Thursday, 9 July 2009


Special thanks to Philippe Lombard (

Writer Warren Murphy mentioned it to his "Facebook friends" yesterday. Chiun, Master of Sinanju, the world's deadliest assassin, and trainer of this "Pale piece of pig's ear" (as Chiun calls him) named Remo Williams are - according to The Hollywood Reporter Risky Biz blog - on their way back to the big screen (1).

The characters originated during the 1970s in The Destroyer, a series of Pulp books initiated by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. Remo Williams, a Newark cop, is framed for a crime he didn't commit and sentenced to death. But he's saved from the electric chair to become the pitiless defender of the United States Constitution and the ultimate secret weapon of the President. Working for the definitely down to earth Dr Harold Smith, head of CURE, he's trained by Chiun, a master assassin from the Korean village of Sinanju.

After the first two books, similar in tone to The Executioner books, the literary series morphed brilliantly into what became the distinctive trademarks of The Destroyer: humor - with amongst other things Chiun's addiction to his "beautiful dramas" (i.e. soap operas) and being the perfect " Jewish mother" to Remo, social satire, parodies and references to news of the moment. In 1985, the duo got a first movie adaptation called Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, starring Fred Ward as Remo, the great Joel Grey (Cabaret) as Master Chiun and Wilford Brimley as Harold Smith. In 1988, a follow-up television pilot for ABC starred Jeffrey Meek as Remo Williams, Roddy McDowall as Chiun, and Stephen Elliott as Dr Smith. 15 minutes of the pilot were seen on the US West Coast and the rest were pre-empted by a speech by President Reagan (2).

In spite of many differences with the books, the 1985 movie is now considered rightfully as a classic and so is its superb score by Craig Safan. One can be amazed that such a treasury of modern pop culture, with all the potential for a huge movie franchise, has been seldom adapted but readers are not surprised at all, as they know that elements of the books have been plagiarised a gazillion times for more than thirty years by many movies or TV series. It's about time for Hollywood to pay respect to Remo, Chiun and their creators.

Some humble tips to the producers of the new Remo Williams movie: don't water down the humor and the tone of the books (and Remo is not Bond), be faithul to their spirit and above all: consult Warren Murphy. Warren Murphy is one of the best authors of his time, don't mess with the co-creator of a most beloved book franchise (some have tried) revered by millions of loyal readers all around the world. And he has Chiun's personal phone number. Oh... No "A-Lister" for Remo Williams and a very experimented actor for Chiun.

Mathis Landwehr, German martial artist and actor, star of The Challenge ( and of the excellent Lasko - Die Faust Gottes action concept tv series (, is my choice for Remo. Stephen Tobolowsky would be a fabulous Dr Harold Smith. Chiun? Joel Grey, of course...

See also: (In French).

(2) Unsold Television Pilots - 1955-1989, by Lee Goldberg (McFarland, 1990). Yes, THE Lee Goldberg. A Must book for every television aficionado or specialist (

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