Book review: The Real Diana Dors

One of the reasons I was interested in reading Anna Cale’s recently released biography of the late British actress Diana Dors, The Real Diana Dors, is that I was curious to test out what I thought I knew about Dors and the reality of her life. What I was pretty certain about, and Cale confirms, is that Dors was stereotyped from the beginning of her career as either the sultry femme fatale bad girl or, as she herself once wrote, ‘the flighty, sexy little thing who pops in and out of the story whenever a little light relief seems to be called for.’

What I didn’t know, that Cale’s book taught me, was what a determined, serious, and hard headed performer Dors was. She accumulated a hundred screen credits in a career that began with her first bit part in the 1947 crime drama, The Code of Scotland Yard, to her last film role, Steaming, which appeared in 1985, a year after she died at the age of just 54. She resisted attempts to stereotype when she could, and no doubt like a lot of post war actresses undoubtedly had the talent and drive to be even bigger if not for various factors, of which beginning her career in the morally conservative, sexually hypocritical Britain of the late 1940s and early 1950s, was a major one.… Read more

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Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction 1950-1985 Kickstarter


I have written on this site before about the upcoming book I have coedited, Dangerous Visions and New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction 1950-1985, due for release in the US in October. For the next month of so leading up to this, the publisher, PM Press are running a pre-sale campaign for Dangerous Visions and New Worlds via Kickstarter. Other than allowing people to be the first to get their hands on the book this features various offers, including some great book packs and bonuses, even sci-fi pulp themed underpants! Due to US Postal Services rates being so high the Australians among you may want to wait until our Melbourne launch (date and venue TBC) or place an order via your local bookshop. More details when I have them.

You can check out the Kickstarter campaign and the various offers as part of it at the link here.

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Phoenix: down Melbourne’s 1990s means streets

The recent inclusion of the 1995 Australian true crime mini-series Blue Murder as an offering on Netflix Australia provided an opportunity for many critics, present company included, to once again laud it as our best piece of true crime television made so far. While not walking back on this claim, there is another show that I would argue gives Blue Murder a run for its money in terms of being a gritty, true life depiction of policing, which I watched recently – the thirteen-part 1992 Australian Broadcasting Commission series, Phoenix.

A lot of 1990s Australian popular culture exists in a rather liminal space for me due to the fact that I spent a large chunk of the decade working in Southeast Asia. I don’t think I saw any episodes of Phoenix when it first came out, but I am pretty sure I caught parts of the first series (there were two) on VHS tapes that my partner’s mother sent us in the post when we were living in Hanoi, Vietnam. I am not even sure if Phoenix has as a current DVD release, as the discs I found were second hand and seem to have been released at least a decade ago.

Phoenix focuses on the Major Crimes squad, an elite group of Victorian cops.… Read more

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Pre-orders open for Dangerous Visions & New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1985

A heads up that my latest book, co-edited with my friend Iain McIntyre, Dangerous Visions & New Worlds: Radical Science Fiction, 1950-1980, is now available for order through PM Press site here. You can also order it through the various Amazon sites and through numerous other channels. Interestingly, the book is classified by Amazon US as pornography, as well as science fiction studies. I assume this is down to the fact it contains essays on sex in science fiction and gay science fiction, amongst other things. I’ve always harboured ambitions to be a smut peddler and this is the closest I may get.

Dangerous Visions and New Worlds details how science fiction interacted with and was inspired by the cultural and political changes associated with the era from the late 1950s through the early 1970s, a period that has sometimes been referred to as ‘the long sixties’. The book starts with progressive authors who rose to prominence in the conservative 1950s, challenging the so-called Golden Age of science fiction and its linear narratives of technological breakthroughs and space-conquering male heroes. It then moves to the 1960s, when writers shattered existing writing conventions and incorporated contemporary themes such as modern mass media culture, corporate control, growing state surveillance, the Vietnam War, and rising currents of counterculture, ecological awareness, feminism, sexual liberation, and Black Power.… Read more

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Reading John Frankenheimer’s Seconds

Early in this excellent monograph on John Frankenheimer’s criminally underseen 1966 film, Seconds, by Jez Conolly and Emma Westwood, the authors ask the reader at what point they first viewed the movie and what they made of it. For me it was a random VHS store pickup on a slow Saturday night sometime in the late 1990s. I can remember being as confused as I was impressed by the sheer bizarreness of Seconds. I was particularly perplexed by the presence of Rock Hudson. What was this major American actor, best known for the series of romantic comedies he did with Doris Day, doing in a downbeat, existentially bleak fusion of science fiction, thriller and noir?Watching the film more recently, with the benefit of considerably more knowledge of film history and Hudson’s career, I was blown away by the brilliance of Seconds.  

Conolly and Westwood begin with the proposition that the film very much deserves a second life, a notion that is also central to its plot. Seconds concerns a bored, ennui riven middle class wage slave, who through an almost Faustian pact with a mysterious entity known only as the Company, is given a new body and face, and second chance at life. Escaping from everyday domestic responsibilities, particularly the possibilities for self-discovery and erotic adventure that this promised, would become a key topic of American film and literature from the mid-part of the 1960s onwards.… Read more

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