Delta Force, the U.S. Army’s highly trained Special Operations unit, was recently in the news following the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on October 26th. Navy Seal Team Six did the deed on Osama Bin-Laden but it was Delta Force that was responsible for ending the life of al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria. Trapped in a tunnel with his three children, he detonated an explosive device in his vest that killed him and his offspring.
The special mission was months in the planning but raises the question, what does any of this have to do with Lee Marvin? Fans of the actor and/or readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank know that it was Marvin’s final theatrical film.
Lee Marvin as Colonel Nick Alexander in his final film, DELTA FORCE (1986).
A recent online article recounted the unit’s history beginning in 1977 and the cinematic re-creations since then, including Black Hawk Down(2001).
I was not previously aware of the unit’s illustrious history, nor did I include it in the book, as I consider it a career low point for the actor. He was on the money as usual, if a little tired looking. Consequently, it could have been a better project had it included some of the facts mentioned in the article. The reviews at the time were more polite than the film deserved but suffice to say, Col. Charles Beckwith’s legendary unit deserves better cinematic treatment than the Chuck Norris live-action comic book gave it.
I did of course give the film adequate mention and was fortunate to interview co-star Robert Vaughn, who had most of his screen time with Marvin. His take on the experience is well-worth the read. In the mean time, here are some choice reviews….
– Dwayne Epstein
Reviews for DELTA FORCE at the time of its release from The L.A. Times, Variety and Herald Examiner.
In 2007 it was The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. In 2011 it was The Big Heat. Those have been all of the films of Lee Marvin that have been named to the National Film Registry… and he was the lead in neither film! FINALLY, the trend may have changed if you check number 14 of this year’s additions, discovered thanks to the vigilance of diehard Lee Marvin fan Chris Gower. But first, a cut & pasted article from Varietyonline by James Rainey, Dec. 14, 2016 that explains the process…
Anybody wanna guess which film? The Dirty Dozen? Monte Walsh? The Klansman?
“With the addition of 25 new films — including “The Birds,” “The Lion King,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Thelma & Louise” — the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress now includes 700 films that span more than a century.
The 2016 inductees into the registry include movies long considered classics, obscure documentaries and films once too racy or avant-garde to be accepted by the mainstream. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden made the selections after consulting with a panel of experts who make up the National Film Preservation Board.
Congress established the registry in 1988 with the National Film Preservation Act of 1988 — requiring the Library of Congress to designate and preserve films that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant. Films must be at least 10 years old to be chosen.
[….] “Motion pictures document our history and culture and serve as a mirror of our collective experiences,” Hayden said, in announcing the new film entrees. “The National Film Registry embraces the richness and diversity of film as an art form and celebrates the people who create the magic of cinema.” An alphabetical listing of the films newly joining the joining the registry this year:
1. Atomic Cafe (1982)
2. Ball of Fire (1941)
3. The Beau Brummels (1928)
4. The Birds (1963)
5. Blackboard Jungle (1955)
6. The Breakfast Club (1985)
7. The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)
8. East of Eden (1955)
9. Funny Girl (1968)
10. The Lion King (1994)
11. Lost Horizon (1937)
12. Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912)
13. Paris Is Burning (1990) 14. Point Blank (1967) 15. The Princess Bride (1987)
16. Putney Swope (1969)
17. Rushmore (1998)
18. Solomon Sir Jones films (1924-28)
19. Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
20. Suzanne, Suzanne (1982)
21. Thelma & Louise (1991)
22. Time and Dreams (1976)
23. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916)
24. A Walk in the Sun (1945)
25. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Heavens Gate. Ishtar. Waterworld. Paint Your Wagon. Paint Your Wagon? Not so fast. Most film fans logically include Lee Marvin’s 1969 musical into the list of notorious big budget Hollywood flops, but does it really belong there? The production of the other aforementioned films certainly do as they were written about in great detail while they were being made and, once released, had the singular appeal of watching a car accident in slow motion. However, the same could be said of Apocalypse Now,Titanic and even Avatar. The difference of course being that the finished product proved all the naysayers wrong. It’s quite possible that a revised opinion is due for Paint Your Wagon, as well. I watched it again last night and while it’s true that the film’s plot is rather weak and the leads can’t really sing, in the final analysis, does that matter if the overall impact of the film is wildly entertaining? The production of the film is recounted in Lee Marvin: Point Blank by those who were there but the film itself still could be re-evaluted in the less harsh light of hindsight.
It was this thought that had me re-checking the reviews of the film when it was first released and the results were surprising. Of course all the critics mentioned the budget (both as an asset AND a deterrent) but the reviews were actually not nearly as scathing as the films reputation might suggest. Below are the actual reviews from 3 of the biggest trade reviewers of the time: The Hollywood Reporter, Variety and The New York Times. As with most critics, though, they also find it neccessary to give away waaaay too much of the film’s content, a habit I abhor! The usually cranky Vincent Canby of the Times proved to be the most surpring of all. So, as Shakespeare would say, read on McDuff!….
Paint Your Wagon review in The Hollywood Reporter
Paint Your Wagon review in Variety
Paint Your Wagon review in The New York Times by Vincent Canby