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 more 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  I am 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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UNTOLD TALES ABOARD THE SHIP OF FOOLS

Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are well aware of the very strange events that took place during the making of 1965’s Ship of Fools. If you haven’t read it, then by all means, please do so as you’re in for quite a surprise! I was fortunate to interview such participants as Producer/Director Stanley Kramer and others who told unimagined tales of the film’s strange production.

Original ad for Ship of Fools with critics praising the individual performances, even if Christianne Schmidtmer's is a little less lofty.

Original ad for Ship of Fools with critics praising the individual performances, even if Christianne Schmidtmer’s is a little less lofty.

With such a huge and eclectic cast, strange events are bound to happen and I couldn’t get them all in the book. Such as this little anecdote from Lee’s then wife, Betty:

A p.r. still of Lee Marvin for Ship of Fools looking strangely like Boris Karloff.

A p.r. still of Lee Marvin for Ship of Fools looking strangely like Boris Karloff.

“Here’s a very good example. Who was that wonderful dwarf? Michael Dunn? Yes! Michael came over. They had done Ship Of Fools together. The only one to dance with me….He’d put his head in my belly. Lee didn’t mind but he thought it looked funny. Michael always wanted to hold hands with me. Michael was also a wonderful sculptor. Michael came through my studio one time. I think he took the wrong door. He came through my studio. He was like this little wild rooster. He saw this one piece and he fell in love with it. He brought it in. ‘I love this. Who did this?’ Lee said, ‘I don’t know. Where did you get it?’ I’m very modest. I know I may not seem that way but it when it comes to my work,..so, I said, ‘Michael, it’s mine.’ I also had a sculpting studio. So the two of us went out. He’s molding this wonderful head and..we had the best time. It lasted about two hours. It was very funny.”

Lee Marvin on the railing with costar Vivien Leigh in what would be her last film.

Lee Marvin on the railing with costar Vivien Leigh in what would be her last film.

This anecdote, told to me by costar Barbara Luna is a hoot. Sorry it didn’t make it in the book but that which did make the cut, is even better!

“One afternoon, Lee called me into his dressing room and he proceeded to give me a pep talk. I mean, a pep talk! He was a bit inebriated. He was angry with me. He was angry with me because..well, I realized later that he was projecting because, often times, if you’re not where you want to be as a human being, you recognize it easily in others. He started to tell me that I was not doing with my talent what I ought to be doing. I wanted to hear it but I didn’t want a lecture at that moment. Yet, I admired him dearly for doing it and wanting to do it because he cared enough. After about maybe 45 minutes to an hour, I thought ‘Geez!’ I could see that he was really tipsy. I tried to get up to leave and…

Actress Barbara Luna as she looked in Ship of Fools.

Actress Barbara Luna as she looked in Ship of Fools.

He wasn’t flirting with me. Not by any means. He was seriously giving me a pep talk about why I am not utilizing my talent….I think maybe the biggest culprit was because it took him so long to get his career off the ground. I think he just identified so strongly with my talent or what ever it was. He was identifying strongly. I finally couldn’t sit there any longer and plus, I probably had to get out on stage. He wouldn’t let me out! I was starting to get peeved. So, I finally got out the door. He probably turned his back for a second. He chased me! Now he was really drunk. Oh, he chased me around the stage! What stopped him, finally, he was barreling after people. He got his foot caught in you know, those butt buckets? They’re bucket they keep around for cigarettes. He tripped and he got his foot caught in one. Then he really got mad. He started to run with the bucket, I must have..Maybe I ran out the door. I don’t know where I ran. Everybody was sitting around because we had to be there everyday. Simone Signoret and Vivian Leigh and..So, that’s my biggest memory of Lee. It was so funny. You know how he was.”

Lee as Bill Tenney in Ship Of Fools, as he also looked when he cornered Barbara Luna.

Lee as Bill Tenney in Ship Of Fools, as he also looked when he cornered Barbara Luna.

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