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Alfred Hitchcock had just one writer in mind for his 1963 horror classic ‘The Birds.’

Mr. Movie: Evan Hunter, AKA Ed McBain

Evan Hunter died at 78. He wrote under several names and was one of the most prolific authors of our time.


As Ed McBain, he produced 55 wonderful 87th precinct novels, the best police procedurals ever written. Some were made into a mediocre TV series in the ’60s; there is an unmined lode here someone should use.


McBain invented the crime novel using an ensemble cast, copied without apology by “Hill Street Blues," ”CSI" and a host of other crime shows.


Reading 87th novels, you get to know Meyer Meyer, Steve Carella, Cotton, Hal, Eileen, Andy and, of course, Fat Ollie and the Deaf Man. Will somebody please make this into a series?


In 1955, Hunter wrote Blackboard Jungle based on his experiences teaching at a vocational school. It became a surprise blockbuster book, and super movie with Glen Ford. Fifty years later, it remains the best movie about what really goes on in high school, and the sometimes dangerous problems teachers face.


The legendary Alfred Hitchcock knew the writer he wanted for his terrifying The Birds (1963) — it was Evan Hunter, who obliged. The pair produced what is still one of the scariest movies ever made; it makes the teen-age slasher genre seem tame. Ever wonder what would happen if Mother Nature really turned against us?


Hunter’s strangest credit came in 1962 when he wrote the screenplay for High and Low, a very interesting thriller based on one of his stories. Why strange? Well, it’s a Japanese movie, in Japanese, shot in Japan, with a Japanese cast and crew. Of course, we can get it with subtitles, and it’s really a very good story about a businessman who nobly pays the ransom for his chauffeur’s kidnaped son.


Fuzz (1972) is based on an 87th precinct story and Mr. Hunter wrote the screenplay. Unfortunately, the movie, with Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch, never makes up its mind what it wants to be, and it is not very good. The book was terrific, though.


On the other hand, Last Summer (1969) is a terrific movie about some kids spending their summer at the beach. It is firmly based on an Evan Hunter story. Frank Perry directed a fine ensemble cast featuring incredibly young Richard Thomas and Barbara Hershey. The film does a fine job evoking the presence of evil even in the most idyllic settings.


All of the movies in this column are available on DVD (don’t ask me where). All are for mature audiences.