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

The Killer That Stalked New York (1950) I’ll Take Some Noir Virus Over The Real Deal!

Haha yes I’m still alive! What with all the crazy COVID-19 Coronavirus bubbling out of every orifice around the world it only seems apt to do a review about the Noir virus. I mean a virus within a Noir. Yes Smallpox gets the Film-Noir treatment and just check out that fantastically dramatic title, The Killer That Stalked New York!!! Continue reading

The Entertainer (1960) That Saucy Seaside Comic Sir Laurence Olivier

The Entertainer (1960) Archie Rice (Laurence Olivier)tony richardson movie poster

Come along and sing-along with me. Here we go. “Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside. Oh, I do like to be beside the sea. Oh, I do like to stroll along the prom, prom, prom where the brass bands play tiddley-om-pom-pom.

The old British seaside holiday traditions. Bucket and spades, chips in cones, fairground rides, annoying seagulls and Punch and Judy puppet shows. Beauty competitions, cheeky postcards, sticks of bright coloured rock and of course a saucy joke telling comic. Meet Archie Rice (Laurence Olivier) our music-hall stage performer. The gap toothed smiling painted face man with a whole arsenal of well seasoned innuendos ready to fire off from his repertoire. Continue reading

The Whisperers (1967) Bleak Tap Dripping In Kitchen Sink Drama

The Whisperers (1967) Bryan Forbes Edith Evans poster

My task of trying to go into a movie with as little knowledge as humanly possible can bring up some real surprises. I’d seen the above poster and was convinced that was Richard Attenborough poking his head around the door. It does look like him? Doesn’t it? I knew it was directed by Bryan Forbes. I’d loved Seance On A Wet Afternoon and The Angry Silence. Both Dickie films with Forbes connections. Hey! he never turned up. Now I know, no disrespect, that it’s Edith Evans tentatively peering through the chain latched door.

Taglines – The Whisperers, who are they?

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The Man in the White Suit (1951) What Obi-Wan Kenobi Got Up To In His Early Years

The Man in the White Suit (1951) Alec Guinness movie poster dvd cover restored artwork

Way before Obi-Wan Kenobi was having a right laugh bothering Jawas and scaring the bejeezus out of Tusken Raiders on Tatooine he’d grown up in an industrial northern town in England, Earth. Going under the name of Sidney Stratton he had been a keen amateur inventor. He was clumsy and socially awkward in his younger years but this didn’t phase his creative mind constantly coming up with scientific ideas. For Sidney’s inventive imagination and intellect had come up with the idea of creating a fabric so unbelievable that it could change the whole world. 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

Crossfire (1947) Robert Ryan & Hate Is Like A Loaded Gun!

Crossfire (1947) poster noir classic drama robert ryan mitchum young

Another great thing about doing this here blog is discovering actors I had previously missed. Robert Ryan is one such actor. I know his face well from a couple of classic films, two big favourites of mine too. Playing Deke Thornton in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch and Col Everett Dasher Breed in Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen but you know what I’m ashamed to say I never knew his name or filmography. Continue reading

Edge Of The City (1957) Everyone Needs A Friend Like Sidney Poitier

Edge Of The City (1957) sidney poitier poster saul bass movie film

Went for this film mainly because of one of its stars, the delightful Sidney Poitier, a guy who oozes charisma and charm. He always lights up the screen with his presence on every single performance he gives. That broad beautiful smile warms you straight away to each of his characters he plays, displaying an unique warmth that his acting talent brings to his movies. Edge Of The City was a film of his I had never heard of let alone seen before and seeing who he was working with, I have to say I was extremely excited about this drama centered around a New York City dockland.

Edge Of The City (1957) sidney poitier opening credit titles saul bass movie film Continue reading

In Cold Blood (1967) Richard Brooks & Truman Capote’s Devastating Biographic Masterpiece

In Cold Blood (1967) poster art work peter blake scott wilson

In Cold Blood” is ridiculously dark, bleak and emitting a constant resonance of impending doom. Danger is etched upon the faces of the perpetrators, a hollow darkness crosses each of these two young men’s shadows, revealing an evil that can be spontaneously released at any given moment.  That fear keeps you glued to your seat, frighten to look and scared to look away. The realisation that this whole film is based on real events just makes the crime all that more heartbreaking when it comes.

In Cold Blood (1967) Robert Blake plays Perry Smith surreal dream las vegas Continue reading

Midnight Lace (1960) Stay Out Of The Pea Soup Calamity Jane!

Midnight Lace (1960) poster old sheet movie art work doris day

No denying this has a very inspired by Alfred Hitchcock thriller feel to it, especially even having the same actor, John Williams, playing the cop like he did in Dial M For Murder. Even the poster artwork has that Hitchcock look but it’s no bad thing at all as you will find this is an excellent movie filled with mystery. Continue reading