Tag Archives: The Godfather (1972)

Parker on the screen #3: The Outfit (1973)

The third instalment of my series on Parker on the screen is the 1973 film, The Outfit, written and directed by John Flynn, based on the 1963 Donald Westlake novel of the same name (one of three Parker novels Westlake wrote under the Richard Stark pseudonym that year, the others being The Man with the Getaway Face and The Mourner).

The book opens with a botched hit on Parker while he is enjoying one of his post-job trysts. It forces the professional thief to come to the conclusion that he needs to settle his ongoing feud with the shadowy crime organisation known as the Outfit once and for all. He puts word out through his various criminal networks that the unofficial underworld truce with the Outfit is over and it is now fair game. What follows is a series of independently run operations as various freelance criminal groups start hitting the organisation’s money-making activities while Parker goes after its leader, a man named Bronson. It has been a while since I read The Outfit, but I remember thinking it was definitely one of the better Parker novels.

The film starts with a hit on a man working on a remote farm. Next we see Earl Macklin (Robert Duvall) getting out of jail where he has been doing a stint for carrying a concealed firearm (a scene very reminiscent of Steve McQueen’s release from jail in Sam Peckinpah’s The Getaway a year earlier).… Read more

Celluloid Apocalypse’s mini-festival of seventies Italian crime cinema

The Italian Connection poster 2The Melbourne based purveyor of boutique VHS, Celluloid Apocalypse, is about to unleash upon the world its special VHS edition of Mike Malloy’s excellent documentary, Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Movies that Ruled the 70s. The documentary is a fascinating examination of the wave of Italian ‘poliziotteschi’ films that reached the height of its popularity in the mid-1970s, in response to the success of films like The French Connection (1971), The Godfather (1972) and the Dirty Harry films.

The films are fast past paced, ultra violent, ultra hard boiled and, at first glance, appear to yet another in the cycle of Italian rip-offs of successful American crime films, in much the same was as Spaghetti Westerns riffed off the popularity of the US Western. But while these films were cheaply made and quickly produced, for the most part they are far more interesting and sophisticated than simple knock offs.

While they utilised, and sometimes just plain copied, the standard tropes of seventies Hollywood crime film, they also interrogated uniquely Italian issues, including political dominance of organised crime, the wave of politically inspired terrorism characterised the country’s so-called ‘years of lead’, and the changing nature of society and gender relations in Italy. Another fascinating aspect is the fact that in addition to their Italian stars, many of these films boast performances by well known American and British actors who took the roles after their domestic film careers had began to decline.… Read more

Warren Oates, Gloria Grahame & other subjects for fiction anthologies

OatesThe recent release of Crime Factory’s LEE, an anthology of crime fiction inspired by the life of iconic actor Lee Marvin, has got me thinking about who else would be a good subject for similar treatment.

There’s already been a bit of chatter on Twitter about other actors people would like to see as the subject of their own fictional anthology, and several authors have contacted me with ideas.

There are only two criteria involved I can think of in choosing a subject.

First, the subject concerned has got to be deceased, preferably passed a while ago. It’s just too complex, legally and other ways to do an anthology based on someone living.

Second, there’s got to be something about them. Not just an interesting body of cinematic work and an interesting life, but an ongoing cultural resonance or zeitgeist that sets them apart from other actors and allows crime writers discuss broader issues.

Here are my picks for actors I think would be good subjects. And I should stress, these are just my musings and in no way reflect what Crime Factory will do in the future.

That said, you never know….

Warren Oates

There’s already been a bit of social media chatter about the possibility of a Warren Oates inspired anthology.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Mafia pulp fiction

The Mafia, Cosa Nostra, the Mob, the Family, the Outfit, the Syndicate, call them whatever you like, it’s hard to overstate the influence organised crime had over pulp fiction.

My post on the Andrew Dominik movie Killing Them Softly earlier this week, got me thinking about how the Mafia have been portrayed in popular fiction and film.

One of the aspects of Killing Me Softly I found so interesting was its depiction of organised crime in the traditional sense as being just a shadow of its former glory. For the most part, the gangsters were a bunch of clapped out old men and cautious time servers, clinging desperately to the last trappings of their power base.

It wasn’t always so. Stretching right back to the late forties, organised crime was one of the central pre-occupations of pulp writers. The phenomenal success of Mario Puzo’s book, The Godfather, published in 1969 and the subsequent movie version by Francis Ford Coppola in 1972, saw pulp’s fascination with the Mafia stretch well into the seventies.

In addition to novels examining every aspect of the Mafia’s rituals and existence, so all pervasive and powerful was the Mafia’s reach, pulp writers invented a series of characters that existed just to fight it.

Robert Briganti or ‘the Assassin’ as he is known, “lives only to destroy the Mafia.”… Read more

Sterling Hayden’s crime wave

One thing I love about the canon of movies known as film noir is how I’m always finding something new. Sure, there are the classics and masterpieces everyone talks about. But every now and again you unearth a gem you didn’t know would be so good.

Like, for example, the 1954 Andre de Toth noir, Crime Wave, which I watched last night.

A trio of escaped cons knock over a gas station, killing a cop in the process. A full scale police manhunt ensures complete with what then must have seemed like the full array of hi-tech police gadgetry.

One of the cons is wounded during the hold up and left to fend for him self. The other two need a place to hide. They visit the home of another ex-con Steve Lacey and his pretty young wife, Ellen.

Steve wants to go straight, but the escaped cons have other ideas. The gas station is the latest of a string of chump change robberies they’ve pulled up and down the Californian coast. They need a major score to get enough money to get out of town for good.

They plan to rob a bank and want Steve as their wheelman. The ex-cons team up with other criminals, one of who takes Ellen hostage, to ensure Steve’s cooperation.… Read more