Category Archives: Anthony Zebe

Pulp Friday: The Laughing Policeman

The Laughing Policeman Bantam 1974The Laughing Policeman is probably better known as the title of a book than a film, but both are the subject of today’s Pulp Friday offering.

Originally published in 1968, The Laughing Policeman was fourth in a series of ten books featuring the bad tempered police detective, Martin Beck, by Swedish crime writing duo, Maj Sjowell and Per Wahloo. The book was adapted into a film, directed by Stuart Rosenburg, and released in 1973.

The covers in today’s post include both the original novel and the paperback-tie in for the film. The one above is the 1974 Bantam edition. In order those below are: the back cover to the 1974 Bantam edition, the cover of the 1977 Vintage edition, and the 1974 UK paperback tie-in for the movie, published by Sphere. The film appeared under that title in the UK.

The series is very famous and I don’t think I have to go into detail about it here. The plot of the original The Laughing Policeman novel concerns a gunman who shoots passengers on a public bus, killing eight people and wounding one. Beck and his team believe the murders are a disguise for the murder of a police detective who was engaged in an out of hour’s investigation into the murder of a 16-year-old Portuguese sex worker.… Read more

On the Beach and other cinematic dystopias

the_omega_man_large_04A few weeks ago I watched Stanley Kramer’s 1959 film On the Beach for the first time. It’s been on my mind constantly since.

I read the book by Nevil Shute, on which the film is based, soon after leaving school. At the time I was deeply involved in the anti-uranium and peace movements and, not surprisingly, its message about the danger of nuclear conflict resonated strongly.

For those who have not seen Kramer’s film (or read Shute’s book), it is set in the aftermath of an accidental nuclear war triggered by unnamed rogue state with access to atomic bombs. All life on the planet has been extinguished except for Australia and we are on borrowed time, waiting as a huge radioactive cloud slowly makes its way towards us. The cast, which includes Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, in a rare dramatic role, and Anthony Perkins pre his performance in the blockbuster, Psycho, is terrific.

There are so many things about the film that make it a truly terrifying experience, despite the fact it was made over fifty years ago. The scenes set in a totally dead and still San Francisco and the sense of utter despondency when the crew of the US submarine find the real source of the Morse code message they had hoped would lead them to survivors, are riveting.… Read more

Headhunters and Laughing Policemen

Such is the speed with which Hollywood is keen to co-opt Scandinavian crime fiction, that even before the movie version of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters hit Australian cinemas, a US remake was in the works.

I’m curious what exactly the remake could do differently, given that Headhunters already feels so much like a mainstream American thriller.

By that I mean it is slick, fast paced and requires viewers to suspend their disbelief to an increasing degree as the plot unfolds.

I make no bones about my lack of knowledge of Scandinavian crime fiction and film, but it seems to me the only really Nordic qualities Headhunters has are some pretty creepy characters, the huge level of graphic violence and a lot of Ikea-like interior design.

Not that the film doesnlt have its merits.

Could you submerge yourself in a pit human shit or take another human life to escape someone trying to find and kill you? Those are just two of the situations faced by the main character in Headhunters, Roger Brown (Askel Hennie).

Brown is Norway’s most successful corporate headhunter. He’s got a thing about being short (five and a half feet) and a problem maintaining the lavish lifestyle expected by his taller, impossibly blonde trophy wife, Diana.

To make ends meet Brown moonlights as an art thief.… Read more

Post-traumatic noir part 2: Who’ll Stop The Rain

A while ago on this blog I wrote about the 1981 Ivan Passer movie, Cutter’s Way.

Based ased on the 1976 cult novel Cutter and Bone by Newton Thornburg, it’s one of the best crime films to deal with the impact of America’s war in Vietnam.

But it gets a run for it’s money by a little known film I’ve recently discovered, Who’ll Stop the Rain (AKA Dog Soldiers) made several years earlier in 1978.

Who’ll Stop the Rain a paranoid, hard-boiled road trip through America’s counter-cultural underbelly and a devastating indictment of the impact of the conflict.

The film opens with war correspondent John Converse (Michael Moriarty) trapped in the middle of friendly fire. His voice over as he surveys the resulting carnage tells us:

“Military command has decided that elephants are enemy agents because the Vietcong use them to carry supplies. So now we’re stampeding the elephants and gunning them down from the air…In a world where elephants are pursued by flying men, people are just naturally going to want to get high.”

A former liberal disgusted by the war, Converse decides to buy two kilos of uncut heroin in Saigon and smuggle it back to California, where he plans to sell it at an enormous profit.… Read more