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

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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

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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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IN MEMORY OF ROD TAYLOR, MY COMPLETE 1995 INTERVIEW

Sadly, the ranks continue to thin as we recently lost the great and shamefully underrated, Rod Taylor. Since he had worked with Lee Marvin in Raintree County, I was fortunate enough to secure and interview with him back in July of 1995. Most of the wonderful anecdotes he told me went into the text of Lee Marvin: Point Blank, but in tribute to him, I’ve reposted the entire interview below, complete and unedited. The reason is simple. He was a genuinely nice guy who had no illusions, ego or airs about himself, or the amazing work that he did. I think that shows in the transcript below so I’ll allow his words to speak for him. Rest in Peace, Mr. Taylor. We shall not see your like again…..

Initial script reading for Raintree County with from the left: Screenwriter Millard Kaufman, Lee Marvin, director Edward Dymtryk, Eva Marie Saint, Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, producer David Lewis, and costars Jarma Lewis, Nigel Patrick and Rod Taylor.

Initial script reading for Raintree County with from the left: Screenwriter Millard Kaufman, Lee Marvin, director Edward Dymtryk, Eva Marie Saint, Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, producer David Lewis, and costars Jarma Lewis, Nigel Patrick and Rod Taylor.

Dwayne: Thanks for getting back to me. I really, appreciate it.
Rod: I wanted to apologize again for not getting back to you sooner but the fucking note pad that had your number on it got misplaced somewhere.
D: Don’t worry about it. I’m sorry I had to run this morning but you started to tell me some anecdotes about working with Lee Marvin.
R: Yes, well like I said, I don’t know how much help I can be because I don’t remember that much. I do have some interesting anecdotes about working with Lee. He had a great sense of humor.
D: Almost everybody I’ve spoken to has said that to me. He must have been something.
R: (Laughs) Yeah, well Lee, and I, used to say we must have had a fucking ball because we don’t remember a thing.
D: I’m guessing you guys must have imbibed a time or two.
R: Those were the days when you could drink like that and still function the next day for work. What was the name of that musical he made?
D: Paint Your Wagon?
R: Yes. He told me he didn’t remember making the entire film. He even sang a song with a monotone. He didn’t remember a thing about it.
D: You worked with him on Raintree County. I know there was lot of problems on that but do you remember what it was like working with him then?

Rod Taylor as Garwood P. Jones & Lee Marvin as Orville "Flash" Perkins

Rod Taylor as Garwood P. Jones & Lee Marvin as Orville “Flash” Perkins

R: Well, the problems were because of Monty Clift’s terrible accident. The studio wanted to make a big budget return to an old type of movie. When you called I was trying to think of some stories and I do remember this one time when we shooting in Kentucky. Monty was with Liz taking their time on a scene working so the rest of us weren’t really needed. Lee and I and another actor, a British actor named Nigel Patrick..
D: He played the Professor.
R: Wow, what a memory. Anyway we were floating down this murky backwater swamp with a still photographer named Bob…
D: Willoughby.
R: Now how the fuck did you know that?
D: He published a book of his work called “The Platinum Years.”
R: He lives in Ireland now if you want to reach him. I think there’s a publicist named Jim Mahoney who knows how to contact him.
D: I’ve been in touch with him. He used to be Lee Marvin’s publicist.
R: Yeah, he was mine, too. He would know how to reach him. Anyway, so Lee and I with Nigel and Bob went on this picnic. Now I’m from Australia and have some knowledge about waters and what not. Bob accidentally dropped this very expensive camera into the water. Everyone looked to the fucking swimming champ. I jumped into this murky water to look for the camera. I looked and looked. Nothing. Lee put down his tall, frosty mint julep, cut through the water like a knife and brought up the camera as if guided by the hand of god while I sputtered and choked on the swamp water.
D: That’s amazing. How did he get along with everyone?
R: Oh, he got along fine. The thing you had to appreciate about him was his sense of humor. He had a great sense of humor but it could be very caustic because it was based on total honesty. I used to work over at Revue and I would see him there becuase he did a show, what was it “M-Squad”? It later became Four Star when David Niven built it. That’s where I made The Time Machine.
D: I love that movie. That’s one of my favorite movies from my childhood.
R: Yeah, it’s held up well over the years.
D: Do you remember any examples of his humor?
R: Not off hand, unfortunately. There was a story you may have heard because it’s been around so long.
D: You never can tell. Which story is it?
R: Somebody, I think it was a casting director asked him what he had done lately. This casting director asked Marvin, “What have you done lately?,” and Marvin responded immediately, “About what?”
D: (Laughing) That’s a great line.
R: That’s the  kind of sense of humor he had.
D: How did he get along with Montgomery Clift?
R: Well, to tell you the truth, they didn’t work that much. I think he felt like I did and felt sorry for him. Lee didn’t socialize much with him. I did that and I was the one who had dinner with him and got mashed potatoes thrown in my hair.
D: Yeah, I heard that Clift did some really bizarre things. Did they get along? I ask because I know they had several scenes together…
R: Lee got along with everybody. People respected Lee for his honesty, his acting ability and he was his own man.

On location in Danville, Kentucky are from the left: Rod Taylor, Nigel Patrick, director Edward Dmytryk (standing), Elizabth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Marvin, Agnes Moorehead and Walter Abel.

On location in Danville, Kentucky are from the left: Rod Taylor, Nigel Patrick, director Edward Dmytryk (standing), Elizabth Taylor, Montgomery Clift, Eva Marie Saint, Lee Marvin, Agnes Moorehead and Walter Abel.

D: Do you remember the last time you saw him?
R: Well, I didn’t see him much but I think I saw him in Malibu after the break up of his marriage and that whole mess. I took Lee’s side so I didn’t talk to Betty.
D: Did he ever talk to you about that?
R: Lee understood that to be a private matter and kept it private so I never asked. I know he moved to Arizona when he was smoking too much. But I didn’t see him much after that.
D: One last question. Do you know anybody else I can contact for a possible interview?
R: Have you spoken to Toshiro Mifune?
D: No, But I’d love to.
R: Mifune loved Lee. I had heard a story but it’s third person so you would have to get it confirmed. During Hell in the Pacific, when Lee was up in the tree and was supposed to pee on him, Mifune wouldn’t do the scene unless Marvin really pissed on him. Wouldn’t use water or a double. He told Lee to go drink some beer and come back to do the scene.
D: (Laughs) I know some people who would pay good money for that now. Hugh Grant comes to mind. I’m sorry, that’s a cheap joke.
R: That’s okay. I’ll tell you somebody else you can talk to.The guy who does that show “Walker, Texas Ranger.” He’s a real fucking asshole, though, nothing but ego.
D: Chuck Norris? Yeah, I’ve heard that but it’s part of the job. I’ve talked to all kinds of people. I don’t have a problem with that. I also just remembered something. I read that you worked with Paul Newman in The Rack. Is that true or is that a misprint?
R: No, that’s a misprint. I did audition for Somebody Up There Likes Me. They thought I was a Brooklyn kid.
D: Well, you pulled the accent off well in The Catered Affair. That’s also a favorite movie of mine.
R: Thank you very much. You really are a movie fan.
– END.
-Dwayne Epstein

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RAINTREE COUNTY: RARE PIX AND QUOTES

Since TCM  will be airing Raintree County this weekend, it proved to be a perfect opportunity to post some rare images and quotes concerning the mammoth 1957 Civil War era production, but with a distinct emphasis on Lee Marvin’s contribution to it.

Based on the popular novel by Ross Lockridge, Jr., Raintree County was another one of the films Marvin thought would bring him wider recognition, espcially since he knew his performance was a standout. Unfortunately, the film’s failure made Marvin’s breakout status an impossiblity. Cast as Orville ‘Flash’ Perkins — The Fastest Man in Raintree County — Marvin practically stole the film as the brash, small-town braggart who matures into a war-hardened veteran.

Whenever Marvin would begin a role, he spent an inordinate amount of time just sitting and thinking about his character. Below, with his hair dyed red for the film, Marvin is shown doing just that on the porch of his California beach house….

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Still photographer Bob Willioughby was onset to capture the film’s production, such as this image of Marvin & co-star Montgomery Clift (pre-car accident) waiting on a soundstage to shoot the saloon scene….

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The film also had many locations throughout the southern United States and location shooting meant curious onlookers. When one such young lady brought her dog to watch the shooting, Marvin reacted approrpriately…

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Bob Willoughby also was there when the filming included this action-packed scene of Marvin (far right) capturing a Confederate officer played by future Star Trek stalwart DeForest Kelley (left, in uniform). The Willoughby images were part of his 1974 coffee table book, The Platinum Years, and is highly reccommended….

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As previously stated, Marvin’s portrayal of ‘Flash’ Perkins goes through a remarkable transformation during the course of the film as he weaves in and out of story. When first seen, he is brash and bold as a 19th century dandy…..

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Later in the film, he is a renegade Union soldier, a ‘Bummer’ whose expression goes a long to explain the character’s growth…..

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During the lengthy research of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I was extremely fortunate to  interview many of the important people involved in making Raintree County, including director Edward Dmytryk, screenwriter Millard Kaufman, costar Rod Taylor, and Terry Swindol, a Danville Kenutcky resident who witnessed the filming. All of what they related to me went into the book, but a few choice tidbits remained unsued for various reasons. What follows are several such anecdotes all concerning Lee Marvin:
Rod Taylor
The thing you had to appreciate about him was his sense of humor. He had a great sense of humor but it could be very caustic because it was based on total honesty. I used to work over at Revue and I would see him there because he did the show, what was it “M-Squad”? Revue became Four Star when David Niven built it. That’s where I made The Time Machine. There was a story you may have heard because it’s been around so long. Somebody, I think it was a casting director asked Lee Marvin, “What have you done lately?,” and Marvin responded immediately, “About what?” (laughs) That’s the  kind of sense of humor he had.

Millard Kaufman
He was extremely helpful. Let me tell you about one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen on screen that was all Lee. There’s a scene in the picture…First of all, I think it was not a very good picture. The casting was great. The direction was terrible and my script wasn’t very good. My script wasn’t very good because I fell in love with the book. It went over a 1,000 pages. I had too much of it in there. I did not follow what Somerset Maughm said: “Find your theme and stick to it it like grim death.” I went off in all directions. I had found grim death. Anyway…Well, one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever seen on screen is in that picture. There’s a scene of a foot race. Monty could not run ten feet without stumbling over his feet. He was so awkward and so uncoordinated most of the time. He used this sort of things on screen, the way he would weave and fool around. He looked like he was almost autistic at times. But, it worked for him. He was sympathetic and charming, in his own way. This time, which called for sheer athleticism…nothing! Lee faked running in such a way that made Monty not only win the race, but look good doing it. That was all Lee. You say in any sport you can’t teach speed. Well, it’s even harder tot teach someone slowing up, which is somehow what Lee did. There was no slow motion or anything. It was brilliant. It looked like a hell of a race….[Lee] had this tremendous lust for life which made him kind of larger than life, and I think that spilled over into everything he did. You got a feeling that this was a very big and powerful and important person, as an actor and a man.

Terry Swindol
All the people who met Lee Marvin said he was really “down to earth.” Apparently, he was one of those people who never met a stranger. A story I especially like tells that somewhere in Danville, Kentucky today is a coffee table with a chip off the corner. It has stayed in this home with the same family since Lee Marvin visited the home during the making of Raintree County. After dinner, he was acting out a story about a play he had done and his boot caught the coffee table and broke off the corner. He was so apologetic and told the family to buy a new coffee table and send him the bill. They never did, and they refuse to get rid of the broken one because of the pleasant memory of Marvin in their home.

Betty Marvin [Lee’s first wife, whose former employer had been Joan Crawford]
At the the premiere, Lee and I were lined up. Big joke in those days. So there we were, and who’s behind us? Joan Crawford. She, in her wonderful style, looks right through me. Because Lee was like the next big star on the horizon and on, and on…She wants him to co-star in her next film and would he please read the script and set up an appointment at MCA. She calls the next day. Talks right through me. “Is Lee there? Why don’t you come in. We’ll go over the script in my office and read it together.” He said, “Okay.” He left about one o’clock. You know, I was a young wife. It made me very uncomfortable. What’s going on here? The whole afternoon, it was difficult for me. When he came back, he was laughing. I said, “How did he go? Are you going to co-star with Joan Crawford?” He said, “Oh, hardly.” I asked if he read the script. He was a very slow reader, as I told you. He had went into a room with the script and she was waiting. After about two hours, she said, “Well?” He said, “Listen, it takes a long time to get through this crap.” (laughs) Once again, you know? He was like, “Give me a break.” Oh, she was livid! That was Lee’s lovely way. And I’m not saying out of respect for me. He didn’t like her crappy script because she was doing a lot of garbage. It was just interesting.

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