Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) Poster

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Great boxing flick that transcends stereotypes
Bobs-921 May 2002
This is a golden oldie if there ever was one. Adapted from Rod Serling's earlier `Playhouse 90' TV drama, it improved greatly on the original by taking full advantage of the film medium, including moody film-noir lighting, an excellent music score, and superb direction. Anthony Quinn is excellent, getting all the pathos out of the role without overdoing it. Mickey Rooney and Jackie Gleason, neither of whom is renowned for subtlety and restraint, hit just the right note in their performances, as does Julie Harris. The ending of this film couldn't be more different than the `Playhouse 90' ending. One of the more bizarre elements of this film, which was not in the original TV play, is the character of Ma Greeney, a really frightening person and the only example I am aware of in film of a lesbian gangster (and in 1962, yet). I can still remember how startled I was to see this character when I first watched this film on TV back in the late 1960s.

The new DVD of `Requiem for a Heavyweight' offers both a full-screen and wide-screen presentation. The quality of the transfer is really outstanding. The liner notes indicate that it is mastered in high definition. While I don't have the hardware to watch it in high-def., I can say that on an ordinary monitor it looks outstanding. Perhaps the sharpest DVD picture I've ever seen. The sound is clear, and the subtitles are very helpful in picking out dialog that may be indistinct, or not easily understood because of Anthony Quinn's manner of delivering the lines while in character.

However. It seems to me that at least one whole scene and a part of another scene is missing. I distinctly remember Maish (Jackie Gleason) telling Ma Greeney what he would do to her if she weren't a lady. In response, she laughs and says `that's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me.' This is part of the early scene where Maish is attacked in an abandoned boxing ring by Ma's thugs. There is another whole scene I can recall in which Mountain (Anthony Quinn) is practicing holds with a wrestler. He asks that the wrestler stay away from his injured eye, and when he purposely goes for the eye, Mountain punches his lights out. The cuts I recall seeing on TV years ago always included these scenes, and I've never seen this shortened cut of the film before. It's still a great film, but I really miss these two scenes.
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Quinn Gives Knockout Performance in "Heavyweight"
st-shot19 November 2007
The sport of professional boxing takes another beating in this tragic and powerful re-make of the Rod Serling Playhouse 90 teleplay. The film opens from the viewpoint of Mountain Rivera, a once ranked heavyweight, being pummeled by a youthful Cassius Clay. Rivera loses the fight, beaten so senseless that when asked where he is (NYC) he responds "I'm in Pittsburgh and its raining". When the the fight doctor examines him he makes it clear this broken down pug is all washed up. This puts his manager Maish in a bind since he bet Mountain wouldn't get past the fourth round with some thugs who also lost money because of his guarantee. Maish needs cash fast and the only way he can get it is to get his washed up fighter to wrestle. Rivera considers it degrading (remember it's 1962) and refuses.

Requiem is top heavy with strong performances from its quartet of leads. Jackie Gleason as sleazy Maish is given more to work with here than his Oscar nominated Minnesota Fats. He's a desperate man, wracked with guilt but ready to sell out Mountain to stay breathing. Mickey Rooney gives probably his finest adult performance as Army, the trainer who has Mountain's best interest at heart. Julie Harris as the social worker assigned to find him employment seems incapable of giving anything less than solid performances in everything she does and she does not disappoint here. Then there is Anthony Quinn doing what he does best but this time with a battered machismo that's barely holding together. Body broken, dreams shattered, he is a combination of punchy and naive; a hulking gruesome monster, but still a child inside. His plight is uneasy to witness and Quinn in conveying it has never been better.

Also deserving mention is night club owner and performer Madame Spivy playing Ma, the hood owed money. Dressed in a man's trench coat and hat she displays an offbeat menace with a clipped sardonic delivery that makes more than clear she is a woman not to be trifled with.

Director Ralph Nelson keeps things claustrophobic and low lit to emphasize the grim existence of the characters far from the big paydays and glamor of pay per view in Vegas. Their futures seem about as bright as the dark rooms they live in and the empty deserted streets they walk.

While it may not rank as one of the great fight films of all time,(unrestored cuts from the original print hamper the film's rhythm) Heavyweight's combination of excellent acting and story make it worth going the distance.
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Stark and Realistic
hillari14 March 2005
A sad, heartbreaking, and somewhat disturbing story. Quinn is totally believable as Mountain Rivera, a boxer who, perhaps, has been in the game too long and finds himself forced out. While his world-weary cut man (Rooney) is protective of him to an extent, his manager (Gleason) only views Rivera as a paycheck. An unemployment agency staff person (Miller) sees something in Rivera that prompts him to go above and beyond the call of duty to help him get a job. All of the leads are extremely good. It appears that most of the film takes place in the dark, highlighting the seamy side of boxing. The only daytime scene is when Rivera visits the unemployment office, and even then, it appears that the place has no windows to see outside. The office is just as closed up and restricted as Rivera's limited choices after his career ends. The actress who portrayed the underworld figure that Rivera's manager has a connection to was appropriately evil and creepy. The very last scene, filled with a sense of finality and resignation, is powerful.
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brilliant and devastating
rupie7 July 2009
I don't think I had ever seen this movie from beginning to end before but had the chance to do so when it came up recently on a cable channel. One feels, after watching it in its entirety, as one does after having listened to Mahler's 9th symphony - you are emotionally drained and devastated. The movie is Exhibit A in the prosecution's case that movies were better made in the past than today. It is impossible to imagine something this excellent being produced today. The movie makes no plays for cuteness or humor, and never seeks to soften its razor-sharp edges. It is grittily real from beginning to end. Actually, it surpasses reality, as all great art does, in letting us look starkly into the cruel realities of human existence. The acting is absolutely top-notch from all the leads. One is reminded that Jackie Gleason, after all the eye-popping excesses of "The Honetmooners" (as great as that series was, for what it was) was a truly superb actor. I cannot think of a movie in which Anthony Quinn surpassed himself in his role as Mountain Rivera - tough, beaten up, beaten down, loyal, honest and yet with a sensitive core deep within. Mickey Rooney shines just as brightly. The script is brilliant, economical, realistic, and revelatory of the characters; we forget just what a brilliant writer Rod Serling was. Of course one of the reasons the movie could not be made today is that it forgoes the obligatory happy ending (which was used, evidently, in the TV version); the movie follows its dark logic all the way to the final, devastating scene.
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Toppling A Mountain
bkoganbing1 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Requiem for a Heavyweight is a great ensemble piece revolving around four characters. It's a tribute to the skill of Rod Serling's screenplay and the direction of Ralph Nelson that no one of them dominates the story.

Anthony Quinn as Mountain Rivera has been given the final knockout by the New York State Athletic Commission after a fight with up and coming heavyweight, Cassius Clay. His eyes won't take too many more blows, so his license is being pulled. He's got to look for another line of work, but ring skills and a sixth grade education is all he has for the job market.

If that wasn't enough, his manager Jackie Gleason made some bets and got some other gamblers to bet that Quinn wouldn't stand up more than three rounds under Clay's fists. The gamblers want their money.

What to do, Gleason thinks he can get him a gig as a wrestler, but the idea of putting on an Indian suit offends his sensibilities. The whole thing offends Mickey Rooney who is Quinn's corner man and Julie Harris, an employment counselor, has different ideas all together for Quinn.

It's a bitter thing for Quinn to not only learn he's through at the only thing he knows, but that his manager and friend doesn't even believe in him any more. The rest of the film is devoted to how all of the four of them will deal with a very bleak future.

Julie Harris does not get too many comments, but she has an interesting role as a prim and sexually frustrated middle aged civil servant who sees in Quinn some kind of personal reclamation project. Her life however has not given her any perspective in dealing with the boxing game and the people in it.

Gleason might have the bleakest future of all whether his gambling debts are paid or not. This is probably Jackie Gleason's best dramatic role and he's brilliant. For one thing he won't even have Mickey Rooney around who acts as everybody's conscience. Rooney is another ex-fighter who survives by tending to the cuts of competing pugilists and it's not something he likes, but something he does well and it keeps him in the only game he knows.

It all gets resolved, but not to everyone's liking in the end. Requiem for a Heavyweight is a brilliant piece of acting about the underside of the fight game and the bleak future that a lot who survive it have.
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Hanging it up is the hardest part
sol-kay20 March 2004
******SPOILERS****** Getting knocked out by Cassius Clay in the seventh round proved to be the end of the line for former heavyweight contender Louis "Mountain" Rivera, Anthony Quinn. After the fight in Mountain's dressing room the fight doctor checking the damage to his left eye tells his manager and trainer Maish and Army, Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney, that he can't allow Mountain to fight anymore. The next punch to his head can very well bind or even kill him.

His brains scrambled his fists busted in danger of losing his eyesight 17 years in the fight game is all the battering that Mountain's body could take. Now after 17 years it was time for Mountain to hang up his boxing gloves and go into another line of work, but what kind of work could Mountain do? Unknown to Mountain and his trainer Army his manager Maish had given the Ma Greeny mob the word that his fighter won't last more then 4 rounds with the young and hard hitting Cassius Clay and they place a lot of money on the tip that Maish gave them. Mountain going more then 4 rounds with Clay cost the Greeny mob big and it was up to Maish to come up with the money by the end of the month or else Maish won't ever have any need for money again. Without Mountain being able to fight anymore the only way Maish can get the money for the Greeny mob is for Mountain to become a professional wrestler and thus making a joke of himself entertaining the public. This time instead of taking punches Mountain will be taking laughs.

Rod Serling's hard hitting screen-play about the fight game and how it chews up and spits out those who are in it like Louis "Mountain" Rivera when it no longer has any use for them. Touching performance by Anthony Quinn as the broken down Mountain who has to humiliate himself by being a clown in the ring as a wrestler after being a proud warrior in the ring as a boxer. Also very moving is Julie Harris as Grace Miller the social worker who does her best to get Mountain a job as a youth consular only to have him lose it by getting drunk celebrating getting it.

As hard hitting as the punches thrown in the ring and as powerful as those boxers in the ring taking them. Mountain makes a fool of himself to save his crooked managers, Maish, hide so he could have the money to pay back the mob that he owes them, but that ended his friendship with Maish. It also educated Maish about being honest and loyal to those who trust and depend on him which is something that he didn't know about up till then. The film ends with Mountain swallowing his pride and accepting what fate had in store for him.
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Equal in quality to the Teleplay.
yenlo15 May 2000
This Rod Serling written story originally was televised on the old CBS Playhouse 90 program which was live TV. This film produced by David Susskind sticks pretty much to the Playhouse 90 version with a few variations and a couple of characters. Anthony Quinn seems more like a heavyweight than Jack Palance did for one thing and the individual that Maish Rennick is in debt to is also more colorful than in the Teleplay. Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney and Julie Harris are as good in their roles as the actors who were in the Teleplay. The ending is slightly different and I found it to have more stark realism than the Teleplay. Check out the fighter that Mountain is in the ring with when the film starts.
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whpratt111 October 2003
Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney made this film a great black and white film classic for all future generations. However, as a young boy living in Richmond Hill, Queens during the 1940's, I had Abe Simon (great prize fighter, who fought Joe Lewis) a neighbor who lived down the street. Abe Simon was an adviser for this film along with Willie Pep (World Featherweight boxing Champion 1942-48/ 1949-50) Abe Simon looked like a giant and had huge hands, but was a very kind and down to earth person and well liked. Willie was also an adviser in this film for Anthony Quinn and later became a bouncer in NYC. These great boxer's gave this film the great realism that it has and it was great to see them along with another great boxer, Jack Dempsey, who owned a food establishment on Broadway NYC. This film clearly shows the horrible results of boxing in the ring for a profession, however, all boxers and future boxers should be praised for their great gifts in that field of endeavor.
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Stunning & Fantastic Portrayal of the Seedy Aspects of Pugilism!
lawrence_elliott6 March 2008
Jackie Gleason is in his element as promoter/manager/trainer of a broken down end-of-the-road boxer "Mountain Rivera" played brilliantly by Anthony Quinn. After 17 punishing years getting battered in the Ring "The Mountain" sports the scars, brain paralysis and the "shot" hoarse voice of an ex-fighter who is played to the hilt by Quinn. Mickey Rooney as "Mountain's" trainer is also sensational in his role. The whole cast in this film is simply fantastic. The writing of Rod Serling (of "Twilight Zone" fame) is masterful to say the least. Julie Harris who tries to provide hope for Rivera's future is beautifully and "tenderly" rendered on screen. The sleazy nature of the boxing business in the seedy surroundings of the cockroach infested hotel rooms is starkly defined in this black and white celluloid. There is a scene with Mickey Rooney and Jackie Gleason playing cards reminiscent of "The Honeymooners" with Art Carney when Gleason explodes in exasperation at Rooney who delays playing his hand at "gin" rummy. This is a taut and brilliantly portrayed film that everyone should see. Muhammed Ali (as Cassius Clay) is hauntingly shot at the beginning of the film. Jack Dempsey, the former heavyweight champ, is also shown at his restaurant in New York. The corruption and fear in this business is tellingly displayed. In fact this is a "must see" and "must own" kind of film. A Knock Out! As an aside, Jackie Gleason was so great on film partly because of his experience in live vaudeville shows. He grew up in abject poverty as a boy. This forced him out at an early age to make a living. The greatness came from hard times, talent and an insatiable work ethic. Thus the great talent of Jackie Gleason began to shine to the point of dethroning Milton Berle out of the top TV spot in 1954 as "The Honeymooners" stormed on screen. So many great talents from this era developed in the same way. Poverty and hard times had a way of producing talented star entertainers in the 30's and 40's. Perhaps this explains the lack of talent on screen today.
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Ex-boxers in the cast
serlingng-22 May 2009
It's easy to pick out Jack Dempsey and Muhammed Ali, but there are many others in the cast. The movie fades in on a tracking shot running the length of a hotel bar, examining the faces of a bunch of retired boxers watching the Clay-Rivera fight on TV. In order of appearance: Alex Miteff (wearing a beret), Abe Simon (with an eyebrow bandage), Gus Lesnevich (holding a cigarette lighter), Steve Belloise (bald guy; he later plays the hotel bar desk clerk in a short exchange with Mickey Rooney), Rory Calhoun (black guy with a beer), Paolo Rossi (big Italian-looking guy with a beer), Willie Pep (wearing a fedora), and Barney Ross (the older guy in the suit, sweater, and tie).
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The most real fight picture ever made besides Raging Bull
wrich20009 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers

This film is a masterpiece which depicted the seamy side of low level boxing at St. Nichols or "St. Nicks" Arena in Brooklyn, NY. The old Stillman Gym shots show just how few ever made any money or fame before being destroyed by too many punches to the head. Jackie Gleason personified the low rent scum that rode any fighter to death. Rivera was so hopelessly trapped that Anthony Quinn caught the essence of the man and his slow descent into being a meal ticket for Gleason and a bad joke in the wrestling game. Harris was brilliant as the NY Social Worker and idealist. She caught the last glimmer of hope in Rivera and tried to help but was defeated when he turned out to be hopelessly owned by Gleason. Rooney was brilliant but I preferred Myron McCormick in the TV film a few years earlier. Having been to St. Knicks as a kid, I know the realness of this story because I saw them, smelled them and felt for some of the dying, which is what most of them were doing. All the stars in the world for this one.
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The Movie Version of the "Playhouse 90" Classic
theowinthrop15 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
The film version of REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT had some major differences from the television version made five years earlier. To be fair the television version is better because it has a more positive push than the film does - but somehow one senses that in the real world "Mountain" Rivera would have been doomed to his sad fate rather than the happy ending for "Mountain" McClintock.

The first difference is that Louis "Mountain" Rivera (Anthony Quinn) is Latino, and not as solidly grounded in the United States as his television version "Mountain" McClintock (Jack Palance). Quinn really is dependent on his manager Maish (here Jackie Gleason, possibly in his best performance), because of his ethnicity. And up to a point they did well together, but Rivera is aging, and can't compete with younger boxers (he loses the bout at the start to a young Mohammad Ali - here under his old name of Cassius Clay). Although he was once the eighth best heavyweight boxer in the world, he is a has-been. His serious eye damage from repeated boxing matches is potentially leading to blindness. He can't box anymore.

But, as in the television version, Maish has bet on Mountain losing in a particular round, and Mountain stayed into another further round. Maish got several gamblers to bet with him, and they are after him to pay them back. Maish is willing to do so, but at Mountain's expense. As the two biggest gambler - creditors, Ma Greeny (Madame Spivy) and Pinelli (Stanley Adams) want Mountain to become a professional wrestler until (at least) the debt is paid off.

Maish pulls everything to force Mountain into line. He is opposed by Army (Mickey Rooney), who is far more caustic towards Maish in this version than Ed Wynn was towards Keenan Wynn in the television version. Army pushes Mountain to go to an employment agency where he is taken under the wing of Grace Miller (Julie Harris) who wants to help him get a job as a camp counselor. Mountain, proud but confused - and still under Maish's emotional control - likes this idea. Maish sees himself losing his power over the pugilist, but then turns to Mountain's worst failing: he gets Mountain drunk.

The collapse of Mountain, who for all his failings is a proud man, is the tragic conclusion of this version. Maish's sin is revealed to him, finally breaking the bind between them (it is a tremendous act of treachery to Mountain's pride). But when Greeny and Pinelli point out that they'll kill Maish unless Mountain goes into the wrestling game (dressed as an Indian, and making false war whoops for the crowd), Mountain agrees. But he and Army leave Maish alone - they'll save his life but that is the payment for what he did for Mountain. After that they won't have anything to do with Maish, and he is left at the end of the film realizing how much his selfishness has lost.

I'd like to point out the performance of Madame Spivy - she plays Ma Greeny as a dike-type, and is quite threatening as a result. Stanley Adams repeats his part as Pinelli, disguising his viciousness with a false bonhomie and laugh (like a sloppy looking Sidney Greenstreet). Both performers help make the grundginess of this portion of humanity all the more real to the viewers. Not as good as the television version (in my view), but quite good on it's own.
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Top notch in every way - this film scores big
boomerchinde10 July 2007
Rod Serling, of Twilight Zone fame, deserves kudos for this wonderful screenplay about an over the hill fighter played by Anthony Quinn, whose life and legend are at the behest of his corrupt and cynical manager, Jackie Gleason. Trainer Mickey Rooney is the only person in cinematic history who can call Gleason a "fink" and make it sound authentic. When Quinn's character can't cut it any longer, he tries to find meaningful work. However, he's taken one too many blows to the head, and has offered his allegiance to someone willing to betray him for a hint of the glory of the old days. Quinn's performance as the punch drunk fighter is full of pathos and extremely well done -- his finest hour in my opinion. Serling has much to say about the human spirit, love, and friendship gone awry. Beautifully photographed in black and white, this film deserves multiple viewings.
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"Them are violins"
ianlouisiana29 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Mountain Rivera is a role that requires Mr Anthony Quinn to appear uneducated,naive but not stupid,tough,courageous and proud.As a "washed up boxer" stereotype it would have been easy for him to have slipped into caricature,bluster and showboating,but he exercises a restraint not always apparent in some of his other major movie parts. True he does adopt a slightly shambling gait and a husky voice,but apart from some scar tissue,the rest of his characterisation is internal. At the start of "Requiem for a Heavyweight",Rivera takes a beating in the ring from a young Cassius Clay,his courage and strength enabling him to last 7 rounds.Unknown to him his manager had guaranteed to the Mob that he wouldn't go beyond the 4th.Thus we enter the seedy,unpleasant and dangerous world of professional boxing where good and honest men like Rivera(a part supposed to have been based on Primo Carnera)are leeched on by crooked managers and promoters,sent out to get their brains scrambled,their brief athleticism corrupted and their ambitions dashed for a few bucks and the fickle approval of a crowd no more compassionate than that at a Roman Colliseum.But this is not merely an expose,after all,by 1962 boxing had long ceased to be regarded as a noble art,this is an exploration of loyalty,courage,self-knowledge and humanity. Forcibly retired (perhaps a little late in the day),Rivera tries to construct a life away from the boxing ring with the help of a social worker (Julie Harris),"Them are violins",he says as they have a meal together in a restaurant,proud of this knowledge.But their relationship is as doomed as her attempt to get him a job as a coach. His manager (Jackie Gleason) must repay the Mob the money lost on Rivera'slast fight and he entreats him to turn to professional wrestling at the behest of Boss Ma Greeney (Miss Spivey). This is a massive indignity for a proud man,but Rivera reluctantly agrees out of loyalty despite discovering that his manager had bet against him in his fight with Clay.You feel his humiliation as he enters the wrestling ring at the end,everything he had believed of himself destroyed by the man he thought was his friend and mentor. I once had a problem with Mr Quinn.It seemed as though he felt compelled to dance in every movie he appeared in.Sometimes it was relevant,on a few occasions fairly random and once or twice quite inappropriate.I would sit through one of his films a little on edge until he got to dance then I could relax again.I'm sure this was just a personal foible and it didn't stop me enjoying his rare ability to indicate bonhomie and malevolence with the same smile.As Mountain Rivera he passes through the shady milieu of 3rd rate dressing rooms,cut men,compromised doctors,hustlers,hangers-on,dirty bandages and whisky bottles in First Aid cabinets with the ease of a man with half a lifetime in the environment.He has the pride of an honest man,the self-respect that comes with keeping clean in a world of corruption.He understands how that world works but he doesn't want any part of it.It is enough for him to be who and what he is.Mr Quinn indicates all this without articulating it - aware that Rivera would be unable to articulate it. It is a fine performance.Compared the the ludicrous "Rocky" a masterclass in acting and compared to the overblown and overrated "Raging Bull" a subtle and acutely judged piece of work. Jackie Gleason often shows a "Please love me" almost oleaginous quality on screen that can alienate a reserved British audience and few of his movies have succeeded here.As Rivera's manager he breaks away from that image and is impressively unpleasant.A lady by the name of Miss Spivey plays Boss Ma Greeney in a fashion 30 years before her time.Without wishing to delve into Ms Greeney's possible sexual orientation she appears extremely menacing and quite unladylike in the old-fashioned sense of the word.I don't remember seeing anything quite like Miss Spivey's portrayal before or since,nor,I'm sure ,had the BBFC in 1962,whci may be why it survived presumably unscathed,to terrify every male in the cinema audience. There is not a wasted frame in this film:it is an exemplary case-study for anybody who wants to know how to make a sharp,technically excellent,lean,individual and original work of art.Comparisons with "Touch of Evil" are not invidious. Years after "Requiem for a Heavyweight" I saw Anthony Quinn on the Michael Parkinson TV show in the days when it was broadcast "live". Apart from being an amiable and amusing guest he sang - or rather performed - a very moving interpretation of "September Song".It was quite simply a sublime moment,and he never even thought about dancing.
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The underbelly of boxing.
wisewebwoman23 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Another overlooked masterpiece. Every actor in this is a knockout. Realistically filmed in black and white and written by the master of suspense, Rod Serling, this film chronicles the after life of a has-been heavyweight boxer, Mountain Rivera (Anthony Quinn), his corrupt manager, Maish Rennick (Jackie Gleason) and his world-weary sidekick, Army ( Mickey Rooney). The opening scene of the movie shows the former Cassius Clay (now Muhamed Ali) pummeling Mountain's head to a bloody pulp.

Quinn, an actor I don't normally admire, brings a total believability to the role - a gentle, confused, hopelessly loyal and not overly intelligent man who has probably been in the ring for far longer than any responsible doctor should have let him.

He is left with very few choices for living out the remainder of his days. Grace Miller, played by Julie Harris, works in an unemployment agency and is attracted to his character, she sees the gentle giant for what he is and encourages him to interview for a job in a summer camp teaching children.

Some of the scenes are haunting and the black and white photography make it all the more so. There are remarkably few outdoor scenes, most of the movie takes place inside locker rooms, bars, seedy hotel rooms and of course the boxing ring. I took Madame Spivy to be a Peter Lorre type actor (male) to begin with. I was completely shocked that it was a woman, a fairly masculine woman appearing in a 1962 movie - way ahead of its time - an incredibly creepy and downright malevolent performance. I recall her doing something similar in the original "Manchurian Candidate".

At the end Mountain sells his very soul for Maish even though he now knows the truth of Maish. One has felt he can never make it with Miss Miller and her dream of him coaching the children and he has known it too. And that will remain one of the two bright "coulda" moments in his life, the other being number five in the world heavyweight boxing circles. One hopes it is not a long life. That thought would be unbearable. 8 out of 10. It is impossible to single out any one performance, all brilliant.
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REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT (Ralph Nelson, 1962) ***
Bunuel197617 February 2007
I had missed out on an Italian TV broadcast of this acclaimed boxing drama in the 80s and, even if it did get released on DVD on both regions, I never got to pick it up until now because its lack of any significant supplements kept pushing it back. Anyway, I got to watch and own it now and it was certainly worth the wait as this must surely rank among the best films that deal with boxing. Interestingly, REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT was originally previewed at a much longer running time (featuring some 16 minutes of additional footage) but the version I watched is the more familiar 86-minute cut.

The film was superbly written by Rod Serling – best-known for writing many of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (1959-64) episodes and introducing the show – who, among others, provided the screenplay for such notable films as PATTERNS (1956), SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964) and PLANET OF THE APES (1968). Actually, this was the fourth filming of the play and previous TV versions – both made in 1957 – starred Jack Palance and, of all people, Sean Connery in the role played here by Anthony Quinn!

The four leads are all outstanding: Quinn gives what is arguably his most moving performance as the dim-witted boxer who cannot even talk coherently with all the beatings he took in the ring and might even lose his sight if he keeps at it much longer; Jackie Gleason is excellent as Quinn's manager who is driven to bet against his own man in order to collect some fast dough and pay off his debts to an androgynous racketeer breathing down his neck; Mickey Rooney is just terrific as Quinn's loyal handler (and an ex-prizefighter himself) who quickly sees through all of Gleason's schemes to keep Quinn in the ring for his own personal gain; and Julie Harris as the lonesome social worker who takes pity on Quinn and tries to get him employed away from ringside perils. The blooming MARTY (1955)-ish romance between Quinn and Harris is perhaps a bit too good to be true and occurs rather too suddenly for this cynical viewer but it does not in any way detract from the film's stifling recreation of the seamy ambiance –strikingly similar to that of THE HUSTLER (1961), also featuring Jackie Gleason – aided in no small measure by Arthur J. Ornitz's noir-ish lighting and Laurence Rosenthal's jazzy score, not to mention the appearance of real-life boxing pros such as Cassius Clay (playing himself as one of Quinn's ringside opponents) and Jack Dempsey.

Ralph Nelson was an erratic director with pretensions: I've watched 8 of his films so far and a few more have been numerous times on TV – FATHER GOOSE (1964), ONCE A THIEF (1965), THE WRATH OF GOD (1972) – so I guess I should make an extra effort now to catch them the next time they're on; REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT, while actually his debut film, remains possibly his most satisfying work all round and deservedly earned him a nod from the Directors' Guild of America.
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Probably the best sporting movie of all time.
Diver-91 June 1999
Very good acting and directing in a realistic movie about being a top athlete, and how life changes.
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The Winner...By a Knockout!!!...This Movie Masterpiece
LeonLouisRicci25 August 2012
There is not one scene or one piece of dialog or one piece of this production that is nothing less than masterful. A perfect picture that demonstrates the ability and talent of all involved.

The cinematography and set design are a norish display of a devilishness that pervades the urban decay and the decline of the species from ape to man to ape-man.

All the performances are elegant and the musical score is biting with jazzy tones befitting the multi-cultural sport and the mayhem of the monsters and mobsters who inhabit this asphalt and canvas jungle.

It is a riveting recital of the human condition that is part evolution and part separation from the Divine. Dignity and self respect, greed and vice, love and loathing, friendship and betrayal, hope and hopelessness. are all here and much more to contemplate. All from a low budget and high nobility.

A survival of the fittest morality tale. Quite quintessentially Rod Serling.
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they make them that way for a reason
djkla3 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Like so many others have already said, this is a great film, and one that I've watched many, many times since the late-1960's. Somewhere along the line, though, it was unceremoniously edited by someone who should've left it alone. The cut to which I refer involves an exchange between Maish Reynolds and Ma Greeney at the end of the film. Reynold's has narrowly escaped death at the hands of Greeney's goons, and in that moment, Reynold's vindictively intones to Greeney, "I wish you were a man." Greeney laughs out loud and replies, "Maishey darling, that's the nicest thing anyone ever said to me!" Maybe some of you remember it, but it has been many years since any version I've seen still has it.
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Just A Big, Ugly Slob (?)
strong-122-4788858 June 2015
1962's "Requiem For A Heavyweight" (RFAH, for short), which was written by Twilight Zone's - Rod Serling, was, at times, a very moving and heavy-hearted tale about an ageing boxer who now finds out (after years of being hit in the head) that he's completely washed-up in the only profession that he's ever known.

Set on the decidedly seedy-side of NYC, RFAH is a tough, gritty, little tale about heavyweight boxer, Lewis "Mountain" Rivera (played quite convincingly by Anthony Quinn), and his final humiliation when he inevitably discovers the bitter truth about his sleazy, underhanded business manager whom he had trusted for years.

Effectively filmed in stark b&w, RFAH is also notable for the cameo appearances of 2 famed boxers Cassius Clay (aka. Muhammad Ali) and Jack Dempsey.

If you enjoy hard-hitting, downbeat and totally unglamourous fight flicks, then RFAH is sure to please your tastes with its decidedly "rough-edged" realism.
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Is as much of a story about Life as about Boxing. It tells of how Loyalty often can be a One-Way Street!
redryan6411 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Fiction, fantasy and reality all blur into one indistinguishable emulsion which seems to be at once all these things. The stark, sharply edited opening scenes are masterfully underscored by the menacing, haunting opening theme music. The use of the black and white film is the proper medium to portray the highly skilled, admired yet lonely, solitary life of a prize fighter.

In the film's opening, we are not given any opening credits. We find ourselves in a bar, a watering hole where many an old time boxer gather to socialize, share stories and comfort each other. A quickly moving panoramic shot of the guys gathered at the bar gives us a mute testimony of their past ring experiences, as the obvious visual signs are clearly evident in the scar tissue about their eyes and forehead; the distortion of their ear cartilage.

We are made aware of something that has everyone's attention; all looking down to their right. Then the audio emanating from a TV Set catches our attention. It is the familiar combination of sounds of ringside at the fights. The volume comes up and we are transported to the arena with a bout in progress. It pits grizzled old veteran, Heavyweight Mountain Rivera (Anthony Quinn) vs. a young, up and coming, promising opponent, Cassius Clay (The real one, now Mohammed Ali).

The cinematographic visuals quickly switch to use of the "Subjective" view; that is, all that we see is from the point of view of one person; in this case it's from the eyes of Mountain Rivera. We see his corner, where his Manager Maish Rennick (Mr. Herbert John Gleason, aka Jackie) and his Trainer, Army (Mickey Rooney), wait to attend to him between rounds. But, when we see Maishe, he seems to be inordinately troubled.

The fight ends, going the full 10 Rounds, with the decision going to the young Clay. The fighters shake hands and embrace, Cassius thanking Mountain for a good fight and giving his best words of praise for the veteran. With all of this time that has gone by, we still are getting that Subjective Camera view of things. Then, when they lead Mountain out to the dressing room, we suddenly come face to face with a mirror; and we see the scarred and battle weary face of the Mountain, and with this shock factor of a maneuver, the credits explode on the screen, accompanied and amplified by the piercing, haunting theme.

It seems that Manager Maish had guaranteed the Lesbianical Gangster-Gambler, Ma Greeny (Madame Spivey) that Mountain would not be able to last with Clay. He assured Ma that it would be a "sure thing" to bet that way, with Clay winning by either a Knockout or a TKO in early rounds. Maish never told Mountain and left Army out in the cold about the behind the scenes shenanigans that he pulled. He even bet against Mountain, himself.

But now he was in real trouble, and gets worked over by some of Ma's thugs (including future Sgt. Phil Esterhaus of HILL STREET BLUES, Michael Conrad). Maish receives his warning; it's pay-up, or……..! He pledges that he will get the dough and has a plan to raise the needed funds. The plan involves taking the now medically ineligible fighter, training him to Wrestle Pro, and get him booked into matches by Wrestling Trainer-Booker, Perelli (Stanley Adams).

Of course Mountain and Army don't know about this until Perelli comes to meet with them and sets up not only some training sessions, but also projects some ideas about developing his "gimmick"; you know a role to play or a false biography. In this case, he suggests that role of an Indian Chief.

On his own, Mountain goes to the New York State Employment Agency, where he is befriended by one Miss Grace Miller (Julie Harris) who pledges to try her best to place him in some job; going as far as looking him up at that same old fighters saloon from the opening. She wants to get him hired by a summer camp in an athletic instructor's capacity.

The remainder of the story is taken up by the plot twists and turns concerning whether or not Mountain will go into Wrestling and with Maish's anxiety about the threats on his life made by the thugs. The biggest obstacle to Mountain's budding career as a Mat Man is his almost childlike sense of honesty and his devotion and loyalty to Manager, Maishe Rennick. It seems that everything flies in the face of his going ahead with the plan.

Finally, to save Maish from the prospect of death at the hands of the hoods, Mountain agrees to go ahead with the Wrestling. The fade out with that same piercing music as "Big Chief" Mountain Rivera prepares to engage in a Catch-as Catch-Can match with his opponent, 'Haystacks' Calhoun (real life Pro Grappler, appearing as himself). Army looks on, near to tears for the old fighter; the irony being that here is a guy who never did or would give anything but his best. Now he was to participate in exhibitions, designed to give entertainment to the masses.

Other stories have been brought to the screen about life in the squared circle and what happens when a guy can't box anymore. None seem to capture the emotions quite so well as this story from the fertile imagination of Mr. Rod Serling.

The story had been done before, on CBS TV's PLAYHOUSE 90 in 1956. It had starred Jack Palance as "Mountain" McClintock, Keenan Wynn as Maishe and Ed Wynn as Army. There were a few minor changes in the adaptation to the big screen, but they seem to be all for the good.

And in a move that is both a touch of realism an ironic twist, the film starts with Mountain's Boxing Cassius Clay and concludes with his Wrestling "Haystacks" Calhoun.
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Good classic boxing film
geo3620 November 2005
This film is about a boxer whose boxing career comes to an abrupt half after a doctor deems him unfit to continue boxing. Mountain Riviera has mellowed out, and lost hope after the doctor reiterates to him that he is unfit to resume his boxing career, let alone another fight. He becomes angry and anxiety-ridden about the prospects of not being employed. Mountain Riviera has been coached for 17 years by his coach played by Jackie Gleason, and he feels Gleason has abandoned him by not looking after him, following the end of his boxing career. The central theme of the film is..What do you do with an aging unemployed ex-boxer? Mountain Riviera who's played by Anthony Quinn wonders bars and employment agencies in search of work and warm company , and finds it in the tender arms of an agency employment worker, who feels for the aging boxer and tries desperately to find him a job.
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Great Cast In A Great Movie
sddavis6322 December 2007
A stellar cast led by Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney highlight this great movie about a down and out fighter named Mountain Rivera whose manager (Gleason) - deep in debt to gamblers - can't afford to let him quit even though he's well past his prime and can't fight anymore. I was expecting this to be a boxing movie, but there's really no boxing involved aside from the opening scenes. It's really a human interest story, and the story of the sad figure of the ex-boxer who can't fight but who also can't seem to let go rings true - and, with the benefit of time, perhaps it's made to seem even more real by the presence in the opening scenes of the movie of Cassius Clay, playing himself in a fictional fight against Rivera. Clay, of course, would become Muhammad Ali - perhaps the greatest fighter ever but also one who, in the end, had trouble letting go even though his body had failed him.

Quinn's performance as Rivera was, I thought, a little bit awkward at times, but he definitely captured the emotional angst of a man whose entire life had been boxing (in the days before boxers made huge dollars) and who suddenly faced the uncertainty of life outside the ring. Julie Harris plays an employment counsellor who enters his life in the hope of helping him make the transition to a new life. She played the part well, but frankly I thought the quasi-romance between the two was too contrived and just not believable. Gleason's performance as Maish overshadowed Quinn's and, to me, was the highlight of the movie. Rooney played a smaller part as Army, Rivera's cut man who thinks of Rivera as family and who is appalled when Maish comes up with the idea of making the proud Rivera a professional wrestler to pay off his gambling debts.

There was a great musical score by Laurence Rosenthal, which seemed completely appropriate to the movie, and director Ralph Watson did a great job. I especially appreciated the way the closing scenes of the movie in the ring seemed to match and contrast with the opening scenes in the ring. Overall, an excellent movie
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Profiting from a man's misery
schappe13 September 2006
This is another review from my mini-marathon of original live TV classics and the movies they made of them. I've done "Marty" and will do "Requiem for a Heavyweight", "Bang the Drum Slowly" and "The Days of Wine and Roses". I'd love to see the original "12 Angry Men" with Bob Cummings but it doesn't seem to be available. I'd love to see a cable channel devoted to these old shows, even some non-classics if they represented early work by famous actors, directors and writers, (as so many of them did). But this will do for now.

I believe that of all the famous live dramatic presentations of the 1950's, the greatest of them all was Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight, the premiere show of perhaps the best of all the anthology shows, Playhouse 90, to which Serling was a major contributor. It's the ultimate story of human dignity, (and how many stories are explicitly about that?).

The locations are seedy gyms and boxing arenas, a corner bar and some streets. The only "opening up" between the TV and film versions is a chase scene between Maish, (Jackie Gleason) and some hoods that takes him through the streets and back alleys. The real difference is the casting, which involves several giants of show business.

The underrated, (for most of his career) Jack Palance is "Mountain McClintock" on TV, a bumbling hulk of a fighter who is still a young man, (33), in age but ancient in any other way. He retains some cognitive ability but not much and a certain gentleness as well as a blind faith in his manager. But he's reached the end of the road and doesn't know where to go. Palance looks like his own ghost, trying to comprehend the present and oblivious of the future.

Anthony Quinn, who was personal friends with a number of boxers, inherited the role, (now "Mountain Rivera") for the movie. He is a great actor and he gives a great acting performance as Mountain. But it always seems to be a performance. When he's supposed to be hurt, he acts hurt. When he's supposed to be sensitive, he acts sensitive. But he doesn't seem to be the same guy in both scenes. He is a little too intelligent and philosophical in the scenes where he's not climbing out of the ring, too much like the real Quinn. He is performing Mountain Rivera. Jack Palance BECAME Mountain McClintock. It was a shock to see him in an interview on the same tape as the erudite man he actually is. He was "Mountain" in every minute of every scene of the TV show.

Jackie Gleason, (Maish), and Mickey Rooney, (Army, the trainer), are two of the colossi of 20th century show business and it's interesting to see them work together. Except that Gleason's performance seems to be missing something, as if he really didn't understand his character, even though he must have known many people like him. Rooney comes off better. Of course he has the better lines, although some of them appear to have wound up on the cutting room floor as some of Ed Wynn's best lines from the TV show are absent. One thing I liked was that Army was obviously an old fighter himself, with the scars on his face. He was presumably Maish's meal ticket before Mountain came along, which adds something to the story.

The story of Ed Wynn's performance is interesting and touching. He was a life-long comedian who punctuated his performances with silly laughter and other bits of business. His son, Keenan, was afraid that, in this live show, he was going to do that, which would have ruined anything. Ed was terribly nervous for fear of the same thing and because he'd never played drama before. His nervousness only made it more likely that he'd resort to his mannerisms. They actually rehearsed on the side with Ned Glass, who played the bartender, to take over the role if Ed broke down, which was a real possibility. Instead, he came through with flying colors in a legendary performance. The knowledge of this story is part of the legend. It's possible that Glass, (or Rooney in the film) might have been as good but the performance wouldn't have been as dramatic an achievement as what Wynn did.

I like Keenan Wynn's Maish much better than Gleason's. He has a haunted, desperate look. The best Gleason could do is look dyspeptic. Kim Hunter and Julie Harris, as the employment counselors, are a wash, although Julie has more to do in the film. The real fighters employed as the washed up barflies add a lot to the atmosphere. Mountain has an awareness that he doesn't want to be one of them. (Some of them were known to have suffered from dementia). I like the tragic ending of the film better than the hopeful one of the TV show, although I prefer Maish and Army going off with the young middleweight at the end, their hopes renewed, as we see on TV. Maish's angry anti-boxing diatribe at the end of the film rings true enough for boxers but false and out of character for him.
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Requiem Delivers Knockout Blow ****
edwagreen29 June 2006
A punchy fighter, Anthony Quinn, gives a brilliant performance. Quinn shows a depth in acting range in this film which he showed in 1954's "La Strada."

At the end of a long career, Quinn is approached to be a counselor in a summer camp. Unfortunately, his trainer, played in an outstanding supporting performance by Jackie Gleason, has other plans. He wants to get him into wrestling and that he should take a dive.

The difference between wealthy and poor societies is brought out here and done quite well.

The ending is sad but exactly to the point.
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