CARGO (2018) & THE RESURRECTION OF RON THOMPSON

Cargo (2018) is an intense horror thriller that helped resurrect the career of veteran stage, film and TV actor Ron Thompson. The premise of the film is unique and underlines what can be done with limited means. Reminds me of what Roger Corman referred to as, “Brilliance on a budget.” From the first few seconds of the film to the very end, Thompson inside a cargo container is all you ever see as he desperately tries to raise the ransom of his kidnappers demand.

Poster art from CARGO in which the entire premise is explained in the tagline.

The other actors noted in the poster are simply well-cast audio voices and never seen. Doesn’t matter. The premise and Thompson’s enacting of it holds the viewer spellbound for an hour and a half. It shows what the medium is capable of when disbelief is suspended and imagination runs amok. Be prepared, however. Despite his sole presence, the film gets kind of gruesome ins some parts.
I mention all this simply because Ron is a friend of mine and I warily watched Cargo at his urging. I say warily because once he told me the premise I knew it would be a tough go as it’s not my preferred genre. I finally relented and I was NOT disappointed. It’s a paranoid-claustrophobic thriller of the first order and Ron is excellent in it!
By the way, you may know Ron best — as I do — from his dual performances in Ralph Bakshi’s underrated classic, American Pop (1981).

Poster art from AMERICAN POP with an inset of Ron Thompson today.

It’s an interesting thing in that he has had one of, if not THE most unorthodox career of any person that I’ve ever heard of. In fact, I had told him that because of his roller coaster career, I’d ask the publisher of Filmfax if they’d be interested in an interview with Ron but sadly, they passed on the idea. Damn shame as it’s a fascinating yarn and he’s a fascinating man.
I met Ron via Facebook, since he proved to be quite a Lee Marvin fan and graciously wrote a review of my book. The social media platform also helped resurrect his career. The contacts he’s made actually lead to his role in Cargo, and several other worthwhile projects. A few kudos then to Mark Zuckerberg, at least for that, and allowing Ron and I to hook up. It was a similar casual hook up with director James Dylan that got Ron the role. Once we kept in contact thru Facebook, Ron surprised me by showing up at my book signing for Lee Marvin Point Blank at Jeff Mantor’s bookstore, Larry Edmunds. I was not only pleasantly surprised to meet Ron in person, Ron was equally surprised to meet up with Mitch Ryan’s accomplice, Claudette Sutherland, whom Ron hadn’t seen since his school days!

(L-R) Yours truly, Ron Thompson, and Ron’s long lost school friend, Claudette Sutherland at Larry Edmunds Bookstore.

All told, such coincidences are pretty impressive some times so never underestimate them. As my father used to say, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Take a shot. Brace yourself and watch Ron in Cargo for FREE at the link he sent me… If you dare!
– Dwayne Epstein.

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MITCH RYAN TURNS 92 TODAY!

Mitch Ryan, the veteran actor of film, TV and stage has turned ninety-two years old today! He made his film debut in his twenties in the Robert Mitchum cult classic, Thunder Road (1958), returned to the stage and then didn’t make another film until his appearance as Shorty in the Lee Marvin classic, Monte Walsh (1970). Naturally, it was his work in that underrated western that made him the subject of my intense interest. In fact, here’s a story  that I’ve never told publicly before that I think says volumes about the man’s character.

(L-R) Lee Marvin, Mitch Ryan and Jack Palance in MONTE WALSH.

I had attempted to interview him several times over the years but the attempt was often in vain. Lee Marvin’s lawyer, David Kagon, knew Ryan and contacted him for me while I was in Kagon’s office. Ryan was polite but firm. He said he had to honor Pam Marvin’s wishes and not speak to me.
Okay, flash forward a few years and I’m still working on the book and attempting more interviews. I don’t recall how but I came in contact with Ryan again. This time, however, he was infinitely more receptive and agreed to a phone interview. The result was one of the most revealing and useful interviews I ever got as he was a great friend to Marvin throughout the remainder of his life. Our talk can be read in the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank and it is both impressive and poignantly revealing.
After the book came out, Jeff Mantor invited me to a Q&A Book signing at his legendary store, Larry Edmunds Bookshop on the dirty boulevard of Hollywood. He encouraged me to invite a celebrity who knew Marvin to help sell books. Not many of my interview subjects were still around but when I asked Mr. Ryan…..

Mitch Ryan at the Larry Edmunds book signing enthusiastically shows off his prized possession.

 

What a guy, huh? I’m telling ya, not just a wonderful actor but a true mensch. We dined at Musso & Franks before the signing (on my publisher’s dime) and had a wonderful time at the signing itself. I can’t say enough about this great man so happy birthday, Mitch, and here’s to many more. You’re aces in my book! And thanks to your help, it’s a NY Times bestseller!
– Dwayne Epstein

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THOUGHTS ON THE AERO THEATRE SCREENING LAST NIGHT

For the second time in as many years, I had a terrific time at the Aero Theatre last night signing copies of Lee Marvin: Point Blank for a Lee Marvin double feature, courtesy of the good graces of the American Cinematheque and Larry Edmunds Book Store. The event came out of the blue last month when programmer Grant Monniger contacted me and asked if I wanted to do it as part of their John Boorman retrospective.

The Aero Theatre Marquee in Santa Monica last night

The Aero Theatre Marquee in Santa Monica last night

Naurally, I jumped at the chance. When I asked what I had to do in terms of getting the books, how many, time to arrive, etc. I was told the time and the rest would be done through Jeff Mantor at Larry Edmunds Bookstore. I had no idea how right Grant was. Jeff did indeed do it all….

Flyer done up by Larry Edmunds' for last night's screening.

Flyer done up by Larry Edmunds’ for last night’s screening.

I arrived, schmoozed with Jeff a bit and watched the crowd shuffle in. Met some folks I knew, some I’ve been meaning to meet via Facebook, and heard a lot of people say nice things about Lee Marvin but they’d buy the book after the first film. Jeff told me “Yeah, let’s see about that.” I was asked to introduce Point Blank, which I dutifully did (I could kick myself for not remembering more interesting anecdotes…oh well). Then came the screening…..

Lobby card from Point Blank showing why it was called the first Arthouse action film.

Lobby card from Point Blank showing why it was called the first Arthouse action film.

True to their word, those who said they’d buy the book did indeed do so after the movie, which was quite a relief considering the schlep to get there from Long Beach during rush hour traffic on the 405. What was interesting were some of the comments made to me, en masse about Marvin:
“What was the year of his birth?”
He was wounded on Guadalcanal, right?”
Where did he do most of his drinking in Malibu?”
“Oh 1924. Yeah, but what was the date?”
“Didja ever see Prime Cut?”
When did he die?…No, the actual date.”
You know about him and Capt. Kanagroo, right?”
“Yeah,  I met him a few times….Real asshole.”
And on it went. In fairness, those were the choice ones that stuck out the most in my memory. Most of the other questions & comments were actually pretty encouraging in terms of both Marvin and several folks who read the book and went out of their way to tell me how much they enjoyed it. Then, Hell in the Pacific, which I really was looking forward to finally seeing on the big screen…..

Toshiro Mifune (left) and Lee Marvin in John Boorman's WWII allegory, Hell in the Pacific.

Toshiro Mifune (left) and Lee Marvin in John Boorman’s WWII allegory, Hell in the Pacific.

It was not as late as I thought it would be by the time the film ended so going home was a breeze. I’m only writing this to say such events are always a pleasure and a surprise when they occur and genuinely hope they keep happening.
Oh, and for the record: He was born 2/19/24, he drank at a bar called The Raft in Malibu (among others), he was wounded on Saipan not Guadalcanal, and Yes I’ve seen all of films which includes Prime Cut ….. oh, and for umpteenth time, Captain Kangaroo did NOTsave Lee Marvin’s life on Iwo Jima. Geez!

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