Wednesday 23 February 2022

Company Cinema in Abadan — A History (by Abbas Baharloo)

Taj Cinema in Abadan

Commissioned by me and originally published in the now defunct Underline magazine, this piece by the prolific (and Abadani) historian of Iranian cinema, Abbas Baharloo, sheds light on a lesser-known and nonetheless very significant chapter in the history of film culture in pre-revolutionary Iran. — EK


The Anglo-Persian Oil Company ushered in a ‘golden age’ of cinema-going in Abadan before nationalisation in 1951. Overseen by the Company, however, popular entertainment and propaganda were mixed, and screenings did little to bridge social divisions. 

By Abbas Baharloo


Many years ago now, Abadan was a city that welcomed immigrants and a place where many settled. Its population was made up of people from many different Iranian and international cities; Isfahanis, Shirazis, Baluch, Kurds, Lors, Arabs, and Azeris lived alongside Britons, Americans, Indians, and people from Rangoon in Burma. At the time Abadan was a bustling city and a vibrant centre of all sorts of cultural and artistic activities. There were leisure clubs; modern cinemas; libraries housing books and other publications in Persian, English, and Arabic; theatre, photography, and gardening associations; concerts of Iranian and foreign music; lectures on literature, music and painting, and sporting competitions. Despite all this, in Abadan doors were not always open to everybody. The prominent Iranian filmmaker Nasser Taghvai, born in Abadan in 1941, remembers it thus:

Wednesday 9 February 2022

This Gun For Hire (Frank Tuttle, 1942)

“Murder didn't mean much to Raven. It was just a new job”. These lines open Graham Greene's novel about an assassin with a cleft lip who is hired to kill a government minister, only to find himself double-crossed by his contractor. Enraged, he seeks revenge while the police are on his tail. Proving adept at translating many of the book's details to the screen, Tuttle was also chiefly responsible for inventing cinema's angelic killer, in the way he reshaped the image of the disfigured Raven into a shiningly handsome yet darkly destructive messenger of death. (The action was also transferred from pre-war England to wartime California). Given unprecedented freedom, Tuttle wrote a treatment based on the book, which Paramount obtained upon publication in 1936 but had abandoned as unfilmable.