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The Gambler (1974)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama  |  October 1974 (USA)
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Reviews: 38 user | 17 critic

Axel Freed is a literature professor. He has the gambling vice. When he has lost all his money, he borrows from his girlfriend, then his mother and finally some bad guys that chase him. Despite all of this he cannot stop gambling.



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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Morris Carnovsky ...
A.R. Lowenthal
Jacqueline Brookes ...
Naomi Freed
Carmine Caridi ...
Steven Keats ...
London Lee ...
Las Vegas Gambler
Bank Officer
Carl W. Crudup ...


Axel Freed a College Professor and very successful at his job is a gambling junkie who wins big but loses it all at the same time. He borrowed from his girlfriend, his wealthy mother and last but not least a Loan Shark from the Mob. It just gets worst for him because he loses all his cash each time and act likes it doesn't matter. Up until his Girlfriend decides to leave him, his Mom decides to disown him and the Mob wants to kill him Axel decided to get out pay up and stop before he is dead goes bust he decides to make a big score to win big and pay off everyone to stay alive and keep his dignity to come out ahead. Written by Wesley Benton

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


For $10,000 they break your arms. For $20,000 they break your legs. Axel Freed owes $44,000.


Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

October 1974 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El jugador  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


In real life when a gambler owes a huge amount of money to a bookie he is not allowed to bet with any other bookie until his debt outstanding is either paid in full or substantially paid down. It is also the case that a bookie would never cover a bet to anyone who owes a large amount of money and would spread the word around town to "freeze" or "shut them out". See more »


Axel Freed: I'm not going to lose it. I'm going to gamble it.
See more »


Referenced in Dinner for Five: Episode #2.10 (2003) See more »


Symphony No. 1 in D
by Gustav Mahler (as Mahler)
Performed by Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest (as The Concertgebouw Orchestra)
Conducted by Bernard Haitink (as Haitink)
Courtesy of Philips Records
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User Reviews

The only thing thats standing between your skull and a baseball bat is my word
8 January 2005 | by (brooklyn NY) – See all my reviews

**SPOILERS** Terribly depressing character study of a degenerate gambler who's luck hit rock bottom with him getting into the hole for $44,000.00 to the mob who's been bankrolling his action.

James Caan in one of his most memorable roles as Axel Freed a collage English professor, at the prestigious Fordham University in New York City, who's gambling his life away in his almost suicidal attempt to make the big score. Axel is not a total loser in the movie, he does have his share of big hits in the film, but like almost all gamblers he plays to lose more then to win by going against his better judgment, it makes things more challenging and exciting that way for him. It's when he bets and ends up broke that Alex has to go to local mob Shylock's to get cash, to continue his insane betting, that has him at the brink of having his arms legs and head disjointed and broken or busted.

Because of the subject matter as well as the fine acting from Mr. Caan and the rest of the cast the movie really grabs you and leaves you feeling almost as depressed and despondent as Axel is in it. You really feel for the man since he has an almost incurable disease, compulsive gambling, thats slowly turning this very likable and friendly person into an uncontrollable monster.

Axel is not only destroying himself but his widowed mom Naomie Freed, Jacqueline Brooks. Naomie cashes out her life savings of almost $50,000.00 to pay off her sons debts to the mob. As soon as Axel gets the money his mother gave him to practically save his life and limbs he immediately gambles it away on a number of basketball games! This puts him into even more of a hole with the gangsters then he already was in. At the same time Alexs actions has his shocked girlfriend Billie ,Lauren Hutton, walk out on him in total disgust.

Walking aimlessly in the park Axel is grabbed by two mobsters and taken to a mob hideout in the city. Given one last chance to pay up or else they come up with what even Axel feels is something thats not worth his life to do. He's told to get one of his students Spencer, Carl W. Crudup, who's a top basketball player for the collage team to shave points in a big game that he's playing in that evening with Axel giving him $5,000.00 to do it. This act of corrupting an innocent person to save his hide for the troubles that he got himself into was the straw that broke the camels back for the now extremely tormented Axel and finally opened his eyes, to not only what he was doing to himself but to those around him as well.

With his debts now finally paid off and the mob off his back Axel instead of being relived becomes suicidal and at the end of the movie gambles with the most prized and valuable item in his possession: His Life.

11 of 18 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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