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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

DVD Review: Uppercut Man

Uppercut Man (aka The Opponent, aka Qualcuno pagherà)

Italy 1987
Director: Sergio Martino
Writers: Robert Brodie Booth, Maria Perrone Capano, Luciano Martino, Sergio Martino, Sauro Scavolini
Starring: Daniel Greene, Giuliano Gemma, Keely Shaye Smith, Ernest Borgnine, Mary Stavin, Bill Wohrman, James Warring, A.J. Duhe, Herb Goldstein, Ruben Rabasa.
DVD Released: August 31st 2010
Cert: NR
Running Time: 94 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo English, Dolby Digital Stereo Italian
Subtitles: N/A
Distributor: Mya Communication
Region: 0 NTSC

The Film:

Lumbering meatbag Bobby Mulligan (Daniel Greene) is a wannabe pro-boxer waiting for his big shot. In the meantime he has a tendency to get himself into street fights with local bums at every turn, presumably his neanderthal features and general henchman type appearance tend to rub people the wrong way. Even Bobby's girlfriend's father Victor (the amiable Ernest Borgnine) can't stand him to the extent that the old guy slaps him silly when he sees Bobby hugging his daughter. Poor guy. Hang on though; he saves local mobster Duranti's trashy alcoholic moll Gilda from a back-alley gang-raping and suddenly he's in with a shot at his first ever professional fight; Duranti (Giuliano Gemma) being a fight promoter as well as a ruthless Bond-villain style baddie. All goes well for a while as Bobby wins fight after fight. Now he's in with a shot at the heavyweight championship but dumbass Bobby is seduced by aforementioned trashy slutbag Gilda and gets caught with his finger in the VD honey-jar by Duranti. As punishment the mobster orders Bobby to throw a fight, but of course at the last minute Hulk get mad and win fight. So begins a cycle of sadistic revenge between Duranti and Bobby that will escalate to murder and bitch-slapping's aplenty...........

A spaghetti-boxing flick? The Italians were a bit slow to catch on with the Rocky formula as by 1987 Stallone was already on Rocky IV but nevertheless here we are. Prolific spaghetti-meister Sergio Martino is on directorial duties here, happy working in whatever genre got him paid, Martino had been most successful with giallo murder mystery thrillers that usually starred popular genre actress Edwige Fenech (married to his brother Luciano back in the day) but you may also recognise him as director of Mountain of the Cannibal God and 2019: After the Fall of New York. The acting is terrible here with Daniel Greene awkwardly shuffling from one scene to the next without an ounce of charisma and sporting a forehead that surely must keep his shoes dry in the rain, there's also a career worst performance from Borgnine. The one exception is, astonishingly enough, the imported Italian salami that is genre stalwart Giuliano Gemma; his English is excellent and he actually plays a compelling villain that really makes the cro-magnon boxer he's up against seem all the more unlikely and unworthy of being his nemesis.

All the boxing genre cliches are ticked; old trainer that dies, fixed fights, professional rivalry, career threatening injury, star-crossed lovers and don't forget the training montage! What makes this one slightly more interesting is the addition of the organized crime element to the storyline and the almost sadistic instances of violence more European in tone than was popular in the USA at the time. The score is ridiculously bombastic and orchestral with a few pop/rock numbers accompanying the training montages in an attempt to (I can only assume) replicate the soundtrack success of the Rocky flicks but here simply make you pee yourself laughing at the unfortunate lyrics.

I'll be honest - I enjoyed this flick! It's cheesy, it's terrible, it's unintentionally hilarious but by god it's entertaining if you like this kind of 80's Z-movie guff!

The Disc:

Full frame transfer, looks like it may be sourced from a VHS due to some softening of the image here and there but it's a pretty good transfer overall. Colours look well saturated and the image is clean and well detailed. There are two audio options available; the Dolby Digital Stereo English track is clear and well balanced, the Dolby Digital Stereo Italian mix sounds a little tinny but then as no English subtitles are provided it's unlikely anyone outside Italy will be listening to it anyway!

Review by Giuseppe Rijitano

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