After nearly two decades years in the ring, Luis “Mountain” Rivera (Anthony Quinn) learns that one more punch could leave him permanently disabled. With the help of his trainer Army (Mickey Rooney) and an employment counselor named Grace Miller (Julie Harris), he tries to escape the fight game and work outside the ring. Yet his manager Maish Rennick (Jackie Gleason) has big debts and the only way he can pay them back is to get Rivera to become a pro wrestler, which this movie paints as the most humiliating thing ever, which seems funny today seeing as how popular sports entertainment has remained.
Originally a live telemovie that aired on Playhouse 90 with Jack Palance as Rivera, Keenan Wynn as Maish, Kim Hunter as Grace, Keenan’s father Ed as Army and a completely different ending, the original and this film were both directed by Ralph Nelson and written by Rod Serling (who had 17 matches as a boxer in the army).
Boxers Muhammed Ali and Jack Dempsey, as well as wrestlers Haystacks Calhoun and Gorgeous George, appear as themselves.
Nelson was critical of Quinn’s performance, as he wrote to Life magazine to say, “As written, the hero was a lonely, sensitive human being, a prizefighter who had worked out his hostilities in the ring. Jack Palance won an Emmy for his hauntingly gentle performance on Playhouse 90. Quinn was afraid that gentleness would reflect upon his image of masculinity, so chose to play Sonny Liston instead. I believe Palance’s concept was truer to the role and fulfilled the concept of the script more effectively than Quinn’s attempt to dominate it.”
This is a dark movie as Serling often saw the worst in humanity and often didn’t show a way out for them. Rivera has to sacrifice his own dignity to save a man who has treated him poorly and only shed tears for him once, but to him, that was enough.
You can get the Mill Creek blu ray of this movie from Deep Discount.