Category Archives: Crime film

My cultural highlights of 2021

In past years, I have always tried to conclude the writing year with wrap up of my top fiction/non-fiction reads. But this year I want to do something a little different and look more broadly at the culture that has sustained me in what has been another difficult and stressful 12 months, dominated, as it has for so many of us, by the Covid pandemic.

Film

As was the case in 2020, Covid meant that I spent far more time than I would’ve liked at home. So, most of the movies I watched had to be on the small screen. One of the standouts for me was a 1953 Argentinian retelling of Fritz Lang’s 1931 classic, M, called El Vampiro Negro or The Black Vampire. Helmed by one of Argentina’s most famous mid-century directors, Roman Vinoly Barreto, the story focuses the panic that engulfs Buenos Aires as children are stalked and murdered by a paedophile. Barreto particularly focuses on a nightclub singer and mother, played by Argentina’s equivalent of Marilyn Monroe, Olga Zubarry, who is the sole eyewitness to the child killer and who fears her daughter may be the next victim. Proof positive that classic noir was not just a North American phenomena, El Vampiro Negro is a powerful film, stunningly restored by the US Film Noir Foundation.… Read more

Ten underappreciated American noirs of the late 1950s and 1960s

While preparing for a recent appearance on a podcast episode about John Boorman’s 1967 film, Point Blank, I thought a lot about American noir cinema of the very late 1950s and the 1960s. I find it interesting that so many of the films made during this time remain unknown and underappreciated relative to the classic film noir period, generally regarded as beginning with John Huston’s 1941 classic The Maltese Falcon and ending in 1958, and the body of American crime cinema known as neo noir, which took off in the early 1970s. My latest piece for the US site CrimeReads is on this strange, partly forgotten period of American noir cinema that came between classic film noir & 1970s neo-noir, and 10 great underrated/unknown films that were released during it. You can read it in full on the CrimeReads site here.Read more

Projection Booth podcast #546: Point Blank (1967)

It was a great pleasure to be able to perform co-hosting on the Projection Booth podcast for the second time in as many months, this time alongside my friend Jedidiah Ayres, on an episode about one of my favourite crime films, John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967). In addition to the film and how it figured in the careers of Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson and Boorman, we talked about its place in 1960s American crime cinema, the film’s take on violence, and how it related to it literary source material the character of the hardboiled master thief Parker who appeared in the books of Richard Stark aka Donald Westlake. We also spent a fair bit of time talking about other cinematic adaptations of Parker, particularly Brian Helgeland’s 1999 film Payback – which was based on the same 1962 Parker book as Point Blank, The Hunter – and Payback’s various versions. It is a great episode and you can listen to it in full at the Projection Booth site via this link.… Read more

Ten crime films about drug trafficking to see after The French Connection

In the process of researching and writing my latest piece for the CrimeReads site, on the real-life drug trafficking network that inspired William Friedkin’s ground-breaking 1971 crime film, The French Connection, I compiled a list of other movies directly or indirectly related to the film’s themes, the actual events that informed it, or that were influenced in some way by Friedkin’s classic. I didn’t have the space to include these details in my CrimeReads piece, but the list is below.

Panic in Needle Park (1971)

Around the same time that Popeye Doyle and Buddy Russo were pursuing Frog One through the winter streets of New York, The Panic in Needle Park was giving cinema goers a very different picture of the city’s heroin trade. Based on a 1966 novel and adapted for the screen by Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunn, Jerry Schatzberg’s film is an incredibly downbeat look at the trouble romance between two denizens of New York’s heroin scene, young addict, Helen, the very underrated Kitty Winn, and small-time dealer Bobby, played by Al Pacino. It has been a while since I’ve seen The Panic In Needle Park but from memory it depicts the full spectrum of drug scene related experiences, including police harassment, prostitution, and the chemical highs and lows of addiction.… Read more

The real French Connection

My latest piece for the US site CrimeReads is a look at the real-life crimes that inspired William Friedkin’s 1971 classic, The French Connection. It is a tangled tale of Corsican gangsters, international heroin smuggling, the CIA and the war in Indochina – with a dash of my own experience in Laos. You can read the piece in full here.Read more