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There Were Giants in Those Days,
This review is from: Requiem for a Heavyweight (DVD)
Rod Serling died almost 30 years ago. He thought he would not be remembered. Lord! How he is so remembered and how he and his work are still beloved. It is great that his theatrical film of "Requiem for a Heavyweight" is finally out on DVD. His script is beautifully directed by Ralph Nelson. There's a lovely score that is perfectly blended as well.
The DVD looks freshly minted. It is one of his finest works. Acted by the best, who seem to live the roles, not portray them. Anthony Quinn as Mountain Rivera, the shambling man of the broken eyes and voice and heart, face massively scarred, is a towering testament to the ability of man to survive at the saddest, most desperate level. He is loyal to his manager Maish (Jackie Gleason; again showing what a good serious actor he was), to the extent of letting Maish "sell his soul on the streetcorner." Maish is not a thoroughly bad man--he stood beside Mountain at times, but "when winning doesn't pay, losing does."
You can see the cast reveling in Rod's words. It's a movie about integrity and friendship and giving everything away because you owe something to someone that you really don't owe at all. It's about having values and standards. The real kind that aren't hollow words. People talk in this film. They communicate. You have to listen to the words. You did back then. It was called writing and acting. Rod was one of the best. Still is.
In the print used for this DVD, one particular scene is cut. It is after Maish gets Mountain drunk. Army, the cut man, (an equally superb Mickey Rooney, of the compassion and the heart)said to Maish, "this is not a side of beef you can job off on the market by the pound; cause if you do, Maish, if you do, you'll rot in hell." Powerful dialogue--not one liners, insights instead; some of which were on the print ads when the film was first released.
Julie Harris is luminous as the social worker who finds there are facets of a man's worth that can't be put in a box on a form. She wants to help; and tries so hard. The great character actors, Herbie Faye and Stanley Adams are nice to see again. In a "sport" such as this, Rod finds humanity. He showed us shards of life and he delivered them with such strong stirring words that have lived in my mind from childhood on. They are places where I hide and find sustenance.
Rod is gone. His work lives on. That way, the giants still loom. As he often wrote, "it is to weep." Indeed.