This weekend sees the release of my first Highly Anticipated movie of 2013, Taylor Hackford's Parker. Everything I've seen from the trailers leads me to believe that this is not going to be the Richard Stark film I want it to be, but blah blah blah. You're tired of me bitching and moaning about this adaptation. And ya know what, that above photo is killer. That one still is worth fifty shoddy J Lo trailers. Still, Parker's Rules...yeash. If you want to know what code Donald Westlake's professional crook actually lived by than you should jump on over to the University of Chicago's new 50 Years of Parker website and discover the truth behind literature's hardest lowlife.
What gives me the biggest pause when watching the Parker trailers though, is that this is the first film actually allowed usage of the character's real name. Adaptations in the past have used Walker (Point Blank), Porter (Payback), Macklin (The Outfit), McClain (The Split), Nelson (Made in U.S.A.), and Stone (Slayground). But Donald Westlake wouldn't allow filmmakers the name Parker unless they committed to a series of adaptations. But now that the man has shuffled off this earthly plane, his estate has sold off "Parker." And that's cool. Family's gotta eat. I just hope that Taylor Hackford and the producers realize what a treat they've been given - and I really don't want them to squander it.
So all this raging over a silly name got me thinking. There are already a lot of Parkers occupying the movie landscape. You've got gangster moll Bonnie Parker, Marty McFly's time traveling honey Jennifer Parker, the jazzy genius of Charlie Parker, and even lost TV classic Parker Lewis Can't Loose. But who are the greatest characters to rock that handle? Agree or don't, these are my favorite silver screen Parkers.
5. Kristen Parker (A Nightmare on Elm Street III & IV): The Nightmare franchise has three true heroines. Heather Langenkamp is obviously the most recognizable as first final girl, Nancy. Then you've got Lisa Wilcox as preggers Alice Johnson. But if I'm gonna get real, my favorite bit of Freddy bait is Patricia Arquette as Dream Warrior whackjob Kristen Parker. Her character would return as nightmare fodder for the fourth film, but in the third Nightmare flick, this Parker transformed her teenaged crazybrains into a Freddy Krueger meat grinder and managed to steal the saga from poor little Nancy. Plus, try as he might, Freddy couldn't swallow this tough (albeit whiney & screamy) chick.
4. Leonard Parker (Leonard Part 6): Truth be told, I haven't seen this flick in years. But it certainly left an impression. Bill Cosby is a secret agent pulled out of retirement to battle bird beasties and killer lobsters. All he has is a nifty getup and few sticks of delicious butter. I remember seeing this in the theater in 1987 and my little kid brain just couldn't understand the weird. And I remember my mother explaining to me how horrible the film truly was...yeah, I think this is gonna have to get Netflixed soon.
3. John Parker (The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension): When villainous red aliens from the planet 10 escape the prison of Dimension 8, Rock & Roll Scientist Buckaroo Banzai and his badass regulators are the only hope for our tiny blue planet. And a key member of Buck's Band of Heroes is John Parker, a nice guy alien with superior wall hopping skills and space born knowledge. I'm still waiting for that spin-off movie where Buck & Parker take on the World Crime League. Make it happen, Hollywood.
2. Peter Parker (Spider-Man): It seems pretty fashionable to beat up on Sam Raimi's Spider-Man these days. But as fidgety and awkward as Andrew Garfield is as The Amazing Skateboarder-Man, Toby Maguire's Peter Parker felt like a real outsider nerd. He had a doughy, blank stare that perfectly replicated the woe-is-me center to pre-spider bite Parker. It's a mope factor essential to the character; you can't have the superior wall crawler without that deep seeded self loathing. And Raimi's first Spider-Man captured that loser complexion perfectly.
1. Parker (Alien): The first time I watched Alien, I thought it was Yaphet Kotto's movie. As members of the Nostromo were picked off by H.R. Giger's star beast, and as Veronica Cartwright looses her shit & Sigourney Weaver turns hard, I thought it was Kotto's Parker that was going to rise to the occasion and flame thrower the hell outta the monster. Unfortunately (for Yaphet) the movie doesn't play out that way, and cinema is granted it's first ever female ass kicker. But despite the brilliant character twists and turns of Ridley Scott's masterpiece, I still root for Parker to come out on top every time. His relationship with Harry Dean Stanton sells the space trucker reality of the story, and I am compelled to dream of an alternate Fringe universe where the film devolves into a Parker revenge narrative - credits roll as Yaphet Kotto sits smiling atop the acid filled corpse of the Alien. One can dream.
Walker Is Still My Parker--Brad