War veteran Johnny Pope, his wife of four years Celia Pope, who is pregnant with their first child, and Johnny's younger brother Polo Pope live together in a working class existence in the inner city of New York. Johnny and Polo have always looked out for each other, which is now made all the more difficult with Polo, unknown to Johnny, being attracted to Celia himself. Uneducated Polo is currently the largest household breadwinner working as a bouncer at a sleazy bar - it the best paying job with his skills - as Johnny, untold to Celia, has lost his latest job, the fourth such in the last three months. Without a word, Johnny often disappears for large periods of time, and although she inherently still loves him, Celia is uncertain if she can stay in a marriage in which he no longer touches her or acknowledges their baby, especially as she believes he is having an affair. She would admit to herself that in her loneliness she often does think about falling into Polo's arms. These issues are exacerbated by the visit of Johnny and Polo's father from Palm Beach, he who they have not seen since before Johnny and Celia's wedding, this thus the first time he will have met his daughter-in-law. Unknown to John Sr. who has always treated Johnny as the favored son, both Johnny and Polo have a strained relationship with him in he never being there when they need him. What John Sr. did not tell them before the arrival of his two day stay is that he has come specifically for $2,500 Polo had promised was his whenever he needed it, he wanting it for his retirement plans, with the problem being that Polo no longer has the money which further places Polo in John Sr.'s bad books. All of these issues stem directly from a secret Johnny is keeping, with Polo the only one in the family who knows: that Johnny is a two fix a day junkie, he having become addicted to morphine when he was in the hospital at the end of his military service. Polo's saved $2,500 went to Johnny for his fixes, while Johnny immediately owes "Mother", his primary supplier, $500 - money which Johnny doesn't have - Mother who knows the fine line of getting the money versus keeping Johnny hooked and thus keeping him as a lucrative customer. —Huggo
a game of horse
A Korean war veteran (Don Murray) has developed a raging heroin habit which he hides from his pregnant wife (Eva Marie Saint)and his father (Lloyd Nolan). He has those classic "I've got a monkey on my back" mannerisms which the audience can appreciate, while the wife and father wonder why he seems nervous all the time. His dealer, a character known as Mother, played by Henry Silva, and Mother's sidekick, a beatnik type known as Chuch, played by Gerald S. O Laughlin, are memorable characters. Murray is great as his desperation grows, in debt to Mother, trying to keep his problem a secret, pushed to the extreme. The powerhouse drama features an utterly fantastic role, played by Anthony Franciosa, as Murray's heavy drinking brother, who protects Murray but is in love with his wife at the same time. It could have all been too stagey, but thanks to director Fred Zinneman, there's action to spare in this gritty New York drama.
- Dec 26, 2008
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