Category Archives: Heist films

Up periscope: a celebration of submarine cinema

I love a good submarine film. The claustrophobia of the confined setting, the tensions arising from a group of people having to co-exist and operate in a completely unnatural, extremely dangerous environment, is all pretty much guaranteed to hook me in every time.

I was reminded of this while I was watched the 2014 thriller Black Sea on the weekend. A hard as nails, embittered Scottish deep sea salvage expert, Robinson, (Jude Law), takes a job with a shadowy backer, to salvage hundreds of millions of dollars of gold rumoured to be in a sunken Nazi U-boat sitting on the bottom of the Black Sea. He has at his disposal a surplus communist era Russian submarine and recruits a fractious crew of washed up seafarers, half of whom are Russian because they are the only ones who know how to properly operate the vessel.

I don’t know why this film passed me by when it first came out but it ticked virtually every box on the my list of requirements for a good submarine film. The crew have to contend with a never ending series of life threatening technical and nautical challenges. Within the narrow confines of the aged submarine, the tensions between crew members ratchet up along ethnic grounds and how they will split up the gold.… Read more

They Made Me a Fugitive

I recently wrote a yet to be published article on the critical furore that greeted the 1939 James Hadley Chase book, No Orchids for Miss Blandish, and the 1948 film version. Among my research was an article by British film academic James Chapman which discussed the film version of No Orchids as part of a cycle of British crime films that drew severe condemnation from censors, moralists and film critics for their depiction of sex and violence and their bleak take on post-war British life. Another was the 1948 adaptation of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock. But it was the first of this cycle, appearing in 1947, that I had not seen and only vaguely heard about, They Made Me a Fugitive or I Became a Criminal, the title it was released under in the United States.

Fugitive stars Trevor Howard as Clem Morgan, a demobbed Royal Air Force pilot who joins a criminal gang headed by a flash gangster with a very nasty streak, Narcy (Griffith Jones). Narcy runs a funeral parlour business as a front for a black-market operation, the good smuggled in the coffins. Morgan and Narcy take an instant alpha male dislike to each other. Morgan is particularly critical of Narcy’s decision to traffic in what he calls ‘sherbet’, which I think is cocaine (although this is not spelt out in the film).… Read more

Being influenced by your favourite crime writer

As regular readers of this site will know, my second novel, Gunshine State, has recently been re-released.

To mark the occasion, the fine folks at my publisher, Down and Out Books, asked me to stop by their site and say a few works about the book.

Gunshine State has a number of literary influences. I am a big fan of the Crissa Stone books by Wallace Stroby and Australian writer Garry Disher’s Wyatt books. But my most obvious inspiration—and probably my desert island series—is the character of the master thief Parker, created by Richard Stark aka Donald Westlake.

For my post for the Down and Out Books site, I decided to talk about the very fine line between being influenced by your favourite crime writers and falling into a straight out pastiche or imitation. Doing the former without plunging into latter is something I was very conscious of, as I was writing Gunshine State – my attempt to do an Australian take on the heist gone wrong story – and the follow up, which I am currently in the midst of, Orphan Road.

The piece is available to read in full here.

And, if you are after a good weekend read, Gunshine State is available in all formats here.Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 4: 10 more heist films you’ve never seen

To celebrate the re-release of my heist thriller, Gunshine State, by Down and Out books, it is time for another of my top 10 heist posts.

This is my fourth post  along the theme of ‘the heist always goes wrong’. Previous posts have been: ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made’, ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 2: reader picks and other favourite heist movies’, ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 3: 10 of the best heist films you’ve probably never seen’.

This instalment continues where I left of in part 3, with 10 more unknown or under appreciated heist films that you might want to check out.

So have a read, and, if you haven’t already maybe pick up a copy of Gunshine State in e-book of paperback format here.

Machine Gun McCain (1969)

Even when he was slumming it, John Cassavetes was still incredible and Machine Gun McCain is proof. This hard boiled 1969 Italian film tells the story of a paroled armed robber (Cassavetes) whose plan to heist a Las Vegan casino falls foul of a battle for territory between the east and west cost Mafia. Cassavetes’s co-starts include Peter Faulk, Britt Elland, and such Italian genre film stars as Luigi Pistilli and Grabiele Ferzetti.… Read more

Dark of the Sun

It’s always tempting to start a post about a movie like Dark of the Sun by saying they don’t make them like this any more. I say this about movies a lot, particularly movies from the 1960s and 1970s. But I’m not entirely sure they made many films like this all that often back then either.

Dark of the Sun (aka The Mercenaries) was directed by legendary British cinematographer, Jack Cardiff, and adapted from a 1965 adventure novel by the African-born British writer, Wilbur Smith, not really a regular fixture on my reading list but my late dad loved his books.

The movie stars Rod Taylor as Captain Bruce Curry – in what is commonly agreed to be his best role – as a cynical, tough as nails mercenary. Curry is paid by President Ubi (the wonderful Calvin Lockhart), the sleazy head of a teetering African state, and his fat Belgium mining company overlord, to lead a detachment of local soldiers on a steam train to a remote township and rescue the Europeans surrounded by rebels known as the Simbas.

Curry knows the real mission is to retrieve 50 million dollars in diamonds sitting in the township’s time-locked vault. Ubi needs the diamonds to weapons to fight the rebels. “I’m running out of time Captain,” Ubi tells to Curry.… Read more