By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Who is masked wrestler?
On October 13, 1979 Mad Dog Joe De Curso (Greg ‘Magic’ Schwarz) has a violent wrestling match with defending champion Skull Crusher Johnson (Greg Rivera). During the melee Johnson accidently gets his head stuck in the ringside ropes where Mad Dog decapitates him with one swift kick. The wrestling world then goes into an uproar with the biting question on everyone’s mind ‘Does a defending champion lose his title when he loses his head?’ that nobody, not even the commissioner seems willing to answer. After spending 90 days in jail Mad Dog gets released, but suffers from severe depression and eventually jumps to his death off of a bridge. Yet documentary filmmaker Leslie Uggams (Jeff Dial) thinks that Mad Dog is still alive and working under the disguise of a masked wrestler whose identity is unknown. Uggams begins a crusade of trying to unravel the mystery by interviewing those who knew Mad Dog best while also following the masked wrestler around to his events and trying to get to know both him and his French lady manager Angel Face (Lydie Denier).
The first 10 minutes of this thing is brilliantly bizarre that has just the right mix of offbeat humor, wrestling action and cinematic quality to make it interesting, original and hilarious. I am no wrestling fan myself, but director Allan Holzman manages, at least in the opening segment, to draw the uninitiated into the wrestling world by unfolding all the side dramas, storylines and over-the-top characters that fans of the spectacle find so enjoyable. The bit is also filmed in black-and-white with a sort-of foggy back drop that helps give it a surreal effect while also playfully making fun of the event and those who watch it.
Unfortunately the remainder of the movie is unable to sustain that same momentum becoming instead an overplayed one-joke that goes nowhere. It also spends too much time in the ring where the viewer is forced to watch one wrestling bout after another until it becomes more like a pay-per-view event than a movie.
One of the few non wrestling segments that I did enjoy is when the masked man and Angel Face go onto Wally George’s ‘Hot Seat’ TV-Program. George was a notoriously combative conservative talk show host during the ‘80s and the precursor to Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly. He was also the father to actress Rebecca De Mornay who has spent her entire career trying desperately to downplay that fact. Liberal guests would come onto his show and almost immediately be berated before being thrown off, which is what happens to the masked man and Angel Face, but not before George gets into the masked man’s face and demands he take it off, which is pretty funny.
Adrian Street, a wrestler who dresses in drag, is a scene stealer and the segment with the masked man being interviewed on his show is equally good. I also enjoyed Denier as the rambunctious manager who flashes an opposing player during one of the mask man’s wrestling matches and carries around a pet poodle who wears a mask similar to her clients.
The scene involving a bout between two lady wrestlers with the song ‘She Was a Mighty Big Girl for Her Age’ is good and the match where the masked man takes on four dwarf wrestlers is an absolute howl, but the film is geared too much to the hardcore fan and those with very little interest in the ‘sport’ will find it off-putting and overtly silly.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Released: November 24, 1985
Runtime: 1Hour 29Minutes
Director: Allan Holzman
Studio: New World Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD-R, Amazon Instant Video