Combustible Celluloid
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With: Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Michael Conrad, James Hampton, Harry Caesar, John Steadman, Dino Washington, Ray Nitschke, Sonny Sixkiller
Written by: Tracy Keenan Wynn, based on a story by Albert S. Ruddy
Directed by: Robert Aldrich
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 121
Date: 08/21/1974

The Longest Yard (1974)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Pigskin in the Pokey

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

One of Robert Aldrich's biggest hits, The Longest Yard (1974)combines his ferocious worldview with a new kind of rambunctiousaudience appeal, thanks mostly to Burt Reynolds' instinctively likeablecenterpiece performance. Former NFL star Paul Crewe (Reynolds) has beenreduced to the role of kept boy, servicing rich and lonely women. Fedup, he crashes his latest ladyfriend's Mazeratti and goes to prison.Once there, the warden (Eddie Albert) forces him to make use of hisskills by coaching the prisoners in a scrimmage against the guards. Thebulk of the film consists of a clever assembling-the-team routine, asCrewe recruits ever more dangerous candidates for his "Mean Machine" andfinds ways to control them. The big game is presented clearly anddramatically, and is perhaps the most exciting cinematic football gameI've seen. Aldrich never lets us forget that prison is a harsh place,and he keeps the mood sinister and foreboding. The Warden, who tapes allhis conversations, is clearly meant as a surrogate Nixon, and like anevil puppetmaster, he pulls every possible string to keep his powerabsolute.; Albert is perfect in the role, hiding his contempt under aveneer of warmth. Likewise, Reynolds can't get enough credit for givingthe film a devil-may-care attitude. His antics turn The Longest Yardinto a brilliantly brutal dark comedy, not to mention that heeffortlessly passes as a big time quarterback. It's a brilliantperformance from an underrated actor. Future James Bond villain RichardKiel plays one of the prisoners.

DVD Details: Paramount has released this special "Lockdown Edition" to help promote its big screen 2005 remake (starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Reynolds). Reynolds and producer/writer Albert S. Ruddy provide an informative commentary track that makes you yearn for the more gutsy filmmaking of the 1970s. There are a couple of featurettes and a trailer, plus a promo for the new remake.

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