Category Archives: 70s American crime films

The World of Shaft

The World of Shaft

You might remember the news last year that New Line pictures had acquired the rights to do yet another film remake featuring the iconic character of John Shaft. If so, you may also remember the ensuring controversy that erupted over plans to make said film a comedy, including an open letter protesting the move by  award winning journalist, David F Walker.

I am not sure at what stage the proposal Shaft remake is at, but I totally agree with Walker in his introduction to Steve Aldous’s recently released guide to the character, ‘When author Ernest Tidyman’s book Shaft was first published in 1971, and director Gordon Parks’ cinematic adaption followed a year later, a new era of representation began in American pop culture.’

The World of Shaft attempts to chronicle the cultural phenomena that is the ex-juvenile delinquent, Vietnam Vet, New York private eye known as Shaft. From the character’s origins via the pen of white ex-newspaperman Tidyman to the, in my opinion, rather average 2000 cinematic remake, this is an exhaustive examination of every aspect of the character and his various manifestations.

Shaft emerged from a combination of Tidyman’s desperation to make it as a writer and, as he put it in an interview, his “awareness of both social and literary situations in a changing city.… Read more

Pulp Friday: The Laughing Policeman

The Laughing Policeman Bantam 1974The Laughing Policeman is probably better known as the title of a book than a film, but both are the subject of today’s Pulp Friday offering.

Originally published in 1968, The Laughing Policeman was fourth in a series of ten books featuring the bad tempered police detective, Martin Beck, by Swedish crime writing duo, Maj Sjowell and Per Wahloo. The book was adapted into a film, directed by Stuart Rosenburg, and released in 1973.

The covers in today’s post include both the original novel and the paperback-tie in for the film. The one above is the 1974 Bantam edition. In order those below are: the back cover to the 1974 Bantam edition, the cover of the 1977 Vintage edition, and the 1974 UK paperback tie-in for the movie, published by Sphere. The film appeared under that title in the UK.

The series is very famous and I don’t think I have to go into detail about it here. The plot of the original The Laughing Policeman novel concerns a gunman who shoots passengers on a public bus, killing eight people and wounding one. Beck and his team believe the murders are a disguise for the murder of a police detective who was engaged in an out of hour’s investigation into the murder of a 16-year-old Portuguese sex worker.… Read more

The marathon man: 6 great roles of Roy Scheider

Scheider 1I’ve been a long time fan of American actor Roy Scheider. But it was only after a recent viewing of his performance in the Alan J Pakula’s 1971 film, Klute, I realised despite having seen and liked him in a number of films I knew very little about his overall career.

I recently reviewed Klute on this site here, so I won’t go into further detail about the film except to say that Scheider is great as Bree Daniel’s former pimp, Frank Ligourin. His is not a large role, just one or two short scenes, but his presence elevates the entire movie and gives it an additional layer of malevolence. That’s Scheider in every movie I’ve seen him in. He elevates and heightens what’s already present.

Scheider could act and had a great presence, his ropey, perpetually suntanned body and his slightly askew, angular face with the broken nose, a legacy of his time boxing in New Jersey’s Diamond Golden Gloves Competition.The first time I can remember seeing him was when my parents took me to see Steve Speilberg’s Jaws upon its release in 1975. That was probably his best-known role but it was just one among many. He got his start in television and gradually moved into the big screen.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Klute the novel & William Johnson, master of the paperback tie-in

Klute paperback frontI had a lot of interest in my post earlier this week on Alan J Pakula’s wonderfully atmospheric 1971 movie, Klute. Given this, I thought Pulp Curry readers may be interested in having a look at this artefact from my pulp collection, the paperback tie-in for the film. It was published by Paperback Library in July 1971, a month after the film was released. I like the tag line on the cover, which reduces what is a remarkably sophisticated film to a classic, 1950s sounding pulp novel: ‘A small-town cop and New York call girl run a collision course with murder’.

I thought this would be a relatively straight forward post, but as is often the case there is a story behind the author of this book. Paperback tie-ins were a massively popular form of entertainment before the advent of VHS, as a way for fans to re-live their favourite films and television shows. The author of Klute, William Johnston, appears to have been somewhat of a master of the paper-back tie in.

According to an article on this site, much of which was taken by a longer piece by author, Lee Goldberg, Johnston penned a large number of them. The best known of these were numerous books for the Get Smart series.… Read more

Klute

Klute posterSome great films were made in the late sixties and seventies about the sleazy, exploitative underbelly of America’s sex industry. John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy (1969), Scorsese’s Tax Driver (1976) and Paul Schrader’s Hardcore (1979), all spring to mind. But, surely one of the most gripping and atmospheric offerings in this tawdry canon is Alan J Pakula’s 1971 movie, Klute.

Klute is often referred to as the first of Pakula’s so-called ‘paranoia trilogy’, along with the trippy political thriller, Parallax View (1974), and his film about the Washington Post’s disclosure of the Watergate scandal, All The President’s Men (1976). Klute certainly has a number of themes in common with these two films, including the prominent use of (what was for its time) high tech surveillance equipment to create a sense of fear and unease, and how this alters human interactions. But the film is also a fascinating slice of New York in the early seventies.

A senior executive for a Pennsylvanian company, Tom Gruneman, has gone missing. When several months of police investigation turn up nothing, the head of the company, Peter Cable (Charles Cioffi) hires a local policeman and a friend of the family, John Klute (Donald Sutherland) to try and get to the bottom of the mystery. Klute follows up on one of the few leads in the case, a series of letters Gruneman sent to a New York prostitute called Bree Daniel (Jane Fonda).… Read more