Category Archives: Basketball Movies

Drive, He Said (1971)

drive he said 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Player doesn’t like coach.

This is one of those movies that shows signs of being a really great movie trying to break out, but never does. It’s about Hector (William Tepper) a college basketball star who is being tugged at different directions by those around him and by society at-large. This creates inner turmoil that leads to outbursts, apathy, and even anti-social behavior.

Tepper as the star isn’t the best of actors. He has a constant blank look and way too much hair. The character he plays has potential. It is nice to see a portrait of an athlete that isn’t one-dimensional sports, but instead shows intelligent and sensitivity to things that go well beyond the court. Yet he is also too self- absorbed and displays a selfish behavior that in most cases would alienate him from his teammates. What is supposed to be betrayed as angst instead comes off as an obnoxious, spoiled college kid. His constant rebellion with his coach (Bruce Dern) doesn’t mesh.

The film makes some good observations and brings up great issues. Unfortunately it ends up becoming diluted. In some ways it should have just stuck with the basketball angle. The camera shots that glides with the action during the games is excellent. Some of the scenes during the practice and some of the locker room segments of Dern coaching the team gives the viewer a good taste of the college basketball experience and makes you want to see more of it. However, incorporating late sixties politics into it only makes it redundant and in this area the film offers no new insight.

The film does have its moments and some of them are even memorable. The best ones involve actor Michael Margotta’s character as a student radical wavering on insanity. His assault on the Karen Black character while inside a large, darkened house is striking both visually and emotionally. The scene where he, while naked, runs into a science lab and releases all sorts of rats, rodents, and reptiles is a sight in itself.

Dern with his glazed stare and intense acting style seems like a natural for the part of the hard-driven coach. It’s too bad the film doesn’t make the most of it, but Black is looking at her best.

Jack Nicholson as a director is not as good as Nicholson the actor although he does show potential, but it doesn’t come together as a whole. The film should best be viewed as a curio or artifact of its era. There is also a surprisingly high amount of male nudity as well as homo-erotic overtones.

drive he said 2

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: June 13, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated R

Director: Jack Nicholson

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD (Region 1 & 2)

Tall Story (1960)

tall story

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: The game is rigged.

June Ryder (Jane Fonda) is a boy-crazy college coed who has her sights set on Ray Blent (Anthony Perkins) the star of the school’s basketball team. Ray ends up being as infatuated with June as she is with him and the two decide to get married, but before they do they purchase a motor home from Ray’s friend Fred (Tom Laughlin). Unfortunately they don’t have enough of the required money until a mysterious stranger gives Ray $2,500 to blow the upcoming game his team has with the Russians, which puts Ray in a difficult quandary.

The film has a nice fluffy appeal and was based on the hit stage play, which in turn was based on the novel ‘The Homecoming Game’ by Howard Nemerov. The college campus atmosphere for its time period seems realistic. It is refreshing to have the adult faculty portrayed as normal human beings relating to the students on a relatively equal level and vice versa as opposed to the trend that started in the 70’s and went full-throttle in the 80’s where adults in these types of films were written as preachy, oppressive, out-of-touch, authoritative humorless pricks. In fact Marc Connelly as Professor Osman was my favorite character as he looked and spoke like a true professor and helped balance the silliness by being the most normal of the bunch. Anne Jackson as the wife of Professor Sullivan (Ray Walston) comes in a close second and has some amusing moments and a few good comeback lines particularly near the end.

Fonda is perfect as a character lost in her own little world and enthusiastically going by the beat of her own drummer while oblivious to the consternation she causes to those around her. Initially the character is written a little too aggressively making her too deluded and like a stalker, but fortunately that gets toned down and she becomes likable enough. Perkins is great as her boyish counterpart and the two even sing a duet together.

The pacing is a bit poor. Initially it is very zany and fast paced making the thing seem almost like a live action cartoon, which doesn’t work at all. The film then slows down and becomes a draggy only to rectify things with a funny conclusion. If you like things that are cute and undemanding then this should work although the sequence in which Ray comes into the game and singlehandedly wins the game after the team is far behind is just too contrived and over-blown for even Hollywood standards. The humor is light and comes in spurts with some of it managing to elicit a few chuckles. One of the few interchanges that I liked consisted of:

June: “Did you know that elephants only mate once every seven years?”

Ray: “There are some that do it every six years.”

June: “They’re nymphomaniacs”

Spoiler Alert!

One of the biggest problems with the film is the ending as Ray decides to play in the game and win it for his team despite keeping the money that he was paid in order to throw it. However, there is just no way a criminal organization would let anyone keep that money especially when the other party did not uphold their end of the bargain. Most likely they would track down Ray and June and exact a very unpleasant revenge. However, the film never even touches on this and instead shows Ray and June buying the motorhome and riding happily off into the sunset while leaving open a major loophole in the process.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 6, 1960

Runtime: 1Hour 31Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Joshua Logan

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD (Warner Archive), Amazon Instant Video

Mixed Company (1974)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Racist coach adopts kids.

Kathy Morrison (Barbra Harris) works at an adoption agency that specializes in placing minority children into stable homes. Although she already has three children of her own, she comes under pressure to ‘practice what she preaches’ and adopt one herself. Her husband Pete (Joseph Bologna) is the head coach of the Phoenix Suns basketball team who are in amidst of a very long losing streak. He is reticent to the idea as he feels he will soon be fired and also harbors certain latent racist feelings. However, when it is found that they can longer conceive a child of their own due to him suffering from the mumps, they decide to go ahead with the idea. At first they adopt a young African American boy and eventually add a Vietnamese girl and an Indian boy.

The film was written and directed by Melville Shavelson, who only six years earlier had done the successful Yours, Mine, and Ours about a widow woman with eight children marrying a widower with ten. Clearly he was trying to go back to the same well, but the concept is uninspired and forced. The plot is too simple and formulaic. I sat through the whole thing feeling like I had seen it all somewhere else before. There is some snappy dialogue at the beginning, but it quickly runs out of gas. The pacing is poor and it plods along with no real momentum or cohesion.  The lighting is flat and the action is captured like it was made for a TV sitcom instead of the big screen.

The children deliver their lines in a robotic fashion and the script gives them little that is clever, or interesting to say. I did like the six year old Indian boy named Joe (Stephan Honanie) who is cute and precocious, but he does have a propensity to pick his nose and there is one icky scene where he appears to eat what he has picked out of it. The film did generate some controversy at the time of its release for featuring the kids swearing, but this amounts to nothing more than a few ‘damns’ here and there. I kind of liked the fact that the kids weren’t portrayed as complete wide-eyed innocents and their salty behavior seemed realistic, but the problems and issues that they deal with are highly contrived.

Joseph Bologna is a standout. His brash, flippant, hard-edged persona is terrific and fun. It is the one thing that holds the movie together and keeps it from being a complete bore.

The basketball sequences are clearly staged. They do edit in some actual footage, but it’s done on a different film stock, which is distracting. I think the one thing that really bugged me in this area is that Pete eventually gets fired as the coach due to the team’s continual losing. Yet, only a few days later the owner of the team comes back and begs him to return. Besides being a movie fan I am also an avid sports follower and I can attest that this has never happened. Yes, sometimes a coach is fired and then many years later he can return to coaching the same team, but that is usually because it is under different management and it is rare. There was also New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner who hired and fired manager Billy Martin a total of five different times, but that was an extreme anomaly and he never rehired him after just a few games. I know movies and especially TV-shows never want to show our favorite characters getting fired and STAYING fired even though it happens to real people all the time and it only makes sense that film characters should deal with the same types of hardships.

It is difficult to tell what audience this movie was aimed for. There is not enough action or comedy to keep the kids entertained, but it also lacks the sophistication needed for adults. After a total of 105 minutes it becomes strained and tedious.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: October 18, 1974

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Melville Shavelson

Studio: United Artists

Available: Netflix streaming