Readers' Letters By Readers. Dear Mike White,Your survey of my various Nimrods was so complete and so on target that I thought I should add to your knowledge what little I can...

Dear Mike White,
Your survey of my various Nimrods was so complete and so on target that I thought I should add to your knowledge what little I can.

The name. Lee Marvin refused to do sequels, under any circumstances, so it was agreed that we’d keep the name back and not squander it on somebody who wouldn’t come out and play any more. Jim Brown, later was (a) black, which was not appropriate for a potential series, we though, and (b) not an actor, so we kept it back again. By The Outfit (a very good picture, with the movie ending, not the TV ending), I think it had become a habit.

Payback began with [Brian] Helgeland, from the book, intending a small inexpensive sharp feature like Red Rock West or The Last Seduction. Gibson entered, and life changed. No one told me that the movie was to be made (the rights were owned by Warner, who had inherited Point Blank), so I first learned about it when the announcement was made to the trades that Gibson would appear in Parker. My agent called him and said, “You can do anything you want, you can fuck babies in wheelchairs, but you can’t call him Parker. Look at the contract.” They did their idea of negotiation, which went nowhere. Thus, Porter. Porter isn’t Parker. Porter is what Ginger Rogers says, with her luggage, beside the ship: “Oh, Porter! Oh Por-ter!” Porter, as we see, is a mutt. Parker is not a mutt.

I thought Helgeland’s version was too close to the book, to be honest. I thought he was being too much of a fan honoring his predecessors and not enough a creator determined to kick this thing into his shape. When he was kicked out, the movie was left with no soul at all. They really do know how to make zombie movies out there. First you make it undead.

Point Blank is wonderful, though no one’s ever fully understood it. Is the whole movie the final three-second delusion of a dying man on a cell floor? Interesting point you make, that he doesn’t kill anybody. He’s tough on inanimate objects, though. I’m told [John] Boorman’s reaction to Payback was to remember that once Lee Marvin had thrown the script out the window, “and I can only assume a very young Mel Gibson was walking by.” An early reject script, of course.
Don Westlake
Ancram, NY

A friend of mine sent me your article on Payback. Glad to be mentioned twice. I’m the “Elevator Hood.”

I was on weekly contract to shoot just with Mel. Suffice it to say that there’s a lot of footage that did not make either cut. At least, however, Brian’s cut makes sense. Quick notes, as I scan your article: 1) I suspect that having the elevator in there at all, for one, was an homage to the potential symbolism of the elevator going to the penthouse in Point Blank; 2) a few U.S. critics mentioned that it did not make sense that porter just appears in Val’s room. Poof! It’s magic! To me, this is just one more way that Mel’s character is “superman.” After Maria and Mel have the whole damn scene about how tough the security is in the Oakwood, “poof” he can just appear anywhere he wants.

On that note, it’s interesting to note one of the scenes that Brian cut between me and Mel. After Mel shoots Bill Devane, he cannot just walk unmolested out to the street of course. Mel’s idea (which Brian obviously didn’t like) was a second encounter between Mel’s character and mine. It’s even nastier—he goes for my other eye!

Mel mentioned both of those scenes between he and myself in Premiere magazine with glee. I have no idea what he was thinking on final cut. I knew, however, that I might be in trouble when I saw the first digital still of Mel and Myself in the elevator...and lets say that Mel and I have a disparity in size.

Also, in Brian’s cut, there’s some decent looking bad guys (I would hope that I’m included in that). In Mel’s cut, of course, the decent looking bad guys all disappear (e.g., the gal you call the assassin), to be replaced by “less traditionally attractive” gruff looking character types.

Anyway, the politics of that shoot were monumental, as you can imagine. I’m not sure that what you call “Parker” is a better film, but it’s definitely a much cooler film with a much cooler ending. How totally fucking Mel to not want people to compare his version to Brian’s. He blew a lovely opportunity to make use of DVD.

Additionally, people like Ron Howard keep actors names in the credits, even when he cuts them, so they get their residuals. Nobody in the public cares anyway, and it just helps the actors. That’s not Mel’s style. The choice cost me about 80% of what would have been my income on that shoot.

What a mess. Brian did not even go to the premiere (and since Mel cut my ass, I was not invited either). Mel knew damn well what he was signing on to play-Brian’s vision-and instead, he and his test audiences preferred “Lethal Weapon 3 1/2” AKA Payback.
Thanks for writing the article,
Sterling Wolfe
Hollywood, USA

Hi Mike,
I just finished your fine piece on Willeford in Cashiers du Cinemart. I had a truly rotten morning at home, and withdrew to my warehouse to be among my books and recover. I read your piece beginning to end, and wanted to congratulate you on putting so much work and honesty into it.

Also, I think it’s time somebody tore into Don Herron, and you are The Man in my book for having done it. He is universally reviled among Willeford fans for having written such a shabby biography. Ultimately, the book’s bibliography is its only saving grace.

One question: I was always under the impression that the original title for The Woman Chaser was The Director (which would make two two-word titles in his oeuvre). Is that incorrect?
Kevin Johnson
Baltimore, MD

Hi Mike,
It’s John Paizs here-director of Crime Wave and Top of the Food Chain. Just wanted to tell you that today I saw your magazine at the bookstore in the big mall downtown here and picked up a copy. I was very excited to see the magazine for sale here. I read your article on Charles Williford during my walk home from the mall. Excellent Article. I’ve always been a fan of Charles Williford. Enjoyed The Burnt Orange Heresy and The Woman Chaser very much. I agree, the man is deserving of some small measure of fame at least. Why don’t the French get off their asses and do something about it?

Now you’ve got to do something on Harry Whittington, one of these days.
Keep up the good work,
John Paizs
Winnipeg, Canada

I read the Tom Long column in the Detroit News a week or so ago, and it was quite interesting. Seeing your name brought back loads of Blockbuster Video memories. I don’t know if you remember me. We worked together at the Wyandotte BBV. We battled the evil overlord that was Chis Barr... That seems like eons ago, even if it’s only been four or five years. Hell, I still have my copy of CdC #5, which had the article that covered your last days at the store. I laugh (now) thinking about all the BS that went with that gig.
Take it easy,
Al Beaton
Downriver, MI

On the last day of classes at UNC the Insound Van was in town on its college campus promo tour, giving away free cds, stickers, zines, etc. I found out through the radio station (it was surprisingly under-promoted...I think only WXYC dj’s showed up to meet the van) and was excited about free stuff, as always. I was very surprised and pleased to find copies of your CdC baby in the giveaway box (which people were rapidly emptying). And, thus, I was able to brag, “that’s my cousin, yo!” And, for a few minutes a circle of area hipsters were listening to me! The trials of the indie cool...
Janet White
Chapel Hill, NC

Mr. Mike,
Just discovered CdC. with Issue # Eleven (thanks in no small part to the delicious Nathan Kane cover). Though my own profession is in comics, I’ve always been a film buff, and your mag is great. I love the tone, the voice, and certainly the content. (Most movie mags are either hyper-Hollywood or super-technical.) You now have a new regular reader.

I noticed in one of the letters to the editor, mention of the Film Threat scam. I was one of the many who happened to subscribe (to the once fabulous mag) right before they bogged, and I’d love to read that article so I can see what transpired.
Thanks again for an excellent read,
Brett Warnock
Portland, OR

Dear Mike,
I just received your latest newsletter about Cashiers du Cinemart, and I couldn’t agree with you more about Chris Gore. Speaking as someone who knows magazine publishing quite well (18 years as a journalist, 8 as an editor), I think he should be a lot more savvy by now regarding how much money it takes to produce a magazine. He should have either gotten serious financial backing years ago, or made the decision to stay small and not raise expectations. Worse yet, he ripped off the very people he was claiming to help. I’m a friend of Manfred Jelinski, and I was pretty pissed to find out that Film Threat was still selling Manfred’s videos long after their agreement with him had expired. I stepped in as U.S. representative for Manfred and all but guaranteed Chris that I would take him to court unless he turned over the master tapes. He finally did, though he stuck me with the shipping bill. What he never followed through on, though he promised several times that he would, was provide an accounting of what monies were owed Manfred. Suffice it to say, I would advise any aspiring filmmaker to run screaming from Chris Gore and any offers he made!
Oh well. Just thought you might like to know that you definitely aren’t alone! Peace,
Scott Barker
Tuscon, AZ

I never doubted the Renaissance Man/“Solid Laughs” story from CdC #4, but I also never thought I’d top it. About three weeks ago, a woman approached the video counter an asked if we had “that Julia Roberts movie.” Figuring that if she wanted Erin Brockovich that she’d have asked for it. I asked, “Which one?”

“It’s called Triumph... The Triumph or something.”

I told her I’d never heard of a Julia Roberts movie with that title. She said the box was on the shelf but there were no tapes behind it. “Are you sure it’s not Erin Brockovich?” I asked. She said nothing but went back to the New Release wall and returned with the Brockavich box. I don’t think she was trying to be a smartass (like the customer who insisted that Summer of Sam was actually titled “S.O.S.”), I just think that she was ignorant of the title of the biggest movie of the first half of 2000. But she knew she wanted to see it!

One more. A customer asked, “How’s The Talented Mr. Ripley?”

“Very good,” I told him, “very suspenseful.”

“What’s it about?” he asked.

I explained that the Matt Damon character is hired by the father of Jude Law’s character to go to Europe and get his rich, spoiled son to return to America. While there, Ripley (Damon) becomes enamored of the lifestyle that Dickie Greenleaf (Law) leads, then envious and even insanely jealous when Dickie tries to shut him out. Ripley kills Dickie and assumes his identiry. Suspense comes from wondering how long Ripley can keep up his charade and how far he’ll go to do so.

While I thought I summarized the plot fairly well, the further I got into my explanation, the less interested the customer seemed.

“So, it’s got nothing to do with the “Believe-It-Or-Not” guy?” he asked.
See what fun you’re missing not working in a video store any more?
Your pal,
Scott Ruisch
Bayville, NJ

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