CINEMA’S GREATEST VILLAINS

CINEMA’S GREATEST VILLAINS! Pretty bold statement, wouldn’t you say? Well, that’s what I found when doing a Google search and came up with this clickbait entry. Granted several of the choices are right on the money, such as Robert Mitchum In Cape Fear (1962) and Night of the Hunter (1955) and of course, Lee Marvin in many of his earliest roles but he also made a terrific return to villainy in Gorky Park (1983). 

Lee Marvin as nefarious sable dealer Jack Osborne in 1983’s Gorky Park.

Just to make the point as in the case of the likes of Marvin, Mitchum and other leading men who have sauntered occasionally into the realm of classic villainy, sometimes the best of them are actors you wouldn’t associate with cinema’s greatest villains, such as Laurence Olivier in Spartacus (1960) or Gregor Peck in The Boys From Brazil (1978). It’s one of the reasons I always felt it was a shame John Wayne never played an out and out bad guy, just once. He came close a few times with his characters being pretty close to the edge in such films as The Searchers (1956) and Red River (1948) but never a complete villain, sadly.
Speaking of John Wayne movies, Bruce Dern was one of the great bad guys of all time in The Cowboys (1972). 

Basically stated, I believe in order to be an especially memorable bad guy that can rank among cinema’s greatest villains, you probably need to have a little of what it takes off-screen, as well. I’m not alone in that belief, either. To quote Lee Marvin himself, as I do often in Lee Marvin Point Blank:

“You know as character actors we play all kinds of sex psychos, nuts, creeps, preverts and weirdoes. And we laugh it off saying what the hell it’s just a character. But deep down inside, it’s you baby.”
 – Dwayne Epstein

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NOVEMBER 2021 ON TCM

November 2021 on TCM is going to be terrific for us Lee Marvin fans. They’ll be showing three of his films and a plethora of other films related to his career. The choices may seem to be a bit of a stretch, but one need merely read Lee Marvin Point Blank to see it’s no stretch at all. The titles below bear this out:

The Rack (1956) Thursday, November 11, 3 a.m.

As Capt. John R. Miller, Lee Marvin perpetrates an ambush on fellow P.O.W. Paul Newman that sets the tone of the film.


Starring Paul Newman in one of his first films, Marvin costars in a small yet important role as a fellow Korean War-era P.O.W. who testifies during Newman’s court-martial for collaborating with the enemy. A similar theme akin to Marvin’s Sergeant Ryker (1968), the film is rather dated but does have its moments, due mainly to the all-star cast. Interesting trivia discovered by yours truly after my book came out but blogged about here.

The Dirty Dozen
(1967) Thursday, November 11, 12:30 p.m.

Composite of scenes from the TCM perennial, THE DIRY DOZEN.


A TCM favorite that is, like The Rack, airing appropriately enough on Veteran’s Day this November 2021. There’s not much more that I can possibly say about this timeless classic that made me a Lee Marvin fan and also hoisted him into the rare atmosphere of superstardom but as my next project suggests, I’m discovering fascinating, unheard of details all the time, so stay tuned!


The Professionals
(1966) Saturday, November 20, 9 a.m. 

The Professionals, 1966.


Not only one of Lee Marvin’s best films, but a solid classic in its own right, The Professionals deserves a much better reputation than its legacy suggests, which means no matter how many times you’ve seen it, you’ll want to see it again…and again, and again. Yeah, it’s that good. See for yourself if you don’t believe me and discover also some behind-the-scene factoids along the way.  

Below are some other films airing November 2021 that have an interesting connection to Lee Marvin’s career:



Out of the Past
(1947) Friday, November 12, 10:30 a.m.

Foreign issue poster for OUT OF THE PAST highlighting the male leads.


Considered by many to be one of, if not the greatest film noir of all time, Marvin would have fit in quite comfortably in this film, although it was made before he launched his acting career. Robert Mitchum stars as a man looking to forget his dubious past but his former gangster boss played by Kirk Douglas ferrets him to find his femme fatale girlfriend played by Jane Greer. Naturally sparks fly and soon all hell breaks lose. Marvin would be right in either role but I’d like to think he’d add and extra something in the Kirk Douglas role. You be the judge.

The French Connection (1971) Saturday, November 13, 5 p.m.

(L-R) Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider and Fernando Rey pictured in the DVD graphic for THE FRENCH CONNECTION.


Quite possibly the best 1970s cop film ever that once again, just gets better with the passage of time. Airing for the film’s 50th anniversary, Gene Hackman earned a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar as Popeye Doyle, a tough cop doggedly determined to bust the biggest heroin ring in NYC history. Based on the real life exploits of Eddie Egan (who, along with partner Sonny Grosso, had supporting roles in the films), it also won the Oscar for Best Picture. All well and good and all properly documented. So, what is it doing in this compendium of Lee Marvin films and themes? I recently discovered that Marvin was considered (among many others) for the lead role. Seriously. Would have been interesting but in all honesty, I’m actually glad he didn’t do it. No one could have been better than Hackman.

The Lineup (1958) Saturday, November 13, 9 p.m.

Original poster for THE LINEUP.


Based on the CBS radio and TV series of the same name, this obscure little thriller pairs Eli Wallach and Robert Keith as a couple of professional criminals looking to retrieve a cache of smuggled heroin. So, once again, why is it mentioned here? The film was directed by the underrated Don Siegel who often provided brilliance on a small budget, such as the similar-themed The Killers (1964) a few years later. Watch the relationship between psychotic Wallach and his mentor Keith and see if it reminds you of Marvin and Clu Gulager. If you do watch it, make sure to check out that slam bang ending!

The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948) Monday, November 15, 1 pm and Saturday, November, 27, 2:45 pm. 

Mostly in shadow, Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt brutally battle big Barton MacLane for the money he owes them.



A classic in its own right, it also stands as one of Lee Marvin’s personal favorite films. And with good reason, as I showed in an earlier blog. Its reputation is well deserved but I’ll add my own two cents. I’ve never really been that big of a Humphrey Bogart fan, depending largely on the film itself. I thought the man came off rather stiff too often. However, when he played characters dangling on the edge of sanity as in The Caine Mutiny (1954) or In A Lonely Place (1950), then he was something to see. No where is that more true than his performance here as Fred C. Dobbs. It’s brilliant.

The Split (1968) Wednesday, November 24, 2:30 p.m. 

Someone forgot to tell Warren Oates to smile as this poster for THE SPLIT suggests.


Hot off the success of The Dirty Dozen, big Jim Brown reteams with fellow Dozen alum Ernest Borgnine and Donald Sutherland in this variation of Point Blank with a fascinating cast and premise. Brown is recently released from prison and is hired by mob boss Julie Harris (!) to rob a football stadium with cohorts Borgnine and Sutherland along with Warren Oates and Jack Klugman. As a typical 60s caper film it fits its time period but the sparks really fly AFTER the caper as the title suggests. Diahann Carroll is Brown’s love interest, Gene Hackman is a crooked cop who wants a piece of the split and James Whitmore is a psychotic sex criminal as crazed as any movie villain can be. Some cast, huh? Point Blank connection aside, check it out for yourself for that powerhouse cast alone!

So, there you have some cinematic goodies and thoughts about them that are airing November 2021 on TCM. Enjoy!

– Dwayne Epstein

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THE DAN BOYD CHRONICLES

The Dan Boyd Chronicles is a podcast geared for seniors and as such, Dan Boyd himself recently approached me to be a guest. At first I wasn’t quite sure how he found me but apparently he discovered my work via social media, LinkedIn to be specific. From there, he requested a connection, contacted me and tld me about his podcast via an applicable link. I checked it out, saw that it and he were legit (you never can tell in this digital day and age), and agreed to participate.

The Dan Boyd Chronicles logo.


I’ve done a few other podcasts as I’ve posted about here previously. The majority of them have included video as well as audio but Dan chose to go simply with an audio interview about my work, focusing on Lee Marvin Point Blank
 I’d like to add that having done such podcasts over the past few years, some of what I’ve said is repeated here, so I chose to do something I had not done before: for the Dan Boyd Chronicles I revealed the status of several upcoming projects for the first time. It may be worth a listen for that reason alone.
  Dan’s a nice guy as he asked me not only about Lee Marvin but a few other actors he said his audience have been curious about, such as the late, great Robert Mitchum and James Coburn. Not one to miss an opportunity to discuss such subjects, I pontificate appropriately. 
  His format is rather interesting in that he starts with some self-penned poetry, segues into our phone conversation (starts around the 11 minute mark) and then ends with a re-broadcast of an old radio drama called Johnny Dollar from 1950 starring the legendary Edmond O’Brien. I thought it pretty cool. So, without and further ado, I give you  Dan Boyd’s Chronicles. Enjoy! 
– Dwayne Epstein

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