Category Archives: Blaxsploitation

Blowback: late 1960s and 1970s pulp and popular fiction about the Vietnam War

If you are still on the fence about purchasing a copy of my new book, Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and the Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, the site CrimeReads is running a couple of extracts from the book. The first is my piece, ‘Blowback: late 1960s and 1970s pulp and popular fiction about the Vietnam War’.

The conflict in Vietnam cast a long shadow over pulp and popular fiction in the late 1960s and the 1970s. Vietnam veterans were hunted by small town redneck police in David Morrell’s 1972 novel, First Blood, dealt drugs in Vern E Smith’s The Jones Men, and staged an abortive bank heist in Dog Day Afternoon, both published in 1974. In the Lone Wolf series ex-New York cop and Vietnam veteran, Burt Wulff mounted a fourteen-book battle from 1973 to 1975 against the drug dealing criminal organisation, ‘The Network’, in which he treated the streets of America’s major cities as an extension of jungles of Southeast Asia. Vietnam was the training ground for many of the characters that populated men’s adventure and crime pulp in the 1970s. More broadly, Vietnam’s traumatic impact on American society would become a cypher through which pulp and popular fiction name checked cultural fragmentation, growing disillusionment with the American dream, dishonest and unaccountable government and corporations, and the power of the military industrial complex.… Read more

“There is no phone ringing, dammit!” Projection Booth episode 422 : The Omega Man

I’m thrilled to tell you all that episode 422 of The Projection Booth podcast is live and features yours truly, joining co-hosts Mike White and Maurice Bursztynski, to talk about Boris Sagal’s 1971 dystopian science fiction film, The Omega Man.

The Omega Man stars Charlton Heston as Richard Neville, the last human survivor of a devastating biological plague – so he thinks. Neville spends his days hunting down the only other remnants of the human race, a group of anti-technology, homicidal mutants, known as the Family, and headed by an ex-TV news reader, Matthias (Anthony Zerbe). At night, the only time that the sun sensitive mutants can come out, Neville holes up in his swanky Los Angeles apartment, trying to avoid being killed and living a weird pantomime of his pre-apocalypse linking, drinking too much and playing chess with a statue of Julius Caesar.

That is until he discovers another human survivor.

There are several reasons why I am so enamoured by The Omega Man. As I discuss in my monograph on another masterpiece of 1970s dystopian SF cinema, Rollerball, SF was a relatively marginal genre of cinema until 1968. That year saw two films released that changed the perception of the genre: Planet of the Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey.… Read more

Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980, now available for pre-order

Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counter Culture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950-1980is now available for pre-order here on Amazon.

The book is due out in the second half of 2019 from PM Press, who published Beat Girls, Biker Boys and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950-1980

From Civil Rights and Black Power to the New Left and Gay Liberation, the 1960s and 1970s saw a host of movements shake the status quo. With social strictures and political structures challenged at every level, pulp and popular fiction could hardly remain unaffected. While an influx of New Wave nonconformists transformed science fiction, feminist, gay, and black authors broke into areas of crime, porn, and other paperback genres previously dominated by conservative, straight, white males. For their part, pulp hacks struck back with bizarre takes on the revolutionary times, creating vigilante-driven fiction that echoed the Nixonian backlash and the coming conservatism of Thatcherism and Reaganism.

Sticking It to the Man tracks the changing politics and culture of the period and how it was reflected in pulp and popular fiction in the US, UK, and Australia from the late 1950s onward. Featuring more than three hundred full-color covers, the book includes in-depth author interviews, illustrated biographies, articles, and reviews from more than 30 popular culture critics and scholars.… Read more

Book review: Paperbacks from Hell, the Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction

I loved Grady Hendrix’s soon to be released book, Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of ‘70s and ‘80s Horror Fiction. From the opening, his discussion of John Christopher’s totally bizarre 1966 novel, The Little People, about an assortment of unsavoury individuals who spend a weekend in an Irish castle which is also inhabited by evil Nazi leprechauns (‘the Gestapochauns’) to the last few pages, the dying days of American mass market paperback horror, it is a wild, exhilarating ride.

But as well as being a lot of fun, Paperbacks From Hell is also an important work of pulp fiction and pop culture history.

The book comprises a series of thematic chapters, grouped from the most part around one or two foundation texts. Thus the chapter on satanic pulp and mass market paperbacks opens with a look at the cultural importance of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. The Omen (1976) is the starting point for a look at the large sub-genre of books about women being impregnated by all manner of hell spawn and murderous offspring. Peter Benchley’s paperback sensation, Jaws, is the precursor to a discussion about the wave of pulp and mass market paperback books featuring murderous creatures and animals turned homicidal: rats, dogs, cuts, pigs, insects, even rabbits.… Read more

Feminist vigilantes, vampires & the forgotten exploitation film career of Bob Kelljan

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US director Bob Kelljan (right), with Timothy Carey in the 1977 Charlie’s Angels episode ‘Angels on Ice’, which Kelljan directed.

On the weekend I unintentionally plunged head first into the lost cultural zeitgeist that was the short but fascinating big screen career of US exploitation filmmaker, Bob Kelljan.

This started Friday evening, when I finally got around to checking out Australian outfit Ex-Films‘ DVD re-release of American International Pictures’ (AIP) controversial 1974 exploitation rape revenge film, Act of Vengeance, courtesy of my friend and film scholar, Dean Brandum. The DVD extras include an excellent essay by Dean on the film’s distribution and the controversy over the original title, Rape Squad, which the company subsequently changed at the last minute to Act of Vengeance.

Lost/unknown/unappreciated exploitation films from the 1960s and 1970s have been hot property for a while now. That said I have little tolerance for watching an exploitation film for the sake of it. But Act of Vengeance, which Kelljan was brought into direct after the previous two directors were fired, delivers on several fronts. 

The plot focuses on a group of women who have been victims of a hockey masked man dubbed the ‘Jingle Bells Rapist’ by the police, because of the song he makes his victims sing as he attacks them.… Read more