Friday, June 26, 2009

Stallone's Paradise Alley

Paradise Alley is a 1978 movie about three brothers (known as the Carboni Boys) in Hell's Kitchen, New York City in the 1940s who become involved in professional wrestling. It was written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, and was given the green light to be produced by Universal Pictures after Stallone's success with 1976's Rocky. Stallone also stars as Cosmo, one of the brothers. This was the first major film in which Armand Assante appeared. Anne Archer also starred. Joe Spinell played the emcee of the wrestling matches.
A number of professional wrestlers appeared, including Terry Funk as the foil to the hero of the film. Cameos include Ted DiBiase, Bob Roop, Dick Murdoch, Dory Funk Jr., Don Leo Jonathan, Don Kernodle, Gene Kiniski, Dennis Stamp, Ray Stevens, and Uliuli Fifita; all were pro wrestlers. The playwright and screenwriter John Monks Jr returned to the screen in the role of Mickey the bartender.
The movie first chugs along in the style of what some critics called Damon Runyon-esque, and eventually focuses on professional wrestling, as Victor, one of the brothers (Cosmo and Lenny are the other two) becomes a local wrestler (named Kid Salami and played by Lee Canalito). The fighting is real in this case as far as the plot is concerned; the storyline eventually revolves around betting on the winner of the bouts, as Cosmo and Lenny look to Victor to win enough matches so they can get out of Hell's Kitchen (Victor wants to marry his Asian girlfriend and live on a houseboat they plan to buy in New Jersey).
Each brother has his own style and character. Stallone's Cosmo is a hustler and con-artist, always looking for the next easy buck, Armand Assante's Lenny is the ex-WWII hero, an undertaker who came back to the neighborhood with a limp in his walk and a bitter (if essentially cool) attitude, but who also has savvy and respect and eventually becomes Victor's manager, and Victor himself, the gawky, strong, dumb yet sincere hulk of a man, who quickly leaves his job hauling ice up tenement stairways once he realizes he has talent as a wrestler.
Initially, it is Cosmo that dominates the proceedings, aggressively encouraging Victor to participate in wrestling matches, who is reluctant at first, and against the wishes of his girlfriend. Lenny is at first unsure of all this, and constantly tries to warn-off Victor, reminding him that he could get hurt, and often castigating Cosmo for involving Victor. As the film progresses, the roles begin to reverse . . . Cosmo becomes unsure, and guilty, about his behavior towards Victor, while Lenny becomes ever more keen to push, and exploit Victor as far as he can. Eventually, Lenny seems to have a complete personality change, losing his cool, retiring demeanor and becoming an aggressive, manipulative high roller who uses Victor for his own ends, seeming to not care that his own brother is getting hurt.

No comments: