Pulp Frictions: Adventures in Hardboiled Books and Movies

Our popular Film Studies courses are run in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University. Watch four films and explore the themes, influences, style and legacy in four informal lectures, spread over eight weeks.

Pulp crime novels sold in their millions in the 1940s and 50s, they were tales where the men were grifters, gunsels and private dicks and the women were broads, dames and femmes fatales. To a contemporary readership these books, with their lurid covers and exploitative taglines, are ripe to be considered as politically incorrect and reactionary; and many certainly are. However, there is more to them than meets the eye, and some of their adaptations for the screen can provide a surprising range of approaches to the original text.

The four novels and their screen versions covered in this course display the work of very different authors. The films made from them also show, in a variety of ways, how four unique filmmakers made the films their own, often eclipsing their source material in popular recognition. The writers, Lionel White, Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson, have all had other works adapted for the silver screen but in the hands of Stanley Kubrick, Robert Aldrich, Akira Kurosawa and Sam Peckinpah they found filmmakers who were able not only to translate the pulp source material, but also subvert it.


There is therefore a palpable tension between each film and the book it is based upon. The reactionary commie-baiting Mike Hammer is given a very unsympathetic reworking in Kiss Me Deadly; Dashiell Hammett’s ‘continental op’ of Red Harvest is transformed into a sly, calculating samurai in Yojimbo and Jim Thompson (‘The Dime-Store Dostoyevsky’) both adapts Lionel White’s Clean Break into The Killing and has his own work adapted for The Getaway .


Politics, gender roles and social attitudes will be shown to have been turned on their heads across all four films as we interrogate them and the original (often unfairly derided) pulp novels that inspired them.

Course led by Martin Carter, a Principal Lecturer in film and television studies at Sheffield Hallam University.

Full Course Pricing:

Adults: £65

Concessions: £50

Cine26: £32

To book the full course, please pop into Box Office, or get in touch with them on 0114 275 7727

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