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Monday, January 26, 2015

Clawing To Top Of A Fight Game


Champion (1949) Is Bare Knuckle Noir

N.Y. Open, and K. Douglas Attends
The muscular hit that clinched stardom for Kirk Douglas and spilled blood (and green) into the boxing genre. Champion took two million in domestic rentals and that meant payday for far less spent to make it. Douglas is his patented "heel," a persona he'd soften as mainstream stardom beckoned (KD and R. Widmark both saw images tenderized toward similar ends). Champion is a flashy showcase and mimics would work off the Kirk grimace over nights, and nightclubs, to come (do any still?). Gritty is the byword, as in boxcars, beatings, women wronged, and wronging. Late 40's cynicism can be fun in moderation. Watch too many, however, and there's threat you'll go around trusting nobody. How did they fake ring action? Punches here look like they really connect. Ruth Roman, formerly of serials, is a nice girl besullied. No wonder Warners called after this, though she'd light somewhat less fire for them. Kirk Douglas says he chose Champion over The Great Sinner for Metro, proud of a smart move he'd made, as who remembers The Great Sinner? Champion isn't recognized as noir, but there are crook gamblers and damp asphalt, so I'll call it that for ease of reference. Indifferent prints have long been bane of this title (some colorized); also a particularly bad DVD in longtime circulation, but now comes Olive with splendidly wrought Blu-Ray that puts color (as in nice-rendered B/W) back in Champion's cheeks.

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