|Flying Squirrel Boxing Productions|
|The KO Picture Show|
|Presents. . .|
|The All-American Boy (1973)
Wow. That's all I've got... Wow.
Occasionally, it's a good idea to just take a step back and assess the state of things. For instance, I know the existence of a critic is a tenuous one. We're totally dependent on others to actually produce something in order for us to do "our job", as it were. Making movies is hard to do. Making GOOD movies is particularly hard to do. I realize that it's infinitely easier to just pop in a DVD, sit back in my seat, popcorn and beverage in hand, and then proceed to pick a movie apart. So I want to state here and now that I have not made a movie in my lifetime, to date. I've never written a script that's been filmed, never stood in front of a camera and emoted, and I've never got behind a camera and had the ability to get all of these disparate components (story, actors, setting, tone, wardrobe, make-up, lighting, editing, music) to come together; to get everyone involved to buy into whatever my particular vision might be. It's an overwhelming undertaking to even think about, and I'm in awe of those that are able to pull it off.
So, by that admission, I'm in awe of Charles Eastman. Never heard of him? I'm not surprised. His career as a writer and director wasn't an especially long or illustrious one. What little information that I can find about him (mostly taken from IMDB) is that his writing career was 3 scripts long, with each of them producing startlingly similar results: small movies, starring VERY popular leading men, mostly made by respected and prolific directors, that met with modest-to-minimal success. His first effort was 1970's Little Fauss and Big Halsy, starring Robert Redford, Michael J. Pollard, and Lauren Hutton, and directed by Sidney J. Furie. His final screenwriting credit was 1981's Second-Hand Hearts, starring Robert Blake and Barbara Harris, and directed by Hal Ashby. Neither movie was a huge hit, and the critics seemed to be ambivalent towards the performances as much as the stories. I've never seen either of them, so I can't remark on their quality. But it's obvious from the level of talent attached to these projects that Charles Eastman or his representatives had some pull in the industry. That fact isn't particularly awe-inspiring. So he (or his agent) knew someone in the biz. Good for him.
What gets me all wide-eyed and mouth-agape is the middle production that bears Charles Eastman's mark, The All-American Boy. Not only did he write this one, but he also directed it. He managed to gather actors, producers, and crew alike, look at what he had penned, and then (after, I assume, a brief exchange of money) got them to say, "okay, let's shoot dis sucker!" And that in and of itself is amazing to me. But even moreso when I sat down and watched it.
Because this is, bar-none, the worst movie I've ever seen.
I feel I owe you, the reader, and Mr. Eastman an explanation. I'll try my best. Writing a synopsis is simple enough. The movie follows a short span of time in the life of a character named Vic "Bomber" Bealer, who's played by Jon Voight. He's a young man who appears to have two areas in life that he's shown some aptitude. He's good looking (if that can be called a "skill") and he has a natural talent for boxing. And Vic Bealer is, simply, the least sympathetic, insipid, shiftless yet manipulative character I've ever seen presented in a movie. Everyone he comes in contact with immediately takes on the qualities of walking on eggshells so as not to trigger his lethal apathy and being cowed to his puny will. And his will seems to be strictly to use you for a short time, and once he's accomplished his short term goal (whether it be lodgings, food, or sexual in nature), he simply ambles off, leaving the equally pathetic supporting characters calling his name, hoping that they'll get the chance to be used again by ol' Vic.
Nothing that happens in the story (which is composed of 6 episodes of sorts entitled "The Manly Art in Six Rounds") manages to provide us with a motive for Vic's behavior. In order, 1) he comes home for a family funeral, beds and impregnates his ever-in-waiting, sadsack hometown "girlfriend", 2) manages to get a cantankerous old gym owner to take interest in him (both as a prospective charge and lay), just as quickly quits boxing to pump gas, picks up another (truly) anonymous sexual partner, 3) alienates his pregnant girlfriend (forcing her, by means of pure dispassion, to move away and get an abortion), 4) gets back into boxing with the support of his miserable and servile family, then nails a high school cheerleader, who joins the ranks of doormats in Vic's life, 5) finds out his old girlfriend didn't get an abortion and is now living in Los Angeles trying to make it as a singer with an older sugardaddy taking care of her and her son, so he pays her a visit, mopes around a bit, and once she breaks down and professes to still love him, he storms off in a sulk, and finally 6) he makes a decision to try and make a go of it as an amateur boxer, leading us to the finale which, if possible, is the most puerile and callous (yet fitting) ending I've ever seen to a movie.
Two hours long. Two hours of pure, unadulterated miserableness.
The Fightin' - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
There was ONE scene in the film that showed ANY sign of technical or artistic flair, and luckily for me, it involved boxing! Vic shows up early in the morning at a local gym with the expressed intent to watch and brood. The gym is empty and as quiet as a cathedral, but that doesn't last. It starts with a lone rope jumper, then a man (who turns out to be Former Heavyweight World Champion Ken Norton in a dialogueless cameo) starts hitting the speed bag, followed by a shadowboxer, a young man hitting the heavy bag, and soon the gym is filled with boxers going through their paces, filling the air with their rhythmic efforts while the soundtrack plays a totally appropriate choral arrangement. Then Vic enters the frame and starts to hit the heavy bag in street clothes, bringing the film back into his impassive orbit. There are other scenes of Vic boxing and training, but none of them come close to matching the poetry of that one Vic-less stretch. It was akin to finding a diamond in a bucket of excrement.
The choreography of Vic's fight was rendered impotent by having it mostly shot in slow motion. Not a bad choice if it was incompetently performed, but it did nothing to add to the film. If it was an attempt at being "deep", it was a misfire. There seemed to be an ill-advised attempt at comedy during one of Vic's Golden Gloves matches. While his family is stridently cheering Vic on, one of his sisters notices a balding, middle-aged man sitting next to them who has his coat over his lap and is clearly masturbating to the sight of the athletic young combatants in the ring. None of the family members says anything, they simply point the man out to each other and look mortified. I'll be damned if I can see any meaning in it's inclusion.
Overall Rating - No Contest 0
I've read in other reviews that this movie was shelved for a time after filming and wasn't released until Voight's career blossomed after Midnight Cowboy. If I were Voight, I would have fought tooth and nail to keep this one unreleased. He gave a totally vacant performance, which, I guess, was apropos given the character. He, as did everyone else in front of and behind the camera, fully bought into Eastman's vision of plenary pococurantism (got that one from the thesaurus!), and the result was, in a word, bad.
I wanted to give this movie some sort of catchy "worst of all-time" rating, like a "Horrified Head of Don King" or some other mascot-like image. But I decided against it as A) other sites have already done it to greater effect and humor, and B) I didn't want Don King coming after me. So I decided to go with a dismissive and boxing-relevant term, the dreaded "No Contest". The film has been ruled a non-entity in my book, and any attempt to note it in the official records will be opposed by yours truly. It was just that bad.
I'm gonna go sulk now...
|Starring: Jon Voight|
|"Reviewing the best (and worst) in Pugilistic Pictures!"|