Johnny Mandel, the veteran composer of many a film score, passed last Monday, June, 29th at the ripe old age of 94. His obituary is a fascinating read in terms of how prolific he was for decades in both film and the music industry.
As the obit states, he was probably best remembered for his score to M*A*S*H (1970), as well as the Taylor/Burton vehicle, The Sandpiper (1965), and their accompanying title songs. Beyond that, his heavily jazz-influenced music remained largely in the background of most films and not nearly as memorable as say the scores of John Williams or Jerry Goldsmith. In the long run, that’s probably a good thing as film scores are meant to enhance the mood of a film, not necessarily stand out and distract from it.
Fortunately, one of his scores that actually did both, enhance AND standout, was his score for John Boorman’s Point Blank (1967). I was not a fan of the film the first time I saw it as I felt it was pretentious in its obvious ‘arti-ness.’ But, like most great films, it grew on me with every successive viewing. In fact, by the time I first came to write about it and later research and write Lee Marvin Point Blank,  I was enthused enough about it to create some interesting perspectives on the production.
One aspect I think is clearly overlooked is the moody score Mandel created. I am a huge fan of film music but not knowledgeable enough about it to write with any discernable skill. Luckily, a limited release CD of the score was put out by the good folks at Turner Classic Movies in conjunction with Film Score Monthly. The results included some great and detailed liner notes I believe was penned by the late, great Nick Redman. So, below is his detailed description, scene by scene, of Johnny Mandel’s haunting score.
SPOILER ALERT: The details are so exact, that if you have yet to see the film, be forewarned as the film’s entirety is given away in the notes. If you have seen it, then enjoy this belated tribute to a Johnny Mandel score ripe for rediscovery. Rest in Peace, Mr. Mandel, your work will not be forgotten.
– Dwayne Epstein


1st page of POINT BLANK liner notes.

2nd pages of POINT BLANK liner notes.

3rd pages of POINT BLANK liner notes.

4th pages of POINT BLANK liner notes.

concluding page of POINT BLANK liner notes (Johnny Mandel pictured).

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“POINT BLANK REMAKE” blared the headline in Variety.    Of course, my initial reaction to the headline itself was one of mixed emotions. While glad to see attention was being paid to Lee Marvin’s neo-noir classic — which could enliven his work to a wider audience — I bemoaned the lack of originality constantly being shown by Hollywood bigwigs. After all, Even Point Blank itself, was not the first version of Richard Stark’s (aka Donald Westlake) mysterious character….

Liner notes from the POINT BLANK soundtrack CD describes the films genesis, as well as a graph of its many incarnations.  The only one missing since the CD’s release is Taylor Hackford’s PARKER (2013), starring Jason Statham.

Then I actually read the article. Never heard of a 2010 version of the same title with a completely different premise. Never heard of Fred Cavaye. Never even heard of Frank Grillo. How in god’s name did they get away with naming a non-related film Point Blank...and then make an announcement to remake it? Bizarre!
By the way, readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are well aware of Lee Marvin’s complete immersion in the John Boorman original, as well as the films evolution to the screen and its current well-earned cult status. Those who haven’t read it are in for an eye-opener!

Original ad art for two of several versions of Richard Stark’s original tale that would make a great double feature.

About the only positive thing I can possibly take away from the Variety article is the prominence of Anthony Mackie in the project. Unlike Frank Grillo, I am quite familiar with Mackie’s film work, having been impressed with him in both Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (2005), and even more so in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2008). As Sergeant JT Sanborn, Mackie is a standout in the now classic film in which he draws an interminably long bead on an enemy Iraqi soldier…

Actor Anthony Mackie drawing a bead on the enemy in Kathryn Bigelow’s THE HURT LOCKER.

That point may seem off topic, but in truth it is definitely worthy of a mention in a Lee Marvin-themed blog. No one can really tell for sure but it’s a pretty safe bet Lee Marvin himself would have been impressed with both Mackie’s performance and the film itself. It’s dealing with the current veteran’s trauma of PTSD and Bigelow’s unflinching detail of it would definitely be in Marvin’s wheelhouse.
With such films possible, why a Point Blank remake….that isn’t even a Point Blank remake? Boggles the mind. Better yet, how about a biopic on the man who put Point Blank on the map…and endured a lifetime of grappling with PTSD? Just a thought.
– Dwayne Epstein

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This August 29th will mark the 30th anniversary of Lee Marvin’s passing and much has transpired in those three decades. Truth be told, much more should have transpired within that time period. The publication of Lee Marvin Point Blank in 2013 I felt was a worthy addition to the effort of keeping his memory alive but there really hasn’t been much else. If you look at the scan from my book’s back pages you’ll see there’s only been a handful of projects that are a result of Lee’s work & legacy.

From the paperback version of Lee Marvin: Point Blank.

Some of the highlights include the long overdue The Big Red One reconstruction in 2004; A tribute to his films in 2007 by the Film Society of Lincoln Center;  MTV voting Lee Marvin’s Walker in Point Blank the top 5 badass in movie history in 2009; Playwright Nick Zagone’s original stage play “Lee Marvin Be They Name” in 2011.
When my book was in production and my publisher wanted a little more back material, I came up with this idea to keep the actor’s legacy alive in the mind of the reader….

From Lee Marvin: Point Blank, my own idea of films Lee could have made had he lived.

After my book was published, the good people at the American Cinematheque, in conjunction with Larry Edmunds Bookstore in Hollywood contacted me about the possibility of running a short film festival of some of Lee’s films. The turn out surprised everyone as the event proved to be a sell out!

Aero Theater Schedule for Lee Marvin film fest.

Aero Theater write-up. Part 2

Flyer of the festival as put out by Larry Edmunds Bookstore.

As I say, the turn out was wonderful and surprising to all. Similarly, was the fact that Lee Marvin Point Blank made the NY Times Bestseller list in 2014 at number four! Everyone has been surprised. This being the 30th anniversary of Lee’s passing, whenever his name is mentioned since then, I keep hearing how surprised folks are that he’s remembered at all and then how great it is that he is remembered.
Hey, I’m not going to lie to you. I think it would be great to keep selling copies of my book but there’s another reason other than money. Want to keep his memory and legacy alive? Sure, buy the book but more than that: Watch a Lee Marvin movie and tell other folks about it. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.
– Dwayne Epstein

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