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The Set-Up (1949)

Approved | | Crime, Film-Noir, Sport | 2 April 1949 (USA)
Because aging boxer Bill Thompson always lost his past fights, his corrupt manager, without telling Thompson, takes bribes from a betting gangster, to ensure Thompson's pre-arranged dive-loss in the next match.

Director:

Robert Wise

Writers:

Art Cohn (screenplay), Joseph Moncure March (from the poem by)
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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Robert Ryan ... Stoker
Audrey Totter ... Julie
George Tobias ... Tiny
Alan Baxter ... Little Boy
Wallace Ford ... Gus
Percy Helton ... Red
Hal Baylor ... Tiger Nelson (as Hal Fieberling)
Darryl Hickman ... Shanley
Kevin O'Morrison ... Moore (as Kenny O'Morrison)
James Edwards ... Luther Hawkins
David Clarke ... Gunboat Johnson
Phillip Pine ... Souza
Edwin Max ... Danny
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Storyline

Over-the-hill boxer Bill 'Stoker' Thompson insists he can still win, though his sexy wife Julie pleads with him to quit. But his manager Tiny is so confident he will lose, he takes money for a "dive" from tough gambler Little Boy...without bothering to tell Stoker. Tension builds as Stoker hopes to "take" Tiger Nelson, unaware of what will happen to him if he does. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Sensational Picture You've Been Hearing and Reading About! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Film-Noir | Sport

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

2 April 1949 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El luchador See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA

Company Credits

Production Co:

RKO Radio Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Robert Wise wanted to remain faithful to the original poem The Set-Up was based on and he was keen on casting Canada Lee, a former boxer turned actor who previously appeared in Body and Soul (1947). RKO vetoed the idea since at that point a black actor never played the lead in major Hollywood film. See more »

Goofs

When Julie Thompson takes her walk from the gymnasium, she watches Pacific Electric interurban cars as they enter a subway tunnel. Car No. 707 is shown passing twice in a row. See more »

Quotes

woman in boxing match audience: [yelling at Stoker] Hey, Pops, where's your wheelchair?
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Fighters (1991) See more »

Soundtracks

A Touch of Texas
(1942) (uncredited)
Music by Jimmy McHugh
See more »

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User Reviews

Great depressing stuff in the dressing room, a gripping fight and a solid narrative
19 April 2005 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Bill "Stoker" Thompson is 34, not old perhaps but in the world of boxing that makes him an old man. Despite the protestations of his wife Julie, Stoker still believes that one more punch, one more fight will see him making it into the marquee fights and the big time rather than being on the support bill. As he waits in the dressing room full of similar hopefuls (some his age and tired, others just starting and full of big dreams) his trainer is busy making the fix with the opposition – for Stoker to go down like a $10 ho and not last the distance. However, Stoker isn't told as his manager assumes that Stoker losing is a given and that the "fix" is unnecessary and easy money for them all; however with Stoker feeling this is "the one", it may not be that simple.

Although Rocky is the one that most people will throw at you when you ask them to name a great boxing movie, The Set-Up is much, much more interesting as its aspirations are empty, its sights never getting much beyond the gutter and the men merely small players in a game that never plans for them to win. The narrative is essentially about Stoker entering a fight not aware that he has already been bought to lose but the actual film is much better than this limited plot suggests. For much of the first third we are treated to an intimate look at the small time boxers – whether it be the punch-drunk old timers or the youngster who believe that they will only be doing this level for one or two fights before hitting it big. This is the reality – as much as we love to see the Rocky tale of the underdog getting his day in reality the underdogs of life generally remain just that – underdogs. In this section of the film this is very well painted and, although the characters are not deep enough to be people they are definitely well enough written to be interesting and engaging.

The other two thirds of the film are concerned with the fight and the aftermath, with the fight taking up the majority of the second half of the film. The fight is realistic and tense throughout, I was genuinely unsure how it would go. The aftermath is short and punchy (sorry!) and is effectively dark and gritty for it. The end result is a film that is dark, low key and gripping throughout; it exists in the gutter, in the small time where all our characters seem destined to remain regardless of heart or talent. The cast deliver well, particularly the lead role from former college boxer Ryan. He is really in touch with his character and delivers convincingly in his dialogue, his boxing and his mannerisms; while in the dressing room his facial responses to other boxers show thoughts within his head and conflicting emotions that his experience and age allow him. He is the dominant figure of the film and his is a great performance. Totter is a little less refined but her emotional delivery works well in both of her main scenes with Ryan – although her wandering the streets could perhaps have been trimmed a little bit. The support cast are less well written but do still play their parts well enough but it is Ryan's film and worth seeing for him alone.

Luckily he is not the only reason to see it as the film is engaging, well written, dark, gritty, tense and very enjoyable. The lower number of votes (and potentially therefore, younger viewers) is a tragic state of affairs considering the class on display in this short punchy product and I for one will be answering "The Set-Up" when asked to name a great boxing movie.


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