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M-G-M's first 3-D production shot at a rodeo in Tucson, Arizona is a story surrounded by objects flying into the camera. The story takes place in one day between the rodeo events where bronc buster Gig Young has left his wife, Polly Bergen, for rodeo-follower (i.e., "groupie" for those born since the sixties) Barbara Lawrence. The reconciliation of Young and Bergen is brought about by Harry Morgan (still being billed as Henry Morgan), an over-the-hill bronc buster now reduced to being the show's clown. (Rodeo clowns are usually the most disciplined, most valuable to the welfare of the rodeo cowboys and best-trained of all rodeo performers but Hollywood always showed them as down-and-outers.) Morgan of course has a pretty wife, Jean Hagen, and a little boy, Lee Aker, and anybody watching this film and not guessing who is going to get killed just hasn't been exposed to enough scripts from Hollywood set around a rodeo arena. Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Arena was a short B feature from MGM which was famous because it was shot in 3-D. The rodeo with its exciting events is a perfect venue for the 3-D process. I only wish I had seen Arena in the movie theaters, but at the age of 6, I wouldn't have appreciated it.
Director Richard Fleischer packs a whole lot of plot and a whole lot of rodeo into the 71 minute running time of Arena. The lead here is Gig Young who is arriving at the Tucson rodeo accompanied not by wife Polly Bergen, but with buckle bunny Barbara Lawrence. That by the way is the expression for rodeo groupie.
Bergen shows up later saying she wants a divorce and understandably so, but she and Young will hash it out after the day's events.
A nice group of character actors round out the cast. Lee Van Cleef is a veteran rider battling injuries and for once is a nice guy in a film, something I never thought I would see. Robert Horton is a young cowboy looking to make his mark and maybe even make some time with Lawrence should Young's grip loosen. Harry Morgan is a former rodeo great who is now the clown of the show and he's accompanied by wife, Jean Hagen and son Lee Aaker.
I completely agree with the other reviewer's criticism though about Arena portraying the rodeo clown as the broken down guy they give a job to, for charity. Having seen enough PBR shows I know for a fact that those guys are and have to be in peak condition to be playing tag with those bucking bulls, getting the bull-riders out of harm's way.
In fact it's really something seeing the riders without the flak vests and some with protective helmets that they have today. Those cowboys were really taking their lives in their hands.
Other than that. Arena is a fine film about rodeo life in and out of the Arena.
As for the bullfighters of today, in the PBR they're not dressed in clown suits any more. In fact the function is split and the entertainer in the PBR is Flint Rasmussen and he can if necessary play some tag with the bull. But three men go into that Arena to aid the rider, not just one any more.
And for those three guys, Shorty Gorham, Frank Newsome, and Joe Baumgartner as well as Flint this review is respectfully dedicated.
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