By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Sly and the Fonz.
Butchey (Henry Winkler) forms a leather jacket gang with his friends at a Brooklyn city high school during the 1950’s. The group is made up of Stanley (Sylvester Stallone) who is forced to marry his girlfriend when he gets her pregnant and Chico (Perry King) who romances the pretty new girl in school named Jane (Susan Blakely). As they grow into adulthood they find themselves drifting apart as new interests and demands begin to appear.
This film can best be described as a B-version of American Graffiti that came out just a year earlier. The production values are shoddy with a grainy picture that looks like it was filmed on somebody’s home camera. The story works in fragmented style that comes off more like a series of vignettes than an actual plot. Chico’s romance with Jane happens too quickly and seems artificial from the start especially since they are from ‘opposite sides of the tracks’. The actors themselves are clearly well over 18 and in Stallone’s case almost pushing 30 making their presence and the overall 50’s feel seem unauthentic.
The one thing that saves it is that there are some funny scenes as well as moments of decent drama and character development. The part where Stallone barters with a jeweler over the price of the wedding ring is quite good. I also liked the scene where the boys get together to intimidate a guy who is dating Chico’s girl only to run in fright when the other guy brings in a team of football players to defend him. However, the opening bit dealing with the teens misbehaving in class is not funny at all and I ended up feeling sorry for the teacher who was only trying to do her job.
Although given top billing Winkler is underused and almost forgettable. King is the real star and does quite well while also creating a multi-dimensional character. Stallone steals every scene he is in and proves to be much more adept at comedy than you might think. You can also glimpse Ray Sharkey, Armand Assante and Brooke Adams as wedding guests.
The film also features model-turned-actress Susan Blakely in only her third feature who does well playing the ‘good girl’, but the scene where Chico pressures her into having sex and she resists while asking him what color her eyes are in an attempt to see if he really ‘knows’ her and not just using her makes no sense. For one thing her big, blue eyes are the most prominent part of her face. Anyone, even a stranger, who glances at her face for even a second would know the color of her eyes, and thus having her ask someone what color they are is ridiculous already and then having them unable to tell her makes it the dumbest part of the whole movie.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: May 1, 1974
Runtime: 1Hour 26Minutes
Director: Martin Davidson and Stephan Verona
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video