Posts Tagged ‘Dick Tracy’

Quarry in Memphis

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Nate will be providing an array of photos that will tell the story better than I ever could, but I will say our four days in Memphis were a real adventure and a wonderful experience.

I’ve been on my share of movie sets – admittedly, mostly my own – but I never fail to get caught up in the excitement of filmmaking, whether it’s Phil Dingeldein and me shooting a movie in a week using security cameras or sitting next to Richard Zanuck watching Sam Mendes trying to get Paul Newman to emote in the master shot. Some people find the process boring, but not me – at least, not when it’s my material being filmed.

Virtually everyone we met on set was great. The crew is a friendly, hardworking bunch from four states – California, Mississippi, Tennessee and (I think) Louisiana…though it may be Arkansas. I immediately got hugs from both director John Hillcoat (LAWLESS) and a particularly warm one from director of photography Javier Aguirresarobe when I complimented him on his terrific work on WARM BODIES. Producer David Kanter of Anonymous was essentially our tour guide, a warm and friendly one at that. But best of all was getting to know and really talk Quarry with writers Michael D. Fuller and Graham Gordy (both of RECTIFIED). Before going to set, I delivered to their trailer complete sets of the first editions of the original 1970s Quarry paperbacks THE BROKER, THE BROKER’S WIFE, THE DEALER and THE SLASHER. I don’t have many of these left, and Michael and Graham were like fanboys reacting to receiving them. These are smart, talented guys who know the Quarry series inside out. I’m very lucky to have them (as they put it) “playing in my sandbox.”

The actors were friendly, warm, and very interested in meeting Quarry’s creator (and his family). Logan Marshall-Green and I immediately started talking about Quarry, and watching him play the character showed me how much homework he’d done. My first sight of him on set, actually, was him talking to a wheelchair-bound Vietnam vet who had found his way to the set. Logan is a charismatic, intense actor but not pretentious. He has the young Quarry nailed, and you have a real sense that this committed actor is the linchpin of the production.

Nate, Barb and I are all big fans of SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD, so meeting Mary Elizabeth Winstead was a big deal. She turned out to be as friendly and approachable as someone you’ve known for years. She plays Quarry’s wife Joni and seems anxious to come back for more.

And Stellan Skarsgard is supernaturally right as the Broker. He’s also friendly and funny, a very charming guy. I pointed out to him that the Broker wasn’t as evil as the guy he played in GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and he said, “So I am progressing.” I brought him a vintage copy of THE BROKER and he was quite taken with the sleazy paperback edition (and pleased to see his character get top billing). He was fascinated by the terrible mustache worn by the Broker on that cover.

The cast is amazing. Kurt Yaeger (SONS OF ANARCHY) plays a Quarry adversary and had done incredible homework, bringing a well-read copy of the Foul Play Press paperback edition of QUARRY for me to sign. He’s friendly and fun and an awesome athlete (“awesome” in its true meaning). Nikki Amuka-Bird (LUTHER) was pleased and amazed to find out that Barb and I were fans of the outrageous UK series BAD GIRLS, on which she was a regular in season six. She was a delight to chat with, and she too had been reading the Quarry books. She plays the wife of Quarry’s Vietnam buddy, Jamie Hector (THE WIRE), who I met briefly. Very friendly, and I watched him tear it up with Logan on several scenes. Just before we left, I was able to shake hands and briefly talk with Noah Taylor (GAME OF THRONES), who plays Buddy, a character based on Boyd from QUARRY aka THE BROKER. (My understanding is Boyd became Buddy to avoid confusion with the Boyd Crowder character on JUSTIFIED).

The first of two on-set days began mid-afternoon at a ranch-style home in Mississippi that stood in for Joni and Quarry’s house (there’s a pool where Quarry loves to swim). Warm, but nothing Iowans aren’t used to. The rest of that day was spent at a gravel and stone quarry, where Quarry and the Broker confab (we had brought our bug spray). The second day was in Memphis at several funky bars, only a few blocks from our hotel.

Memphis is a great town. I much prefer it to Nashville, even if the latter is where I recorded “Psychedelic Siren” with the Daybreakers back in 1967. I despise country western, as is fairly well known (exceptions: rockabilly and Patsy Cline), and a town where both rock ‘n’ roll and soul music have such deep roots holds huge appeal to me. We did not go to Graceland – it’s very hard for me to do things I’m expected to do – but we made the Sun Records tour, which I enjoyed very much…standing in the same space as Howling Wolf, Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee was like being a believer in church. No remodeling to speak of has been done in the studio, where bands are still recording to this day (or night…it’s evenings only, due to the tours). Next time we will hit the Stax Museum, highly recommended to me by my Crusin’ bandmate Brian Van Winkle.

It was hard to leave Memphis, and not just because of the food there or the ten hours that lay ahead on the return voyage to Muscatine (we broke that in two on both ends of the trip, to spend time with Nate and Abby in St. Louis).

I haven’t spent this much time on set since ELIOT NESS: AN UNTOUCHABLE LIFE, and it really reminded me of how much I miss filmmaking. I am hopeful that I will be part of the process, when…you can’t make me say “if”…this pilot is picked up. Working with these people would be a blast.

And that dated usage reminds me to comment on just how much fun seeing QUARRY produced in ‘70s period is. The costumes and art direction takes you back to an era that remains vivid in my memory, and yet has somehow how become a long time ago.

As I write this, they are still filming, with two days to go. I do wish I were there.

* * *

Something wonderful and wonderfully strange popped up on the Net recently. Somebody posted at Harlan Ellison’s chat site, complaining about writers continuing the work of other writers, included me on the list of infamy, for finishing Mickey’s work. Harlan stepped up and defended me loud and long in his own inimitable fashion. He and I don’t agree on Mickey as an artist, but I can’t tell you what it means to me to see one of my favorite writers – and Harlan is that, all right – defending me and saying I’m a terrific writer myself. For a guy like me, it doesn’t get any better. This sparked some interesting responses (including one from our friend Mike Doran), so scroll down to Harlan’s piece, then take in the responses. [Nate here—New posts will push the older ones down, eventually into an archive. Look for “A VERY FRIENDLY BUT VIGOROUS TAKING-BY-THE-SHOULDERS AND SHAKING FOR JIMMIEJOE IN KOKOMO” on Sunday, August 4 2013]

David Williams is a smart, straightforward reviewer who has been systematically reviewing the Heller novels. He usually likes them a lot (not always), but he has been a huge supporter of the series and of me. This link will take you to a TARGET LANCER review, and this one will take you to a very nice overview of the series from this reliable reviewer.

Another of those “movies you didn’t know were from comic books” has popped up. Not bad of its kind.

This is an interesting, somewhat positive review damaged by the reviewer’s agenda (a rather stunning misreading of the women in COMPLEX 90). It’s intelligent, though, and worth reading, if for no other reason than seeing how political correctness can spoil a book for you. Velda is called “Thelma” by the female reviewer at one point, and considering THELMA AND LOUISE, that’s an interesting Freudian slip.

This look at graphic novels properly credits ROAD TO PERDITION for its historic role in the rehabilitation of the art form.

Here’s a look at Hard Case Crime and THE FIRST QUARRY from a reviewer who likes my work but isn’t crazy about the tough, nasty, sexy nature of my books there (and other books as well). Interesting stuff, showing how you can not like something and do so in a measured, non-hysterical way.

Keep an eye out for VCI’s new DICK TRACY serial releases (DICK TRACY – COMPLETE SERIAL COLLECTION, DICK TRACY – 75th ANNIVERSARY EDITION ORIGINAL SERIAL). Phil D. and I prepared new video documentary material for these (and they include older doc material by us, as well, plus a commentary by me on the first several chapters of DICK TRACY).

And now I’m going to turn the update over to Nate for some more Memphis pictures.

M.A.C.

Quarry Set 2013
All signs point to a series pickup

Quarry Set 2013
with Nikki Amuka-Bird

Quarry Set 2013
with Director John Hillcoat

Quarry Set 2013
with Logan Marshall-Green aka The Right Quarry

Quarry Set 2013
with Graham Gordy and Michael D. Fuller (and the mad photobomber)

Quarry Set 2013
Pure 70s

Quarry Set 2013
Kurt Yaeger says “See you next week!”

Colonel Collins, Lord of Mystery

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Barb and I were guests this weekend (actually, we left last Wednesday) for the International Mystery Writers Festival at Owensboro, Kentucky. The event celebrates the world of mystery with a focus on showcasing new plays – three were presented this year, including a new stage-designed version of ENCORE FOR MURDER (the longer audio version of which, starring Stacy Keach, is available from Blackstone Audio, and was a nominee for the Audie).

I was presented with a lovely award designating me the First Lord of Mystery (previous winners, including Sue Grafton, Mary Higgins Clark and Angela Lansbury, were Mistresses of Mystery). Both Barb and I were made honorary colonels by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. This is an elite group that includes Colonel Sanders, Colonel Lee Goldberg and Colonel Robert Randisi (the latter two received their colonel-ship at the event as well).

I’m not sure how many plays were submitted, but my impression is quite a few. The other two plays that earned production at the fest were LOST AT SEA by Donald C. Drake (the other Firesign radio-style production) and ABSOLUTELY DEAD by Michael Walker (starring Kathy Garver of FAMILY AFFAIR FAME), the latter the “main stage” play.

The event is held at the River Center in Owensboro on the Ohio River, a lovely, massive modern facility with several stages. One is a 1500-seat theater, the main stage. ENCORE FOR MURDER was staged in a smaller “black box” theater similar to the one where ELIOT NESS: AN UNTOUCHABLE LIFE was presented in Des Moines. One highlight was a Lee Goldberg-led interview session, after ENCORE’s premiere, on an expansive patio outside the River Center, with the Ohio River Bridge in the background, where fifteen minutes of clips from my various movies (THE EXPERT, MOMMY, MOMMY’S DAY, REAL TIME, ELIOT NESS, THE LAST LULLABY, ROAD TO PERDITION) were shown on a drive-in-theater-size screen.

People were incredibly nice to us, and we did several signings, as well as just autographing books folks brought up for us to sign as we hung out in the cavernous River Center lobby. Barb and I did a workshop discussing our collaborative approach to the Barbara Allan books, and we attended a similar one given by Bob Randisi and his partner Christine Matthews. Roxi Witt, the manager of the River Center and producer of the event, is a gracious, ebullient hostess whose warmth and kindness are unparalleled.

What made the event really special was the great production of ENCORE FOR MURDER, which was revised and shortened for live production (the original was two and a half hours on audio, and the live version is two acts, each under an hour, with an intermission). Two figures from the legendary Firesign Theater (and regular readers of my updates know what a comedy buff I am) were instrumental in the production. David Ossman co-directed (with his wife Judith Walcutt) and Phil Proctor appeared in three roles, including a very funny Ozzie the Answer, who I described as Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall’s lost love child. Phil’s actress wife Melinda Peterson gave perhaps my favorite Velda performance ever, playing her deadpan as if channeling Keely Smith. Richard Fish made a great Pat Chambers, reminiscent of Paul Sorvino’s in the Assante I, THE JURY, and Amy Walker and Cassie Post were luminous as potential femme fatales. The approach was broader than the original audio, getting all the comic lines across but not camping it up (I had cautioned Phil Proctor that this was Mike Hammer, not Nick Danger). Firesign superstars Ossman and Proctor have been instrumental in presenting radio-style productions at the Owensboro festival. (The festival also presents films and Lee Goldberg debuted his latest short there, produced with the help of the River Center.)

But the MVP player was Gary Sandy. Gary, of course, worked with me on MOMMY’S DAY, and I specifically requested him to play Mike Hammer. Stacy Keach was approached but his schedule wouldn’t allow, and I felt Gary – who lives in Kentucky and had participated in past festivals – would make a great Hammer. And he did. Not easy to step into a role so identified with another actor, but he put his own spin on the role and brought an incredible energy that became the engine of the show. He won Best Actor in the event’s awards, and the play essentially swept those awards.

I am already considering returning next year with a play version of THE LITTLE DEATH.

Next week I hope to have photos for you from the festival and specifically from the production of ENCORE FOR MURDER.


Lee Goldberg, Phil Proctor, and Max

Hard Case Crime has announced my Jack and Maggie Starr novel, SEDUCTION OF THE INNOCENT. Check out the fun news release here (the cover is depicted…small, but it’s there).

More about the book, and a much larger look at the cover, is here.

Mystery writer Mike Dennis has posted a great review of LADY GO, DIE! at his site.

And another nice review can be found here, at Radiant Lit.

Good ANTIQUES DISPOSAL reviews continue to roll in, like this one.

And this one.

Finally, here’s a fun blog post about a reader who discovered my work when she was ten, thanks to the DICK TRACY novelization. Here’s hoping she got the 6th printing (sold only through schools), which includes the ending.

M.A.C.

Say Hello To Goodbye

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Kiss Her Goodbye

I have spotted KISS HER GOODBYE on the shelves of the Davenport Barnes & Noble, so you should be able to find the new Mike Hammer hardcover at your favorite brick-and-mortar. (The trade paperback of THE BIG BANG should be right next to KISS HER.) I don’t know if Borders is carrying the new Hammer (they aren’t getting as many titles in right now, for obvious reasons), but I encourage you to snag this one at Amazon or elsewhere on line, if you don’t have a “real” bookstore handy.

Don’t wait for the trade paperback, because I don’t know if there will be one. This is the last of the Harcourt Spillane/Collins Hammer novels, and the future of the remaining three is in your hands.

Also, the Stacy Keach-read audio book should be out soon. Stacy thinks KISS HER is the best of the three. Our old friend Craig Clarke seems to agree at his Somebody Dies blog.

Great news on about THE LAST LULLABY. I’ll let director Jeffrey Goodman tell you:

“I am very excited to announce that we have signed with Level 33 Entertainment to distribute THE LAST LULLABY in the United States. We are currently aiming for a Fall release of a newly-packaged DVD. At this point, I am not sure what extras it will include, but we are looking into some different things. We also expect this release to place LULLABY in many other places and make it much more readily available.”

Whether there will be a blu-ray seems up in the air. I also don’t know if Jeffrey will include me in the extras on the disc, but I’m hoping there will be some short history-of-Quarry feature, and possibly the original, award-winning short (“A Matter of Principal”) that spawned the film.

Speaking of Quarry, Hard Case Crime has brought out all of their Quarry novels again as part of their re-birth at Titan, the great UK publisher distributed in the USA by Random House.

You might check out this interesting if odd and not entirely accurate mini-article about my DICK TRACY movie tie-in, as part of a list of 100 famous rejections. For the record, it wasn’t Warrren Beatty who went to bat for my novel, rather producer Barry Osborne. And the rewritten version was deemed fine by Disney, they just made me remove the identity of the Blank, making the book the bestselling mystery novel ever published that didn’t reveal who did it. (The 6th printing includes my real ending – all other printings are incomplete.)

ROAD TO PERDITION has made another top ten comic book movies list.

It has also made this top 25 comic-book movies list.

And speaking of movies, you can get my long out-of-print boxed set THE BLACK BOX on sale for under $25 right here. It includes an anniversary edition of MOMMY and MOMMY’S DAY (with lots of special features not previously available), plus REAL TIME: SIEGE AT LUCAS STREET MARKET and the anthology film SHADES OF NOIR (available nowhere else, and including the original, longer cut of my Mickey Spillane documentary, recently shortened/re-edited for the Criterion KISS ME DEADLY release).

M.A.C.

Collins’ Spillane on Criterion

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

As a home video fanatic – the demented owner of thousands of DVDs, Blu-rays and laser discs – I am in particular a fan of the Criterion Collection, who consistently live up to their promise of putting out the highest quality DVDs and now Blu-rays of “classic and important contemporary films.” I have scores of Criterions in my collection, on all three formats, and as an indie filmmaker, having one of my films available from Criterion would be the equivalent of finding the Holy Grail or maybe that atomic box from KISS ME DEADLY.

Well, I have found the atomic box if not the Holy Grail (Monty Python or otherwise). In June, Criterion is bringing out (on both DVD and Blu-ray) what looks to be the definitive release of Robert Aldrich’s great film noir, KISS ME DEADLY…actually, the official title is MICKEY SPILLANE’S KISS ME DEADLY. I was approached about a month ago by representatives of Criterion wondering if they could use my documentary MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE as a special feature on this disc. At first they wanted to just use excerpts, but ultimately they asked if I could do a re-edit on the piece to bring it down from around 48 minutes to half an hour.

Kiss Me Deadly

For those of you unfamiliar with MIKE HAMMER’S MICKEY SPILLANE, it’s a documentary I did in 1998 with the full participation of Mickey, utilizing all sorts of wonderful interview footage with the likes of Stacy Keach, Shirley Eaton, Lee Meredith, producer Jay Bernstein, Leonard Maltin and a galaxy of mystery writers and experts (Donald E. Westlake, Sara Paretsky, Walter Mosley, Otto Penzler, Marty Greenberg, Paul Biship, Joe Gores, Stephen Marlowe, Parnell Hall, Loren Estleman and on and on). It was produced for a company that went out of business and it never saw the light of broadcast day, although it won awards at festivals here and abroad, with a particularly memorable screening at the National Film Theater of London as part of a Spillane film festival (Mickey and I were both guests of the British Film Institute). The doc appeared as the major element of my anthology film SHADES OF NOIR a few years ago – which is only available in the boxed set BLACK BOX from Troma (it’s out of print, I believe, but can be found).

Anyway, I agreed to come up with a new edit expressly for Criterion – they wanted an emphasis on Mickey, Mike Hammer and (not surprisingly) KISS ME DEADLY. This was tricky because I did not have the original elements – I had to edit a new version from the existing version. Anyone who knows anything about film or video editing knows what a nightmare that is – this was a fully scored piece, meaning edits involved music at every point (the score was by my Seduction of the Innocent pal, Chris Christensen). Those who follow this update will not be surprised that I turned to my longtime collaborator, Phil Dingeldein, at dphilms in Rock Island. With his help – and that of editor Ryan Orr – we came up with a 39 minute cut that we have delivered to Criterion. A little longer than they had asked for, but in the ballpark.

In many respects, I like this new cut better. We lost a few really nice moments, but because the documentary was segmented, I was able to cut whole sections, including material on the MIKE DANGER comic book and Mickey’s appearances in my MOMMY movies (both were timely when I did the original doc). Some personal stuff about Mickey’s home life and family went, as well – material that played better when, frankly, Mickey was alive and well and among us. This shorter version acknowledges Mickey’s passing and works better, I think, as a career piece at this shorter length. I’m proud of it, and trust Criterion will indeed use the entire new edit (and not just excerpt it). The presence on their KISS ME DEADLY disc of this documentary – and, frankly, of me – is very important, because film critics have a smug tendency to dismiss and even dis Mickey’s source material in regard to Aldrich’s film. I have not heard the commentary tracks or read the Criterion background booklet, but I can guarantee you that there will be nasty things said about Spillane. And now I will be there to counterattack…er, I mean counterbalance.

Some nice web stuff this week.

The great review column Bookgasm did a fanastic write-up on the Quarry reprints from Perfect Crime.

My first Mallory novel (second published, first written), NO CURE FOR DEATH, got a very nice write-up. There’s a lot about the plot, and I remember almost none of it. In my defense, it was written around 1970.

You can pre-order RETURN TO PERDITION here and/or get a sneak look at the cover art.

And here’s a fun story showing how Mickey Spillane’s feisty widow Jane is keeping her local government honest (they promised to re-name a highway after Mickey, then didn’t follow through – bad idea!).

Finally, here is a mostly B.S. list of the supposed top 111 hardboiled heroes. Nate Heller, Mike Hammer and Dick Tracy make the list, but Quarry doesn’t. Irritating Quarry is almost as dangerous as irritating Jane Spillane.

M.A.C.