Follow by email

Tuesday, 30 June 2009


To my shame I knew nothing about this film - I would most certainly not have bought it were it not bundled together in a Paul Newman box set. I sure would have missed out on a better boxing movie than any of the Rocky movies. It's the DVD case which is a reproduction of the original cinema poster shown that would have turned me off. The poster - although an artists rendition of the very final scene in the film - is not representative of this utterly brilliant Newman movie which also features a young Steve McQueen in a minor role.

Man this film is gritty, features an amazingly tight performance from Paul Newman and an even better one from Pier Angeli. It was originally written for James Dean who, sadly died before filming could begin, but to be honest it's difficult to think of anyone other than Paul Newman in the lead.

The fighting scenes, particularly in the final fight, are brutal and it is clear that Stallone lifted several sections verbatim for his first Rocky movie.

I'm amazed I'd never heard of this movie - I think my knowledge of classic films is at least above average so the fact that this movie slipped beneath my radar is surprising. Mind you both the WIKI and IMDB are vague on details for this classic and neither site mentions that Steve McQueen, in only his second role, is a minor cast member. So maybe the film is after all somehow largely forgotten.

The first act is full of social conscience and reminded me of the old Cagney gangster Warner movies as we watch Newman's Rocco Barbella rise through the ranks of petty crime before entering the army and going AWOL before being sentenced to a year's hard labour and a dishonourable discharge. Then down on his luck Rocco takes to sparring to pay the bills and is discovered as a major new fighter.

Course it does get a little obvious in parts - crooked fight promoters, the mob, a wife who doesn't like her husband fighting but only because I've seen these themes countless times in boxing movies that came after this one. And on times Newman, in only his second movie, becomes too method and mumbles his way through whole chunks of dialogue. Nevertheless the film is gripping and the ending brought tears to these hardened eyes.

An excellent movie.

I'm gonna sit back down and watch it a second time.

On region 2 DVD as part of THE PAUL NEWMAN COLLECTION from Warner Home Video. The other films in the box are The Left Handed Gun, Harper, The Mackintosh Man and The Drowning Pool. All of which I am more familiar with.

1 comment:

Ray said...

Rocco Barbella = Rocky Balboa.
This movie was better known at the time and my dad took me to see this one. To me it is THE best boxing movie and set the template for all the rest. Little wonder then that Stallone would copy it.