“You got blood on your face,
You big disgrace,
Wavin’ your banner all over the place.”-Queen
Super Bowl 50 is kicking off this upcoming Sunday evening. An American tradition since 1967, when the Kansas City Chiefs were humbled by the Green Bay Packers, 35-10 at Super Bowl I in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. American football, though not America’s Pastime (its baseball), is an accurate depiction of the majority’s way of life, beliefs, attitudes, and social norms of society. Football, when played with integrity and grit, is an interesting examination of competition, extreme conflict in the workplace, the balance of ethnic diversity, decisions back by brute force, and camaraderie through blood, sweat, and tears.
Football over the years, before all of the needless celebration and showboating society encourages today, has always been an interesting case study of how an individual fares in the group dynamic, endures the trials and tribulations of forming, storming, and norming to achieve a common goal. This is no different than any other organization, especially the military, where everyone has a job to do successfully to complete the mission. Just look at the old NFL films, with slowed film replays of contact action, dramatic music, and mythological narration. It seems like the players were at war in mere resemblance of having a Clash of the Titans between offense and defense at Mt. Olympus Stadium. Giants of the Gridiron indeed.
The elements of survival, teamwork, risk taking while keeping the eye on the prize are used in many industries, sports, and at times, prison. So lace up, man up, and don’t drop the soap, we are going to play some rough & tumble football with the award winning, The Longest Yard (1974).
Down and out former pro quarterback, Paul “Wrecking” Crewe, Burt Reynolds of Deliverance (1973), is a bored drunk with a lot of time on his hands, and a lot on his mind since he was sacked by the NFL for point shaving. After a dispute with his sugar mama, Melissa, Anitra Ford of Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973), Crewe walks out, stealing her car which results in a fun car chase with police. Crewe is caught, cuffed & stuffed, and hauled off to the hard labor pen to serve out his sentence.
Crewe, is a target of ill intentions, rude remarks, and hazing from the other inmates due to former star football player status, having it all, only to fumble at the goal line of reality betraying his team for cash by throwing bad passes to capitalize on the point spread. There is a code amongst criminals, no pedophile or point shavers are initially welcome. It’s briefed on Day 1 orientation at all of your finer prisons.
Warden, Hazen, Eddie Albert of Dreamscape (1983), manages a prison team made up of prison guards, and dangles Crewe a carrot of liberties in return for his knowledge of the game to coach the team in hopes of winning the upcoming championship. Crewe wants to just bide his time, keep to himself, and come to grips with the damage he has done to his life. Crewe, a stubborn gent that has the spirit for competition, and the odds, takes on the challenge with the assistance of the heavy handed threats by prion team leader and Captain of the Guards, Knauer, Ed Lauter of Cujo (1983). Crewe is employed with the task to form a prisoner team (which a majority of the prisoner actors are real NFL tough guys from the hard knock days of 60s/70s no nonsense football), to play the guards’ team in an exhibition “tune-up” game. Crewe recruits with the help of his assistant Caretaker, James Hampton of Teen Wolf (1985), a team of killers, thieves, and career criminals. The “Mean Machine” is now born.
Crewe, self-aware of his charm and sex appeal, uses his moves from his wanton playbook on Miss Toot, Bernadette “Beehive” Peters of The Jerk (1979), to dig up inside information, injury reports, and play tapes on the prison guard team. Knauer is just as guilty, as he watches the development of the Mean Machine while they practice through prison stoolpigeon Unger, Charles Tyner of Harold and Maude (1971). Unger performs recon and reports back to the prison guards when he’s not too preoccupied in attempts to murder Crewes that go awry.
Game day comes after many bloody, bone breaking, painful hours of practice for the Mean Machine, before a stern warning is issued that all attempts to escape will be met with deadly force. What follows the last 45 minutes in this fun film, is a physical play full of drama, threats, comedy, and hard hitting action. Plus, anytime Reynolds gives his high pitched cackle, it will put a smile on your face. Reynolds also does sell the role as he was a football player before being sidelined with an injury and taking up acting fulltime. The conclusion will have the viewer question the ethics of both sides of this yarn. Who are more morally decayed? The prisoners or the warden and his abuse of power lovin’ cronies?
The Longest Yard was directed by Robert Aldrich of The Dirty Dozen (1968) with a screenplay by Tracy Keenan Wynn of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974). The Longest Yard was shot on a budget of $2.9 million and raked in approximately $43 million over the years with the help of being a VHS staple in the 80’s booming video rental scene. Yard was a box office success, which helped plaster Reynolds’s mustache, chest hair on every billboard and magazine while he effortlessly oozed the 70s epitome of male machismo.
The Longest Yard has gone on to be remade with Adam Sandler in 2005, with Reynolds landing a role, and again in Mean Machine (2001) and Egypt’s Captain Masr (2005), both changing the sport from American football to European football aka soccer. Also, Richard “Jaws” Kiel of The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) plays the part of a sensitive giant and much can be enjoyed by watching the prison “cheerleaders” sing and strut their stuff to much enjoyment to the players and fans in the crowd. The Longest Yard is a must see for 70s film fanatics, Burt aficionados, and football lovers highlighting the game when men were men before all of this needless boasting displayed after each play of the game.
Rick’s Super Bowl Prediction: Peyton Manning will take a slap shot from downtown resulting in a grand slam which will lead the Denver Broncos to victory by a Hole in One over the Carolina Panthers.
Final Score: 15/Love…Go Bears!
Check out The Longest Yard Trailer
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- Rick Baldwin is a writer, filmmaker, film/music historian, and can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rick.baldwin.568
- Twitter Rick Baldwin @RickBaldwin79 and firstname.lastname@example.org