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|Index||14 reviews in total|
This is my favorite of all the twilight zone episodes. The story of two men struggling to make a living in a time in the not-to-distant future, and not doing very well. The sport of boxing has been ruled too brutal for humans to engage in, and so it is now done only by robots. Lee Marvin and his pal field a robot, who after many bouts is falling apart and can't go any longer. But the two men have bills to pay, and have to field an entry in tonight's match. The opponent is the latest, newest, strongest model fighting machine robot - a truly frightening prospect. And guess who has to go up against it. This turns into a memorable tale of guts, determination, or just call it heart.
Man vs. robot. Not exactly a new idea in the science fiction repertoire. Here it gets a fresh start as Lee Marvin has to step in the ring against a fearsome B-7, with results that might surprise you. At this stage of his career, Lee Marvin was one of the most interesting actors around. Few could convey the authority or clarity of emotion that he could. Here those qualities are put to good use and it's hard to imagine the half-hour succeeding without him. As it stands, the episode is mildly involving because we're not sure how the unusual premise will play out. Marvin is a fight manager of an obsolete model android during a period in which boxing among humans has been outlawed. There are the usual sleazy types running the bouts that Marvin must deal with, and it's odd to see this model tough guy bowing and scraping so he can get a few bucks from them. Really noteworthy for the fine make-up job turning real people into convincing looking robots. Serling sees the events as a tribute to the human spirit even though the filming plays up the tacky futility of it all. Take your pick.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The "Twilight Zone" episodes viewed today, for the most part, are as
entertaining - and seem as innovative - as when they were produced and
first-aired more than four decades ago. This episode is certainly one
Lee Marvin, an ex-boxer himself, now manages and owns an android pugilist in a time where the sport has been outlawed for human fighters for several years. With his mechanic/assistant, they arrive in a town for a bout with a newer-model opponent -about 5 models advanced over their antiquated one.
Upon finding a key part malfunctioning, Marvin personally substitutes, in order to collect the modest purse they so badly need.
The make-up for the two androids and Martin impersonating same is excellent, and the seedy arena, promoters and audience members appear authentic.
Like many offerings in film and television, outstanding ones from a long time past provide a repetition of the enjoyment they provided originally --- plus a significant viewer "bonus" in the added nostalgia for their genres, and for the actors no longer available, due to age or passing.
Again, "Twilight Zone" provides these in the vast majority of episodes today.
It was a very good choice to choose Lee Marvin to play the principle character in this episode. He has those chiseled features and the brow of a boxer. I wonder if the actor, himself, had taken a few shots himself. This is one of those stories where someone gets so desperate because of some bad decisions that he literally must put his life on the line. The intriguing things is that boxing has become so violent that it has been outlawed. This is stupid, but it brought me back to an episode of the idiotic Jetsons episode where the football game they are watching features two teams of robots. So Marvin is chosen to fight a robot because his out of date product is damaged. He has to last or lose everything. The story is a lot of fun and keeps one's attention to the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lee Marvin plays Steel Kelly, a former fighter who now merely acts as the manager for a robot called "Battling Maxwell." In the not-so-distant future, boxing has been banned and robots have taken the place of humans. The boxing world, however, is still full of sleazy characters and Kelly and his partner/mechanic (Joe Mantell) barely make a living off their battered and out-dated robot, bouncing from one smoke-filled arena to another. Desperate for money, the two men travel to Kansas City for a bout. To their utter dismay, Battling Maxwell blows his main fuse and breaks down completely just before the match. What transpires next is classic "Twilight Zone." Brushing aside his partner's pleas, Kelly decides to step into the ring himself disguised as Maxwell. In the opposite corner of the ring is a state-of-the-art robot called the Maynard Flash. Although the chances of Kelly staying on his feet (or even staying alive) are nearly one-hundred to one, he attempts the impossible: man versus machine at its most one-sided. It's all about the enduring human spirit, according to narrator Serling, even though the ending to the story is hardly uplifting. The episode is helped by an unforgettable performance by Marvin as Kelly with Mantell giving him fine support. This episode was written by the prolific Richard Matheson who was one of Rod Serling's chief collaborators on the series. In the realm of Twilight Zone stories, "Steel" ranks with the best.
Surprisingly not from the typewriter of Rod Serling who liked boxing
and wrote 'Requiem For A Heavyweight', but a story from Richard
Matheson. Interesting as a vision of the future ('circa 1974') as being
a time when boxing is banned as this was written during a classic era
for the sport. The sight of Lee Marvin and Joe Mantell (Nervous Man In
A Four Dollar Room, series two),shifting their robot fighter around
would have seemed pretty weird then. The way both actors deliver the
lines as though their automaton was a real boxer is impressive, with
words like 'oil' in their dialogue. They even overcome a ridiculous
'springy' sound effect. Lee Marvin was the perfect actor to show gritty
survival qualities in any society no matter what they ban.
Adds to the diversity of the Zone. The message is clear.
Lee Marvin- what can I say? One of the best action actors of the '60s
and '70s. And Joe Mantell- one of the best sidekicks ever ("Angie,"
"Marty's" also-unmarried sidekick in 1955's "Marty," with Ernest
Borgnine as Marty; "Walsh" in 1974's "Chinatown," with Jack Nicholson
as Gittes- it's Mantell who delivers the famous final line of that
movie: "Forget it, Jake; it's Chinatown"), here playing Marvin's
sidekick. Two palookas, tough guys at the end of their rope, fighting
against the odds. Even though the episode takes place in what was then
the middle-distant future, 1974, when an ostensibly more humane society
than in 1963 has banned prizefighting between humans, we see that the
down-and-out are still struggling just to survive.
Great story, great actors, great episode.
If not the very best episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, Richard Matheson's STEEL is certainly one of the Top Five- and one of the greatest short stories ever written. Lee Marvin manages to convincingly convey the down-but-not-out determination of the true Pug- that resilience to push on, regardless of the overwhelming odds, to take the pain every step of the way en route to an often unattainable Glory. Matheson's description of the fight itself between "Steel" and The Man Made Of Steel stands not only as one of the most IMAGINATIVE stories of its type ever written, but also as one of the all-time greatest blow-by-blow boxing accounts ever written. (Norman Mailer's account of the first Frazier-Ali fight in LIFE magazine was a close second, with some of Robert E. Howard's IRON MAN stories not far behind...) I AM LEGEND has been my all-time favorite novel since I first read it (in 1971), and I've had short stories published that, more often than not, were written with what I call "a Richard Matheson accent." It's mind-boggling to think that there'll never be another Richard Matheson story, that The Most Imaginative Writer in the World is gone forever. He was TRULY One of A Kind. There will never be another like him.
Not to take anything away from Lee Marvin and Joe Mantell who give
great performances as a boxing manager and his mechanic, I've never
been able to buy into the fact that if boxing were outlawed that people
would pay to see human like robots fight it out. Boxing is an art of
scientific brutality, the reactions of humans in the, the science of
landing blows to where you want and the defensive reactions are
something no robot no matter how sophisticated would ever achieve.
I believe this episode stemmed from the fact that in two successive years two championship fights ended in fatalities. Davey Moore collapsed and died shortly after losing the featherweight division crown to Sugar Ramos in 1963 and a year earlier I still remember seeing Emile Griffith rain down blows on Benny 'Kid' Paret that killed him and regained for Griffith the welterweight championship. Both of those events gave a lot of impetus to the movement to ban professional boxing.
Well unlike this story in 1974 boxing was alive and well and with human combatants. Here however both Marvin and Mantell arrive in some small Kansas prairie town with their robot, Battling Maxo. He's as worn as any human fighter, he was one of the first series of fighting robots invented. But now just like personal computers, he's quite outdated. He's going against a new state of the art robot as well and then he breaks a part. After that Marvin and Mantell have a critical decision to make.
Despite what I consider not possible and certainly it was proved by time that this didn't happen, Marvin and Mantell do well in their roles borrowed somewhat from Requiem For A Heavyweight. Poor Battling Maxo was certainly not Data in the ring.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I must not be the only guy who thinks it's great, since there a movie,
yet to be released as I write this review, entitled "Real Steel"
involving... boxing robots. And this ain't your big brother's
Lee Marvin is outstanding in this Zone half-hour, as the owner/manager of a creaky, washed-up robot fighter which is so out-of-date they can no longer get parts for it. Naturally, the robot boxer breaks down before the big bout, and Marvin takes the broken robot's place in the ring. But I won't disclose the ending here. You'll just have to watch for this episode.
Interestingly (to me anyway, as a student of Hollywood history) this episode, like the vast majority of Twilight Zones, was shot at what used to be one of the six MGM Studio lots in Culver City, CA. Now the last remaining lot is the Sony Pictures/Columbia Pictures lot. Anyway, Serling & company must have rented a Culver City bus for the very first shot of this episode (that's the uncut version only - the bulk of that shot is missing from the edited-for-time version that you most often see on TV these days). I reach this conclusion from the fact that in the "destination window" above the windshield of the bus, it says "Sunkist Park". Sunkist Park is in fact an actual Culver City neighborhood, just a few minutes from the studio by car, and was built eleven years before this 1963 episode was filmed.
If you haven't seen this episode, you've really missed something - not the least of which is Lee Marvin at his best. It would be well worth your while to keep an eye on the TV listings for it. And just for grins, if you're lucky enough to catch the uncut version during a Twilight Zone marathon, take a good look at that bus in the first shot as it turns the corner and pulls into frame.
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