The Tapes Archive looks at Point Blank

Italian movie poster for Point Blank (1967)

A little while back, I sent you to a video from Alan Berry at The Tape Archive built around Quentin Tarantino’s discussion of Point Blank and The Outfit in the book Cinema Speculation. It was excellent and you should watch it if you haven’t.

Alan is back with another video, this time a deep dive into Point Blank. He describes it as thus:

Learn something new about the classic crime thriller, “Point Blank”(1967), starring Lee Marvin. This full-length documentary uncovers never-published information via John Boorman and 4 months of research. No other book, podcast, or video has taken this deep of dive into the film “Point Blank.”

I haven’t watched this one yet, because I want to watch Point Blank again first (it’s been a long time); but, having watched Alan’s video on Tarantino, I am certainly looking forward to it. Check it out.

Video: Quentin Tarantino on Point Blank and The Outfit

Just over a year ago, Quentin Tarantino published a book entitled Cinema Speculation. The publisher notes that the book is “[o]rganized around key American films from the 1970s,” and describes it as “film criticism, film theory, a feat of reporting, and wonderful personal history.” I haven’t read it yet, although I probably will at some point. (Like a lot of you, my TBR stack is probably taller than I am.)

Someone who has read it is Alan Berry of YouTube channel The Tapes Archive. He has put together the excellent video below covering the section where Tarantino shares his thoughts on the Parker books and two movie adaptations, John Boorman’s Point Blank and John Flynn’s The Outfit.

As usual, Tarantino needs both an editor and a fact-checker. Nonetheless, it’s a good listen and it’s fun to hear the perspective of someone as steeped in cinema as Tarantino.

Alan’s video is very well done, illustrated throughout with appropriate film clips and images, and it’s well worth your time. Check it out!

Website cry for help, plus Parker movie news featuring Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg in The Big Hit

A younger Mark Wahlberg in The Big Hit.

Hello, folks! Been awhile!

You’re far more interested in the movie news, so I’ll be quick in talking about the site.

I put the site up in its current form around 2008, using a theme called Atahualpa. It was easy to use and I was able to get it to do what I needed it to do with minimal effort.

Atahualpa is, for all intents and purposes, no longer maintained. This has created all sorts of troubles. I got a little help and was able to at least get the site security stuff updated, but the fixes that have been put in are band-aids, not solutions. At the moment, I can’t even edit the sidebars.

There are other problems due to the age of the theme. It isn’t the greatest on phones, for example, something that wasn’t an issue in 2008.

The trouble is, I don’t know much about this sort of thing, and it isn’t the kind of thing I have the time (or interest in) to put in the substantial effort of learning beyond the basics. It feels like work, and when The Violent World of Parker starts to feel like work, I stop doing it. Which, you may have noticed, I had for awhile.

So if you are a Parker fan who knows stuff about these newfangled website thingies and HTML, and you feel like volunteering to help me, that would be wonderful. I don’t have much to offer except my gratitude and the gratitude of the site’s readers, although I can certainly plug your business if you do this for a living.

On to the movie news…

When I last posted about this almost exactly two years ago, Robert Downey Jr. was set to star in  “a series of movie and television projects adapted from Donald E. Westlake’s ‘Parker’ crime fiction series.”

Finally, there is more. Padraig Cotter at ScreenRant, who has some familiarity with Parker or at minimum did some homework, has a good piece summing up the latest.

The movie has a title: Play Dirty.

It also has a plot (from The Hollywood Reporter): “An adaptation of Donald E. Westlake’s Parker novels, the feature stars Wahlberg as the hardened professional thief who is, naturally, double-crossed and left for dead. His hunt for revenge, however, brings with it a shot at the biggest heist of his career. … [H]e’ll still need to outsmart a South American dictator, the New York mob and the world’s richest man if he hopes to stay alive.”

Downey is out as Parker, and Mark Wahlberg is in. (Downey is still a producer.)

Grofield has gotten a race swap and will be played by LaKeith Stanfield.

Dermot Mulroney and Tony Shalhoub are also cast. Rosa Salazar is the female lead.

What do I think of this? I’m not sure. Downey is the better actor (although Wahlberg is good), but I thought when it was announced that Downey was too old. Wahlberg is six years younger, which may not sound like a lot, but he has lived a healthier life than Downey which magnifies the age difference appearance-wise.

I like Mark Wahlberg and hope he can pull it off.

The race swap would seem to indicate that the movie Grofield will be a rather different character from the literary Grofield, but the articles say that he will at least remain an actor. I’ve seen three movies with Stanfield, but he was in smaller supporting roles and I saw all three long enough ago that my memory is coming up blank, so I don’t know enough about him to have an opinion.

Speaking of blank memories…what book is this supposed to based on? It doesn’t sound like anything I recall and the articles don’t say. Is it an original story? If so, I’m not thrilled about that.

That’s the big stuff. You can follow the links for what else there is.

Getting back to the site itself, I’ve been trying to resume posting for a couple of (very busy) months, and I’m glad the movie news forced my hand—sometimes you just need something to get you started. I’ve got two or three pieces in my mental hopper, and I’ll try not to go months before writing them and posting them.

That’s all for now! More soon (I hope).

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:

Podcast appearance: SFFaudio on Brother and Sister

After an absence of over a decade, I return to the SFFaudio podcast to discuss Brother and Sister, a smut novel by Donald Westlake (as Edwin West) that is about exactly what it sounds like it’s about.

How did it go? Well, I never listen to podcast appearances after recording, but I didn’t have to wait another decade to be invited back this time.

I have a review of the book in draft and will try to get it posted over the next week.

Thanks to host Jesse Willis for having me. You can check it out here.

Hard Case Crime review: Call Me a Cab by Donald Westlake

Cover of Call Me a Cab by Donald Westlake

 

Note: Mild spoilers.

I should note up front that I am not the target market for Call Me a Cab. This posthumous novel began its published life as a novella for Redbook. It is a will-they-or-won’t-they story aimed at women, not at all the sort of thing I would pick up if it wasn’t by Donald Westlake. So it’s entirely possible that others, especially including its intended audience, will enjoy this novel more than I did.

I’m not at all confident that they will, but they may.

Call Me a Cab is the story of cab driver Thomas Fletcher and passenger Katharine Scott. Katherine has been proposed to by Barry, a successful plastic surgeon who seems like a good guy. She has been dithering about giving her answer, and she has promised that she will deliver it once she arrives in Los Angeles from New York. On the way to the airport in Tom’s cab, she comes up with an ingenious means of delaying her decision even further–instead of the flight that she had planned, she will have Tom drive her all the way across the country. She didn’t promise any particular means of getting to Los Angeles, after all.

Despite having a job that some (not me) may count as unskilled labor, Tom is a bright guy, college educated even. But he lacks ambition and is proud of that, having given up the business world to work at his father’s cab company. Katharine, on the other hand, is a successful landscape architect, which is why she can afford cross-country cab fare ($4000, or nearly $20,000 adjusted for inflation). Needless to say, she’s got beauty to match her obvious brains and drive.

This is a story of people on the road, and the things you would in general predict about it are in general the things that happen–an unusual occurrence or two, some interesting characters, car troubles at one point, sometimes our travelers get along and sometimes they don’t, and so on. Along the way, of course, they learn a few things about each other and a few things about themselves.

That Call Me a Cab largely sticks to the road adventure formula does not bother me. What bothers me is that I didn’t find most of their adventures to be interesting. At one point, Tom has to help a couple where the wife is about to give birth. This, I guess, was supposed to be funny–giving birth in a taxi cab is of course a cliché, and of course occasionally happens in real life. What Westlake was trying to do here is make a gag of this–here’s a cliché or something you read about in the papers, and it’s actually happening to Tom! The problem is that the giving-birth-in-a-taxicab vignette isn’t good enough for the gag to work. Not that’s it’s boring, but it never transcends the cliché, as Westlake clearly wanted it to do.

The reader is supposed to want Tom and Katherine to get together, but I never did. I was never sold that this couple could end up in a happy long-term relationship. I’ve seen relationships and marriages between people like Katharine and Tom. They ended in breakups or divorce. And since I liked both Katharine and Tom, I did not want them to get together when I thought they were doomed in the long term.

Some readers may say to this that I’m missing Westlake’s point, that they don’t have to live happily ever after–they can just enjoy their time together while it lasts. I get that–I just don’t find it very compelling. And, intentionally or not, Westlake precludes even the possibility of it working out long term by not having Tom grow as a character. If they are to have a chance, Tom needs to strive to be worthy of Katherine, but he ends the novel as pretty close to the same unambitious guy he was at the beginning. How long is Katharine going to put up with that? If Katharine is anything like the smart, driven women I’ve known (including the one I married), not very long.

One area where Call Me a Cab is interesting is as a cultural artifact. It takes place in 1977 and Tom (and Westlake) is grappling with feminism. Tom considers himself fairly enlightened, but he still finds navigating this new world to be treacherous on occasion–in other words, he steps in it a couple of times. Westlake handles the subject deftly–if it’s dated, I still think it gave me a vibrant picture of what it was like for men (and women) at that time. (Readers older than I am are welcome to correct me on that point.)

This is this the fourth posthumously published Donald Westlake novel, following MemoryThe Comedy is Finished, and Forever and a Death. The first two are terrific. I did not care for Forever and a Death, but it has its fans and possibly Call Me a Cab will have them as well. I’m still grateful that the latter two were published, although I hope that they aren’t too many people’s first experience with Westlake’s work.

Note: According to publisher Charles Ardai in the afterword, this is the last unpublished Donald Westlake novel. He’s said that before and been happily wrong. I have read that there is one more, entitled Ice, out there (I’ve covered this before elsewhere). We shall see!

Parker: The Martini Edition – Last Call finally released

Parker: The Martini Edition - Last Call

After being delayed for a year and a half, the second volume of Parker: The Martini Edition has finally been released from IDW Publishing.

The Martini Edition – Last Call is a gorgeous, slipcased hardcover volume collecting books three and four (the final two, alas) of Darwyn Cooke’s brilliant Parker graphic novels. It ain’t cheap (MSRP $100, currently selling for $80 at Barnes & Noble and Amazon), but I think it’s worth every penny.

I don’t have a copy yet, so here’s what I know from previous press releases. It contains:

  • The Score
  • Slayground
  • More than 100 pieces of never-before-seen Parker art by Darwyn Cooke
  • A roundtable talk with Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Bruce Timm, and Scott Dunbier on Parker and Darwyn Cooke
  • A brand-new 17-page story by Multiple Eisner Award-winning creators Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that Cooke’s comic book corpus absolutely deserves this deluxe treatment. I salute and congratulate IDW Publishing and editor Scott Dunbier for this monument to the work of a brilliant writer and artist who tragically left us far too soon.

Thanks, Darwyn.

Parker movie news and thoughts

Update: Variety describes the project as “”a series of movie and television projects adapted from Donald E. Westlake’s ‘Parker’ crime fiction series.”

Original post (slightly edited) below.

—————————

Some interesting news broke about a week ago concerning a new Parker movie project. Here is as much as we know:

  • It will be directed and cowritten by Shane Black, shown above in action-figure form as his character in Predator, because why not?
  • Anthony Bagarozzi, Black’s cowriter on The Nice Guys (which I loved), will be the other cowriter.
  • It will star Robert Downey, Jr., who previously worked with Black on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
  • Joel Silver is producing.
  • It will be from Amazon Studios.

And that’s the sum of it.

I can add a little here.

The first thing is, don’t get your hopes up.

While, given the players involved, this getting off the ground seems reasonably likely, nothing in the world of Hollywood is assured until the movie hits the screen.

Take Shane Black, for example. In the past several years he has tried to launch a Doc Savage movie, a movie based on Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir’s Destroyer series of men’s adventure novels, and an animated series based on James Mullaney’s Crag Banyon series of comic-fantasy detective novels. I looked forward to all of these, and none of them happened (although the Crag Banyon news was recent enough that I suppose that could still be happening).

Pointing this out is not meant to be disrespectful to Mr. Black. Getting this stuff off the ground is hard.

Which brings us to producer Joel Silver.

This isn’t Joel’s first rodeo with Parker. Around the turn of the millennium, his name was attached to an adaptation of The Green Eagle Score. John Travolta was rumored for the Parker role. A screenplay was written by Alexander Ignon, whose best-known credit is the Mel Gibson vehicle Ransom.

It, like Black’s Destroyer and Doc Savage projects, didn’t go anywhere.

So I’m hesitant to get too much into what I think of the whole thing when this might be the last anyone hears of it.

But I’ll do a little bit of that anyway.

I like very much that it’s Shane Black who is interested in trying to put Parker on the screen again. I’m certain he knows the books well, just as he knows Doc Savage, the Destroyer, and Crag Banyon. And I’m also certain he loves them, just as he loves same.

It doesn’t follow for me that Black’s love of the novels means, This time they’ll do Parker right! I’m not sure you can do the taciturn, amoral thief from the novels “right” on film, at least not as a series, which is what I assume is planned here. Parker works on the printed page, but maybe just doesn’t on film.

Mind you, I would love to be proven wrong on this. And I sure would like to see them at least try. But I think changes to the character are likely inevitable. I just hope they’re not too extreme.

I’ve seen in various forums that a lot of people don’t like the casting of Downey. It looks to me as if people are picturing Downey playing Parker like Downey plays Tony Stark from the Marvel films.

While I wouldn’t like that approach, I doubt that’s what’s planned and I do not share this concern about Downey in general. Downey is top-notch actor and can play, and has played, more than Iron Man. If the goal is to portray Parker as he appears in the novels, I am confident Downey can do it.

Beyond that, what can I say but, Good luck to all involved! I’m rooting for you.

The Projection Booth podcast covers Point Blank

The Projection Booth podcast logo

I’m a little late to this, but back in November 2021, Mike White of Cashiers du Cinemart magazine covered Point Blank on the Projection Booth podcast with guests Jedidiah Ayres and friend of the site Andrew Nette. Mike and I go back to before this site existed (which as a lot of you know, is a long time!), and was key to rescuing, to the extent we did, Mise à sac, the movie based on The Score.

The Projection Booth is most in-depth podcast on movies out there, so, needless to say, it’s a great discussion. Enjoy!

Episode 546: Point Blank (1967)

Final(?) Donald Westlake novel to be published: Call Me a Cab

Cover of Call Me a Cab by Donald Westlake

Big news from Hard Case Crime (via Facebook):

Now it can be told: Donald E. Westlake’s final unpublished novel — a real gem, sweet and sharp and touching and funny — is coming in February.

This is exciting news. As it happens, the unpublished Call Me a Cab was briefly touched upon here eleven years ago:

[Quoting from the Rara-Avis forum]: I know of two Westlake novels that have not seen the light of day. One an expanded version of his Redbook novella CALL ME A CAB and another entitled ICE about two brothers who inherit an ice factory from their dead father.

Everything in that post, which pulled from two different sources and also covered the novel that would be later published as The Comedy is Finished, has since come to light…except Ice. So it appears the sources knew what they were talking about.

What’s the story, then, with Ice? I do not know and will try to find out. However, I wanted to get this great news up about the bird in the hand before obsessing over the bird in the bush.

So what is Call Me a Cab? Like the excellent and similarly posthumous Memory, it is not a crime novel even though it is being published by Hard Case Crime.

In 1977, one of the world’s finest crime novelists turned his pen to suspense of a very different sort—and the results have never been published, until now.

Fans of mystery fiction have often pondered whether it would be possible to write a suspense novel without any crime at all, and in CALL ME A CAB the masterful Donald E. Westlake answered the question in his inimitable style. You won’t find any crime in these pages—but what you will find is a wonderful suspense story, about a New York City taxi driver hired to drive a beautiful woman all the way across America, from Manhattan to Los Angeles, where the biggest decision of her life is waiting to be made. It’s Westlake at his witty, thought-provoking best, and it proves that a page-turner doesn’t need to have a bomb set to go off at the end of it in order to keep sparks flying every step of the way.

I haven’t read the novella yet, so this material will be all new to me. Sounds like fun!