Category Archives: British crime cinema

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

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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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

Book Review: The Real Diana Dors

One of the reasons I was interested in reading Anna Cale’s recently released biography of the late British actress Diana Dors, The Real Diana Dors, is that I was curious to test out what I thought I knew about Dors and the reality of her life. What I was pretty certain about, and Cale confirms, is that Dors was stereotyped from the beginning of her career as either the sultry femme fatale bad girl or, as she herself once wrote, ‘the flighty, sexy little thing who pops in and out of the story whenever a little light relief seems to be called for.’

What I didn’t know, that Cale’s book taught me, was what a determined, serious, and hard headed performer Dors was. She accumulated a hundred screen credits in a career that began with her first bit part in the 1947 crime drama, The Code of Scotland Yard, to her last film role, Steaming, which appeared in 1985, a year after she died at the age of just 54. She resisted attempts to stereotype when she could, and no doubt like a lot of post war actresses undoubtedly had the talent and drive to be even bigger if not for various factors, of which beginning her career in the morally conservative, sexually hypocritical Britain of the late 1940s and early 1950s, was a major one.… Read more

Fifty years later, Get Carter is still the iconic British gangster film

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.Read more