RARA-AVIS: On Dangerous Ground/Mad With Much Heart

From: Al Guthrie ( allanguthrie@ukonline.co.uk)
Date: 11 Jun 2003

----- Original Message ----- From: "Chris Schneider" < chrisaschneider@earthlink.net>
> P.S. Having expressed my extreme fondness for "On Dangerous Ground," I
> might as well add that I'd be interesting in hearing what anyone (Al
> Guthrie?) has to say about the source novel, "Mad With Much Heart," and
> author, Gerald Butler. Did the novel contain much of what we see in this
> Ray/Bezzerides/Houseman adaptation? Or was the shift from a UK locale to
> US one a signal to create something new?

Sorry for taking so long to reply, Chris. I had to watch the film before I could comment.

Here's the deal. The first part of the movie isn't in the book. At all. The book starts with the hunt for the killer, with big city cop James Wilson
(Robert Ryan) already transplanted to the country. In the book, he isn't vicious. In the book a second attempted murder occurs, which acts as a catalyst for the chase (in the movie, I wondered why the killer was still hanging around). The father of this girl, not the dead one, accompanies Wilson. His motivation is obviously not as strong as the father of the dead girl and the change is a good one. Other than those modifications, after the first half hour the film adaption is fairly faithful to the book and the shift from the UK locale to the US makes no real difference that I could see. Oh, the ending is different.

Butler's a very fine writer. He's written a terrific love story wrapped in the garb of a crime novel. He's particularly adept at maintaining high levels of tension over long scenes. The interplay between the two main characters is terrific. There's a lot of dialogue, which occasionally gets into the fringes of psychobabble. But overall, I'd recommend the book highly. I recently acquired another of Butler's: "Blow Hot, Blow Cold," touted as "intrigue and violence on the French Riviera." The Chicago Herald American claims it's "as racy as a greyhound."

To answer a previous question, Chris: sadly, I don't know anyone who has seen the Billy Connelly version of "The Changeling."


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