Category Archives: Crime film

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.

The Big Nowhere #4: Naked Alibi

Naked Alibi poster 2The Big Nowhere is a series of columns I’ve been doing for the 4:3 site, in which I look at the best film noir you’ve never heard of. Number 4 in the series is Jerry Hopper’s 1954 B-noir, Naked Alibi. A tale of desperate men, a femme fatale, jealously, obsession, set in a seedy small town, just your average film noir cocktail. What makes this otherwise average film worth seeing is the presence of Sterling Hayden as the disgraced cop and Gloria Grahame as the singer, two of the most interesting actors who worked in film noir in the late ’40s and ’50s.

You can read the piece in full here on the 4:3 site.

Interview: Eddie Muller, Film Noir Foundation

Gun Crazy hi-resA warning: the following interview with Eddie Muller does not contain any discussion of the question, ‘what is film noir?’ It’s one of the few film noir related topics I didn’t talk about with him. Muller, sometimes known as ‘the Czar of Noir’, is a busy guy, founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation, fiction and non-fiction author, publisher, film restorer and now DVD distributor. His Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir (1998) and Dark City Dames: The Wicked Women of Film Noir (2001) are required reading for all would-be scholars film noir, and he has a new book out, Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema. Directed by Joseph H Lewis, Gun Crazy is the sordid story of a husband and wife team of criminal sociopaths, played by Peggy Cummins and John Dall. The film sank without a trace upon its release in 1950, but is now regarded as a classic and a much earlier precursor to the 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde.

You have a new book out, Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema. As the title suggests, it’s about the making and influence of Joseph H Lewis’s 1950 film, Gun Crazy. As you stress in the book, the film hardly caused a ripple when it was first released.Read more