Nobody who went that night had any idea what they were in for.
Category Archives: Lee Marvin
Boy, what a great night this will be for those fortunate enough to be there. A tribute to director Don Siegel, at a drive-in, featuring three of his finest films: Coogan’s Bluff (1967), Charley Varrick (1973) and The Killers (1964).
Don Siegel Triple Feature
Friday, July 17, beginning at dusk
General Admission: $10.00
Children’s Admission: $7.00
The Mahoning Drive-In Theater
635 Seneca Road, just of Rte. 443
Lehighton, PA 18235
One of my favorite filmmakers. Three of his best pictures. All in 35mm on “the largest CinemaScope screen in Pennsylvania.” Sounds like heaven.
Directed by Don Siegel
Starring Clint Eastwood, Patrick McGoohan, Roberts Blossom, Fred Ward
Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood’s final collaboration, Escape From Alcatraz (1979), is tight, tough, cool and exciting — just what you’d expect from the guy who directed Riot In Cell Block 11 (1954), Dirty Harry (1971), Charley Varrick (1973) and so many others.
Well researched and actually shot at Alcatraz (which had to be partially restored prior to filming), it’s coming to Blu-ray from Paramount in October. (I’ve been wanting to watch this one again, but I’ll wait for the Blu-ray.) Highly, highly recommended.
Speaking of Siegel, Criterion has brought their 1946/1964 The Killers double feature to Blu-ray. Siegel made the 1964 version — starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, Ronald Reagan, John Cassavettes and Clu Galager — as a TV movie, but Universal sent it to theaters instead. (Robert Siodmak directed the 1946 one, starring Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner.) Very good stuff.
Lee Marvin was an established heavy before taking on M Squad, thanks to memorable turns in solid pictures like The Wild One, The Big Heat (both 1953), Violent Saturday (1955) and Seven Men From Now (1956). And while he was sick of doing the show by its second season, it helped him make the transition from bad guys to leads.
The show follows Lieutenant Frank Ballinger (Marvin) of M Squad, “a special detail of the Chicago police.” Each week, Ballinger tackles a different type of case — murder, corruption, organized crime, etc. — depending on where he’s assigned. It’s a pretty slick way to set up a cop show, avoiding the “another week, another murder” setup that can get stale. That, along with narration by Marvin covering the points they don’t have the time or money to show, makes it seem a bit like Dragnet on the surface. But the resemblances end there. M Squad hops the line between a strict procedural and an attempt to channel Mickey Spillane (which was happening with Darin McGavin at the same time on Mike Hammer).
What sets M Squad apart is, of course, Lee Marvin. Whether he’s shooting a nut-job killer, slapping a mobster around or chatting with a female witness, he adds his own brutal energy, as he did to just about everything he did. As Ballinger, Marvin may be on the right side of the law here, but’s he as unhinged and violent at times as, say, Liberty Valance. And the show is better for it.
TV of the 50s is a great place to follow the work of some of genre filmmaking’s greatest actors and directors. Some saw the small screen as slumming, others just saw it as work. William Witney, John Brahm and Earl Bellamy were among the veteran directors who worked on the show. It also provided fairly early credits to Don Taylor, Boris Sagal and Robert Altman. But no matter who’s at the helm, the show has a stripped-down, claustrophobic noir aesthetic, helped along by some real heavyweights in charge of the cinematography: Ray Rennehan, William A. Sickner, Lionel Lindon and Bert Glennon, to name just a few.
At the same time, future stars and established character actors are featured each week: Luana Anders, Morris Ankrum, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Ted de Corsia, Angie Dickinson, John Doucette, Penny Edwards, Jack Elam, Virginia Gregg, James Griffith, Stacy Harris, DeForest Kelley, Tom Laughlin, Ruta Lee, Betty Lynn, Mike Mazurki, Howard McNear, Dick Miller, Leonard Nimoy, Burt Reynolds and Yvette Vickers. The combined cast list is incredible.
The point here is that Marvin, who was one of the producers of the show, made sure he was surrounded by top talent. He may not have liked the rigors of a weekly TV series, but he made sure he did it right. With so much talent on both sides of the camera, how could it not be great?
Speaking of top talent, Count Basie provided the theme for M Squad‘s later seasons. John Williams (credited as Johnny) and Benny Carter scored some episodes, providing a perfect jazzy complement to the hard-boiled hipster dialogue. The soundtrack LP is terrific. (That’s Lee Marvin, Count Basie and music director Stanley Wilson above.)
Timeless Media Group gives us all 117 episodes of M Squad, in order, spread over 16 DVDs, with a bonus disc of various Marvin TV appearances. The quality varies from episode to episode. Most look fine, some are pretty rough. But the show’s so good and Marvin’s so cool, quality becomes secondary to having the show’s entire run.
This is essential stuff.
M Squad earned an odd footnote as one of the inspirations for the Police Squad and The Naked Gun TV and movie franchise starring Leslie Nielson. The music and opening credits for Police Squad are clearly patterned after M Squad. (M Squad does not feature a “hunchback at the office.”)
Welcome to Dispatch for The Jack Webb Blogathon. Here, you’ll find links to all the posts going up over the weekend in celebration of Jack Webb’s huge, and hugely influential, body of work.
Day Three. October 19.
It was warm in Los Angeles.
Day Two. October 18.
It was cloudy in Los Angeles.
– 30 – (1959)
Johnny LaRue’s Crane Shot
Dragnet (1954, feature)
Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings
Day One. October 17.
It was sunny in Los Angeles.
Dragnet (1966 TV movie)
The Pacific Edible Seaweed Co.
Pete Kelly’s Blues (radio)
Once Upon A Screen
Directed by Jack Webb
Starring Jack Webb, Janet Leigh, Edmond O’Brien, Peggy Lee
Seems like Jack Webb’s everywhere these days, which is fine by me. TCM. MeTV. Shout Factory.
And now Warner Archive. They’ve just announced the upcoming Blu-ray of Pete Kelly’s Blues (1955).
• Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
• Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround
• Subtitles: English SDH
• Discs: One 50GB Blu-ray Disc
• Run Time: 95 Minutes
• Color (1080p HD)
• SPECIAL FEATURES (all in 1080p HD): Original Theatrical Trailer (Color/CinemaScope)/ Alternate Theatrical Trailer/ (B&W/CinemaScope)/ Vintage 1955 Warner Bros. Short “Gadgets Galore”/ Vintage 1955 Warner Bros. Cartoon “The Hole Idea”