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Stallones directing debut is a forgotten gem, back when it was released crushed by the critics and snubbed by the audiences. Wrongfully so, because this is great film that especially today makes you wonder whatever happened to Sylvster Stallone the artist. Here he was in all his glory: writer, director, star (even singer of the title song), and maybe that was the reason this film was ignored and critically lambasted back then. When Rocky came out, everybody body loved the writer-actor, but as we know, more sooner then later, people (especially the press) love to turn on the one they once favoured. Paradise Alley is a beautiful fim that needs to be rediscovered. Its made by someone who loves to tell a good, human story, captured in beautiful shots (just watch credit montage - the rooftop contest) Its full of colorful characters, full of warmth and feeling and wonderful humor. This film was a promise Stallone sadly later on never fulfilled, maybe because everyone turned so harsh on this one, which is something I will never understand. After decades of forgettable movies I wish Stallone would finally defy all nay-sayers and go back to stuff like this. He did by starring in Copland, but since then he made horribly choices as an actor, doing movies which didn't even make it to the theatres.
... and maybe pick up an award or two. This movie is very
every level, and LOT of fun to watch. Stallone's characterization of a
goofball who wants everybody else to bust their butts to make his dreams
come true for him is just brilliant, possibly his very best performance.
Actually, there's not a single bad performance in this whole movie and
that's saying a lot, considering that some of the major roles were filled
guys who were professional boxers or wrestlers. In addition, the
sets/costumes/lighting give a very good sense of place and time -- only
hairdos on the female leads tip you off that this was made in the late
Stallone made this film between "Rocky" and "Rocky II" and it shares alot
similarities with those films. It's the story of three brothers who dream
of busting out of the poverty of Hell's Kitchen in New York during the
Sly plays Cosmo Carboni, the street-wise hustler with no visible means of support but a head full of get-rich-quick schemes who hatches a plan to promote his brutish but gentle-natured brother (who's job is hauling giant blocks of ice all over the city) as a professional wrestler. Armand Assante plays his other brother, a cynical war veteran who was wounded in combat and now works as a mortician.
The story is peppered with colorful Damon Runyon-esque characters and a nicely balanced combination of humor and drama. Stallone writes and directs well, getting good performances from all his actors, and the film has a rich flavor and feeling for the period.
One of Stallone's least-known and least appreciated films, but it's well worth seeking out. Nicely done and entertaining.
I bought this from HMV on Monday, because I wanted to check out this early Sly Stallone movie, and I've got to say that he made a sterling job of it, both behind and in front of the camera. The story (also by Stallone) borrows a little off ROCKY, but is nonetheless entertaining. Three brothers dream of escaping from the dreary Hell's Kitchen of the 1940s, so one of the guys, Cosmo (Stallone) persuades the youngest bro (Lee Canalito), a big, musclebound labourer, to take part in a wrestling competition in the hope that they will become rich. However, things are never as easy as they seem, as the brothers set out to discover. Critics have said in the past that Sly could never do comedy, but in PA, he has some funny one-liners and he displays wit, warmth and charisma as conman-with-a-heart Cosmo. Note the dramatic change in his character as the movie progresses. The supporting cast is strong, including Armand Assante as the oldest brother who too undergoes a change in character and Frank McRae as an over-the-hill wrestler. There is one nice directorial touch during the film where Cosmo looks through the window of a girl he's been chasing and sees his brother's walking stick next to her bare feet. The wrestling sequences are well handled, as well, with plenty of blood and pounding flesh. I reckon this movie influenced countless 80s B-movie fare such as A.W.O.L. and THE CAGE, but this is the real deal, as it's better acted and pretty realistic. I'd say this was one of Sly's best, alongside FIRST BLOOD and NIGHTHAWKS.
This is a good fun, adventure movie made at the height of Sylvester
Stallone's critical popularity he was awarded for Rocky (1976). Working
as Paradise Alley's Writer, Director and Star, Sly does amazingly well,
his script and energetic direction are both full of color and finesse. Sly
gets the best out of his main co-stars, Armande Assante and Lee Canalito,
who along with Sly make up the underdog Carboni brothers. As Cosmo, Sly is
fun loving, wisecracking, con-man, who, unlike Rocky, is an unlikeable
unredeeming character. Somehow though, perhaps its with the shadow of
over him, Stallone turns Cosmo into a likeable character, the heart and
of the picture and gets you rooting for him and his brothers. Armand
as Lenny Carboni, is the movies most interesting character, he turns
virtually over night from a good natured itallian catholic boy, into a
tough, street wise Wrestling promoter, because he gives into the world he
was born into. Lee Canalito gives a slightly amaturish performance as
Victor, not surprising as he wasn't an actor prior to this film. However,
with Canalito's physical appearance, and syrupy voice you never once doubt
the inner animal waiting to escape the child, and Canalito, as Kid Salami
every bit as good as Sly as Rocky, in the wrestling scenes here. It is
nice to see Stallone regulars Frank McRae, as fallen Wrestling legend Big
Glory in a heart breaking scene with Stallone's Cosmo, and Rocky's Mr
Joe Spinelli turns up almost unrecognisably, as a garrish, wrestling ring
master. It is not hard however to see why this film failed. At times it
doesn't know what sort of movie it wants to be. Should it go for the
or the sentimentality? Is Stallone's character the hero or is it
Stallone turns out an efficient movie, his first time as director, but it
really needed someone like John G Avildsen, no stranger to sports movies
with Rocky, and Rocky V (1990) A Power of One (1989), not to mention The
Karate Kid series, to just smooth out those rough edges. Also the 1940's
York setting is kind of surplus, Rocky was set in the present (for the
time), and you feel that this movie could have been all the better for
modern. It is also kind of strange to see a bare chested hero in the ring
the movies climax other than Stallone, and again, had Cosmo been given a
redemption of sorts, the film would have had more of that feel good factor
so common with Sly's movies. However, Paradise Alley is a well made, acted
and enjoyable romp. With fantastically coreographed Wrestling scenes, good
characters and a nice breezy pace, and an emotion and adrenaline charged
Bill Conti music score to die for. Oh, and that is Sylvester Stallone
singing the movies theme song "Too close to Paradise" a good tune sung
by Sly, but you judge for yourself.
I didn't quite know what to make of "Paradise Alley" when it first came
out in 1978, and quite truthfully, I don't quite know what to make of
it today. Back in the mid 1960's I became quite a fan of professional
wrestling, oxymoron as that description is. So it was the wrestling
theme that prompted me to see it during it's theatrical release. Coming
off the success of "Rocky", it was as if Sylvester Stallone had to
follow up that first hit with another self propelled film as writer,
actor and director. The comparisons to "Rocky", inevitable as they are,
should be a cautionary one though. The former was a true diamond in the
rough honored as "Best Picture", while "Paradise" and it's characters
have trouble defining themselves in post War 1946 Hell's Kitchen.
It seems as if each of the Carboni Brothers undergoes a personality change during the story. Cosmo (Stallone) is the schemer who prompts Victor (Lee Cannalito) to become a wrestler by going up against and defeating the house champion Big Glory (Frank McRae). Brother Lenny (Armand Assante) is at first protective of Victor, but with the wrestler's success in the ring, the tables turn and Cosmo begins to question Lenny's ethics and handling of the purses. Lenny becomes the stereotype of a boxing manager, deflecting questions about his integrity and how he's handling Vic's money.
For me, a couple of things didn't ring true historically for the film's 1940's setting. The characters of Annie (Anne Archer) and Bunchie (Joyce Ingalls) looked just a little bit too glamorous for the story's backdrop. As for the wrestling scenes, though well done and featuring some of the mid '70's top mat stars, they were based quite heavily on the actual wrestling style of the Seventies. You had your grappling moves defined by flips and throws, punctuated by a Ray Stevens maneuver as he catapults into a turnbuckle. However most mat action prior to the 1960's was anything but, with rare exception. Even the widely available 1960 championship bout between Buddy Rogers and Pat O'Connor featured a lot of stale and boring rest holds.
Ironically, I just saw this film again on the cable Yes Network hosted by Yogi Berra in a format titled "Yogi and a Movie". Between scenes, the famed Yankee great would talk about his youth and watching pro wrestlers like Lou Thesz and Strangler Lewis. Story boards between acts mentioned a lot of trivia about the film that appears on the IMDb site for this movie, which leads me to believe that it could have been a reference point for the presentation.
There are a number of reasons to check out "Paradise Alley", and not just to be a Stallone completist. The filming style, particularly some of the bar scenes with their red tint lends a certain uniqueness to the movie. Another is the voice of Sly Stallone singing "Too Close to Paradise" over the opening credits and the rooftop race against "Rat" (Paul Mace). The one scene though that will test your patience is Victor singing to his parakeet, it's probably the one scene in film history that had me wishing for fingernails on a chalkboard.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
1940's. Hell's Kitchen. Shrewd, fast-talking, and ambitious con man Cosmo Carboni (well played by Sylvester Stallone, who also wrote, directed, and even sings the theme song!) encourages his good-natured, dim-witted, but strong-as-an-ox younger brother Victor (a solid and engaging performance by amiable big lug Lee Canalito) to participate in wrestling matches in order to win enough money to get out of their impoverished neighborhood. Stallone blends sentiment and seaminess into a tasty offbeat mix that manages to find just the right balance of grit, humor, warmth, and pathos. Better still, Stallone presents a vivid and flavorsome evocation of the period setting along with a beautifully lurid underworld milieu that's both captivating and appealing in equal measure. Armand Assante does strong work as Cosmo's cynical and crippled war veteran sibling Lenny. Frank McRae likewise shines with his touching turn as faded and battered washed-up brawler Big Glory. Moreover, there's a delightful array of colorful low-life secondary characters: Kevin Conway as slimy crime kingpin Stitch, Joe Spinell as flashy wrestling ring emcee Burp, and Terry Funk as fearsome brute Frankie the Thumper. This movie further benefits from the charming presence of three attractive ladies: Anne Archer as sassy'n'sultry redhead dance hall gal Annie, Aimee Eccles as the sweet Susan Chow, and Joyce Ingalls as classy dame Bunchie. Laszlo Kovacs' glittery cinematography provides a striking garish look. Bill Conti's spare harmonic score does the trick, too. A nicely quirky little winner.
Not everyone gets the just of this movie but for those that do it is a laugh riot!! Stallone is hysterical as the animated Cosmos Carboni who is incessantly trying to make an easy buck with random scams. Armand Assante plays Lenny, Cosmos' older brother and voice of reason for the Carboni Boys. Finally, there is the younger brother Vick who can haul 300lbs of ice up 15 flights of stairs without blowing his breakfast but has the IQ of a gnat. So many scenes are gut busters in this movie and I don't want to give them away but a few of my favorites include: Stallone waking up hungover to discover a plate full of roaches on his previous night's dinner. He proceeds to take aim on the plate with his Louisville Slugger and shatters it along with the roaches with his brother and pet bird looking on. The same day he is out in the streets freezing with a stolen concierge outfit on, holding a monkey chained to a table and chanting "see the dancing monkey!" This is his latest money making scheme after Vick won the monkey in a previous night's arm wrestling match. Anyway, it's crude and low brow humor, but that is what makes this film a great Friday night viewing among good buddies.
Probably Stallone's most under valued work, this film reminds the viewer just what talent he had behind the camera (see also Rocky II to IV). The story follows the three Carboni brothers in 1940s New York, as they each try to make their way through life in the slums of Hells Kitchen. Cosmo (Stallone) plans to turn his tough but dim brother Victor into a champion wrestler, and with the help of their third brother (Assante) they set about making their fortune. There are echoes of Rocky throughout the film, (small time nobody becomes admired champion), but what sets it apart is the humour. There are great lines throughout the film delivered with dead pan perfection from the mostly excellent cast, which also includes Stallone regular Joe Spinell. If you can make it through the hilariously bad opening number (sung by Stallone himself), there's plenty here to appreciate. This film is long overdue a release on DVD... come on Universal, how about it?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Paradise Alley is a film about three brothers in Hell's Kitchen, New
York City that become involved in professional wrestling during the
1940's.It stars Sylvester Stallone,who also acted as screenwriter and
director of the film.
Cosmo Carboni and his brothers Lenny and Victor reside in the poor section of Hell's Kitchen. Cosmo is determined to get out of their depressing situation.When he discovers an illegal wrestling match,he realizes that Victor could beat the champion and gets motivated when he sees lots of money being passed around.Later,Cosmo's brother joins in by acting as the manager.When pressure builds and the stakes grow higher especially when the mob gets involved,it becomes apparent that Victor must fight for his life.
It was Stallone's directorial debut.It was an enjoyable and entertaining dated film from the 70's.Some parts become unintentionally funny.Obviously, it was also predictable and clichéd in the end.But one thing that stands out is the theme of brotherhood especially when the relationship of the three brothers remain a focal point of the story.That alone makes it better than an average film.
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