Requiem for a Heavyweight on DVD
Originally a Playhouse 90 TV drama starring Jack Palance as a punch drunk
has been, Rod Serling's script was made into a compelling drama in 1962.
Anthony Quinn is simply outstanding as Mountain Rivera, who at film's
opening is being pummeled in no uncertain way by a young and upcoming
Cassius Clay (played in an uncannily realistic manner by a young Muhammed
Ali). This opening scene is shot mostly in a point of view mode making
the audience see the action from Rivera's perspective - and a pretty sight
When he's taken back into the dressing room after the ordeal ends, his
manager Maish (Jackie Gleason) is told in no uncertain terms by a fight
doctor that if Rivera takes one more punch it could disable him permanently.
After 17 years as a contender and human punching bag, it's time for the
Mountain to become a molehill.
Meanwhile, Maish has run afoul of some criminal types he'd assured that
Rivera would only last a few rounds, whereas the Mountain went almost
twice as long in the ring as the wagers had said - leaving them as sore
losers who expect Maish to cover their losses. Unfortunately, Maish also
bet against his client and best friend, and so has no money to pay back.
Faced with finding a new career for the boxer, Rivera's trainer (Mickey
Rooney) takes him to an employment agency where he meets a kind counselor
(Julie Harris) who gets him an interview for a position of camp counselor
- a chance for a new beginning.
But Maish has other ideas. He still wants a piece of the Mountain and
arranges for him to become a pro wrestler - a paying job but a complete
humiliation for the proud and loyal Rivera.
The cast is incredible, especially Quinn but also Gleason, Rooney and
Harris, the latter of whom shines as she brings a ray of hope into the
darkness of Rivera's situation. Gleason and Rooney have a perfect "good
cop, bad cop" relationship; Rooney cares for Rivera and wants what's best
for him, whereas Gleason exploits Rivera's loyalty and decency for as
much personal gain as he can get out of the relationship (which, as it
turns out, isn't much).
But this is Anthony Quinn's movie and he deserved an Oscar nomination
for his heartbreaking performance as the washed up fighter who doesn't
know how to do anything else. He didn't get one, unfortunately, and that's
a shame. His Mountain Rivera is good at heart, but slow of wit after so
many shots to the head. Quinn plays him straight, with thick and slurring
tongue and cauliflower ear (courtesy of makeup star Dick Smith), and you
can almost see the wheels turning ever so slowly as his brain tries to
Neither did Rod Serling, also of Twilight Zone and "Planet of the Apes"
fame, get a nod for his powerful and moving script. Having done a search
of an Oscar database, it was one heck of a year for great films and so
this might explain the oversights, but it's still a shame.
The DVD is excellent as well. Presented with digitally mastered (in HD)
anamorphic widescreen (16x9 compatible with Pan&Scan also offered
on the same side of the disc) video, the black and white picture is sharp
and clean and - deliberately -shadowy.
Audio is Dolby Digital mono and the quality is okay. This is no high
tech audiophile remastering, but it doesn't matter and, as so often happens
with DVD's of this vintage, the resulting audio quality almost lends a
kind of documentary feel to the story.
Extras are limited to some bonus trailers.
Requiem for a Heavyweight, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
86 min. anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 TV compatible/ Pan&Scan,
Dolby Digital mono
Starring Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney, Julie Harris
Produced by David Susskind
Written by Rod Serling, Directed by Ralph Nelson
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think