DVD COMMENTARY…..ANYONE?

DVD commentary seems to be the one aspect saving the ongoing production of such entities from extinction. Since most folks involved in the production of classic films are long gone, it has become the realm of film historians to fill-in the requisite details for said DVD commentary. As the author of Lee Marvin: Point Blank, I have been sought out on occassion to participate in such a capacity.

THE KILLERS

New artwork for the 2014 Blu-Ray re-release of THE KILLERS. My mention is on the left within “Special Edition Contents.”

First up was for the UK Blu-Ray release of The Killers. I wrote about the experience shortly after it took place as linked above. What I didn’t mention was the fact that I came home that night only to discover that my fiancee’s father had died. Talk about bittersweet. As to the on-camera interview itself, I thought it went well, other than my being seated in the sunlight so I came off my washed out than usual. Oh, well. I guess the good folks at Arrow Academy are not James Wong Howe.

SHIP OF FOOLS

Blu Ray cover for the UK re-release of Ship of Fools last year.

When a new release of extras was being put together for Stanley Kramer’s Ship Of Fools, I was also contacted. Once again, it was the UK but the results were quite different in that my research was used in place of my fat face.

Accompanying booklet to the DVD in which my work was utilized.

A few misused statements discovered after the fact aside, I think the results were very well done. I certainly hope they call again as the experience was wonderful. I don’t know the price tag but I can tell you that one thing the foreign release of DVDs have over the American ones are the extras in the booklets which are quite breathtaking in both of the DVDs I was involved in. One more example….
THE MECHANIC

The Mechanic DVD cover with yours truly mentioned in the bottom left corner under “American Samurai.”

Once again, Europe beckoned and I did an on-camera interview for the French release of Charles Bronson’s The Mechanic. German video documentarian Robert Fischer contacted me about it when he learned of my planned next bio (more on that later). We taped it at a friend’s house that he knew in Hollywood and again, I think it went well as I crammed like crazy a few days before to make sure I had enough relevant things to talk about. The end result was an absolutely beautiful package put together in French but containing outstanding graphics and visuals. Seriously. Makes Criterion’s packaging look like the old Goodtime Video Public Domain VHS tapes.
My question (and the point of this blog) is this: I’m grateful to the European folks who asked for my input when it comes to DVD commentary but how come I haven’t been approached by any American DVD distributors to do the same? My book has been out there for some time and new releases of Lee Marvin films still crop up. So, why the crickets in the background? Weird.
Whatever the reason, let it be known that as the title of this blog states, I’m available and my treasure trove of knowledge is always documented. I wouldn’t do it any other way. When it comes to such things, as Lee himself would say, Semper Fi.
-Dwayne Epstein

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HELPING OUT THE SHIP OF FOOLS BLU-RAY RELEASE

So, last December, I get this private message request concerning my Lee Marvin research, specifically, what I may have on the making of Ship of Fools.The conversation went,
“Hi, Dwayne Epstein: A colleague of mine is looking for material for the booklet for the upcoming Blu-ray of Ship of Fools, and he wondered if you had turned up anything during your research into Lee Marvin’s career?”  Having interviewed the likes of Producer/Director Stanley Kramer and co-stars Barbara Luna and Christiana Schmidtmer for that section of Lee Marvin Point Blank, the answer of course was a resounding YES! The company and people involved were in the UK which, if this was proposed years ago, would have taken a lot longer to accomplish.
Anyway, contact was made, my files were rifled through, and the fruits of my unseen research will be available starting February 26th, both here and across the pond.

Cover of the new Blu-ray release of Stanley Kramer’s, SHIP OF FOOLS.

I went through my research archives, found the gems I mentioned above, and then tweaked it for publication. I turned everything over via e-mail and left it for the good folks working on the project to decide what to use. A portion of the results are seen below….

My credit seen in the booklet accompanying the Blu-ray release of SHIP OF FOOLS.

A sample of what my research unearthed for the Blu-ray special edition.

…and in closing. If you want more, you’ll have to get the DVD.

I have to add, one of the things that doesn’t get mentioned enough about this film has to do with where it fits in the canon of Marvin’s career. To put it another way, his legacy is one of being American cinema’s premier badass, who’s contemporaries include the likes of Charles Bronson, Steve McQueen, the older John Wayne and the like. Could it be imagined that any of them would have co-starred in a film like this and play such a character as the washed-up, bigoted, anti-intellectual ballplayer, Bill Tenney? Personally, I don’t think so. To put it plain, Lee Marvin was one of cinema’s great action stars but he was also an actor’s actor: professionally trained at the American Theater Wing and a veteran of many a stage play and countless live performances during TV’s golden age. He put his time in, that’s for sure. Pretty sure those who followed in his wake (Chuck Norris, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason Statham come to mind) couldn’t make the same claim. In the mean time, anybody have a Blu-ray player I can borrow?
-Dwayne Epstein

Lee Marvin, as washed-up ballplayer Bill Tenney, struggles to absorb the advice being given to him by Michael Dunn.

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LEE MARVIN & THE LADIES: ROMANCE?

The allegations against Harvey Weinstein are far from being considered a ‘romance’ but what is it called if flirtations or mutual feelings develop between costars? For Lee Marvin, who only had true romantic leads opposite female costars in only a handful films, the known results of a possible romance are three, based on my research. Of course, there may even be more as Marvin knew the meaning of discretion. As Betty Marvin told me, he was known to have fallen off the fidelity during their marriage but it was never anything one would consider a romance.
Who were the known three? Well, Lee Marvin Point Blank readers know with as much details as I was able to get.

Co-star Barbara Luna at the time she appeared in SHIP OF FOOLS.

Prior to my research, most Lee Marvin fans only knew the version of how he an Michele Triola met on the set of Ship of Fools based on what she told the media leading up to the palimony suit. The truth, however, as witnessed by such participants as Barbara Luna and friend Ralph O’Hara, is VERY different and exclusively documented in my research.

Lee and Michelle shortly after they began dating during SHIP OF FOOLS.

Then of course there’s the amazing Angie Dickinson. I was extremely fortunate enough to spend the day with her during my research and the results were fascinating. She worked with Lee more than any other actress, and to my mind, that was no accident (M Squad, The Killers, Point Blank, Death Hunt, and several Bob Hope TV specials).

Lee and Angie in THE KILLERS, their first film together.

I can’t really add anything here to what I already wrote in the book, other than the surprising results of an interview I considered a holy grail and was forewarned about by the A&E Biography producers. It was how I finally met her in-person and was told she wasn’t very forthcoming for their purposes. Naturally, that made me a little reticent when I finally sat down with here, especially since I wasn’t sure if there were aspects about her life & career that may put her off, such as the JFK assassination that happened just prior to The Killers. Believe it or not, she did indeed open up about that period, at least to the extent that it had to do with the project and Lee. Everything that she told me went in the book, or later, posted here in a previous blog entry. The only thing I can add is what Christopher Marvin told me off-the-record that I can now post here. He volunteered the following encapsulation: “Angie and my dad…WOW!” He didn’t elaborate of course, but truth be told, I  didn’t think he had to.
Lastly, there was a costar who proved to be not only Lee Marvin’s one true moment of onscreen romance, but even more so offscreen. Marvin went out of his way to get the actress to agree to costar with him and when she relented after he came to Paris, the results were true sparks in front of and behind the camera…

Contact sheet images of Jeanne Moreau and Lee Marvin while making MONTE WALSH.

The images from onset candid photographs included here tell the story better than any words can possibly convey. The look on Lee’s face as he talks to her, the way she brushes  his hair back, even the fact that they are completely oblivious to director William Fraker walking behind them, says volumes.

Jeanne Moreau brushes Marvin’s hair back while they speak.

MONTE WALSH director William Fraker walks behind Marvin & Moreau completely unobserved.

Costars such as Mitch Ryan and others were aware of the chemistry between the two stars, as were some of Marvin’s closest confidantes. In fact, when Marvin surprised his associates by announcing his marriage to Woodstock’s Pam Feeley after the film wrapped, the biggest surprised was that it wasn’t Moreau. According to Mitch Ryan, they actually discussed it but as Ryan said, Marvin didn’t want to move to Paris: “Can you see me living in Paris?” he told him.
Since Moreau proved to be his most romantic leading lady onscreen, and their scenes together are some of the best in the film, it does make you wonder: What would have happened if he had more romance onscreen than gunplay? Sadly, we’ll never ever know.
– Dwayne Epstein

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