover. For a time, he was also the secretary of the NSW branch of the conservative Democratic Labor Party, which split from the Labor Party over its links to communist influenced trade unions in 1955.… Read more

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‘An Explosive Novel of Strange Passions’: Horwitz Publications and Australia’s Pulp Modernism

I am jazzed to have had published the first of what I hope is several peer reviewed articles flowing my from the research for my dissertation. “An Explosive Novel of Strange Passions” Horwitz Publications and Australia’s Pulp Modernism,’ appears in the latest edition of Australian Literary Studies Journal. It is open access until April next year.

Here is the abstract for the piece: The scant academic attention Australia’s pulp publishing industry has received to date tends to focus on pulp as a quickly and cheaply made form of disposable entertainment, sold to non-elite audiences. This paper will examine Australian pulp fiction from a different standpoint, one which links New Modernist Studies and the history of the book. This approach, referred to as pulp modernism, is used to question the separation of low and high publishing culture, dominant for much of the twentieth century. I apply this methodology to late-1950s and early-1960s Australian pulp fiction by examining the Name Author series released by Sydney-based Horwitz Publications, one of the largest pulp paperback publishers in the decades after World War II. The series took prominent mid-century Australian authors and republished them in paperback with covers featuring highly salacious images and text. The series offers a glimpse into a uniquely Australian version of pulp modernism.… Read more

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