RARA-AVIS: john d macdonald

From: George Pelecanos ( shoedog1@erols.com)
Date: 29 Nov 2000

I must have been one of the few who actually saw Darker Than Amber in a movie theater (The Wheaton Plaza, 1970). Rod Taylor was not my idea of McGee. Taylor seems like a genuine tough guy, but he's on the small side and was a bit long in the tooth, even back then, for the role (I always thought that a young Nick Nolte would have made a hell of a Travis McGee.) Theodore Bikel played Meyer, and physically he fit the part. Suzy Kendall measured up in the physical department as well. The film is memorable only for the climatic fight between McGee and the villain, played by William Smith, a bodybuilder and veteran heavy of biker pictures and other Bs. This was a protracted, bloody contest that was excitingly staged, and very violent--in the absence of nudity or extreme sexuality, it alone earned the film its R-rating. The ad campaign was several frames of the fight scene, laid out across the body of the one-sheet, which compelled me to see the film. (At 13, I had not yet been introduced to MacDonald's books; to be truthful, I had not been introduced to many books at all.) The fight sequence is also notable in that I'm pretty certain it earned the director, Robert Clouse, his most famous assignment, and a piece of immortality, three years later: Enter the Dragon.


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