Chew-Toys of the Mind

So Jim Macdonald and I were sitting around the office this afternoon, and – as happens with writers – we fell to discussing Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest, and how Hammett had managed to come up with one of the handful of infinitely reusable plots.  Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is one; likewise Chaucer’s “Pardoner’s Tale” and Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.  Plots like these, once their first artist discovers them, can be remixed, remade, adapted, or otherwise messed around with almost ad infinitum and still retain their energy.

Red Harvest – originally a fix-up of four short stories from Black Mask magazine – was part of the inspiration (along with other Hammett works) for Yojimbo by Kurosawa.  Then Sergio Leone adapted/translated/stole/was inspired by Yojimbo to make A Fistful of Dollars, and Walter Hill subsequently did the same with Last Man Standing.

“If they were to remake Red Harvest as a Muppet movie,” Macdonald opined, “it would still be a good movie and I’d watch it.”

“If they did,” I wondered, “who would play the Continental Op – Kermit or Fozzie?”

And Macdonald replied, “Miss Piggy would play the Continental Op.”

“You mean, a gender-flipped Muppet Red Harvest?”

“Yep.”

And I had to concede that he was right.  Miss Piggy would absolutely rock a trench coat and fedora.  And she’s probably the only Muppet who could believably do hard-boiled noir.

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