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This film is never mentioned by the film historians when listing great sports films. Richard Conte was brilliant and made this adaptation of the great Jack London's "The Mexican" a true representation. The director and castings reflect the era of the Mexican revolution. I do not have a biography of Conte, but he must have been either a boxer or an athlete of some ability. Lee J. Cobb was equally brilliant. Why it is not aired or remains buried, is a mystery.
Conte plays Felipe Rivera, a Mexican who joins up with a revolutionary group trying to wrest the country from its current leadership. His motivation is unclear to begin with but a long flashback takes care of that. Rivera's chief means of assisting the cause is boxing to raise cash for it. The film is flawed, there's no getting away from that. It has plenty of very wooden, stereotypical acting and the script is pretty crude. But there is some outstanding camera-work here (James Wong Howe was cinematographer, along with an uncredited Floyd Crosby, who shot High Noon and worked on From Here to Eternity), especially the boxing scenes but there are great moments throughout, and Conte's performance is another highlight. His role is ultimately more three dimensional than is often the case (in my experience - seen 9 of his films) and his fight scenes are great. Conte fans will almost certainly enjoy the film. Cobb's performance (as the leader of the revolutionaries) will divide viewers, but I enjoyed it - enthusiasm over realism. All in all, good fun. It's public domain and you can watch it online on The Internet Archive.
At the time this film was released in 1952 I was a sophomore intercollegiate boxer (135 lbs, 6'2"). I saw the film twice in 1952. I had seen other boxing films but none as realistic as boxing by Richard Conte. He was an incredibly talented and under rated actor. In you love boxing see this film! Conte looks like and moves like a boxer. Considering Conte was 42 years old at the time this film was made he appears in remarkable physical condition. Not only is the boxing itself "real" but the ostensible purpose of the boxing matches make sense. Conte's people need guns and he boxes to get money for those guns. It is difficult to remember scenes of a film I saw 56 years ago. I do remember that Conte during the course of boxing matches appeared to be exhausted just would a real boxer after a match. Of course the weight class I boxed, and especially intercollegiate boxing, is never designed to injure/harm anyone. Real boxing is designed to injure/damage the opponent.
This isn't so much a boxing movie as a peasant rebelling against a
cruel dictatorship movie. Richard Conte (who, at 42, was about 15 years
too old for the role of Felipe Rivera) plays the peasant in question
who flees to New Mexico to raise funds for the rebellion after his
beloved is murdered by troops. The film is a clumsy amalgamation of two
stories - Rivera's life as a peasant, and his attempts to raise money
to buy guns for the rebellion through boxing - the former of which is
sandwiched between the latter as an extended flashback. As always in
this type of film all the peasants are decent noble types and all the
troops are leering sadists.
Lee J. Cobb plays Durango, the heroic rebel leader and he isn't that great. He was called upon a few times in his career to portray latino types and, with his tendency to exaggerate the accents he was never convincing. In fact the film is fairly ordinary throughout and directed in a workmanlike manner by Herbert Kline (who also wrote), although the fight sequences are fairly good for the time. This is one for Conte completists only.
"The Fighter" is a watchable movie, even though it has some problems.
Richard Conte does a very good job as a decidedly serious Mexican
peasant with a very strong anti-Federales bent. No wonder, because they
have slaughtered his family and village for hiding a guerrilla leader,
Lee J. Cobb. To create a new anti-Diaz band of fighters, Cobb needs
guns and guns cost money, and so Conte goes into the boxing ring for a
prize fight. Frank Silvera plays a publicist for the revolutionary
cause, in El Paso, and Vanessa Brown is his assistant who cares a lot
for Conte. Conte moves back and forth between Mexico and El Paso.
The movie is low-budget. The exteriors are quite good. The interiors have that echo sound that's too much like a sound stage or cheap TV production. The dialog lapses too many times into a false or fake way of representing foreign speakers. This is when they minimize their use of contractions. Instead of "don't", we hear "do not", for example. The language becomes stilted. The village life and characters become too romanticized as well, or clichéd. Conte does best at injecting the realism into the film.
I've seen many, many boxing matches and they don't look like what this film shows, despite the heroic efforts made here and despite some resemblance to actuality. The boxing scenes unrealistically collapse too much action into a round. The fighting in the clinches is not right. Neither is the sparring. Oh, well.
It's interesting that Conte would take a minor film on like this. I guess he liked to work and stay in the film-making game. He did appear in some other smaller films from time to time too. For the following 5 years, he was able to land leading roles as he had in the years preceding "The Fighter". After that, he took on more supporting roles. He had a pretty long run as the leading man in a lot of good films and film noirs. At any rate, he's a subtle actor who doesn't over-act or over-emote. You have to pay attention to his eyes and face. He's typically convincing and real. He'll not be forgotten as Barzini, for sure. It's really Conte who carries "The Fighter". Cobb too had come off of bigger films, and some of his best work lay ahead. Like Conte, somewhere around 1960, the world of film would change and the leading roles for his generation and style diminish. I like Cobb's work too. It's bigger than life and gruff but still interesting and convincing. It wears well over time. It has not become corny. The supporting actor who plays Conte's boxing manager is very good. That's Hugh Sanders. He had 214 credits. He's memorable in "Storm Warning". Frank Silvera is, of course, memorable in "Killer's Kiss" and "Crime and Punishment, USA".
The acting in those days was at a faster pace, with fewer stares, pauses, long looks, and so on that occur more frequently today and to my eyes and tastes look pretentious and less realistic, even though the idea is that they are supposed to make the movie seem more realistic. Acting today is too often looking more spaced out and drugged out. The world has moved on. The characters look different. The ways they carry on look different. Somehow a good many of the newer movies, although executed well enough, are more forgettable and make less of an impression on me. I'm getting on.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Do not confuse with the 2010 film of the same name.This is NOT a boxing film.It is instead a story of a revolutionary who sets about to help correct the injustice done to his family and village by means of boxing to raise money to buy guns. Based on a book called"The Mexican"written by adventure Jack London that he claims was told to him by riders with Pancho Villa,it follows the alleged true story of a supposed real fighter that Jack called Felipe Rivera ,wonderfully played by Victor Jory who comes to El Paso to work for those running a newspaper writing about the injustice of the Diaz government in Mexico being challenged by Modero. Released in 1952 and running only 78 minutes,I am only sad it is in B&W, however although Jory is a Italian, a few of the actors have hispanic names and seem to be so,rare for Hollywood back then and another reason to praise the film. To come to this film for boxing only is a discredit to the story and a misunderstanding of the films true story.I loved it.
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