Category Archives: 60s American crime films

Parker on the screen #2: The Split (1968)

Several years ago on this site I referred to the 1968 film The Split as a Blaxsploitation style riff on Donald Westlake’s character, Parker. I have seen other reviewers make the same mistake, I suspect mainly on the basis that it was an action film starring a black man, ex-pro-footballer turned actor, Jim Brown, in the role of McClain (as the character of Parker is called). Not only did The Split appear several years before that cycle of films kicked off (1971 with the release of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft), but it displays none of the extravagant sexual and violent action stylings of that canon.

The second film in my series of Parker on the screen, The Split is a workmanlike neo noir based on Donald Westlake’s Parker novel, The Seventh. It is no Point Blank. I don’t even think it is as good as the 1967 French film, Mise a Sac, based on Westlake’s The Score, my first entry in the Parker on the screen series. But neither is it as bad as lot of people think.

The heist in The Seventh – stealing the ticket takings from a stadium football game – is over in the first dozen or pages of the book.… Read more

Up periscope: a celebration of submarine cinema

I love a good submarine film. The claustrophobia of the confined setting, the tensions arising from a group of people having to co-exist and operate in a completely unnatural, extremely dangerous environment, is all pretty much guaranteed to hook me in every time.

I was reminded of this while I was watched the 2014 thriller Black Sea on the weekend. A hard as nails, embittered Scottish deep sea salvage expert, Robinson, (Jude Law), takes a job with a shadowy backer, to salvage hundreds of millions of dollars of gold rumoured to be in a sunken Nazi U-boat sitting on the bottom of the Black Sea. He has at his disposal a surplus communist era Russian submarine and recruits a fractious crew of washed up seafarers, half of whom are Russian because they are the only ones who know how to properly operate the vessel.

I don’t know why this film passed me by when it first came out but it ticked virtually every box on the my list of requirements for a good submarine film. The crew have to contend with a never ending series of life threatening technical and nautical challenges. Within the narrow confines of the aged submarine, the tensions between crew members ratchet up along ethnic grounds and how they will split up the gold.… Read more

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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M and my top 10 reads for 2019

It is no exaggeration to say I have been eagerly anticipating Samm Deighan’s monograph of Fritz Lang’s 1931 film. I love the film and I am a big fan of Deighan’s movie writing, so the combination is bound not to disappoint. And it didn’t.

As Deighan puts it in her introduction, M ‘exists in a liminal space between urban social drama, crime thriller, and horror film’. It was arguably the first serial killer film, long before the FBI coined the term in the early 1970s. Anchored by a superb performance by Peter Lorre as the paedophiliac child killer, Hans Beckert, it was certainly the first motion picture in which a serial killer was the central protagonist. Another crucial innovation was the way in which Lang depicted the character of Beckert in a not entirely unsympathetic light. This same sensibility would have a influence on some subsequent serial killer cinema, most notably in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror/thriller, Psycho.

Deighan discusses M’s broader social and political themes, including the film as a critique of modernity and a text for Germany on the brink of totalitarian control, appearing as it did a year before the Nazi’s assumed power and Lang had to flee the country.

Another fascinating aspect of the book is the discussion of how the themes in M would echo in Lang’s subsequent work, particular the threat of the lawless mob violence and what is perhaps the director’s most defining idea, how even the most noble individual is capable of brutal murderous thoughts and actions.… Read more

Early praise for Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and the Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980

Just a quick reminder that the second pulp book that I have co-edited with Iain McIntyre, Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and the Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980, will be out in a few months.

Amid trying to finalise a PhD, I have also been working with the US based designer on the layout of the book, and can I say it looks great. In the meantime, here is the advance praise that we have received about the book.

From the profane to the sacred, this scholarly, obsessive volume reveals forgotten tribes of Amazons, Soul Brothers, Hustlers, Queers, Vigilantes, Radical Feminists and Revolutionaries – the radical exploitation of gnostic pulp.

Jon Savage, author of 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded

This is the ultimate guide to sixties and the counterculture, of which I was a part. Long hair, bellbottoms, short dresses, and a kiss-my-ass attitude to the powers that be. Real meat on real bone, the stuff of one of the most unique and revolutionary generations ever, baby. You need this.

Joe R. Lansdale

This book is a story about stories—the rough-and-tumble mass fiction of the 1950s to the 80s, written to offend The Establishment and delight the rest of us. In Sticking It to the Man, McIntyre and Nette offer us a fascinating smorgasbord of (un)savory tales—the kind whose covers entice and whose texts compel.… Read more