Thursday, November 21, 2013

Paradise Alley: Wrestling with Sylvester Stallone

As part of my dedication to bring you entertainment I make many sacrifices. One such sacrifice is to watch certain movies to their completion.  Today, for you, I watched the 1978 Sylvester Stallone movie, Paradise Alley.

In addition to BOTH Stallone brothers, Sylvester and Frank, Paradise Alley also stars Tom Waits, Anne Archer, and introduces Armand Assante. Paradise Alley was written and directed by Stallone. The only reason this movie was approved by Universal was due to the success of Rocky.

Paradise Alley takes place in post World War II New York. Three Italian American brothers, Lenny (Armand Assante), Cosmo (Sylvester Stallone), and Victor (Lee Canalito) live in Hell's Kitchen. Lenny was wounded in the war and now works as an undertaker, Cosmo is a hustler, and Victor delivers ice. Cosmo tried to his get Victor into the world of 40s wrestling. Victor is reluctant but needs money to move out of the city with his girlfriend. I would show the trailer but instead I think everyone will enjoy the opening with Sylvester Stallone singing the theme song.

I don't really think anyone should need more of a reason to watch this movie other than the above video. I think it really showcases Sly's amazing vocal styling. However, if I had to connect it to then I suppose the amazing amount of real, old school wrestlers would be the obvious link.

As Victor begins and progresses through his wrestling career we are treated to Terry and Dory Funk, Tonga Fifta, Rock Riddle, Ray "The Crippler" Stevens, Bob Roop, Gene Kiniski, Red Bastien, and Dick Murdoch.

While we only see fleeting moments of most of the wrestlers as they are being tossed around in the ring; Terry Funk has a fairly important role in Paradise Alley. Funk plays Frank the Thumper, the muscle enforcer for the local hood. Frank the Thumper is also the main event villain. Not much is required for Funk. He calls the good guy a puke several times and grunts. At one point he does admit that for a certain fee he would tear his own smelly mother apart.

I think it is interesting that Stallone did not make himself the hero of this movie. I suppose he wanted to show off his acting ability by playing the character that lives by his wits. Unfortunately, he does write his character into the part of hero. His brother, Victor, has absolutely no change, no development during the course of the film. Lenny, however, becomes something of a monster and thus Cosmo is forced to become the film's conscience.

In the end this is not really a good wrestling movie or movie for that matter. I might recommend it on a lazy, rainy Saturday afternoon. It was entertaining and sometimes that is my twisted criteria for recommending a movie. If you are watching it because you are a Sly fan, think again. You will probably be disappointed.

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