The new cover of Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray release of THE ICEMAN COMETH.

Full cover insert to Kino Lorber’s original DVD release of THE ICEMAN COMETH back in 2003.

Kino Lorber, the DVD releasing company, has chosen to release The Iceman Cometh on Blu-Ray as of late last month. The same company had released it on DVD back in 2003 but they must have figured the time was right to update it to the newer technology. As far as any extras go, the Blu-Ray version has the same goodies that the good folks at Kino Lorber had added to the 2003 version.
To put it another way, if you want to know some fascinating, never-befoe-published stories about the making of this criminally underrated classic, then don’t think you’ll find it on the Blu-ray. The best place to find such gold nuggets is between the pages of …that’s right, Lee Marvin Point Blank. What nuggets, you ask? Well, through due diligence (and timing), I was fortunate enough to get interviews with the likes of director John Frankenheimer, co-star Jeff Bridges, and several of the children of Robert Ryan. All of whom told me wonderful and unheard of tales concerning the making of the film.
What kind of stories? Well, you can find out who the other superstar actors who were offered the Lee Marvin role of Hickey that Frankenheimer hoped would say no. You can discover the valuable inside lesson Jeff Bridges learned fro Marvin that they DON’T teach in acting school. Then there’s the very strange and off-putting thing Marvin did the day he met film legend Fredric March, that is according to Cheyney Ryan, Robert Ryan’s son who was there to witness it.
Don’t take my word for it, of course. See the brilliance of Marvin’s performance and the rest of the cast on Kino Lorber’s recent Blu-Ray release and then, for the full story on The Iceman Cometh’s making, read Lee Marvin Point Blank. You won’t be disappointed.
– Dwayne Epstein

On the cover of the now defunct WORLD Magazine, Lee Marvin does his part to promote THE ICEMAN COMETH.

Hard-to-find four record set of the film’s soundtrack. Cool cover, huh?

2-Page spread in 1973’s edition of SCREEN WORLD.





Long before the immediate gratification of information via the internet, and the misinformation that goes with it, there used to be this thing called books, and one particular series that was always worth looking forward to was the latest edition of Screen World. The annual compendium of the previous year’s releases was highly anticipated by yours truly. In fact, being an avid movie fan at a very young age, I can say my library’s acquisition of it was akin to the anticipation I felt when the Fall preview issue of TV Guide came in the mail. Anybody besides me remember that?
The Screen World annuals were produced under the guidance of John Willis, beginning in the 1940s as a sister publication to Theater World, which chronicled the same for the legitmate theater. Unlike contemporary film chronicles, Screen World gave no snarky reviews, cutesy summaries or even box office receipts. It simply showed the year’s releases, with the main cast and crew accompanied by press release photos. As such, it has proven to be a a wonderful time-tested archive of film history.
Take the year 1973, for example. I chose this year as it was my personal favorite of year of U.S. film releases.

Dust jacket for SCREEN WORLD 1974 which illustrated the releases of the previous year.

Luckily, for the purposes of this blog, it also proved to be a very good year for Lee Marvin. Working on Lee Marvin Point Blank and having the majority of each year’s copy of Screen World helped me to get the exact month of his film’s releases and as the two examples below bear out, Emperor of the North Pole and The Iceman Cometh are two of Marvin’s best. The production of both films, by the way, are detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank, of course. Screen World had other features of note, such as illustrious obits, foreign films, actors to watch, and bio data for pretty much every living actor at the time. May not seem like much now, but back before the web and undocumented ‘wikis’ it was a treasure trove of information. As shown below…..

Screen World’s entry on Emperor of the North Pole.

The Iceman Cometh’s release a few months later as shown in Screen World.



Several folks have told me that the stories of some of my encounters in researching Lee Marvin: Point Blank are worthy of a book itself. Well, with that in mind, I’ve decided to recount some of those adventures periodically via this blog. First up, the late, great film and TV director, John Frankenheimer. L.A. Times film critic Charles Champlin graciously put me in contact with Frankenheimer of whom whose films I have been a fan of, such as The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May, Bird Man of Alcatraz and especially the underrated Seconds.
Getting the interview itself was somewhat rocky as schedule conflicts, traffic, and unfortunate events kept cropping up on both ends. Yet, I persevered. In doing so I learned a basic rule of thumb that a researcher can really do nothing about but grit one’s teeth and sally forth. Works like this: If the subject is amenable and easy to get along with, then whoever you must come in contact with in their sphere is almost always the opposite, i.e. managers/agents/assistant/Gal Fridays, etc. Since Frankenheimer was ultimately a wonderful interview, you can guess what his assistant was like. She’ll remain nameless out of respect, but geez, did she put me through the wringer!
As for Frankenheimer, he could not have been more forthcoming with wonderful heretofore unknown tales of working with Marvin in both early live television and in the mammoth undertaking of filming Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh with Marvin in the starring role as Hickey. I had no idea that both Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando were up for the role which Frankenheimer savored with delight in recounting how glad he was that Marvin played it. There were other revelations, of course, but you have to read the book to discover those.

Director John Frankenheimer (left) with Lee Marvin on the set of The Iceman Cometh (1973).

Director John Frankenheimer (left) with Lee Marvin on the set of The Iceman Cometh (1973).

Here’s the interesting part. The interview was conducted in his temporary offices for the editing and promotion of his then latest project, the cable movie he directed about Andersonville. As such, the quarters were rather cramped with narrow hallways throughout to connect the trailer-like buildings. As for Frankenheimer himself, he had a striking a presence, with a resonant voice, tinged with a slight New England accent and a broad-shouldered build well over six feet, more than enough to intimidate my scrawny little 5 foot 6 frame. I was not surprised to find out later that he had originally wanted to be an actor. He could have been quite successful with his massive frame and impressive bearing.
All this is stated to set the scene. The interview over, we shook hands. said our goodbyes and I make a quick trip to the restroom before going out to my car for the long trek home on the 405. As I turned the corner on the way out, Frankenheimer was turning the narrow corner towards me. With no one else around at the time, he seized the moment to put the final punctuation on our conversation.

As he looked when I met with him, from the L.A. Times obituary of John Frankenheimer.

As he looked when I met with him, from the L.A. Times obituary of John Frankenheimer.

His massive hand jutted out just slight below my throat to slam me against the wall. Pinned like a butterfly, allI I could do was stare at him. Doing that very theatrical thing that tough guys like to do in movies, he looked away from me, sniffed the air slightly and said, “You’re not going to take any cheap shots in your book,” then looked directly at me to add, “Are you?” In my head I was saying,”That’s none of your business, buddy!” What came out of my mouth was, “Of course not, Mr. Frankenheimer, sir.” He held me there a few seconds more, staring me down, and then, finally released me. I slid down the wall slightly, checked my neck to make sure it was still there and then sheepishly left to my car. I tried like hell to look as masculine as possible, but I think I looked as masculine as Don Knotts. As I drove home I kept thinking to myself, “Are all the interviews gonna go like this and is it worth it?” The answer would take me months and even years to discover.