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James Earl Jones,
Mountain Rivera, a punchy has-been managed by the unprincipled Maish, is mauled in a fight and forced to quit boxing. Can his devoted cutman and a sympathetic social worker help him find a life outside the ring, or will Maish find a way to exploit him one more time? Written by
I don't think I had ever seen this movie from beginning to end before but had the chance to do so when it came up recently on a cable channel. One feels, after watching it in its entirety, as one does after having listened to Mahler's 9th symphony - you are emotionally drained and devastated. The movie is Exhibit A in the prosecution's case that movies were better made in the past than today. It is impossible to imagine something this excellent being produced today. The movie makes no plays for cuteness or humor, and never seeks to soften its razor-sharp edges. It is grittily real from beginning to end. Actually, it surpasses reality, as all great art does, in letting us look starkly into the cruel realities of human existence. The acting is absolutely top-notch from all the leads. One is reminded that Jackie Gleason, after all the eye-popping excesses of "The Honetmooners" (as great as that series was, for what it was) was a truly superb actor. I cannot think of a movie in which Anthony Quinn surpassed himself in his role as Mountain Rivera - tough, beaten up, beaten down, loyal, honest and yet with a sensitive core deep within. Mickey Rooney shines just as brightly. The script is brilliant, economical, realistic, and revelatory of the characters; we forget just what a brilliant writer Rod Serling was. Of course one of the reasons the movie could not be made today is that it forgoes the obligatory happy ending (which was used, evidently, in the TV version); the movie follows its dark logic all the way to the final, devastating scene.
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