Author Archives: Andrew Nette

MacKenna’s Gold: gold, ghosts and frontier violence

1969 was arguably the year Hollywood fully embraced the revisionist western. In addition to Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, there was True GritTell Them Willy Boy is HereDeath of a Gunfighter, and Midnight Cowboy. As well as playing with notions of ‘the cowboy’ and ‘the West’, they contained more stylised violence, more sex and stories that overtly fed off the cynicism and disillusionment of America’s war in Vietnam and domestic racial strife.

Released in May that year, Mackenna’s Gold straddles the divide between the classic big studio western and its revisionist successors. Headed up by Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif, the film boasts a cast to kill for. It is also a story filled with supernatural elements, in which humans are haunted not only by spirits guarding a lost canyon full of gold but by their own greed and paranoia.

In my debut for a website I have admired for some time, Diabolique Magazine, I wrote about gold, ghosts and frontier violence in MacKenna’s Gold. You can read the entire article on their site via this link. Enjoy.

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Pulp Friday: Sharks in Australian pulp fiction

Pulp fiction has long been fascinated by sharks, and pulp published in Australia is no exception.

Being attacked by them, hunting them, sighting or being threatened by them, or just marvelling at large they grew, sharks were a perennial pre-occupation in local Australian pulp paperback fiction from the 1950s to the 1970s. They also appeared regularly in the pages of the Australian equivalent of men’s adventure pulp, publications like Adam and Man.

Although I have not included any of this material in the images below, sharks were also a staple of popular tabloid magazines like Pix and Australasia Post. Referred to in Australia as ‘barbershop magazines’, these now defunct weeklies presented punters with a steady diet of girls in bikinis, racy jokes, Hollywood gossip, and masculine adventure stories.

Many of these were set in heavily exoticised parts of the South Pacific and Asia. But there was also a rich variant that took place far-flung parts of tropical northern Australia and the outback. These latter stories depicted a sort of Australian weird – a land of gnarly, weather beaten eccentrics (much like Captain William E. Young on the cover the Shark Hunter, published by Horwitz in 1978), who had dangerous livelihoods in unimaginably remote parts of the country, and did battle regularly with the threat posed by the country’s uniquely lethal fauna, including sharks.… Read more

Dirk Bogarde twilight of the British empire double feature

In a simpler, less stressful time, i.e., a couple of weeks ago, I was looking forward to the start of Melbourne Cinematheque’s season of Dirk Bogarde films. For obvious reasons it was not to be. So I thought I would undertake my own mini-festival in memory of one of my favourite British actors, focusing on his lesser known films.

I might post on a few of these over the next couple of weeks but, for now, the Rank Organisation’s Simba (1955) is first cab off the rank. The movie takes place at the height of what was termed the Mau Mau Uprising, a rebellion by a number of Kenyan tribes against British colonial rule. It began in the early 1950s and lasted until 1960, when the British finally managed to crush the rebels using tactics that they had learnt fighting communist rebels in Malaya around the same period.

Bogarde plays Alan Howard, a somewhat footloose Englishman who visits his farmer brother in Kenya. No sooner has Howard stepped off the plane plan and been picked up by the daughter of another farmer, Mary Crawford (Virginia McKenna, better known for her lead role in the 1956 film, A Town Like Alice), who it is inferred he has a past with, than he discovers his brother has been murdered by the Mau Mai.… Read more

Pulp Friday: memoirs of a cover girl

So much of the allure of pulp fiction, whether it was in magazine or paperback format, revolved around the cover art. It was designed to impart a gamut of sensations, from the simply outré and thrilling, to downright lurid and shocking. And the central design aspect of the majority of this material was a woman, usually provocatively posed and scantily clad, depicted ‘in media res’, Latin for ‘in the middle of’ things. Publishers hoped that this would generate interest from the passing buyer, who they believed was usually male and, looking at the cover, would start to fill in the mental blanks and purchase said print material to read and discover for themselves if they were right (how disappointed they often must have been).

We know virtually nothing about the women who were the cover model subjects for these covers. This is what makes Eva: men’s adventure supermodel a vital book. It is the first work I can think of that actually provides the inside story of one of the women who worked in the pulp fiction industry, told by the woman herself.

The individual concerned, Eva Lynd, was born in Sweden in 1937 as Eva Margareta von Fielitz. She arrived in New York in 1950 at the age of 12, eventually started to do theatre and by the second half of the 1950s was appearing in small roles in television and film.… Read more

Rewatching French Connection II

Can we talk for a moment about just how good John Frankenheimer’s 1975 movie French Connection IIis?

It did okay but not spectacular business on release but I feel like it has never received much love from critics and crime film fans alike, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it is a sequel and with few exceptions, like oft citedThe Godfather II (1974), we are always pretty meh about sequels, and rightly so.

Second, is the shadow of the 1971 original, The French Connection, which won a tonne of Oscars, including best picture, best actor for Gene Hackman as Detective Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle, and best director for the then wunderkind, William Friedkin, and is one of the most famous, if not the most famous American crime film of the 1970s.

Third, is the director, John Frankenheimer, who started his career strong with The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and The Train (1964 ), but with a few exceptions – 52 Pick-Up (1986), the nasty little film he did for Canon, and The Island of Dr Moreau (1996), which I know a lot of people hate on but I love – didn’t seem to do a whole lot else of particular note. It is a filmography I have always found hard to engage with and I probably need to make more effort.… Read more