Category Archives: Peter Yates

RIP, George Segal.

George Segal
(February 13, 1934 – March 23, 2021)

George Segal, who made some damn good movies in a pretty long, busy career, has passed away at 87. The one that always stands out for me is Peter Yates’s The Hot Rock (1972), a crime comedy thing based on a funny Dortmunder novel by Donald E. Westlake. He’s on the right in the above photo, along with (L-R) Paul Sand, Ron Leibman and Robert Redford. (Moses Gunn and Zero Mostel are also in it.) The Hot Rock lead me to Westlake’s books, which worked around to the Richard Stark novels (Stark was one of Westlake’s pen names). By the way, The Hot Rock gives us an eerie helicopter ride around the World Trade Center when the towers were under construction. 

George Segal was also in Ship Of Fools (1965), King Rat (1965), Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (1966), Roger Corman’s The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967), Where’s Poppa? (1970) and Robert Altman’s California Split (1974).

He was also a really good banjo player.

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Filed under 1972, George Segal, Peter Yates, Robert Altman, Robert Redford, Roger Corman

Blu-ray News #223: Robbery (1967).

Robbery castRobbery-Poster

Directed by Peter Yates
Starring Stanley Baker, Joanna Pettet, James Booth, Frank Finlay, Barry Foster, William Marlowe

Producer-star Stanley Baker and director Peter Yates turned the real-life Great Train Robbery into a great British heist picture, Robbery (1967). Kino Lorber has announced its May release on Blu-Ray.

The story goes that Steve McQueen saw Robbery once it made its way to the United States, and Yates ended up directing Bullitt (1968). What Steve saw was a top-notch action film, with astonishing direction and a great script. Highly recommended. This is a very welcome release for sure.


Filed under 1967, DVD/Blu-ray News, Peter Yates, Stanley Baker

Steve McQueen’s Bullitt Mustang Found In A Mexican Junkyard.

It’s a different kind of film preservation, and a very cool one at that.

The second of two 1968 Mustangs specially outfitted for Bullitt (1968) — and gloriously abused by Steve McQueen and the stunt team in the film’s chase scene, has been discovered in a junkyard in Mexico. (The other one’s locked away at some rich dude’s house, evidently.)

A restoration is underway — and I’m sure a lot of guys with deep pockets are making outlandish bids. I’d love to know how it got from Point A (San Francisco or the Warner Bros. lot) to Point B (painted white in Baja California Sur, Mexico) — and if any of McQueen’s Juicy Fruit gum wrappers are under the seat.

My iPod’s got Lalo Schifrin’s score going as I type this. And thanks to Jim Briggs for the tip.

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Filed under 1968, Film Preservation, Peter Yates, Steve McQueen

The Hot Rock (1972).

Hot Rock, TheDirector: Peter Yates
Screenplay: William Goldman
Book: Donald E. Westlake
Cinematography: Edward R. Brown
Editors: Fred W. Berger, Frank P. Keller
Music: Quincy Jones
Panavision, Color by DeLuxe

CAST: Robert Redford (John Dortmunder), George Segal (Andy Kelp), Ron Liebman (Stan Murch), Paul Sand (Allan Greenberg), Moses Gunn (Dr. Amusa), William Redfield (Lt. Hoover), Topo Swope (Sis), Charlotte Rae (Ma Murch), Zero Mostel (Abe Greenberg).


Peter Yates’ The Hot Rock (1972) was an early entry in the Magnetic Video catalog back in 1977 (“By special arrangement with Twentieth Century-Fox…”). I was 13 and we were a Betamax family. Maybe it was the novelty of pre-recorded videotapes or maybe it was the film itself, but I watched The Hot Rock about a thousand times. I loved it, and revisiting it on DVD, I still do.

Donald E. Westlake wrote a series of wonderful semi-comic heist novels about John Dortmunder, a career criminal with a very wide streak of bad luck. The Hot Rock was the first. Several Dortmunder books have been made into films, usually changing the character’s name. Again, The Hot Rock was the first. The Bank Shot (1974), the second, stars George C. Scott—it’s a funny movie sent up the river by a dreadful pan-and-scan DVD. Screen shot 2014-08-02 at 9.11.44 AM

In The Hot Rock, Dortmunder (Robert Redford) and his associates are hired by Dr. Amusa (Moses Gunn) to steal a diamond for his African nation. Things don’t go exactly as planned, and by the film’s end, they’ve stolen the diamond several times, using everything from a helicopter to a hypnotist (“Afghanistan banana stand”). To go into into real detail would rob you of much of the fun.

“I’m not superstitious. And I don’t believe in jinxes, but that stone’s jinxed me and it won’t let go. I’ve been damned near bitten, shot at, peed on and robbed. And worse is gonna happen before it’s done.”
— Dortmunder (Robert Redford)

Like a lot of New York films of the Seventies, The Hot Rock features some great character actors, and they’re a real treat here. Ron Liebman is hilarious as Murch, the gang’s driver. Paul Sand is Allan Greenberg, the explosives expert, and his father is played to perfection by the great Zero Mostel. Christopher Guest can be spotted as a policeman, and Charlotte Rae is terrific in a short bit as Liebman’s mom.

Screen shot 2014-08-03 at 10.07.22 PM

The Hot Rock—despite the big-time talents of director Peter Yates (Bullitt), screenwriter William Goldman (Harper, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid) and star Redford, was not a hit. Redford felt that Yates, an Englishman, didn’t understand the film’s American humor.Yates treats the picture as a really comedy/action hybrid, and it works. The diamond heist is tense, and the character-based humor is often very, very funny.

After seeing this as a kid, I devoured Westlake’s Dortmunder books, which then sent me to his Parker novels, written as Richard Stark. And that, of course, led me to Point Blank (1967).

The DVD looks terrific, presenting a cool Seventies film in all its glory. Highly recommended.

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Filed under 1972, George Segal, Peter Yates, Robert Redford