Category Archives: Horror

M and my top 10 reads for 2019

It is no exaggeration to say I have been eagerly anticipating Samm Deighan’s monograph of Fritz Lang’s 1931 film. I love the film and I am a big fan of Deighan’s movie writing, so the combination is bound not to disappoint. And it didn’t.

As Deighan puts it in her introduction, M ‘exists in a liminal space between urban social drama, crime thriller, and horror film’. It was arguably the first serial killer film, long before the FBI coined the term in the early 1970s. Anchored by a superb performance by Peter Lorre as the paedophiliac child killer, Hans Beckert, it was certainly the first motion picture in which a serial killer was the central protagonist. Another crucial innovation was the way in which Lang depicted the character of Beckert in a not entirely unsympathetic light. This same sensibility would have a influence on some subsequent serial killer cinema, most notably in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 horror/thriller, Psycho.

Deighan discusses M’s broader social and political themes, including the film as a critique of modernity and a text for Germany on the brink of totalitarian control, appearing as it did a year before the Nazi’s assumed power and Lang had to flee the country.

Another fascinating aspect of the book is the discussion of how the themes in M would echo in Lang’s subsequent work, particular the threat of the lawless mob violence and what is perhaps the director’s most defining idea, how even the most noble individual is capable of brutal murderous thoughts and actions.… Read more

The Evil Touch talk at the Australian National Film & Sound Archive

I know from previous mentions of the show this site, that there are more than a few fans amongst you of the early 1970s Australian television horror anthology show, The Evil Touch.

For those who live in Canberra or nearby, I’ll be giving a talk on the show at the National Film and Sound Archive from 6pm on Friday, September 6.

The late 1960s/early 1970s was viewed as the peak period for horror anthology television. The Evil Touch is Australia’s only contribution to this particular broadcast niche. Made specifically for the American market – at a time when little Australian TV was made, let alone exported overseas – it bombed when it aired locally in 1973 and the 26 episode show is now largely forgotten and remains unavailable on DVD.

Although cheaply made, the show remains strangely effective, at times, genuinely disturbing viewing. The grainy look and surreal narrative style give it the feel – to use the words of American television critic John Kenneth Muir – of ‘a low grade transmission straight from hell’.

My talk will look at the show’s origins, making and reception. As part of the event, the NFSA will also screening two episodes: the debut episode that aired in 1973, ‘The Obituary’, starring Leslie Nielsen, and what I think is the most innovative episode, ‘Kadaitcha Country’, starring Leif Erickson as an alcoholic Christian missionary assigned to a remote outback mission, where he immediately comes into contact with an Aboriginal ‘witch doctor’ called the Kadaitcha Man.… Read more

Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria

There is a sense of tension and anticipation around any film remake, especially when the original is well known and received. So is the case with Luca Guadagnino’s version of his countryman, Dario Argento’s cult horror, Suspiria (1977). There has been intense online debate about the movie from the moment the first poster for the remake hit social media earlier this year. Speculation has increased with every subsequent image, casting decision, and trailer.

My review of Guadagnino’s remake of Suspiria can be read in full here at the Australian Review of Books Arts Update.

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.