POINT BLANK REMAKE? NOT EVEN CLOSE!

“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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DISCOVERING LEE MARVIN’S PTSD

PTSD:
Between the solemnity of Memorial Day and the honor bestowed upon Veterans Day, another day could be set aside for those who served in combat and survived physically, but suffer with PTSD, every day of their lives. Why such a day? Because the numbers are staggering. I discovered through my research of Lee Marvin Point Blank that anyone who has ever experienced combat lives with PTSD. Believe me, I’m no expert on the subject but once I began researching Lee Marvin’s life and work certain patterns began to emerge. These patterns were the result of the interviews I conducted with individuals who were the most intimate with him, such as his brother, first wife, son, and so on. They were the ones who set me on the path of looking into his probable PTSD as they told me of his night sweats, screaming nightmares, trauma-triggered alcohol binges, survivor guilt, and more.

Artist Thomas Lea powerfully captures what the Marines called, “The Gooney-Bird Stare,” in the midst of one soldier’s ongoing nightmare in the jungles of the South pacific during WWII.

Not being an expert, I of course set out to find what I could via the internet and the like. Surprisingly, the best data came from a most unlikely source. My father had been a member of Jewish War Veterans (JWV), but when the membership of his chapter dwindled, he reluctantly joined the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). As a member, he received their monthly magazine through 2010, even after he passed away from Alzeheimer’s in 2005…as did his two combat veteran older brothers before him. I wonder if their experiences hastened their demise?
It was the April, 2009, issue of VFW that helped me understand what Marvin experienced. Historian Thomas Childers’ decades-long research into the phenomena as it specifically effected WWII veterans is exactly what I needed to set me on the path of understanding Lee Marvin’s war-induced trauma. As he wrote in the table of contents: “For far too long, the myth has persisted that all WWII veterans came home and readjusted without a hitch. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The article helped me immensely in understanding Lee Marvin and that understanding helped make Lee Marvin Point Blank a better book. I’ve been chided on occasion with negative comments on Amazon and the like that my research did not apply to Marvin. Really? Read Childers’ full article below (marked by highlights that helped my research) and read Lee Marvin Point Blank and tell me I’m wrong. Until then, may we never have to have any generation be scarred with the trauma of war. It’s a worthy goal.
-Dwayne Epstein

VFW cover

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ADVENTURES IN AUTHORING: ANSWERING NEGATIVE CRITICISM

A while back I was having dinner with my publisher, Tim Schaffner, when the subject of negative criticism of Lee Marvin Point Blank came up.
Don’t get me wrong, the overwhelming majority of reviews of the book have been largely positive and for that I am eternally grateful.

Paperback back cover of LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK (designed by Jake Kiehle) highlighting some of the reviews.

However, the handful of negative criticism still stick in one’s craw. I can chuckle at it now but at the time, you can’t imagine how frustrating it is to be pummeled over something the critic claims authority over, yet in reality, knows nothing about….and then blames me!
What had bothered Tim was a review that not only raked the book over the coals, but also tore into what the reviewer thought was the awful editing of the book. Why did that bother Tim so much? He just happened to have been the editor! I told him I had read some other negatives too, but he emphasized to me in no uncertain terms that no matter how tempting it is: DO NOT RESPOND IN KIND. His point being that it gives them a platform, brings you down to their level, and might even effect sales negatively in the long run if the review is believed.
He was right of course, but seeing as how this is my blog, to help support and supplement my book, run for cover if you are so inclined as I’m-a gonna fire back, once and for all. As James Dean said to Rock Hudson in Giant: “And there ain’t a dang thing you can do about it!”
Okay, Since I had told Tim I wouldn’t respond in kind, and to keep myself as honest as possible, I’ll just focus on two such reviews and I won’t be citing the source of the criticism. I’ll merely quote the inane comment anonymously and then show how frustratingly wrong they can be. Ready? I’ll start with the one that pissed off Tim so much. Here goes….

… Dwayne Epstein’s Lee Marvin: Point Blank isn’t anything close to definitive. A sloppily edited assemblage of interviews, it’s first-draft oral history in which readers with considerable patience can find Epstein issues several medical diagnoses derived from his own conclusions….Marvin fans who can get through all the throat-clearing tedium will find similar quotable bits in these underedited pages.

Heh, heh. Can you see why Tim, the book editor, got so pissed? No proof to back up their claim, no alternative response, not even an example of my ‘throat-clearing tedium,’ other than one sentence in which the quote is taken completely out of context. I hope the idiotic reviewer got paid well for his online rant because he may have kept a lot of well-meaning movie geeks from reading my book and discovering Lee Marvin for themselves. Sadly, it’s their loss.
And now, my personal favorite. Here’s the one from a respected and long-in-the-tooth film journal that went to town on my facts. Strange scenario involved as well because the reviewer sent me the review and apologized as it was a last minute assignment for him, thus hinting that he may not have read the whole thing. Like a bonehead, I thanked him for his effort without reading the review first. Still kicking myself over that one. Here’s part of what bugged me….

Epstein does tell of Marvin—during the filming of Samuel Fuller’s The Big Red One (1980), his last great role—taking the stage at a Roman-built amphitheater in Israel to recite a soliloquy from King Lear. That event is as surprising to the reader as it must have been to Marvin’s costars, as there’s no other mention in the book of Marvin having an affinity or aptitude for William Shakespeare or classical drama.

Hmm, do you think he may have missed the section in which Lee studied the classics at the American Theatre Wing (ATW)? Possibly. Then again, he probably also missed this image in the photo section (laid out by graphic artist Jake Kiehle), as well…..

Lee Marvin in LM:PB’s photo section shown in Shakespearean garb while attending the ATW.

I swear to you folks, try as you might, you just can’t make these things up!
Okay, enough ranting. Don’t go by my word as to the book’s value. Certainly don’t go by the word of an online movie geek or pompous film journalist, either. By all means, judge for yourself. Read the book. Find out about Lee Marvin. Rent or download some of his films. Then, do something revolutionary these days: make up your OWN mind.
– Dwayne Epstein

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