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The butler did it.

The Museum of the Moving Image presents seven gut-wrenching classics as part of the series Crime Scenes: Donald Westlake on Film, which will run in Astoria’s Kaufman Arts District from Friday, May 12, through Sunday, May 14. Tickets are $15.

A Brooklyn native who wrote under such pseudonyms as Rolfe Passer, James Blue and even Barbara Wilson, Westlake published more than 100 novels, specializing in crime fiction and comic capers that frequently take place in New York City. His most famous characters are Parker, a ruthless criminal found in 24 novels, and Parker’s comic alter ego, John Dortmunder, a nonviolent bad guy who organizes intricate burglaries and appears in 14 novels and 11 short stories.

More than 30 Westlake works were used as guides for major motion pictures in Hollywood. This series shows the most successful ones — “Point Blank” (1967); “The Hot Rock” (1972); “The Outfit” (1973); “Cops and Robbers” (1973); “Made in U.S.A.” (1966); and a double feature with “The Stepfather” (1987) and “The Grifters” (1990).

The weekend’s schedule and brief descriptions of each thriller follow.

  • Point Blank (May 12, 7 p.m.) presents Parker as a relentless, inhuman crime machine. An oft-mentioned phrase is “He thrived on two kinds of people . . . his victims and his women.” Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, and Carroll O’Connor are the stars. After the screening, Westlake’s widow, Abby, and Luc Sante, a film critic who often contributes to New York Review of Books, will participate in a conversation with University of Chicago Press editor Levi Stahl, who curated this program.
  • The Stepfather (May 13, 2 p.m.) is a domestic thriller about a guy who murders his family and then disappears.
  • The Grifters (May 13, 4 p.m.) is a story of survival at all costs starring John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, and Annette Bening. It was nominated for four Oscars.
  • Cops and Robbers (May 14, 2 p.m.) is the only flick that Westlake wrote from scratch, and then turned into a novel. The story unfolds in the early 1970s in New York City, where two cops decide that if everyone else is stealing, they should too.
  • Made in U.S.A. (May 14, 4 p.m.) is directed by Jean-Luc Godard and appears in French and English with English subtitles. The main character, Parker, has switched genders and become a reporter who knows too much…or wants to know too much.
  • The Hot Rock (May 14, 6 p.m.) is the first part of a double feature. Robert Redford is Dortmunder, who steals a huge diamond…and then steals it again. The Outfit stars Robert Duvall as a Parker-like petty thief who gets out of prison and finds out that his brother was murdered by mobsters over a bank heist gone bad. He seeks revenge, while the criminals he is seeking are also after him.

Top image: Angie Dickinson and Lee Marvin in Point Blank, courtesy of Warner Bros.



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