Here’s a super smashing punching sweating panting tension filled film noir boxing drama starring Robert Ryan as the aging human punch bag, Bill “Stoker” Thompson. What a film The Set-Up turned out to be and it popped my 40’s cherry on this here blog.
Stoker is a proud tough man but unfortunately on a loosing streak and what with his age, his manager Tiny (George Tobias) takes a big bet out with local ringside gangster Little Boy (Alan Baxter) for Stoker to take a fall against his next opponent, the leaner and younger Tiger Nelson (Hal Baylor). Stupidly his manager at the Paradise City boxing club doesn’t let Stoker in on his bet because our hero has other plans..
Stoker has his “Adrian“, his doting wife Julie (Audrey Totter), a gal he so wants to impress. He wants to earn some dollar and set up a cigar stand or maybe become a trainer, Julie just wants him to stop before he gets beaten senseless, loses his memory or even worse, ends up dead!
Julie – I Want a Man… Not a Human Punching Bag!
In a just brilliant locker scene, you see all the boxers getting ready to fight, the fear, excitement, anxiety and bravery. Some go out scared and come back winners, others return with the cocky smile wiped off their faces. Stoker sits there absorbing all the energy in the room, slowly psyching himself up to take out his opponent.
If only Julie was there to watch him like she always does but she is dealing with her own future.
When the bell rings the heads go crunch, fist slamming body blows, twisting hips and flying uppercuts and jabs rain down across the ring. What expires is a truly righteous fight, a fight that takes up half the film!
Can Stoker fight without Julie as his inspiration? Will he be able to beat the Tiger? If he does, what does that mean? Or will he just end up with a bumbling messed up mind? It’s a very recommend watch. Have you seen it? or if you do, let me know your thoughts.
Lots of observations on this film so here goes…….
Both Robert Ryan and Hal Baylor measure up to 6′ 4″ and both accomplished boxers. The choreographed fight scenes are some of the best I’ve ever seen especially for the time. You are there, ring side all the way. It’s an epic fight that looks so incredibly realistic that they must of really been beating seven bells of shit out of each other.
Hal Baylor plays the giant rosy cheeked bouncer Michael in A Boy And His Dog
Director Robert Wise has a bonkers film list he’s made from classics like West Side Story and The Sound Of Music. To some of my favourite films like The Andromeda Strain, Run Silent Run Deep and the first Star Trek movie, which is still a feast for the eyes.
In a genius little move, the film is in real-time. You see a clock at different parts of the movie starting at 9.05pm to panning out to 10.16pm. What a difference a little over an hour can do!
The Set-Up is based on a screenplay adaptation of a long poem by Joseph Moncure March. The one big thing they changed was the protagonist’s race, originally he was a black guy going under the name of Pansy Jones. I read that black actor Canada Lee, also a boxer, was possible for the role. On a search I see Canada Lee played a boxer in the film Body and Soul 1947 (Now on my watch list). Robert Ryan completely smashes his part and you can’t see anyone else in that role but how amazing if the studio had the balls to cast a black actor in the lead role.
Now I need to see the boxing film made in the same year starring Kirk Douglas Champion.
Right I’ve blabbed on too much! Mikey Wolfman says “Have big fun at the movies”