My 10 anticipated films of the Melbourne International Film Festival

The Duke of BurgundyThe Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is almost upon us and, this year, I am seeing more than my usual quota of films. I won’t go into detail regarding everything I’ve booked, but here are the ten films I am most excited about.

The Duke of Burgundy

Confession: I missed this in my first pass of the MIFF program and, thankfully, was alerted by a friend to the fact it was playing. Despite some problems with the last quarter of the film I adored Berberian Sound Studio (2013), Peter Strickland’s tasteful, authentic non-Tarantinoesque homage to Italian giallo films of the seventies. So The Duke of Burgundy, a tribute to the Euro sleaze films of Jess Franco and Walerian Borowczyk has me very excited.

Sunrise

My search for a decent Indian neo noir continues with Partho Sen-Gupta’s 2014 feature, Sunrise. In 2012 I sat through all six hours of Gangs of Wasseypur, the sprawling saga of two rival crime families in the Indian state of Bihar. It held together well for the first half before degenerating into a Spaghetti Western-like shoot ‘em up. In 2013, it was Monsoon, a Mumbai based crime drama about a rookie cop and his corrupt older partner. It showed promise but I felt it was too focused on achieving the right aesthete at the expense of story.… Read more

Saying goodbye to the father of The Night Stalker

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I noted a recent news item on social media that Jeff Rice, author of the original 1970 horror novel The Night Stalker, on which the TV series of the same name was based on, had died. I meant to delve into the story further, but never got around to it. Then I saw this excellent post on the The Rap Sheet site, examining Rice’s life and the background to the series.

I was a huge Night Stalker fan in my teens, first the two made to TV movies and then the series. I loved Darren McGavin’s portrayal of Kolchak, the bumbling yet at the same time surprisingly steely and resourceful journalist. The various monsters and evil beings he battled were incredibly scary and I was unnerved by the how the show always ended with Kolchak left alone and no one believing his stories.

I never knew anything about the back ground to the series or its creator. Rice had a somewhat bizarre and unfortunate life and his mysterious death, which is still being investigated by authorities, mirrored aspects of his fiction. You can read the full post on the Rap Sheet here.

And while I’m on the subject, if you haven’t already discovered how good The Rap Sheet is, you should bookmark site and make it one of your regular visits.… Read more

Interview: New Jersey crime writer, Wallace Stroby

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Wallace Stroby was an award-winning journalist who quit his job as an editor at New Jersey’s Star-Ledger of Newark newspaper, to write crime fiction full time. A life long New Jersey native, he is the author of six books, of which his debut, The Barb Wire Kiss, was a finalist for the 2004 Barry Award for best first novel. His last three books, Cold Shot to the Heart, Kings of Midnight, Shoot the Woman First, feature the female professional criminal character, Crissa Stone. This is an edited version of an interview, which I conducted at Noir Con 2014 in Philadelphia, that originally appeared in issue 17 of Crime FactoryHis latest Crissa Stone book The Devil’s Share, is out now.

Let’s start of with your recent books featuring the character of Crissa Stone. What was the inspiration behind writing these?

I always wanted to write a book from the point of a view of a career criminal. In my third novel, Gone ‘Til November, half of the book was from the point of view of an ageing black hit man but the main character was actually a woman, the only female sheriff’s deputy in a small town, a woman in a man’s world and I liked that idea. So coming off Gone ‘Til November I wanted to combine those two and do a story about a career criminal who was a woman in a man’s world.… Read more

Pulp Friday: The Day of the Locust

Day of the LocustMost people are familiar with the 1975 John Schlesinger film, The Day of the Locust, starring Donald Sutherland, Burgess Meredith and Karen Black.

But long before it appeared in cinemas, The Day of the Locust was an influential novel by US author, Nathanael West. Today’s Pulp Friday offering is the 1957 edition of the novel by Bantam Books. I have no idea who did the stunning cover image for this paperback version.

Both the novel and the film are set during the Great Depression and focus on a young artist who comes to Hollywood and is soon sucked into a nightmare world of hustlers, struggling actors and actresses and various other low life denizens on the fringes of the movie business. It is often viewed as one of the best books written on the underbelly of the American dream.

Nathanael knew of what he was writing about in The Day of the Locust, having worked for a time as a screenwriter for RKO pictures.

Rollerball & decoding cinematic dystopias

tumblr_nblo2mWDl81sndzdgo1_500The Independent newspaper recently reported that the British Broadcasting Corporation is designing a television program in which unemployed and low paid workers will compete against each other, The Hunger Games-style, for cash prizes. The idea follows the success of Benefits Street, a UK reality TV show similar to the much-criticised SBS series, Struggle Street, about an area in Birmingham where ninety per cent of the residents are on social welfare benefits.

The newspaper report is one of several recent things that have got me thinking about how aspects of dystopian cinema are bleeding into real life. Another is the fortieth anniversary in late June of the science fiction film, Rollerball. Although derided by critics upon release for its violence, the film is now viewed as one of the high points of seventies dystopian cinema. It has also proven remarkably prescient regarding aspects of the future it depicted.

Rollerball is set in 2018. Nation-states no longer exist but are replaced by huge corporations, each focusing on an aspect of human need: transport, food, communication, housing, luxury, energy, etc. The most popular form of entertainment is a violent sport called Rollerball, and the most successful competitor is Jonathan E, who plays for Houston, the city controlled by the Energy Corporation.… Read more