Super7even on DVD

Over the past few months, my friend Bob Griffith has been producing a web series called The Adventures of Super7even, which is an enthusiastic homage to those masked super hero and spy films of the 1960s, and will bring a smile to the face of those who grew up watching Diabolik, Argoman, The Three Fantastic Supermen and Superargo, as well as small screen shows such as The Man From UNCLE and Get Smart.

Now all sixteen episodes of The Adventures of Super7even have been collected into a 2 disk DVD set, which also includes Blooper Reels, the Original Series Pitch Video, Cast And Crew Interviews, Behind The Scenes Video, a Photo Gallery, and a “60 Second Film School” short feature. All in all, there is four hours of material!!!

If it sounds like your cup of tea, The Adventures of Super7even can be ordered from eBay or directly from the Super7even site.

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Super7even on DVD

Fighting the Demons: The Lester Ellis Story

Author: Lester Ellis / Robert Drane
Publisher: ABC Books
Published: 2007

Fighting the Demons is a pretty sad book. Like many Australians, I remember when Lester Ellis became the IBF Lightweight Champion after defeating Korean, Hwan-Kil Yuh in 1985. It was televised in rural Australia, and was a major event. For Ellis, it was a meteoric rise, and the press dubbed him the ‘Master Blaster’. And as viewers, and as fans, we loved him. Australia is sports mad – particularly in Melbourne, and a sporting champion, in any discipline is treated to levels of adulation befitting a rockstar. And that was a part of the problem. Ellis was only 19 years old, and possibly not ready for all the adulation – and the ‘hangers on’ who came with the championship belt.

This book charts Ellis’ rise and his subsequent fall from grace. Although initially his fall, wasn’t that far – it was simply after he lost a title defence against fellow Australian Barry Michael, the public lost interest – despite the fact that he still had plenty of good fights (and fighting years) in front of him. It also details his battles with alcoholism. It is told in a frank, forthright style which at times can be hard to read. By that I mean, this is not a black-slapping tail of how great it is to be a world champion – or even to convey what a ‘great’ bloke he is. This story is warts and all. And at times, Ellis comes off pretty bitter, and defensive. But balancing that, he presents evidence to show how he became that way.

This book is not for everyone, and I would suggest it would be of little interest to international readers. But if you’re Australian and grew up watching the Master Blaster on television, this is a fascinating, but ultimately sad tale – although I am sure, Ellis isn’t after pity either. He is just laying it all out – take it or leave it – and I guess there’s a certain dignity in that.

In May:

May sees the launch of King of the Outback, the sixth book in the popular Fightcard series – and my literary debut (writing as Jack Tunney).

Set in Outback Australia, in Birdsville, one of the most remote towns on the planet, two rival boxing tents set up shop in competition with each other. In the sweltering heat, tensions simmer, tempers flare, and a tent burns.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Fightcard series check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page.

Fighting the Demons: The Lester Ellis Story

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Country: United States
Director: Robert Aldrich
Starring: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart, Juano Hernandez, Wesley Addy, Marian Carr, Maxine Cooper, Cloris Leachman, Strother Martin, Jack Elam
Music: Frank DeVol
Song, ‘Rather Have the Blues’ performed by Nat ‘King’ Cole
Based on characters created by Mickey Spillane

Warning: this review contains adult content.

The other day I looked at The Long Goodbye, starring Elliott Gould as Raymond Chandler’s private eye, Philip Marlowe. It stirred up some interesting debate about the character, the book, and film noir itself. Following on, today, I thought I’d look at another iconic noir character, Mike Hammer – in the film, Kiss Me Deadly.

At a cursory glance, Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer may seem like they are cut from the same cloth — but beyond the fact that they are both private investigators they are both very different and this is mainly due to the writing styles of Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane. Chandler is actually pretty classy and well-written even though it may not have seemed it in it’s day. Time has shown Chandler to be an expert craftsman, and his stories have a sweep and sense of vibrant colour about them. Philip Marlowe’s stomping ground is Los Angeles, and quite often Hollywood. During the course of one of Marlowe’s investigations the neon glow is scrutinised, and all is not quite what it appears on the surface. He is basically a good guy in a corrupt world, but he does his best to plod away and hopefully make a few things right.

Spillane’s Hammer stalks the streets of New York. Stalk is the right word, because Hammer is even more cynical than Marlowe, and rather more violent. Hammer is prepared to take the law into his own hands — exemplified by the fact that Spillane’s first Hammer story was titled I, The Jury. Hammer’s world is far more gritty, dirty and unpleasant.

Spillane too, I believe is a great writer, but he doesn’t capture atmosphere like Chandler. What he captures is pent up emotion, spilling over into rage. But he tells a rattling good yarn and you almost feel as battered and bruised as Hammer, once you finish and put down the book.

From the blurb of Vengeance is Mine (Corgi, 1973 paperback edition):

Mickey Spillane, one of the world’s top mystery story writers, is read in fourteen languages every minute of every day. Since I, The Jury was published in 1947, his books have sold more than 55,000,000 copies throughout the world. People like them.

The Mike Hammer stories aren’t spy stories – although the film version of Kiss Me Deadly and the 1982 version of I, The Jury do cross over into espionage territory. However Spillane had a shot of writing a three book series of spy novels featuring a character called Tiger Mann. Thanks to Jason at Spy Vibe, I have been able to read one of the books, Day of the Guns, and it may come as no surprise to Spillane fans that it reads incredibly similar to a Hammer novel.

From the back of the book:

Meet the NEW SUPERHERO of COUNTERESPIONAGE – sexy, deadly
TIGER MANN

He’s a lone wolf in a ruthless game. he’s a master spy and a paid killer.
He’s the tough superhero of MICKEY SPILLANE’s biggest, newest hit, DAY OF THE GUNS.

“Mickey Spillane moves from the private eye field into the realm of the international agent. His latest character, Tiger Mann, slugs, shoots and beds in true Spillane style and vies for attention with such established greats as James Bond.”

-Boston Herald

But I’ll save Tiger Mann for another day.

Kiss Me Deadly is considered a hard-boiled noir classic. Also due to the ending being altered, the film also has carried a wrap for being nihilistic and an overt statement on Cold War paranoia. I’ll let wikipedia explain the alternate ending – and how it effected the way the film was received and perceived:

The original American release of the film shows Hammer and Velda escaping from the burning house at the end, running into the ocean as the words “The End” come over them on the screen. Sometime after its first release, the ending was crudely altered on the film’s original negative, removing over a minute’s worth of shots where Hammer and Velda escape and superimposing the words “The End” over the burning house. This implied that Hammer and Velda perished in the atomic blaze, and was often interpreted to represent the End of the World. In 1997, the original conclusion was restored.

But as usual I am starting arse-about, and describing the ending first. Let’s go back to the beginning. As the film opens, a woman named Christina (Cloris Leachman) is running scared along the road, naked save for a trenchcoat. Desperately she tries to flag down passing motorists but nobody stops for her. Finally she runs out into the middle of the road and into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Luckily for her, the driver skids to a halt. Behind the wheel is Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker), who reluctantly gives the terrified woman a lift.

Further up the road a police roadblock has been setup. It appears they are searching for a woman in a trenchcoat who has escaped from a mental asylum. At the roadblock, Hammer passes Christina off as his wife and is allowed to pass.

As Hammer approaches a bus stop, where he has agreed to drop Christina off, so she can continue her journey alone, a car rushes out from the side and runs Hammer off the road. Hammer is rendered unconscious in the bingle. Both Hammer and Christina are taken to a house where Christina is tortured until she dies. Hammer, meanwhile has woken up but is drifting in and out of consciousness – only capturing snippets of images in his mind.

Now that Christine is dead, the hitherto unseen hoods now have no further use for Christine or Hammer, and they place them in Hammer’s car. Then they shunt the car off an embankment as if it had been a car accident. Somehow, Hammer survives.

Hammer wakes in hospital with his faithful secretary, Velda (Maxine Cooper) and detective Pat Murphy (Wesley Addy) by his side. (Isn’t it usually Pat Chambers?) Murphy maybe a cop, but he isn’t there to interrogate Hammer – not yet anyway! The two men are old friends. But once Hammer is released from hospital, he is dragged down to police headquarters to be interrogated by some big-shot cops out of Washington. Hammer may not be a rocket scientist, but it doesn’t take much to work out that when you get that kind of attention, something ‘big’ must be going down. And he wants his cut!

Later, Hammer goes to his mechanic to ask about the damage to his car. The mechanic says that it is a right off, and also says some tough guys had come around and were asking questions. Next Hammer goes home, and outside two men are watching his apartment from a car outside. Then Pat Murphy arrives to revoke Hammer’s PI licence and confiscate his gun. It appears that everybody thinks Hammer knows something – but he doesn’t know what? But he is determined to find out.

Of course, a movie like this twists and turns through set piece after set piece, and outlining the plot and all the characters is rather futile. But needless to say Kiss Me Deadly serves up a heady stew of violence and deception, with a tiny smattering of sex (certainly not as much as the poster art would have you believe).

Ralph Meeker’s performance as Mike Hammer is lauded as one of the great tough guy roles. However, I am of the generation that grew up watching Stacey Keach as Hammer on TV. So when I first saw this at a revival theatre in the late 1980s, Meeker seemed quite a brutish Hammer. He is certainly more self-centred (that is, out for number one) than Keach. But over the years, I have warmed to Meeker’s performance, and some of his mannerisms, such as the brutish grin, are now old friends. There’s a great scene were Hammer is being tailed by a hood, and when Hammer confronts him, the hood pulls a shiv. As Hammer whallops the punk, the grin on his face signifies just how much he enjoys dishing out punishment to those who deserve it.

Another familiar face in Kiss Me Deadly is Jack Elam. A rather young Jack Elam! Here he plays a two-bit hood, who is so scrawny that he looks like an oboe in a Hawaiian shirt – rather a long way from the crazy old men, I am used to seeing him play in films like Cannonball Run and Rio Lobo.

Then there is Albert Dekker who plays the villaim of the piece, Doctor Soberlin. It’s not a big role, but the shadow and the menace of Soberlin permeates every scene in the movie. On a different note, but strangely could come from the pages of a Mickey Spillane novel, is the strange and bizarre death of Dekker. It is still debated whether he was the victim of a robbery – allegedly some items were missing from his home – or if his death was the result of autoerotic asphyxiation. The gruesome scene, how Dekker was found, as described on the findadeath website:

Dekker was kneeling nude in the bathtub. A noose was around his neck but not tight enough to have strangled him. A scarf was tied over his eyes and a horse’s bit was in his mouth, fashioned from a rubber ball and metal wire, the bit had chain “reins” that were tightly tied beneath his head. Two leather straps were stretched between the leather belts that girded his neck and chest. A third belt, around his waist, was tied with a rope that stretched to his ankles, where it had been tied in some kind of timber hitch. The end of the rope, which continued up his side, wrapped around his wrist several times and was held in Dekker’s hand. Handcuffs clamped both wrists with a key attached. Written in red lipstick on his right buttock was the word, “whip.” Sunrays had also been drawn around his nipples. “Make me suck,” was written on his throat, and “slave,” and “cocksucker,” on his chest. On his stomach was drawn a vagina. He had apparently been dead for several days.

Well, yes, ahem …little to say on Dekker really. That kind of notoriety overshadows any contribution to cinematic art.

Kiss Me Deadly probably represents the best cinematic rendering of Mike Hammer — although I must confess there are a few Hammer films I haven’t seen – Biff Elliot’s I, The Jury, Robert Bray’s My Gun is Quick, and Rob Estes’ Come Die With Me. But Kiss Me Deadly is a film I return to, again and again! Va Va Voom!

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

The Black Prince

Author: Peter Corris
Publisher: Bantam Books
Published: 1998
Book No: 22 – Cliff Hardy series

For those not familiar with the character of Cliff Hardy, private investigator, he is a creation of Peter Corris and first appeared in the novel The Dying Trade in 1980. Since then he has been releasing Cliff Hardy stories regularly – at least thirty of them (that’s how many I have, but I am sure there are more). The Black Prince was about the third Cliff Hardy novel that I read. The first two I read were The Dying Trade and White Meat – books one and two in the Cliff Hardy series, and published in 1980 and 1981 respectively. I can barely remember them now, but I recall that they were very good (especially The Dying Trade) and elaborately labyrinthine – in the best tradition of Raymond Chandler. But by the time of The Black Prince, Cliff Hardy (and I suspect Peter Corris) had mellowed. Not in a bad way, but a comfortable way.

The Black Prince has twists and turns, as all good P.I. thrillers should have, but it is not told in as fractured fashion as the earlier entries in the series. It is smoother, and more accessible, and as a character, Hardy seems more ‘lived in’. Put simply, the story is damn pleasurable to read. Well, at least that’s my opinion. However, if you were to suggest that maybe the series had lost some of its ferocious bite – and it was the rough edges that made the first few books so great – I would not argue with you.

As the story opens, Private Investigator, Cliff Hardy is feeling his age. He is slightly out of shape and can’t quite take the rough stuff like he used to. To combat this, he signs on as a member at a local gym in Leichardt, which is run by a West Indian, named Wes Scott. Scott has a son named Clinton (the titular ‘Black Prince’), who is a top flight athlete, and studying at University. On the odd occasion, Clinton even helps out around the Gym.

During one of Hardy’s workouts, he notices that Wes looks troubled, and enquires to the cause. Wes explains that he hasn’t seen his son in a couple of weeks and he hasn’t been able to contact him. Obviously, Clinton’s mother is anxious too. Hardy offers to help – for pay of course! So Hardy makes a few enquires, and it doesn’t take long to find out what has caused the disappearance. It seems that Clinton’s girlfriend, Angela Cousins (who is also a sporty athletic type) is in a coma at the local hospital. She had been taking illegal steroids to improve her sporting competitiveness, and she had a extremely bad reaction. When Hardy stumbles on this information, Angela is about to have her life support switched off.

In a rage, Clinton has vowed to find those behind the bad drugs and kill them. And initially that’s all Hardy can find out. Clinton, to all intents and purposes has varnished off the face of the earth, but there is no evidence to suggest that he is dead. Hardy reluctantly calls a halt to the case as all his leads have run dry.

Several months later, some new information surfaces, and Hardy is once again on the trail. This leads him to Bingara in Southern NSW, and then up to a remote aboriginal settlement in Queensland. Then finally back to Sydney, and into the shady world of illegal boxing.

When it comes to the boxing, Peter Corris knows what he is talking about. He may be well known for his Cliff Hardy and Browning stories, but he also wrote a non-fiction book about prize-fighting in Australia in the early 1980s (I think? It’s very hard to come by these days). Corris’ knowledge and enthusiasm for boxing comes through in his prose – and the sequence at the underground smoko is rich with atmosphere. American readers may be thinking ‘Smoko’ – what’s he on about? In America underground fights are called ‘Smokers’, but here in Australia, we call them ‘Smokos’.

The Black Prince is a great piece of Australian genre fiction and I recommend it highly.

For more on Cliff Hardy, and author Peter Corris, check out Shane Maloney’s article (and interview) The Man and His City.

I have not read any of Peter Corris’ Ray ‘Creepy’ Crawley series – which consists of, The Vietnam Volunteer, The Time Trap, The Azanian Action, The Japanese Job, The Cargo Club, The Kimberley Killing, The Baltic Business, and Pokerface, but I am lead to believe they veer off into espionage territory.

The Black Prince

Secret Santa: Assignment Sphinx

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Permission to Kill, and I thought it was appropriate to look at something off the beaten track, and I was given that opportunity by my Secret Santa. You see, over the last month or so (depending on the postal services of the world), the minions of The Mysterious Order of the Skeleton Suit have united to torment each other – in a unique, festive way. I have been given a gift by a member of MOSS to review. Their aim is to push the envelope, and make me review something that is out of my comfort zone (that, and of course, to watch me squirm).

My Secret Santa has chosen to remain anonymous, and through the protection that anonymity provides, I am sure that from the comfort of their evil lair, they are thoroughly enjoying the embarrassing situation I now find myself in. You see, the gift was an Egyptian spy film – cover image above left. Now I don’t speak or read Egyptian/Arabic, so I don’t actually know the name of the film I am reviewing. Of course, I could have sent an email around to each of the Skeleton Suit members begging the responsible party to come forward, and at least tell me the name of the movie. But I am a very proud man, and I would feel as if I had been beaten in some form of quasi spy-film combat.

So in the tradition of Roger Corman, I am going to retitle this film to suit my own purposes. From now on, to all westerners, this film is called Agent X83: Assignment Sphinx. With that sorted, and without the aid of a safety net, I will now proceed. Next hurdle; the film doesn’t have subtitles. Well I have been down that road before, and as I have demonstrated on numerous other occasions, the international language of ‘spy’ crosses all borders. But to combat the language barrier (and make this review comprehensible), I’ll have to adopt some spy shorthand, just so you can get the gist of the story.

Firstly, there is this super spy fella, named Chavez, who always appears to be wearing sunglasses – even at night. And he appears to be the local head-honcho for a international spy organisation. Chavez, who is cruising around in his spy car, (at night, in sunglasses) receives a call back to headquarters (which is a secret room at the back of the casino) . There’s some guy there attacking the girl who is holding the fort. I will refer to the girl as Egyptian Moneypenny. However this Monneypenny does a bit of entertaining as a night club performer – but more of that later. Now I don’t know if the attacker is a bad guy, or a good guy who lusts after Egyptian Moneypenny so much, that he can no longer can contain himself.

Chavez arrives just in time, and clubs the attacker, saving Egyptian Moneypenny from disrobing any further and upsetting the censors. The chief then goes to a giant TV screen and pushes a few buttons at the side. It would appear that Cairo has cameras everywhere. Chavez homes in on a magical hypnotism act taking place on stage. A man with an eyepatch is blindfolded (yeah, that makes sense), while his scantily clad female partner, er… does something. During the act, a morse code message pings from her watch. The crowd don’t seem to notice, even though she stops mid act, drags the watch to ear and listens to the message. Then without further ado, she rips of the blindfold off her partner, and they leave the stage. The crowd do not mind – it must have been a lousy act! I will now, for simplicity sake, refer to these two magical agents as Hypno-Girl and Patch.

Chavez then switches his televisual gaze to a fella eating in some dingy eatery. This fella has a hook on his right hand. I will of course refer to him as ‘Hookey’. The hook also serves as a radio, and he two is sent a morse signal. And like agents Hypno-Girl and Patch, he is called back to headquarters.

When they return they all gang up on the attacker. He pleads his case, but he is dragged off. His punishment is to hypnotised by Hypno-Girl. And what does she make him do? He takes the elevator to the roof, walks to the edge, and then hurls himself off to his death. Classy! And saves on the cost of a bullet.

Meanwhile, Chavez who also lusts after Egyptian Moneypenny assigns her to a mission. She is to make contact with a man, who I will refer to as Egghead, because he looks a little like Vincent Price’s character in Batman (you can see him on the cover image above).

Egyptian Moneypenny puts on a show and wows the crowd. And she catches the attention of Egghead, who she leaves with after the show. And there, he rips off his glasses and bald skull cap and reveals that he is not arcg villain Egghead at all, but the agency’s number one spy, Max – who I’ll dub Agent X83. X83 is a master of disguise, skilled at unarmed combat and a hit with the ladies. Back at headquarters, he puts his ladykiller charm to use and seduces Egyptian Moneypenny. Their embrace and smooching session is interrupted when Chavez returns… and as I have mentioned, he too lusts after Moneypenny, so in a jealous rage he charges at Agent X83. X83, with his superior skills, swats his chief away like a fly.

But that isn’t the end of the in-fighting. The chief doesn’t play nice. He has Patch and Hookey plant a time-bomb in Agent X83’s car. It goes off and the super-agent is hospitalised.

And here the film veers into comedy. You see there is the fella named Hafeez who is a dead ringer for Agent x83, and he happens to be at the hospital at the same time. Hafeez is a nervous sort of fella. He is jittery, clumsy and awkward around women. He is at the hospital to see a doctor about his anxiety. But of course, Cairo’s espionage community all believe he is Agent X83. Several attempts are then made on Hafeez’s life. The most important is the first, in which he was watching a singer and belly dancer perform. Gunshots that are meant for him (or rather the real Agent X83), hit the singer and she dies in his arms. This simply sets off another anxiety attack, and now whenever he hears that particular song, he flies off into a blind rage… and rest assured that becomes a plot point on several occasions later on.

Later, at the casino, this very thing happens, during a production number in the cabaret. Hafeez goes crazy and is taken to the police station with Egyptian Moneypenny. It’s there that she realises that Hafeez is not Max, Agent X83 – but just a clumsy guy.

But, as you have no doubt guessed, an assignment comes up, where they need Agent X83, or at least somebody who looks like him, and Hafeez is seconded into the service. As a part of his cover, he becomes a part of the cabaret act at the casino, partnered with Moneypenny. And of course, more jealously from the chief. Hafeez’s act is quite bizarre – to say the least. He is kitted out as a Mighty Mouse style super hero, with big round ears and a cape, and has to defeat what appears to be the Big Bad Wolf and a hag who have kidnapped his love (as played by Moneypenny). The act is played out in full, and it is a rather strange musical interlude. As an adjunct here, I can say that the music is a big part of this film, with plenty of vocal and dance routines. I wouldn’t quite call it a musical, as the numbers fit the characters and are intrinsic to the plot. But I think one more song, might have tipped the ledger.

This is all moving to the climax at the casino, where the real Agent X83 comes back, and also dons a mouse suit. And as it’s a comedy, all the good guys turn out to be really bad, and the bad guys turn out to be good. And Hypno Girl is in there too, doing what she does best – inciting people to hurl themselves from the roof to their doom.

Of course, as I said at the top, I don’t speak a word of Arabic at all, so the story may not be anything like that. But then again, the tropes found in your garden variety 1960s espionage film are fairly predictable – so I may not be too far off the mark.

I do not know who the lead actor is, but I am sure he was considered one of Egypt’s national treasures, and a would guess that this film was a monumental crowd-pleaser in its day. During the film, musical cues are lifted from Goldfinger and not that surprisingly, considering the style of the film, Edward Feldman’s Casino Royale – which would have me date this film at around 1967 or 68. Of course it could be conceivably later, but this film has a real Pink Panther vibe to it.

Anyway, that’s Agent x83: Assignment Sphinx, and as I said at the top, a film appropriate to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Permission to Kill. Over the years I have always tried to mix it up a bit, showing that there is a lot more to cinematic espionage than just Bond, Bourne, Palmer and Flint.

In closing, and in all earnestness, I’d like to thank my Secret Santa, whoever he or she may be – (although from the postmark, I am guessing that they may not be human at all, but only a brain floating in green liquid in a glass case, mounted on a pedestal) – for the thought put into this year’s gift – there were some other goodies in the parcel, but I will save them for another day. I hope your holiday season was as enjoyable, and as unpredictable as mine.

Secret Santa: Assignment Sphinx

Phantom Punch (2007)

Country: Canada
Director: Robert Townsend
Starring: Ving Rhames, Stacey Dash, Nicholas Turturro, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras, Rick Roberts
Music: Stephen James Taylor

Robert Townsend’s film, Phantom Punch, attempts to put a human face on one of the most unloved boxing champions of all time, Sonny Liston. And he almost succeeds due to the performance of Ving Rhames as Liston. However, as good as Rhames is, he is also too old for the role and not in the same physical condition that Liston was as champ. Also the fight scenes are perfunctory at best. This is one film that you would not watch if you were interested in faithful and believable fight re-creations. This is not Rocky or Raging Bull. This film works best as a drama and when Rhames is front and centre.

As the film opens, it is 1950, and Liston is in the Missouri State Penitentiary. After he whacks out a fellow prisoner, named Big Lester, who was giving Liston a hard time, he is taken under the wing of the prison Chaplin, Father Stevens (Rick Roberts). The Chaplin also happens to be in charge of the prison’s athletic program, and he steers Liston into the boxing program.

Liston keeps his nose down and earns an early release. He may have been a model prisoner, but he is still a bad man. At the time of his release he explains that there is only one thing that will keep him from returning to prison, and that is ‘knocking mother f*ckers out’.

Outside Liston goes professional, and begins the long climb through the boxing ranks, with each fight moving closer to the top. His journey is interrupted when he is sent to prison again, after he beats up two police officers. In fairness, these were two racists cops who taunted Liston and insulted him and his girlfriend. They probably deserved it. But Liston’s temper got the better of him, and he goes to prison.

Upon his release he continues his climb in the boxing game, but pretty soon reaches a glass ceiling. No one will fight him. That’s when his manager, Caesar Novak (Nick Turturro), who is tied in with the mob, uses him connections to move Liston up through the ranks and fight the real contenders. The side effect of this however, is that Liston’s reputation takes a further battering, with implications that he is involved in organised crime.

The story follows Liston as he becomes World Champion and how he fell from grace after the alleged ‘Phantom Punch’ in the second fight against Muhammed Ali.

Phantom Punch is an entertaining enough biopic, but far from brilliant. But Rhames performance gives the film a little weight, and makes the human drama more interesting than it would have been in lesser hands.

In May:

May sees the launch of King of the Outback, the sixth book in the popular Fightcard series – and my literary debut (writing as Jack Tunney).

Set in Outback Australia, in Birdsville, one of the most remote towns on the planet, two rival boxing tents set up shop in competition with each other. In the sweltering heat, tensions simmer, tempers flare, and a tent burns.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Fightcard series check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page.

Phantom Punch (2007)

The Battling Bellhop (1937)

AKA: Kid Galahad
Country: United States
Director: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Wayne Morris, Jane Bryan
Music: Max Steiner, Heinz Roemheld

The Battling Bellhop is a boxing drama from Warner Brothers Studios featuring three of their biggest names – Robinson, Bogart and Davis. And each of them play characters that you’ve seen them play before. Robinson plays a fight manager named Nick Donati, who cannot control his temper (Robinson would virtually recycle his character in Manpower (1941) with George Raft). Bogart plays his opposite number, Turkey Moran, another fight promoter, but of course, Bogart being Bogart is the corrupt lowlife gangster. This was before his breakthrough good guy role in The Maltese Falcon (1941), which started a string of good guy roles. But before then he was always the two-bit hood. And finally there’s Bette Davis, playing a character named Fluff, who is the moll with the heart of gold.

As the film opens, Nick’s number one contender is taking on Turkey Moran’s world champ, Chuck McGraw. Nick’s fighter doesn’t listen to instructions and is knocked out. Furthermore, Nick sacks him because he refused to follow these instructions.

Afterward, Nick organises a party in his hotel room to celebrate his loss. To help with the drinks, Nick calls for a hotel bellhop to come up. After some instruction from Fluff, the bellhop, Ward Guisenberry (Wayne Morris) mingles with the crowd hand out drinks. After champ McGraw gets wise with Fluff, in a chivalrous act, Ward steps up and knocks down the champ with one punch. Admittedly the champ was boozed up, but still McGraw had never been knocked down before.

Nick takes Ward on as a boxer, and rechristens him Kid Galahad. Galahad is naïve and raw, but under Nick’s tutelage quickly rises through the ranks, to the point where he is finally offered a title shot against McGraw.

Of course, this synopsis is a simple overview of the usual convoluted Warner Brothers potboiler. There are love triangles, jealousies and betrayals. The fly in the ointment, is when Galahd falls for Nick’s kid sister, Marie (Jane Bryan). And I’ve already told you about Nick’s temper! But in the end, everybody gets what’s coming to them (more or less).

The film was originally released as Kid Galahad, but these days is nearly always shown as The Battling Bellhop. It has been remade a couple of times, most famously as Kid Galahad starring Elvis – with Charles Bronson in his corner.

This a great bittersweet drama, with a stellar cast doing what they do best. If you love golden oldies, then this is one to check out – regardless if you’re a boxing fan or not.

In May:

May sees the launch of King of the Outback, the sixth book in the popular Fightcard series – and my literary debut (writing as Jack Tunney).

Set in Outback Australia, in Birdsville, one of the most remote towns on the planet, two rival boxing tents set up shop in competition with each other. In the sweltering heat, tensions simmer, tempers flare, and a tent burns.

For an up-to-date direct connection with the Fightcard series check out the home page, or for you youngsters, you can follow the Facebook Fan Page.

The Battling Bellhop (1937)