Category Archives: Crime film

The heist always goes wrong, part 3: 10 of the best heist films you’ve never seen

payroll-1961As readers of this site know, I love a good heist film, the ingenuity of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for the job of a life time or a group of desperate men and women trying for one last big score.

Everyone can name their favourite heist films and, for the most part, it is usually the big name titles such as The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) and the French classic, Rififi (1955). Indeed, I listed these and many other well know heist movies in previous posts on this site, ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made’ and ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 2: reader picks and other favourite heist movies’.

But what about the lessor known heist films that are great but which nobody knows about?

To celebrate the release of my second crime novel, Gunshine State, I have compiled the following list of the 10 best heist films you’ve never seen.

operation-amsterdam-poster

Operation Amsterdam (1959)

Operation Amsterdam functions as both a war and a heist film. Peter Finch plays Jan Smit, a British intelligence officer ordered to infiltrate the city of Amsterdam, which is on the verge of being overrun by invading German forces, and prevent the city’s diamond reserves from falling into Nazi hands.… Read more

Mike Hodges’ Pulp & mass paperback fiction on the big screen

Caine in PulpThe opening credits of Mike Hodges’ under appreciated 1972 film, Pulp, are a delight for any fan of cheap pulp paperback fiction. As text roles across the screen (in type writer font, of course), the camera pans between the faces of the three female stenographers transcribing the words of sleazy English expat pulp writer, Mickey King (Michael Caine). As Caine’s nasal voice-over recites his latest novel, The Organ Grinder, we see the different reactions of the women, disgust, shock, and excitement. It’s a reminder that once, before it was reduced to an object of outre fascination for its cover art, pulp fiction elicited strong emotions.

The movie shifts to King, in his cheap white suit and big hair, Jack Carter – the character he played in Hodges’ Get Carter only a year earlier – gone to seed, stepping out of the Italian hotel he lives in to hail a cab. As he sits in the reception area waiting for his completed manuscript, King’s voice-over goes: “The writer’s life would be ideal but for the writing. This was a problem I had to overcome. Then I read the Guinness Book of Records about Earl Stanley Gardner, the world’s fastest novelist who would dictate up to the rate of ten thousand words every day.… Read more

James Coburn’s Hard Contract

Hard Contract Cobrun and RemickAmerican actor James Cobrun had a long and varied career that stretched from 1957 to his last role in 2002. He got his start playing tough guys in westerns on TV and then on the large screen, including his break out role in The Magnificent Seven (1960). He starred in the 1963 classic, The Great Escape, then rode the mid-sixties spy film craze with Our Man Flint (1966) and In Like Flint (1967). He spent the seventies appearing in action, crime and Westerns. Most of which were pretty average, notable exceptions being Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) and Walter Hill’s wonderful 1973 boxing film, Hard Times. The eighties and nineties were similarly varied in terms of his output, the highlight being Affliction, the 1999 film that won him a best supporting actor Oscar.

I have always liked Coburn for reasons I’ve found it hard to identify. I wouldn’t say he was a great actor. In nearly all the films I’ve seen him in the word that comes to mind to describe his performances is solid. He did have charisma of sorts and was good looking in an unconventional way, especially when he flashed that giant grin of his. I think I probably like him because of his work in the sixties and seventies, one of my favourite periods of US film making.… Read more

The comfort of crimes past? Why we love period crime procedurals

sherlock-holmes

You only have to take a quick look at the television guide or go to the crime section of your nearest bookstore to know that period crime procedurals – crime stories set in the past – are popular.

Showing or having recently aired on free-to-air television have been Foyle’s War, a police procedural show set during or immediately after the Second World War; Dr Blake Mysteries, set in Ballarat in the 1950s; Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, based on the successful books by Melbourne writer Kerry Greenwood set in late-1920s Melbourne; andAquarius, dealing with the murders committed by Charles Manson in 1960s California. These programs feed into a much wider canon of popular period shows – everything from Downton Abbey, to Mad Men and Wolf Hall, the adaption of Hilary Mantel’s 2009 bestselling Booker Prize-winning novel.

Our desire for period crime procedurals is just as big on the printed page. In Australia alone, there are Sulari Gentill’s books featuring the 1930s sleuth, Roland Sinclair, Robert Gott’s police procedurals set in the newly formed homicide squad in 1940s Melbourne, and Geoffrey McGeachin’s award winning Melbourne police detective Charlie Berlin, to name a few.

What is driving this? Is this a symptom of our refusal to come to grips with modern reality?… Read more

The Big Nowhere #5: Shield For Murder

Shield for Murder (1954)

The latest in my series on the 4:3 site on the best film noir you’ve never of is live, Howard W Koch’s wonderful 1954 bad cop noir, Shield For Murder, starring actor Edmond O’Brien. Not a great film production wise, but as bad cop films go, it’s as dark and twisted as they come. You can read the piece in full on the 4:3 site here.