Category Archives: Crime fiction and film from Japan

My 10 anticipated films of the Melbourne International Film Festival

The Duke of BurgundyThe Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) is almost upon us and, this year, I am seeing more than my usual quota of films. I won’t go into detail regarding everything I’ve booked, but here are the ten films I am most excited about.

The Duke of Burgundy

Confession: I missed this in my first pass of the MIFF program and, thankfully, was alerted by a friend to the fact it was playing. Despite some problems with the last quarter of the film I adored Berberian Sound Studio (2013), Peter Strickland’s tasteful, authentic non-Tarantinoesque homage to Italian giallo films of the seventies. So The Duke of Burgundy, a tribute to the Euro sleaze films of Jess Franco and Walerian Borowczyk has me very excited.

Sunrise

My search for a decent Indian neo noir continues with Partho Sen-Gupta’s 2014 feature, Sunrise. In 2012 I sat through all six hours of Gangs of Wasseypur, the sprawling saga of two rival crime families in the Indian state of Bihar. It held together well for the first half before degenerating into a Spaghetti Western-like shoot ‘em up. In 2013, it was Monsoon, a Mumbai based crime drama about a rookie cop and his corrupt older partner. It showed promise but I felt it was too focused on achieving the right aesthete at the expense of story.… Read more

Mid-summer reading report back: Perfidia, Japanese tattoos, eighties sleaze

Perfidia

Summer in Melbourne is usually the one time of the year I can be guaranteed to get a fair amount of personal reading done. As has become my annual practice, a short report back on the books I have got through is in order.

Perfidia, James Ellroy

I need to preface my comments on Perfidia by stressing I am a massive Ellroy fan. I have read all of his books – ALL of them – many more than once. I even liked The Cold Six Thousand and Blood’s A Rover, the two books that most divided readers. So, it is with a heavy heart that I say Perfidia is very disappointing. The long awaited prelude to Ellroy’s LA Quintet, Perfidia takes place in Los Angeles over 23 days in December 1941, a period in which American went from being at piece to the attack on Pearl Harbour and the country being at war.

The focal point of the book is the brutal murder on the eve of Pearl Harbour of a Japanese family. The killings have all the hallmarks of traditional Japanese ritual deaths. Drawn into the murder investigation are future LAPD chief William H Parker, the meanest crime fiction cop ever created, Dudley Smith, a brilliant young Japanese police forensic scientist, and Kay Lake, a woman with a major thing for bad men.… Read more

Mid-year reading report: The Thief, St Kilda Blues, Hanging Devils, In the Morning I’ll Be Gone

Hanging-Devils-Jacket1My reading has been dominated of late by the need to get through a lot of pulp books and material I need to be across for several upcoming literary festival appearances (all of which I’ll also be discussing here in the coming weeks). Between all this, however, I have managed to get through a few books purely for pleasures and I thought it was about time I shared my thoughts on these.

First up is He Jiahong’s Hanging Devils: Hong Jun Investigates. I lamented on this site some time ago about the seeming absence of genuine contemporary crime fiction set in China, written by someone living there. Well, Hanging Devils is just that. According to the back cover blurb, the author is one of China’s foremost authorities on criminal justice, a professor of law at People’s University of Beijing and the author of several best selling crime novels including four featuring the character of Hong Ju.

Hanging Devils (also the slang term given to overhanging tree branches that can fall without warning, potential killing anyone unfortunate to be underneath them) is set in the mid-nineties.… Read more

Pulp Friday: spy pulp part 2, Assignment Asia

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of James Bond, last week’s Pulp Friday was a selection of spy themed pulp covers.

This week’s post takes us to one of the main battlegrounds for pulp spies in the sixties and seventies – Asia.

The Cold War was in full swing and those Reds were getting up to all kinds of nefarious activity behind the bamboo curtain, everything from kidnapping, sabotaging America’s space program, developing bubonic plague, drug running, to assassination.

And secret agents like Mark Hood (The Bamboo Bomb) Butler (Chinese Roulette) Death Merchant (Chinese Conspiracy), Joe Gall (The Star Ruby Contract) and Drake (“The man with nobody’s face” in Operation Checkmate), Nick Carter (The Defector) and Sam Durell (the Assignment series, over 48 of which were written), were in the thick of it.

They usually committed a lot of violence, had a lot of sex, and travelled to exotic locations. The books below are set in China, Singapore, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan and Sri Lanka.

And, of course, there were some great covers. My favourite is the Robert Mcginnis illustration for Scott S Stone’s The Dragon’s Eye. But I’m also rather taken with the sleazy eighties feel of the photograph on the cover of Assignment Bangkok.… Read more

Blackmail Is My Life

A couple of nights ago I finally got around to viewing a film that’s been on my must-watch pile of DVDs for ages, Kinji Fukasaku’s Blackmail Is My Life.

Regular Pulp Curry readers will know I have a bit of a thing for Fukasaku’s work, having previously reviewed two of his films on this site, Yakuza Graveyard (1976) and Street Mobster (1972).

Released in 1968, Blackmail is set in Tokyo at the beginning of the country’s economic boom. The story revolves  around four young slackers who will do anything to avoid the trappings of mainstream middle class life. They are a tight knit group comprising former Yakuza, Seki, ex-boxer Zero, Tom Boy sex bomb Otoki, and their leader, Muraki.

Muraki may look like a bit of a fool with his hounds tooth jacket and permanent grin but he’s an expert in his chosen craft – blackmail. He’s also completely unafraid of anything. As he puts it: “The bigger and tougher they are the more reason to taker them down.”

Their targets are mostly “stupid arsed salary types”, low level starlets and businessmen who the gang secretly film committing adultery in seedy love hotels. But Muraki is keen to take things up a notch. His opportunity comes when he leans of the existence of the ‘Otaguro Memorandum’, a document that could bring down a corrupt high-level Japanese politician if it ever saw the light of day.… Read more