“SOPRANOS'” MOVIE FEATURES LEE MARVIN MARQUEE

The Sopranos’ movie, entitled The Many Saints of Newark, is currently shooting in Newark and in order to make it period correct for 1967, it features a well placed movie marquee. If you can’t see the images in the link in the next paragraph, this might help….

Movie marquee in The Sopranos movie that’s set in 1967.

Same marquee from a different angle.

 

According to the Central Jersey News website, the film concerns how young Tony Soprano came to be during the tumultuous Newark Riots. In order to make it period correct, film makers had the local theater display the most popular film of the summer of 1967, The Dirty Dozen. Matter of fact, it was the single most financially successful film in MGM history at the time, in no small part due its popularity in urban areas, such as Newark.
By the way, this upcoming film is not the first time a Lee Marvin movie has been featured in a film. Martin Scorsese, a certified Lee Marvin fan, used a well-known Marvin film in his 1973 classic, Mean Streets. Further proof of Lee Marvin’s popularity in urban environs. Check out the screen capture below of Harvey Keitel and Robert DeNiro in the lobby after viewing a screening of The Searchers….

Check out the poster for an upcoming film on the left as shown in Scorsese’s MEAN STREETS.

It’s not the first time Scorsese has referenced Lee Marvin in a film, either. His debut film, Who’s That Knocking at My Door (1967), has an even better reference in dialogue by again, Harvey Keitel. Pretty impressive dialogue, too. For the reason for the dialogue as well as its actual contents, look no further than Lee Marvin Point Blank, your one-stop Lee Marvin reference tool. Matter of fact, the last chapter is chock full of such pop culture Lee Marvin references. However, if after reading Lee Marvin Point Blank,  you know of any other such references I may have missed, feel free to comment here. Thanks!
-Dwayne Epstein

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WHO COULD DIRECT A LEE MARVIN BIOPIC? PART II

I had some interesting suggestions from Part I of this blog that not only took me by surprise, but impressed me with how knowledgeable some film fans are when it comes to contemporary directors. Some were posted in the comment section — where I prefer to see such suggestions — others were posted on social media.  One such example was Alejandro González Iñárritu, of Birdman and Revenant fame. As Facebook friend Michael Knight put it, “He can handle suffering, internal demons, get a real performance out of whoever the actor will be.” I had not thought of him but he’s a fascinating prospect to consider, nontheless. The other choices on my list are below and I’m sure they’ll infuriate some as well come as no surprise to others. Your picks, ideas and suggestions may differ but they are certainly welcome…..

Jim McBride:

Director Jim McBride shown on set during the filming of 1987's THE BIG EASY.

Director Jim McBride shown on set during the filming of 1987’s THE BIG EASY.

Not as widely known or lauded as some other directors, I happen to think he’s one of the best and has been sadly neglected for too long. If you don’t believe me just rent or watch some of his work, such as his remake of Breathless in which Richard Gere has NEVER been better. Then there’s his films with Dennis Quaid, both The Big Easy, and the amazing style exhibited in his bizarre Jerry Lee Lewis biopic, Great Balls of Fire. McBride has a terrific rock & roll sensibility in these films but can also ratchet up the tension when he has to do it. I don’t know if he’d even be interested in such a project but I for one would love it if he was!

Robert Rodriguez:

Robert Rodriguez is no longer a Rebel Without a Crew, as he titled his autobiography, but a a multi-talented filmmaker and musician who recently launched his own cable network, El Rey!

Robert Rodriguez is no longer a Rebel Without a Crew, as he titled his autobiography, but a a multi-talented filmmaker and musician who recently launched his own cable network, El Rey!

He may seem an odd choice on the surface but after recently watching Desperado again, as well as El Mariachi and even Once Upon a Time in Mexico (can you tell I’m a fan?) I think he would be a wonderful choice. As pretty much every director on this list is proof of, Rodriguez has his own visual style and is a visionary of sorts when it comes to storytelling technique. They themselves may say otherwise, but the best directors never just tell their tale straight out. Whether through flashbacks, circular narratives, camera tricks, or what-have-you, great directors have a picture in their head they plan to see put on screen that they hope the audience will connect with and ultimately appreciate, especially on a visceral level. There may be no better example of that than Rodriguez. Granted, his quirky subject matter and personal background may not seem suitable to a Lee Marvin biopic, but then again, neither did John Ford’s. After all, what right does a a first generation Irish, New Hampshire sailor, have making the greatest westerns of all time? Put that way, I think Rodriguez would be perfect.

Martin Scorsese:

Of the great Martin Scorsese, Lee Marvin told an interviewer in the 80s, that he instructed his wife that if Scorsese ever calls, tell him he's not home because he'll be hiding under the bed. Wonder if Scorsese ever did....

Of the great Martin Scorsese, Lee Marvin told an interviewer in the 80s, that he instructed his wife that if Scorsese ever calls, tell him he’s not home because he’ll be hiding under the bed. Wonder if Scorsese ever did….

A New Yok raised Italian, famed for making the greatest gangster films of all-time, making a film about the life and times of Lee Marvin? Seems as odd a choice on first blush as Robert Rodriguez . However, to his credit, Scorsese is not only the greatest living director in any country (my opinion, of course) he has also been an unabashed Lee Marvin fan from the onset of his film career in the late 1960s. That enthusiasm has infused the best of his films and he puts that on display in his directorial debut Who’s That Knocking on My Door and later, in his breakthrough film, Mean Streets. Ever noticed the poster in the lobby of the movie theater the main characters go see? It’s Point Blank. And the quick clip from The Big Heat at the end of the film solidifies it. As for the reference to Marvin in Scorsese’s first film, readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank need only check out the last chapter of the book to be blown away by Scorsese’s heartfelt admiration. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to Scorsese, enthusiasm goes a long way. Besides, being  such a movie buff, it’s amazing to think he’s never directed a Hollywood biopic, or any film ABOUT Hollywood.  Well, not yet, anyway. Are you listening Marty?

Zack Snyder:

A very young looking 50-year-old Zack Snyder happily at work.

A very young looking 50-year-old Zack Snyder happily at work.

No on is more surprised to see Snyder’s name on this list than I am. Especially true in lieu of the fact that I constantly rail against the  blockbuster comic book movie epidemic. Snyder, as producer and/or director, has been and will be over the next few years, responsible (or to blame) for the film versions of my favorite DC characters from childhood. Reason enough to hate him, of course, excpet for one redeeming project that puts him on this list. Back in the 80s, I briefly resurrected my fervor for comic books due mostly to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight and Gibbons & Moore’s The Watchmen. The film stealing the title Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan, bore no resemblance to Miller’s opus. The Watchmen, however, was a different story. Not only was it surprisingly faithful to the source material (more so in fact than most film adaptions), it was a very well done and engrossing film with its own merits. I for one was more than pleasantly surprised. Even the opening was not only faithful (and amazingly brutual), for all of its onscreen fight scene wizardry, I could follow the events as they unfolded! The controversy surrounding Snyder’s recent efforts aside, I think he would be perfect candidate to take on the challenge of a Lee Marvin biopic. May have to start another franchise: Hollywood biopics, by the numbers.
I kid.

Steven Spielberg:

Guess who. Oh, and his Lee Marvin connection? Besides unsuccessfully begging him to costar in JAWS, his biggest flop film, 1941, included a small role for Marvin cohort Sam Fuller and a sleazy hollywood agent named..wait for it....Meyer Mishkin.

Guess who.
Oh, and his Lee Marvin connection? Besides unsuccessfully begging him to costar in JAWS, his biggest flop film, 1941, included a small role for Marvin cohort Sam Fuller and a sleazy hollywood agent named..wait for it….Meyer Mishkin.

Yeah, I know. He is the most successful filmmaker in history, and as I always said, became such on the backs of successful films made for 14 year old boys. If that sounded cheap and sleazy, then so be it. For most of my movie going life I not only was not a fan of his films I truly reviled him. Then an interesting metamorphis took place as he seemed to pass thru his late life puberty. He and his films discovered some late life adult themes. Beginning with The Color Purple, and coming into full flower with Schindler’s List, Spielberg miraculously got on an obvious soapbox of decrying man’s inhumanity to man, albeit, with blatant manipulations on full display. Seriously, was the curtian call of cast members and survivors really needed at the end of Schindler’s List? Was he that insecure in his ability to let the story speak for itself? Geez! Okay, I digressed a bit far from the subject. The point is, having spouted all that vitriol the obvious question becomes why is Spielberg on this list? Three little words changed the ball game for me:  Saving Private Ryan. In the immortal words of Stan Lee, “‘Nuff said!”

Quentin Tarantino:

Quentin Tarantino, quite possibly the most equally beloved and despised director working in films today.

Quentin Tarantino, quite possibly the most equally beloved and despised director working in films today.

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’ve been leaning toward a certain kind of director when it comes to the idea of a Lee Marvin biopic. The director I speak of would be telling the tale from not only a certain persepective but an emphasis on a certain aspect of Marvin’s life.  Let me put it another way. I have been lucky enough to have my book praised by several highly respected people in the industry and two of the best writers working, in both film and television, have told me the same thing. They were both impressed with the book and told me individually that if a film were to be made of it, the most marketable aspect would be the palimony suit. They believe it’s what Marvin is most remebered for. I respect their opinion, obviously, but as far as I’m concerned he SHOULD be remembered for creating the modern American cinema of violence. Enter Quentin Tarantino. Love him or hate him — and there are many in both camps — he owes a sizeable debt to Marvin’s cinematic labors and what better way to pay it back then with a well-made Marvin biopic? After all, “I bet your a big Lee Marvin fan, aren’t you? Me too. I love that guy.”

Kathryn Bigelow:

Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar, a well-deserved win for THE HURT LOCKER (2010).

Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar, a well-deserved win for THE HURT LOCKER (2010).

And, to make it a baker’s Dirty Dozen, I include Ms. Bigelow. No, it’s not because she’s a woman and I’m pandering to tokenism. Far from it. Nor is it because she brilliantly directed such recent hits as The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty. Well, maybe that’s part of it. Okay, truth be told it’s a big part of it. She totally understands the mindset of the soldier in combat and much more importantly, as a filmmaker, she is able to convey that mindset to the audience. She does it without a soapbox or the  obvious condenscension one might expect. To put in the proper persective, when I was researching the effects of PTSD for my Lee Marvin bio, I came across an interview Bigelow did while promoting The Hurt Locker. In it, she made this statement: “War’s dirty little secret is that some men love it. I’m trying to unpack why, to look at what it means to be a hero in the context of 21st-century combat.” I was so impressed with that comment I temporarily named a pivotal chapter “A Dirty Little Secret” while the book was still being researched. In other words, she gets it, quite possibly even better than most, but she definitely gets it.  I think even Marvin himself would be impressed. After all, despite his bad ass screen image he had no problem being directed by a woman, in his case it was pioneering Actress/Director Ida Lupino.

Okay, all that said, I believe anyone kind enough to have taken the time to have read this blog entry, probably has their own opinon of a Lee Marvin biopic and who should direct it. If that’s the case, let me hear it. Enquiring minds want to know….

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MY FAVORITE FIGHT SCENES, PART 4 OF 5

Presenting the pentultimate installment in my own choices of favorite movie fight scenes. I became even more aware of the distinct changes that took place thru the decades, due to researching Lee Marvin Point Blank and discovering Marvin’s important influence on screen violence. This time, the late 60s lead into to the early 70s, with both known and obscure choices. Nautrally, Lee Marvin is duly represented.

16. DARK OF THE SUN-1968

Rod Taylor unrelentingly takes on Peter Carsten for the murder of Jim Brown.

Rod Taylor (left) unrelentingly takes on Peter Carsten (right) for the murder of Jim Brown.

Unrelenting. That single word is the best way to describe Rod Taylor’s battle with his opponent in the underrated action opus Dark of the Sun. One of the 1960s many international productions, this one deals with mercenaries carrying out a mission in Africa to save both missionaries and a cache of diamonds…they are, after all mercenaries. The film contains plenty of action, incuding train battles, buzzsaws and such obligatory eye candy as Yvette Mimiuex.
But, the growing animosity between team leader Rod Taylor and former Nazi team member Peter Carsten, results in one of the most brtual and unrelenting fight scenes of its era. When Taylor leaves the team momentarily, Carsten kills Taylor’s comrade Jim Brown and attempts to abscond with the goods. When Taylor returns and discovers what transpired, no amount of common sense or cajoling can stem the tide of his anger. A rousing climax to a film that just made me a Rod Taylor fan all over again. I’ve read that his fight scene in Darker Than Amber (1970) with William Smith is even better but since I’ve yet to see it, this will have to suffice. Maybe if I revamp this list in a few years I’d have seen it and changed my mind. Until then, Dark of The Sun. Unrelenting.

17.THE SCALPHUNTERS-1968

Scalphunters

Burt Lancaster as Mountain man Joe Bass (right) tries to teach a lesson to runaway slave Joseph Lee (Ossie Davis, left) as the plot continues around them in The Scalphunters.

By the end of the 1960s, not only had the studio system and ancient production code bitten the dust, the but social upheaval of the times had permeated films of every genre, including the sacred western. No all such attempts at social relevance were successful but The Scalphunters certainly was. The simple plot of a mountain man trying to retreive his stolen pelts from a gang of merciless scalphunters is complicated by the presence of a runaway slave, a wily madam and a band of often drunken Indians.
Fans of star Burt Lancaster’s will recognize the film as a bit of a vanity project since it includes the likes of childhood friend and acrobat partner Nick Cravat as well as longtime stunt double Tony Epper as scalphunters, and ex-girlfriend Shelley Winters as the madam. Even former TV executive Telly Savalas, whom Lancaster successfully talked into giving acting a try, wonderfully chews the scenery as the lead villian. Probably the weakest link, at least in my opinion, is Ossie Davis as the runaway slave. He seemed miscast, as another black actor form the period, such as Al Freeman or Ivan Dixon, might have been better suited in the role.
Alll that aside, the climatic and lengthy battle between Lancaster & Davis through mud, sand, dirt, and crevasses, is wonderfully rendered as the remaining plot points go on without them even noticing! Lancaster was in his 50s when he made this but you’d never know it from his physical performance. The film doesn’t preach it’s point of view. It’s done in a style of rousing fun. REALLY worth a second look!

18. CHISUM -1970
Chisum
Why is this movie on the list, you may ask? Well, picture this: it’s the summer of 1970 and Tim Romero and I decide to go to the movies. Only decent thing playing for a couple of ten-year-old boys is this John Wayne programmer. So we go. Sit through the tedious plot (a largely fictiously tale about Billy the Kid, I later learned) and we are just about to leave out of sheer boredom when John Wayne turns to his buddy Ben Johnson and drawls, “Break out the Winchesters.” Johnsons smiles big and says, “Why sure.” Tim and I give out a hoot and we are in little boy heaven.
While a gun battle rages, John Wayne seeks out lead bad guy Forrest Tucker and proceeds to beat the holy hell out of him. Folks, it just doesn’t get any better than this for a little boy summer matinees. Not great movie making by any stretch of the imagination but I watched it again recently and felt like that little kid again. Nostalgia aside, I genuinely feel sorry for young film goers who think comic book films and their attended CGI effects are worth their time and energy. Unless you’ve felt that child-like adrelaline rush of hearing “Break out the Winchesters,” you are just plain missing out on a great childhood moment.

19. EMPEROR OF THE NORTH-1973

EmperorNorth

The real clash of the titans as hobo Lee Marvin challenges sadistic railroad man Ernest Borgnine in Robert Aldrich’s Emperor of the of the North.

This one could quite possibly earn the right to be called my favorite fight scene of all time as it has, in my opinion, never been equalled. The making of director Robert Aldrich’s violent, non-sentimental, Depression-era fable of non-conforming hobo Lee Marvin challenging the railroad establisment in the person of sadistic conductor Ernest Borgnine is covered in-depth in Lee Marvin Point Blank, of course. All I can add here is the fact that  the fight scene at film’s end may not be beleviable for some people from a realistic standpoint, as it’s been pointed out, but within the realm of the story, it is perfectly in keeping with the film’s style and overall theme. Axes, chains, and 2×4’s may not be worthy weapons in modern films but it certainly makes sense for the Depression!

20. MEAN STREETS– 1973

Robert DeNiro, with pool cue in hand, takes on all comers in Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets.

Robert DeNiro, with pool cue in hand, takes on all comers in Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets.


Once again, there is not a whole lot more I can add to anything that’s been said of Martin Scorsese’s and Robert DeNiro’s breakthrough film that has not been said a dozen times already. The modern day noir exploded on the screen in 1973 and rattled the minds of moviegoers in the process. There is so much to take in when viewing this masterpiece that several viewings is just not enough. Lasting images permeate every frame, drenched in overly saturated color and photographic stylings.
It’s inclusion here is for one such image. When Harvey Keitel and his buddies go to pick up an overdue loan at a pool hall, it isn’t long before all hell breaks loose. The most eye-popping aspect of the brawl is, without a doubt, DeNiro as Johnny Boy. He scrambles to the top of a pool table and plays ‘King of the Mountain’ to anyone who tries to get near him. He’s as crackling an explosive as the cherry bomb he drops in the mailbox in the film’s opening. Try to find a more beleviable street fighter in a movie than Johnny Boy. G’head, I dare ya!

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