The paperback tie-in tells the story. In the last decade in which he worked, Lee Marvin continued to look for worthy projects in spite of his age and the dearth of material. Times had clearly changed from the experimental films of the 60s & 70s that had made him a star. As the paperback tie-in covers below indicate, he did try….. Although filmed in the late 70s, writer/director Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One wasn’t released until 1980 in a truncated version that disappointed all involved. Fuller’s novel (right) filled in the gaps of the story until the reconstructed version came out over 20 years later.
The largest manhunt in Canadian history was the source for Death Hunt (1981) for which there was no book version, but the paperback (left) retold the facts fictionalized in the film in which Charles Bronson played Albert Johnson as a victim of circumstance. Marvin played real life RCMP Edgar Millen, pictured below from the book’s inside cover, proving the film definitely changed the actual events….
More literate material was available via the popular Martin Cruz Smith crime thriller Gorky Park (below right) with Marvin giving a pitch perfect performance as the mysterious Jack Osborne. On the left, Marvin’s final film appearance, the 1986 live-action Chuck Norris cartoon Delta Force, in which even the cover could not hide Marvin’s tired appearance…..
Pictured below are frequent costars Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin, two wintery heroes between takes on the set of their last film together in 1981. The two men starred together completely by accident in their first film and costarred again as superstars near the end of their careers. In between had been several other movie & TV projects as discussed in Lee Marvin: Point Blank (everything from Biff Baker, USA to The Dirty Dozen), making the wintery climes of Death Hunt both symbolic and bittersweet.
Marvin’s take on his frequent co-star, who took even longer to reached superstardom than Marvin, is unlike what is often said by others about the stonefaced actor. Marvin personally witnessed Bronson acting out his famous tough guy exterior in the presence of others just to see if he could intimidate them for the fun of it. As Marvin said of Bronson while making The Dirty Dozen: “There’s a little glimmer there way back behind the eyes.”
Of the experience of working again with Bronson years later, Marvin said, “Sometimes during Death Hunt, I’d look over at him and think, ‘Well, here we are, still at it, and we’ve held up well.’ It’s unusual to be able to say that about an old mate.”