Category Archives: War film

Pulp Friday: More late 1960s and 1970s pulp and popular fiction about the Vietnam War

Vietnam Nurse, Avon, 1966

In 2019 I wrote about why it was there were so few examples of Australian and US pulp and popular paperback fiction published in the 1960s and 1970s to engage with the Vietnam War and its consequences. That is, as anything more than a background or reason for why a character was as confused/damaged/homicidal as they were. Even fewer books still were actually set in Vietnam.

The piece in question appeared in the book I coedited, Sticking it to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, but it was excerpted in full on the American site CrimeReads. The piece is here and details the relevant books I did manage to unearth and my speculation for why, despite its relatively huge cultural impact in both Australia and the US, so little fiction was written about the Vietnam conflict during these years.

I have been on the lookout ever since for entries I might have missed in my original piece and thought Pulp Curry Readers might appreciate an update on my, admittedly, rather paltry findings. Most of the books below are American, although a number – The Wine in God’s Anger and the Half-Burnt Tree – were penned by Australian writers.… Read more

Reading John Frankenheimer’s Seconds

Early in this excellent monograph on John Frankenheimer’s criminally underseen 1966 film, Seconds, by Jez Conolly and Emma Westwood, the authors ask the reader at what point they first viewed the movie and what they made of it. For me it was a random VHS store pickup on a slow Saturday night sometime in the late 1990s. I can remember being as confused as I was impressed by the sheer bizarreness of Seconds. I was particularly perplexed by the presence of Rock Hudson. What was this major American actor, best known for the series of romantic comedies he did with Doris Day, doing in a downbeat, existentially bleak fusion of science fiction, thriller and noir?Watching the film more recently, with the benefit of considerably more knowledge of film history and Hudson’s career, I was blown away by the brilliance of Seconds.  

Conolly and Westwood begin with the proposition that the film very much deserves a second life, a notion that is also central to its plot. Seconds concerns a bored, ennui riven middle class wage slave, who through an almost Faustian pact with a mysterious entity known only as the Company, is given a new body and face, and second chance at life. Escaping from everyday domestic responsibilities, particularly the possibilities for self-discovery and erotic adventure that this promised, would become a key topic of American film and literature from the mid-part of the 1960s onwards.… Read more

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

Playing dirty: war as a criminal enterprise

Towards the end of last year I posted on my love for the 1968 espionage/war thriller, Where Eagles Dare. My first post for 2019 continues what is becoming an unofficial series of sorts on this site, ‘in praise of films I watched with my parents on the television on Sunday night when I was young’. This time, I want to briefly pay tribute to the incredibly hard-boiled late sixties revisionist war film by Hungarian emigre, Andre De Toth, Play Dirty.

I am not sure exactly what was going on with war films in the late 1960s – I assume it was the influence of the radical tenor of the times –  but there was a whole crop of them that really took the gloves off in terms in their cynical, gritty depiction of the utter corruption and folly of war. Think Jack Cardiff’s The Dark of the Sun (1968), and Phil Karlson’s  Hornet’s Nest (1970), as well as the aforementioned Where Eagles Dare, just to name a few I have featured on this this site previously.

Set on the North African front during World War II, I reckon Play Dirty is up there with the most hard-boiled and cynical of them. Plus January 1 was the 50th anniversary of its release, a milestone that went totally unmentioned anywhere, so the time is right to give it a bit of love.… Read more

‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy’: In praise of Where Eagles Dare

Like a quick and dirty mission behind enemy lines, last weekend I polished off Geoff Dyer’s love letter to the 1968 war thriller, Where Eagles Dare, ‘Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’.

It is a strange little essay. Not really a monograph, because it tells you very little about the making and impact of the film, the things a monograph usually does, and more an extended meditation on why it is such a great action film and the culture milieu into which it was born. A milieu that Dyer grew up in and which was pretty similar for a boy in Australia in the 1970s when I was growing up.

One of my favourite things about Dywer’s essay was the various cultural associations and memories it aroused. The war had only been over for a quarter of a century and, looking back then, it still felt strangely present, like it was not quite ‘history’ in the way it is now; war films were big business and our parents unselfconsciously took us, often at a very young age, to see them; newsagents were full of those graphic Sven Hassel paperbacks; we lived on British comics that were full of German soldiers barking basic English; and, the must have toy was a GI Joe, who amongst his many uniforms, could be dressed as a German soldier.Read more