What do you think the roles of Jurgen Prochnow and Fank Langella in Body of Evidence have to do with Mark Fuhrman's first book and his first movie? If you guessed that they involve interracial sex, murder and mixing fact with fiction, you're right
George Orwells 1984, Ray Bradburys Fahrenheit 451, Aldus Huxleys Brave New World and Kurt Vonneguts Player Piano are alternate scenarios constructed around the same major theme.
By 1991 few people could see that Orwells vision of the future, based on his observations of the technology of his times and the people who controlled it, had come to pass. After observing bad reporting on the 67 Detroit riots, the Vietnam War throughout the 70s and 80s and Ford Motor Companys manipulation of the media in the early 90s, I decided to write my first novel. I invented a new mass medium and turned Ford Motor Co. into a mass disinformation media corporation. Observant readers familiar with Robocops OCP and its top executives Dick Jones and the Old Man can see them in The Random Factors CBI and its top executives Tom Easton and Dean Piper.
To quote Mark Fuhrman in Murder in Brentwood, The similarities are not mere coincidence. The Random Factor is my commentary on how I saw the media in the early 90s. I started it as an original work of fiction but it quickly evolved into an updated version of Orwells 1984.
In the age of media image saturation and short attention spans I found it essential to use more familiar themes and images than I wanted to use to get bundles of information across quickly. I did the same thing with carefully selected clichés and stereotypes. To understand my reasoning, imagine someone tying to invent poker or baseball in 1991. People learn these games now only because they are established parts of the culture. Even if you dont know the intricacies of poker or baseball you know that four aces give you a poker hand you can bet your life on and a baseball batter cant do better than hitting a home run.
A good hand in fiction writing is one that contains all the necessary elements to get the readers attention and to hold it. A home run is when it connects with the intended audiences and they give it rave reviews. The same is true with so-called non-fiction. While all fiction contains some facts; some conformity to the laws of physics, probability and human nature all non-fiction written for mass consumption contain some fiction; some concessions to form and entertainment over facts.
You cant make up a believable story with rational people doing irrational or physically impossible things unless you provide rational explanations. You cant have coincidence piled on top of coincidence without someone or something orchestrating them. You cant tell a complicated true story with all of the relevant facts without hurting innocent people or losing your audience in boring details.
You can bend the rules of physics and logic if you dont bend them too far. Copula did this in The Conversation (74) with covert surveillance techniques and devices like an early version of the clock in Robocop (87) with a camera in the ten oclock dot. The story, which features Gene Hackman, Frederic Forrest, Cindy Williams and Allen Garfield as an electronic surveillance expert from Detroit, is fiction. The 1974 spy technology is not. You see some of that technology in the The Avenging Angel (85), in The Naked Gun (88) with O.J. on Pier 32 and in Blow Out with John Travolta, John Lithgow, Nancy Allen and Dennis Franz. You need only this level of technology to make an alternate version of the Bundy murders fit the evidence of a frame-up.
You can invent a story in its entirety and sell it as true if it conforms to commonly held beliefs. In 1981 Washington Post reporter Janet Cooke did just that with a story about an 8-year-old heroine addict. She would have gotten away with it if her story hadnt been so well written that it won a Pulitzer Prize. Christopher Reeves character in Street Smart (87) with Kathy Baker and Morgan Freeman stirred up big trouble for himself and others by pulling the same stunt with a fabricated story about a pimp.
The best fiction always includes enough facts and common beliefs to make the fiction believable. The safest non-fiction contains enough facts to allow for a little or a lot of creative license. Balancing the essential elements of fact and fiction is a proven formula for success. Janet Cooke didnt follow the formula. If she had only interviewed a real kid in his environement and included some factual details, she could have made up the rest of her story, received her rewards and gone on to greater glory.
This intermingling of fact and fiction done out of haste, laziness and reckless disregard for the truth in pursuit of advancing hidden agendas was my main target in The Random Factor. PBS was doing award-winning documentaries on Vietnam that contained all of these elements and the public was buying them whole cloth. I saw the same thing in movies like Jane Fondas Coming Home, Frances Ford Copulas Apocalypse Now and Oliver Stones Platoon. The informed public saw all of these documentaries and movies as entirely or essentially true.
Big city newspaper editors, publishers and their TV news counterparts who insist on fair and balanced reporting are mythical beings. Real people in these positions cant afford to set fairness and balance as their top priorities. Their jobs depend on getting the greatest number of people to buy their papers or watch their broadcasts with enough accuracy to give the appearance of fairness and balance. They do what they have to do to get the best images and sound bites they can in time to edit them in the most entertaining way.
A homicide detective who understands this dynamic and happens to be working on a big case can therefore shape the story to write a bestseller if he is ambitious and daring enough to feed the medias appetite.
One element missing from many terrific books and movies that never see wide circulation is a famous name. Celebrity status is like sex. It can be used to sell almost anything. Thats why Hertz Rent-a-Car paid O.J. big bucks to associate his name with theirs and why they gave him one of their Ford Broncos to drive as his own. Thats why The Naked Gun series with O.J. Simpson and George Kenney did better than Police Squad! with Peter Lupus and Alan North following the success of Airplane! with Leslie Nielsen. Thats also why some movies like The Last Action Hero with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bonfire of the Vanities with Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis bombed.
Star power is only part of the formula for a book or a movies success. A competent writer with enough money to market his books can make a comfortable living just by writing what people want to read and rewriting every page that his test readers dont like. Youll never write a classic that way or break new ground in understanding the human condition. But if your primary goal is to make money, thats one sure way to do it.
Another sure way of making money on a book is to get intimately connected to a news story involving a powerful politician or a superstar celebrity, the more scandalous and sensational the story the better. If it involves sex, murder, race, religion, politics and skeletons in the closet of a celebrity suspect you cant miss if you can supply the right stereotypes and clichés to go with them. Everyone with a press card and a microphone will want to talk to you and keep your identity secret. You can thus shape the story to your liking anonymously and emerge later as a key player in the drama instead of its architect. You dont have to depend on chance or psychic visions to put you in this position if you are willing and able to commit the murders yourself and frame the celebrity.
Skeleton in your closet wont hurt if you manage them wisely. You want controversy. No matter how bad it makes you look in the short run, it will put you in the spotlight and keep you there. In the long run it will help to make you a celebrity and put your book on the New York Times Best Seller list. Its about formulas and the willingness to do what other people wont even think of doing to use them. Without Fuhrmans racist baggage he was no more controversial than the detectives who outranked him but followed his lead in the murder investigation of O.J. Simpson.
Witness For The Prosecution (57), Basic Instinct (92), and Body of Evidence (93) were good templates for using the skeletons in Fuhrmans closet to his advantage. Body of Evidence has a woman in Tyrone Powers role as Leonard Vole in Witness for the Prosecution and a man in Marlene Dietrichs role as Leonards fiercely devoted wife Christine. Charles Laughton is Voles trial lawyer Sir. Wilfred Robarts who uses his monocle as a lie detector on Leonard and Christine. Like Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct, Leonard and Christine are consummate liars who beat the test.
O.J. Simpson was in the process of taking a lie detector test less than 48-hours after he learned of his ex-wifes murder when polygraph expert F. Lee Bailey stopped the proceedings. Somehow word leaked out that O.J. failed the test. Bailey countered that the test was invalid because it wasnt complete and it wasnt complete because O.J. was not emotionally equipped so soon after Nicoles murder to take it at all.
While promoting Murder in Brentwood, Fuhrman took a modified polygraph test in private over a year after his perjury conviction. He passed according to his publishers handpicked tester but failed according to F. Lee Bailey. In a televised interview after the test, Fuhrman said that he waited so long to take it for a variety of reasons including the stress he was under. He indicated that the reason he took it in private rather than live on TV as Bailey challenged him to do was the distraction of the bright lights in the television studio. Thats why Marlene Dietrich as Leonards German wife Christine in Witness for the Prosecution got out of her chair and pulled down the shade when the sunlight reflecting off of Robarts monocle bothered her.
Thats not that only connection between Robarts monocle and Mark Fuhrmans polygraph. If it were, it would not be a valid link to Fuhrman.
According to Fuhrmans Murder in Greenwich book and movie, the Skakels tutor did not kill Martha Moxley. I tried to follow his reasoning in his book but Ken Littleton (Morris Banks in the movie) looked like the most likely killer to me a petty thief caught in the act of stealing golf clubs. I checked the transcripts of Michael Skakels murder trial and found that my reservations about the tutors guilt were based on false timeline information in the book. Fuhrman doesnt use the same timeline in his book that he uses in his movie to put Banks in the clear and the testimony in the transcripts is not the same as the book or the movie. Fuhrman, like the Bundy killer, is a time-shifter first class.
According to the transcripts, Greenwich police had good reasons to believe the tutor committed the murder that Michael Skakel was on trial for. The fact that he failed a lie detector test was only one reason.
In Murder in Greenwich, Stephen Weeks tells Fuhrman that Tommy Skakel and the man that Fuhrman calls Rob Mathers in the movie also failed the test the first time they took it. Tommy flunked the first time because he hadnt been sleeping and Mathers did poorly because of the medication he was taking. Fuhrman explains away the tutors failing performance on the test in his book and in his movie by saying that his prior conviction on a burglary charge made him nervous. In the movie, the tutor wears glasses. I was sure that the camera would zoom in on one eye an eye behind one lens. It did. I was sure that his alibi, like Rob Mathers and Tommy Skakels, would have a French connection. It did.
This is not an example of ESP or clever deduction. Its only the primitive reasoning of the subconscious mind putting together various threads of words and images that converge in one place. In this case, I believed that Mark Fuhrman reached the same conclusion about the tutor that Stephen Carroll did in his investigation but gave him an alibi because Michael made a better killer for his book and the media.
Does this sound to you like Fenn Mochas rational for framing Hypolyta Kropotkin rather than Kim Hunter in Witch Hunt? It did to me. Did it remind you of the lens missing from Mochas glasses and the raven that flew from Lovecrafts mouth and plucked out one of his eyes? Did you remember Tyrone, the kid who told Lovecraft that he could have put his eye out by flicking a lit cigarette in his face? Did you recall the lens missing from the glasses on the Bundy murder scene? I did.
I had no conscious recollection of why Stephen Weeks narration or Stephen Carrolls presence in the room where Banks was getting his lie detector test struck me as odd. The only conscious link I made to the pack of cigarettes on the table in front of Banks was the lit cigarette that Witch Hunts Tyrone feared could have put out his eye. Then I saw Witness for the Prosecution for the first time in years with Tyrone Power as Leonard Vole. Leonard Voles middle name is Stephen. He is accused of killing a wealthy woman by hitting her in the head with a heavy object. The victims name is Mrs. French. Sir Wilfred took the case on a fluke. He has a bad heart and isnt supposed to smoke. He needed a light for his cigar and recalled that Vole lit a cigarette.
Cigarettes can serve many useful functions in a movie. In Murder in Greenwich they are used as French connections. In the case of Morris Banks its his French Connection movie alibi. Body of Evidence lifts the bad heart from Witness for the Prosecution and turns the cigarette into an inhaler to kill a man with a combination of sex and cocaine.
Body of Evidence has Madonna as Rebecca Carlson in place of Tyrone Power and strong elements of Body Heat and Basic Instinct mixed in. If you saw Double Indemnity, Witness For The Prosecution, Body Heat and Basic Instinct nothing in Body of Evidence should surprise you. Each variation on this theme throws you a few curves but if you keep your eye on the ball you can predict where and when its going to cross the plate. Think of the hold that Barbara Stanwycks character Phyllis Dietrichson had over Walter Neff in Doubly Indemnity. Thats the ball. Variations on that theme are the curves.
You can see how Agatha Christie reshaped Double Indemnity (44) in her 1949 television play Witness for the Prosecution by using a mans seductive powers in place of a womans to get money for murder. She uses a will in place of an insurance policy as Leonard Voles motive. Billy Wilder carried over these elements in his 1957 movie adaptation of Christies TV play adding Charles Laughtons wife Elsa Lanchester to the cast as a new character, Sir Wilfreds nurse, Miss. Plimsoll.
Body Heat evolved from Double Indemnity with a lawyer in place of an insurance agent who helps a woman commit murder to collect on a will. In Basic Instinct a woman writes a book as her alibi for a murder and uses the sexual obsession of a cop to get away with two more murders and write another book. You can see how Body Heat with Kathleen Turner evolves into Basic Instinct with Sharon Stone using a cop in place of a lawyer. In all three cases the woman uses her body indirectly as a murder weapon. If you got flashes of Niagara, which The Conversation is built around, or The Postman Always Rings Twice with Lana Turner or Jessica Lange it wont take much for you to see where they fit.
Body of Evidence takes sex as a murder weapon combined with cocaine straight to the point using the sex and cocaine from Basic Instinct and the bad heart from Witness for the Prosecution. Just by swapping a few roles, and changing a few details you get the impression that you are seeing a new movie rather than a reconfiguration of old ones.
The incidents you anticipate as Body of Evidence rolls along depend on whether you have seen the movies that comprise it and how well you know the formulas producers rely on for box office success. The extent to which Body of Evidence succeeded is the extent it was able to hide Witness for the Prosecution under the glare of Body Heat and Basic Instinct. The extent to which it failed with many viewers was the mistake of using big actors like Frank Langella and Jürgen Prochnow in small parts as witnesses for the prosecution of Rebecca Carlson. All things considered, one or both of them had to be the Body of Evidence equivalent of Christine Vole. My money was on Prochnow as Dr Paley, the emergency room physician who saw the murder victim on Fuhrman birthday and told him he would die if he used cocaine again.
Prochnows part had to be bigger than it looked in his brief visit to the witness stand. You can get a good actor for much less money to play a part like that. The German movie stars talents came in handy in his next two appearances. Tape recordings Paley left on Rebeccas phone answering machine made him look like a monster when he was recalled to the stand and set him up for a perjury conviction. In the climactic scene we discover that he made the tapes and set himself up to go to jail for lying to clear Rebecca, the woman he loved. Christine Vole used letters she wrote to a fictitious lover to accomplish the same thing.
The Laura Hart McKinny tapes and the love letters to Fuhrman that he said his wife found tell you where the ideas came from for turning the trial of O.J. Simpson into the trial of Mark Fuhrman. The letters dont make sense in Fuhrmans story. They do make sense in Body of Evidence and Witness For the Prosecution. Fuhrmans twist on the tapes and the letters was to set himself up for a perjury conviction with the tapes and to use the letters to show how much his wife loved and trusted him. He turned his wife, his first alibi for the Bundy murders, into Christine Vole as she really was, not as she appeared on the witness stand.
With Fuhrmans wife as his only alibi for a timeline of the murders beginning after 10:30 he needed a stronger alibi in case anyone looked at the evidence against him. O.J.s lawyers were Fuhrmans prosecutors. He used them to argue that he planted the Rockingham glove. But the plant was so obvious that no one would think a cop who knew how to do it right wouldnt have done it wrong.
After seeing how the Los Angeles County District Attorneys Office routinely processed tainted evidence to make convictions I saw that the wrong way to plant evidence was the best way. It made no difference to the prosecutors that the glove had to have been planted. They used it anyway. Only an insider could have known they would. If worse came to worse they could argue that O.J. planted it himself to claim that the police framed him. The problem with that scenario, of course, is that the prosecution was arguing O.J. left so much incriminating evidence on the murder scene and at this home that it indicated he was in a state of panic. You cant argue panic in one breath and careful planning in the next.
Fuhrman didnt have that problem. If he were accused of planting the glove, common sense would tell most people that he didnt. Besides he could prove that he didnt do it personallyand he did prove it. At the same time O.J.s defenders were looking for anything they could find to show that O.J. was framed. The glove was a perfect fit for Fuhrman as the man who planted it.
All of these moves and countermoves were predictable and Fuhrman was ideally situated to predict them. He had to know how the California criminal justice system always worked with respect to dramatic evidence. His documented racism combined with rumors that he planted the glove, that he had an affair with Nicole and that he felt guilty about not protecting her from O.J. gave him two motives for doing it. The prosecution got what it wanted in the glove. The defense got what it wanted in evidence of a frame-up. Fuhrman got what he wanted in an alibi for the murders and tons of advanced publicity for a sure-fire best-selling book. The idea for how and when to use the tapes could have come from Body of Evidence. All things considered, I believe it did.
Mark Fuhrman definitely used something in Body of Evidence that connects him to Stan Shaw as a detective in two related movies and to Frank Langella in his private life. He found the tape Ghost in O.J.s VCR. Stan Saws character, a private detective named Charles Biggs, finds a videocassette in the murder victims VCR that incriminates a damaging prosecution witness. Frank Langellas private life became public when he had a rowdy sexual fling with Whoopee Goldberg. She won an Oscar for her role as a psychic in Ghost.
Langellas character Jeffrey Roston in Body of Evidence is a damaging prosecution witness but not the one Charlie Biggs is pointing to on the tape. His testimony made it appear that Rebecca tried to kill him using the identical M/O she used on Andrew Marsh, the man she is on trial for murdering. The prosecutor argues that she left Roston when her murder attempt failed. But Rebecca reluctantly reveals on the witness stand why she really left him. She caught him in bed with another man. His credibility is destroyed. The prosecutions case is weakened and only the cocaine angle links Rebecca to the murder of Andrew Marsh.
Dr. Paleys perjured testimony puts that aspect of the case against Rebecca in doubt and the videocassette Biggs discovers along with a credit card receipt for Marshs inhaler in his secretarys name clenches it.
Ann Archers character Joanne Braslow is Andrew Marshs secretary. She presents herself on the witness stand as a prim and proper lady the way Laura Hart McKinney did in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. She testifies that her relationship with the murdered man, like Harts relationship with Fuhrman, was strictly professional. The videotape proves otherwise. It shows her cavorting happily in the nude for the amusement of the man she said she had a professional relationship with.
Like a combination of Michael Skakel and the Maryland Man, Braslow is unveiled in court as a woman with a history of alcohol and cocaine abuse. She testified that she saw Rebecca using cocaine. But Rebecca can prove that she was using a legal substance for medical reasons, which only looks like cocaine. Joanne Braslow now looks like the killer. Joe Mantegna (Homicide/Alice) as Portland Oregon Prosecutor Robert Garrett knows better but he cant prove it. He knows that the circumstantial evidence he has against an innocent woman is enough to make the prosecution stick.
The name Braslow might somehow seem connected to the movie Ghost. Thats because it is pronounced like the name of the woman playing the cemetery ghost in Ghost, Sharon Breslau.
Some of you got here by skipping everything without a directly to Mark Fuhrman. Spotting his name in a quick scan of this chapter is the only reason youre reading this paragraph. Anyone who wonders how he could use so much from so many movies to commit murder, frame a wealthy celebrity and write a string of bestsellers can take a lesson from this pattern.
Actors like Stan Shaw make it easy to see some Smoking Gun links to Fuhrman. As boxers Jack Jenkins in Harlem Nights and Joe Louis in The Court-Martial of Jackie Robinson he gives you Fuhrmans bloody glove discovery and the bloody sport of his favorite athlete. Shaw gives you a black cavalry sergeant in Buffalo Soldiers and every actor linked to him in Hill Street Blues, Matlock, and Murder, She Wrote. As Pvt. Tyrone Washington, a drug-smuggling marine in The Boys in Company C, Shaw gives you the criminal counterpart of Marine M.P. Mark Fuhrman.
In Tough Enough Stan Shaw is P.T. Coolidge on the Tough Man competition circuit with Dennis Quaid as his country-western singing friend Art Long. Art has a son named Christopher. His wife is Caroline. Bruce McGill (BM/The Last Innocent Man) is a promoter. P.T. is Arts corner man and trainer. They go to Detroit for the championship bouts. They ride a. trolley and eat at Greek Towns Pegasus Restaurant. Art barely defeats Eli Cummins as Gay Bob.
When Dreams Come True features Cummins as an art museum security guard named Jack. In that movie Pegasus first appears in a dream with Stan Shaw, Lee Horsley, David Morse, Cindy Williams and Eli Cummins in a low-hanging blue moon as in Moonlightings Blue Moon Detective Agency.
Stan Shaw in Body of Evidence gives you Anne Archer, which gives you her character Beth Gallagher in Fatal Attraction with Michael Douglas, Glenn Close and a character named Hildy. Murray Southerland is an actor in Tough Enough. Stan Shaw as LAPD Det. Webber in Fear gives you Ally Sheedy as psychic detective writer Cayce Bridges. As Dallas Police Det. Harry Jinks in When Dreams Come True, he gives you a distinctive shoe heel, an artist, a ghost, a pentagram and a Jekyll and Hyde killer who wears leather gloves and uses a knife. He gives you a bleeding killer a partner named Alex and the value of x.
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