Bonus Item: The Cute Rook

Ah, the joys of the comments section.  Anthony helpfully pointed out to me there was a Mad Magazine parody of The Hot Rock, which was published in issue No. 154, Oct. ’72, which sold at the time for 40 cents (cheap), and which I easily obtained via ebay for $5.50 (inflation).  My copy arrived this morning.  And having gained a bit more proficiency with the optical scanner at my place of business, I’m going to try to make it available to my loyal readers, so they don’t have to further clutter their gracious homes with useless collectibles.   (See, what I didn’t realize when scanning Philip is you can convert the images to JPEG’s.  Well, that all worked out for the best anyway.)

Now for Mad Magazine, as we all know, there has never been any such thing as a good movie or a movie star who knew how to act.  That’s just the form.  But I wouldn’t say they are equally hard on all movies–you can see them showing a bit more respect for something like The Godfather (The Oddfather in their version).  That one you can find elsewhere online.  I think there is some legitimate criticism being made here, as well as the usual by-the-numbers disrespect for everything and everybody that we all happily plunked down our allowances for when we were kids.

They did not feature The Cute Rook on their cover (it’s Alfred E. Neuman eating corn on the cob), but overall I think they did a credible job.  Worth it for the Zero Mostel caricature alone (Drucker obviously loved him, and so do I).  And I think I was right on target in my guess that their main target would be Redford.  Uppity goy.

So without further ado–The Cute Rook.   No need to thank me.  I live to serve.

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I’m obviously biased, but I think Westlake’s book was a lot funnier.   Still, you aren’t anyone until Mad Magazine has sent you up.   Any other Mad parodies of Westlake movies I could put up here?   Cracked would be fine too, I’m no snob.


Filed under Donald Westlake film adaptations, John Dortmunder novels

13 responses to “Bonus Item: The Cute Rook

  1. Anthony

    Ah yes, never understood why Goldman changed the meeting with the client from the embassy office to a public park. Glad to see that Mad skewered that one.

    • Anthony, is it just me, or does George Segal look like Stan Laurel with a 70’s haircut in some of the panels? Drucker did a great job with Zero and Redford, but Segal just doesn’t look right.

      • Anthony

        I think it is just you – but in a couple of the panels I think I see where you are going. Drucker was (was? is!) amazing. Even the guy who played Murch is a dead ringer for the actor. I haven’t seen the Hot Rock in maybe 25 years, but thought – based on the caricature – that the guy looked familiar so I just looked him up on IMDB. Yep, he’s the guy who played Rachel’s dad on Friends.

        • Drucker had to do like one of these a month for decades, so I can excuse him not getting every caricature just exactly right. I just thought Segal’s face looked too thin sometimes. Perspective is a fickle bitch, as any artist will tell you.

          All the more amazing when you consider–it’s 1972. No home video. Was he sitting in a darkened movie theater with a sketch pad?

          • Anthony

            Speaking as a person with a moderate talent at caricaturing (if Mort Drucker is 9.99999 on a scale of 1 to 10, then I’m a 3.5), it has been my experience that some people are easier to capture than others. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. And yeah, I’ve wondered the same thing about the lack of video back in Mad’s heyday. Drucker, and his less talented “nephew” Angelo Torres, didn’t write the satires – some other member of the usual gang of idiots did. I’d guess that both artist and writer had to sit through movies several times to get the details they needed.* Not only are the actors captured, but Mad movie satires usually got the scenery right too.

            I suppose it’s possible that the studios shared still photos and similar stuff with Mad (they would these days) but I somehow doubt it. I don’t think a Mad satire became a “badge of honor” until sometime later. Nowadays, of course, Mad is virtually irrelevant.

            *Probably on their own nickel, given Gaines’ reputation

            • They certainly would have been able to get their hands on photos of famous movie stars easily enough. But as we see, Drucker isn’t doing a generic Bob Redford–he’s doing Bob Redford as Dortmunder–same hair, same clothes, same general look. And he was drawing this not long after the movie came out. So I think it’s partly him having already gotten a good general fix on Redford and the others (particularly Mostel, who is a caricaturist’s dream), and then using several viewings of the film itself to get specific about it.

              And this might explain why they even did this movie, which as we know, was a box office dud. They couldn’t know that in advance. It had a big budget, several big stars, and therefore the studio gave it a big promotional boost, and probably a lot of people did go see it, but not enough to justify the budget.

              So it was decided in advance that they’d parody it, and Drucker was dispatched to the theater. I would hope he at least could submit a voucher, or write it off on his taxes, and there were still some theaters in New York in 1972 where you could sit through multiple showings without paying again. The writer could maybe just bring a tape recorder, or he could take notes. It’s not like they ever try to reproduce the actual dialogue–their dialogue is basically a running commentary on the story.

              By the time they knew it was a flop, the work was mainly done–no point wasting it. So it was the second movie parody of the issue, the B-Parody, so to speak–after the send-up of The Cowboys, with John Wayne (drawn by Jack Davis, who isn’t quite in Drucker’s league, though he’s very good). If The Hot Rock had been a big hit, they would have put it up front, and maybe touted it on the cover.

              And this is maybe more analysis than the parody merits, but over-analyzing fun things is sort of the spécialité de la maison here, n’est ce pas?

  2. I do love the location shots in the movie, and they had every reason to want to feature Central Park, but this was not the way to do it.

    But as I said last time, we can never be sure whether the changes are Goldman’s idea or not. I think the idea here was that they wanted to show Dortmunder as this individualist who does things his own way or not at all–which is faithful to that part of the book, but when it’s Robert Redford, and he’s just stalking away into Central Park, it’s a much more romantic and cinematic image than him scowling in a chair in an office, and asking for more money.

    It’s also not as funny. But the choice of lead, in a movie like this, is going to impact how you do the scenes.

  3. Answering my own question from above, Mad did one other Westlake-related parody–they sent up Payback as Playback. I’m on it.

  4. Anthony

    Mel Gibson – talk about your uppity…

  5. Ray Garraty

    I think I like it comic better than the novel.

    • I don’t think you’ll be finding anyone else agreeing with you there, Ray. I suspect the guy who wrote this never even read The Hot Rock.

      But Dortmunder (indirectly) getting a Mad parody over a quarter of a century before Parker is, hate to tell you, a win for Dortmunder. He is more popular–and I could have you told that just from checking the stats for this blog since I started writing about him. Not that popularity is everything. On this blog, chronology is everything, and I’ll get back to the books you like when they come up in the queue. Not before. 😉

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