There are no funnier books ever written than Donald E. Westlake’s stories of John Dortmunder and his hard-luck criminal gang. No less than seven of them have been filmed (including two I haven’t seen, one in Italy, starring Teo Teocoli, and a German one, with Herbert Knaup), and Dortmunder has been played by Robert Redford, George C. Scott, Paul Le Mat, Christopher Lambert, and Martin Lawrence. In four of them Dortmunder’s name is changed, but it’s him. I’m sorry to tell you that four of these films sucked the big one. Only the first, The Hot Rock, with a terrific and very faithful script by William Goldman, was good. And oddly enough, Robert Redford was by far the best Dortmunder, though he looks nothing like the character in the books.
What is it with these assholes in Hollywood? They buy a funny book, and then they change all the good bits into something they think will sell better, and work very hard to take out all the funny parts. Why Me? and What’s the Worst That Could Happen? have some funny bits, but not nearly enough of them.
This is the worst of the lot. In the book, John and his gang steal a bank! That’s right, they don’t rob it, they steal it. The bank is being housed temporarily in a long trailer, so they hook up a truck and tow it away. It was hilarious! That part has been preserved, and almost everything else has changed. I have to blame the writer, Wendell Mayes, and the director, Gower Champion, may they both rot in hell. This is a big mess. Don’t waste your time.