Oct 3, 2009

Len Deighton Contest On Mister 8

As most readers are no doubt aware, Armstrong over at fellow COBRAS site Mister 8 has spent the whole summer exhaustively exploring every possible aspect of The IPCRESS File: book, movie, radio adaptation and every little detail therein. What was supposed to be a month-long examination of Len Deighton's so-called "Harry Palmer" series (that name taken, of course, from the Michael Caine movie versions, and not from the author, who never named his reluctant spy protagonist) ended up spiraling into something much larger, and every post has been fascinating. So rather than pressing right on through to Deighton's next book, Horse Under Water, Armstrong is taking a much-deserved break from that topic for a few months (though he will continue blogging on other spy subjects), set to resume in December. And, in the interim, he's also running a very creative contest with a terrific prize! Here's how Armstrong outlines the competition:
So here’s the challenge: Give us a glimpse of what an adaptation of Horse Under Water might look like. Show us a movie poster, a scripted scene, a theme song, an animation, a trailer, a level from a video game, a comic, a selection from a radio play, etc. etc. We’re not too particular. Just get it to us by midnight EST on Dec. 12th by emailing your submission (or a link to your submission) to mister8 (at) mister8.com! Improve your odds with multiple entries!
Great idea! I've long dreamed of (and sometimes championed on this site) a new movie of Horse Under Water, set in the Sixties. It's such a great book and a great title, and I lament the fact that there wasn't a movie back then. Penguin's already given us a taste of what Armstrong is looking for with their tantalizing paperback cover from the time of the original films which depicts Michael Caine on the cover of Horse Under Water. I feel like I've also seen another, different paperback cover for the book using Caine's likeness, but I may be confusing it with various Billion Dollar Brain covers. Can anyone corroborate my possibly mixed-up memories?

According to the Harry Palmer Movie Site, Horse Under Water was meant to be filmed after Billion Dollar Brain. While Caine was contracted for another two movies, Saltzman uncharacteristically let him out of this contract when the actor expressed disinterest in reprising the role. Nigel Davenport, Caine's co-star in another Saltzman-produced movie, the excellent Play Dirty, was all set to take over the part of Harry Palmer, and everyone was happy. Then Billion Dollar Brain bombed at the box office, as did Saltzman's Olivia Newton John intergalactic battle of the bands movie, Toomorrow... and everything changed. Plans for a fourth Palmer movie were scrapped for the time being, and Horse Under Water was never filmed.

Another Deighton novel in the same series, An Expensive Place to Die, wasn't filmed either. Spy Story, a book that some people consider part of that series, but Dieghton himself doesn't, was filmed by Lindsay Shonteff in 1976 but didn't star Caine. Caine returned to the role in the 1990s for two movies not based on Deighton novels. He recently stated that he wants to make another, final Palmer movie. Which would be awesome.

Head over to Mister 8 for full contest details... and good luck! I can't wait to see the results come December!

1 comment:

Rob Mallows said...

Good post - Armstong's been putting the hours in and deserves a rest. He's been more active than me the last few months, putting my contributions on the Deighton Dossier blog in the shade!!

The Penguin covers by Raymond Hawkey do all feature the same motif, with pictures of Caine as Palmer, so you were correct. They do provide a unity across all four books which, had the Horse Under Water film gone ahead, would have been replicated in the films.

I think one aspect which might not have been considered about Horse Under Water - though less pertinent than the fact the Billion Dollar Brain was not a commercial breakthrough - was the subject matter. Heroin. Even in the sixties, that might have made a less than salubrious subject for a film aimed at a mass audience? Who knows.

Through my Deighton Dossier website I made contact with Robert Green, a composer, who with his friend Carl Barber wrote a full soundtrack for Horse Under Water - a soundtrack to an imaginary film, if you will - called 'The Seahorse'. When you listen to it, you do start to come up with pictures in your mind about Palmer driving down the Algarve coast in an open top sports car. I must get around to putting samples on my site!