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

Brighton Rock (1948) Psychotic Pocket Rocket Slashes And Intimidates

This review is for the brutal British gangster movie, Brighton Rock (1948)

What’s going down?

Devious and psychotic small-time gangster, Pinkie Brown, sets out to end the life of a journalist who’d unwittingly strolled into town. The reporter had published a story exposing the brutal gang wars of Brighton on the south coastal town of England. The newspaper article had, in some way, resulted in the death of Pinkie’s gang boss, Kite. Now this teenage hoodlum was now pushed to the forefront of this small gang of racketeers, and he wanted to make his mark. He’d push fear and intimidation. If that didn’t work? Not a problem for him, he’d slice and dice with razor blades. Without hesitation to kill, yeah Pinkie was ready to make his way to the top. Who would find themselves caught up in this twisted hoodlum’s murderous ways? A naive young girl called Rose and the brash and brassy middle-aged cabaret singer, Ida Arnold

The main players

Carol Marsh plays Rose Brown
Hermione Baddeley plays Ida Arnold
William Hartnell plays Dallow
Harcourt Williams plays Prewitt
Wylie Watson plays Spicer
Nigel Stock plays Cubitt

Tagline – Raw! Brutal! Razor Gangs in Action!

Sure I’ve seen them in something?

A young Lord Richard Attenborough reprises his role here, as Pinkie Brown, that had him receiving rave reviews whilst the stage play was on West End. I’ve always liked Richard’s work. He seemed equally apt at playing twisted characters, like his portrayal of John Christie in 10 Rillington Place (1971) or Billy Savage in Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964). He could easily jump into the role of a working class every man caught in union strikes, in The Angry Silence (1960) or stiff upper lip officer in the World War Two classic The Great Escape (1963). Even showing his comedic side when playing a posh old Commander having a blast of fun with the gung-ho American cop, John Wayne in the likes of Brannigan (1975). However, to most, he will be remembered as the dithering old geezer opening up a wonderland of death and destruction of the prehistoric kind, in Jurassic Park (1993). With all his various performances, I don’t think I’ve seen him with so much raw hate in his heart?

Truth be told I didn’t know Hermione Baddeley as I began watching Brighton Rock. She plays the brash and feisty cabaret entertainer, Ida Arnold. A lady not afraid to speak her mind. At first I thought she was there for comic relief, well she is really, but as the films plays out she becomes an amateur detective and a thorn in the side of our villain Pinkie. I grew to like her character the more she appeared. Reading her film bio after, it dawned on me, of course I’d seen her before! She’d been Mrs. Cratchit to Alistair Sim’s version of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (1951) and again with him in The Belles of St. Trinian’s (1954). Also she played the maid in Mary Poppins (1964). She was also in the Hitchcock-esque thriller Midnight Lace (1960). So here’s to you readers, could you recommended other Hermione performances? I’ve taken note of Passport to Pimlico (1949) and Room at the Top (1959) which I see she starred alongside Laurence Harvey. An actor she married and had this priceless quote to say about him when they divorced. “I think I shall risk the halibut. It can’t be too awful, can it? After you’ve lived with Laurence Harvey, nothing in life is ever really too awful again.” Hehe it did make me laugh.

There’s plenty of actors I could highlight here, however I can’t do them all, so for the last one I’ll pick William Hartnell. He plays Dallow, like a second-in-command to Pinkie. He’s actually quite a complex character. He has a vicious streak and ready to go when asked but he’s more restraint and composed. His experience makes him wiser though he’ll still jump to Pinkie’s word. I enjoyed watching him act. William Hartnell will always be cemented in every kid of a generation as the first Dr Who. Whereas my first memories are with my Doctor Who, the wonderful Tom Baker, any big fan of the classic time traveling sci-fi series knew the different incarnations and that Grandad Who was the OG, the original gangster. Some great films of his to check are Hell Driver (1957), Odd Man Out (1947) and Carry On Sergeant (1958) three movies I really need to see again, soon. Feel free to recommend others. One TV movie I can fully recommend is in fact a bio on William Hartnell himself and how he became Doctor Who. It’s a truly fantastic experience with the brilliant David Bradley playing the part to pure perfection. A dead ringer you could say. If you can find it to watch please give An Adventure in Space and Time (2013) a go, I’m sure you would love it.

Notes on production?

Brighton Rock was first a novel written by Graham Greene in 1938 and subsequently turned into a West End play with lots of the original cast reprising their roles for the film. Graham Greene is known for many classic movie adaptations from his novels, screenplays and short stories, like This Gun For Hire (1942), Ministry Of Fear (1944), The Fallen Idol (1948), The Quiet American (1958) and Carol Reed’s masterpiece, The Third Man (1949).

The screenplay was worked on by Terence Rattigan who had wrote the superb drama starring Michael Redgrave and a film I had nothing but full on praise for called The Browning Version (1951). It was directed by Anthony Asquith. One other film of Rattigan’s I have reviewed is The Way to the Stars (1945).

Brighton Rock is credited to John Boulting in the directing chair however John and his twin brother Roy Boulting would often flip between director and producer. No doubt each having equal input in the film process I would imagine. Sometimes they would be billed as a pair but overall Roy would go on to have his name listed as the director on most of the brothers body of work.

Brighton Rock was remade in 2010 and re-imagined in the 1960’s. I haven’t seen it but spied it doesn’t get rave reviews. I’d like to see it one day just to see how they tackle certain scenes. Sam Riley plays Pinkie with Andrea Riseborough as his Rose. Helen Mirren steps up in the Ida role. There’s a big curve ball turn for Hartnell’s Dallow character who’s played by the giant Nonso Anozie, who by the way was excellent in the recent Sweet Tooth live action adaptation.

Hits like a sledge hammer

There’s many intense, dark and suspenseful moments, of course, all featuring the sly sinister smirk of one Pinkie. There’s a moment at the top of stairwell that with have you gasping. An innocent looking race coarse instantly turns to shock and awe with razors and a close up camera shot full of thugs moving all so much nearer. However the sledgehammer for this film has to go to Rose asking sulky Pinkie to record his voice for her as a gift. It’s a neat scene featuring a recording booth that presses your words on to a single sized record. The following quote and words will contain spoilers… Rose looks through the booths window at Pinkie as he begins to talk. Her doting, besotted eyes look on as her beloved starts his “love verse”…. It goes…

Cutting remarks

Pinkie BrownYou asked me to make a record of me voice. Well, here it is. What you want me to say is ‘I love you.’ Here’s the truth. I hate you, you little slut. You make me sick.

Verdict

Anyone who’s followed this here movie blog of mine might of noticed I have some what disappeared. It had been nice having a break and I’ve really missed it, however, it’s proved difficult to return. Then I watched Brighton Rock, and you know what, it was just the injection I needed. Those dark and dingy lit sets and purposely framed noir scenes from impossible angles that directors, writers and actors are all willing to go that extra mile to push the boundaries. Brighton Rock has tough scenes. I read on Wiki that a Daily Mirror critic at the time denounced the razor slashing scenes as “horrific” and concluding, “This film must not be shown.” Nowadays such horrifying headlines are thrown on the front page in big large type to sell their newspapers. Back then, not long after the war, it must of been shocking. To me on this my first viewing, it was exciting, thrilling and reminded me how much I love watching film.

Rating score

Wolfman’s rating 9/10       IMDB 7.3/10

Feel free to recommend me related movies and any other trivia if you wish. Keep having fun at the movies…. Mikey Wolf

The Squeeze (1977) A Dirty Gritty London Thriller With A Drunk Ass Stacy Keach

He was an expert at standing up on moving subway trains as he swayed from side to side. His eyes half closed as the sound of sloshed, sozzled, synthesizers played inside his head. He had his very own theme tune going on. Jim Naboth (Stacy Keach) bobbed around waiting for the carriage doors to slide open. Heavy booze fumes radiated from his body. The musty aroma was laced with the smoke and ash of a box of 20 fags, and he may recall a cigar at some point during the night? He halved smiled. The stench helped to keep the commuters at bay as the waft freely spread itself about. It helped open a clear pathway for his impending mission. As the train suddenly braked to a stop at the station he gracefully bends almost in half before quickly steadied himself and stepping off onto the platform. His eyes went in many directions, however, he knew the way home. Of course, he had done this trip many times before. Last orders at the pub, get chucked out on the street, grab a bottle in the off-licence and then return home for a cheeky nightcap. Fag in mouth he tries to light it whilst moving diagonally but luckily with some form of forward motion.

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Trespass (1992) Bill Paxton & Ice-T In The Legend Of Mullet’s Gold

Burning ash embers and thick clouds of grey toned smoke filled the hallway. Two brave firemen smash through a burning apartment door. On his knees, an agitated old man frantically digs through his belongings. He turns, his eyes half crazed, full of fear. With shouts of confused nonsense, he pushes a scruffy old envelope towards the firefighters. Taken by surprise the firemen helplessly try to reach out to the deranged old man. In a flash of madness, he wildly runs deeper into the burning flames, screaming to his agonising death. 

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The Asphalt Jungle (1950) A Robbery In The Sin Sodden Shadows Of A Noir Soaked City

No messing around. Lets drop the score. Yep it’s a straight 10. Been sitting on The Asphalt Jungle for a while. You know the feeling. You know full well that it’s gonna hit the spot. Enough people have nudged me. I’m sure you’re like me? It’s gotta be the right time, you want that perfect time. That perfect head space to sit back and let it flood over you. Last night was that time. Damn man! Was it fantastic! Ready to watch it again. Not only did it look incredible and believable, you could feel the sweat and hot heads bursting through the screen. All the characters felt rounded and real. Every single player dropped into the drama. They all linked perfectly up with the other. Each move, how big or small, effected the next play like a chain of events that fell fateful into place. The darkness, the grimy opening dirty streets. The sweat, the tension, the running and the pounding of fists.

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McVicar (1980) Gritty British Prison Escape Movie Starring Roger Daltrey

McVicar (1980) Roger Daltrey prison escape breakout on the run poster movie

WHO had thought it was a good idea to have Roger Daltrey play a hardened criminal and WHO would ever of realised he’d pull it off so convincingly? Right that’s got the WHO gags out the way. Roger Daltrey if you didn’t already know was the lead singer of the British rock group The Who. Branching out from the music side of things, the band had expanded into film production. The Who Films started with the classic Mods and Rockers clash, Quadrophenia in 1979 along with the bands very own documentary The Kids Are Alright. The production company only made one other film. The prison drama, McVicar. Continue reading