Wednesday, August 1, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: Harper (1966) - When Violence Has Meaning

[Quick Summary: "A private detective is hired by an unloving wife to find her rich drunk husband." *]

I saw this video interview with writer/director Terry George.  George recommended:

1) Reading William Goldman's Absolute Power script (which I did; it is faboo!)

2) Getting my grubby paws on anything Goldman's ever written, even unproduced scripts.

Hmmm.   I realized then how little I knew of Goldman's lesser known works (to be rectified in the coming weeks.) 

So I begin with Harper, Goldman's first produced film.

It's a noir, so I expected violence. 

What I didn't expect was it was "good" story violence, i.e., violence that I could justify.

ex. Harper is bound and tied in a shed.  A thug keeps watch.

Harper insults him, and gets backhanded.  ["Shut up, Harper," I thought.]

"You stink," Harper says. Another backhand.  [What are you doing?]

"You're afraid of me."  Gut punch. [Shut up NOW.]

The thug pummels Harper into mush. [Pleeease stay down.]

Then the stupid thug unties him and says, "Now try to trick me." [Don't take the bait!]

Harper manages to barely stand.... [Don't do it!]

...and proceeds to trick the thug. [Wow!]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  Here, violence has a defined STORY purpose.

The fight built up the thug's confidence ---> increases the payoff when Harper reverses the situation.

by William Goldman
Adapted from the novel The Moving Target by Ross McDonald

*This is William Goldman's own logline. I couldn't improve on it any better.

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