Category Archives: Donald Westlake aka Richard Stark

Parker on the screen #2: The Split (1968)

Several years ago on this site I referred to the 1968 film The Split as a Blaxsploitation style riff on Donald Westlake’s character, Parker. I have seen other reviewers make the same mistake, I suspect mainly on the basis that it was an action film starring a black man, ex-pro-footballer turned actor, Jim Brown, in the role of McClain (as the character of Parker is called). Not only did The Split appear several years before that cycle of films kicked off (1971 with the release of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song and Shaft), but it displays none of the extravagant sexual and violent action stylings of that canon.

The second film in my series of Parker on the screen, The Split is a workmanlike neo noir based on Donald Westlake’s Parker novel, The Seventh. It is no Point Blank. I don’t even think it is as good as the 1967 French film, Mise a Sac, based on Westlake’s The Score, my first entry in the Parker on the screen series. But neither is it as bad as lot of people think.

The heist in The Seventh – stealing the ticket takings from a stadium football game – is over in the first dozen or pages of the book.… Read more

Parker on the screen #1: Mise a Sac (1967)

With Melbourne is back in Covid-19 lockdown, I have a bit more time than usual on my hands, so I’ve decided to start a project I have been meaning to undertake for a while now – to watch and review all the screen adaptations of Richard Stark aka Donald Westlake’s crime fiction character, the master thief known as Parker.

Regular readers of this site will be well versed in my adoration for Westlake in general and his character, Parker, in particular. I wrote about what it was that so fascinated me about Parker in some detail on Pulp Curry back in 2014. And my second novel Gunshine State is an Australian homage of to the Parker series.

A few ground rules for what I intend to be an occasional series. I’ll tackle every film, except for John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967), which I have already written about in some detail here. This means: Made in U.S.A (1966), Mise a Sac (1967), The Split (1968), The Outfit (1973), Slayground (1983), Payback (the director’s cut – 1999), and Parker (2013). That said, I will not do them in the order they appeared. While Made in U.S.A is the first film to be based on a Westlake book (although the adaptation is very tenuous), I’ve had issues getting a copy to watch, so I’ll tackle Mise a Sac first.… Read more

Pulp Friday: Pollen’s Action

Regular Pulp Curry readers will be aware I am a big fan of Robert Deis and Wyatt Doyle’s Men’s Adventure Library (MAL) series. These books showcase the wonderful, lurid, at times, completely bizarre material that featured in the genre of men’s adventure pulp magazines that flourished on American newsstands from the 1950s to the 1970s. I have written about the important work they have done archiving and showcasing the efforts of the one of the most prolific illustrators working for the men’s adventure magazines, Samson Pollen. I reviewed their first book about Pollen, Pollen’s Women, some months ago on this site. They have now produced a second edition on the artist, Pollen’s Action.

Pollen was one of the many people who managed to make a living as illustrators in the post war period, a time when there was plenty of work for individuals who could quickly produce attention grabbing, ready made art to order for pulp magazines, book covers, comics, advertisements and movie posters. As Deis discusses in his introduction to Pollen’s Action, Pollen started out painting paperback covers. But when this market started began to dry up in the late 1960s, as photographic book covers came into vogue, he began working for Magazine Management, one of the largest American publishers of men’s adventure magazines.… Read more

Thoughts on Point Blank at 50

Point Blank premiered in San Francisco on August 30 1967. Critically overlooked at the time, its launched John Boorman’s Hollywood directorial career, became a cult hit and has had an enduring influence on crime cinema. It is a film I have watched on numerous occasions and each time it yields new insights. The 50th anniversary is an opportune time for a few thoughts about its importance.

Point Blank was loosely based the 1962 novel, The Hunter, the first in the series of books by the late Donald Westlake, writing as Richard Stark, about the master thief, Parker. It opens with Walker, as the Parker character is called, played by Lee Marvin, double-crossed and left for dead by his friend, Mal (John Vernon), and wife, Lynne (Sharon Acker), with whom Mal was having an affair, after the three of them have heisted a regular money drop on the prison island of Alcatraz by a powerful criminal network, the Organisation. Walker, somehow, survives his wounds and manages to get off the island. He reappears and proceeds to tear Organisation apart to find Mal and get his share from the heist, the amount of $94,000. He is assisted by a mysterious man, Yorst (Keenan Wynn), who at first comes across as a cop, but is eventually revealed as a senior member of the Organisation, who sees in Walker a means to eliminate his internal competitors.… Read more

The heist always goes wrong, part 3: 10 of the best heist films you’ve never seen

payroll-1961As readers of this site know, I love a good heist film, the ingenuity of their plots and the variations they come in, whether it be the all star team assembled for the job of a life time or a group of desperate men and women trying for one last big score.

Everyone can name their favourite heist films and, for the most part, it is usually the big name titles such as The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) and the French classic, Rififi (1955). Indeed, I listed these and many other well know heist movies in previous posts on this site, ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 1: ten of the best heist movies ever made’ and ‘The heist always goes wrong, part 2: reader picks and other favourite heist movies’.

But what about the lessor known heist films that are great but which nobody knows about?

To celebrate the release of my second crime novel, Gunshine State, I have compiled the following list of the 10 best heist films you’ve never seen.

operation-amsterdam-poster

Operation Amsterdam (1959)

Operation Amsterdam functions as both a war and a heist film. Peter Finch plays Jan Smit, a British intelligence officer ordered to infiltrate the city of Amsterdam, which is on the verge of being overrun by invading German forces, and prevent the city’s diamond reserves from falling into Nazi hands.… Read more