Kemper's Reviews > Die Hard

Die Hard by Roderick Thorp
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Treasure of the Rubbermaids 14: Yippee kai yay, Mr. Falcon!

The on-going discoveries of priceless books and comics found in a stack of Rubbermaid containers previously stored and forgotten at my parent’s house and untouched for almost 20 years. Thanks to my father dumping them back on me, I now spend my spare time unearthing lost treasures from their plastic depths.

Gather around you whippersnappers and listen closely as Grandpa Kemper tells you another fascinating tale from his days of yore.

Many, many moons ago, back in the late 1980s, I once went to the movies with some friends and they showed a trailer for a film called Die Hard, and we were all very confused. It looked pretty cool, but why was the guy from Moonlighting fighting terrorists? Was it supposed to be serious or funny? It looked like a hard core action movie but Willis was cracking jokes, too. Was Arnold Schwarzenegger or Stallone too busy for this one?

As hard as it is to believe now, back when he still had hair and long before he had helped that kid who saw dead people or chased 12 monkeys through time, Bruce Willis was seen by the viewing public as the kind of guy who would play the lead in romantic comedies and definitely not the dude who you’d see firing machine guns at villains. But some bright Hollywood type cast Willis in Die Hard after all the other action heroes turned it down and the rest is history.

The film was based on this book originally titled Nothing Lasts Forever. Joe Leland* (not John McClane) is a middle aged ex-cop who now works as a security consultant with an emphasis on anti-terrorism tactics who goes to visit his daughter Steffie in L.A. Arriving at Steffie’s office in the middle of a Christmas Eve party, Joe goes off to wash up and make a phone call when the building is invaded by 12 terrorists who take Steffie and her co-workers hostage. Joe manages to hide but learns he’s trapped in the high rise and has to start fighting the bad guys to try and save his daughter and survive.

*(This book is actually a sequel to another Roderick Thorp novel called The Detective which was also turned into a film starring Frank Sinatra in 1968. The Interwebs tells me that due to contractual issues, Sinatra had to be offered the role in Die Hard even though he was over 70 at the time. I don’t know if that’s true, but the idea of Sinatra saying “Yippee kai yay, motherfucker!” makes me smile.)

While there are some significant differences between the book and the film version like the age difference between Joe Leland and John McClane, there’s a surprising amount of material written here that got used in the movie. Running barefoot through broken glass, using a fire hose for an improvised bungee jump off the roof, dropping explosives down an elevator shaft on an office chair and making a dangerous climb through an air shaft are all things are all things that seem like a Hollywood screenwriter putting an action hero through an obstacle course, but they’re all here in the book.

One thing the movie adapted very well is showing the toll that the fight takes on the hero. Joe Leland is seriously injured, exhausted and filthy by the end of this, and the film makers and Willis did a great job of making McClane a completely worn out mess by the time the credits rolled. I think that’s one of the things that makes Die Hard such a great action movie is that they followed the book’s example of making the hero someone who can be hurt and who does get tired and runs out of bullets eventually instead of just having him stroll out of the fight at the end with just a little dirt on his face and a tiny cut on his forehead.

The book was published in 1979 so it does seem somewhat dated, and there’s a lot more political stuff as well as some hand wringing over this escalating terrorism issue. (So glad they got that worked out.) The ending is much darker and grimmer than the movie version, but it’s still very recognizable.

It’s a pretty decent action thriller for it’s time, but the film is an action classic and is one of those that has become so much bigger than it’s source material that the book has become an afterthought. It’s a fun read, but you’ve seen a bigger and more exciting version in the Bruce Willis movie.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 51) (51 new)


message 1: by Dan (new)

Dan Schwent Great review, Grandpa!


message 2: by Brandon (last edited Nov 29, 2011 10:16AM) (new)

Brandon I would have loved to have seen Sinatra in this!


Kemper Dan wrote: "Great review, Grandpa!"

Thanks. I need you to come by and show me how to work my TV remote.


Kemper Brandon wrote: "I would have loved to have seen Sinatra in this!"

How great would that have been?


message 5: by Contrarius (new)

Contrarius Damn. If I saw both Moonlighting and Die Hard on first release, am I now officially an Old Fart??


Kemper Contrarius wrote: "Damn. If I saw both Moonlighting and Die Hard on first release, am I now officially an Old Fart??"

What's that? I couldn't hear you. The battery died in my hearing aid...


Shovelmonkey1 I've never seen Moonlighting and don't really remember BW when he had hair but I do know that this is one of my all time favourite films. Big BW crush all round.


Kemper Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "I've never seen Moonlighting and don't really remember BW when he had hair but I do know that this is one of my all time favourite films. Big BW crush all round."

Moonlighting hasn't aged very well, but it was all the rage for a couple of years. It was so popular for a while that we even tolerated Bruce Willis trying to launch a singing career.


Shovelmonkey1 Nooooooo! John McClane does not sing!


Kemper Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "Nooooooo! John McClane does not sing!"

Sadly, he did. Sort of:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ni90iL...


Shovelmonkey1 So tempted to click on this link but am currently in the office so must... resist...


Kemper Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "So tempted to click on this link but am currently in the office so must... resist..."

It definately isn't worth getting fired over. God, the '80s. *shudder*


Shovelmonkey1 I am a product of love in the 80s. Shudder.


message 14: by Noran (new)

Noran Miss Pumkin Great review-thanks for sharing your time capsule treasures with us. I so remember seeing this in the theater, and just being blown away by the action, and so much more by the what the character went through-gritty ride.


message 15: by Noran (new)

Noran Miss Pumkin OMG-I clicked the link! Lucky the video is so dark-you cannot see all the horror--the girls with such big hair! I do want to go on record stating I am the 1% that adored Hudson Hawk!


Shovelmonkey1 Noran wrote: "OMG-I clicked the link! Lucky the video is so dark-you cannot see all the horror--the girls with such big hair! I do want to go on record stating I am the 1% that adored Hudson Hawk!"

I'll second that... although i forgot that John McClane sings in that one!


Kemper Noran wrote: "Great review-thanks for sharing your time capsule treasures with us. I so remember seeing this in the theater, and just being blown away by the action, and so much more by the what the character w..."

Thanks. I still remember seeing this for the first time and when the part where the massive explosion went off and blew out all the windows on a floor of the building, some guy in the audience screamed "Holy shit!" at the top of his lungs. We didn't need no fancy CGI or 3D back in my day. Hollywood just blew shit up real good and we were amazed...


message 18: by Noran (new)

Noran Miss Pumkin Sinatra in this epic film-no sorry -maybe the 50's-60's version. Von Ryan's express-the ending made me cry as a kid. His last films very poor examples of his talent. Or as you suggesting this be made into a musical-where he sings the cussing?!?


Kemper Shovelmonkey1 wrote: "I am a product of love in the 80s. Shudder."

There was no love in the '80s. Just cocaine fueled orgies...


Shovelmonkey1 "Thanks to my father dumping them back on me, I now spend my spare time unearthing lost treasures from their plastic depths. "

I forgot to add that this sounds better than some of the archaeology I've been doing recently!


Kemper Shovelmonkey1 wrote: ""Thanks to my father dumping them back on me, I now spend my spare time unearthing lost treasures from their plastic depths. "

I forgot to add that this sounds better than some of the archaeology ..."


You could come here and set up one of those string grids on the Rubbermaids and help me carefully excavate the treasures if you want...


message 22: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed The early part of your review cracked me up good Kemper. Seeing the guy from Moonlighting in Die Hard trailer haha! I never could enjoy Moonlighting when i saw reruns because i was old enough to remember only Die Hard era Willis where he was the human,dirty,damaged action hero.

Like you said in the latter half of the review, the toll it took on John McClane made the film classic action film.


Kemper Mohammed wrote: "The early part of your review cracked me up good Kemper. Seeing the guy from Moonlighting in Die Hard trailer haha! I never could enjoy Moonlighting when i saw reruns because i was old enough to ..."

I've always though that younger people who only knew action hero Willis would come across a Moonlighting episode and wonder why Bruce wasn't just shooting all of those people instead of cracking jokes...


message 24: by Mohammed (new)

Mohammed Kemper wrote: "Mohammed wrote: "The early part of your review cracked me up good Kemper. Seeing the guy from Moonlighting in Die Hard trailer haha! I never could enjoy Moonlighting when i saw reruns because i w..."

I never could stand him smiling, being charming romantic lead to Cybil Shepard was that her name the actress?

Sure it wasnt action series or film but it was so unnatural to me. He is son of a gun that joked only when he was killing people in Die Hard.


message 25: by Rayroy (new)

Rayroy does he say "Yippy ky yay Mother Fucker" in the book


Kemper Ives LeSpark wrote: "does he say "Yippy ky yay Mother Fucker" in the book"

No. If he did, I would have given it five stars.


message 27: by Tfitoby (new)

Tfitoby Nice review, I've wondered about this book since I accidentally discovered a painting of Bruce Willis on the cover of The Detective and bought it thinking it was that one Die Hard was based on. To have it confirmed as excellent is great news.


Kemper Tfitoby wrote: "Nice review, I've wondered about this book since I accidentally discovered a painting of Bruce Willis on the cover of The Detective and bought it thinking it was that one Die Hard was based on. To ..."

So they tried to link Willis to The Detective instead of the movie that Sinatra did? That's weird.


message 29: by Tfitoby (new)

Tfitoby Yeah. Click the book link in the last comment. V.strange.


message 30: by Kemper (last edited Nov 29, 2012 06:19AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kemper Tfitoby wrote: "Yeah. Click the book link in the last comment. V.strange."

It's extra funny that it says "Joe Leland as seen in Die Hard." because they changed the name to John McClane. Someone was working overtime to tie it to Die Hard for promo purposes, but it just ends up being confusing as hell.


message 31: by Tfitoby (new)

Tfitoby certainly confused me. was watching Die Hard the other night and mentioned to Leah that it was a remake of the Frank Sinatra movie we're watching as part of the history of noir, which i think excited her more than the idea of the actual movie did. oops.

I have an idea that that penguin edition was put out after the project was announced but before anything was seen script/promo wise, it probably worked too.


Kemper Tfitoby wrote: "certainly confused me. was watching Die Hard the other night and mentioned to Leah that it was a remake of the Frank Sinatra movie we're watching as part of the history of noir, which i think excit..."

It's also funny that the cover has Willis wearing a hat that would make most think of Hudson Hawk, which is probably not what they wanted to remind people of.


message 33: by karen (new)

karen what an amazing find!


message 34: by Tfitoby (new)

Tfitoby Hawk came after die hard right? Perhaps the book jacket inspired the costume designers?


Kemper Hudson Hawk came a few years after Die Hard turned Willis into a big time movie star.

Something else just occurred to me. My copy is a tie-in novel but it doesn't even have a picture of Willis on the cover. It's just the news van parked in front of the building. So at some early point, someone decided that Willis's mug wouldn't help sell any copies of the book, yet later they did that retro cover to link The Detective to him and Die Hard.

I'm getting a headache.


Kemper karen wrote: "what an amazing find!"

I'm hoping to come across a tie-in edition of The Bonfire of the Vanities to continue the Willis cover streak, but I think he and Tom Hanks had all copies destroyed to try and erase it from the public's memory.


message 37: by karen (new)

karen bruce willis was in bonfire?? sheeeit, now i have to see it, despite all the truly awful things i have heard. i kind of love bruce willis. there, i said it.


Kemper karen wrote: "bruce willis was in bonfire?? sheeeit, now i have to see it, despite all the truly awful things i have heard. i kind of love bruce willis. there, i said it."

Yeah, but the truly awful things you heard were accurate. My advice is to spare yourself and go see Looper instead.


message 39: by karen (new)

karen that is on my netflix.
i am too poor for the movies these days...


Kemper karen wrote: "that is on my netflix.
i am too poor for the movies these days..."


Save some money for AIF&Fs, please.


message 41: by karen (new)

karen seriously - that's where all the money goes. that and holiday prezzies.


Kemper karen wrote: "seriously - that's where all the money goes. that and holiday prezzies."

Now I feel guilty that you've impoverished yourself solely for the entertainment of the Goodreads masses.


message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

Hey Gramps? What's Die Hard?


Kemper Anthony wrote: "Hey Gramps? What's Die Hard?"

The first motion picture to use sound. We were all very excited.


message 45: by karen (new)

karen well, i also get to eat good food, so it's not entirely unselfish. i didn't even know you were watching those...


Kemper karen wrote: "well, i also get to eat good food, so it's not entirely unselfish. i didn't even know you were watching those..."

I lurk without comment to see what you fancy New Yorkers are eating while I gnaw on an old spare rib bone leftover from barbecue take-out.

Seriously, the wife and I are quasi-foodies so I enjoy your thrilling adventures.


message 47: by karen (new)

karen ooh! i didn't even know!

we haven't even decided what to do this week! but i need it to be a good one...


Kemper karen wrote: "ooh! i didn't even know!

we haven't even decided what to do this week! but i need it to be a good one..."


I'm terrible about voting for stuff other than reviews. This makes me a bad Goodreads citizen.


message 49: by karen (new)

karen oh, not at all - i like to know that there are hidden people crouching under my table, drooling.

erm, figuratively....


message 50: by Haikufall (new) - added it

Haikufall This is one of my fav movies of all times and had not know there was a book that is was based on. So I might have to give it a read. Thanks for the enlightenment, I find it hard not to see Bruce Willis action hero and like the fact that you have the point of view of a person on the seen when he became John McClane.


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