LEE MARVIN & THE “DOG DAY” OF SUMMER

The dog day of summer is undeniably upon us from coast to coast, with east of the Rockies taking the brunt of it all. We in California finally caught up with the rest of the country with some now record-breaking temperatures.
Yeah, I know, Dog Day should be plural, as in DOG DAYS, but that would disallow the subject of the blog: a segue to one of Lee Marvin’s last and strangest film: the weird French film named Dog Day (1984), or Canicule in France, its country of origin.

Lee Marvin as Jimmy Cobb in DOG DAY, looking classier than anything found in the movie.

It’s axiomatic that every good actor has some bad films in their canon and that no one ever sets out to make a bad film. Both axioms apply to this film. In researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was hard pressed to find any information on the film, let alone any one to interview about it. I did make a concerted effort to contact the only other American cast member, Tina Louise, but try as I might, she wouldn’t grant me an interview. Probably just as well as considering the film’s reception.

American co-stars Lee Marvin and Tina Louise in her only scene in France’s DOG DAY.

It was never released to U.S. theaters and went straight to the VHS shelf…in the $1.99 bargain bin, I might add.
What’s it about? Marvin is Jimmy Cobb, an aging American gangster on the run after a botched bank robbery in Paris. He holes up in a French farmhouse in which resides the weirdest group of people this side of the Addams family. Being a European production, the film’s sensibilities, compared to American films are, shall we say..slightly askew?

The European sensibilities of DOG DAY are on full display. When was the las time you saw a child (TIN DRUM’s David Bennent)  smoke a cigarette in an American film?

In all fairness, there are some noteworthy aspects to the film. A heart stopping car chase courtesy of legendary stunt driver Remy Julienne in the film’s opening is probably the best example. Marvin, of course looks the part as an aged American gangster nicknamed “Caponie” by annoying child actor David Bennent…And there’s also….no, that’s really about it. Other French film stars, such as Miou-Miou, Victor Lanoux, and Jean Carmet really don’t add much to this embarrassment. Of course, if you like your Eurotrash more on the trashy side than the Euro, then this might be right up your alley. I think this is best summed up in the anecdote Marvin recounted to the L.A. Times when the film was in production. Talk about an omen! Feel free to check it out below and in the mean time, stay cool. Curl up with the air conditioner and a good book…say, Oh, I don’t know….Lee Marvin Point Blank?
– Dwayne Epstein

Lee Marvin discusses DOG DAY, among other things.

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DISCOVERING LEE MARVIN’S PTSD

Between the solemnity of Memorial Day and the honor bestowed upon Veterans Day, another day could be set aside for those who served in combat and survived physically, but suffer with PTSD, every day of their lives. Why such a day? Because the numbers are staggering. I discovered through my research of Lee Marvin Point Blank that anyone who has ever experienced combat lives with PTSD. Believe me, I’m no expert on the subject but once I began researching Lee Marvin’s life and work certain patterns began to emerge. These patterns were the result of the interviews I conducted with individuals who were the most intimate with him, such as his brother, first wife, son, and so on. They were the ones who set me on the path of looking into his probable PTSD as they told me of his night sweats, screaming nightmares, trauma-triggered alcohol binges, survivor guilt, and more.

Artist Thomas Lea powerfully captures what the Marines called, “The Gooney-Bird Stare,” in the midst of one soldier’s ongoing nightmare in the jungles of the South pacific during WWII.

Not being an expert, I of course set out to find what I could via the internet and the like. Surprisingly, the best data came from a most unlikely source. My father had been a member of Jewish War Veterans (JWV), but when the membership of his chapter dwindled, he reluctantly joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). As a member, he received their monthly magazine through 2010, even after he passed away from Alzeheimer’s in 2005…as did his two combat veteran older brothers before him. I wonder if their experiences hastened their demise?
It was the April, 2009, issue of VFW that helped me understand what Marvin experienced. Historian Thomas Childers’ decades-long research into the phenomena as it specifically effected WWII veterans is exactly what I needed to set me on the path of understanding Lee Marvin’s war-induced trauma. As he wrote in the table of contents: “For far too long, the myth has persisted that all WWII veterans came home and readjusted without a hitch. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The article helped me immensely in understanding Lee Marvin and that understanding helped make Lee Marvin Point Blank a better book. I’ve been chided on occasion with negative comments on Amazon and the like that my research did not apply to Marvin. Really? Read Childers’ full article below (marked by highlights that helped my research) and read Lee Marvin Point Blank and tell me I’m wrong. Until then, may we never have to have any generation be scarred with the trauma of war. It’s a worthy goal.
-Dwayne Epstein

VFW cover

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CLINT WALKER OBITUARY: MAY 30, 1927- MAY 21, 2018

I was not planning on writing up this blog entry but after reading a Clint Walker obituary just now, I was compelled to do so. I’m not positive but I’m pretty sure I got the last interview with ‘The Big Fella’ for a recent issue of Filmfax Magazine. It came out earlier this year and by all accounts, seemed to be a popular read.

On a personal note, it was actually the third time I had interviewed the man. The first time was for his work with Lee Marvin in The Dirty Dozen for Lee Marvin Point Blank and his insights were eye-opening and hysterical. Next, I spoke with him on his work with Charles Bronson on the same film as well as the strange 1970s western/fantasy White Buffalo. This time around it was much more intimate since the purpose of the interview was focused on HIS career and his career alone. When the official interview was over, we chatted like old friends and he could not have been nicer and more effusive on a one-on-one basis. He asked me about my career, my girlfriend Barbara, we laughed about small similarities in our lives and shared a true bonding over the telephone line. I know he wasn’t in the best of health at the time (he took a tumble down the stairs, recently) but we wished each other both lots of luck for the future year ahead.
And now, just days before his 91st birthday, he has relinquished his mortal coil. I was more than lucky to know him, I was honored. It’s cliche but in truth, we shall never see his like again. Read below our conversation and see for yourself. Farewell ‘Big Fella.’ You will be missed.
– Dwayne Epstein

Filmfax Clint Walker interview, Page 1

Page 2 of Clint Walker FIlmfax interview.

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Clint Walker Filmfax interview, Page 7.

Clint Walker Filmfax interview, Page 8.

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