Thursday, January 20, 2011
(April 1949, U.S.)
One of the interesting consistencies about boxing films, or "fight pictures" of the golden age of cinema is that they almost all seem to tell the same tale. Our champion typically starts out as a down-and-out bum or even a criminal, by pure chance or fate finds out that he has a knack for boxing, slowly rises to the top, falls into the violent corruption of gamblers, promoters and the seductive women that go with them, somewhere they have a woman of purity who will love them no matter what, and the inevitable final championship fight that will either make or brake their futures, or their lives. One need only watch CHAMPION, BODY AND SOUL (1947) or SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956) to see what I'm talking about.
Kirk Douglas as boxer Midge Kelly not only fights in the ring, but his own personal demons, as well. When he steps into the ring, he often carries a strong degree of hate with him for those who look down on him or seek to do him wrong. This hatred consistently earns him victory in the ring. The dark side, though, is the alienation he creates between himself and those who genuinely care about him; his brother, his manager and the woman he left behind. With all of its black and white imagery, there is a great wealth of pictorial interests and exciting action of a graphic sort. The scenes in training gymns, managers' offices and, of course, the big boxing rings are strongly atmospheric and physically intense. The fighting itself is more furious than one might credit for the times, almost a prelude to what we would see in ROCKY fights many years later. As the hero and "Champion," Kirk Douglas does a good, aggressive job, with a slight inclination to over-eagerness at times, which would likely amuse any boxing fan, past or present. His character has a solid strength out of the ring that also keeps him from being a complete victim of those who have made a career of manipulating him. Just watch the scene where he finally tells his blonde bombshell to finally get lost after she's banked on him long enough. You smile and you're tempted to yell, "You go, Kirk!" at the TV screen!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Tommy Haley: "This is the only sport in the world where two guys get paid for doing something they'd be arrested for if they got drunk and did it for nothing."