12 October 2000 | dinky-4
Boxers and Beefcake
A well-cast Jeff Chandler, in his physical prime at about age 32, plays a Pennsylvania miner named "Coke" Mason who reluctantly becomes a boxer in order to earn some extra money. (He wants to use this money to marry girlfriend Evelyn Keyes and open up a radio store.) "Coke" is a mild-mannered fellow who proves to be an indifferent fighter until he's goaded into anger. Then, with an almost audible "click," he turns on his opponent in a murderous rage and attacks him without mercy. This streak of brutality quickly earns him the enmity of the crowd even as it causes his rapid rise in the standings. Meanwhile his friend and fellow boxer "Speed" O'Keefe (Rock Hudson) has the boyish good looks and clean-cut manner which make him a crowd favorite. Inevitably the two meet in the ring to decide the world heavyweight championship.
These ingredients could easily be combined into a serviceable B-movie but there's a problem here: the character played by Evelyn Keyes. The script can't decide whether she's the faithful girlfriend who's appalled by the violence of the boxing ring or instead the greedy golddigger who sees her boyfriend as a means to a life of wealth and comfort. This confusion about her character proceeds to muddle the script's conception of other characters. Stephen McNally as Chandler's ambitious brother also has the makings of a villain as does Joyce Holden as the "other woman." However, since Keyes might (or might not) be the story's real villain, these two characters are often left in a state of limbo -- not quite good, not quite bad. An air of indecision thus lingers over many parts of the movie and keeps it from having the desired impact.
The movie's fight scenes lack the gritty reality of those in, say, "Raging Bull," but this movie almost seems slanted at a female audience so instead of blood and bruises we get attractive "beefcake" shots of Chandler's and Hudson's bare torsos, gleaming with sweat and shaved of hair. (Knowing what we do now of these two actors' private lives, it's easy to imagine how much they enjoyed filming these "beefcake" scenes -- not to mention getting buck naked for the showers that followed!) Fans of "beefcake" get a bonus in also seeing James Arness stripped to the waist for an early fight scene with Chandler.
Though it's hard to imagine Rock Hudson as the heavyweight champion of the world, he has an eager, likable quality that hasn't yet been hardened by the movie-star status soon to settle around him.
This "Iron Man" is a re-make of a 1931 "Iron Man" starring Jean Harlow. Notes indicate that the Jean Harlow version was also re-made in 1937 under the title "Some Blondes Are Dangerous" but information on this movie seems to be missing from the files.
Finally, you can tell how old this movie is by one simple fact: virtually all the boxers in it are white!