DVD COMMENTARY…..ANYONE?

DVD commentary seems to be the one aspect saving the ongoing production of such entities from extinction. Since most folks involved in the production of classic films are long gone, it has become the realm of film historians to fill-in the requisite details for said DVD commentary. As the author of Lee Marvin: Point Blank, I have been sought out on occassion to participate in such a capacity.

THE KILLERS

New artwork for the 2014 Blu-Ray re-release of THE KILLERS. My mention is on the left within “Special Edition Contents.”

First up was for the UK Blu-Ray release of The Killers. I wrote about the experience shortly after it took place as linked above. What I didn’t mention was the fact that I came home that night only to discover that my fiancee’s father had died. Talk about bittersweet. As to the on-camera interview itself, I thought it went well, other than my being seated in the sunlight so I came off my washed out than usual. Oh, well. I guess the good folks at Arrow Academy are not James Wong Howe.

SHIP OF FOOLS

Blu Ray cover for the UK re-release of Ship of Fools last year.

When a new release of extras was being put together for Stanley Kramer’s Ship Of Fools, I was also contacted. Once again, it was the UK but the results were quite different in that my research was used in place of my fat face.

Accompanying booklet to the DVD in which my work was utilized.

A few misused statements discovered after the fact aside, I think the results were very well done. I certainly hope they call again as the experience was wonderful. I don’t know the price tag but I can tell you that one thing the foreign release of DVDs have over the American ones are the extras in the booklets which are quite breathtaking in both of the DVDs I was involved in. One more example….
THE MECHANIC

The Mechanic DVD cover with yours truly mentioned in the bottom left corner under “American Samurai.”

Once again, Europe beckoned and I did an on-camera interview for the French release of Charles Bronson’s The Mechanic. German video documentarian Robert Fischer contacted me about it when he learned of my planned next bio (more on that later). We taped it at a friend’s house that he knew in Hollywood and again, I think it went well as I crammed like crazy a few days before to make sure I had enough relevant things to talk about. The end result was an absolutely beautiful package put together in French but containing outstanding graphics and visuals. Seriously. Makes Criterion’s packaging look like the old Goodtime Video Public Domain VHS tapes.
My question (and the point of this blog) is this: I’m grateful to the European folks who asked for my input when it comes to DVD commentary but how come I haven’t been approached by any American DVD distributors to do the same? My book has been out there for some time and new releases of Lee Marvin films still crop up. So, why the crickets in the background? Weird.
Whatever the reason, let it be known that as the title of this blog states, I’m available and my treasure trove of knowledge is always documented. I wouldn’t do it any other way. When it comes to such things, as Lee himself would say, Semper Fi.
-Dwayne Epstein

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SAM PECKINPAH’S THE WILD BUNCH: MARVIN VS. HOLDEN

Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch is the subject of a new book by W.K. Stratton, aptly titled The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, A Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film.  I have yet to read this intriguing tome but, from individuals who’s opinions I trust, I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.
Having said that at the outset, I do take exception with something the author has said in promoting his work. What follows is a cut&paste of an interview author Stratton did for the online version of the Dallas Morning News with journalist David Martingale:
Q: Many movie lovers might be surprised to learn that before William Holden signed on, Lee Marvin was expected to star as gang leader Pike Bishop. What difference did this make?

Lee Marvin in The Professionals, as he might have looked as Pike Bishop in The Wild Bunch.


A: I like Lee Marvin as an actor. Some of his movies are amazing. But I don’t think he could have brought the depth of character to Pike Bishop that Holden did. Holden was a movie star with serious acting chops. And he brought a lot of his own karma with him to that role. He was 50 years old. He had squandered a lot of his career in the previous 10 years. He had let his alcoholism completely take over his life to the point that he had killed a man in Italy while driving drunk. He was carrying a lot of heavy stuff with him that I think came through beautifully in the picture.

William Holden as Pike Bishop in The Wild Bunch.

Why do I take exception to this? Well, readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank could probably guess. Through many interviews and the files at the Margaret Herrick Library at the Motion Picture Academy, I was able to meticulously piece together the events surrounding Lee Marvin’s involvement in The Wild Bunch (which was plentiful) as well as the events surrounding how he left the project.
Now, having said all that (and again, it’s in my book) I think Stratton’s answer is incorrect. Granted, such a point is entirely subjective but based on the info he provides to back up his point, in my opinion his argument is deeply flawed. Marvin had much more training as an actor (American Theater Wing, summer stock, Off-Broadway and Broadway) than Holden. Marvin saw more graphic, nightmarish violence in the war than a drunk driving fatality and was responsible for the killing of more enemy soldiers during the war, as well. In other words, Lee Marvin would have been much better suited to play Pike Bishop using the same logic that Stratton himself employs.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a fan of William Holden’s work and thought he was great in The Wild Bunch and many other great films. Matter of fact, Holden and Marvin both died at the premature age of 63 and both looked much older due to their alcoholic lifestyles. I just think Stratton’s logic is flawed. Doesn’t change my mind about wanting to read the book. He seemed to have done his homework when it comes to using his sources…..

Bibliography for W.K. Stratton’s new book on The Wild Bunch includes yours truly.

Stratton’s book cover.

  • Dwayne Epstein
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EMMY.COM’S LEE TV: STORY BEHIND THE STORY

Emmy.com’s Lee TV article that went online the day after Lee Marvin’s birthday was culled from my book Lee Marvin Point Bank, obviously. The brief story behind it I think is interesting and at the very least, worthy of this blog. If you haven’t seen it, it’s available for your perusal here.  Readers of my book are certain to get sense of deja vu as it’s contents are largely from my chapter about Marvins TV work entitled “Man in a Straitjacket.”
What makes the story interesting? Well, it works like this: In need of some freelance work, I was fortunate to contact the managing editor of Emmy.com late last year and submit my resume. She loved what she saw and eventually offered me some freelance work. My first was an interview with Nick Rutherford of Dream Corp. LLC, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Since it was near the end of the year, I didn’t get another offer until I interviewed Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Vella Lovell this month, which I also enjoyed. It was terrific speaking with these talented up-and-comers, as I discovered not all interesting things for me to write about has to be retro. However…..
I took a chance and pitched the idea of writing about Lee Marvin’s TV work. Surprised and elated, the Emmy.com’s managing editor loved the idea and so, Emmy.com’s Lee TV was born. I thought it best to take the point of view I had in the book, that Marvin hated the medium contrasted with his versatile performances within the medium.
That proved a mistake, as I was told the negative quotes from the actor was not in keeping with the TV Academy. If it were to fly, a rewrite was in order. Had this been me, say 10-20 years earlier, I’d have balked and walked. With age comes wisdom and so, less than a day later, I rewrote it and re-submitted it. The result was the currently posted article of Emmy.com’s Lee TV. Live and learn, right?

Lee Marvin (left) & Patricia Donahue in a romantic clinch fro G.E. Theatre’s “The Last Reunion,” something you’d rarely see the actor do on film.

The idea was to show how much Marvin did things are the small screen he never did on film, which includes actually playing a Marine…TWICE! I got to thinking about it some more and realized there are a plethora of such legendary actors who proved more versatile on television than they ever were on the silver screen. When the medium was still in its infancy, so too were the careers of several future postwar superstars. For instance…..

Paul Newman & Eva Marie Saint are the singing leads in a TV musical of OUR TOWN. Narrator Frank Sinatra had a hit song from it with “Love & Marriage.”

Did you know that Paul Newman actually sang in an original musical adaptation of Thornton WIlder’s Our Town? I kid you not! And how about this…

(L-R) Lillian Gish as Mary Todd Lincoln, Raymond Massey as Abraham Lincoln, and Jack Lemmon as John Wilkes Booth, in an episode of the dramatic anthology series ‘Ford Star Jubilee’ called ‘The Day Lincoln Was Shot,’ February 11, 1956.

Known on film mostly for his brilliant comedic and dramatic performances as a harried, middle-class contemporary man, Jack Lemmon once played John Wilkes Booth on an episode of an anthology series AFTER Lemmon had already won an Oscar for Mr. Roberts.

Then there’s my personal favorite example. Most folks don’t know that cult favorite Charles Bronson had an extensive career on television long before his middle-aged international stardom n the 1970s. He even had his own series based on a real-life individual…..

The rarely seen smile of actor Charles Bronson from his show MAN WITH A CAMERA as freelance photographer, Mike Kovac.

The possibilities are pretty impressive, don’t you think? I’ll be looking into such possibilities in the not too distant future but in the mean time, anybody need an award-winning, NY Times Bestselling writer? You can reach me here. Thanks!
-Dwayne Epstein

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