A Mexican Parker Movie?: The Curious Case of The Getaway Face (“Una cara para escapar”)

Una cara para escapar lobby card

As some of you frustrated readers know, I’ve never understood the appeal of Twitter, so while I do use it to inform people of new posts here and link the occasional interesting article, I don’t check the @worldofparker account regularly.

But, fortunately, I did a couple of weeks ago, where I found that I had a mention in a post by John Cribb (@TheLastMachine), who blogs at The Pink Smoke.

He was pointing to this entry at the Internet Movie Database.

Una cara para escapar IMDb entry

What on earth? A Mexican film based on The Man With the Getaway Face? Was this possible?

Why, yes. It’s possible. Unauthorized adaptations of books are hardly unheard of—you are probably familiar with the Dracula/Nosferatu imbroglio. They aren’t even unheard of in regards to Donald Westlake. In 2010, I discovered that there was a possibly unauthorized Italian adaptation of Jimmy the Kid. Donald Westlake and The Sour Lemon Score receive no attribution in City of Industry.

If Una cara para escapar, which literally translates as “A Face to Escape,” is indeed a Westlake adaptation from 1963, that would make Eduardo Noriega the screen’s first Parker, as Jean-Luc Godard’s Made in U.S.A., featuring Anna Karina as “Parker,” was released 1966.

But before getting into any of that, I had to answer the question: Does this movie exist?

The above lobby card, originally from eMoviePoster.com and the only image I could find, meant the movie likely was made, but that didn’t make it 100%. Sometimes posters are created for movies in development to attract investors, but the movie doesn’t happen.

But I was able to determine that it was made. I found references to it in Spanish-language publications as part of cast members’ filmographies. In addition, it was documented by the U.S. Copyright Office as being part of a copyright restoration case.

So the movie definitely exists. (Or at least it existed. These is the possibility that it is lost.)

With that established, it was time to investigate the Parker connection.

The timing was immediately suspect. The Man With the Getaway Face was released in 1963, so if Una cara para escapar was as well, that’s a mighty quick turnaround time. But further down the IMDb entry, the release date is given as August 13, 1965. That makes it being an adaptation much more likely.

The IMDb page for Una cara para escapar was first archived by the Internet Archive in 2005. There is almost no information at this point, and there is a typo in the film’s title. The title was corrected and cast information was added later. But as of 2017, the last time the page was archived, there was no Westlake credit.

The earliest any source can be confirmed to credit Westlake is in 2020, when the film’s page at the British Film Institute was archived. Crediting Donald Westlake and The Man With the Getaway Face appears to have only happened recently, no sooner than six years ago and no later than a little over two years ago.

While perhaps interesting, this doesn’t really tell us anything. Maybe an older credit would have more credibility, maybe not. Westlake’s being credited at both IMDb and BFI doesn’t tell us anything, either. One could be the other’s source. I could simply be looking at a timewasting example of how misinformation spreads throughout the Internet.

Compounding that possibility is the fact that anyone can edit IMDb. It’s entirely possible, even likely, that some overzealous Parker fan saw the poster and saw that the film’s Spanish title could be roughly translated as “The Getaway Face,” and drew his own conclusions. I would love to ask whoever made the edits, but so far as I can tell, there is no way to determine who added the writer credit for Westlake, much less why.

Further weighing against the possibility of this being a Parker adaptation is the film’s poster. Your eyes were probably drawn to the Parker-like bandaged figure with a gun, but did you notice the Satanic ritual in the bottom right corner? That would be quite a deviation from the text.

But that doesn’t preclude the possibility that it’s in some way based on the novel. Una cara para escapar could feature a Satanic ritual and still be at least as close an adaptation of its source as Made in U.S.A.!

And that’s what I’ve got. I was certainly hoping for more, as I’m sure you were.

To sum up, the evidence of Una cara para escapar being a Parker adaptation is:

  • The timing.
  • The assumed plot.
  • That the title could be a translation of “the getaway face” portion of The Man With the Getaway Face.
  • The IMDb and BFI entries.

That isn’t much to go by.

Weighing against:

  • The recency of the Westlake attribution.
  • No attribution to Westlake beyond IMDb and BFI.
  • That anyone can edit IMDb and there is no trail to follow.
  • That, and no offense to Westlake intended, a criminal getting plastic surgery to conceal his identity is hardly an original plot element.
  • A Satanic ritual!

So what are the possibilities here? Here they are as I see them:

  • The movie has nothing to do with The Man With the Getaway Face. This is the overzealous IMDb editor scenario, and I think the most likely.
  • The movie is not an adaptation of The Man With the Getaway Face, but took some inspiration from it, possibly only from the cover of the paperback. I think this is a distinct possibility, but it’s probably impossible to prove. We could still have an overzealous editor in this scenario.
  • The movie is an unauthorized adaptation of The Man With the Getaway Face, one that took a lot of liberties with its source material. While I don’t think this is likely, I wouldn’t go so far as to call the possibility remote.
  • The movie is an authorized adaptation of The Man With the Getaway Face, one that Westlake forgot about after the check was cashed, because the movie was never released in the US and quickly faded into obscurity. I include this possibility because in one of our few correspondences, he told me that he had forgotten about the German adaptation of Jimmy the Kid, which similarly was never released in the US and is similarly obscure. But this is still the least likely possibility. Una cara para escapar would have not only been the first adaptation of a Parker novel, but the first Westlake adaptation period. Would any writer, even one as frequently adapted as Westlake, forget his first? (There is also the possibility that he did remember it, but never mentioned it or rarely mentioned it, and so no one was aware of it, including the people who write heavily-researched crime fiction reference books for libraries.)

The easiest way to resolve this would be to watch the movie, if it can be found. Can it be? Well, we found Mise à sac

Amateur sleuths, particularly Spanish-speaking sleuths, are encouraged to do their own research and report back.

Thanks to John Cribb for bringing this to my attention. His website, The Pink Smoke, hosts a couple pieces you should read: