Category Archives: Science fiction and fantasy

“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

2019 mid-summer reading report back

Summer is the one time of the year I am able find a decent amount of time to read. And, despite going full bore on my PhD at present, this year has, thankfully, been no different. Here is a very brief mid-summer reading report back.

The Real Lolita, Sarah Weinman

I have to fess up to not having read Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita, or seen either of the films based on it (I have Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 version and, having read The Real Lolita, want to see it). This didn’t stop me from devouring Weinman’s book. The Real Lolita has two threads. The first deals with the 1948 abduction of an eleven-year-old New Jersey girl, Sally Horner. The second looks at the torturous process by which Nabokov created what is his best-known work, the story of a middle-aged literature professor and his obsession and, eventually, sexual relationship with a 12-year-old girl, a story which Weinman contends Nabokov partly based on the Horner case.

Weinman painstakingly recreates the circumstances of Horner’s abduction and sexual grooming by a much older man, and the lengthy police investigation into her disappearance. It is fascinating, at times, horrific stuff and she puts it together brilliantly. I found the second strand concerning Nabokov less satisfying. … Read more

My top 10 reads of 2018

I reconciled myself long ago to the fact I will never get to the end of a year without thinking I have not read as much as I should have. That said, I have read some great books this year. Fiction and non-fiction, old books and new, in no particular order, here are my top ten reads for 2018.

Red Dragon, Thomas Harris

This year, I read a few bestsellers from the past to see if I can figure out what made them so successful, and this was my favourite. The book that introduced Hannibal Lector, it is a riveting rollercoaster ride into the serial killer mind. Beautifully written and acutely observed. Harris includes some incredible detail on forensics and police procedure without overdoing it. Red Dragon is the perfect mix of elevated airport novel and hardboiled crime story.

Twisted Clay, Frank Walford

Australian writer, Frank Walford’s 1933 account of a murderous young woman,  a pathological liar and sociopath, was banned in Australia until the late 1950s. The story, which contains patricide, sex work, suicide and the young female main character’s burgeoning awareness and enjoyment of her lesbian sexuality, is a wonderfully lurid read. One can only wonder what readers must have made of it in the 1930s. Not surprisingly, they seemed to like it as it was a bestseller in the UK and US, where it was published.… Read more

Pulp Friday: a celebration of Tandem Books covers

Regular readers of this site will be familiar with my particular jones for late 1960s and 1970s pulp covers, particularly the photographic ones. For me, they represent a very creative but little celebrated body of book cover art and, as far as I am concerned, the Brits were the masters of it.

A week or so ago, during one of my frequent second hand bookshop jaunts, I stumbled across a 1967 copy of novelist and beat poet, Royston Ellis’s coming of age tell all, The Rush at the End. The wonderful cover is an example of what I am talking about when I go on about my love for photographic book covers – a cheap but imaginative shot that dives deep into the book’s themes of sex, drugs and the emerging counter culture.

Pulp enthusiasts have rightly devoted considerable time and energy in celebrating the covers of UK publishers such as Pan, Panther and New English Library. But there were a host of other lesser known outfits active on the British publishing scene in the 1960s and 1970s, who contributed some terrific covers. One of these was the little known Tandem Books, publisher of The Rush at the End. Indeed, along with Mayflower Books, Tandem contributed some of the strangest and best covers of that period.… Read more

Joint launch of new cinema books on Rollerball and The Fly, Sunday, November 4

Melbourne people, a very quick heads up for those of you who may be around on the Melbourne Cup long weekend. On Sunday, November 4, myself and the wonderful Emma Westwood will be hosting a launch of two new film books, my monograph on Norman Jewison’s 1975 dystopian science fiction classic, Rollerball, and her book on David Cronenberg’s 1986 body horror, The Fly.

The launch will take kick off from 4.30pm at Grub Street Bookshop, 1/379 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy. Melbourne film scholar Dean Brandum will be on hand to do a Q&A with Emma and I about our books, there will be cheap drinks, and special ROLLERBALL and THE FLY themed cupcakes.

There will also be the chance to buy copies of the monographs at cheaper prices than offered elsewhere.

So please come along, help us celebrate, and pick up some great reading about cinema. There is a Facebook page here for the event, if you would like to RSVP, which would be great as it would give us an idea of numbers.

Hope to see you there.