Category Archives: Gregory Peck

Up periscope: a celebration of submarine cinema

I love a good submarine film. The claustrophobia of the confined setting, the tensions arising from a group of people having to co-exist and operate in a completely unnatural, extremely dangerous environment, is all pretty much guaranteed to hook me in every time.

I was reminded of this while I was watched the 2014 thriller Black Sea on the weekend. A hard as nails, embittered Scottish deep sea salvage expert, Robinson, (Jude Law), takes a job with a shadowy backer, to salvage hundreds of millions of dollars of gold rumoured to be in a sunken Nazi U-boat sitting on the bottom of the Black Sea. He has at his disposal a surplus communist era Russian submarine and recruits a fractious crew of washed up seafarers, half of whom are Russian because they are the only ones who know how to properly operate the vessel.

I don’t know why this film passed me by when it first came out but it ticked virtually every box on the my list of requirements for a good submarine film. The crew have to contend with a never ending series of life threatening technical and nautical challenges. Within the narrow confines of the aged submarine, the tensions between crew members ratchet up along ethnic grounds and how they will split up the gold.… Read more

MacKenna’s Gold: gold, ghosts and frontier violence

1969 was arguably the year Hollywood fully embraced the revisionist western. In addition to Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, there was True GritTell Them Willy Boy is HereDeath of a Gunfighter, and Midnight Cowboy. As well as playing with notions of ‘the cowboy’ and ‘the West’, they contained more stylised violence, more sex and stories that overtly fed off the cynicism and disillusionment of America’s war in Vietnam and domestic racial strife.

Released in May that year, Mackenna’s Gold straddles the divide between the classic big studio western and its revisionist successors. Headed up by Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif, the film boasts a cast to kill for. It is also a story filled with supernatural elements, in which humans are haunted not only by spirits guarding a lost canyon full of gold but by their own greed and paranoia.

In my debut for a website I have admired for some time, Diabolique Magazine, I wrote about gold, ghosts and frontier violence in MacKenna’s Gold. You can read the entire article on their site via this link. Enjoy.

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When Satan ruled our screens: The Omen turns 40 years old

The OmenWhen audiences emerged from the first screenings of The Omen, which debuted in the United Kingdom on 6 June 1976, they found customised posters affixed to the front of cinemas declaring: “Today is the sixth day of the sixth month of Nineteen-Seventy Six.”

The marketing gimmick played into the well-known satanic ‘number of the beast’ in the Book of Revelation, which features prominently in The Omen. Nearing the film’s dramatic climax, Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) finds a birthmark of three sixes on his adopted son Damien’s scalp, the mark, he has been warned, of the Antichrist.

Forty years after its release, critical analysis of The Omen has nearly always taken a backseat to the film’s reputation as a ‘cursed movie’, a status resulting from the string of mishaps, injuries and deaths loosely associated with its filming and post-production. This has obscured its legacy as one of the more genuinely frighting of the satanic-themed films that flooded cinemas in the 70s.

You can read my latest piece for the British Film Institute on The Omen, it’s influences and the wave of 70s cinema with Satanic, witchcraft and occult themes, in full here.

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Pulp Friday: the pulp of John D MacDonald

The Empty Trap popular Library 1957“He Sold His Soul For Another Man’s Wife.”

This weeks Pulp Friday is a selection of covers from the prolific US thriller writer, John D MacDonald.

MacDonald got his start writing for pulp magazines in the late forties, then rode the paperback boom that occurred in the fifties and early sixties. He was the author of over sixties books, as well as numerous short stories and articles.

He is probably best know for creating the fictional private investigator Travis McGee, who featured in 21 of McDonald’s books.

A number of his books have been adapted for film and television. His novel The Executioners was filmed as Cape Fear, starring Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum and Polly Bergen, in 1962, and again by Martin Scorsese in 1991. One of the McGee books, Darker Than Amber, was made into a film of the same name, starring Rod Taylor, in 1970.

The following selection of covers spans the late fifties to the early seventies and include many of the Fawcett Gold Medal editions of McDonald’s work, as well as the UK Pan paperback additions.

Enjoy.

April-Evil3 You Live Once Fawcett Gold medal 1957

Cape Fear Coronet Books 1960

Death Trap Pan 1958

The Only Girl in the Game Fawcett Gold Medal 1960

The Only Girl in the Game Pan Books 1960

One Monday We Killed then all Fawcett Gold medal 1961

On The Run Gold Medal Books 1963

The Drowner Fawcett Gold medal 1963

The Quick Red Fox Pan Books 1964

Dress Her in Indigo GM version Fawcett gold medal 1969

Darker than amber. Pan Books 1966jpeg

The Damned Fawcett Gold medal

The Neon Jungle FG medal 1988

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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