Category Archives: 1970s American crime films

My cultural highlights of 2022

The end of the year nears. That means it is time for my year cultural highlights of 2022. So, without further introduction, let’s get into it.

Film

Possibly the best new release I saw in the past 12 months was Iranian director Ali Abbasi’s The Holy Spider (2022). The story of a young female journalist (a powerhouse performance by Zar Amir-Ebrahimi) investigating a religious serial killer in a rural Iranian city, little did I know when I saw it as part of Melbourne International Film Festival in September that it’s damning commentary on the male dominated nature of Iranian society, would find such a strong real world echo in the female led protest movement shaking the country to its foundations today. While The Holy Spider is not for the faint hearted, its horror is brilliantly conveyed through show don’t tell storytelling. Seriously, a lot of directors could learn from watching this film that you don’t always have to hit the audience over the head with a narrative sledgehammer.

Two other 2022 releases make my best of film list for the year. The first is Emily the Criminal. This is a whip smart neo noir about a young woman who falls into crime, featuring Aubrey Plaza in the lead role. I call it a millennial revenge film, which I think is THE upcoming crime genre with a bullet.… Read more

Book Review: We Are the Mutants – The Battle for Hollywood from Rosemary’s Baby to Lethal Weapon

Is there anything new left to say about the period of American film production from the late 1960s to the early 1980s?

This is the period that began with the so-called ‘New Hollywood’ and continued with its collapse under the weight of its own cinematic hubris and excess, bumped along considerably by the 1977 release of Star Wars, after which the blockbuster franchise, with its lucrative pre-sold merchandising deals, evolved into the majority of what now passes for the American film industry. Of course, this is just one facet of the story. Influencing this trajectory was Vietnam, the rise and fall of the counterculture, the election of Ronald Reagan and the rise of neoliberalism.

To say something different about all of this is a tough task. But it is is precisely the aim of We are the Mutants: The Battle for Hollywood from Rosemary’s Baby to Lethal Weapon. That the book largely succeeds in its mission is due to a quality I initially found hard to define until I hit on a way to do so by way of a comparison. The book reminds me of the work of British documentary maker Adam Curtis, particularly his most recent effort, I Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World.… Read more

Register for on-line NoirCon 2022

Those of you who have been following my site for a while now may have seen me post about NoirCon previously. A celebration of all things noir in film, literature, art and anything else you care to mention, NoirCon was previously held as a face-to-face gathering in Philadelphia, but has been cancelled for the last few years, due to Covid and other problems.

Well, now it is back, this year as an online gathering.

NoirCon will take place Friday-Saturday, October 21-23, EST. Virtual NoirCon 2022 will be held on the Accelevents platform. An all-access pass covering the entire conference is $36. Registration includes access to the Accelevents platform for 30 days after the event, so attendees can re-watch events or catch up on panels they missed.

NoirCon is hands down the best literary/arts festival I have attended. The exact program is not live yet but whatever the fevered mind of NoirCon organiser Lou Boxer has dreamt up in terms of a program, I have no doubt it’ll be good, including new events and events that would have been held in previous cancelled versions of the program. So if you have any interest in noir at all and are able to make the time zone work for you, you should definitely register at this link.… Read more

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)
Lady In the Lake (1946)
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)
Plains, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
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