Category Archives: Crime film

Pulp on the big screen

This month sees the 50th anniversary of the Mike Hodges film, Pulp.

I feel like Pulp, which I reviewed on this site here back in 2016, does not get a lot of love from people, but I am a fan of its bizarre, at times almost campy noir vibe. Most of all, I like the fact that it is an ode to the era of mass produced literature and to a time when pulp, in all its forms, could still be dangerous.

The lead character is a sleazy expat British expat pulp writer called Mickey King, played by Michael Caine, a nod to the prolific writer Earl Stanley Gardner. King’s dialogue drips with sleazy pulp cadence and the film is full of images of pulp in its many forms.

Ever since watching this film, I have been on the look-out for signs of pulp in the movies. As a 50th anniversary tribute to the Hodges film, below are the screenshots of what I have managed to find so far. I am sure there are many others and I would love readers to alert me to ones I have missed or to help me identify the ones below that I have not been able to identify.

Sella Davis (1937)
I Wake Up Screaming (1941)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
The Killer Who Stalked New York (1950)
The Blue Gardenia (1953)
The Bad and the Beautiful (1953)
The Hundred Eyes of Dr Mabuse (1960)
The Hundred Eyes of Dr Mabuse (1960)
The League of Gentlemen (1960)
The League of Gentlemen (1960)
The Evil Eye (1963)
The Naked Kiss (1964)
Hud (1964)
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)

Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
A Quiet Place in the Country (1968)
French edition of Woolrich’s Waltz into Darkness in Stolen Kisses (1968)
The Lost Continent (1968)
Orgasmo (1969)
Hi Mom (1970)
Brotherhood of Satan (1971)
Get Carter (1971)
Get Carter (1971)
Paper Moon (1973)
Identikit (1974)
Farewell My Lovely (1975)
Rosie Dixon – Night Nurse (1978)
Hammett (1982)
Killers Kiss (1998)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Johnny Gaddaar (2007)
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10 underappreciated American neo-noirs of the early 1970s

The domestic blowback of the Vietnam War. The sleaze and corruption of Watergate. The incipient rollback of the counterculture and many gains of the 1960s. Economic recession. The upheaval and uncertainty in the 1970s may have been tough on America’s collective psyche, but it resulted in some incredibly good crime cinema, particularly prior to Jaws in 1975, which helped to usher in the culture of the cinematic blockbuster.

And while I will happily admit to being a due paying member of the First-half-of-the-1970s-was-a-great-period-of-American-crime-cinema-fan-club, it does strike me that we tend to focus on the same handful of films from this period over and over. Yes, The French Connection and Shaft (1971), The Godfather (1972), The Friends of Eddie Coyle and The Long Goodbye (1973), and Chinatown (1974), are all masterful neo noirs that in some way enlarged the culture’s notion of what crime cinema could be.

But the wellspring of American neo noir on the screen in the first half of the decade runs very deep, and it pays major viewing dividends to explore it more widely. My latest piece for the US site CrimeReads looks at ten underappreciated neo noirs from the first half of the seventies that are worth your time. You can read the piece in full on the CrimeReads site via this link.Read more

Prime Cut at 50: looking back at possibly the strangest American crime film of the 1970s

Want to talk about one of the strangest, if not the strangest American crime film to emerge in the first half of the 1970s? Then, let’s talk about Michael Ritchie’s neo-noir Prime Cut, as it turns fifty this year. It would be going too far to describe it as a neglected classic, but it is a fascinating film about a divided America that, as a result, finds obvious echoes today. 

You can read my piece on Prime Cut in full at the CrimeReads site here.Read more

50 years of Milano Calibre 9 and the crime cinema of Italy’s ‘years of lead’

Fifty years ago, Milano Calibro 9, or Calibre 9 as it was released in the United States, hit Italian cinema screens. A small time mafia foot soldier, Ugo Piazzo (Gastone Moschin, a famous Italian comic actor at the time), leaves prison only to be caught up in a conspiracy around the disappearance three years earlier of $300,000 from a Milanese crime boss known as the Americano. Believing that Ugo took the money and stashed it while he was in jail, the Americano sends Rocco (German Italian actor Mario Adorf), a clownish but lethal mob enforcer, to retrieve it. Ugo denies he had anything to do with the missing cash, but no one, including the police and his ambitious stripper girlfriend (Barbara Bouchet), will believe him. 

Calibre 9 is an excellent entry point to examine the Italian crime film phenomena known as the poliziotteschi, well over a hundred of which appeared from the late 1960s to 1980. It also serves to focus some overdue attention one of the lesser-known but more interesting of the many poliziotteschi directors, Fernando Di Leo.

You can read my piece on the crime cinema of Italy’s ‘years of lead’ in full here at the CrimeReads site.Read more

The mystery of Billy Rags

Billy Rags, Sphere Books, 1975
McVicar By Himself, Hutchinson, 1974

Crime fiction is just far too large a literary field to aspire to anything near being a completist in terms of reviewing. That said, the British noir author Ted Lewis has been something of a favourite on this site. I reviewed Jack’s Return Home aka Get Carter (1970) and its two sequels, as well as the novels Plender (1971) and GBH (1980). But there is one more Lewis work I want to tackle, Billy Rags, originally published in in 1973 and which, coincidentally has just been re-released by No Exit Press in the UK.

Billy Rags is very closely based on the life of the real British criminal John McVicar. Just how closely I’ll get to directly. McVicar was an armed robber, declared ‘public enemy no 1’ by Scotland Yard in the 1960s, until he was apprehended and given a 23-year sentence. He was also a serial escapee and after his final arrest in 1970 received a 26-year sentence but was paroled eight years later. McVicar was also something of a uniquely 1960s/70s phenomena, the self-aware/educated working class career criminal turned author and commentator on prison reform, a major social debate in those two decades. He studied for a university postgraduate, wrote an autobiography, McVicar by Himself, published in 1974, and authored a couple of other true crime books.… Read more