Academic journal article Film & History

Paperback Vigilante (1974)

Academic journal article Film & History

Paperback Vigilante (1974)

Article excerpt

Paperback Vigilante (1974)

E. Howard Hunt was an American spy. Zelig-like, Hunt seems to have been everywhere dancing with the devil: coordinating anti-Japanese efforts with the Nationalist Chinese during World War II, providing logistical support for the Central Intelligence Agency's bought-and-paid for Guatemalan "liberators" in 1954, and, most notably, heading up the CIA's covert operations in support of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961. After his official retirement from the CIA, high ranking officials in the Nixon administration recruited him for the "plumbers unit" whereupon Hunt became a major organizer of the break-in of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office and the bugging of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex. Paperback Vigilante, a documentary directed by Peter Davis and Steffan Lam originally released in 1974, presents a straightforward narrative of Hunt's exploits accompanied by extensive archival footage. Periodically throughout the film, Hunt himself looks back at his career, alternately clarifying events, defending himself, and sometimes expressing genuine incredulity that any decent American could ever dare to question the righteousness of his actions.

Hunt was a prolific writer of paperback spy novels at the same time he was a flesh and blood (with apologies to Austin Powers) "international man of mystery." The major theme of Paperback Vigilante focuses on the profound irony that Hunt's fictional protagonists became increasingly amoral and cynical at roughly the same time their creator did in real life. And there is further irony as Hunt's vigilante heroes continue to succeed in a fictional world of "black ops" while, by the 1960s, Hunt's own clandestine schemes reveal him to be an operational imbecile. …

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