RARA-AVIS: Mute Winess to Bullitt

From: DJ-Anonyme@webtv.net
Date: 31 Dec 2006

I recently read Robert L. Pike's Mute Witness (actually it was a movie tie-in paperback retitled Bullitt). It had been several decades since I'd seen the movie and, to tell you the truth, all I really remembered was the car chase in and around San Francisco, so I came to the book relatively fresh.

I was a bit surprised to find that the book is set in New York and started wondering where the car chase was going to be. There wasn't one. Instead I got a pretty tight police procedural that reads very fast, although the degree to which this previously, by all accounts, by-the-book cop stretched the rules in this case was sometimes a bit suspect. All in all, though, a very satisfying read with a well drawn main character.

So I watched the movie. It was interesting to see the changes that were made. First, the locale was shifted. Second, a major subplot was deleted, and the rules were stretched more than broken. Everything was stripped down (except for a young Jacqueline Bisset, alas, who played the added-in small role of the cop's girlfriend). The book was very detailed about what was going on in the cop's mind and investigation. The movie had long spaces with no words whatsoever, using just visuals. In other words, each played to its medium's advantages, which rendered them equally satisfying.

One other thing: the movie changed a few names. Clancy became Bullitt, of course, I guess to make it harder, more catchy. The name change I found most interesting, though, was that of the two brothers in the
"Organization." In the book, they were Rossi. However, the movie drops the "i," making the name less Italian (though the roles were still played by actors whose names and looks were Italian). And they changed one of the cop's names from whitebread to Italian. I don't remember Italian anti-defamation leagues starting until a few years later, with The Godfather movies. Were the studios already answering complaints about the stereotyping of Italians as mobsters in the '60s? Man, they really lost that battle.


ps -- As for the rumors that 6 hubcaps came off the Charger during the chase scene, I counted 4 (although two other bits go flying off the car that could be mistaken for hubcaps).

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