McCLOUD #3: THE KILLING by DAVID WILSON (1974, Award, 156pp) ***
Blurb: The killing started with a heist. Five men, masked as marauders from the past, knocked off an armoured car. They left no trace, save for a single silver spur. The plot was fiendishly clever, conceived by a money-hungry genius, executed by a brutal gang of desperate thieves. McCloud tracked down the band of robbers. But to stop them he had to keep them from committing another murder – his own!
Having re-watched many of the McCloud TV movies from the 1970s I bought the six paperback novelisations that were published between 1973 and 1975 by Award books. Having seen four of the six stories on screen, I picked this novelisation of Glen A. Larson’s script for “Butch Cassidy Rides Again” as the start point. This is one of four of the six to be attributed to author “David Wilson” – reported to be a pseudonym for at least one writer – maybe more judging by the stylistic differences between the books.
Reading the blurb you would think this was a dark, tense and violent thriller. It is not. What we have is a fairly straight-forward adaptation of Larson’s light script full of his trademark ironic humour. Larson (who worked as producer on the series) knows his main characters well, so all Wilson has to do is to let their witty dialogue tell the story and it flows through the book with little need for long descriptive passages. As such the book is a fast easy read and enjoyable, if more than a little far-fetched.
Porridge (1979; UK; Eastmancolor; 93m) *** d. Dick Clement; w. Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais; ph. Robert Huke; m. Terry Oates (supervisor). Cast: Ronnie Barker, Richard Beckinsale, Fulton MacKay, Brian Wilde, Peter Vaughan, Julian Holloway, Geoffrey Bayldon, Christopher Godwin, Barrie Rutter, Daniel Peacock, Sam Kelly, Ken Jones, Philip Locke, Gorden Kaye. This prison comedy is based on the popular British television series (1974-7) of the same name. Long-time Slade prison inmate Barker is ordered by Grouty to arrange a football match between the prisoners and an all-star celebrity team unaware that the match is only a diversion so that an escape can take place. Extended but good representation of a classic comedy series. The script is witty and the plot light enough to allow the characters room to breathe. Barker is excellent and is well supported by Beckinsale, Wilde and MacKay. US title: DOING TIME. [PG]
To Have and Have Not (1944; USA; B&W; 100m) ****½ d. Howard Hawks; w. Jules Furthman, William Faulkner; ph. Sid Hickox; m. Franz Waxman. Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan, Lauren Bacall, Dolores Moran, Hoagy Carmichael, Sheldon Leonard, Walter Szurovy, Marcel Dalio, Walter Sande, Dan Seymour, Aldo Nadi. During World War II, an American expatriate helps transport a French Resistance leader and his beautiful wife to Martinique while romancing a sexy lounge singer. Hawks worked with themes that sustained him throughout his career and many of his signature moments are on display here. The chemistry between Bogart and Bacall nearly melts the screen and their dialogue is wonderful. The plot mirrors some of the themes seen in Bogart’s earlier classic CASABLANCA and this comes very close to repeating the earlier film’s success. Filled with excellent character performances from a strong supporting cast and finding room for a handful of musical numbers, this is entertainment of the highest order. Based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. Legendarily, Hawks bragged to Hemingway that he could take the worst of his novels, and make a good film of it. He did this by disregarding the novel’s contents. [PG]
CAREER OF EVIL by ROBERT GALBRAITH (2017, Sphere, 584pp) ****
Blurb: When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality. With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them…
In her acknowledgements, J.K. Rowling (here again writing under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith) stated that she “can’t ever remember enjoying writing a novel more”. That is saying a lot given her success with the Harry Potter fantasy series. Her statement is evident in her writing of Career of Evil, the third book in her Cormoran Strike series of detective novels, which is fluid and showing a writer at the top of her game. Rowling is very much at home with her lead characters of Strike and his female partner Robin Ellacott. The plot here follows a serial killer with a grudge against Strike, who goes about dismembering his victims. It is a grisly tale, which is inter-cut with the growing professional relationship between Strike and Robin. However, this relationship is put to the test as the killer targets Robin, who’s determination to stay with the case strains her relationship with both fiancee, Matthew and with Strike himself.
Where this book, like the previous ones and many of todays’ crime novels, would benefit is from tighter editing. The need by publishers to bloat volumes beyond 500 pages in order to fill up the book shelves means the day of the tight, efficient crime thriller told in half the page count seems to be over. It’s as if publishers are vying for some literary recognition through sheer quantity of the product. Whilst Rowling has more to say about her characters than others in the genre – giving them credible back stories and ongoing domestic lives – there is a seeming desire to fill the required page count. That said this is still a very enjoyable read and one that leaves you wanting more from this likeable detective duo.
Alien: Covenant (2017; UK/Australia/New Zealand/USA; Colour; 122m) *** d. Ridley Scott; w. John Logan, Dante Harper, Jack Paglen, Michael Green; ph. Dariusz Wolski; m. Jed Kurzel. Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Demián Bichir, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Amy Seimetz, Callie Hernandez, Benjamin Rigby, Alexander England, Uli Latukefu, Tess Haubrich, Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapace, James Franco. The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape. It extends the dense religious mysticism of PROMETHEUS and mixes it with bug-movie action and horror. The script has many obvious triggers and offers nothing new to the series. What is left is an ultimately unsatisfying blend that has been expertly assembled, but plays it safe and would have benefited from tighter editing. 
Deadline.com is reporting that New Line, producers of the latest Shaft sequel – mooted by some sources to be titled Son of Shaft – have made a deal with Netflix to fund half the $30m budget in exchange for international rights. The deal reportedly means Netflix will be able to stream the movie just 2 weeks after its release.
The movie is due to begin production in December. Since it was announced that Jessie T. Usher would star and reports suggested the involvement of both Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Roundtree, no further announcements on casting have been made.
I am keeping track of all updates on this project here.
Give My Regrets to Broadway (TV) (1972; USA; Technicolor; 75m) **½ d. Lou Antonio; w. Peter Allan Fields; ph. Harry L. Wolf; m. Billy Goldenberg. Cast: Dennis Weaver, J. D. Cannon, Milton Berle, Barbara Rush, Janette Lane Bradbury, Diana Muldaur, Terry Carter, Eric Christmas, Vic Tayback. An explosion kills an officer filling in for McCloud. The plot here is routine in this McCloud series entry and there is plenty of filler with a musical number for Weaver and also Bradbury. Berle has a guest role as a Broadway producer. [PG]