BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN & POINT BLANK

Bruce Springsteen, New Jersey’s legendary rocker, recently celebrated his 71st birthday –Sept. 23rd, to be exact — and as such, I thought it a good time to explore the possible connection between the man’s music (one song in particular), and a possible Lee Marvin connection.

Terrific cover art for the VHS release of POINT BLANK.


Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know why I titled the book what I did as it’s explained in the introduction. Yes, it’s partly due to the title of one of his signature films, but there’s actually more to it than that. 


What does any of this have to do with Bruce Springsteen, you may ask? Well, to start with,  Springsteen has often utilized imagery from films in his work, which is why I thought there may indeed be a Lee Marvin connection. For example, having been a long time fan, I was amazed the way in which he opened the first concert I ever saw. The arena went dark and over the sound system came the following dialog: “Me and the boys got us some work to do. Wanna come along? Won’t be like the old days….but it’ll do.” That end dialog from The Wild Bunch (a film Lee Marvin almost made, by the way), lead to the stage lights coming up and Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band launching into Buddy Holly’s rocking “Oh Boy!” For the next four hours, I was enthralled and then exhausted by evening’s end. “The Boss’ put on one hell of a show! 

Article in the L.A. newspaper for the first Springsteen show I saw back in 1980


 That aside, Springsteen’s film references include everything from titling one of his signature songs “Thunder Road,” after the 1958 cult Robert Mitchum film, to to the title of his album The Ghost of Tom Joad, as in the character Henry Fonda played in the John Steinbeck adapted film, The Grapes of Wrath
Even more pervasive are the lyrics chosen for some of his songs. Take for example, “Cadillac Ranch” in which he borrows imagery from the likes Rebel Without a Cause, The Last American Hero and Smokey & The Bandit:
“James Dean in that Mercury ’49
Junior Johnson runnin’ thru the woods of Caroline
Even Burt Reynolds in that black Trans Am
all gonna meet down at the Cadillac Ranch.” 

1980 line-up of the E Street Band :(L-R) Bassist Gary Tallent,guitarist Steve Van Zandt, organist Danny Federici, Springsteen, drummer Max Weinberg, pianist Roy Bittan, and saxophonist Clarence Clemmons.


Which brings us to the haunting lyrics of “Point Blank” from his 1980 double album, “The River.” The song concerns the end of a romance in which the narrator describes how his ex-lover has been destroyed by her experiences. At one point in the song, he dreams they are dancing together again, only to wake up and discover she’s standing in the doorway trying to stay out of the rain “looking like just another stranger waitin’ to get blown away.” Hence the title and chorus, “Point Blank”. 

Libretto from THE RIVER for “Point Blank.”


Granted, it’s hardly the same premise or theme as the Marvin film. However, creative entities, such as Springsteen can be motivated in the most interesting of ways. Since he clearly is quite literate when it comes to film iconography, one can easily picture him watching the film one night and grabbing a pad and pencil with an idea once the premise of the film is established. Is Walker alive or dead? As Walker himself asks, what is all a dream that he was double-crossed by his wife and best friend then left for dead? 
It certainly is not a new premise for a writer to create a theme of blurred lines between life and death, or dreams and reality. I believe Ambrose Bierce’s classic 1890 short story “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” set the standard for such a theme. A personal favorite is Dalton Trumbo’s “Johnny Got His Gun,” which realistically established a character grappling with the ability to know whether he is asleep or awake. In other words, Walker of Point Blank may have very well inspired Springsteen to use the premise as a springboard for what he would utilize as a dark concept of a tortured romance. Pure supposition, for sure, but certainly not unlikely. Judge for yourself in the video below and in closing, happy birthday, Bruce Springsteen!
– Dwayne Epstein

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WORKS OF FICTION: TOP 10 PERSONAL FAVORITES

Works of fiction, and personal favorites at that, naturally vary from person to person. Facebook recently offered a challenge of 10 days of favorite films and then 10 days of music albums. I took up the challenge and nominated others. Not many friends took up the challenge which was a disappointment. So, since this is my blog, and I’ve always been an avid reader, I had the idea of creating my own one day list of personal favorite works of fiction, followed soon by a list of personal favorite works of non-fiction.

As the author of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I can tell you that non-fiction is a much more preferred genre. So, coming up with this list of fiction was no easy task. I added no comments to each title other than just the book cover image itself. I certainly could give details and anecdotes to each one but I think it best to simply let the titles speaks for themselves.

   Anyway, the only prerequisite I made for myself is that it has to be something I’ve read more than once for my own enjoyment and consequently has stood the test of time. Since I still own most of these titles, the scans below are almost all from my own often read personal collection. So, without further ado, my list, in order of preference….
– Dwayne Epstein

10. THE DIRTY DOZEN by E.M. Nathanson.

 

9. SHEILA LEVINE IS DEAD AND LIVING IN NEW YORK by Gail Parent.

 

 

8. THE WATCHMEN by Alan Moore (writer) & Dave Gibbons (artist).

7. THE COMEDY OF NEIL SIMON (collected plays & essay).

6. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

5. GREAT SHORT WORKS OF JACK LONDON

4. THE WANDERERS by Richard Price.

3. DOG SOLDIERS by Robert Stone

2. GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW (issues #76-89) by Denny O’Neill (writer) & Neal Adams (artist).

1. JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN by Dalton Trumbo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WHY DALTON TRUMBO OPENS LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK

There are several reasons why I chose to open Lee Marvin Point Blank with this quote from Dalton Trumbo:
“You plan the wars you masters of men
plan the wars and point the way
and we will point the gun.”

My hardcover and well-read copy of JOHNNY GT HIS GUN, the book that started it all.

First and foremost is the fact that it fit the theme of Lee Marvin’s life, work and legacy. Just as important is the fact that Trumbo was, is, and will always reman my favorite writer of all time. As a matter of fact, when I was able to land my first professional writing job in the late 1980s on a local newspaper in New Jersey, my then bulky Mac office computer boasted only one image on the side of its screen….

The image that adorned the side of my Mac in the 1980s depicted Dalton Trumbo hard at work.

Like most writers, I have both classic favorites (Jack London, Mark Twain) as well as contemporary ones (William Goldman, Richard Price). All choices are based both on subject matter as well as style. For me, Dalton Trumbo remains neck-creakingly high in both categories. Why? No other writer has ever come close to achieving his level of haunting, simple prose. In my opinion, it’s an amazing accomplishment. I read Johnny Got His Gun as a freshman in high school. Read it again as an adult. I’ve read it several times since in the intervening years and it just gets better and better every time!
Explaining the premise of the book to anyone has often resulted in being told that it sounds too depressing to read. On the contrary. Granted the premise is quite dark: In the waning days of WWI, Joe Bonham becomes the ultimate victim of war as a bomb leaves him without limbs, face, or the use of any his five senses other than touch. However, his struggle to reconnect with the outside world, flashbacks of his life before the war (both comical and poignant) and the ultimate resolution of his plight, makes for a book more than just depressing but an amazing exploration of the human condition. It goes without saying that I highly recommend it, if just for the spare and powerful writing alone.
When I was working as managing editor for a multi-educational and distribution book company, I suggested putting it in our catalog. The company owner, Mike Miller, was reticent but agreed on the condition that at least one order had to be placed for it to remain in the catalog each year. Interestingly enough, in the seven years I worked there, and titles were to be either added or removed, there was always at least one wise teacher somewhere in the country smart enough to order a copy for their class or library.  Luckily, the heavy metal band Metallica also managed to keep it the minds of their fans by buying the rights and recording the song “One” in homage to the book, with a music video incorporating scenes from the 1970 film directed by (and costarring) Dalton Trumbo.
In these days of rising international tensions and U.S. wars now stretching into decades, the book is clearly now more relevant than ever. It might not be a popular consideration but when high school and college students are required to read certain titles before going out into the world, Johnny Got His Gun should be at the top of the list. It just might help end those international tensions and decades long wars. It might not. Certainly worth a try as at the very least a classic anti-war novel will be consumed and kept alive for the next generation.
I wonder if Lee Marvin ever read it.
-Dwayne Epstein

Other titles in the Dalton Trumbo canon…

One of Trumbo’s first books, later turned into a film starring a young William Holden as a small town accountant helped by the spirit of Andrew Jackson.

Two of Dalton Trumbo’s pamphlets addressing his experiences as one of The Hollywood Ten.

A long sought title by yours truly finally discovered at The Strand Bookstore in New York.

Trumbo’s last work, left unfinished at the time of his death in 1976 but published with its first ten chapters and subsequent notes. A riveting read and powerful companion to JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN.

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