Category Archives: Stuart Rosenberg

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

Post traumatic noir – a note on the passing of Robert Stone

cover600spanThe death of US writer Robert Stone on the weekend has drawn me out of the break I planned on posting on this site over January.

Stone was the author of two tremendous works of neo-noir fiction, both of which I read when I was first getting into the genre.

The first, Stone’s debut novel, A Hall of Mirrors, was published in 1967 and partly set in New Orleans, where Stone lived briefly. It dealt with a dissolute, opportunistic right wing radio broadcaster and the desperate, doomed characters he associates with. It was turned into an excellent film called WUSA by Stuart Rosenberg in 1970 and starring Paul Newman, then in the throws of his battling his own alcoholism (I reviewed it on this site a couple of years ago here.

The second, the better known and probably more influential of Stone’s books, Dog Soldiers, was published in 1974. The 1978 film  adaption, Who’ll Stop The Rain (reviewed on this site here), is also very good.

Dog Soldiers concerns a liberal war correspondent in Vietnam, Converse, who disillusioned with what he has seen, decides to traffic heroin back to the US. He enlists Hicks, his friend in the merchant marines, to take the drugs back to Converse’s wife, Marge, in Los Angeles.… Read more

Hunger and other films about doing time

I haven’t spent a lot of time in prisons and don’t want to. But I won’t deny they make tremendous story settings.

This was brought home to me again over the weekend after watching Hunger, Steve McQueen’s 2008 depiction of the final months in the life of IRA militant Bobby Sands. Sands and 9 other IRA inmates staved themselves to death in 1981 in protest against the Thatcher government’s insistence of treating them as common criminals rather than political prisoners.

I recently reviewed Adrian McKinty’s book The Cold Cold Ground, which dealt with a Catholic cop in a Protestant neighbourhood trying to solve a murder against the backdrop of the civil unrest unleashed by the hunger strikes.

Hunger is about what happened inside the walls of the Maze Prison. It’s a visceral, blistering film, all the more so because it’s made with incredible slight of hand.

It opens with the arresting image of a pair of bloody knuckles being soaked in water. These belong to one of the prison guards and were acquired administering incredibly savage beatings to IRA prisoners in response to their “blanket and dirty protests” in which the prisoners refused to wash and smeared shit over the walls of their prison cells. The guard is subsequently murdered in the aged care home where his mother lives, one of 16 guards killed by paramilitaries in retaliation for the treatment of the prisoners.… Read more

Headhunters and Laughing Policemen

Such is the speed with which Hollywood is keen to co-opt Scandinavian crime fiction, that even before the movie version of Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters hit Australian cinemas, a US remake was in the works.

I’m curious what exactly the remake could do differently, given that Headhunters already feels so much like a mainstream American thriller.

By that I mean it is slick, fast paced and requires viewers to suspend their disbelief to an increasing degree as the plot unfolds.

I make no bones about my lack of knowledge of Scandinavian crime fiction and film, but it seems to me the only really Nordic qualities Headhunters has are some pretty creepy characters, the huge level of graphic violence and a lot of Ikea-like interior design.

Not that the film doesnlt have its merits.

Could you submerge yourself in a pit human shit or take another human life to escape someone trying to find and kill you? Those are just two of the situations faced by the main character in Headhunters, Roger Brown (Askel Hennie).

Brown is Norway’s most successful corporate headhunter. He’s got a thing about being short (five and a half feet) and a problem maintaining the lavish lifestyle expected by his taller, impossibly blonde trophy wife, Diana.

To make ends meet Brown moonlights as an art thief.… Read more


Has anyone ever done dissolute as well as Paul Newman?

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hud, The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, and the little known WUSA.

WUSA numbers among that great batch of films made in the early seventies, when the Hollywood studio system was in crisis and desperate to give anything a try. The counter-culture had worked its way into the mainstream (but was dying on the streets), the country was struggling to come to terms with its increasing violent engagement in Vietnam.

Released in 1970 and set in New Orleans, WUSA is a character study of three people, all in the wrong place at the wrong time, even if they don’t know it yet.

Joanne Woodward is Geraldine, a dishwater blond with a razor cut across one check courtesy of the abusive husband she left behind in Texas.

Anthony Perkins is Rainey, an idealistic Christian who thinks he’s been employed to do a survey to help the city’s black population, but has actually been set up by the city’s right-wing politicians to help them throw people off welfare.

Newman is Rheinhardt, a cynical alcoholic drifter. His first point of call after arriving in New Orleans is a church service on skid row being run by a fafe priest, Farley, who owes Rheinhardt a hundred dollars from a previous scam in New York. … Read more