Tag Archives: Dayle Haddon

The World’s Greatest Athlete (1973)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Better than Jim Thorpe.

Sam Archer (John Amos) is the hapless head coach of the sports teams at Merrivale College where none of them have managed to win a single game in the 4 years that he he’s been there. He blames the problem on the inept student athletes and travels to Zambia with his assistant coach Milo (Tim Conway) to get back to his African roots. It is there that he comes upon Nanu (Jan-Michael Vincent) who possesses an amazing athletic ability. Sam is able to get Nanu to travel back with him to the US where he hopes he can place him on his many teams to get them to win, but finds an obstacle in the form of Gazenga (Roscoe Lee Browne) an African witch doctor who raised Nanu and has different ideas about what he thinks Nanu should become.

This film lost me right from the start with its inane and completely unbelievable plot. While I realize this was aimed at kids I still think it’s important to get a child to build a good logical foundation even in their early years and in that respect this film fails pathetically. The idea that all the sports teams at one school would be unable to win one single game in 4 years defies all laws of probability. Yes, there are many bad teams out there in both the pros and amateur level, but they can usually win a couple of games per season and the fact that none of them could here seems almost impossible.

Besides, isn’t it the coach’s responsibility to get the players to perform better and if he couldn’t shouldn’t he be blamed and not the players? Coaches are also in charge of recruiting prospects to come to the school, so if all he can bring in are inept stooges then that should be on him too. Most teams would’ve fired a coach with such a dismal record and yet in this film John Amos resigns when a school administrator puts ‘pressure’ on him to start winning even though 4 years should’ve been enough time to turn things around and anyone else in the same situation would’ve been given the boot long before.

The comic segments involving the athletes exaggerates their ineptness in an extreme way. One bit has a football players (played by David Manzy who later went on to star in the title role in the cult hit The Baby) hand the ball off to a player wearing the opposing team’s jersey and not realizing this was a stupid thing to do even though any first grader would know it was. For the comedy to be funny it has to have some bearing in reality and the ‘hilarious’ moments of sports bloopers that take up the film’s first several minutes don’t come even close.

On the plus side I did enjoy seeing Dayle Haddon in her film debut. While her character doesn’t have all that much to do or say I still found her youthful beauty nice to look at. Jan-Michael Vincent is at his attractive peak here too as this was fortunately filmed years before his self-destructive tendencies got the better of him. However, the character he plays, which is a lame parody of Tarzan, is incredibly dull. It would’ve been more interesting had he had some weakness that he had to overcome instead of just being super great at everything, which gets boring real fast.

Amos is quite amusing for his funny facial expressions alone and Conway has some engaging moments as well. I particularly liked him in the scene where Amos gives a televised interview and the camera zooms into him while Conway  desperately tries to get his face into the picture. The segment where Conway is shrunk to miniature size features some impressive special effects.

Some may enjoy Howard Cosell essentially playing himself as an obnoxious sportscaster who won’t allow his on-air partner, played by Joe Kapp, to say anything. However, this same bit was redone just 3 years later in the movie Gus where Bob Crane played the same type of egotistical announcer, but he was much funnier at it.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: February 4, 1973

Runtime: 1 Hour 32 Minutes

Rated G

Director: Robert Scheerer

Studio: Buena Vista Distribution Company

Available: DVD, Amazon Video, YouTube

Paperback Hero (1973)

paperback hero

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Big fish small pond.

Rick (Keir Dullea) is a hockey player living in a small town on the western plains of Canada. To pass his time he imagines he is a gunslinger in the old west and makes himself the self-imposed marshal of the community.  Outside of Sheriff Burdock (George R. Robertson) the other townsfolk considered it an amusing and otherwise harmless quirk. Then Rick learns that his hockey team will be disbanded and he will be without a job. He is given an opportunity for employment in nearby Saskatoon, but he refuses it feeling that he will lose his ‘mystique’ in the bigger city. Slowly the strains and pressures of his situation start to get to him and eventually it culminates in an old fashioned gunfight right in the center of town between him and the sheriff.

If the film gets one thing right it is in the recreation of small town life. Filmed on-location in Delisle, Saskatchewan director Peter Pearson gives the viewer a wonderful and vivid feel of the town. Just about all the sections of the hamlet are captured including the inside of abandoned buildings, trailer homes and farms as well as a couple of nice bird’s eye shots. The remoteness and flat wheat laden terrain brings to life the region in an almost stunning clarity. Having grown up in a small town not too terribly far from the Canadian border I can say that this film hits-the-mark in its portrayal of people in the Nordic region. All the little dramas that can go on between people locked in a remote local as well as the scenes done inside a dark and dingy bar that many times can constitute as the place to go for a ‘night-on-the-town’ is amusingly well played-out.

However, despite having the right flavor the film lacks direction. It was hard for me to get into this because all the scenes were random and not connected together by all that much. The plot is thin and made up if anything by a series of vignettes.  The main character is brass, egotistical, deluded and arrogant. He treats women like they are his property. He beats up one and considers it minor because her bruises are only the ‘size of a quarter’. He talks about getting turned on by one woman while making love to another and then is surprised when she gets upset with him. Having a film built around such an unlikable character is not entertaining or interesting especially when we are given no history to why he became the way he is.

Dullea does well in the lead and shows a lot more emotion and panache than one might expect from him especially when compared to his most famous role as the rather robotic Dave Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is always fun to see Elizabeth Ashley and here she plays one of Rick’s love interests, but her role is small and rather thankless though she does get shown in a long and explicit nude scene.

My favorite was Dayle Haddon as the alluring Joanna. Haddon has retired from the acting profession years ago, but was at one time a fashion model and she looks gorgeous here. The scene that takes place in an abandoned house where she tells Rick off and shreds his deluded ego while doing it in a quiet whispery tone is the movie’s best moment.

The segment showing a big hockey brawl where fans jump out of the stands to get involved and even the ref gets bloodied is fun. I also liked the part where Rick takes Joanna on car ride through the wheat fields. The camera is hooked up to the bumper of the car so the viewer gets an up close experience of watching the wheat thrash before them at high speeds. The standoff at the very end in the center of town is also interesting, but the film takes too long to gel and the main character is such a turn-off that it hurts the good points and ultimately makes this a misfire.

The movie also features the Gordon Lightfoot’s song ‘If You Could Read My Mind’, which is a great a song, but it has been played so much on lite-rock stations that instead of getting the viewer more engrossed in the movie it instead takes them out of it. The film works hard to create a gritty appeal and for the most part succeeds, which is why having a long segment with the song played over it doesn’t work and I would have left it out.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: September 21, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R

Director: Peter Pearson

Studio: Alliance Film Distribution

Available: VHS, YouTube