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

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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Moonrise (1948) Bad Killer Blood Runs Through His Veins

Off I set on another of my travels through film. This time Moonrise from 1948. Didn’t know much about it. The way I like it. Only recently stumbled across it. A film noir it says. I guessed the usual crime filled drama affair? Had to have a love story, you can see that on the movie poster (Haha not the image I used). In I went! All nice and chilled with the opening credits accompanied with a full orchestra bashing out a melody of uplifting, stirring strings……. until then!…

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Jeremiah Johnson (1972) Robert Redford’s Journey Is Almost As Epic As My Waffling

I don’t manage to watch as many westerns as I’d like to. No real reason. I tend to bypass them when I’m ready for a film. Usually prefer to opt for a thriller, something dark. A drama. Saying that one of my top ten films could possibly be a western. Will one day soon do an article on that mystical western I do so love. However chatting about favourite westerns with Todd, my film buddy over at Cinema Monolith, it was raised that Jeremiah Johnson was one of his. The Sydney Pollack directed one with that Robert Redford fella. I didn’t know it. Well I’d heard of it. Never seen it. To be honest I didn’t know anything about it other than the title and Mr Redford don’s a big ass beard in it. Actually whilst watching the film I realised I’d used the GIF of beardy smiley nodding Redford in a few text messages over the years and never realised. Maybe it was Grizzly Adams! A wild Zach Galifianakis?

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