The Boy in Blue (1986):
The Boy in Blue is theoretically a historical film about the life
of the great Canadian sculler Ned Hanlon, who dominated world
competition in the late 1870s and early 1880s,
and who was honored by a postage stamp. More precisely, this film
is to Ned Hanlan's life what "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" is
to the lives of those famous outlaws, which is to say the resemblance
stops at the character's name and a few general facts.
I can sum up my thoughts in three brief sentences.
1. A very good movie could be made about the life of
2. This is not a very good
3. At any rate, good or
not, this movie has very little to do with the life of Ned Hanlan
The rest of the review is just going to
elaborate on those points.
As the story is told here, Ned was a championship
bootlegger who developed his rowing skills by getting away from the
coppers. It plays out like Thunder Road on water. Some colorful
characters discovered Ned and turned him pro in order to make their
own fortunes in what was essentially a crooked professional sport.
Throughout his career, Ned continued to be a naive small-town boy at
heart, to refuse to throw races, and to demonstrate excellent sportsmanship despite being
constantly taunted by the uppity college-educated snobs who comprised
his competition. He was always the underdog. Ned was played by a tall,
clean-shaven, muscular Nic Cage (who was in magnificent shape.)
reality, Ned was a tiny guy, 5'8", 155, but nonetheless a mustachioed
roughneck who competed in a rough world of gamblers and swindlers. He
took a lot of guff from his competitors, but he gave back more than he
took. He was not humble or naive by any stretch of the imagination,
and he was never an underdog except maybe in his first race in the
USA. He was, in fact, far better than his competitors, and once won
200 races in a row. He was not only good, but also cocky about his
superiority. He toyed with his opponents, often humiliating them
intentionally to please the crowds. When he raced against Trickett,
the Aussie who had been the World Champion,
"Hanlan played with Trickett during the race and
then crossed the finish with almost a minute and a half lead. To add
insult to injury, Hanlan turned his boat around and rowed down to
Trickett, still on the racecourse, turned around again and beat him
back to the finish a second time."
In other races, he would finish by discarding one oar and using the
other on alternating sides, like a canoe. Imagine Lance Armstrong
finishing the Tour de France by carrying his bicycle on this shoulders
and giving the razzberry to the French riders. That's the modern day
equivalent of Hanlan. This guy made Mohammad Ali seem as modest as
Audrey Hepburn. In fact, Hanlan was so famous for his obnoxious
hot-dogging against badly beaten opponents that Australian Elias
Laycock insisted that clauses in their contract be included that
forbade Hanlan from mocking him in the race, or embarrassing him in any
other way. Read many more great Hanlan yarns on
excellent page, which is specifically
dedicated to professional rowing in the 19th century, and which is
also the source of the quotation above.
Oh, yeah, remember
that bootlegging thing?
Wrong. The real story
is much better. Ned's dad ran a hotel on Toronto Island, and there was
no school on the island, so Ned had to row to school every day from
the time he was in kindergarten. He had been written up in the Toronto
Colonist when he was only five years old, and had won the Ontario
provincial championship three times before his trip to Philadelphia.
The film's version is nothing like that.
rendering of the story takes a couple
of historical characters (like Ned's business manager, Colonel Shaw),
and a few of Ned's more colorful anecdotes in which he was not a
complete ass, and jumbles them together in nearly random fashion,
often taking facts about one race or one person and using them
If you did not know the actors and I told you that this movie was made
in 1956 you would never doubt it for a minute. It is a classic
mid-fifties Hollywood biopic - silly, inaccurate, and corny. If it really
were a 1956 movie, 'twould be bad enough, but it is a Canadian film
made in 1986, and these filmmakers really should have known better.
It was directed by Charles
Jarrott, whose most famous film is the respected Anne of 1000 Days. Jarrott did not
do an especially good job on The Boy in Blue. The sports scenes
are quite ineffectively edited, and lacking in continuity, to the
point where some of the racing footage appears to be out of sequence.
Read the stories at the link above, and I am
certain you will agree with me that Hanlan's story would make a
fantastic movie. Unfortunately, this is not it, and is not
even Hanlan's story. It's
basically a Hollywood formula picture with a sitcom flavor, and cannot
be considered historical or biographical at all. It's essentially a
grade-B attempt to invoke the spirit of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance
... And yet,
though it is old-fashioned and trite, and has little relationship to
Hanlan's story ... I honestly can't deny that it is actually kind of
an easy watch, and a very young Cage does a good job in the lead.
Blue Desert (1991):
WARNING: IMPLIED SPOILERS
Blue Desert is a
noir thriller about a New York rape victim who flees to a small town
out in the wide open spaces, in the hope that she can find peace of
mind. The first thing she finds is a rather disturbed individual who
seems to be stalking her. When he puts a move on her and doesn't back
off soon enough, the terrified woman clobbers him with an oversized
frying pan and calls the cops. Upon reflection, she thinks she may
have over-reacted to the guy, who really seems like a hippie with a
few screws loose, so he refuses to file any formal charges. Her
reluctance means that the police cannot hold him. A couple of nights
later, she finds that her mobile home was entered while she was in
town playing bingo, and it appears that someone masturbated into her
underwear. The creepy hippie is dragged off again, but is again
released, and pays another visit to her trailer, during which she
manages to trick him into going into the bedroom while she calls the
The "hook" of the film is that it is possible to interpret the
hippie's actions in two ways. He never actually hurts her, so we
wonder, "Is he a harmless, not-too-bright guy who developed some head
problems when his daughter was killed by a drunk driver, or is he
threatening the woman in subtle ways?" The answer to this question
hinges on the answer to another question, "Who masturbated into her
underwear?" Since the film is a thriller, we can assume that there is
probably more to this story that meets the eye, especially when the
woman starts to find out that she has received some inaccurate
information from the arresting officer - with whom she has started an
The dramatic tension of the film comes from
two sources (1) we wonder whether the woman is really "safe" in the
arms of the cop, or whether he is the one actually responsible for the
soiled underwear (2) the woman is vulnerable, because she's alone in
her trailer in an isolated spot in the desert, constantly terrified of
suspicious noises outside, on her roof, and so forth.
The script has some good elements. There is, for
example, a fairly effective use of the creepy hippie as a decoy. We
don't really suspect the cop, and therefore we can understand why the
victim didn't suspect him either. Unfortunately, it is also one of
those scripts which requires the victim to do the dumbest
possible things at all times. There was one point where she had
suffered the break-in while she was in town and had refused to press
any charges against the hippie. This meant that she knew somebody was
entering her home, and she knew that the primary suspect was free. I
thought to myself, "What would I do if I were in her position?"
If I could have gotten the hell out of that trailer, I would have, but
assuming I could not for some reason, I'd have come up with a plan.
Step One - I would have gone to the nearest pound and adopted a very
large dog, maybe two. (We know from the script that she's financially
comfortable.) That would assure that nobody could sneak up on me, and
that nobody could enter the house, whether I was there or not. Step
Two - On my way back from the animal shelter, I would stop at a
Wal-Mart and buy a shotgun and some shells. Then I would get a good
night's sleep with the shotgun near the bed, and both dogs in my
bedroom. Bring it on, hippie boy.
tell you what my LAST choice would have been. I wouldn't have just
been sitting in the trailer at night waiting to be raped, which is
what she chose. There were at least five times when she could have
chosen other options to get away from, or protect herself against,
both guys - and she just kept putting herself right back into trouble
According to IMDb,
writer/director Bradley Battersby had no credits for eight years after
making this film (for reason or reasons unknown), then he quickly
fired out two more projects as writer/director:
- (5.82) -
- (5.50) -
- (5.14) -
a grade-B thriller with some decent touches and some tension in a few
scenes, as well as some rare nudity from Courteney Cox, but also
with lots of rough edges: illogical character behavior, poor lighting,
and a completely bare-bones DVD.
Always enjoy your work, Scoop, but can't resist sending in
a correction to an item in Other Crap. You wrote: "The
trailer from Lucky Number Slevin. Big cast: Morgan
Freeman, Bruce Willis, Gandhi, Lucy Liu, Josh Hartnett"
Shouldn't that be 'Sir
Gandhi'? Surely, you've seen
the news stories about
him insisting on his title. Funny, no one criticized opera
singer Sir Thomas Allen for being billed that way in Mrs.
Henderson Presents. While at the same time, Christopher,
Lord Haden-Guest, who could really pull rank on him (and
has a much bigger part in that film) seems content to be
billed simply as Christopher Guest. (Or, as we'd all like
to be known 'the guy who married Jamie Lee Curtis' ...
a/k/a Baroness Haden-Guest).
Keep up the good work.
C. in London
PARALLEL UNIVERSE DISCOVERED ... Where Bill
Clinton Is A Celibate Priest!
"Donald Duck got nabbed for drunk driving in the Florida
A legendary TV moment: Harvey Pekar gets booted from
The international trailer from Big White, a new Robin
- In the film, a destitute Alaskan travel agent (Robin
Williams) thinks he has found the answer to his
financial problems in the form of a frozen body, which
he tries to pass off as his long-lost brother (Woody
Harrelson) for the insurance money. The agent's plans
are thwarted by a claims adjuster (Giovanni Ribisi) and
two aspiring hitmen (Earl Brown and Tim Blake Nelson)."
Bill Maher translates hip-hop into "white"
"The Tale of Marky Maypo"
Six Breakfast Cereals Argue Why They Should Replace
Cheerios as the Preferred Finger Food for Babies.
The Trailer for Art School Confidential, a comedy
starring John Malkovich
Box Office International Mojo: French Comedy Reigns Again
- Les Bronzés 3 has grossed more in its first three
weeks of release than any other picture in the history
of French cinema.
"Man forced to 'marry' goat"
- Analysts concluded it was the strangest creature
ever married by anyone not named Tom Arnold
Showbiz Tonight looks at celebrity sex tapes
'50s and '60s Bands Aim to Stop Copycats. Their
Jimmy Kimmel- One Year Of Unnecessary Censorship
Lindsay Lohan Dating Olympic Champion?
- The site reads: "I have no idea if this is true or
not, but I'll choose to believe it, only because it's
hard to imagine Lindsay Lohan not having sex with a new
man every night. The girl smokes more meat than a Texas
barbecue. It's like I was telling her the other day in
bed: "Lindsay, you've gotta have some self-respect. Now
hurry up and put those antlers back on."
New York eyes Governor's island for urban oasis (It's
172 acres of incredibly valuable property sitting there
UTL says it all:
rrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnnhhhh.com. Everyone has a
How to get TIVO owners to watch ads? KFC has an idea.
Submitter wrote: For Fanboy Spidey geeks everywhere,
today will be a day that they will remember forever. Why?
Because all the rumors are now confirmed. Spidey 3 may be
the all time best comic book adaptation. Not because of
the addition of Gwen Stacey, but because Spidey will don
the infamous black costume. For those who don't know, the
black costume means the Venom storyline is coming in
either this movie or the next. (Many feel that the Venom
story line is the third greatest story line in the Spidey
world, behind the origin and Gwen Stacey.)
Here's the pic, for those who have not seen it.
Where Do Americans Stand on the Wiretapping Issue?
- "Just what do Americans think about the Bush
administration's wiretapping program? A review of
available poll data suggests that the public is closely
split on the issue, with the majority of recent polls
showing a slight majority favoring the program."
"BUSH INKS IRISH FIRM TO GUARD NATIONAL WHISKEY RESERVE"
(Also check the other articles beneath. Very nice bit of
writing from Iowahawk). In other news, Bush has hired
Kevin Federline and Tommy Chong to guard our critical
supply of medical marijuana.
Jenny McCarthy Would Like to Have an Orgy
"Top Ten Things I, Peter Griffin, Would Like To Say To
Britney Spears, Elton John, Whitney Houston - Shocking
- Spears is very overweight; Elton weighs 300+;
Whitney weighs about 9 pounds
4th "Potter" film is No. 5 in all-time overseas grosses
Danish Terrorists Set Off Deadly Cartoons Across Middle
The Howard Stern Film Festival?
Russian Ice Dancer Oksana Domnina falls out of her top
Superman, Batman Sequels?
The trailer for SORRY, HATERS, a thriller starring
Robin Wright Penn
- "Sorry, Haters" is a psychological thriller with
political and social undertones set in today's New York.
It begins when Ashade, a Muslim cab driver (Abdellatif
Kechiche) picks up Phoebe (Robin Wright Penn), a
well-heeled professional woman. Although Ashade and
Phobe have nothing in common, each holds troubling urges
and secret motivations. When Phoebe takes an interest in
exonerating Ashade's brothers, who is in jail, a series
of events are set in motion resulting in the revelation
of a devastating hidden truth.
The trailer and four clips from Seven Swords, a new
Hark Tsui film
Four clips from Lucky Number Slevin
A trailer shows the subtle, Wildean humor of "Larry The
Cable Guy: Health Inspector"
Maybe the world's most famous haircut since Samson.
Natalie Portman gets shorn in V for Vendetta
Three clips and a new featurette about Ultraviolet
Ill. Governor Confused by 'Daily Show' Bit
- "Gov. Rod Blagojevich wasn't in on the joke.
Blagojevich says he didn't realize 'The Daily Show' was
a comedy spoof of the news when he sat down for an
interview that ended up poking fun at the
sometimes-puzzled Democratic governor."
Yellow asterisk: funny (maybe). White asterisk: expanded format.
Blue asterisk: not mine. No asterisk: it probably sucks.
Naked World (2003)
"One year. Seven continents. More than 6,000 naked
people--all willing to bare all in the name of art. This globally scaled
follow-up to the America Undercover documentary Naked States finds the
celebrated and controversial artist at work on his most ambitious project: a
one-year trek to all seven continents to shoot people in the
nude--individually, in groups and against various man-made and natural
Divorce Law - No Beef About It (1993)
Divorce Law presents only two divorce cases.
- A man wants to divorce Dyanne Fornier because she was a vegetarian when
they married, but is now eating meat. Turns out, she also had sex with the
burger joint clerk. She was disputing the distribution of property, claiming
that she lost interest in being a vegetarian when she saw him having anal
sex with a carrot.
- In the second case, Christie Peralta wants an annulment from an Arab
that picked her up in Vegas, and gave her a Persian aphrodisiac. The Arab
sheik turned out to be a terrorist.
Again, these are stupid, clever, and keep the nudity and simulated sex
scenes short enough to avoid boredom.