Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Everybody Loves Lee Marvin—or else!


The Ivanlandia High Command was on the march, off to Los Angeles to witness the madness of the flames.

A more detailed report is forthcoming regarding that expedition,
but for now please enjoy some photos of the beautiful and awesome Lee Marvin
(and a big thanks to the various and sundry sites I downloaded these photos from over the years—most of you are included in the links, if that’s any consolation).

Lee Marvin is one of the greats, and Point Blank (1967) is one of the greatest movies ever made.
Most of these photos today are from that film, but not all of them;
a couple are from the highly recommended Emperor of the North (1973), also starring Ivanlandia fave Ernest (GOD) Borgnine, and directed by another Ivanlandia top dog, Robert Aldrich.

Let us now worship at the feet of
St. Lee Marvin!
(By posting photos of Lee Marvin, we hope to bask in His eternal reflected glory!)

I saw Point Blank on WNEW-TV Channel 5 in NYC when I was 13 or 14, and I’ve loved that movie ever since— as well as its star, Lee Marvin, and director, John Boorman.

I think what really hooked me on the flick was the whole “walking through LAX” scene (photo above), with Lee’s shoes clomp-clomp-clomping intercut with some seriously Twilight Zoney shots of his zombie-like wife going through the motions of life, making it a zonked out existential moment. Whew! Great stuff.

“You're a very bad man, Walker, a very destructive man!
Why do you run around doing things like this?”

Ahhhhh, Mr. Lee Marvin: what can I say about him that others haven’t already?

(BTW, Lee Marvin, WWII marine, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.)

Lee can speak for himself, thank you very much.
January 1969 Playboy interview

Go elk hunting with Lee!

Some sites about Point Blank:

Good review

Another good review

Good intro to Point Blank by Chef Alton Brown on TCM

Despite his erratic career and choices, I am not at all sad that I’ve seen nearly all of director John Boorman’s flicks, and there are parts of Zardoz and Exorcist II: The Heretic that I’d even defend (like, respectively, the big stone head and the cool Albert Whitlock effects).
(Although I honestly couldn’t stand Boorman’s Beyond Rangoon, and had to turn it off after 20 minutes, finding it trite and dull.)

Interestingly, it doesn’t end there: later in life, I’ve become quite the fanatic about the works of novelist Donald E. Westlake (RIP), who wrote The Hunter, Point Blank’s source material, under his often more (in)famous pseudonym Richard Stark.

A trifecta plus one! (quadfecta?)
Love the movie, love the star, love the director, love the novelist!
But that’s what Lee’s all about: Love.

(Speaking of love, Tom Waits and friends show theirs for Lee)

(But why didn’t Boorman cast Lee as Merlin in Excalibur? Don’t laugh, I’m serious!
Well, if Lee would turn down Jaws…)

M Squad (1957-1960; NBC)
Executive producers: John Larkin and Richard Lewis

Prime Cut (1972)
Directed by Michael Ritchie
Produced by Joe Wizan
Written by Robert Dillon
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography by Gene Polito

Recently I’ve managed to screen some Lee I haven’t seen before:

Michael Ritchie’s 1972 crime spoof/neo-noir Prime Cut,
and the TV show that made Marvin a star and an almost household name, M Squad:
The TV show is a fun Dragnet copycat/rip-off/riff that had the brilliance to cast young (almost feral) Lee Marvin as its ultraviolent tough cop, Lt. Ballinger. (But it’s also the polar opposite of Jack Webb’s subzero “by the book” role as Joe Friday, with a lot of “beat first/ask questions later” tactics.)
M Squad’s episodes are very repetitive, however, and
Lee's the only reason to watch this—but he always delivers.
Recommended for fans.

As for
Prime Cut,
usually I love Lalo Schifrin's scores, but in this movie the music is really intrusive and often an idiotic counterpoint (being goofy when it shouldn't, schmaltzy instead of sparse, etc.).

Not that this flick would be flawless without this music, but the score does scramble how the film could be appreciated on its intrinsic merits, like its incredible cinematography and the nasty jabs it throws at small-town Americana.

Meanwhile, Lee Marvin is sleepwalking through this one, but if you're a fan of his like me, it never matters.

"Most accidents happen within three miles from home."

But speaking of Michael Ritchie, thanks to the valiant efforts of Toestubber—whom we spent some quality time with in Los Angeles during the Imperial Death March to the Pacific Ocean (Venice Beach was awesome, but Ry’leh was KEE-RAY-ZEE!)—The National Film Board of Ivanlandia has finally seen a letterboxed version of Michael Ritchie’s psychotic pirate movie The Island (1980).

I wrote about this film ad nauseum before, but I will say this: letterboxing gives The Island room to breathe, and therefore a lot more details (both good and bad) show up.
And I’ll give pan-&-scan its due here, I think the lack of visual detail in the VHS version (more than half the screen is missing!) kind of increases the mystery. I do think this must have been a fucked up movie to see in the theater in 1980!
Damn, I regret not seeing it back then. Sigh….

Personally though, I was SO GLAD to finally see The Island letterboxed! That’s one I’ve really wanted to scratch off my list for a while. Whew!

Returning to the Marvin at hand….

Here’s Point Blank’s original poster:

…and while I do consider Warren Oates a god who can do nothing wrong, gee-whiz, this poster for Oate’s flick Chandler certainly is a rip.
But I haven’t seen the film yet, so can’t compare the two on their cinematic merits. Nor has Chandler been released to DVD, and it probably won’t….
But as an Oates fan, I want to see it!

Below’s the poster for The Outfit (1972; for a good recap, check out the very readable and recommended It’s a Mad Mad Blog 2), based on another of Westlake’s Parker novels.
It’s a great flick with a very Westlake-ian feel—although I’ve read the book twice, I can’t for the life of me remember any of its plot, so I’m not sure how faithful and adaptation it is, but the dialog and tone, and no-nonsense attitude is total Westlake—and that’s the sort of odd thing about The Outfit: it feels much more humane than one of Richard Stark’s Parker novels, the movie is tough, but the books trend towards mean—but the flick (written and directed by John Flynn) is very much in plotting and tone to one of Westlake’s straight crime novels—or a more serious Dortmunder novel, if you can imagine that.

But the movie is a great find for aficionados of 1970s crime thrillers: The Outfit is hard-edged and direct--never ironic, and chock a block full of cameos by noir and B-movie greats, like Ivanlandia faves Richard Jaeckel, Timothy Carey, Robert Ryan and Bill McKinney (who gained fame as the hillbilly rapist in Boorman’s Deliverance).

Then go here to read some of my comments about the flick posted at It’s a Mad Mad Blog 2—I just didn’t feel like cutting and pasting and trying to make things coherent. I’ve got a pile of dishes to wash!

It was director William Lustig who brought The Outfit, and other fab 1970s bleak revenge thrillers out of limbo in his Buried Treasures retrospective at the fab Anthology Film Archives, home of the biker movie series I curated in 1990.

Most of the films screened during Buried Treasures are not available on DVD, and couple I’d never heard of:
the crazed, nasty and very recommended Sitting Target (1972; written by Point Blank co-screenwriter Alexander Jacobs), with (yet another) Ivanlandia favorite: Oliver Reed;
as well as
Welcome Home, Soldier Boys (1972; starring the always awesome Joe Don Baker), which while it’s muddled and rambling and sometimes boring, has an exciting and transgressive ending where the Vietnam War is brought home to small town USA that predates First Blood by about a decade.

Visit Lustig’s company and buy stuff from him! He’s awesome, and I hope he curates more shows like this. And if he needs suggestions for his next Buried Treasures series…I’m right here, baby!

After the screening of The Outfit at the Anthology, courtesy of Ivanlandia ally Chip of Oklahoma, we were treated to beers and snacks and the company of Lustig and several others—including screenwriter Heywood Gould, a very nice guy!

We traded stories and opinions about a variety of things, but one was Paul Newman’s use of tube socks throughout his career as a visual shorthand to indicate that the actor’s character was “blue collar” or “working class.”
Gould had experienced this directly during the making of the film Fort Apache, The Bronx (1981), for which he wrote the screenplay.

And while many felt it was an inappropriate choice, you couldn’t argue with the star like Newman on some things.

Hey! Another coinkydink: Paul Newman costarred with Lee Marvin in Pocket Money (1972), a flick a lot of people like, but that I found dull; I don’t think I could get into the flick’s tone.

Gould also wrote the screenplays for The Boys From Brazil (1978; it seems that James Mason was strongly jockeying for Laurence Olivier’s role) and Rolling Thunder (1977; also screened at the Anthology—to a rousing success, I might add—and coincidentally also helmed by The Outfit’s director John Flynn).

And to end it all, this lovely still of Lee Marvin from the conclusion of The Killers (1964), directed by the awesome Don Siegel:

“Lady, I just haven’t got the time.”


  1. Hell In the Pacific is pretty great, too. Pairing Lee with Toshiro Mifune was some inspired stunt casting.

    Lee Marvin is a thinking man's man's man. And I say that as someone who's not much of a thinker or a man.

  2. I thought you'd write a bit more about POINT BLANK, but i guess you left it to the links. I once saw a 16mm Anamorphic print of the movie, and it was a doozie (sp). And how could you go wrong with a 1960s Angie Dickinson? (also with him in The Killers, originally made for TV but deemed too violent)

    Warren Oates always struck me as a more countrified poor-man's Lee Marvin, but i've recently revised that idea. I love 'em both, and they are very different after all. (see BRING ME THE HEAD OF... to see the full range of Oates.)

    Lee Marvin got shot in the ass serving his country in The Big One (as well as in THE BIG RED ONE), and for that: Hats off and a moment of silence.................

  3. Toestubber,
    You’re right: Hell in the Pacific is pretty great. Interestingly, like Marvin, Mifune was a veteran of the Pacific War; he was in an aerial photography unit of the Imperial Japanese Army’s aviation corps.

    Ocho Manos (if that is your real name),
    You’re right, too—I left most of the gabbing about Point Blank to the links: some of them say it better than me, so I left it that way. But seeing Point Blank on a big screen is a necessity.

    Meanwhile, Ivanlandia gets comments via Il Fache-Book:

    Claudio C. wrote: Lee Marvin rocks. The most interesting thing, though, was learning that Bill McKinney's domain is squeallikeapig.com. Love it!

    David C. wrote: I wuz just watching THE BIG HEAT again last night. A boiling pot of hot coffee solves so many problems...

    And Ivanlandia replied to them thusly:
    CC: You noticed! I wanted to see if anybody caught that. It's sick McKinney did that, although it shows he's got a sense of humor, too.

    DC: The Big Heat kicks so much ass it boggles my mind.

  4. If you the "Turner Classic Movies" channel they showed "Chandler" last month and will probably repeat it at some point. I agree that Warren Oats is great, but I was very disappointed in this film. It had a cast to die for, but it's just awful. The director disowned the film due to studio interference. MGM actually later issued a public apology for the film.

  5. Allan,
    Thanks for visiting!
    I tried to stay up for that screening of "Chandler" but since it started at 4:30am (or some equally absurd hour), I wound up missing it.
    But one of these days...

  6. Hey Allan (and anybody else who might read this):
    "Chandler" will be rebroadcast on October 26 (Monday) @ 9:30 (EST) on TCM as part of the network's tribute to Leslie Caron.
    Of note: also that night, but at 1am, TCM will be showing Ken Russell's Valentino (like Chandler, unavailable on DVD).

    Neither Chandler or Valentino are considered "good" movies, but as a Warren Oates and Ken Russell fan, I have to see for myself.