The Square Ring (1953) Basil Dearden’s Knockout Boxing Drama

Funny to think of a ring being square? Ok, just me then… Ding Ding. So that’s that, my review of boxing drama, The Square Ring. Thanks for popping on by…

A re-match you say? Ok! here goes. This is a neat little boxing drama featuring a snapshot into the lives of six fighters ready to enter the boxing ring. The main narrative is centered within the changing rooms for our home club boxers. Men at different stages and journey paths of their careers. A wise ex-pro is the dressing room attendant, his experience puts him in the perfect place to give out honest and practical advice. Whether they listen to his sage wisdom is another thing but he would never judge. He’s been there before.

The Square Ring is directed by the superb Basil Dearden who just keeps surprising me every time I press play. Basil has been featured on here a few times with Sapphire (1959), Victim (1961) The Mind Benders (1963) A Place To Go (1963) and the superb The League of Gentlemen (1960).

Danny Felton (Jack Warner)
Rare to see Jack Warner out of a police outfit I’d say. Known to many of a certain age for hundreds of episodes (actually 432!) of the TV series Dixon of Dock Green where he played the bobby on the beat Police Constable George Dixon. He also starred as PC George in another film for director Basil Dearden in The Blue Lamp (1950) with rookie cop Jimmy Hanley and the young hoodlum Dirk Bogarde. Jack Warner would also play a detective inspector in the superb murder mystery I did a review for called Jigsaw (1962). His character in The Square Ring is the kind and caring Danny Felton. He’d been in the same position as these guys at some point in his fighting life and he’d also seen the aftermath first hand. He tapes the fists ready for the gloves, fetches their personal robes, taking his time to calm their nerves and give the right inspirational words to help them before entering the arena. He’s also ready with the first aid kit. He’ll patch them back up if he can. Each boxer goes through Danny.

Whitey Johnson (George Rose)
Past his prime by many years. Whitey had come off the streets bare-knuckle fighting. Boxing was all he knew. Nowadays he was just a punching bag. The first event for some up and coming whippersnapper to hurl powerful blows into his mashed up face. Whitey was a brawler, his face showed the years of slams, he was punch drunk but he was also forever the optimist. Bet him a pound that he couldn’t win might be all the stubborn beat up fighter might need?

Eddie Lewis (Ronald Lewis)
Eddie was a rookie. He’d worked his way through the ranks of the amateur ring. Today was his first fight as professional. Mum and Dad are there for support, mixed within the riotous screams from the boisterous crowd. The three had traveled from Wales together, ready to watch their son with pride. Eddie was nervous and timid. The stage had opened his eyes. Being in the changing rooms with all these fighters had equally frighten and inspired him. Now was the time for the stage, his first big fight. Off he goes with his head in a spin… Ronald Lewis is superb in the thriller Taste of Fear (1961).

Rowdie Rawlings (Bill Travers)
A giant heavyweight. Comes off slow and forgetful. Years of being punched or maybe uneducated, possibly both. Big Rowdie looked like a brute but under that hulking frame was a kind heart. His gormless smile was friendly to everyone. He sit’s patiently for his ring time and as he does he reads his favourite science fiction comic book with great fascination. “She’s off to Jupiter to marry some sort of alien vegetation!” he happily proclaims to everyone.

Rick Martell (Maxwell Reed)
Rick was down on his luck. Lost two fights in a row. His girlfriend was besotted with him. It didn’t matter that he’d lost, she love him no matter what. He’ll win this fight, that’s for sure. Little did she know that Rick had gangsters gunning for him to take a dive in the fourth round! If he didn’t they threaten to slash up his love! Rick’s girlfriend is played by the saucy Joan Collins and the couple were married in real life. He was husband number one from five. It didn’t go well for these two, I wonder if they fared better in the film?

Happy Burns (Bill Owen)
The flyweight fighter on a winning streak. He’s incessantly cocky and with annoying amount of ego and confidence. He bounces about shadow boxing and telling everyone how skilled he is and even more importantly, to him, how good looking he is. This pint sized pocket rocket still pulls the girls with three ladies on his arm dotting over him from the side lines. One of them is Joan Sims the Carry On Queen. And of course, if again you are of a certain age, Bill Owen is the household name of Compo from Last of the Summer Wine, the long running comedy saga.

Kid Curtis (Robert Beatty)
The main event and the top fight on the nights card is Kid Curtis. He had been big time. He’s won the title, crowned the champ. However it had broken him. The young Eddie asks him “It must’ve been terrific, winning the title an’ that. How did it feel?” to which Kid Curtis replies “I don’t know how it felt. It was a week before I could remember my own name…“. A few fights later, all lost, he had hit rock bottom. Retired at 29! He’d lost the love of his life, his wife Peg (Bernadette O’Farrell). It wasn’t due to him losing, it was down to him not quitting. In his head he was making a come back to win her back!

Verdict

I will flippantly say it has some common ground in similar style to Robert Wise’s incredible, The Set Up (1949). With it’s focus firmly on the fighters getting ready to enter the arena. Anyone who’s watched The Set-Up will know it’s not on that level. But don’t be fooled with it’s at times comic approach, it will come around and bite you. It has some deep insight into the darker side of the boxing trade, especially for that era. It took me by surprise how very aware of thing’s like concussion, with the brain smashing around inside the skull, being punch drunk, sight loss and the other dangers associated with the tough sport. There’s also the gangster and hoodlums element. Them using their power to rig matches with fear and intimation. Even cheating and promoter politics get a little look at. With all that, there’s a lot of fun to be had spotting all the actors you may of seen in something before. With club owner and master of ceremonies being the one and only Sid James who has a running cigar joke going. Check the beautiful Kay Kendall and the devious Eddie Byrne too. For a fan of British films and a love of boxing dramas I thoroughly enjoyed this but as I forewarned it’s not all good times and laughs and can sucker punch on the darker side when it wants too.

Wolfman’s score card comes in with an unanimous win for Basil and his team with 7.5/10

64 Day Hero (1986) The Tragic Story Of British Boxer Randy Turpin

I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of Randolph Turpin, fighting under the name Randy Turpin, before. A British boxer born and raised in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. Of course his fighting records were way before my time however I feel I should of at least of heard his name. Especially when the boxing stats website BoxRec has him riding high in second place behind Joe Calzaghe in their Lb for Lb points system.

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Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) A Life Changing Beating From The Greatest Muhammad Ali

The dank little room stunk of arseholes and BO. These places always did. Luckily the rubbing ointments took the edge off. To be honest Louis ‘Mountain’ Rivera (Anthony Quinn) couldn’t smell shit. His flatten nose had been busted countless times, he even struggled to breathe.

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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. Continue reading

The Blood of Heroes (1989) Rutger Hauer’s Battle Cry Salute To The Jugger

The Blood Of Heroes (1989) Rutger Hauer Joan Chen video VHS cassette box tape cover

In a world ravished by nuclear war, the barren, sorry looking landscape of Earth has taken on that familiar look of a post-apocalyptic Mad Max. Scattered little pockets of civilisation can be found around the desolate, desert terrain. The small market-towns are called dog-towns, where desperate people scavenge and scrounge for food scraps. On the fringe, the shanty towns of rubbish and recycled waste are forged into makeshift living spaces. The food consists of what tough vegetation is hardy enough to grow and whatever meat that can be found. Rats are high on the list but you sure get more meat on the bones of a dog! Besides the dog kind of comes in handy for past-time entertainment! Continue reading

The Harder They Fall (1956) Humphrey Bogart’s Last Film Is A Smasher

The Harder They Fall (1956) poster one sheet movie image boxing bogart noir

Not until it had finished and went to tick The Harder They Fall off my Humphrey Bogart films I must see list, that it dawned on me this was his final film before he passed away at the young age of 57. I have to say I didn’t realise he was ill whilst watching, he had all those classic Bogart characteristics and mannerisms we all so love. That world weary New York tough guy that hides a heart of gold, a style that you can imagine is naturally his real persona. He’s such a joy to watch and it’s great to know I still have a lot more Bogies to work my way through. Continue reading

99 River Street (1953) John Unleashes The Payne With Power Punches

99 River Street (1953) John Payne movie film noir poster

Depressed and broken ex boxer Ernie Driscoll (John Payne) can’t help reminiscing back to his heyday as a prize fighter and unfortunately to that fateful day when he took a beating on the ropes. The day he damaged his eye, bringing with it the end of his boxing career. He sits there with great sadness, in his apartment, watching a rerun of the fight. Things aren’t helped for our poor Ernie as his wife Pauline (Peggie Castle) loves nothing more that belittling him, reminding him what a loser he is and how he has ruined their future.

Tagline – Rips into you like a double-crossing Dame!

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The Great White Hope (1970) Darth Vader Fights Hatred With His Fists.

The Great White Hope (1970) james earl jones movie poster

Hey! That black boxer with his shining bald head on the screen looks familiar? Without that big cuddly frame and his glasses he’s almost unrecognisable as he bounds up and down firing off punches as fast as his mouth. When the words come out you instantly recall that voice, that unmistakable voice, those deep tones of the dark side, that ultimate bad guy, Darth Vader. You’ll also gonna know those vocal sounds from the likes of Disney’s father of the pride, Mufasa, from The Lion King. And who could forget Eddie Murphy’s Dad, King Jaffe Joffer in Coming To America. He’s the guy thats so iconic that it can only be one guy, that super legend, Mr James Earl Jones. Continue reading

Fat City (1972) Real Life Can Pack Quite A Punch!

Fat City (1972) Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) Oma (Susan Tyrrell) drunk pub

Down and nearly out ex-semi pro boxer Billy Tully (Stacy Keach) looks into another empty bottle of spirits and drags himself to his feet, hey he might be down but he’s not out for the count yet. Determined to get back into shape and start a fresh, he packs his dirty old kit and heads off to the boxing gym. Wheezing, straining and sweating off the booze from countless nights, he steps and skips around the hall, shadow punching, ducking and a diving. He’s still got the moves under all that rust and achy bones. Continue reading