Tag Archives: The Killers (1964)

The Don Siegel Rule


I had to give it a name, so I called it the Don Siegel Rule.

I was watching Charley Varrick recently, the 1973 heist film directed by Siegel, starring Walter Matthau as an ex-crop duster and stunt pilot turned bank who, along with his long suffering girlfriend, Nadine, and unreliable partner, robs a small bank in New Mexico. Unbeknownst to Varrick, the bank in question is actually a front for the mob. In response, the mob sends a hit man (played by Joe Don Baker) after him.

It’s a terrific little heist film. Tough in all the right places, just enough action and suspense to keep you interested, without the kind of over the top action gimmicks similar films exhibit these days. Matthau is terrific as the hangdog loner, Varrick.

Anyway, it got me thinking. There may be bad Siegel films out there, but I haven’t seen them.

Siegel was the king of the intelligent B movie (a title he shares with directors such as Walter Hill). His films have enormous energy and pace, but they also have an economy. Watching Siegel’s films, time and again he’s been able to get above obvious budget and script limitations to tell a gripping story.

The journeyman director cut his teeth making Westerns and noirs in the late forties and early fifties, and then pretty much excelled at whatever genre he tried.… Read more

LEE, an anthology of fiction inspired by Lee Marvin

LEE cover-I am a HUGE Lee Marvin fan.

Survivor of the carnage of World War Two, drinker, larger than life character, enduring icon of masculine cinema, the star of some of  my favourite films, including The Big Heat, The KillersPoint Blank, Prime Cut and The Dirty Dozen. The man who, in the words of his most recent biographer, “cemented the most purposeful and consistent portrayal of man’s violent and primal inner demons in the history of modern American cinema”.

Well over a year ago myself and fellow Marvin fanatic and Crime Factory editor in chief Cameron Ashley, were sitting in a bar drunkenly bullshitting about future projects, when we stumbled across the idea of doing an anthology of stories inspired by the life of one of our favourite movie stars.

The final product of that conversation, LEE, will be unleashed onto the world in a few weeks time. In the meantime, I thought readers might get a blast out of feasting their eyes on the cover above.

While putting together the book was not without its challenges, finding fellow crime writers who shared our passion for Marvin and who where prepared to put pen to paper to celebrate him and his movies, was not one of them. … Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made

asphalt01I love a good heist film.

I love the genius and intricacy of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for a job or the desperate ex-cons trying for one last score.

But most of all I love them because of the golden rule of all good heist films – for whatever reason, the heist always goes wrong.

What do you need for a good heist?

You need a plan for actual heist itself, the getaway, and moving, storing and fencing whatever it is you’ve stolen. The more complicated the plan, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.

You need a crew of people; one man or woman alone cannot do a heist. This introduces the human element and all the problems that come with it, the greed, suspicions, jealousies and uncertainties.

I’ve been thinking for a while now about what my top ten-heist films would be and the following list, in no particular order, is it.

The robbery itself is almost immaterial to how I rate a good heist film. What I like is the context and atmosphere in which the heist takes place and inevitable problems that arise after it’s been pulled off. And the darker and more broken things get, the better the film is in my book.… Read more