Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Quand la ville s'éveille (1975)

I  bought this French crime film on an old VHS cassette from a thrift store for 10 or 20 cents. I knew nothing about it, but I thought it might be worth to take a look at. It turned out it was both yes and no: the film is quite stilted, but it's still a French crime film from the seventies! And with this I mean the fact that the French probably make - or at least used to make - the best crime movies after the Americans and Hollywood.

Writer-director Pierre Grasset (who also stars) worked on some of Jean-Pierre Melville's films and it shows. This too goes for the Melville-type fatalism and existentialism, as it's about old career criminals who are retired, but gather together to make the last job and then really retire. Of course it all goes terribly wrong, but they do it anyway, without flinching an eye.

What's wrong about the movie is the reason why the job goes so wrong. They could've avoided it so easily. After the crucial scene it's only implausible. Still, there are some cool moments in which old guys dressed up in long trench coats shoot each other at desolate fields and subway stations. This could've been my stuff.

What also bugs me is that they use almost only one piece on the soundtrack - I got pretty tired of the accordion song, even though it turned out be by Astor Piazzolla. Disconcerting was also the fact the movie, of course originally in French, was dubbed in English - luckily it was pretty well made.

One thing still: the film seems to have quite a many titles. The original French title is above, but there's some confusion as to what the English and Finnish titles are. Both IMDb and the Finnish VHS database claim this was called When the City Awakes, but as you can see from the photo (sorry about the quality!) in the opening titles it's called Hot Day Afternoon (which doesn't really fit). The Finnish title in the VHS cover (see the photo above) is Lehtileike, which means "A Newspaper Clip" (doesn't make much sense), but as you can see, in the titles it's Keikkojen keikka, which means "The Hardest Job" or maybe "The Last Job", if you know what I'm getting at. I don't know where they got the last title, since the film wasn't shown here in theaters. Maybe there's an earlier VHS publication of which no one is aware of.

More Overlooked Movies at Todd Mason's blog.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cormac McCarthy: Blood Meridian

Cormac McCarthy's classic western novel from 1985 has only now been translated in Finnish and I finished the translation a week back. I've already written two pieces on the book (one is available here, though it's in Finnish, understandably), so I won't have much to say about it here.

One could say that this is the antiwestern to kill all antiwesterns. Blood Meridian buries a lot of the clichés associated with the western genre under the hellish amount of dead and mutilated bodies and does it with style that's both baroque and extremely hardboiled at the same time. I really don't know how McCarthy does it. Some of the battle scenes are truly stomach-wrenching in a way that not many books are.

All this said, I must confess I'm not hundred percent sure what McCarthy wants to say with his book. Is he really saying that war and violence are inherent in all men - in all nature, even? Is the mysterious judge a spokesperson for his own values (this is quite possibly the case with the sheriff in No Country for Old Men) or is McCarthy trying to say something important, possibly something contrary to the judge's opinions? Is he just playing with the reader? You can never tell what the judge is trying to say with his long monologues.

This confusion makes for some fascinating reading, all right, but at times I wasn't exactly sure what to think of McCarthy.

Included is the photo of the Finnish edition, with the cover by Mika Tuominen. The Finnish title means "To the Edge of Blood" or something along those lines.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Django Unchained and The Paperboy

Sorry, I've been quite busy lately trying to work out some new books. Here's a quick post of two films I saw recently and thought might be of interest to the readers of Pulpetti.

Django Unchained: the first Tarantino I really liked since Jackie Brown. I hated Kill Bill 1, liked the second part slightly better and was pretty bored with Death Proof. (I haven't seen Unglourious Basterds yet, but I'll try to watch it soon.) In Django Unchained Tarantino's grandeur that veers toward bad taste is in good balance with the drama and there are some very good moments throughout, not to mention some very good actors. I liked this a lot.

The Paperboy: gritty neo-noir film about some low-life trash and some idealistic newspapermen in the deep South in 1969, based on a novel by Pete Dexter. I liked this, too, but there seems to be something missing from the film and I can't quite put my finger on it. Nicole Kidman and John Cusack are brilliant in this, they walk on the edge of overacting all the time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Milestone post!

I didn't realize my post on the men's adventure mags book Weasels Ripped My Flesh was my 1900th post. Will have to celebrate! Only one hundred to go! What should I do in my 2000nd post? This was my 1000th post. Seems like it takes five years to do thousand posts!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Weasels Ripped My Flesh out soon!

The long-awaited collection of vintage stories from the Golden Age of men's adventure magazines called Weasels Ripped My Flesh is out soon! I received the table of contents in PDF form last week and I can tell the book looks dandy! The editor of the book, Bob Deis (who maintains the great Men's Pulp Mags blog), has done good work with his colleagues, Josh Friedman and Wyatt Doyle (who's also the mastermind behind the New Texture publishing house that's putting this out).

Here are the table of contents, posted with Bob's and Wyatt's permission. It's too bad they didn't get a permission to reprint any of Mario Puzo's men's magazine stories, but there's an interview with him about him hacking away for the mags. I believe the last piece in the ToC is an essay on men's mag (and the writer, Bruce Friedman, is I believe the father of Josh Alan Friedman). 

I think this looks cool.

Mike Kamens: Weasels Ripped My Flesh [MAN’S LIFE, September 1956]
Gilbert Nash: "Beat" Girls: Worshippers of Zen and Sin? [UNTAMED, February 1959]
Walter Kaylin: Bar Room Girl Who Touched Off a Tribal War [MALE, June 1966]
Lawrence Block (as Sheldon Lord): She Doesn’t Want You [REAL MEN, June 1958]
Harlan Ellison: Death Climb [TRUE MEN STORIES, February 1957]
Robert F. Dorr: Bayonet Killer of Heartbreak Ridge [MAN’S MAGAZINE, October 1964]
Bruce Jay Friedman: Eat Her... Bones and All [MALE, December 1954]
Robert Silverberg (as Norman Reynolds): Trapped by Mau Mau Terror [EXOTIC ADVENTURES, 1959]
Josh Alan Friedman: Walter Wager Interview
Walter Wager: Please God, Help Me Break Out [MALE, November 1958]
Vic Pate: Chewed to Bits by Giant Turtles [MAN’S LIFE, May 1957]
Jim McDonald: Grisly Rites of Hitler’s Monster Flesh Stripper [MAN’S STORY, March 1965]
George Majari: Calypso: Is It Pornography in Hi-Fi? [GUSTO, October 1957]
Robert Silverberg (as David Challon): 50 Days as an Amazon Love Slave [SIR!, November 1959]
Josh Alan Friedman: Mario Puzo Interview
Walter Kaylin: The Stewardess ‘Call Girl Slave’ Ring [FOR MEN ONLY, December 1971]
Jane Dolinger: Girl Crusoe [ESCAPE TO ADVENTURE, March 1959]
Ken Krippene: I Married a Jungle Savage [SIR!, November 1959]
Dr. Robert H.: I Went Insane for Science [MAN’S MAGAZINE, August 1956]
Robert F. Dorr: "Ghost Bear" That Terrorized a Town [MALE, February 1975]
Lawrence Block (as Sheldon Lord): Just Window Shopping [MAN’S MAGAZINE, December 1962]
E. C. Schurmacher: I Was a Slave of the Savage Blonde [HUNTING ADVENTURES, 1956]
Joanne Beardon: I Went to a Lesbian Party [ALL MAN, May 1964]
Carl Evans: Monkey Madness [MALE, August 1953]
Bruce Jay Friedman: Even the Rhinos Were Nymphos

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Movies: Tough Guys Don't Dance

I just watched Tough Guys Don't Dance from a VHS cassette I found free in a thrift store. I'd seen it when it was new and I remember even writing a review of sorts about it, but I really don't recall anything I said. I have a vague feeling I liked the film, but other than some reflections on scenes here and there I didn't remember anything about it. I'm not even sure if I've read Mailer's novel, but again I have a nagging feeling in the back of my head saying I read it at the time.

If I liked the film the first time, I certainly liked it less this time. The film drags heavily at points and is too dialogue-ridden and some of the actors are pretty bad. The film is not very focused and gets confusing at times. There are some very bad moments (the famous "Oh man! Oh God!" scene, for example). This all said, there's something in Tough Guys Don't Dance that makes me want to proclaim it one of the precursors of the modern neo-noir films. The same delirious feeling permeating Mailer's film is also found in films like Romeo Is Bleeding (the Peter Medak one, not the later one) or Coens' The Big Lebowski. Scenes are disjointed, the characters are campily overacting, everyone is using cocaine and talking nonsense, womens' heads are cut off mercilessly, everyone's overusing sex to get to their goals. Maybe Mailer was truly ahead of his time?

One thing I remember thinking about Mailer's film is that it reminded me of David Lynch's Blue Velvet (very important early neo-noir film, that). There's a secret in the woods and there's also Isabella Rossellini (Lynch uses her much better, there's not much to do for her in Mailer's film). There's also Angelo Badalamenti's score, but that's about it. I sure didn't get the same feeling watching the movie now.

Mailer's film has one asset not enough films have: Lawrence Tierney. He's simply great in this and he has great lines ("I just deep-sixed two heads"), though he's pretty thin thematically - but that's Norman Mailer's fault. 

More Overlooked Movies at Todd Mason's blog.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Dean R. Koontz: Watchers

I think this is the first book I've read by Dean R. Koontz. I wanted to have something long to read during Christmas, but this proved to be too long! I had to drop some other books from my holiday reading list because of it, ones like Scott O'Dell's The King's Fifth (1966). Since the holidays are now over, I'll have to start reading work-related books again.

I did finish Watchers (Ääniä yössä in Finnish, meaning Voices in the Night), since the premise was interesting and the book was quite suspenseful at times, but the sentimental moments between the two main characters got at time too soft for me. I would've cut some 100 pages out of it, and I don't think the book would've suffered.

Watchers came out in 1987 and seems like Koontz's books have only gotten longer. What's with it? I understand the comfort of a long book, but c'mon, I want to read some other books too! I got to think more about this when we went to see The Hobbit with my daughter. As you well know, it's almost three hours long and it's going to be in three-part serial, nine hours in all! Who's behind all this? Tolkien might be himself one to blame with his 1,000-page books (well, The Hobbit is only 300 pages), but then again he wanted The Lord of the Rings to be published in one piece, not as a trilogy. After his publisher's decision though, everything has had to be published in three pieces, hence also The Hobbit trilogy.

Is it Stephen King then? I seem to remember he was one of the foremost bestseller writers to go for 400 or 500 pages - and accordingly Koontz followed him. (But then again, some of the fifties' bestsellers were quite long, i.e. The Thin Red Line. Or talk about Gone With the Wind!)

Or is it television? I got to thinking they could've done a TV series from The Hobbit. It could've easily been even longer, just like The Wire or The Sopranos. Are they trying to compete with these ever-continuing TV series that have long story arcs? Many of the sophisticated viewers go now for TV and series like the two mentioned above or The Game of Thrones and others and shy away from the hustle and bustle of movies like X-men or Transformers? The longer, the more serious? Is it really so?

Sorry, this got out of hand. I didn't say much about Watchers, and suffice to say that I liked The Hobbit moderately. I did think it was a bit too long, but then again I wasn't bored. Some of Peter Jackson's more serious moments are pretty clichéd, though. I'm not sure whether I'll be reading more of Koontz's longer books, but I'll be waiting the other parts in The Hobbit serial.

No, wait a second: I've read one of Koontz's early crime novels as by Brian Coffey. That one (The Wall of Masks) was brisk and short. I also liked it more than Watchers.

Featured is the Finnish cover, with typography by Marjaana Virta. I like it better than the actual picture in the cover, which is American in origin.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

My new Tumblr blog

I was cleaning up an old computer and deleting most of the pictures stored therein, but I got to pity all the cover scans and other stuff I've been saving, so I decided to up a new blog. It's also called Pulpetti, but it's at Tumblr, so I could use the same moniker. Here it is.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Michael Connelly: Echo Park

I've been having a vacation and reading all sorts of books and graphic novels (I really liked Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, which I'd never read), but it seems I'm running out of time to read all the books I meant to. I'm blaming Dean Koontz, whose Watchers I've been reading. It's a pretty good horror thriller, but it's too long! (I'll get back to the book shortly, once I've finished it.)

But Michael Connelly's Echo Park (2006; Sokkelokuja in Finnish) I finished with ease. Connelly is real comfort reading to me, and I don't mind saying that, since he's also always got some edge in his books. Connelly handles his dark materials (sic) easily but with verve, and his writing is smooth and simple without being simplistic. He's not a great stylist like Chandler or a great innovator like Ellroy, but he does very well what he does. His plots are also intricate and they involve some deep stuff without being heavy-handed or didactic.

Echo Park isn't one of the best Connellys (the plot is a bit too straightforward), but I still liked the heck out of it. I'm not so fond of Connelly's Terry McCaleb or Mickey Haller books, but Harry Bosch is a favourite. I remember when I interviewed Connelly and he said he's always imagined Donald Sutherland as the film version of Bosch. This may seem weird, but not long ago I watched Claude Chabrol's rarely-seen Ed McBain film Blood Relatives with Donald Sutherland. He's very good and convincing as McBain's Steve Carella, who's a blueprint for all the film cops. I can see him as Bosch, no problem.

By the way, it was nice to see both Duane Swierczynski and Sarah Weinman being Tuckerized in Echo Park.