Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

Not Rated   |    |  Drama, Sport


Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) Poster

Knockout performances by Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason, Mickey Rooney and Julie Harris highlight this hard-hitting drama of corruption in the ring. Featuring Muhammad Ali.


7.8/10
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  • Anthony Quinn and Ralph Nelson in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
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19 November 2007 | st-shot
8
| Quinn Gives Knockout Performance in "Heavyweight"
The sport of professional boxing takes another beating in this tragic and powerful re-make of the Rod Serling Playhouse 90 teleplay. The film opens from the viewpoint of Mountain Rivera, a once ranked heavyweight, being pummeled by a youthful Cassius Clay. Rivera loses the fight, beaten so senseless that when asked where he is (NYC) he responds "I'm in Pittsburgh and its raining". When the the fight doctor examines him he makes it clear this broken down pug is all washed up. This puts his manager Maish in a bind since he bet Mountain wouldn't get past the fourth round with some thugs who also lost money because of his guarantee. Maish needs cash fast and the only way he can get it is to get his washed up fighter to wrestle. Rivera considers it degrading (remember it's 1962) and refuses.

Requiem is top heavy with strong performances from its quartet of leads. Jackie Gleason as sleazy Maish is given more to work with here than his Oscar nominated Minnesota Fats. He's a desperate man, wracked with guilt but ready to sell out Mountain to stay breathing. Mickey Rooney gives probably his finest adult performance as Army, the trainer who has Mountain's best interest at heart. Julie Harris as the social worker assigned to find him employment seems incapable of giving anything less than solid performances in everything she does and she does not disappoint here. Then there is Anthony Quinn doing what he does best but this time with a battered machismo that's barely holding together. Body broken, dreams shattered, he is a combination of punchy and naive; a hulking gruesome monster, but still a child inside. His plight is uneasy to witness and Quinn in conveying it has never been better.

Also deserving mention is night club owner and performer Madame Spivy playing Ma, the hood owed money. Dressed in a man's trench coat and hat she displays an offbeat menace with a clipped sardonic delivery that makes more than clear she is a woman not to be trifled with.

Director Ralph Nelson keeps things claustrophobic and low lit to emphasize the grim existence of the characters far from the big paydays and glamor of pay per view in Vegas. Their futures seem about as bright as the dark rooms they live in and the empty deserted streets they walk.

While it may not rank as one of the great fight films of all time,(unrestored cuts from the original print hamper the film's rhythm) Heavyweight's combination of excellent acting and story make it worth going the distance.

Critic Reviews


Did You Know?

Trivia

When CBS acquired "Requiem" for TV broadcast, the film ran 87 minutes. The network wanted to expand it to 100 minutes to fill a two hour time slot. It took deleted odds and ends including a restaurant scene with Rooney, Quinn, and Gleason that lasted seven minutes. Director Ralph Nelson was so upset that he demanded that his name be removed from the credits. The owner of the film, Columbia Pictures, insisted it stay in, but even with the new cobbled together version, the film still ran short.


Quotes

Louis 'Mountain' Rivera: You bet against me? Why Maish? Why did you bet against me?


Goofs

Gleason's character is beaten up by goons in the beginning of the movie, but in what is suppose to be the next day, doesn't have a mark on him and is uninjured in any way.


Alternate Versions

The original theatrical release (@ 102 minutes) includes the following three segments which were removed from the VHS and DVD releases (both of which are approximately 86 minutes):

  • Following the fade on Ma Greeny's reaction shot as Maish is beaten in the boxing ring, there is a seven minute sequence in the hotel bar and adjacent alley: Maish asks Mountain if he has any money stashed away (to pay off Ma Greeny); Mountain recognizes and stops to help a bleeding, drunk fighter in the alley and gets into a fight with his scumbag promoter of illegal matches, which is broken up by Army and Maish, who rejects scumbag's idea of getting Mountain a wrestling career with Pirelli. Scene ends with Maish's clichés about the Three Musketeers and "Til death do us part" that reinforce the illusion that "Nobody jumps anybody in this group!"
  • A 1 minute 43 second transitional sequence after Mountain is rejected for the movie usher job shows him rejected as he tries to get a job on a moving van crew and as a sparring partner for a boxer who's training to fight Clay. Again he starts a fight after the boxer says, "I already got a punching bag!"
  • A 6 minute 27 second sequence after Maish's reaction shot in the stairway following his confrontation with Grace Miller. Pirelli is coaching Mountain in the gym to "make it look real!" Again Mountain starts punching his wrestling partner after his seriously injured eye is intentionally reinjured. Ma Greeny's goon squad warns Maish that he has till tomorrow to come up with the cash. And Ma Greeny tells Maish that "we're cutting out the middleman" and that Pirelli will pay her directly for Mountain's wrestling contract. Maish says, "I wish you weren't a woman," and Ma replies, "Maishy darling, that's the nicest thing anyone ever said to me!"
  • The VHS release adds an additional scene (@ 1 minute 11 seconds) which was cut from both the theatrical and DVD releases. [Since the DVD restores the original sequence at this point, and significantly changes the emotional focus of the ending, the DVD is preferable to the VHS release.] As Mountain ascends (both literally and figuratively) to the wrestling ring, the deleted scene has Maish warning the newbie who wants to sign a boxing contract replacing Mountain to "Go home!" instead of starting a career in which there are only eight champions and everybody else is a loser. The VHS also cuts medium shot in which the referree says, "Come on, Mountain, let's get this show on the road!" and, more significantly, the closeup in which Mountain makes the crucial decision to embrace his humiliation and starts his warwhoop dance around the ring.


Soundtracks

Avalon

Storyline

Plot Summary


Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Genres

Drama | Sport

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