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Edward G. Robinson,
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After 17 years as a recognized and respected sports journalist in New York City, Eddie Willis finds himself out of a job when his newspaper folds. He's approached by a major fight promoter, Nick Benko, to act as a public relations man for his new heavyweight fighter Toro Moreno. Eddie knows the how the fight game works and after watching Toro in the ring, realizes Toro is nothing but a stiff who has no hope of succeeding. Benko offers him a sizable salary and an unlimited expense account and given his financial situation, he agrees. Benko's strategy to make money is one that has been used time again. Starting in California and moving east, they arrange a series of fights for Toro with stiffs and has-beens. All of the fights are rigged to build up his record and get him a fight with the heavyweight champion, Buddy Brannen, where they will make a sizable profit at the gate. Along the way, one boxer gets killed in the ring and Eddie begins to have serious doubts about what he is doing. Written by
I just saw this film and now realize that Sly Stallone must have watched it about a hundred times before staging the fight scenes in Rocky he even recreated the subtle touch when Toro's coach cuts his eyelid in the fight to release the built-up blood (except in this film, you only see him go for the eye with a scalpel but don't see him actually cut it as you do in Rocky). The final fight at the end of this movie is THE most gruesome fight ever filmed. Stallone tried to capture this in Rocky, but it has nowhere NEAR the realism of the fight in The Harder They Fall. This is partly because it is shot in black and white, which for some reason makes everything seem more gruesome than color; partly because of the foggy, staggering way it is shot, as if you are seeing the punches through the groggy boxer's eyes; and partly because the actor who played Toro was not a star like Stallone or DeNiro in Raging Bull they could make him look like a true wreck, a distorted, disfigured wreck without fear of diminishing his "star" quality handsomeness.
My favorite line in this movie is when Bogart angrily asks Steiger how he'd like to have his jaw broken like Toro's. Steiger's henchmen immediately start to converge on Bogart, who says, "He didn't have 5 guys in the ring with him." It's a great line that brings home how the powerful are protected from the very pain they inflict on others.
The movie's title, from the old saying, "the bigger they are, the harder they fall," is also very ironic, because the "big" guys Steiger and the corrupt fight backers actually never "fall" it is only the "little" guys, like Toro, who fall the hardest.
By the way, it was really spooky seeing Max Baer himself re-create his historic fight with Primo Carnera in this film, which is based on Max Baer's historic fight with Primo Carnera! You can see a film of this 1934 fight online, in which Baer knocks Carnera down 11 times in 11 rounds. By round 2, Baer was actually chasing Carnera around the ring, and at least 3 times he knocked him down so hard that he actually fell on top of him!
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