Smoke Wagon Blues Band, a veteran Canadian blues band has a new album entitled “The Ballad of Albert Johnson,” and as the author of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I had to find out more about them. According to a quote from the band’s harmonica-playing lead singer, Corey Lueck: “When I was a kid I saw the American movie about it (“Death Hunt”) with Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin. I thought it was a cool story and then when I found out it was a Canadian story, I read up on it even more. We wrote the song and then we ended up naming the whole album after it.” The quote came from an online article I came across in which the the band’s 25 year history and influences are recounted in a lively piece that can be read here. Personally, I love the look and the sound of these guys and the band name is terrific. I highly recommend viewing the animated video made to accompany the song as it’s a pretty imaginative retelling of the story Marvin as Edgar Millen and Bronson as Johnson enacted.
Lee Marvin as Edgar Millen in DEATH HUNT.
One of the rare times Lee Marvin played a real-life character on film was RCMP’s Edgar Millen in DEATH HUNT.
I had a little trouble understanding all the lyrics but after multiple viewings of the video I got into it and liked it a lot. If I could describe it in one word that word be one often used to described Marvin and Bronson themselves: KICK-ASS! Who knew Canada had such a rocking blues/jazz scene going on? I certainly didn’t!
That said, I wish the talented gentlemen of Smoke Wagon Blues Band all the luck in the world on the upcoming award show to take place on February 22nd.
In the mean time, feel free check out the computer generated video they made for the album’s title track as animated by Patrick Politowski. I think it’s a hoot! Enjoy! -Dwayne Epstein
The paperback tie-in tells the story. In the last decade in which he worked, Lee Marvin continued to look for worthy projects in spite of his age and the dearth of material. Times had clearly changed from the experimental films of the 60s & 70s that had made him a star. As the paperback tie-in covers below indicate, he did try….. Although filmed in the late 70s, writer/director Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One wasn’t released until 1980 in a truncated version that disappointed all involved. Fuller’s novel (right) filled in the gaps of the story until the reconstructed version came out over 20 years later.
The largest manhunt in Canadian history was the source for Death Hunt (1981) for which there was no book version, but the paperback (left) retold the facts fictionalized in the film in which Charles Bronson played Albert Johnson as a victim of circumstance. Marvin played real life RCMP Edgar Millen, pictured below from the book’s inside cover, proving the film definitely changed the actual events….
More literate material was available via the popular Martin Cruz Smith crime thriller Gorky Park (below right) with Marvin giving a pitch perfect performance as the mysterious Jack Osborne. On the left, Marvin’s final film appearance, the 1986 live-action Chuck Norris cartoon Delta Force, in which even the cover could not hide Marvin’s tired appearance…..