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In Coaltown, Pennsylvania, miner Coke Mason hopes to better himself, buy a radio store, and marry Rose Warren. His gambler brother George thinks Coke can be more successful as a boxer, knowing that when he fights he's consumed with a murderous rage that makes him an "iron man." Seeing dollar signs in Rose's eyes, Coke reluctantly agrees, though he's fearful of the "killer instinct" that makes him a knockout success in the ring...and brings him the booing hatred of the fans. Will Coke throw off his personal demon before he kills someone? Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Jeff Chandler as 'Coke' in IRON MAN is the first cousin of Kirk Douglas' 'Midge' in CHAMPION. Both are driven by a need to dominate and destroy, that comes from a deep-seated anger. It is to Chandler's credit that Coke is at all sympathetic. Particularly effective is the almost animalistic boxing style driven by inner turmoil. "When I box I'm fighting for my life" says Coke in one revealing scene. This film contains what may be Chandler's best and least-seen performance. Despite his character's mounting brutality, the actor maintains interest and sympathy for Coke, never going over the top. It's a finely shaded portrayal, requiring more than physicality from Chandler, who excels in the many conflicted close-up shots in the first half of the film.
Evelyn Keyes is dependable here, but the actress is much better only two years later in 99 RIVER STREET. This is a cast of big men. Chandler and Rock Hudson (who looks incredible) tower over Steve McNally (himself not a small man). But then all are in Munchkin Land when James Arness appears in the ring with Chandler: Arness was HUGE--trim and well-proportioned--but BIG. His character is a far cry from 'Matt Dillon', and may surprise his fans. Former lawyer McNally is excellent as always and Jim Backus does plenty with his cynical sports-writer character.
Joseph Pevney was a fine actor and here he shows an assurance directing others. Not only is most of the cast at its best, but there are several very strong, dramatically potent scenes.
IRON MAN is not a great film on the near-poetic level of THE SET-UP, CHAMPION or BODY AND SOUL, but its realistic style and acting performances make it more than worthy company for the classic boxing pictures.
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