Friday, April 30, 2010

Point Blank and The Hunter

(NOTE: There is some spoilage here. Not a lot, but you're forewarned.)

This past week I was watching one of the great movies of the 60s, John Boorman’s Point Blank, starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, and Keenan Wynn; an adaptation of Richard Stark’s The Hunter. Marvin was one of Hollywood’s last tough guys. It’s a type of actor you just don’t see any more. During the 70s they were slowly displaced by the action hero, a friendlier, more widely appealing character. Sure they sometimes played comedic roles (Paint Your Wagon and Cat Ballou were two of Marvin’s better known ones), but they didn’t have jokes, or little kids to play off. They were tough guys. Irony free. This movie starts with him being betrayed by his wife and partner and being left for dead in a cell of the abandoned Alcatraz.

Comic readers will be familiar with story from Darwyn Cooke’s Parker: The Hunter, an adaptation of the same novel and one of last year’s most successful graphic novels. I was one of maybe two people - I am sure I saw a less than happy review somewhere - who had any reservations at all. I just couldn’t get past having already seen a better version. As a director Boorman brought together the noir of the 40s and 50s with the experimentation of the 60s and 70s. As an actor Marvin embodied an implacable force - a demand for justice and retribution.

My problems with Cooke’s Parker: The Hunter actually began with the cover. The girl looks too big and her body, visually cut in half by where Parker is sitting, seems askew. Trivial, maybe, but it left me starting the book thinking something might be… hinkey. My biggest problem with the comic, however, stems from something that probably isn’t even Cooke’s fault. I haven’t read Stark’s novel and I assume the differences between the film and the comic originate in the source material. In the movie Walker is betrayed by his wife and partner, who are also having an affair. In the comic, and presumably the novel, Parker was intending to betray his partner himself, but the partner got the drop on him, forcing Parker’s wife into the plot through some rather implausible circumstances. The difference? Where Walker was a victim, Parker is just a loser. An angry, driven loser, but a loser just the same. It takes the wind out of things. Why should I even care? Given that the book has the skills of one great cartoonist on display on every page, its definitely worth a look, but I can’t recommend it without reservations - unlike the movie, a classic every crime fiction fan should have in their library.

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