Friday, January 31, 2014

THE KILLER INSIDE ME (1976) - Burt Kennedy

This earliest film adaptation of Thompson's pulp classic gets SO MANY things wrong in translation that it's a waste of time to go into it much here. I'll keep it simple, hone in on the biggest problem of all: This is not Lou Ford. Not by a long shot.

Burt Kennedy does away almost entirely with the first-person narration so crucial to the book (apart from a few of its most pedestrian, expository lines at the movie's beginning). Worse, he does away with Ford's folksy bromides, the sappy "killing 'em with kindness" witticisms Ford says to other people when he's not punching them in the gut or shooting them in the head. He and lead Stacy Keach (who I normally love) go in the other direction, choosing to make Ford a more contemplative, quiet type. In doing so, they blow the character's cover and their movie. The thing that makes Ford such a compelling psychopath in the book is the dichotomy between his language and his deeds, the friction between his chummy exterior and his inner killer. He is cunning in the book. But he's also...a redneck peckerwood.

Anything good about this version? Yes, her name is Susan Tyrell. You might recognize her from a far better Stacy Keach movie called Fat City. Or maybe from Forbidden Zone. Or maybe from an episode of Kojak or Starsky and Hutch. Suzie got around. Here, she plays Joyce, the boozy prostitute Ford is tasked with running out of town until it turns out she has his number. There's an authentic, lived-in quality Tyrell brings to Joyce that is spot-on. Sadly, every other frame of this weak adaptation lacks her discipline.

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