|Index||3 reviews in total|
In the early days of Television, programming wasn't as extensive as it
would be just a few short years later. No station execs would have
dreamed that there would soon be 24 hour outlets sending their
programming out over nation-wide cable hook ups. Those were the days of
Test Patterns and long hours of audio humming accompanying it.
It was to this primitive, new medium that Pro Wrestling was given exposure to the vast audience in the U.S. and Canada-as well as other countries. The two were made for each other. Television needed an action filled combative spectacle to fill its time and wrestling was waiting in the wings. It was easy to cover, as the size of the ring limited the ground covered. It had plenty of established "old pros" who could be counted on to put on exiting and action filled exhibitions, as well as some of the greatest talents with extensive amateur background and collegiate experience, to provide us with championship bouts.
It was in this world of the late '40s that Republic Pictures made ALIAS THE CHAMP.It was the studio's way of exploiting what was hot, something Hollywood's always done, and always will. The picture had no surprises and could,with a little plot change, have been many other pictures. The casting of Robert Rockwell as the Police Captain who becomes the new Wrestling Commissioner, heads up a cast of familiar character actors to get the job done.
The real stars of the film were Gorgeous George and all of the other Pro Grapplers who basically played themselves.The story is there to give a back-drop for having a Wrestling Movie. In Hollywood, it's just that way. Take advantage of whatever is currently popular. At this time, Wrestling was on this short TV schedule 6 nights a week (according to an old TV listings magazine we have), and of these 6 nights George and company were on two different shows 2 different nights! Gorgeous George was so well known that as a small child of 4 or 5 years old, I thought that it was Gorgeous George's picture on the dollar bill.
ALIAS THE CHAMP is worth viewing, at least for the historic value.
Can I say one rather obvious fact and get it out of the way so I can go
on with my review? Wrestling was NEVER "legit", it was always
entertainment-disguised-as-sport. Okay now as I was saying.
ALIAS THE CHAMP is a fun film, you can tell by the lighthearted music during the opening credits that this one is not going to take itself too seriously. In the spotlight, literally and figuratively, is Gorgeous George the wrestler who paved the way for the over the top, larger than life characters we see to-day. George has a problem, some gangsters from New York are trying to bulldoze their way into the California wrestling scene. Using threats and intimidation they have won over some smalltime grapplers but the superstars like George and his rival "Slammin'" Sammy Mennaker are defying them. It's up to George's gorgeous manager (Audrey Long) and a tough police lieutenant (Robert Rockwell) to pin these bad guys down for a 3-count before they get the "real" wrestlers on the ropes. (Hey isn't that almost the exact same plot as PIN DOWN GIRLS? Well, yes but who cares these movies are always fun.) It is not revealing too much to say that the gangsters try to get George out of the way by framing him for a crime but amazingly the cop uses a new device, television, to clear GG's name.
George Blair is a good director and he handles the plot very well. He allows Gorgeous George to basically be himself. You have to wonder if he and Sammy really were rivals outside the ring as well as inside. The movie is short, 1 hour 47 seconds by my stopwatch, but Mr. Blair sets the mood by giving us an 8 minute grappling match at the very beginning. Television was a relatively new device in 1948. It was also an expensive toy that few homes could afford. I recall my uncle telling me that in those old days there were only 3 channels and they all competed with each other. Telecasting live wrestling and boxing matches was a sure way to get viewers.
Later on there is a free-for-all in a training gym that pits real wrestlers against each other. Watch this scene closely for cult film star to be Tor Johnson. The 45 year old Johnson really was a wrestler at this time and was known as The Super Swedish Angel. He'd played small roles in movies since 1933 but in this film he plays himself. During the fight scene he takes on 2 guys at a time and has no trouble polishing them off. We also get to see him wrestle in THE LEMON DROP KID (1947) and it's interesting to see how many of his ring mannerisms he incorporated into his later roles in Ed Wood movies.
Watch also for familiar character actors like John Hamilton (Perry White in the "Superman" TV show) and John Harmon (best remembered as the lighthouse keeper in THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS) in supporting roles.
ALIAS THE CHAMP is a good, entertaining movie. Personally though I wish they had used Tor Johnson in more scenes.
****SPOILERS**** With top contender Sammy "The Bull" Menacker mouthing
off all over the press and TV about west coast wresting champion
Gorgeous George Wagner's hairdo and wardrobe as well as him being a
pansy and ducking him he's finally forced to give him a shot at the
crown. Only to end up being indited for murder when Menacker suddenly
dropped dead during his match with George after being body slammed by
him. It's George's good friend police Let. Ron Patterson who feels that
George was set up by the New York Syndicate because he refused to play
along with it in having it fix his matches. That in having George
forced in throwing fights that they bet against him and on his
Faced with a 1st degree murder charge George is given a life-line by Let. Patterson in getting the TV studio that broadcast his match with Menacker to re-broadcast it to the grand jury and find a clue to what or who really murdered Manacker. We earlier found out that the east coast hood Al Marlo is behind all this in trying to take over the wrestling racket with the champ Gorgeous George as his major obstacle in doing that. Now with George's good friend Let. Patterson given the post as the state wrestling Code administrator Marlo got real desperate and went as far as pining a murder on George to get him out of the way and behind bars.
****SPOILERS****In the only motion picture that he made Gorgeous George kept his flamboyance in and out of the ring as low as possible. He played himself as a victim not the obnoxious bully as he was in real life that made the audience root for instead of boo him. I don't know if it was Geoege's idea but I noticed he being the star of the movie was almost at the bottom of it's closing credits in what can only be called a show of humility on George's part. As for the murder that he's accused of George was vindicated by his friend Let. Patterson who moved heaven & earth to find Menacker's murderer. That in Patterson finding Menacker killer on the tape of his match with George using a poison pen to do him in.
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