MEN ON A MISSION: THE BEST OF LEE MARVIN

Men on a Mission, a subgenre of pretty much every possible action film, has been around for a very long time and is undergoing a resurgence of sorts within the ranks of superhero films and the like. The undeniable king of the subgenre, however, has to be Lee Marvin. Whether the genre is a western, WWII, crime films or sometimes impossible to categorize, no actor did more of them or the best of them than Marvin.
According to a 2014 IndieWire article on WWII films, “The recipe is simple: take a bunch of men (the more ill-suited and quarrelsome the better), give them an objective—killing Hitler, looting Nazi gold, saving Private Ryan, protecting crucial work of arts from destruction by the Germans—and send those men on the mission.”
By that definition, no list of great WWII Men on a Mission films could be complete without The Dirty Dozen (1967). Of course, the definition left out the crucial aspect of training which often makes up the best part of the film, all elements of which are even the ad line for the film….

Poster for THE DIRTY DOZEN, the best of WWII Men on a Mission films in which the genre is defined in the ad.

When it comes to westerns within the subgenre, it’s hard to beat The Professionals (1966) for plot, character, action and dialogue. Kind of forgotten nowadays but anyone familiar with it knows how great a film it truly is.

 

Poster art for THE PROFESSIONALS.

 

 

 

 

Some crime films don’t usually include the subgenre as they are often revenge or heist oriented in their plots and themes. One obvious exception would be Prime Cut (1972).

The very strange project had Marvin tasked with rounding up a crew to get rogue mobster Gene Hackman to fork over the money he’s been skimming from the Kansas City mob. Naturally, Hackman does not take kindly to their mission and the resulting violence makes up the bulk of the film. Marvin does rescue Sissy Spacek from Hackman along the way and dallies with ex-girlfriend Angel Tompkins but that aside, it’s pure male-dominated action. At one point, Marvin even has to introduce himself to the mother of one of his young recruits!

Two different ad campaigns for director Michael Ritchie’s, PRIME CUT.

And then there are action films that simply defy categorization. The best example of this is Marvin’s 1973 opus, Emperor of the North. The mission, which is also clearly stated in the ad, was so unique audiences did not know what to make of it and ultimately simply avoided it altogether. A shame really as the finale and the cinematography throughout are excellent.

EMPEROR OF THE NORTH’s ad states the mission quite clearly.

So there you have it. A small smattering of examples showing Lee Marvin’s work as the best of the subgenre. There are many more, of course, but for the uninitiated, the above examples are a good place to start. Naturally, all of his films, including the ones mentioned herein, are explored in detail, from inception to reception within the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank. Feel free to check it out for yourself and you’ll discover the best of a rediscovered and still relevant subgenre.

  • Dwayne Epstein
Share

CYBER MONDAY? LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK!

Cyber Monday is December 2nd and in the spirit of such blatant internet promotion allow me to join the passing parade of shameless self-indulgence with the inclusion of Lee Marvin Point Blank. Yeah, I know the book came out more than six years ago, but it is still very much in print, in demand, and worthy of discovery by those who have yet to purchase it. Why is that you ask? Well, for one thing, as my publisher pointed out, it’s a perennial, not bound by fads or current events that fade in short order. For another, it’s available in several formats, each with its own appeal.

Released January, 2013, the above image is from the hardcover edition of LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK, still very much available.

 

First up is the hardcover. It remains the first definitive account of the life, work and legacy of one of the most important actors of the second half of the twentieth century. I spent nearly 20 years researching it and the result is 100 exclusive interviews of friends, family and co-workers, many rare never-before-seen photos, letters recounting his harrowing time in WWII and much, much more.  Within a year, the book was also anointed with several awards, such as winning the Bronze in Biography from the Independent Publisher Book Awards (“Ippy”) and being a finalist in Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Awards. Not bad for a first-time author, right?

 

 

 

Not long after the release of the hardcover, the Kindle became available via Amazon and the result was quite surprising. An enterprising publicist at the distributor, IPG (Independent Publishing Group), hustled the hell out of the e-book which ultimately made the top five on the coveted  New York Times Bestseller List, as well as the Wall Street Journal and Publisher’s Weekly.

One of the Kindle’s opening images, which was a NY Times best seller.

The following year, my publisher, Tim Schaffner of Schaffner Press, decided to up the ante with the publication of the paperback. He requested that I add some new material to the project….

Paperback cover with sunburst declaration of added material, as well as the medallion sticker awarding the Bronze in Biography.

Table of Contents listing the added data compiled by yours truly for the paperback version.

I was of course pleasantly surprised not only by how well it turned out but also by the addition of several pages consisting of positive feedback from prominent individuals, such as fellow biographers Marshall Terrill (STEVE MCQUEEN: PORTRAIT OF A REBEL), Bill Krohn (HITCHCOCK AT WORK), Stefan Kanfer ( BOGART: TOUGH WITHOUT A GUN), Frank Thompson (NOTHING SACRED: THE CINEMA OF WILLIAM WELLMAN) and others.  Who could ask for more? Talk about an embarrassment of riches.
So, there you have it. My pitch to put LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK on your Cyber Monday holiday shopping list. I realize that regular readers of this blog, (if there are any) may have read this all before but since the key to good promotion is “Tell them what you know, tell them again and then tell them what you told them,” I leave it to one and all to make up their own minds….so what are you waiting for? Do you part for Cyber Monday and get your copy now.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
– Dwayne Epstein

Share

INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS: ADAM SANDLER’S BACK!

Independent Spirit Awards announced this year’s nominations and apparently one of the top contenders for Best Actor is none other than…..Adam Sandler! You can read the list of nominees here, as well as some background info on the award itself and the prerequisite for nominations.

Apparently, Sandler’s performance in the film Uncut Gems is impressing and surprising all who witness it. Truth be told, I haven’t seen it (yet) and didn’t even know of it’s existence until I read the article. I read about the film some more online and found the premise quite intriguing and look forward to seeing it. Sandler plays a desperate jeweler who has to figure out how to pay off his massive gambling debt before it’s too late. Check out the trailer as it’s pretty impressive:

Why does an indie film starring Adam Sandler rate mention in this blog dedicate mostly to the life, work and legacy of Lee Marvin? via my book, Lee Marvin Point Blank? I’ll give you a hint….

The cover of my first young adult biography for the People in The News Series.

Sandler’s nomination in the Independent Spirit Awards derby allows me an opportunity to do something I rarely get to do and we all wish that we could. That would be being able to be proven right about something several years down the road as I wrote the book in 2004.
Okay, maybe that’s a little strong but when the rest of pop culture and modern film community called Sandler an annoying untalented hack who’s career would be short-lived, I was able to champion his cause, especially after viewing his performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love.

Sidebars were required for the series so here’s one I thought fit the subject.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Sandler cheerleader. In fact his extremely popular comedies of the 1990s had me asking the managing editor for hazard pay after viewing all those films. Her response to my request, by the way, was to tell me I should feel lucky, as they we’re going to ask me to write about Jackass! 
Anyway, here’s the section I wrote about Punch Drunk Love. Read, enjoy, dislike, whatever. It just maybe challenge you to rethink your dislike of Sandler one more time….
– Dwayne Epstein

Opening section in the chapter dealing with Punch Drunk Love.

Punch Drunk Love continued.

 

Punch Drunk Love section with photo (!)

….And in conclusion.

 

 

Share