Movie review: The Delta Factor (1970)

According to Mickey Spillane’s friend and posthumous collaborator Max Allan Collins, Spillane’s disappointment with producing the movie based on The Delta Factor was a major reason for Spillane setting aside his incomplete manuscript of the novel’s sequel, The Consummata.

Too bad Mickey was so disappointed, because this cheapie is in many ways a terrible movie, but it’s also a blast, exactly the sort of thing I would have loved had I caught it on TV some Sunday afternoon as a kid, back in the days when kids watched random old movies on TV on weekend afternoons.

The movie makes no sense. Scratch that–it does makes sense. It makes sense if you’ve recently read the book, which was my circumstance. But if you haven’t? God help you in figuring out what’s going on.

The film is extremely faithful to the novel, but it jettisons some subplots, and also nearly everything else from the text of the book that would leave the viewer with a clue. It just relates the events without context or explanation, and this starts with the very first scene.

In the novel, our protagonist Morgan the Raider has the bad luck being randomly swiped by a driver who is evading the police. This lands Morgan in the hospital, where he is ID’d and, as he’s a fugitive, placed under arrest.

The same thing happens in the movie, except the viewer is never told that the driver swiping Morgan is just a bad break, and that Morgan was ID’d in the hospital and that’s why he’s under arrest. Instead, we get an awesome opening (with great music) where the driver swipes Morgan, Morgan wakes up in the hospital (wearing shades!), and gets handcuffs slapped on him. The viewer would naturally wonder who the driver was, why the cops were chasing him, and how all of this relates to Morgan getting the cuffs slapped on, but the viewer will never be told. The story just keeps going, explanations be damned. There are other examples, but that one’s a good non-spoilery way to make the point.

From there, Yvette Mimieux looks hot and seems to be enjoying the tropical locale and the paycheck much more than her character, Kim Stacy, did in the novel, while Christopher George, as Morgan the Raider, proves himself a terrific comedic actor in his role as a proto-Jack of All Trades Bruce Campbell as he smarms his way across every bit of scenery he’s not chewing.

Who cares if you can see the boom mike sometimes? You can also see Yvonne De Carlo as either a swank socialite or a whorehouse madame (don’t expect the movie to explain which) for the sole purpose of hosting a party so she can load up the opening scenes with eye candy.

And, more than that, you can see an epic car chase wherein a Volkswagen Beetle bests a Ford Mustang via inventing the Dukes of Hazzard technique of driving through those special forests where there is always space enough between the trees that an entire automobile can fit and there is always a path that leads to another nearby road. (If someone split this scene out from the film, it would be YouTube gold.)

Featuring gunfights, prison breaks, the world’s least-scary bomb (it would have only blackened their faces like Wile E. Coyote), disappearing subplots, Sherri Spillane (of the quite memorable cover of Mickey’s The Erection Set) as a nightclub singer, gratuitous nudity, a cool soundtrack, and a nonstop and nonsensical pace, The Delta Factor is a delicious and delirious time-waster.

While I didn’t care for Max Allan Collins’ posthumous completion of Spillane’s Delta Factor sequel, The Consummata, I did get a great deal of amusement from catching a few references to the movie that Collins snuck into the book. The three I caught (I’m sure there were more) were turning an unnamed country with a capital called Nuevo Cádiz into a country called Nuevo Cádiz, referring to Uncle Sam as “Uncle Whiskers,” and giving the brand name of one of Morgan the Raider’s innumerable cold beers–Schlitz. A six-pack of Schlitz would probably provide great company while viewing The Delta Factor. In fact, it’s recommended.

To my knowledge, The Delta Factor has never been legally released on video, although I imagine that will change once I post “Volkswagen Beetle versus Ford Mustang car chase!!!” to YouTube and it gets a million hits. The movie would be a good candidate for one of those burn-on-demand outfits like Warner Archives. The entire film can be viewed on YouTube in not-great quality, and if you watch some of that and it piques your curiosity, you didn’t hear it from me that higher-quality bootlegs are out there.

Update (4/3/20): A higher quality version (looks about the same as the bootleg) is now available on YouTube.

Posts in this series

Review: The Delta Factor by Mickey Spillane

Review: The Consummata by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Movie review: The Delta Factor (1970) (this post)