I was excited when Donald Westlake called the 1958 Italian heist movie Big Deal on Madonna Street a post-graduate workshop for comedy writers and lamented that future Americans might miss similar opportunities to absorb and learn from foreign influences. "New writers' brains are not being mulched in this way," Westlake said. "What will be produced by people who think a good time is Spiderman?"
Among other things, Big Deal...'s absurd caper gone wrong, its odd anti-climax, and its affection for its gang of robbers may have inspired Westlake's own Dortmunder novels. Imagine my pleasant surprise, then, when I found the following exchange in Harvey Pekar's Our Movie Year (you'll have to imagine the drawings):
Joyce: How's this Big Deal on Madonna Street?Among the many pleasures of Pekar's comics are that the man takes art seriously, and he has impeccable taste. These days, the former is even more important than the latter, I'd say.
Harvey: Oh, that's great. It's got Vittorio Gassman an' Marcello Mastroianni in it ... it's one of the best comedies I've ever seen.
Joyce: You've seen it before?
Harvey: Yeah, but it's been a long time. Take it out. I'll enjoy it again.
© Peter Rozovsky 2010