Paradise Alley (1978) Video Store Action Heroes 4 x Action Packed Fight VHS Movie Memories

Paradise Alley (1976) Sylvester Stallone Armand Assante vhs cover poster

So it’s that time again when the dreamboys or The Video Store Action Heroes as we sometimes go by join forces and unleash a choice selection of our movie rental memories. Now where this is of course a very fun excursion, its not without its dangers, yep I said it, dangers. It’s a tightrope that we walk to bring these reviews. Hacking into the hippocampus part of the brain has peril written all over it. Why you just don’t know what unearthly memory you could tap into. With a gentle prod a sweet memory might bring a bittersweet tear to fall down the side of your cheek or maybe release a slight giggle of laughter. Though truth be told it’s normally a spontaneous bout of Wilhelm Screams.

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The danger and also fear of these collaborations is a real one. The realisation that the childhood film you’d adored and obsessively watched over and over again is in fact a pile of old steaming turd. This time I was to choose our subject. I’d had my film ready and eager to watch for sometime. I just needed that right time and that day had come. This VSAH theme was to be “some sort of fighting ring”. Why? well I’ve been anxiously wanting to revisit a teenage film I’d watched over and over but hadn’t seen again since at least 1985.  What could this film be? Well my movie of choice, with its theme of wrestling, is the 1978 Sylvester Stallone “classic” Paradise Alley. Right I’m going in “Roll the film” fingers crossed. I bow and cross my heart. “Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch

Tagline – The Carboni Boys. They haul ice, lay out stiffs and dance with monkeys!

Paradise Alley (1976) Sylvester Stallone Armand Assante Lee Canalito Cosmo Lenny Victor

Yep that does say monkeys in that tagline! I’ll get back to that later.  So here’s the rundown on the film. It’s the slums of 1940s New York City and three Italian American brothers scrimp and scrape around Hell’s Kitchen. Pent up, toe to toe in a cockroach infested one room apartment. The three Carboni boys try to survive the harsh winter months. All with very different personalities. Cosmo (Sylvester Stallone) is the mouth, always looking to hustle. He can talk himself in and out of anything that life chucks at him. Any chance to make a buck and Cosmo is ready to go. A seasoned con-artist. Then there’s Lenny (Armand Assante) a war veteran with a limp. With a spin of his cane, he’s Charlie Chaplin. Lenny is depressed, an alcoholic and brooding for his old flame Annie (Anne Archer). He works as an undertaker but no one has money to bury the dead when you can just leave them outside on the pavement. Last of all is Victor (Lee Canalito) the sweetest giant you could ever know. Imagine in looks, a foot taller version of Marlon Brando. He’s kind hearted but also a simple minded fella. “He’s as nasty as a daisy“. Lenny’s muscles gets him the job of iceman. Supplying the ice for pre-electricity fridges. He’s as tough as an ox. Lenny’s saving to get himself and his love Susan (Aimee Eccles) out of Hell’s Kitchen. Lets hope no one invents a powered fridge?

Paradise Alley (1976) Lee Canalito victor ice blocksParadise Alley (1976) Lee Canlito Victor ice block stairs smash

Right that monkey? Cosmo, being the grifter he is, spies an opportunity. And with a well earnt bet he comes into the possession of an evil looking monkey. I’m sure it’s that same evil looking monkey from Raiders of the Lost Ark? Not my favourite monkeys I will confess. Saying that it does look like they messed the poor little critter up. Made up with eyeliner and lipstick and even tried and gagged. Yeah he might be a freaky little monkey but the real dancing monkey is Cosmo himself. Another money making plan hits skidrow.

Paradise Alley (1976) Sylvester Stallone dancing monkeyParadise Alley (1976) Lee Canalito victor ring Big Glory Frank McRae

What are they to do? Well this is when Paradise Alley comes in. Paradise Alley is a backstreet dodgy dive, come wrestling bar. The main event for boozing crowds is the chance to win a 100 dollar bill. The challenge? To last one round with the heavyweight ex-professional wrestler Big Glory (Frank McRae). As we witness punters getting their arses whipped, crushed and beaten senseless to the deck. Big Glory is formidable. Cosmo’s eyes light up. Lenny can take this guy. He certainly can stand, eye to eye, with him. With the ka-ching sound of a cash register going off, Cosmo knows how the brothers are gonna get rich. Cosmo the trainer, Lenny the manger and poor Victor the punching bag. Cue a series of 40 odd wrestlers beating and smashing poor Lenny in a montage of pain. What could Lenny’s terrifying wrestling name be? Ready for it? Kid Salami with ropes of salami sausages hanging off him!

Paradise Alley (1976) Sylvester Stallone Armand Assante Lee Canalito kid salamiParadise Alley (1976) Lee Canlito Victor wrestling fights 2

With all this going on they also have continuous run ins with a bunch of gangsters. And these gangsters are horrible as much as they are laughable. They are cartoonish and ridiculous but equally nasty. Lead by the tiny, silver toothed Stitch (Kevin Conway) and his comedy of sidekicks. There’s Rat (Paul Mace), Skinny The Hand (Frank Pesce) and the monster man mountain Frankie the Thumper (Terry Funk). Frankie is also a wrestler so it’s not hard to imagine that him and Lenny are destined for a showdown.

Paradise Alley (1976) Terry Funk Kevin Conway Frankie the thumper and StitchParadise Alley (1976) Lee Canlito Victor wrestling terry funk

So that’s it, they are off and running. Will Lenny be able to win his way through the barrage of tanks, boulders and clubs smashing down on him? Will the bickering older two brothers see what they are doing to their kind hearted brother? Can they get out of this dump and escape Hell’s Kitchen?

Tagline – Three brothers… One had the brains, one had the muscle and one had the suit. Together they had a million dollar dream

Things I’ve learnt along the way

  • Directed, starred and written by Sylvester Stallone. He actually wrote this story before Rocky but couldn’t get it made. It would also become a novel. With the overwhelming success of Rocky, he got Paradise Alley greenlit into production.
  • Yep that really is Sylvester “singing” the theme tune with music by composer Bill Conti. 
  • Sylvester Stallone and Armand Assante would go on to play brothers again 1995 ill advised Judge Dredd adaptation.
Paradise Alley (1976) Sylvester Stallone Armand Assante Judge dredd twin brothers
Well you just won’t guess he’s Judge Dredd because he keeps taking his bloody helmet off!!
  • Singer, actor Tom Waits pops up as Mumbles playing the piano at the gangsters bar.
  • Frankie the Thumper is played by real life wrestling legend Terry Funk. The man is still to this day wrestling on the circuit! Incredible! Check this great little video of him showing you around his office filled with memorabilia here. The Funks were something else. Terry and his brother Dory Jr both followed in the footsteps of their wrestler Dad Dory Funk.
Paradise Alley (1976) Terry Funk and Ric Flair
Terry Funk and Ric Flair
  • The final battle between the two big men is every bit a thunderclap of brawn and raw power as these two men smash seven bells of shit outta each other. It’s incredible to see them flip and fly through the air and it’s made even worse by the fact it’s all filmed as it’s raining in doors?
  • Now I never knew that Lee Canalito was a professional boxer. Even going under the nickname the Italian stallion, the same as Rocky Balboa. I read that Sly would later actually manage Lee Canalito for a while in his professional career.
  • Canalito had 21 fights with 20 knockouts to his name. Here’s his fight record. And here’s a video of his penultimate fight against Dan Ramsey in 1986. Where Ramsey didn’t look like he had much of a chance fighting Canalito he did manage to fire off an out of nowhere wallop. Canalito is obviously shaken but finishes Ramsey off quickly after. Lee Canalito vs Dan Ramsey.
Paradise Alley (1976) Sylvester Stallone Lee Canlito manager boxing getty image
Lee Canalito the Italian Stallion and manager Sylvester Stallone

Video Store Action Heroes

  • The movie and arcade game wizard Greg at Destroy All Fanboys went for the classic Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris smasher The Way of the Dragon. Oh and it’s got the lovely Nora Miao.
  • Movie and baseball all star pitcher Todd at Cinema Monolith has taken on the hard task of viewing slave girls fighting in 1974s The Arena starring my girlfriend Pam Grier and her friends Margaret Markov and Lucretia Love.
  • And Mike over at Mike’s Take On The Movies is the man with a movie vault so cool it makes grown men weep. He’s went for 1981s All The Marbles about some boring sounding female wrestling team. Whaaat! Laurene Landon and Vicki Frederick in leotards!

Paradise Alley (1976) Lee Canlito Victor wrestling fights

Wrapping it up

How was the revisit to my childhood? Did I come out with any physical or mental scars from the ordeal? Well it was certainly a lot cheesier than I remembered. It’s actually a very offbeat and strangely told tale. Almost slightly surreal at times, with some scenes having a hazy look or even a red colour wash. It’s got a real underlying sadness embedded in the filming style. Not helped at all by the depressing soundtrack and Sylvester Stallone’s really pretty awful singing on the title song. The film felt disjointed at times watching back. Jumping from scenes, feeling like it had been cut and edited with bits missing. Then I read Sly’s notes on production and he said the film was originally longer until the producer cut it up to speed it up. Maybe that was the case. All in all my childhood is still intact. It was extremely nostalgic and it had a much happier ending than I remembered. So I know a shrink out there reading this review will sigh that they lost some business but all’s good. I’m a survivor.

Paradise Alley (1976) Lee Canlito Victor Frankie Terry Funk rain wrestling

Be sure to check out my movie pals reviews if you liked this one. Till the next time. Keep watching the squares with the pictures and hope you get a few chocolate eggs from the Easter Bunnies!

All the best. Mikey Wolf

Sing us out Sylvester with “Too Close To Paradise”

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26 thoughts on “Paradise Alley (1978) Video Store Action Heroes 4 x Action Packed Fight VHS Movie Memories

  1. Well, I was having a pretty good Saturday morning until Stallone, in full Rocky mode, began warbling that theme song! Ha! Anyway, nice review, Mikey…a movie I’ve never seen, but now have a better understanding of (I’d thought it was a boxing film!). And a young Anne Archer…man, that’d be worth the price of admission alone!

    I have the same sort of situation going on with ‘1941’: I loved it when I was a kid, but haven’t seen it in decades, and I’m wondering what I’d think of it now, after reading so many horrible reviews about it. I picked up a DVD copy for a buck in a thrift store, so it’s sitting on my shelf just waiting for me to check out. But I fear doing so…though I’m glad to hear you came out of your viewing unscathed.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And I haven’t seen 1941 before. The director, the writer and what a cast, man that cast?. It should be a classic but I remember hearing peoples reviews and didn’t get round to seeing it. Incidentally both Paradise Alley and 1941 both have the same 5.8 score. So I’d grab the popcorn Todd, get that dvd in the player and relive your youth. I’m sure it will be good fun and bring back many memories. hehe yeah I was unscathed but man it was a close call!!!!
      Stallone silky smooth voice wakes babies in different neighborhoods.

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      1. The DVD I own of ‘1941’ is a longer cut, so maybe that will improve things…or just draw out the misery. But it IS fun at times, I do remember that…I especially enjoyed John Belushi’s antics. So yeah, maybe this week I’ll give it a go.

        Woke babies in different neighborhoods! That one was good for a chuckle!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Did I hear right that John Candy’s small role is a stand up? He’s always good bang for your (uncle) buck.:)
          Hope you throw caution to the wind and dive in for another view. Be great to see a post on your experience. Unless it’s too heartbreaking of course, it’s hard to convey liquid tears in type! hehe

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          1. From what I can remember, Candy’s part was not as big as you’d expect…he was more of a background guy, who had lines. But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen ‘1941’, so don’t hold me to it. And I think I’ll watch it this week…I’m curious about that 146-minute cut, and am curious how it compares to the 118-minute theatrical cut. (Many reviews say how horrible the DVD print is, so I’m not looking forward to that).

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Good you guessed it, I did mean stand out rather than stand up!
              I suppose there was so many big personalities in there they had to shout over each other. 146 minute cut? Well makes sure you put the ear defenders on. Thats a lot of extra minutes cut out.I guess if you are gonna go for it, you might as well get the whole shebang done! Good luck bro “pardon?” I said GOOD LUCK BRO “Say what?”

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  2. A bang up job on Paradise Alley sir. Glad to hear you made it through with little damage to the memory senses. This one goes way back for me as well. Maybe a late night TV airing but yes it’s here in the movie room so you never know when it might make an appearance. Love all that wrestling trivia and seeing Ric Flair in there brings back childhood memories. “To be the man you gotta beat the man!”
    1941 a disaster. It’s just not funny other than Slim Pickens who steals every scene he’s in. Carry on gentlemen.

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    1. Thanks Mike. Yeah I was 13 when I rented it and fell in love with it. Later recording it off the telly. Then a year later never saw it again. The big American wrestling names didn’t start coming to uk tv screen until later I think but when they did they were larger than life. So many real big characters. We had the likes of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks that were really comical looking back and the grannies loved them.
      The Lee Canalito and Sly boxing connection really fascinated me, I had no idea.
      Made me chuckle that Canalito posted up a video in 2011 calling out a challenge to George Foreman in a charity fight called The Texas Brawl. I don’t think it ever happened as far as I can tell. https://youtu.be/115rd9AI-RY

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      1. He was serious in that video. He’s not even blinking! LOL. I have a feeling he needed George more than George needed him. I wasn’t aware of that connection either. I’m pretty sure Gene Hackman dabbled in the same way as a backer. He used to go to the fights a lot when I was watching back in the late 80’s and 90’s. I haven’t watched wrestling in a hundred years but Ric Flair always get me laughing and still imitate him around the house for the benefit of sons though they don’t laugh at me like they used to.

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        1. George sitting on that grill fortune aint gonna get his old ass involved with that fight. Though it would be nice to hear if he signed a little cheque for Canalito’s boxing club. Looks like the guys still keeping it real. No way didn’t know Gene got in on the boxer game too. Hehe yeah it’s hard not to do a Ric Flair or even a Andre The Giant and especially Randy Savage impersonations.

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  3. I remember this one, Mikey. I saw it in the theater when I was in middle school. I wasn’t too crazy about it–a little disappointed since I was such a big Rocky fan. I know what you mean about being disappointed in movies you loved as a youngster. I watched Lucky Lady not too long ago with Liza Minnelli, Burt Reynolds and Gene Hackman (I think.) I loved it back in the day. Like you so eloquently put it, “It’s a steaming pile of dog poop now.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pam. I guess it had all the ingrediegnts for a teenage boy. I was fascinated by it. My Dad had taken me to see a double bill of Rocky a few years before at the cinema so I think seeing more Sly had good memories. Funny as I didn’t realise back then just how quirky and odd some of the scenes are. Still I’m glad I didn’t come out of it with buckets of tears and broken dreams. So it’s sorry to hear Lucky Lady didn’t go so well for you on a revisit. Burt and Gene and Liza sounds like a perfect fun trio.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice, nice. I paid to see this and kind of didn’t appreciate it way back then, but I may give this a shot again at some point.

    1941 is a total hoot and a train wreck simultaneously. I think I went to see it five times because I couldn’t believe it got made and all that money is up there on screen. The longer cut does “explain” a few things (not that the film needed more story), but seems put together just to show how hard Spielberg and company worked on the thing. Iit’s certainly one of the LOUDEST movies I can ever recall seeing, that’s for sure. Enjoy it!

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  5. I think a rewatch would be worth a go. Mainly just to recall how quirky and offbeat the film can be. The wrestling scenes are worth the price of admission along the rest of it, well! Like i say I enjoyed it but that’s probably down to cute teenage memories.
    LOL on 1941 being the loudest movie ever. I’m gonna wait to hear back from Todd’s experience of rewatching it before I even attempt I think.

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    1. One of the things that many reviews I read this morning say about ‘1941’ is that it’s a ‘screaming’ movie…everyone is screaming all the time! And there’s apparently a credit or post-credit sequence where we see each actor scream! Good lord!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yep, at the ending, as the main and some secondary actors are credited, they show assorted clips where they all scream or yell at something. It’s a film that’s hard to fall asleep watching, that’s for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

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