Klute

Klute posterSome great films were made in the late sixties and seventies about the sleazy, exploitative underbelly of America’s sex industry. John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy (1969), Scorsese’s Tax Driver (1976) and Paul Schrader’s Hardcore (1979), all spring to mind. But, surely one of the most gripping and atmospheric offerings in this tawdry canon is Alan J Pakula’s 1971 movie, Klute.

Klute is often referred to as the first of Pakula’s so-called ‘paranoia trilogy’, along with the trippy political thriller, Parallax View (1974), and his film about the Washington Post’s disclosure of the Watergate scandal, All The President’s Men (1976). Klute certainly has a number of themes in common with these two films, including the prominent use of (what was for its time) high tech surveillance equipment to create a sense of fear and unease, and how this alters human interactions. But the film is also a fascinating slice of New York in the early seventies.

A senior executive for a Pennsylvanian company, Tom Gruneman, has gone missing. When several months of police investigation turn up nothing, the head of the company, Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi) hires a local policeman and a friend of the family, John Klute (Donald Sutherland) to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. Klute follows up on one of the few leads in the case, a series of letters Gruneman sent to a New York prostitute called Bree Daniel (Jane Fonda).… Read more

Pulp Friday: American Pulp – How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street

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I’ve always been fascinated by how relatively insignificant objects you’ve lost in the course of moving around in life can later come to hold important meaning. An example for me is a black and white photograph of my father on holiday in Queensland’s Surfers Paradise in the early 1960s. It was destroyed when my friend’s shed, in which I stored all my possessions while travelling overseas, burnt down. I find it hard to recall what else was lost, but I remember that photo. Dad is sitting in a chair on the beach, wearing dark sunglasses and reading a paperback by the prolific Australian pulp writer Carter Brown.

Two things gave me cause to think about this picture recently. The first was the hype around the Anzac Day centenary commemorations – I’ll explain that connection later. The second was reading US academic Paula Rabinowitz’s beautifully written, highly original work, American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street.

Most people view pulp as either exploitative lowbrow culture or highly collectable retro artefact. Yet pulp has a secret history which Rabinowitz’s book uncovers. Her central thesis is that cheap, mass-produced pulp novels not only provided entertainment and cheap titillating thrills, but also brought modernism to the American people, democratising reading and, in the process, furthering culture and social enlightenment.… Read more

Doctor who? Peter Cushing’s Dr Who and the Daleks turns 50

Dr Wo and the Daleks

With season nine of the new Doctor Who premiering on 19 September, it’s an ideal opportunity to revisit the one version of the character absent from the official Doctor Who pantheon: that played by Peter Cushing in Dr. Who and the Daleks, released 50 years ago on 23 August 1965.

Made by Amicus, a British production company best remembered for its low-to-medium budget horror films in the late 60s and early 70s, the film is widely derided by many fans and critics, unfairly in my opinion. I have a piece on the film on the British Film Institute site, which you can read in full here.

Small Town Noir: the possible book

Katie Payne Mug Shot

Vintage photographs are all the rage these days. Hell, vintage everything is big, it seems. There are some websites that do vintage images better than others. One site I stumbled accidentally across several years ago and which I have continued to visit on a regular basis is called Small Town Noir. It features old police mug shots from the former American industrial town of New Castle in Pennsylvania and the stories of behind them. What I like most about Small Town Noir is it’s just that. The person behind the site, a man called Diarmid Mogg, doesn’t post images of big time criminals in New York or Chicago. His subjects are ordinary people and he examines their hopes, dreams and frustrated plans, their small town crimes, and how these brought them to the attention of the police.

Now he’s trying to turn his website into a book and he needs people to pledge to buy it here. I reckon it’s a great idea and I’m going to support it. I thought other Pulp Curry readers might be interested in knowing more about Small Town Noir and when Diarmid asked whether I’d be prepared to help him publicise his project by doing an interview with him, I was more than happy to oblige.Read more

MIFF report back #5: Downriver

DOWNRIVER1170Grant Scicluna’s debut feaure, Downriver is a dark tale of secrets and redemption set in a small rural town. Although, I haven’t seen Scicluna stress the theme anywhere, it is also a film largely dominated by gay male relationships.

The film opens with eighteen-year-old James (Reef Ireland) being confronted upon his parole by the mother of a child whose death by drowning was the reason for his lengthy incarceration. The body of the boy has never been found, a fact that particularly haunts the mother. James suspects his childhood friend Anthony (Thom Green), who was also present when the child died, hid the body but he was never charged.

Once free, James is obsessed with finding the boy’s body. He defies his parole officer and his mother (Kerry Fox) and goes to stay at the caravan park near to the river where the death took place. James confronts Anthony, who claims to know nothing more than he has already told the police. He befriends Damien (Charles Grounds), an impressionable young man also staying at the caravan park, and who turns into an ally of sorts in James’ mission.

It becomes apparent very quickly that Anthony’s silence is bound up in a much larger and darker conspiracy involving the boy’s death and Anthony’s extremely dangerous family.… Read more