Depiction of Parker:
Parker’s name in film: Earl Macklin
Parker played by: Robert Duvall
Written and Directed by John Flynn
Parker has just been released from prison. He’s picked up by Bett Harrow, who informs him that his brother is dead. It turns out that the last bank that he, his brother Eddie, and their partner Cody (based on Handy McCay) hit was an Outfit operation, and the Outfit took contracts out on all three.
Parker survives a hit while in a motel room with Bett, and works the hitman to find out who hired him. It was Frank Menner, a mid-level operative in the Outfit. Parker tracks down Menner, robs him at a poker game, and gives him notice—he’s going to keep hitting the Outfit until they pay him $250,000 compensation. And Parker will go all the way to the top if he has to.
The 1973 adaptation of The Outfit was the Parker film that stayed closest to its source material prior to the release of the director’s cut of Payback. While Robert Duvall’s Earl Macklin is not quite the machine Parker is all the time, he’s cold-hearted in the extreme when he’s doing his job. Some of the dialog is lifted directly from the novel (“Die somewhere else”), and this Parker executes his heists in a manner very similar to the literary Parker, often in scenes that are also directly lifted from the book. Had writer-director John Flynn wanted to film a Parker book straight (or perhaps thought such a film would be commercially viable), Duvall shows us that he would have been a fine choice for that role.
In addition to using much of the novel, the film also incorporates a few elements that indicate that Flynn was familiar with the Parker series beyond The Outfit. For example, the movie begins with Parker just out of jail after having been picked up for a minor offense, like in The Hunter. The Handy McKay character already has his diner in this version, something that didn’t happen in the novels until further along.
Solid source material without too many liberties taken and a great cast make The Outfit a solid 1970s mob picture that deserves to be remembered better than it has been.
The Outfit is available on DVD from the Warner Archive.
(Note: I won’t say what part it is so as to avoid spoilers, but Stark borrows a portion of this film that wasn’t in the original novel for the following year’s Butcher’s Moon.)
The Outfit Image Gallery