Ted Kotcheff’s Wake in Fright turns fifty this year. Based on the 1961 novel of the same name by Australian author Kenneth Cook, it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 12, 1971 and was released in cinemas in Australia on October 9. Despite being five decades old, it is hard to think of comparable piece of cinema that has come out of this country. Wake In Fright is not only a stunning rural noir, it is a blistering take on three of the central features of white Anglo Saxon male culture in 1960s Australia (although much of it is still highly relevant to today): mateship, the romance of the outback, and drinking. Especially drinking.
The central character, John Grant, is a mild-mannered teacher working in a tiny speck of a town called Tiboonda. Its isolation and distance from the coast has obliterated nearly all aspects of civilization, except the ability of the local pub to keep the beer cold. Grant is leaving for his Christmas holidays. He has his holiday pay in his pocket and fantasies of meeting up with his girlfriend in Sydney. All that stands in his way is an overnight train stop in Bundanyabba or ‘the Yabba’ as the locals call it.
Grant passes his night in the Yabba sinking a few beers in one of the town’s many pubs.… Read more
A heads up to Pulp Curry readers, that on Thursday April 22 EST, I’ll be giving a talk to coincide with the exhibition currently being hosted by the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire. The talk is entitled, ‘The Motorcycle: Rebel in Pop Culture’.
Throughout the decades, motorbikes have been portrayed as a symbol of freedom and rebellion in fiction, music and on the screen. I’ll be taking you on a journey through the different representations of the motorcycle in youth and popular culture history, mainly in the United States, Australia and Great Britain. I’ll be examining what has given the motorbike its cool reputation as well as discussing how it has also functioned as a lightning rod for post war concerns around various youth subcultures. The talk will focus on film, but I’ll also look at the representation of the motorbike in music and pulp fiction.
When you get a moment, my latest for the CrimeReads site is on 50 years of Get Carter, how the Michael Caine revenge flick attained cult status and changed the face of British crime cinema. I don’t think Get Carter is the best British gangster film ever made but it is certainly the most influential. You can read my piece in full at this site via this link.
This is an addendum to the post earlier in the week on my 10 favourite British gangster films (which you can read here), itself an homage to the 50th anniversary of seminal 1971 crime movie, Get Carter. Amid the responses to this piece was a recommendation I check out a 1970 film, The Reckoning. I’d vaguely heard of The Reckoning but hadn’t seen it and didn’t include it on that list because I didn’t think it was gangster film. And it’s not. But it is a really interesting piece of early seventies British cinema. A proto Get Carter that appeared a year earlier, it is similarly set in northern England and features as its key narrative a man who returns to the working class town of his youth on a mission of revenge.
Michael Marler (Nicol Williamson – best known for his role as Merlin in John Boorman’s 1981 film, Excalibur) is a hard living up and coming middle manager in a London firm that sells accounting machinery. He has fancy clothes, drives a Jaguar car, a beautiful home, and a beautiful trophy wife (Ann Bell), with whom he has a deceptively complex relationship. He is also an utter bastard. A flagrant womaniser, with no loyalty, who despises his managers at the company while at the same time sucking up to them.… Read more
One of my favourite British gangster films, Mike Hodges’s Get Carter, is 50 years old. It premiered in the UK in the northern British city of Newcastle, where it was filmed, on March 7, and in the US on March 18. I have penned a piece for a prominent crime fiction/related site on the influence of Get Carter on crime cinema, but am not exactly sure when this will come out. For now, I thought the film’s half century anniversary was as good a time as any to hit you with my top 10 British gangster films.
They Made Me a Fugitive (1947)
I wrote about They Made Me a Fugitive in some length on this site here. It was one of a trio of early post-war British gangster films that caused a stir with censors, the others being No Orchids for Miss Blandish and Brighton Rock, both of which appeared in 1948. Fugitive stars Trevor Howard as Clem Morgan, a demobbed Royal Air Force pilot who reluctantly joins a criminal gang headed by a flash gangster with a very nasty streak, Narcy, but baulks when his discovers his new employer is into drug trafficking. What I love about this film, and the aspect that attracted the most critical condemnation when it first appeared, is its depiction of the poverty and desperation of post-war British life.… Read more