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Found Pages: The Remarkable Harold Ernest (“Darcy Glinto”) Kelly, 1899–1969.

Violence, Inc: Part 5, 1956–1975


For the Introduction to Violence, Inc., click here.

For Pseudonyms, Sources, and Publishers, go to Part 3.


A temptation with genre entertainment, as distinct (insofar as distinction is possible) from work offering itself as much more than that, is to become overly protective.

With thrillers, you can really come to care for a writer, and want him to go on giving you the same charge of pleasure, and feel the same presence in every book (as happens with John D. MacDonald for instance), and really regret it and sympathize when you sense him slipping.

So it can be sad feeling that in this final stretch of his career Kelly is less fertile in invention and at times, if some of the attributions of Hank Jansons to him are accepted, as I haven’t done, is doing hack work, perhaps from financial need, that shows no talent at all, and from which you couldn’t have extrapolated what he did at his best. Weak work, in my experience, tends to cast doubts on the quality of better work, because intimating that what we have in the weaker work is what the “mind” of the maker is really like.

Fortunately Kelly’s oeuvre is so varied and multi-voiced, and so many of his books are sui generis, that one doesn’t have to resort to apologetic talk about this or that work being “good of its kind,” or good when you understand what the author was really up to it. I’ll admit to something of the nervous feeling at times—will he make it?—that accompanies watching a high-wire or trapeze act. But fortunately there are still several successes here.

I have only included those of the attributed Jansons that I have read in which I can discern signs of what I myself feel could be Kelly. For a complete listing of attributions, see BioBibliography.

It’s interesting to note the increasingly unquiet energy in works by others during this time, starting around 1959 and cresting in the Vietnam years.


Billy Hill, Boss of Britain’s Underworld

A readable autobiography by one of London’s two top post-war gangsters, the other being Jack (“Jack Spot”) Comer, before the Kray twins came along. Ghosted by the crusading crime reporter Duncan Webb.

Confesses to a lot of criminal activities going back to the smash-and-grab raids in the mid-Thirties at a time when thieves, in contrast to persons engaged in protection rackets and illegal gambling, were low down in the prestige system of professional criminals.

Fascinating on the vast sums being made in the black market at the start and finish of the 1939 war, and the need from criminals to be able to display their wealth socially.

Makes a point of the fact that back then, British gangsters didn’t kill one another.

Anonymous, A Woman in Berlin, trans.

A journal kept by what at that time would have been called a gentlewoman during the Russian occupation of Berlin in 1945, chronicling the hardships and fears of daily life, including being frequently raped by the Russian soldiery.

The Desperate House/Hours, William Wyler

Fredric March fights back, after a bit, against considerable odds and finally defeats paranoid pitiless home-invading Bogart and his two fellow escapees and saves his wife and daughter.

Kiss Me Deadly, Robert Aldrich

Kiss Me Deadly 1955
Kiss Me Deadly 1955

Thirty-odd years ago, when I sought permission to include a still from the home-invasion rape scene in A Clockwork Orange in my Violence in the Arts, it was refused on the grounds that Stanley Kubrick was against violence.

Oh yes?

One needs to keep a sharp eye turned on some protestations of moral purity.

Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly is a fine portrayal by Ralph Meeker of a California private-eye as a sleazy, bullying, narcissistic, out-for-the-fast-buck jerk, who no doubt subscribes to Playboy and takes the Playboy Philosophy seriously.

Since he’s called Mike Hammer, the movie of course becomes politically acceptable.

But script-writer A.I. Bezzerides, pursuing his own Cold War agenda, is deconstructing a very different and more acceptable Hammer, and the movie is more violent and nastier than the book.

As such, it was taken up in a major way in France as En Quatrième Vitesse, (In Top Gear) and existed for a while in the almost-limbo of the almost-banned, or at least significantly cut.

A particularly nasty piece of violence, incidentally, is Meeker’s breaking of an irreplaceable record from an opera recording belonging to an inoffensive opera-lover from whom he wants some answers.

The Man from Laramie, Anthony Mann

The despicable and truly weak son of the big rancher, after catching a self-defensive bullet from cowboy James Stewart, has his men immobilize Stewart and then deliberately (“No, no,” we’re protesting, “you can’t do that”) puts a bullet through the palm of Stewart’s gun hand.

D.A.F. de Sade, Justine;: Or, Good conduct well chastised. Being an English rendering of Justine; ou, Les malheurs de la vertu (Olympia Press, Paris)

Hector Kelly closes down the Robin Hood Press because of the risk of prosecution. THJ (See Note 12.)

Author and publisher Stephen Frances (Hank Janson) purchases from Harold Kelly the rights to the name “Darcy Glinto.”

According to Steve Holland, a number of earlier novels by Frances writing as Duke Linton and Steve Markham are edited and reprinted under the Glinto pen-name.” THJ.

But in Holland’s Trials of Hank Janson, Frances is quoted as saying that he didn’t write the Linton books.

I myself have only been able to access two of them, but Wild Blood bears unmistakable internal signs of being by Kelly, and is in fact a reprint of Kelly’s Blue Blood Flows East.

I wonder if any more of the supposedly faux-Glintos are in fact real ones.


Lance Carson, Forbidden Brand, Ward Lock BLIC Copac

Lance Carson, No Rustler’s Paradise, Ward Lock, BLIC Copac

Blonde, Cute and Wicked 1956
Blonde, Cute and Wicked 1956

Darcy Glinto, Blonde, Cute and Wicked, Moring; reprint of Dainty Was a Jane, 1948.

Darcy Glinto, Wild Blood, Moring; reprint of Blue Blood Flows East, AJH, THJ

See comments on Blue Blood Flows East.

Ross MacDonald, The Barbarous Coast

The best Lew Archer novel.

The Killing, Stanley Kubrick

A darker, grimmer, less romantic re-doing of John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle, with a brilliant script by Jim Thompson, and the deadest-looking bodies after a shoot-out with shotguns.

The Searchers, John Ford.

“Don’t ask me more. As long as you live, don’t ever ask me more”—John Wayne to his young sidekick about the unshown body of the latter’s sister (betrothed?) which he has come upon after the Comanches have done their (unshown) worst with her.

Without the power of Wayne’s performance, the movie would be merely one of a bunch back then that were cashing in on the supposed appeal of the new super-wide screen, here useful for displaying Monument Valley and other Western landscapes in different seasons, with the low-budgeted decent citizens Disney-clean in gingham.

As it is, the movie offers the audience the pleasures of hearing their own imperfectly tamed racist feelings given unabashed voice by Wayne until almost the end, when there’s the further pleasure of having the Unreachable Father (figure) turn away from his wickedness (in an of course unforgettable scene).


Darcy Glinto [Stephen Frances], Hounded, Moring.

A reissue of Kill and Desire (1950), published over the name of Duke Linton, AJH THJ, and reissued in 1997 as Kill and Desire by Frances, with an introduction by Steve Holland.

Obviously not by Kelly. The paragraphs are short, the plot sketchy, the characterization one-note, apart from the cabin-in-the-woods artist who turns into an arm-breaking angel of vengeance, with a bit of sexual sadism on the side, and then reverts back into a sweetie.

Darcy Glinto (?), Snatched, Moring, AJH THJ


Pauline Réage, The Wisdom of the Lash, tr. Austryn Wainhouse.

See comments above, 1954.

Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy: aspects of working-class life, with special reference to publications and entertainments (1957). NEW

Contains an influential section on tough British pulp novels after WW2, which he acknowledges can at times have a raw power. Since he was writing polemically against works displaying and gratifying low tastes, the publishers were leery of possible libel actions. So he couldn’t name names or pillory actual passages, and had to make up his own. Which he did with gusto, especially one which combined elements from No Orchids, Lady—Don’t Turn Over and maybe some other work, and achieved a level of sadistic pulp-zine grotesquery beyond what you would find in the Chase and Glinto originals.

Here he is on the general ambience of the Mushroom Jungle (Steve Holland’s term):

We are in and of this world of the fierce alleyway-assault, the stale disordered bed, the closed killer-car, the riverside warehouse knifing. We thrill to these in themselves; there is no way out, nothing else; there is no horizon and no sky. The world, consciousness, man’s ends are this—this constricted and overheated horror.

Maybe I haven’t found the right books, but I’ve been coming to see this as overheated prose.

Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (Her Majesty’s Stationery Office)

The so-called Wolfenden Report, named after its chairman, John Wolfenden, recommends decriminalizing homosexual acts between consenting adults in private but increasing the penalties for soliciting by street prostitutes, and making male prostitution illegal.

The Curse of Frankenstein, Terence Fisher.

The envelope of the showable is suddenly stretched, in colour, in the assembling of body parts (those floating eyeballs!) and the details of the operation, inaugurating the series of Hammer Horror pictures in which Baron Frankenstein and Count Dracula, as played with authority by Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, are no longer figures of fun but passion-driven individuals in their own right who can be brought back, irrepressibly, in movie after movie.


Darcy Glinto (?), Protection Pay-Off , Moring, AJH THJ

Protection Pay-Off 1958
Protection Pay-Off 1958

By Frances? Kelly? Whom?

In the absence of unequivocal written statements by Kelly or Frances, or a hand-written or revealingly typed manuscript, there would appear to be no substitute for actually examining the texts.

Here is the blurb:

There comes a time in every guy’s life w2hen he’s got to have dough and he’s got to have it quickly. Even the best of guys find themselves in a jam, and even the best of guys are liable to fall for the lure of getting dough the easy way.

Johnny the Kid needed dough. He needed it badly—to save his father’s life. And he tried getting the easy way, which worked out okay … for just a little while. But you can’t mix in with big-time gangsters without finding yourself some grief, quite a lot of it. But so did a lot of other guys.

The way things worked out, it was just about the biggest blow-up Chicago had ever known. At first, just a few guys got worked on a little; the kind of thing that happens to a shopkeeper who gets awkward about paying his protection. But that was just a beginning. After that, a few guys got knocked off. But even that wasn’t so bad seeing that they were gangsters. But then one fella found that it wasn’t so easy to die … it never is when you’re being tortured to death instead of being sent out the clean way with a merciful bullet.

Then things really broke loose. The Police Commissioner was helpless/ unable to stop the carnage, and many innocent folk were wrapped up in white sheets and sent with due ritual along the path that leads in one direction.

Johnny was in the thick of everything. He still needed dough, and he needed it badly. He didn’t get it, though And the reason he didn’t get it was just about the last reason you’d reckon on.

If you want to know why a good guy turned bad, didn’t get the thing he finally wanted and had within his grasp, and if at the same time you like a yarn that is filled with punch from beginning to end, in every chapter and every paragraph, you’ll get it all in Darcy Glinto’s best yarn so far.

Here is how the novel opens

There were four of them sitting at the table playing poker, and each of them wore the tough, hardened look of men who are perpetually face to face with death.

Burt was the fat man. He carried around with him some fifteen stone, and in hot weather that was heavy going. He was wedged in an armchair with his fat flanks overflowing the arms of the chair, and his fleshy face and nose were damp with perspiration. So was his forehead and the thick hank of hair that hung over his left eye. He smoked too much, and a perpetually dangling cigarette coated his upper lip and teeth with an ugly brown stain, and grey ash powdered his vest and trousers.

He frowned at his cards and then in a wheezy voice said: “I’ll take you, fellas. Give me another two cards.” (p.5)

Wall-to-wall cliché. This is either Kelly writing considerably below par or someone else using the Glinto name.

Jim Thompson, The Getaway

Consistently offbeat and excellent in its handling of familiar themes—robbing a bank, making a getaway, killing an unwanted accomplice. Thompson, for whom liquor hasn’t made life easier, has a criminal imagination. Near the end, the book lifts up to a level of what the French call l’insolite”(the unusual, the unprecedented) that’s probably unequalled in its cool horror in any other thriller. This part doesn’t figure in the Peckinpah movie.

Hank Janson (Stephen Frances), Jack Spot; the Man of a Thousand Cuts.

A curiosity for the literary theorist. Hank Janson (pronounced Yanson), a fictional character and pseudonymous author, writes the autobiography of actual former master-criminal Jack (“Jack Spot”) Comer, who’s now down and almost out professionally, basing it, supposedly, on searching interviews with Spot, but admitting at the outset that he’s partly fictionalized things.. He suggests at the end that

Jack Spot is a product of this century. His peculiar and distinctive claim to notoriety is that, like Dillinger and Capone, Spot organized criminals and law-breakers with such efficiency that crime became almost completely profitable and negligibly risks.

The talking Spot comes across as boastful, self-pitying, and paranoid. But by now he is poor, largely bereft of muscled associates, and suspected (unjustly) of being a grass, so that any opportunity to present his own point of view, settle grudges (if only verbally), and be paid for it is welcome.

Wensley Clarkson’s Hit ‘Em Hard: Jack Spot, King of the Underworld (2002) is excellent. It connects up a lot of dots and shows how different Spot, whom he obviously prefers to Hill, was in his prime, when he was the nearest thing to a British Al Capone. Clarkson has the grace to offer a justification of his use of nominally direct speech for which there has been no verbatim documentation.

John D. MacDonald, The Executioners (aka Cape Fear)

A classic, nail-biting defining of a situation, in which, other courses failing, a decent citizen and his family have to resort to violence and cunning to defend themselves. Nightmarish, smiling Max Cady, with his cheap suit and terrible false teeth, returns to exact a drawn-out payment from the hero and his wife and daughter for hard time served after being interrupted in a rape. His account of the extended punishment he’s meted out to the woman who “betrayed” him and remarried in his absence is an erotic chiller.

Lord Russell of Liverpool, The Knights of Bushido; the Shocking History of Japanese War Atrocities.

Lest we forget. More shocking than his 1954 The Scourge of the Swastike.

Henri Alleg, The Question (trans.)

Politically explosive account by the editor of an Algerian newspaper of being tortured by French paratroopers during the Battle of Algiers, up-ending the standard French image of themselves as members of the Resistance heroically defending France and civilization in defiance of the Gestapo. Sartre says in the Introduction, p.15,

In 1943, in the Rue Lauriston (the Gestapo headquarters in Paris), Frenchmen were screaming in agony and pain: all France could hear them. In those days the outcome of the war was uncertain and we did not want to think about the future. Only one thing seemed impossible in any circumstances: that one day men should be made to scream by those acting in our name.

There is no such word as impossible: in 1958, in Algiers, people are tortured regularly and systematically.

Peter Lewys, The She-Devils (translation of Trois fille et leur mère 1926), Ophelia Books, Paris (Olympia Press)

First appearance in English. See Violence 1

The Horror of Dracula, Terence Fisher

The tall and imposing Dracula of Christopher Lee, without any foreign accent, is now charged with erotic energy, and his white fangs draw red blood from the bare necks of bosomy actresses in satiny lace-edged nightwear.


A new and more liberal Obscene Publications Act is passed.

John McPartland, The Kingdom of Johnny Cool

The Kingdom of Johnny Cool 1959
The Kingdom of Johnny Cool 1959

This presentation of organized crime was so scary at the time that I tried to get Ross Macdonald, who had himself been a Ph.D. student, to review the book for a student quarterly that I was co-editing. He declined, evidently not seeing the subject as important. I think the word “Spillane” was used, not favourably.This was ten years before the spaghetti-sentimentality and unpleasant violences of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. Here is the end of transplanted Sicilian “Johnny Cool” who believed that he had successfully killed his way to the top in America.

They took [Johnny Colini] to a cellar in Jersey. They beat him, not to make him talk, but because this one must be beaten until his body was black and swollen.

To make him talk they gave him salt fish and no water.

After some time, he would never know how long, Guiliano told them what they wanted to know. Each well-answered question brought three drops of water on his black sausage of a tongue.

When they knew everything they gave him cheap white port wine. The wine and beatings. One day they used to knock out his teeth, pulling those they could not batter loose from his head. Sometimes, when he began vomiting back the wine, they gave him bread.

Mostly it was the wine and the beatings. (p.159)

Chester Himes, The Real Cool Killers

A surreal-feeling and at times hilarious Harlem in which Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson (honest Black plainclothes cops) have no problem about using their shiny long-barreled revolvers and, in this best book in the series, a barman, defending himself from a knife-thrust by a drunken customer, accidentally cuts off the man’s arm:

He thought Big Smiley was going to chop at him again.

“Wait a minute, you big mother-raper, till Ah finds my arm!” he yelled. “It got my knife in his hand.”

He dropped to his knees and began scrabbling about the floor with his one hand, searching for his severed arm. Blood spouted from his jerking stub as though from the nozzle of a hose. (Chapter 1)

William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch

Remember the hanged man?

Pauline Reage, Story of O (Traveller’s Companion translation, less literal, more readable than the others).

Norman Mailer, “The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster.

“Nice Jewish boy (Harvard, class of 1939) seeks relationship with cool, slinky, jiving Black cats with GREAT orgasms. Interest in Zen and philosophical bull-sessions welcome but not essential.”

Milestone text in the bad-faith infantilizing of Black males by elite White males scared of co-option by the Grey Flannel Suits and wanting there to be, somewhere, a reservation of vicarious “freedom.” Ditto, the sentimentalizing of psychopaths.

[A] phenomenon has appeared: the American existentialist—the hipster, the man who knows that if our collective condition is to live with instant death by atomic war, relatively quick death by the State as l’universe concentrationnaire, or with a slow death by conformity with every creative and rebellious instinct stifled (at what damage to the mind and the heart and the liver and the nerves no research foundation for cancer will discover in a hurry), if the fate of twentieth-century man is to live with death from adolescence to premature senescence [which of course has never happened in earlier centuries or less pampered cultures], why then the only life-giving answer is to accept the terms of death, to live with death as immediate danger, to divorce oneself from society, to exist without roots, to set out on that uncharted journey into the rebellious imperatives of the self.

[Pause for breath.]

In short, whether the life is criminal or not [“The Bomb made me do it, Your Honour”], the decision is to encourage the psychopath in oneself, to explore that domain of experience where security is boredom and therefore sickness, and one exists in the present, in that enormous present which is without past or future, memory or planned intention, the life where a man must go until he is beat, where he must gamble with his energies through all those small or large crises of courage and unforeseen situations which beset his day, where he must be with it or doomed not to swing.

Instant-Zen, with no interest in the culture-embedded and patiently acquired self-abnegation of the actual Zen of swordsmen, archers, and others. So, alas, “American.”

Stormin’ Norman, All-American Bad Boy. (Hunter Thompson is funnier, and for real.)

But, honour where it’s due, when Mailer reprints the article in Advertisments for Myself (1959), he includes replies to it by Jean Malaquais and Ned Polsky that blow it out of the water.

Virgin Spring, Ingmar Bergman

In fourteenth-century Sweden the 15-year-old daughter of prosperous peasants is raped and murdered by two goatherds, who are later killed with an axe by her father (Max von Sydow) when they unwittingly seek a night’s shelter at his farm.

Les Yeux sans Visage, Georges Franju

A painful and poetic horror masterpiece about skin-graft specialist Dr. Genessier transplanting in his underground operating theatre the facial skin of living women onto the face of his daughter, hideously scarred in a car accident for which his too-fast driving was responsible. The painfulness comes in part because we already know quite a bit about the principal victim before she is kidnapped.

The British press is outraged. Two or three men reportedly faint when it is screened at the Edinburgh Festival. Franju remarks, “No wonder the Scots wear skirts.”


Lance Carson, Three Shells to Quit, Moring

Three Shells to Quit 1960
Three Shells to Quit 1960

Kit Kennedy arrives in a well characterized wagon-trail town, Halt Town, catches a runaway stallion belonging to proud landowner Carmen Rodriguez, meets Trixie Lee, saloon-girl, and Black Humphrey (old black servant), turns down a job offer from smoothie Virginian Eugene Colet, foils a lynch-mob assault on Carmen’s ranch (lousy Mex!), escapes ingeniously from gunmen waiting for him outside lawyer Judson’s office where he’s enquiring about the documentation of Carmen’s property, rescues Carmen from kidnapers, and gently deflects Trixie’s candid declaration of love for him.

The action intensifies dramatically when an enraged crowd of settlers are persuaded that Kit started the fire that has destroyed their wagons, and get set to hang or burn him. Good crowd description. A lovely final conversation, partly about the management of horses, between him and Carmen, as subtle as anything in Donald Hamilton.

A good five-page account of a body-contact fight with Bull Engel (pp. 83-87). Convincing-sounding Black speech by Black Humphrey. A convincing relationship with Carmen (good use of horses).

See Sidebar 9 for quotations.

Donald Hamilton, Death of a Citizen

The first book in the long-running series about counter-assassination agent Matt Helm, who, drawn out of his peacable married retirement as a free-lance writer/photographer, ends up torturing and killing beautiful turncoat and former wartime partner Tina in order to save the life of his kidnapped baby daughter.

Torture, like rape, is rare in the Helm books, however, and, as viewed through Helm’s eyes, is no big extra-special deal, even when he himself is on the receiving end of a soldering iron. But then, it’s done between professionals.

It would be reassuring to know that quintessential professional Helm was out there somewhere now. Simon Harvester’s Dorian Silk too, for that matter, who really knew Afghanistan and the Middle East on the ground.

There’s more about Hamilton, now terminally bed-ridden in Sweden, in “Thrillers” (“Quickies” and “Writer at Work”).

Peeping Tom, Michael Powell.

A movie cameraman, warped in childhood by a sadistic behavioural psychologist father, films women at the moment of death at his hands. Not at all “British.” The critical outcry effectively ends the career of one of Britain’s two or three best directors.

The Criminal, Joseph Losey,

Stanley Baker, who had some acquaintance with the criminal fraternity, is convincing as a hard-man professional criminal inside and outside the prison where methodical beatings by prisoners take place without interference from sardonic head warden Patrick Magee. “The bursts of violence in The Criminal are orgasmic in their surety, in their explosive feeling of energy at last unleashed.” (Dan Callahan on the Web.). Probably the most realistic presentation that we have of professional English criminals prior to Performance (1970).

According to Robert Murphy, London gangster Albert Dimes, who was introduced to Losey by Baker, “provided the authentic background detail which … made The Criminal so unusual among British crime films of the period.” (Smash and Grab, p. 151)

Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock

Has anyone who saw the movie back then felt wholly secure while taking a shower when they’re alone? All the tacit rules are broken with Janet Leigh’s murder, just when she has decided to return and face the music after her impetuous flight to nowhere with her employer’s cash.

In a major court case, Penguin Books are unsuccessfully prosecuted for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover.


For more about the Janson titles attributed to Kelly, see Sidebar 5. I am being inconsistent now and only including works that feel to me as if they could actually be by Kelly.

If my judgment calls are wrong, as may well be the case, this will say something, not about the hubris of “mere” criticism presuming to do the work of scholarship (there being no hard facts here that I am aware of), but about the variety of styles and modes—the “languages”—that may exist under the rubric of a single writer’s name.

Question-marks after their initials indicate doubts on the part of Allen Hubin, Steve Holland, and Richard Williams.

It would be interesting to know what circumstances led to Kelly’s undertaking a fresh run of books in which he must fit himself into the voice of a pre-set character. But at least he had been a journalist himself in the Twenties and Thirties.

Bryn Logan, Get the Cattle Through, Ward Lock, hc 156 pp.

Plain workmanlike prose, no pseudo-regionalisms, no “hombres,” no flickers or flares of poetry.

Young Rudd Wayne whose father has been killed in a show-down arising from accusations that he’s bungled a cattle drive, kills (fairly) the man responsible for provoking the duel, breaks up a rustling operation and finds himself in charge of another drive which a villainous banker has paid to have sabotaged.

The kinds of three-dimensional and psychological problem-solving that the hero engages in makes this feel like a Kelly to me. It contains (a) a well-described hand-to-hand fight, (b) good substantial paragraphs describing Wayne searching a craggy area for rustled cattle and thinking about where they might be stowed, (c) Wayne on the trail retrieving by some daring psychological risk-taking a seemingly hopeless situation after the horses of all the crew but himself are carried off by hostile Indians, (d) a couple of nice bits of dialogue with young Stella Goss in which Rudd is holding back honorably because he thinks she’s committed to another and Stella is probing his state of mind.

Hank Janson, Reluctant Hostess, Roberts, pb, THJ, RW/SH (?), AJH

Reluctant Hostess 1961
Reluctant Hostess 1961

Hank busts a white-slave brothel operation that he has learned about from an old flame who was abducted into it.

See Sidebar 5.

Marcus Van Heller (John Stevenson), Kidnap, Traveller’s Companion (Olympia Press).

An exploitation novel in writing-by-numbers prose that contains sentences like “Nick munched his refreshing steak tartare in the little back street restaurant in Marseilles.” The exploitation technique, as with numerous Adult movies in the Sixties and Seventies, consists in taking a respectable genre structure—here, a British investigative reporter going to France to locate kidnap victims and infiltrating the gang responsible—and then raunchifying elements like a nightclub duo act, a couple of “disciplinary” rapes (here droolingly anal), a knife killing in bed, with subsequent slicings, and the hero’s sexing with those insatiable French girls.

Not a trace of interesting thought-processes in the characters. A reminder, by way of contrast, of how seriously Kelly works at the best of the Jansons attributed to him.

Gustav Herling, A World Apart; Experiences in a Russian Labour Camp, translated.

Curious that a dozen more years have to pass before One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich focusses the attention of the West on the horrors of the Russian Gulag that Herling has already presented, unsensationally (well, apart from a gang-rape episode), in his admirable book.

Cape Fear, J. Lee Thompson

Robert Mitchum as Southern male menace incarnate, undeflectably bent on retribution against Mr. Decency Gregory Peck, with his nice wife and nubile daughter, for being responsible for his doing time for a rape to which he felt perfectly entitled.


Lance Carson, Burning Grass, Ward Lock, 154 pp. BLIC Copac

On the inside front flap of the just jacket we have:

Sent in to the small cow town of Beecher’’s Bluff by the Railway Company, Tex Blake astounded everyone by entering and winning the main “open” race against stiff opposition, during the American Independence Day celebrations. Floyd Egan, owner of the Prospect Hotel, became the enemy; Patriucia Hannay, who came second on her bay gelding, befriended him. It was to the Hannay ranch he went after the dance and it was to Sean Hannay he made his proposition; the railway company was willing to bring a branch line to the township to serve the surrounding country if it could purchase a small parcel of Hannay land.

An insignificant fuse—destined to cause an explosion which set man against man and guns blazing before peace returned to Beecher’s Bluff.

The relationship between Blake, Patricia, and Hannay is kept simple. Blake and Patricia soon like one another and Hannay approves. We have extended descriptions of the horse race, a couple of fist-fights, a couple of gunfights (the second of them Blake alone against four toughs), an aborted stampede, and the conflagration that give the book its title. The most painful episode is the discovery of eighty-three Hannay cows out on the range where they have been hamstrung and left to die, with the buzzards gathering.

Hank Janson (?) Vagabond Vamp, Roberts pb,THJ, RW/SH (?), AJH (?)

Hank liases with a girl maintained in luxury in Washington to enable spies to nobble a Senator. There’s a good extended escape from a house where Hank’s being held prisoner, and a good fight

Hank Janson, Honey for Me, Roberts, pb, THJ,

Honey for Me 1962
Honey for Me 1962

Hank breaks up a large-scale white-slave operation, at considerable risk to himself, enduring an extended Stephen-Frances-type beating at one point and at another engaging for three pages of solid text in a hand-to-hand fight. A elaboration of elements in Reluctant Hostess, including another slave narrative (echoes of Chase’s Miss Callaghan Comes to Grief ?) by a plucky woman who has resourcefully escaped.

Richard Stark, The Hunter, aka Point Blank.

The first book in the series about professional thief and strong-arm man Parker (no first name), surely the least sentimental protagonist of any major thriller series.

Importantly, Parker and his associates are not members of the Mob, are unintimidated by it, and knock hell out of portions of it on several occasions, most impressively and entertainingly in Butcher’s Moon (1974).

There is very little torture and rape in the series, and what there is isn’t done by Parker and Co.

Len Deighton, The Ipcress File

The first high-energy, full-bodied, enviably knowledgeable and self-assured voice of an emergent newer England, so refreshing after the depressiveness of the so-called Angries of the 1950s. Deighton, mirabile dictu, not only likes the Americana that he observes so closely out at the atomic base on Tokwe Atoll, so different from the penny-pinching cramped quarters of W.O.O.C (P) on Charlotte Street, but, almost uniquely, gets American speech exactly right. He still finds England more interesting, though.

By centering London on the map like this, and stimulating writers like Martin Woodhouse, Adam Hall, Adam Diment, James Mitchell, Brian Cleeve, and others to come up with their own fast-moving and strong-flavoured first-person or single p.o.v. London-based espionage novels, Deighton may have sounded something like the death knell, or at least the publican’s first “Time, gentlemen, please,” of British pseudo-American gangster fiction.

Tony Parker and Robert Allerton, The Courage of His Convictions.

A professional British criminal (“Allerton” is a pseudonym) talks freely with a remarkable interviewer.

I don’t want to do eight years, no—but if I have to I have to, and that’s all there is to it. If you’re a criminal, what’s the alternative to the risk of going to prison? Coal-miners don’t spend their time worrying about the risk they might get killed by a fall at the coal-face either. Prison’s an occupational risk, that’s all—and one I’m quite prepared to take. I’ll willingly gamble away a third of my life in prison, so long as I can live the way I want for the other two-thirds. After all, it’s my life, and that’s how I feel about it. The alternative—the prospect of vegetating the rest of my life away in a steady job, catching the 8.15 to work in the morning and the 5.50 back again at night, all for ten or fifteen quid a week—now that really does terrify me, far more than the thought of a few years in the nick. …

Yes, all right. So violence is wrong, on a fundamental level, I admit that. But on a day-to-day level it just happens that it’s a tool of my trade and I use it—like an engineer uses a slide-rule, or a bus-driver the handbrake, or a dentist the drill. Only when necessary, and only when it can’t be avoided. If I’ve got to whack a bloke with an iron bar to make him let go of a wages-bag he’s carrying, O.K., so I’ll whack him. If he lets go without any trouble, I don’t. That’s all. …

Violence is in a way like bad language—something that a person like me’s been brought up with, something I got used to very early on as part of the daily scene of childhood, you might say. I don’t at all recoil from the idea. I don’t have a sort of inborn dislike of the thing, like you do. …

To any really professional criminal someone who uses a shooter is out completely; he’s the amateur pure and simple. Only kids do things like that. (pp. 88, 93, 99-100)


Hank Janson (?), V for Vitality, Compazt (Roberts), pb,THJ, RW/SH ?), AJH (?)

Janson nails a dangerous armed-robbery gang, which makes attempts on his life. The tension slackens somewhat towards the end.

Blood Feast, Herschel Gordon Lewis

The first gore flick, unbearably incompetent now, apart from an opening bathtub sequence, but at the time eliciting from one of the editors of Midi-Minuit Fantastique the observation that you’re horribly afraid while watching it because you never know when a sequence is going to end. There’s a lot to be said for not in some sense knowing in advance what can’t happen in a work.

From Blood Feast to Hostel (2005)—we’ve come a long way.

It Happened Here, Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo.

A fictive but real-feeling imagining, on a shoe-string budget, of what it would have been like had Germany successfully occupied England in 1940. Lacks the simple moral certitudes of British wartime movies. Some individuals actively collaborate. Lots of others simply go along, since Germany is running things with a light hand and the nasty things that happen are happening out of sight and mind to others, such as the retarded children who are quietly euthanized in the cottage hospital with its nice clean sheets and well-starched nurses.

The movie, like lots of subsequent ones, benefits greatly with young Andrew Mollo’s perfectionism about military uniforms being accurate and having a lived-in look.

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. (French ed., 1961)

Explosive mix of Marxist-Leninism, racialism, French-style universalizing of particular situations (colonial Algeria), Robespierrean absolutism, psychiatric case-histories from the war for Algerian independence, and pervasive binary-antithetical thinking.

Potentials for disaster (as we now know) swirl and seethe in easily assimilable generalizations at the start of the book.

We have precisely chosen to speak of that kind of tabula rasa which characterizes at the outset all decolonization. Its unusual importance is that it constitutes, from the very first day, the minimum demands of the colonized. To tell the truth, the proof of success lies in a whole social structure being changed from the bottom up. (p.35)

The naked truth of decoloniization evokes for us the searing bullet and bloodstained knives which emanate from it. For if the last shall be first, this will only come to pass after a murderous and decisive struggle between the two protagoists. (p.37)

Violence alone, violence committed by the people, violence organized and educated by its leaders, makes it possible for the masses to understand social truths and give the key to them. Without that struggle, without the knowledge of the practice of action, there’s nothing but a fancy-dress parade and the blare of the trumpets. There’s nothing save a minimus of readaptation, a few reforms at the top, a flag-waving; and down there at the bottom an undivided mass, still living in the middle ages, endlessly marking time. (p.147)

The blood of innocents drips from those words. But of course, naturally, bien entendu, you can’t make coq au vin without killing chickens.

The comments on are lively. I like the sound of the suggestion that, “In essence, Fanon’s theory is a justification for violence based on race, and for the control of people through propaganda and terror while spouting democratic theories.”


Hank Janson, Sex Angle, Roberts, pb, THJ, not RW/SH,

Sex Angle
Sex Angle

Hank copes as a deputy with gangdom in Timmins, Ontario! The first-names “Lynx" and “Carrie” at one or two points, plus the abundance of Tommy-guns and Lugers as current hoodlum weapons of choice, bring the Glintos to mind.

Despite the off-the-beaten-track locale, the book is too three-dimensional, workmanlike, grammatical, knowledgeable, and action-packed to be by the Canadian Jim Moffatt, to judge from his Janson The Dish Ran Away in the same year. A great swan-song—if it was indeed by Kelly. Williams and Holland assign it to Michel. Steve Holland assigns it outright to Kelly, THJ,

A bit of phrasing in Give the People Homes (1955) suggests that Kelly himself was in Canada at some point, and white-trash Ella Timmons figures in Deep South Slave.

John D. MacDonald, The Deep Blue Good Bye.

The first Travis McGee book, introducing the Florida boat bum and exemplar of the Playboy Philosophy who lives by recovering stolen property for a percentage and, over the years, copes with a lot of genuinely scary villains—here, Junior Allen, who has enjoyed turning a sensitive, well-bred woman into a sex-slave out at sea in his cabin cruiser and later is all set to give a lovely virginal young girl the same treatment.

Torture, rape, and sadistic degradation are always possibilities in the McGees, which are such gripping reads that run-of-the-mill British “Mushroom” paperbacks pale beside them.

Hubert Selby, Jr., Last Exit to Brooklyn

Life, lust, liquor, and brutality among the lowest of the blue-collar (white) urban low. Harry (who has trouble coming to terms with his being really one of Those) and prostitute Tra-La-La come to particularly unpleasant ends. The final part, about a housing project, is a vision of hell.

James Mayo, Hammerhead

As I say in Violence in the Arts (1974)

When one finds oneself reading a respectable British thriller in which among other things (a) a woman’s head is slowly crushed between the gigantic hands of an acromegalic hoodlum, (b) a hoodlum is killed by the hero by having a grease gun stuffed down his throat and pumped, (c) a man’s lips are stapled together to gag him (with a detailed account of the hero’s subsequently cutting and prying the staples out of the swollen flesh without any anesthetic, and (d) the master criminal is finally tied down over an enormous floodlight by the hero and left to broil to death—well, one is liable to feel that something has been slipping a bit somewhere, in popular, or in oneself, or in both, as one does when reading the description of the beating-up in Mario Puzo’s The Godfather or the torture scene in Frederick Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal. (Chapter 1)

Adam Hall, The Quiller Memorandum

The start of the frenetic British spy series, in which, though more or less perpetually on the run in some way—cars, planes, legs, with Hall drawing on his own expertise as a former apprentice test driver—agent Quiller very rarely kills anyone.

Brian Cleeve, Vote X for Treason

Ex-IRA jailbird Sean Ryan is compelled to infiltrate a truly frightening British neo-Fascist organization on behalf of a British security service. In Counterspy , that same year, and Dark Blood, Dark Terror (1965) he is in page-turning peril from other groups.

Culloden, Peter Watkins.

A powerful documentary-type filming of the Battle of Culloden and the merciless repression that followed it, putting an end to the hopes of Bonnie Prince Charlie regaining the English throne for the Stewarts, and permanently changing Scotland’s social structure.


Truman Capote, In Cold Blood.

In Dickens’ Hard Times, a landscape is described as “neither town nor country but both spoiled.” Capote’s every-New-Yorker-reader’s-favourite-True-Crime-opus is neither documentary nor fiction, but both spoiled.

An exasperating feature of nominally factual writing is “verbatim” dialogue or speech which couldn’t have been recorded or recalled (“Lyndon rolled away from Lady Bird and reached for his bathrobe, saying, ....”). In Cold Blood is rife with it, and the recorded parts—police transcripts, etc—feel tidied up to remove hesitations and redundancies. Capote also has no problem with telling us what characters were thinking or feeling at various points.

The over-all effect is to give readers the comfortable assurance that they know all about the humanized killers, and diminish the terror of the victims. These are things happing to Them (in Kansas yet!), not to us here in the Upper Fifties of Manhattan.

Capote as the engaged “I” of the movie about him figures only in the preface. Elsewhere, this is one of God’s scribes speaking, but not a particularly interesting one. A movie like Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer, is emotionally sounder, or Jim and Debbie Goad’s horrifying Answer Me, no.4.

John D. MacDonald, Bright Orange for the Shroud.

Among other episodes, McGee, temporarily paralyzed by a bullet wound, lies in the yard outside a bedroom and has to listen to Mitchumesque stud Boo Waxwell jocularly talking to, renewing his raping of, and arousing against her will a now no longer arrogant Southern-establishment wife.

“AAAAAAA,” she said. And again, “AAAAAAA.” It was not a sound of pain or of pleasure, of fright, of want, or of denial. It was simply the sound of sensation, purified, dehumanized, so vivid that I could visualize her head thrown back, eyes wide blind staring, mouth wide and crooked. (p.150)

D.A.F. de Sade, Justine, Philosophy in the Boudoir, and Other Writings, trans. Richard Seaver and Austryn Wainhouse, introd. Jean Paulhan and Maurice Blanchot (N.Y., Grove Press)

First over-the-counter big-market editions of Sade’s “forbidden” works in translation. Followed by Grove’s The 120 Days of Sodom in 1966 and the monumental Juliette, trans. Austryn Wainhouse, in 1968, his most important book.


Brian Cleeve, Vice Isn’t Private.(aka The Judas Goat)

The best of the Sean Ryan books, with believable high-level and on-the-ground menaces as reluctant agent Ryan has to nurse-maid over to the Continent a loathsome IRA thug whom he has broken out of prison. Towards the end, Rafferty is given the strappado by some very unpleasant people seeking information:

“Hoopla,” Ozzy shouted, caught the slithering rope, threw his weight backward, the acrobat joined to him like a Siamese twin, both of them falling backward almost to the floor. And the falling body jerked to a stop, inches from the ground. There was a crack like wood breaking; the body sagged, the feet on the ground now, the arms stretched up and back, the shoulders dislocated, and Rafferty was screaming like a woman, like a pig being slaughtered, dreadful, unbelievable, unbearable.(Ch. 18)

And no, this isn’t “exploitation.” It is highly functional and the only such episode in the book. But it, like episodes in previous books by Cleeve, is a marker establishing and extending the boundaries of the possible. And we can see how “respectable” thrillers have outpaced, in the thrills they provide, the ones by almost all those now forgotten and/or unread “Jungle” novelists, and how readers who simply want the sex-and-violence moments have to turn to books like Van Heller’s.

Peter Loughran, The Train Ride NEW

By far the most disturbing British crime novel up to this point, and maybe ever. Knowing as we unavoidably do that the youth in the railway carriage, back in the days of compartments, is eventually going to rape and kill the charming seven-year-old girl, who at first is being looked after by a couple of friendly nuns, then (after they have to leave) by a solid-seeming woman who promises to keep an eye on her but then joins a friend in another compartment, leaving her alone with the narrator and what is a massive jump-cut, with some especially sickening details after it—all this is like feeling the terrible inevitability of an impending train wreck as the narrator’s quasi-interior monologue progressively darkens, though without becoming sexually explicit.

It is all much worse than the self-revealed violence of the narrator of Gerald Butler’s Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1940). Loughran has reached down and out into the all-too-common generic awfulness of a certain kind of youth, presenting himself to an imagined generic auditor as poised, worldly-wise, knowing his way around with women, smartly dressed, tough in relation to others like him—and then the façade increasingly cracking and crumbling as more and more fears, failures, resentments, and moralizing viciousness show themselves and we are being drawn into a partly controlled madness that goes on presenting itself as a true knowledge of how the world, in all its looking-out-for-Number-One callousness really is, and how disgusting females, apart from the purity of nuns and pre-puberty kids like the victim here, really are.

In its rhetorical cunning of homicidal self-presentation, and authorial mercilessness, it is the nearest British equivalent to works like Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me (1952) and Hubert Selby’s The Room (1971).. We’ve come a long way beyond the impotent, class-constricted whining, bitching, and bullying of Look Back in Anger. Yet it’s still “English” in the quasi-domestic setting and the securities that it is presumed to be providing.

What would Orwell have had to say about the “Americanization” here, I wonder?

John D. MacDonald, One Fearful Yellow Eye

McGee comes upon the nailed-to-a-wall body of a petty crook who has been methodically tortured, until death intervenes, in pursuit of information. Subsequently McGee, bound to a chair, has to listen while one of his temporary ladies screams in the next room in the hands of a former Gestapo interrogator who loves his work.

Witchfinder General (aka The Conqueror Worm), Michael Reeves.

A movie almost too disquieting to watch, because you very soon grasp that there is no guarantee that any character will be safe from the horrible attentions of 17th-century British witch-hunter Matthew Hopkins, finely played by Vincent Price (though by the sound of it Reeves had wanted Peter Cushing) and his brutal assistant.

The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo

A masterpiece, brilliant in its handling of non-actors, and defining “revolt” with the same kind of moral gravitas as Rosselini’s defining of “resistance” in Open City, but more intelligently.

It accommodates not only the ideologically-nourished heroism of the rebel leaders, but also the deliberate, soldierly murderousness of the young women planting bombs in cafes where they have looked at other women going about their normal lives, and the lucid rationale of the paratroopers charged with suppressing the revolt and breaking their way up through the rebel cells by means of the kind of torture that Henri Alleg had described in The Question.

Reissued with important supplementary material about Algeria since then, its post-independence development not following the standard onward-and-upwards Marxist scenario.


A Fistful of Dollars, Sergio Leone.

Essentializes the Western to men killing other men with revolvers and working cons on each other. Borgia West. Beatings look like beatings and take a while to recover from. A star is born. The sales of small, black, hard, twisted, wonderful Italian cigars increase. The Western revives.


Harold Kelly dies, after moving at some point to the Canary Islands for his health. BSF

Stephen Frances, La Guerra (complete in one volume).

An impressively long, detailed, and, in the conventional sense, well written three-volume novel about the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, with some credibly horrible and at times very sad episodes.

Mario Puzo, The Godfather

Puzo’s ode to Italianate, Borgia-esque power.

Here, as an early hook, is punishment being administered outside a bar to two jerks who sexually assaulted a nice Italian daughter:

The two big men were beating Moonan to jelly. They did so with frightening deliberation, as if they had all the time in the world. They did not throw punches in flurries but in timed, slow-motion sequences that carried the full weight of their massive bodies. Each blow landed with a splat of flesh splitting open. Gatto got a glimpse of Moonan’s face. It was unrecognizable. … One of the men took [Wagner’s] arm and twisted it, then kicked him in the spine. There was a cracking sound and Wagner’s scream of agony brought windows open all along the street.

How could you not adore a God (father) who had the power to order such things?

The Wild Bunch, 1969
The Wild Bunch, 1969

The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah

Splendid, callous (those civilian deaths), ridiculous (the dialogue), and cinematically indispensable.

Mark of the Devil, Michael Armstrong

An intensification of witch-finding cruelties, Herbert Lom not up to the authority of Vincent Price the previous year, but the movie is sickening because you know that such tortures actually happened, and because during the maladroit earlier parts you know that particular individuals are going to be appallingly mistreated.


Ted Lewis, Jack’s Return Home

Jack's Return Home 1970
Jack’s Return Home 1970

English gangdom now fully on the map in a brilliant novel. See my “The Best Thriller” elsewhere in this site.

I gave him the knife. I put it in just below the rubs, thrusting upwards. Albert’s eyes and mouth opened wider than they’d done at any other time in his life. I left the knife where it was for a moment or two, then I pulled it out slowly, then put it back. Albert began to slide down the side of the pan in silence. I pulled the knife out for the last time and stood back and watched him die.

Performance, Nicholas Roeg and Donald Cammell

Performance 1970
Performance 1970

Arty and laden with dopey “significance” once tough criminal-on-the-run James Fox takes refuge in fading rock-star Mick Jagger’s acid-drenched lair, but authoritative earlier in its presentation of the unpleasant manners and methods of London gangsters.

The Sorrow and the Pity/Le Chagrin et la Pitié, Marcel Ophuls

Four documentary hours of France during the Occupation, when for a while, before the economic looting and general repression got under way, it was far from evident to a lot of the public that the order-affirming German and Vichy regimes were inferior to the pre-war chaos. Later on the French militia and gestapo were more vicious than the Germans in their war against the Resistance. So easy now, with the privileges of hindsight, to know which side one would of course have been on oneself. But back in 1940–41? And how about the menaces, and conflicting ideologies, and cravings for peace at any price in the present century?


Frederick Forsyth, The Day of the Jackal

The huge OAS conspirator Kowalski is tortured at one point by French security agents using electric shocks in order to crack a major assassination plot.

The eyes, medically unable to see clearly through the puffed flesh around them, defied medicine and started outwards, bulging into vision and staring at the ceiling above. The mouth was open as if in surprise and it was half a second before the demonic scream came out of the lungs. When it did come, it went on and on and on. … [sic]

Hubert Selby, The Room

Contains possibly the worst rape episode in above-the-counter fiction, plus an extended revenge fantasy, including rats and cattle prods, about the two cops who arrested the principal character.

Maria Deluz (Stephen Frances), In the Hands of the Inquisition

A remarkable work of historical re-creation, too painful to re-experience, in which most of the focus is on the victims before and after being tortured.

Boris Vian, I Spit on Your Grave, intro Noël Arnaud Audubon

First English-language translation of Vian’s infamous J’Irai cracher sur vos tombes (1946), which appeared over the pseudonym Vernon Sullivan and was an early French hommage to things American back when, let’s admit it, les Americains gave a bit of assistance to De Gaulle and the Resistance in ridding France of les Boches.

A Black who’s passing establishes himself as the manager of a bookstore in a small Southern town, in preparation for avenging the lynching of his brother. Rape, anal sex, sex with a child, sex with a new-made corpse, an atrocious killing. “My face was covered with blood and I backed away a little on my knees. I have never in my life heard a woman scream like that …”

The book is banned—banned in France yet!—and Vian is heavily fined and sentenced to fifteen days in jail (which he doesn’t have to serve). I’m reminded of Kelly/Glinto and the Lady—Don’t Turn Over case, both writers having pushed the envelope. But the narrative is suspenseful, character-driven, and not “exploitation.”

Vian’s three other Sullivan books seem to me nothing much, though I may have missed things in the French. The 1962 French movie is nothing much either, though the large bookstore has the same charming irreality as the bar in Once Upon a Time in the West.

The 1972 American-made rape-and-revenge I Spit on Your Grave has nothing to do with the book.

Get Carter, Mike Hodges.

Get Carter, 1971
Get Carter, 1971

Suffers for a bit from too few camera set-ups (budget problems?), but gathers momentum, with consistently well-observed performances, a brilliant transposition of the action from Scunthorpe to the visually interesting sites of Newcastle, and unforgettable episodes.

The Grissom Gang, Robert Aldrich

A splendid filming of James Hadley Chase’s No Orchids for Miss Blandish. With Kiss Me, Deadly, one of Aldrich’s two best movies, and his least cynical.


George V. Higgins, The Friends of Eddie Coyle

What feels like realism in the rendering of the Boston-area speech and thought processes of not very bright criminals, smarter ones who profit from them, and law-enforcers who aren’t sharply different from the latter.

“Count your fucking knuckles,” the stocky man said.

“All of them?” Jackie Brown said.

“Ah, Christ,” the stocky man said. “Count as many of them as you want. I got four more. One on each finger. Know how I got those? I bought some stuff from a man that I had his name, and it got traced, and the man I bought it for, he went to M C I Walpole for fifteen to twenty-five. Still in there, but he had some friends. I got an extra set of knuckles. Shut my hand in a drawer. Then one of them stomped the drawer shut. Hurt like a fucking bastard. You got no idea how it hurt.”

The Last House on the Left, Wes Craven

A rape-and-revenge movie that still disturbs. The two teenage victims, whom one really cares about, bravely do everything they can to escape from their tormentors. But the latter remain unreachable, and yet still intelligibly human and individual. In their urge to torment and destroy, they are rather like children cruelly playing with a captured bird or little animal. The few small cuts were no doubt necessary for distribution purposes, but the excised moments were functional.

Straw Dogs, Sam Peckinpah

Consistently hateful. Peckinpah simply doesn’t know the England that he’s working in with supposed realism, and doesn’t like anyone in the movie or want us to either. I see that Time Out loved it. But then, Time Out, while sneering at The Long Good Friday, also loved the preposterous Shawshank Redemption.

The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola

The Godfather 1972
The Godfather 1972

Well, the Italians, like the Kennedys, have certainly moved stage-center, with their concern with honour, loyalty, courage, family, success, and power. Capone should have been so lucky.

Splendid entertainment at the time, with strong shock-points of violence, but nauseatingly sentimental and obsequious now. Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990) was a badly needed antidote that hadn’t been provided by the more pretentious Part II and the egregious Part III.

The adoption of The Sopranos as an All in the Family for our time doesn’t seem cause for self-congratulation.


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago , English language translation.

Includes descriptions of thirty-one interrogation techniques, ascending from mild to frightful, and their effects. See chapter 3, “The Interrogation.”

You could learn from those who had suffered that they could give you a salt-water douche in the throat and then leave you in a box for a day tormented by thirst. Or that they might scrape the skin off a man’s back with a grater till it bled and then oil it with turpentine. (Brigade Commander Rudolf Pintsov underwent both treatments. In addition they pushed needles under his nails, and poured water into him to the bursting point-demanding that he confess to having wanted to turn his brigade of tanks against the government during the November parade.) And from Aleksandrov, the former head of the Arts Section of the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, who has a broken spinal column which tilts to one side, and who cannot control his tear ducts and thus cannot stop crying, one can learn how Abakumov himself could beat—in 1948.

Yes, yes, Minister of State Security Abakumov himself did not by any means spurn such menial labor.

See also Sidebar 13

Ted Lewis, Jack Carter’s Law

TCSM 1974
TCSM 1974

A major loss to cinema was the failure to film this superb Carter prequel, set in a London dense with more or less criminal types and locales (Ted obviously wrote it with filming in mind) and doing for the shotgun what Scarface did for the tommy-gun. Presumably Michael Caine, who by his own account had seen Get Carter as showing what violence is really like, had been put off by the outcry in the States (Time? Newsweek?) against its violence. Having a President in the White House called Carter probably didn’t help.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Tobe Hooper

TCSM 1974
TCSM 1974

A pity that the grandfather is obviously a younger man in a latex mask, but by the sound of it a genuine oldster would have been unlikely to hold up during the manic and exhausting filming in Texas summer heat. Otherwise splendidly imagined and shot.

Badlands, Terence Malick, 1974

Visually luscious sentimentalizing of 19-year-old Charlie Starkweather’s 1957 killing spree in Nebraska, companioned by pretty Caril Ann Fugate (age 14). Sixties elite narcissism decked out as existential profundity and ironical social commentary. The eleven victims are hopelessly Fifties. Who cares about them when you have Sissy Spacek?

Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS, Don Edmonds

Surprisingly powerful. Done absolutely straight, with no low-budget irony substituting for craft, and a magnificent performance by Dyann Thorne as experimental-medical-unit commandant Ilsa. The story-line is character-driven and not just a way to link together atrocities. The other Nazis, both officers and brutish other ranks, feel real and are hateful. Someone has really been thinking about body-English. No camera set-up is repeated. Someone has really been working at making a movie.

It’s still one that lots of people would very reasonably not want to sit through, but it’s better art than a truly vicious movie like The Vanishing (1988), with its kidnapped woman buried alive while she’s unconscious and slowly dying in the pitch-black and featureless space into which she has awakened. Time Out simply adored that one.

The two subsequent Ilsa movies are mere S&V exploitation, obviously put together on the cheap.


The Yakuza, Sydney Pollack

Robert Mitchum’s other greatest role, in a movie in which his and Ken Takakura’s explosive violence at the end against Tokyo gangsters is energized by a complex honour-permeated relationship with its roots in the post-war occupation of Japan, and centered now in the beautiful and mature renewal of Mitchum’s relationship with the lovely Keiko Kishi.

Salo, Pier Paolo Pasolini

A repulsive movie, in what may not have been the way intended. The four rich roués, shutting themselves away during the late stage of Italy’s Fascist state, are indeed as loathsome as any anti-Fascist could wish. The problem, for me at least, is with their young victims, who seem almost zombie-like in their uniform passivity in the face of, on paper, the unspeakable tortures and degradations that the four monsters have them endure.

Where are the tears, screams, pleading, bleeding, bladder-and-bowel incontinence that belong in the same stylistic conventions as the tormentors? Their nude bodies remain undamaged and untarnished.

Near the end, what isn’t there is brought out by the short segment in which we witness from a distance what are obviously horrible things being done, out of earshot, in the garden of the villa. Of course a movie with that kind of thing brought indoors and close to would be intolerable. But as it is, the inconsistency is as alienating and irritating as the low-budget exploitationers of Russ Meyers.

Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS and Men Behind the Sun are better. You sympathize unequivocally with the victims, their tormentors aren’t caricatures, and you don’t feel numb at the end.





February 2007

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