Plot: What’s it about?
Mountain Rivera (Anthony Quinn) was almost the World’s Heavyweight Champion. He was no punk, he was almost the World’s Heavyweight Champion. But after seventeen years of boxing, Rivera’s career has come to an end and now he has to start a new life. He was once ranked number five, but now his years of injuries have forced him to retire and leave the ring forever. His manager Maish (Jackie Gleason) is also now looking for a new start, but not for all the same reasons, as he owes the mafia a whole lot of cash. His own doubts about Rivera have cost him big time, as he bet against his own fighter and was left out in the cold. Now Rivera is trying to find life in the normal professions, but even with his cutman Army (Mickey Rooney) at his side, Mountain is having some real troubles. But he soon meets Grace (Julie Harris) and forges a bond with her, while Maish tries to move him into the world of wrestling, just to raise the cash to save himself from the lethal wards of the mafia. While Mountain is no longer the top ranked fighter he once was, can he find his place in the world and retain his dignity?
A film doesn’t need a lot of bells & whistles to be good and one example of that is this film, Requiem for a Heavyweight, directed by Ralph Nelson. This movie has plenty of power, but it comes from the material and the performances, as opposed to flashy camera moves, extensive special effects, or grand, but unrealistic production design work. A low key, gritty picture, Requiem for a Heavyweight is about a boxer past his ring days, but it focuses more on the personal side of the business, as opposed to the actual fight aspect. A dynamic cast that includes Anthony Quinn, Mickey Rooney, Jackie Gleason, and Julie Harris ensures that all the raw power, emotion, and impact of the material hit full force, thanks to their incredible efforts on screen. The writing of Rod Serling (TV’s The Twilight Zone) is superb and creates some memorable, believable characters & events, which is crucial in a film of this kind. The plot is simple in premise, but as the characters develop and the subplots unfold, it becomes quite detailed. It is a shame that Columbia has issued this film with no extras, but even so, it is more than recommended.
Although he was perhaps best known for his television work, Jackie Gleason had some great movie roles also, including this one. His later film work was driven by comedic parts, but Gleason had immense dramatic skills also, without a doubt. We’ve seen a lot of people take on roles like Gleason’s here, but few have been able to bring the needed balance to the role. But he is able to have the human side of this sometimes despicable character, which we need to have there, otherwise some of the other elements in the film are thrown off. In other words, it is obvious why we should dislike the character, but it is also plain to see his positive traits, so we can understand why some other characters tolerate him. Other films with Gleason include The Hustler, Nothing in Common, The Toy, Soldier in the Rain, and Smokey and the Bandit. The cast also includes Anthony Quinn (Lost Command, Lawrence of Arabia), Mickey Rooney (Baby Face Nelson, National Velvet), and Julie Harris (East of Eden, The Haunting).
Video: How does it look?
Requiem for a Heavyweight is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, with a full frame edition also included on this dual layered disc. I had my fingers crossed for a great looking effort here and Columbia has delivered, this brand new widescreen edition looks excellent and fans will be most thrilled indeed. The print used looks much cleaner than expected, with only minor age related flaws to contend with, which is impressive for a film four decades old. The black & white visuals shine throughout, thanks to superb contrast and black levels that are pristine, refined, and balanced to perfection. This is a top notch transfer in all respects, another superb effort from Columbia on one of their older catalog pictures.
Audio: How does it sound?
A good, clean mono option is on deck here and while it won’t bring the house down, I had no complaints to lodge in this case. Although the film is around four decades old, the audio sounds acceptable and even excellent at times, one of the better original mono mixes I’ve heard from this period, no doubt about it. I noticed no hiss present, even when I turned the volume up beyond normal levels, while distortion and other age related defects are also absent. This means we’re given a sharp, very clean & clear overall audio track, in which the music, sound effects, and dialogue all come through in superb form. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc contains no bonus materials.