Sunday, January 31, 2010

Classy Freddie Blassie vs. Rikidozan (+ interview)

From April, 1962

Classic Blassie as wrestler!


Original Title: My Breakfast With Blassie
Year: 1983
Director: Linda Lautrec, Johnny Legend, Mark Shepard
Writer: Linda Lautrec, Johnny Legend
Genre: Comedy

Comedian Andy Kaufman & professional wrestler Classy Freddie Blassie eat breakfast & discuss life.

There you have it again. A parody of an apparently popular art-house film My Dinner With Andre which gives the audience a look at two men discussing their life over dinner, My Breakfast With Blassie has Andy Kaufman and wrestling legend "Classy" Freddie Blassie discussing various random subjects over their diner breakfast.

In typical Kaufman fashion, this is an unusual, improvised bit that pushes against the edge of what the audience may be able to bear. Look no further than Kaufman going on stage in his standup and reading The Great Gatsby as his bit.

The interactions between the two are interesting, but go on a bit too long for my tastes. I think this would have worked better as a 30-minute movie instead of 60 as eventually it gets repetitive and falls apart a little by the end when they are trying to wrap things up.

The most interesting aspect of the performance piece was Blassie himself. First, I don't know why, but it's so bizarre to me that Kaufman and Blassie would be friends in real life. Given the personality that you see emerge during the taping here, Kaufman and his antics just don't seem like something that would mesh well with Blassie.

It seemed as though the intention was to show the conversation and show the two dealing with some nosy customers in the diner, the audience being the marks here, but there were times when the movie started to feel like an early form of a Sacha Baron Cohen sketch with Kaufman making Blassie himself the mark, getting him to ramble on and on and say some things that made him look a little silly given his profession.

Blassie seems to be a germophobe, carries wet wipes in a man purse, makes a shitty welfare joke about the pregnant Thai waitress whom he called Buddha and rubs her belly, brings up herpes, talks about diet, etc. He had some really interesting stories about his professional wrestling career, including a story about taking a metal file to his capped teeth while touring Japan in the early 1960s that really freaked fans out as he feuded with the legend Rikidozan. Blassie said people in the audience would have heart attacks as Blassie would bite Rikidozan with his filed teeth - people had never seen wrestlers bite one another before!

It was hard to tell how "in" on the bit Blassie actually was. He seemed OK with Kaufman's subject matter, but seemed really confused at others. The whole exchange is interesting, but just kind of lost steam for me eventually.

This is not really a wrestling film per-se, but it was filmed right in the middle of Kaufman's Memphis feud with Lawler (you'll see him in his neck brace he wore from his piledriver injury), and he is carrying over a bit of his sexist personality that made him so hated there.

Oh, and Blassie is a legend in the sport. That I suppose makes it wrasslin enough for me!

It's worth a look (and came as the flip-side of the "I'm From Hollywood" dvd), but it's not great.

Recommended to see Blassie in a non-wrestling manager role.

Score: 5.75 / 10

Kaufman on Letterman

Since the actual footage is not in the movie "I'm From Hollywood" here is the clip!

Classic television.

Here's a bonus clip of Kaufman's tirade without the bleeps. Yay dirty words!


jesus christ on a stick, i love this kid

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Original Title: I'm From Hollywood
Year: 1989
Director: Lynne Margulies, Joe Orr
Writer: Lynne Margulies, Joe Orr
Genre: Comedy, Wrestling

Wrestling documentry about comedian Andy Kauffman's break into professional wrestling. Mainly focuses on his feud with Memphis wrestling legend, Jerry "The King" Lawler, and features interviews from his "Taxi" co-stars, announcer Lance Russell, and Robin Williams.

This DVD is exactly what the synopsis here says it is. It was not originally intended to be anything but live appearances by Andy Kaufman at Memphis Wrestling shows. Five years after Kaufman's death, this 60-minute documentary was released with added "interviews" with Tony Danza, Robin Williams, and a few others talking about Kaufman's obsession with professional wrestling and his appearances at this time.

It's hard to really review I'm From Hollywood as a film. Largely what it is made of is TV footage of Kaufman's appearances in Memphis. If you can appreciate Kaufman's style of comedy - that being more about the performance as opposed to telling jokes, then this documentary could be just what you need. It was hard to tell a lot of the time if Andy Kaufman was being serious. And Kaufman was hysterical in his obsession with Memphis, Lawler, and wrestling women from the audience. I don't want to give away anything in regards to Kaufman's antics, but seeing him insult the South, introducing soap to them teaching them how to wash their hands, bragging about Hollywood, and humiliating women all in the name of his game were quite entertaining. He was such a jerk - the audience truly hated him.

This feud and these appearances went on for over a year at Memphis Wrestling shows, Kaufman promising 1000 dollars and to marry any woman who could pin him in the ring. But over 400 women never could best him. Kaufman proclaimed himself the Intergender Champion, complete with a belt. Jerry Lawler, the champion at the time, got involved in a match when Kaufman was embarrassing a female opponent after his victory, and thus the story began. Lawler injured Kaufman (legitimately but not as seriously as was let on) and Kaufman made it his #1 task to ruin Lawler. He would offer other wrestlers money to put Lawler in the hospital, and would even team up with others to try himself.

Anyway, the documentary itself does a good job showing this timeline. I had never actually seen this before despite knowing the story and having seen confrontations between the two. It played out as a pretty cool wrestling storyline. The interviews with Kaufman's friends were kind of funny, but nothing really to write home about.

As an interesting aside, writer/director Lynne Margulies was Andy's long time girlfriend, and they actually met during the filming of the next release I will review, My Breakfast With Blassie.

I really enjoyed I'm From Hollywood a lot. Kaufman was such an asshole, and I really appreciate it as something that could never happen again. This story could only take place at a time when wrestling was still somewhat in the shadows. Now wrestling is known as sports entertainment, the predetermined outcomes and practiced maneuvers are a thing of common knowledge now. But at this time, wrestling was getting ready to blow up in the United States, and many, many fans still took it as fully legitimate. This surely added weight to Kaufman's Hollywood heel role. I would have loved to have experienced this story at a more "naive" time for me.

As a wrestling fan, especially one that has seen some fucking trainwreck celebrity wrestling appearances, I could truly appreciate what Kaufman was doing. My biggest complaint of the film would be the omission of the legendary confrontation on David Letterman between Kaufman and Lawler where Lawler slaps Kaufman out of his chair. I suppose this was because of rights issues with NBC, but I really would have liked to have seen it included.

My score reflects purely my enjoyment of the subject matter as the presentation of the material is pretty straightforward. (I use the term 'straightforward' too much)

Highly recommended for Kaufman and/or professional wrestling fans. (Particularly fans of the Southern style professional wrestling from the 1980s)

Score: 8 / 10

I'm the king!  
I'm the king!
I'm the new king of Memphis, Tennessee!
I knocked that Lawler out last week!
I'm gonna knock him out again, yeah!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Sheik vs. Abdullah the Butcher

No technique here. just two old sick fucks beating and stabbing and biting the piss out of one another. They probably went and had a beer afterwards.

Don't watch this if you mind the sight of blood.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


Original Title: I Like to Hurt People
Year: 1985
Director: Donald G. Jackson
Writer: -
Genre: Documentary, Wrestling

The Shiek wreaks havoc throughout the sleaziest locales of the American wrestling circuit, maiming, mauling, and living up to his life's code: I like to hurt people!

It's funny. As I was watching I Like To Hurt People, I couldn't help but be reminded of Ed Wood: the infamous (that's when you're MORE than famous!) shlockmeister who would use random stock footage in his movies to fill time. Well, that's sort of what we get here with Donald Jackson's entry into the wrestling world. And upon looking at his wikipedia page, I find that apparently he was referred to in the media as the Ed Wood of the video age!

Please, please check out the titles in Jackson's filmography. Wow...

Here in I Like To Hurt People, we have random acted parts from wrestlers that almost have zero significance, including a hilarious bit with Andre the Giant getting out of a Jeep Wrangler and picking up this poor guy and sitting him on the roof.

Most of the film though is footage of various wrestling matches I believe are from the late 1970s when The Sheik was NWA USA Heavyweight Champion (the Detroit Territory version). Jackson has seemingly created a story in which various opponents line up to try to knock down The Sheik who has gone extra wild - attacking all his opponents with forks and pipes and other objects during the matches. In reality, this is how The Shiek wrestled all the time!

This guy was a pretty sick fucker as far as professional wrestling goes. The true originator of "hardcore wrestling" as it came to be known in the 1990s, The Sheik all the way back to the 60s was known as an over the top rule breaker, stabbing people legitimately with forks in the arms, chest, and head to draw blood in a hurry. I would have hated to work with this guy.

ECW's Sabu is the nephew of The Sheik,

Jackson touched on a story in which Dusty Rhodes was going to meet The Sheik in the ultimate showdown or some shit, but then it doesn't actually happen outside a very brief highlight. Really it makes the first 10 minutes or so of the film completely useless. The Funks feuding with The Sheik and Abdullah the Butcher is given far more time.

There are also side stories with a fat woman (Heather Feather) wrestling a man, and with another wrestler discussing his home life and the fact that he just likes to hurt people.

Awkward Family Photo!

There is another pointless side story of a little nerdy man who has started an organization called Stop The Sheik, or STS. There's so much filler in here that has nothing to do with each other. It all "comes together" in the closing scene where The Sheik and his new manager are riding in a car, babbling on about something to do with Muhammad Ali making an appearance, then it just ends. Nothing resolved! Sorry for the spoiler I guess...

At times it feels like a documentary, at times a mockumentary, at times a fucking terrible comedy. It's a mess of a fucking movie that is obviously guided mostly by what wrestling footage was available, but still interesting nonetheless... maybe in its ineptitude. It was hard to tell at times what was stock footage and what was filmed new for the movie.

I'm keeping this review short as well - there's not a lot here as far as acting, filming techniques, or even quality of documentary filmmaking. It is worth a watch, particularly by fans of professional wrestling, for the footage of such legends as Dory and Terry Funk, Andre the Giant, Dick the Bruiser, Bobo Brazil, Abdullah the Butcher, Ox Baker, and a few others.

Ox Baker looks like Genghis Khan and Jesse Ventura had a love child.

I Like To Hurt People ends up being kind of boring because it doesn't really make sense, but I liked it anyway

Score: 5.5 / 10


Original Title: The Wrestling Queen
Year: 1973
Director: ?
Writer: -
Genre: Documentary, Wrestling

While the title is a bit misleading, this is pretty much exactly what the genre states. It's a wrestling documentary that seems to be focused on a Southern territory in the early 1970s. While it is good seeing quite a bit of classic wrestling footage, and interesting to hear interviews with fans who could get pretty rabid about the sport, the film struggled to hold my interest as it ultimately is not a very well made documentary.

First the title. It is called Wrestling queen, and from the poster one may go in expecting a 75 minute documentary on one lady wrestler in particular - Vivian Vachon... The daughter of legendary Mad Dog Vachon. But really only 10 minutes is even spent on her. Most of the film is spent listening to fans and watching men's matches.

And that is really all the film is. You will get 5 minutes or so of a match... maybe more... then you will get closeup interviews with various fans, usually explaining what they like or what they do not like about professional wrestling. That and whether or not they think it is fake or not.

The director seems to realize at the end that he has forgotten to really talk about Vivian, and shows one of her matches in its entirety, complete with a little original music added in and some shots of her in real life.

Yeah... great.

For fans of this era of wrestling, there's quite a few appearances of some greats. Some quite short and a few with interviews.

  • Mad Dog looks so young and speaks quite a bit about the wrestling business.
  • Jim Garvin makes an appearance sporting bleached blonde hair. He couldn't have been older than 21 or 22. And no beard!
  • Brief appearance and interview with Killer Kowalski
  • An interesting interview clip with Blackjack Mulligan talking about getting stabbed by angry fans.

There are a few more, but most of the talent you'll see listed on the IMDb entry make appearances in random match footage.

As I said, the the interviews with fans were interesting - especially the PISSED OFF old ladies, but the constant shifting from a fan speaking to match footage, and back is really no way to make a successful documentary.

And Vivian Vachon looks nothing like that hot chick in the poster!

Maybe a documentary about her younger sister Luna would have been more interesting! I now share an affinity with Luna Vachon after learning she shares a name with my grandmother who died last year - Gertrude! Any surprise she changed that name for ring work?

Wrestling queen has a glimmer, but wears out its welcome very quickly. The poster does say it's the first documentary of its kind, but I have seen Ali documentaries from this era that were light years better in comparison. Flashy sports could be covered in an interesting manner at this time.

Not recommended

Score: 4.5 / 10


Original Title: Below the Belt
Year: 1980
Director: Rob Fowler
Writer: Rosalyn Drexler (novel "To Smithereens"), Rob Fowler (writer), David McKechnie (lyrics), Sherry Sonnet (writer)
Genre: Comedy, Wrestling

A New York City waitress decides to become a professional wrestler.

The synopsis says it all. This fucking movie has almost NOTHING happen... and to add insult to injury, the shitty action is highlighted by waaaaay too many musical montages. I'm not gonna talk much about Below the Belt. I hope it doesn't seem like a copout or whatever, but this film frustrated me so much that it might just be best if i get this over with and move on.

Theme killer if there ever was one.

Inexplicably, the ratings on IMDb are not all that bad. Again what we get with Below the Belt is a women's wrestling film that had potential, but falls way short. It's not so much the editing this time as it is the near lack of plot and the fucking heinous musical montages that take up roughly 25% of the 90 minute or so runtime.

Don't believe me? Someone has helped me out big time and actually posted some of these on YouTube! There might be spoilers in here, but seeing as shit happens in the movie, the only thing spoiled will be if there are peanuts, corn, or both in the turd.

Thanks to this horseshit, what could have been a gritty portrayal of life on the road for a group of indie wrestlers turned out to be a Lifetime Original that made me want to kick my dog.

Our New York City waitress mentioned in the synopsis, Rosa Rubinsky (Regina Baff), is the highlight of the film I suppose. Her quest is to become a pro-wrestler even though the lifestyle is essentially not shown to her, or us, to be anything worth living. We suffer through music montage after music montage as she shittily trains a little bit and then just watches from the sidelines with her sloppy sad eyes before he somehow gets her shot.

HAHAHAHA, look at her! It's not funny at all!!

A strong performance I suppose comes from Jane O'Brien as Terrible Tommy. This is one tough chick, and she definitely looks the part of a tough wrestler. She's not the greatest actress or anything like that, but I believe she was a professional wrestler in real life, which was a good choice for the part.

There's also an appearance by a wrestling legend Mildred Burke, who was very influential and successful in the business from the 1930s to the 1950s. But it's only worth a mention as she's just in a few brief training scenes.

I'm posting a sweet image of her to take up space!

Fowler's film (this was his only directorial entry on IMDb by the way) follows Rosa around as she just looks on at stuff kinda happen. They ride around in cars. They talk back stage. She watches an alcoholic dude blade in front of a mirror.

The film I suppose from taking all of this in is supposed to be a slice of life; to show the realities of touring as a professional wrestler at this time. It's just not very well crafted. There's needless comedy injected everywhere. The aforementioned music takes you out of things way too often. Scenes of emotion are handled poorly.

And there are stories that start and end and I could care less. So-and-so wants out. Whatsherface loves that guy maybe. That dick drinks too much. That chick is slutty. But no character is fleshed out nearly enough for us to give a shit. And Rosa does so little, when things finally start happening for her, I had trouble even feeling happy there either.

I have more screenshots to show, but I'm out of shit to say. This film is not available on DVD as far as I know. The only way to find it is through more nefarious means, but don't waste your time. Watch those montages above, rub your neck when the deuce chills hit your spine, and rest assure knowing that I powered through this boring pile so you didn't have to.

Score: 3 / 10

Terrible Tommy's Choke of Supreme Despair!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Original Title: ...All the Marbles
Year: 1981
Director: Robert Aldrich
Writer: Mel Frohman
Genre: Drama, Wrestling

Harry manages The California Dolls, a female wrestling tag team endlessly touring America. He is also romantically involved with one of them. Their fortunes seem on the slide (particularly when Harry accepts an engagement involving mud wrestling!) but then the big grudge match beckons.

Oh what could have been.

I'm sure I have said that about films on my blog before, but it really applies to ...All the Marbles. This film was on the verge several times of being something special, but some tragic editing left it feeling very, very unfulfilling.

There are so many stories here that are touched upon, but never are they taken anywhere. Harry (Peter Falk) and Iris' (Vicki Frederick) apparent love affair. Molly's (Laurene Landon) entire background and drug problem. Harry's problems with gambling. The tour of Japan that never quite happens. This film puts far too many pokers in the proverbial fire, then just forgets about them for the sake of a Hollywood structure.

After watching the film and prepping for this review, I read this interesting post from a user on IMDb:
This movie wasn't ever supposed to have been a comedy. It was a serious drama that got chopped up by the studio execs who thought that it had gotten too serious for a wrestling movie.  
Molly (Laurene) was supposed to had been a lesbian who had been abused by her father who had the hots for her partner Iris (Vicky). The relationship between Iris and Harry (Peter) had a dark side to it. There were some scenes between the females wrestlers and some of the predatory male characters that would've had the audience wanting to get up to go to the theater restrooms to wash their hands.
The mudwrestling scene was there not for titilation, but to show how humiliating it can be to be a female wrestler (How many times has Hulk Hogan wrestled in hot oil?).
A little trivia: All the wrestling scenes were shot "stiff", meaning that nobody pulled their punches and everybody was hitting each other for real. Actress Kathleen Turner was supposed to have played the Iris character, but some studio execs came by the set during rehearsal and asked for a demonstration of the women's wrestling skills. Kathleen broke her hip after being tossed into the third row of seats by another actress. 
Anyway, it's time to see this movie originally as it was edited.
I don't know how much of this is true, but you can definitely see choppy editing and weird pacing... and stories left up in the air so it makes sense. This film could definitely benefit from being reedited entirely.

I don't usually start off with such a complaint, but I really saw some potential in it, which was very surprising for me. Going in to a film about women's wrestling, with that poster and that silly name, with what I know about organizations such as GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling), I expected silliness. And whoever edited the film tried their hardest to make the film a little sleazy and a little humorous, but the darker elements certainly could not be hidden. It leaves you wanting to know much more about the characters in a better made film as well as more about the back stage of pro-wrestling in general.

But don't worry... I'm still gonna talk about tits and women slapping the shit out of each other.

Landon and Frederick as the California Dolls are not very good actresses, but they fucking bring it in the ring! I had to see if these ladies were actually professional wrestlers as they gave and received some impressive wrestling holds and maneuvers in the film.

I also read on IMDb that the matches in the film were performed stiff, meaning the hits that you see are real. When you see these women throwing elbows to their opponents' sweaty tits, that impact hurts! Kathleen Turner apparently was considered for the role of Iris until at a test she was thrown from the ring and broke a hip! It may not have been entirely necessary for these hits to be taken so, especially considering how the film turned out, but it lends for some very entertaining wrestling... something you don't necessarily get in films of this genre.

Peter Falk is solid as Harry, but his shtick does get a bit tired for me after awhile. Harry is a confusing character because at times he seems to really care about the Dolls but at other times he turns into a sleazeball. It really could have been fleshed out a little better than it was.

For fans of tits, there are quite a few on display here. It's piggish of me to bring this up, but fuck it! The women in the film are almost all attractive. This is also not what one may expect from women wrestlers from this era. Women "wrestlers" today are a completely different story as they are there first for looks and second for... um... acting ability? Certainly not their fucking wrestling skills. But having attractive women doing what they do well was great to see. You other pigs out there will get some sweaty cleavage, some tight swimsuit-style wrestling costumes, muddy bare tits, even a random shot of a lovely set of big bombs really only there for the sake of being on display. (And maybe showing Harry as being a bit sleazy)

Two large snapshots in a row, just for you, Mattsuzaka! (Chuck Norris Ate My Baby!)

Harry has an interesting line in the film before the women come out to embarrassingly perform in a mud wrestling match. "Every time you walk into the ring, you're a freak. That's what a wrestler is!" All the Marbles really should have stuck with the women struggling with this more than it did. As it stands, the film is a poorly edited and OK directed work. This was Robert Aldrich's (director of the classic The Dirty Dozen) last film before he died, and I am leaning toward the theory more and more as I write this that the film ended up not exactly being what his vision was.

It has its well shot, OK acted moments, but too much humor was attempted to be injected, ended up being too long despite feeling cut up at the same time.

Recommended for fans of the genre, particularly to see what could have been. I'd be interested to read the original screenplay.

Score: 5.75 / 10

If this shot doesn't encapsulate the film, I don't know what does. We could have had a slightly disturbing scene with this poor woman living with regrets for what she has done to further her career, but we get a wet tit shot thrown in with it. Ah well...

Night and the City continued

I was speaking with Ben (@dissolvedpet) of the new podcast Cinecultania on Twitter last night a little further about my review of Night and the City. He said perhaps I should have delved a bit deeper into the role of professional wrestling in a film noir as opposed to focusing as much as I did on the look of the film itself.

I will be the first to admit that my knowledge of film noir is near-zero. I know what it is technically, but just haven't seen enough to work it all out for myself. Hence the newbish noir review I suppose.

But further on this, I would have moved more into the role of wrestling in the film had it actually played a bigger part. The wrestling that was there, but as I said to Ben last night, I felt as though the story could have been the same regardless of the sport involved. Harry Fabian is the main focus, and his constant running from something as a result of his shady practices, and wrestling works here because of its history of being a little shady itself, and the face that it was a sport for adults at this time. But any sport in which individuals are the focus I believe could have worked in this story.

Which brings me to the comment left on my generic review by Samuel Wilson, who writes a fine film blog called mondo 70. Samuel mentioned a remake of Night and the City with Robert DeNiro. Honestly, my ignorant ass didn't even realize there was a remake, even though I read up on the original!

Anyway, in the remake, DeNiro plays Harry Fabian who is now a lawyer instead of just a con-man, and the sport has been changed to boxing as opposed to wrestling. The short wikipedia entry for the film says that the sport was changed to boxing because by that time wrestling had become marketed more for children instead of adults. I have obviously not seen this version, but this kind of shows I think that the sport could indeed be changed.

In his comment, Samuel also mentions Mike Mazurki who played the pro-wrestler The Strangler. I was being a bit lazy in only mentioning a couple actors (there were other strong smaller roles as well... I really wanted to mention the ones that stood out for me personally), and I didn't want my review to go on and on, but Mike Mazurki's role is worth mentioning. He is interesting in that he was a pro wrestler (as well as participating in other sports) who became an actor and actually had a successful career playing bit parts in tons of films from the 40s and 50s and into the 90s. He had a great look in the film and played a nice counter to Gregorious' pure approach to the sport. The Strangler was a hothead professional wrestler who looked down on the older Greco-Roman style. The fight that he has with Gregorious is really great as you can see the two styles at the same time blending as well as conflicting.

I wish the film had gone a little deeper into the old school vs. new school of wrestling conflict, but I realize that is the wrasslin fan in me speaking. The film is a great work.

So chalk my review up to both lack of noir experience on my part and a wish that there was just more wrestling involved.

Thank you both Samuel and Ben for the added discussion on it!

Monday, January 25, 2010


Original Title: Night and the City
Year: 1950
Director: Jules Dassin
Writer: Jo Eisinger (screenplay), Gerald Kersh (novel)
Genre: Crime, Wrestling

Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) is a London hustler with ambitious plans that never work out. One day, when he encounters the most famous Greco-Roman wrestler in the world, Gregorius, at a London wrestling arena run by his son Kristo, he dreams up a scheme that he thinks will finally be his ticket to financial independence. As Fabian attempts to con everyone around him to get his scheme to work, he of course only ends up conning himself.

I'm really stretching out this wrestling theme... Jesus Christ!

I stumbled across Night and the City late in my wrestling film search game, and I have to say that this is not the sort of film one would expect in the genre. If you've been reading the reviews of these I have written, you will understand this definitely. Night and the City is a nicely done film-noir crime drama with a wrestling backdrop.

Maybe like zombie films, wrestling is best as a driving force in a film - getting the plot ball rolling - as opposed to being the story itself.

I'm familiar with noir as a genre, but I have very little experience actually watching them. Shocker! I think what you may pick up first from this film, and I assume much of the film-noir genre in particular, are the fantastic shots, lighting, etc. Night and the City is a visual feast to borrow a cliche. Deep inky blacks, dramatic angles, eerie night shots; the photography here kept me interested more than anything else. Influential cinematographer Mutz Greenbaum (credited as Max Greene) and Dassin assembled a beautifully sweaty film here. The lighting was at times unrealistic, but had a great illustrative quality.

I love films I can pause at multiple points and get an image that could be a successful painting. That's not to say it's only the still imagery that I enjoyed, because the subtle camera movements, and angles employed as characters would interact add to this as well. The shots often felt claustrophobic as we could feel the tension that our main character Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) felt in his struggles.

I consider myself far more a visual person than anything else, and in this case the looks of the film really stood out. The Criterion transfer of it looks marvelous.

The story in Night and the City was surprising for me. As I said earlier, going into the wrestling genre, one expects similar acting and storytelling that actually happens in pro-wrestling... over the top, corny, really just there for a rise. But the story here is a nice, tense drama with double crosses and solid characterization. Wrestling here serves as the backdrop instead of the plot itself, which seems like it may be the way to go. I suppose one can look at this as a crime drama instead of wrestling really, but a main character is a wrestler, and fuck it... when else am I gonna review something like this??

Widmark's Harry Fabian, who was an interesting, shady, and entertaining character acted pretty well. All the characters in the film are the type of melodramatic characters that seem to pop up in the film-noir crime films, but it works. Widmark grits his teeth, sweats, screams, and runs his ass off. You just know from the beginning that he is headed for trouble as he is the type that is constantly looking for the easy way to make money. As the film focuses on Harry, the performance needed to stand out, and I think Widmark did a great job. His scenes with imposing club owner Phillip (Francis L. Sullivan) were my favorites.

The surprise performance came from Stanislaus Zbyszko as Gregorious. You can tell Zbyszko is not a trained actor, but something was very endearing about him as the wise old wrestler set in his ways. Zbyszko was a strong man/Greco-Roman wrestler from the early 20th century, so the casting of him here works very well. He was at a point in his life where he was training wrestlers, as his character Gregorious does here. He has a fantastic fight scene despite looking very old, and it's really the only wrestling in the film.

The film unfolds slowly, not as an action packed sports film by any means. If you are looking for the corn, cheese, pomp, and circumstance of that many wrestling films would become, this probably isn't your choice. This was really my only trouble with it. Not really a fair criticism I guess, but I think this film could definitely bear rewatching.

For a wonderfully shot, dark, gritty crime film that paints wrestling much more seriously, this is great. High recommendation

Score: 7.75 / 10

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Original Title: Alias the Champ
Year: 1949
Director: George Blair
Writer: Albert DeMond
Genre: Action, Crime

New York gangsters trying to muscle in on the California wrestling scene come up against a wrestler who won't knuckle under. They frame him for a murder, and his manager and a cop set out to clear his name, catch the real killers and save the reputation of the sport of wrestling.

Speaking of Gorgeous George....

I realize it has been a couple weeks once again, but as I've said, I have just been lazy with writing. I've watched a few wrestling films, but haven't really felt compelled to write anything about them yet. That is until I came across this little film which ended up being a great bridge from that Henry Winkler snoozer that sort of pays homage to Gorgeous George in its own little way.

Alias the Champ felt more like a detective TV show than a movie, as it was only an hour long, but it was solid for having wrestling be its driving force. The synopsis completely overplays George's role in the film, but it was nice to see wrestling be taken seriously here. I suppose this was a sign of the times when it was still presented more seriously.

George is a pretty shit actor, which you will certainly see in this film, but it was kind of cool seeing his wrestling persona on display. And you will see a lot of wrestling! Despite the 60 minute run time, there's probably 15-minutes of mid-century style wrasslin on display. George is entertaining to watch in the ring. You can really see how he honed his craft and became hated by being such a douchebag. He would make the referee spray his hands before checking him, he had a little assistant to brush off his clothing, comb his hair, and help remove his robe. From what I understand, this stalling and acting so vain would drive fans nuts. He was the first wrestler to use entrance music, the first to bleach his hair blonde... he was a groundbreaking performer.

It was very interesting to see his in-ring personality and wrestling style filmed cinematically. Wrestling from this era can be scarce and not filmed all that well. But multiple camera angles and some sound effects give these fights a cool effect.

But George in the downtimes was pretty damn painful. An actor he is not. You will long for a Rock promo when you see George trying to be both serious and humorous. This is though from an era where wrestling promos and acting outside the ring were not even thought of, and I am sure George was in here because he was a huge celebrity at the time.

The other acting in the film is not so great as well which can probably be attributed to the writing and direction as well. The language in particular  is very dated. It has all the cliched detective speak from films of this era and earlier. And most of these lines are delivered in a cheesy, TV-serial type way. The two main characters Lt. Ron Peterson (Robert Rockwell) and Lorraine Connors (Audrey Long) have pretty boring chemistry despite teasing a romantic relationship throughout the entire film. Neither are offensive in their portrayals, but again nothing really great.

And the "hot" third party (huge quotes there - I actually paused the film and asked my wife it at any time this woman could be considered hot... negative) Barbra Fuller as Colette LaRue not only gives the shittiest dramatic performance, but also a horrific French accent that seems to fool everyone.

Colette... decidedly not hot

The story and direction here are just straightforward and nothing really worth going in depth with. I imagine Blair did what he could with an obvious lack of talent in the acting cast. I really didn't like the twist that always seems to come up in these detective mysteries, but i won't give it away here. There were some decent fist fights in there, including one in a gym between George's crew and the crew of his opponent for the world title, Sammy Menacker... a crew that included George the Animal Steele version 1.0: Tor Johnson!

This film isn't terrible, but it's not all that great either. I did like the wrestling elements of the film. Oddly, it almost felt like a modern day professional wrestling storyline, with just a little more added of course. Alias the Champ is not really worth seeking out, but if you come across it, you may enjoy it for history's sake.

There was a cool little 10-minute or so newsreel style clip at the end of the film that was pretty entertaining. It was about professional wrestling in general - the mechanics, the comedy, etc. It's not really something worth reviewing, but neat to see with a smart-ass narrator describing the action. There was a funny scene with two children wrestling in a ring (that's something you will never see today!) The narrator says at one point: "Watch the kid who's down. See him hit the floor and groan in agony!"


Anyway, Alias the Champ. Meh!

Score: 5 / 10