Tag Archives: Edward G Robinson

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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The heist always goes wrong, part 3: 10 of the best heist films you’ve never seen

payroll-1961As readers of this site know, I love a good heist film, the ingenuity of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for the job of a life time or a group of desperate men and women trying for one last big score.

Everyone can name their favourite heist films and, for the most part, it is usually the big name titles such as The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) and the French classic, Rififi (1955). Indeed, I listed these and many other well know heist movies in previous posts on this site, ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made’ and ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 2: reader picks and other favourite heist movies’.

But what about the lessor known heist films that are great but which nobody knows about?

To celebrate the release of my second crime novel, Gunshine State, I have compiled the following list of the 10 best heist films you’ve never seen.

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Operation Amsterdam (1959)

Operation Amsterdam functions as both a war and a heist film. Peter Finch plays Jan Smit, a British intelligence officer ordered to infiltrate the city of Amsterdam, which is on the verge of being overrun by invading German forces, and prevent the city’s diamond reserves from falling into Nazi hands.… Read more

Trumbo, Red scares & the art of writing in the bath

Trumbo bath tubI’ve been eagerly awaiting the Australian release of Jay Roach’s Trumbo, the biopic of the late Hollywood screenwriter, Dalton Trumbo. It touches on two interests of mine: post-war US film history, particularly the events around the Hollywood blacklist, and the process of writing.

Based on Dalton Trumbo, a biography by Bruce Cook, the film is roughly split into two parts. The first deals with the events leading up to and around the House of Un-American Activities Committee hearings into communist influence in Hollywood. Trumbo, played well enough by Bryan Cranston, is a novelist turned screenwriter and one of many high profile members of the Hollywood movie community swept up in the hysteria around the hearings. A former Communist Party member and fellow traveler, he is also unashamedly rich as a result of his writing, the ‘swimming pool socialist’ as he is referred to at one point in the film. Trumbo’s politics are interesting in the light of claims I have read that the film, which took eight years to make, was a hard sell because its main subject was too left wing. Called to testify before Committee he resisted considerable pressure to name other fellow travelers and, as result, was black listed from working in Hollywood and given an eleven-month jail sentence for contempt of Congress.… Read more