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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

According to J.R. Jones, Robert Ryan's biographer, Cary Grant personally congratulated Ryan on his performance in this 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

Stoker: Yeah, top spot. And I'm just one punch away.
Julie: I remember the first time you told me that. You were just one punch away from the title shot then. Don't you see, Bill, you'll always be just one punch away.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Boxing at the Movies: Kings of the Ring (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening
(1943) (uncredited)
Music by Jimmy McHugh
Played in the score
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Don't you see Bill? You are always just one punch away.
4 March 2008 | by SpikeopathSee all my reviews

The Set-Up is directed by Robert Wise and stars Robert Ryan & Audrey Totter. The screenplay was adapted by Art Cohn from a 1928 poem written by Joseph Moncure March. The story (played out in real time) sees Ryan as Stoker Thompson, a 35 year old nearly washed up boxer still trundling around the circuit believing he's still got what it takes to become a champ. In spite of pleas from his fretful wife, Julie (Totter), Stoker gets in the ring with Tiger Nelson (Hal Baylor), a man 12 years younger. Unbeknownst to Stoker, though, his manager Tiny (George Tobias) has struck a deal with underworld gangster Little Boy (Alan Baxter on prime sweaty and icy form) for him to take a dive and let Nelson win.

What first struck me the most watching this was just how vile everyone apart from the boxers are. The fighters are actually the only ones with honesty and integrity running through their veins. These guys are the ones with the self respect being a chief issue for them, they are fighting not just for glory, but for a basic human trait. The first half of the film puts us in the boxers changing room as the fighters wait to go out into the ring. Here we see the number of noble pugilists stripped back to reveal either their fears or their blind beliefs - while they in turn wait to see who comes back victorious or defeated. As they chat amongst themselves the atmosphere is palpable and Wise excellently uses cutaways to the excitable and blood thirsty crowd. The impact is to that of a gladiatorial arena and shows the sport to be seedy yet utterly beguiling at the same time.

Then it's on to Stoker's fight where Ryan is terrific (he actually boxed for College for 4 years). Thompson is a character so stand up, yet driven by foolish pride, it puts Stallone's Rocky Balboa firmly in the shade, his whole "just one punch away" mantra is truly wonderful and heartfelt and leads to one of those endings that are frustratingly brilliant in its bittersweet closure. The whole fight with Nelson has a beautiful fluidity about it (former pro boxer John Indrisano choreographed it), with Milton R. Krasner's photography keeping it grim and humanistic - both in the ring and out on the darkly lit L.A. streets as Totter's conflicted wife ponders a potential battering for her stoic husband.

Boosted up by a towering performance from Ryan, and dripping with a film noir sense of desolation, The Set-Up is a simple but powerful boxing gem. A film that gets down to the nitty-gritty of the fighters and the seedy people that surround them. 9/10


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