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

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