MAY 2021 ON TCM

May 2021 on TCM is offering a nice assortment of Lee Marvin films as well as Lee Marvin related films for the diehard and novice fan alike. Unfortunately, the treasures are not on display until the middle of the month and later. However, the line-up is certainly worth waiting for as it includes projects from the earliest part of his lengthy career as well as Marvin inspired projects and films he was offered but ultimately turned down. All of which makes for a wonderful cross section for May 2021 on TCM. Titles and dates are listed below but check local listing for air time. If you want greater detail as to each projects’ importance, there’s always Lee Marvin Point Blank

The Big Heat (1953), Saturday, May 15th: Fritz Lang’s ultra violent crime thriller (at least for 1953) stars Glenn Ford as a tough city cop out to bust up the mob responsible for his wife’s murder.

Debbie (Gloria Grahame) taunts her sadistic boyfriend, Vince Stone (Lee Marvin).


A terrific supporting cast actually steal the show (especially pouty-lipped Gloria Grahame), and that includes a young Lee Marvin as sadistic Vince Stone, dubbed by N.Y. Times critic Vincent Canby as “The Merchant of Menace,” and with good reason! Marvin’s opinion of his director and costars are detailed in Lee Marvin Point Blank, as well as a rather unsavory run-in concerning Glenn Ford several years later. 

The Rack (1956), Thursday, May 20th: A showcase for the talents of a young Paul Newman, this Rod Serling & Stewart Stern scripted drama explores the phenomenon of American soldiers consorting with the enemy during the Korea War. Marvin delivers in a small yet essential role in two powerful scenes. An all-star cast enlivens the proceedings with Marvin and Newman reuniting on more equal ground almost two decades later for Pocket Money (1972).

Original ad campaign for THE RACK (1956).


I had not written much about The Rack in my book due to Marvin’s small contribution, but this blog helped me discover a fascinating detail that I would have included had I known about it at the time. Instead, it can be read here

Petulia (1968), Friday, May 21st: Director Richard Lester’s stylized film depicting swinging 1960’s San Francisco was first offered to Marvin who turned it down. In doing so, it opened the door to allow George C. Scott to play the frustrated middle-aged doctor infatuated with the kooky title character played by the luminous Julie Christie. The film is a time capsule

The original psychedelic poster art for PETULIA (1968).


that also includes a wonderful supporting cast, not the least of which is a VERY creepy Richard Chamberlain looking to change his image from the clean-cut Dr. Kildare.

Not only picture Marvin playing the role, but look quick for members of the San Francisco comedy troupe The Committee (Howard Hesseman most notably), The Grateful Dead (A very funny Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh & Bob Weir) as well as Big Brother and The Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin.
   Another film Marvin turned down reportedly without even reading the script gave Scott his greatest success the following year. Any guesses?

Point Blank (1967), Saturday, May 22nd: This seminally influential films, is, as I like to call it, the first arthouse action film. What can be said about this neo-noir cult clasic that hasn’t been said already by yours truly and countless others?

Point Blank, 1967




John Boorman’s vastly original style still packs a wallop due largely to star Lee Marvin’s haunting performance.


Again, a veteran supporting cast keeps the film watchable, along with the surrealistic execution presented in muted colors, trippy sound, innovative editing and photography. At the end of the day it’s still Lee Marvin one recalls long after the film is done. If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a surprise. If you have seen it, see it again. As with all classics, there’s always more to experience with each viewing.


Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), Tuesday, May 25th: Once again, a stylized 1960s film, this time strangely directed by the legendary John Huston and starring Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. 

Original poster for Reflections in a Golden Eye.


The basic premise is easy to describe but the characters and execution certainly are not. Brando is a southern military officer unhappily married to shrewish Elizabeth Taylor, who is carrying on an affair with docile Brian Keith, who is unhappily married to fragile Julie Harris. Along for the strange proceedings is Robert Forster making his film debut as a young recruit who pines for Taylor. Hence the premise.
   As for the execution, it’s all shot in a strange and sickly sepia tone and the character interactions go beyond bizarre, especially Brando. It’s all based on an equally bizarre novel by Carson McCullers. its inclusion here is based on the fact that Marvin was offered the Brando role but ultimately turned it down. Taylor had accepted the role as a chance to help her close friend, Montgomery Clift, who died before he could play the part. Longtime Clift rival Brando came aboard and the entire production is an acquired taste. I found the film rather mesmerizing, even more so if you imagine Lee Marvin in the role. After all, he did say, this.

The Devils Brigade (1968), & Kelly’s Heroes (1970) both Sunday, May 30th: Here are two films that applied 1960s sensibilities to the genre of WWII action films in the wake of the immense popularity of The Dirty Dozen. Although The Devil’s Brigade is not as well known, personally, I like them both, with maybe Brigade, a little bit more.

Original ad art for The Devil’s Brigade not accidentally similiar to the Dirty Dozen.

Allegedly based on a true story, it tells the story of a team of crackerjack Canadian soldiers led by Cliff Robertson, teaming up with a ragtag group of American G.I.s led by Vince “Ben Casey” Edwards all under the command of an over-the-hill William Holden. They even managed to recruit ‘Dozen’ alum Richard Jaeckel in a scene stealing performance as a jackrabbit-like G.I. named Omar. The standout is Claude Akins in a performance to rival John Cassavetes in Dozen. Unfortunately, there’s also an annoying performance by Andrew Prine and plenty of former football players, ala Jim Brown in The Dirty Dozen.  
   As for Kelly’s Heroes, Dirty Dozen alumni Donald Sutherland and Telly Savalas along with comedian Don Rickles are the best thing in the movie that sadly toplines a very wooden Clint Eastwood. A former boss and I were once comparing the films and he argued Kelly’s Heroes had a more believable premise of men risking their lives not for glory but for a treasure of Nazi gold. All I can say to that is you be the judge.

The Dirty Dozen (1967), Monday, May 31st: Not the first film with a plot consisting of WWII renegades on a secret mission, but certainly the best.

Poster for THE DIRTY DOZEN, the best of Men on a Mission films in which the genre is defined in the ad.



Even before The Devils’s Brigade and Kelly’s Heroes, there was Roger Corman’s The Secret Invasion (1964) with a similiar theme. All that aside, this “men-on-a-mission” classic puts all the others to shame. TCM has long been a fan of this timeless classic, showing it whenever they can and promoting it as well, as seen here. Not much more to add than that, other than to suggest it certainly is worthy of repeat viewings. 

So, there you have it: May 2021 on TCM for Lee Marvin fans. Things are surely looking up!
• Dwayne Epstein

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JAMES GUNN, SUICIDE SQUAD & LEE MARVIN

James Gunn and Lee Marvin are not two names often associated with each other but surprisingly, recent news via a Google search has done just that. 
Director James Gunn, of Guardians of the Galaxy fame, is also the director of the new and highly anticipated Suicide Squad movie reboot for 2021. He recently tweeted that one film and one film only was the inspiration for the upcoming all-star comic book film and that film was another all-star production from a few decades earlier. That’s right. None other than The Dirty Dozen (1967).

Opening image I used for LEE MARVIN POINT BLANK is the actor’s performance of Major John Reisman in The DIRTY DOZEN, the film that helped make him the number one male box office star in the country.


Matter of fact, the news generated an online story, just a few days ago. I’m not a particular fan of comic book inspired films but I did grow loving comic books, especially D.C. superhero ones. Knowing that, the revelation involving The Dirty Dozen hardly came as a surprise. There were similiar titles even more effective, such as Marvel’s Sgt. Fury and The Howling Commandos. The same Sgt. Fury would later become Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., the only Marvel title I liked, as written and drawn by the great Jim Steranko. But I digress….
 Glad to see Marvin’s most well-known film getting it’s just respect. Of course, it’s influence is far more reaching that that. It proved to be the inspiration for several other films, as well. A short list would include:
• Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (2009), which at one point was to include a character named ‘Babe’ Buchinsky to be played by Michael Madsen, as an homage to Dirty Dozen costar, Charles Bronson. 
• Joe Dante’s fantasy film Small Soldiers (1998), featuring voices of several original cast members.
• The original Italian version of Tarantino’s film with Bo Svenson and Fred WIlliamson, The Inglorious Bastards (1978). Note the spelling difference which Tarantino has never fully explained. 
• Even Roger Corman’s Secret Invasion (1964) used the same premise which predates the novel’s publication by a year. Makes you wonder if Corman knew something the author didn’t.
Kind of makes you wonder if perhaps the premise is based on fact. According to the original novel’s author, E.M. Nathanson: “This story is fiction. I have heard a legend that there might have been men like them, but nowhere in the archives of United States Government or in its military history did I find it recorded.”

Makes sense but then again just because it’s not recorded, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
– Dwayne Epstein

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CARGO (2018) & THE RESURRECTION OF RON THOMPSON

Cargo (2018) is an intense horror thriller that helped resurrect the career of veteran stage, film and TV actor Ron Thompson. The premise of the film is unique and underlines what can be done with limited means. Reminds me of what Roger Corman referred to as, “Brilliance on a budget.” From the first few seconds of the film to the very end, Thompson inside a cargo container is all you ever see as he desperately tries to raise the ransom of his kidnappers demand.

Poster art from CARGO in which the entire premise is explained in the tagline.

The other actors noted in the poster are simply well-cast audio voices and never seen. Doesn’t matter. The premise and Thompson’s enacting of it holds the viewer spellbound for an hour and a half. It shows what the medium is capable of when disbelief is suspended and imagination runs amok. Be prepared, however. Despite his sole presence, the film gets kind of gruesome ins some parts.
I mention all this simply because Ron is a friend of mine and I warily watched Cargo at his urging. I say warily because once he told me the premise I knew it would be a tough go as it’s not my preferred genre. I finally relented and I was NOT disappointed. It’s a paranoid-claustrophobic thriller of the first order and Ron is excellent in it!
By the way, you may know Ron best — as I do — from his dual performances in Ralph Bakshi’s underrated classic, American Pop (1981).

Poster art from AMERICAN POP with an inset of Ron Thompson today.

It’s an interesting thing in that he has had one of, if not THE most unorthodox career of any person that I’ve ever heard of. In fact, I had told him that because of his roller coaster career, I’d ask the publisher of Filmfax if they’d be interested in an interview with Ron but sadly, they passed on the idea. Damn shame as it’s a fascinating yarn and he’s a fascinating man.
I met Ron via Facebook, since he proved to be quite a Lee Marvin fan and graciously wrote a review of my book. The social media platform also helped resurrect his career. The contacts he’s made actually lead to his role in Cargo, and several other worthwhile projects. A few kudos then to Mark Zuckerberg, at least for that, and allowing Ron and I to hook up. It was a similar casual hook up with director James Dylan that got Ron the role. Once we kept in contact thru Facebook, Ron surprised me by showing up at my book signing for Lee Marvin Point Blank at Jeff Mantor’s bookstore, Larry Edmunds. I was not only pleasantly surprised to meet Ron in person, Ron was equally surprised to meet up with Mitch Ryan’s accomplice, Claudette Sutherland, whom Ron hadn’t seen since his school days!

(L-R) Yours truly, Ron Thompson, and Ron’s long lost school friend, Claudette Sutherland at Larry Edmunds Bookstore.

All told, such coincidences are pretty impressive some times so never underestimate them. As my father used to say, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Take a shot. Brace yourself and watch Ron in Cargo for FREE at the link he sent me… If you dare!
– Dwayne Epstein.

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