The Mise à sac Score: Finding the Lost Parker Movie

Well, I finally watched it. What took me so long? I’ll get to that.

The Score is the fifth of Richard Stark’s Parker novels and universally thought of as one of the series’ very best. I bet some would say that The Score is the best. It’s probably in nearly everyone’s top five, and possibly in nearly everyone’s top three.

On the page, The Score feels ready-made for a movie adaptation, and in 1967, it got one: A French film entitled Mise à sac, AKA Pillaged, Midnight Raid, Una notte per 5 rapine (One Night for 5 Robberies), and possibly more.

If Mise à sac has ever been released on video, it was once, in France, in the very early days of home video–I have a report of someone seeing the video box in France, but I have never seen the box myself. I have checked French eBay many times over the years and never seen the tape for sale. The movie was impossible to see for decades.

Now it is on YouTube.

A few people have written to tell me this. I thank you for the e-mails about it (and sorry if I never got back to you–I always mean to), but I know. I know because I’m in large part responsible for getting it there.

Well, I didn’t upload it there myself but…

I’ll explain.

When this site was in its infancy, more than twenty(!) years ago, the Internet was in its infancy as well. The whole impetus for the creation of the site was that there was almost no information about the Parker novels anywhere on the Web. You youngsters may find this hard to believe, but there was almost nothing out there at all. Can you believe this?: Wikipedia didn’t even exist!

I’ll quote myself here:

“This site started…as ‘The Parker Page,’ which was just that–one page, hosted at the now-defunct Geocities. It listed the novels in order, and the movies based on them, with a couple of pictures.

Why bother with that? Well, at the time I had to do research, including a trip or two to the University of Texas library, to get that much information, and, once I dug it up, I didn’t want others to have to work so hard. Also, I wanted to experiment with this newfangled Internet thing. So I used my rudimentary HTML knowledge and posted my research online.

The result was astonishing. A constant stream of e-mails began pouring in from Parker fans around the world, telling me bits of trivia I had not known, offering to send me hard-to-find books, hooking me up with bootlegs of Made in U.S.A. and The Split, mailing me unproduced screenplays. There was a hunger out there, and by posting one lame page on the Internet, it became my job to feed it.”

It was while doing research at the UT library that I discovered the existence of Mise à sac. I thought it was in John M. Reilly’s Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers, but I have a copy of that now and, no, it’s not in there. It must have been in another of those extraordinarily expensive reference books sold primarily to libraries.

There were few traces of the film on the Internet at the time. Mostly, it was just on IMDB with little extra information. Heck, it’s still on IMDB with little extra information. And that’s all I recall from the time.

Eventually, a little more emerged. I found images of a couple of posters, as well as a short synopsis or two in French, which revealed only that it tracked the novel fairly closely. A French reader named Miroslav who had seen the movie e-mailed with his recollection of the film (a little inaccurate, as it turns out). Later, he e-mailed me to say that the film was a French/US coproduction and that the rights were at United Artists and frozen, I believe implying that the coproduced nature of the film had unsurprisingly resulted in a rights issue.

But that was about it–for nearly fifteen years. I despaired of ever seeing it.

During this time and largely because of this site, this previously nearly-unknown movie became the Holy Grail for many Parker fans. The books came back into print, and the other film adaptations were released to DVD and sometimes even Blu-ray, but of Mise à sac, there was still little trace. There were images of posters and a few stills online. Lobby cards and other promotional materials could be found for sale online. But the film itself seemed to have vanished as completely as Parker after a successful heist.

Then, finally, a strike. In 2013, reader Adam K. sent me an e-mail. He had found someone online selling Mise à sac on iOffer, of all places. Sketchy, but what the hell. I took a chance, ordered, and actually got it. It was a transfer from videotape. It looked and sounded really rough. It was in French with no subtitles. But it was the real thing!

A problem–I don’t speak French, and neither do the vast majority of Parker readers. We would need subtitles.

Fortunately, I had an idea about how to get them.

Many years ago, I had made the acquaintance of Mike White. Mike is best known today as the host of the most in-depth podcast on movies there is, the terrific Projection Booth (which you listen to, right?) but we began way back when he published what at the time was a pamphlet-size fanzine called Cashiers du Cinemart. Although we didn’t know each other while attending (and still have never met in person), we went to the same university. His ‘zine was available at our local Tower Records. It had caught my eye, and I became a reader and fan.

A couple of years later, I had moved to Texas. I was in a “news” store–Texans from the cities know what I mean. There are fewer of them now, but there were many back then. They sold a lot of newspapers and magazines, but a whole lot more pornography. I was looking to grab something non-pornographic to read at Taco Bell or someplace while on my lunch break from my awful job, and what should I see but Cashiers du Cinemart! It had grown into a much bigger affair by then, with a glossy cover, even. Excited (not by the pornography) and happy for a slice of home, I grabbed it.

I read it cover to cover, as I always did with that excellent magazine. Then, me being me, I sent Mike an e-mail complaining about some snark in the issue regarding Shogun Assassin (from memory, “The less said about [Shogun Assassin], the better”). My complaint didn’t put him off too badly, he responded, and we struck up an e-mail friendship.

It turned out Mike was also a Parker fan, and Cashiers du Cinemart eventually ran a piece by Mike himself on the film adaptations of The Hunter (reprinted and expanded in the best-of book). Mike is a hunter himself, a champ at tracking down obscure movies (else he couldn’t have published his magazine), and knows all kinds of things about obtaining foreign films never released on video, at least in the US, that I had no clue about at the time and many things I still don’t. He had also been searching for the Mise à sac.

If anyone could get me subtitles, he could.

Mike worked his movie magic, converting the DVD to .avi and posting a file of the film to some film enthusiasts forum or website, hoping someone would be inspired to create an .srt file for it. What were those? I didn’t know back then. (An .avi is a video file and an .srt is a subtitle file.)

Eventually, Mike got a hit. Someone who goes by Djilik had created subtitles.

So now we really had it!

And now it was available on the Internet and with subtitles, if you knew where to look and could get a membership. Which was great for a few hardcore cinephiles, but didn’t do a whole lot of good for most people, including most of my readers.

But a couple of years after that, a user named A B, who has only one other video to his name, posted the film to YouTube with the subtitles.

And this is crazy: It has since racked up 236,000 views.

Yet still, up until the night before I started drafting this post, I hadn’t watched it.


Sometimes it was life getting in the way, sometimes it was an odd, personal form of laziness and procrastination. I also spent some time dealing with a health scare. (I’m 100% fine–thanks for asking!)

But some of it was because I kept hoping for better.

When I watch a movie, I watch a movie. I do my best to set things up for the most optimal viewing experience I can manage. That goes double for something I am writing a formal review of.

And, let’s face it, my videotape transfer looked and sounded like crap. It also may be cut by twelve minutes, although that may be the result of PAL to NTSC conversion and a couple of other factors not involving actual content–there is nothing to indicate obvious edits, anyway. (It’s also possible that the runtime at IMDB is incorrect, but I doubt that.)

Plus, every once in awhile, there were little signs that indicated that maybe the film would get a proper home video release. I heard from a source, possibly Miroslav again, that it had been restored. A couple of years or more later, there was a showing of the restored version at the Museum of Modern Art. (I actually considered flying to NYC for this, but I was barreling towards my wedding day at the time, so common sense and wedding-related poverty prevailed.) There were a couple of theatrical showings in France.

Darwyn Cooke’s brilliant adaptation of The Score won a ton of awards. Darwyn (who I hope got to see it before his tragic passing) touched on the film in the interview then-co-blogger Nick and I did with him and did a drawing of Michel Constantin as Parker in Parker: The Martini Edition.

Michael Constantin by Darwyn Cooke, from Parker: The Martini Edition

So it was on the radar of some prominent people, including, I would think, the people who actually control the film. Shouldn’t all that lead to a video release?

But it never happened.

So finally, after resolving to work on the site again after one of my typical hiatuses (hiati?), I fired it up, the at-least 236,001st viewer of a film that I, along with Adam K., Mike White (who I hope has come around on Shogun Assassin), and some strangers who go by Djilik and A B, had rescued from near-total obscurity.

I hadn’t really thought about it until I typed all this out, but, holy cow! I wanted to see Mise à Sac. I wanted every Parker and Donald Westlake fan to be able to see Mise à Sac. And, in whatever clunky form it happened in, it happened! And more than a quarter-million people have now watched it.

How cool is that?

(So what did I think? Review coming soon-ish.)