NETFLIX CONTROVERSY IS HARDLY NEW

Netflix, the online streaming service, has been embroiled in controversy for the last several years involving some of its original programming’s ability to be deemed valid as a cinematic achievement. In short, should a project made for online streaming be judged worthy of cinematic awards just because it played briefly in theaters to qualify for award season? It began mostly when Netflix won the Best Picture Oscar last year for the film Roma.
It’s a strange conundrum to be sure but the fact of the matter is the controversy is NOT a new one. Matter of fact, it dates back to the early 1960s.

Theatrical poster for the made-for-TV movie (the first!) THE KILLERS, released in theaters worldwide.

Not an identical scenario, I grant you that, but pretty similar. Meant to be the first ever TV-movie, director Don Siegel’s remake of The Killers, was made on a shoestring budget (and it shows) and was the brainchild of media mogul, Lew Wasserman. The film’s femme fatale, Angie Dickinson, told me that Wasserman came up with the idea by stating, “Why should we keep doling out good money to the studios for their films when we at the networks can make our own!” She paraphrased it but you get the point.
Good idea, right? It did, of course, catch on in time but this first effort fell victim to bad timing. Just as it was about to go into production, Kennedy was assassinated. With the country still in a state of shock even after the production was finished, the network thought the concept, let alone the name, too violent to air on TV and chose instead to release it in theaters. All of which, including exclusive interviews with most of the cast, can be read about in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

Blind receptionist Virginia Christie is terrorized by title character Lee Marvin in THE KILLERS in the opening  scene making the point  it was too violent for TV in the wake of JFK’s death.

Now, with the Netflix production of The Irishman sure to be up for a slew of awards, including the Oscars, the question again is raised…but once again, not so fast in terms of this being the first time of such an occurrence. When The Killers was released overseas in 1965, the British Academy of Film Awards (BAFTA) named the winner that year for Best Actor in a Foreign Film won for two films: one was Cat Ballou and the other was, that’s right, The Killers. The actor of course was Lee Marvin who gladly accepted, despite his very publicly known dislike of the medium of television.
Netflix controversy? Everything old is new again.
– Dwayne Epstein

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POLITICALLY INCORRECT LEE MARVIN

Politically incorrect is not something most celebrities would want on their resume’ but it was something Lee Marvin had no trouble with, at all. Granted, it wasn’t bandied about as much in his time as it is today, but it was certainly witnessed in his work, almost from the beginning.
Being politically incorrect, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “Not avoiding language or behavior that could offend a particular group of people.” In researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, I quickly discovered a few examples of such behavior in the subject, and the subject was usually women. Wouldn’t always be a matter of the language used by his characters so much as his extreme behavior, most notably….
The Big Heat

The attitude of Vince Stone toward his annoying girlfriend is shown building to a painful climax in Fritz Lang’s THE BIG HEAT (1952).

As bad guy Vince Stone, a glimpse of his attitude towards women is shown early on when he stubs his cigarette out in Carolyn Jones’ hand. The worst is yet to come when he throws a pot of scalding hot coffee in girlfriend Gloria Grahame’s face. Fear not, as she gets her revenge before the film ends.

The Killers

Terrorizing Angie Dickinson in THE KILLERS.

Throughout director Don Siegel’s classic remake the violence comes fast and furious from the very beginning. Lee Marvin’s Charlie Strom terrorizes a school for the blind and later, wreaks havoc on femme fatale, Angie Dickinson. As the actress told this writer, “Oh but I had it coming.”

 

Ship of Fools

Vivienne Leigh drives home her point to Lee Marvin in their heated debate concerning women’s shoe styles in Stanley Kramer’s SHIP OF FOOLS.

Mistaking the aging Vivien Leigh for an onboard prostitute, drunken Marvin grabs and kisses the embittered ‘past-her-prime’ beauty until he shockingly realizes his mistake. She helps him realize the mistake by beating him to a pulp with the heel of her shoe.
The legend is that Marvin kept very few mementos from his career, but he kept that shoe out of his deep respect for Vivien Leigh.
There are of course several other examples of such behavior (on screen and off) and it was not always limited to the ladies. For better or for worse, when it came to being politically incorrect, Lee Marvin was the shining beacon on the hill.
– Dwayne Epstein

 

 

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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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