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In Brooklyn, 1957, four working class teenagers live for the day and plan not for the future. Calling themselves The Lord's, they pretend that they are members of an athletic club, but their sport is making out and playing up. They love no-one but themselves; their women are used and abused and made fun of. Franni (Maria Smith) is pregnant to Stanley (Sylvester Stallone) and wants a future with him, but Stanley is more devoted to Lord's leader Chico (Perry King) whose immaturity is companion to his boyish good looks. Chico takes a shine to sophisticated Jane (Susie Blakely) but his impatience gets in the way. Gradually these guys will come of age and learn that the essence of a good life comes with a sense of responsibility.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
Before Rocky Balboa, before Sylvester Stallone learned how to grunt and groan and mimic the Marlon Brando mumble, he knew how to act for his supper. Once voted by his high school classmates as the one most likely to end up in the electric chair, Stallone never had the equipment to make it as a porn star, but he turned the $200 he made for two days of humping in a 1970 porn flick into career earnings of around $355 million. For his role as the musclebound disciple to Lord's leader Perry King in this cult coming of age saga, Stallone was rewarded with a wardrobe of T-shirts!

There was no money left after the mini-budget was blown; Stallone, Winkler and King did it as a down payment, hoping it would further their fledgling careers. But few films were smaller than Flatbush, and so the trio all went onto bigger if not better things. In this honest and amusingly realistic depiction of 1950s American youth on the brink of delinquency before manhood, the leather-jacketed Lord's explain that they are members of a "social athletic club," who "play a little 'ball, bust a few heads" and otherwise get laid. The deliberate glitch with the stray apostrophe in Lord's implies with sublime subtlety that these working class lads are no Einsteins and that their time in the chaotic classroom of the hapless Miss Molina (Joan Neuman) is entirely misspent.

Cool, confident Chico is the Lord's self-appointed leader and Stanley is his devoted deputy. Winkler, whose character Butchey is the most introspective of the trio, based his famous Happy Days creation, The Fonz, on Stallone's Stanley, an intellectual lightweight with a heart of gold. As the guys grapple with their cockeyed view of the world, they are almost upstaged by the girls whose shrill voices whine like buzz-saws. Annie, her hair twisted into unflattering curlers and pining with futile lust for Chico, is treated as a joke by all but best friend Franni, who is pregnant to Stanley and pressures him relentlessly to live up to his responsibilities.

There's an exquisite moment when the Franni and Annie force have Stanley squirming in Birnbaum's jeweller's shop (Davidson in an effective cameo) as they swoon over a $1500 engagement ring that Stanley wishes would melt before his very eyes. Here, the desperate Franni delivers a line that is as hilarious as Stanley's rejoinder...but it wouldn't be right to spoil them for you. As time goes by, the Lord's drift apart, barely comprehending that it's all part of the growing up process. Slowly they come under the influence of others more mature - Eddie the bartender urges Butchey to fulfil his potential; more than once Jane resists a Chico mauling and Stanley, at Franni's behest, finally faces his conscience.

The writing and directing team (Sly gets credit for contributions to the dialogue) inject personal experience into the action and that obscure 50s soundtrack seems to have improved with age. Even the silences have surprising nuance. It's worth all the pleasure and pain of nostalgia for that look on Butchey's face when Chico climbs into his bedroom window late at night, which suggests something more than mere admiration.

Published September 8, 2005

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(US, 1974)

CAST: Perry King, Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler

DIRECTOR: Stephen Verona, Martin Davidson

SCRIPT: Stephen Verona, Martin Davidson

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen 2.35.1 / 16:9 enhanced. Languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish (all Mono). Subtitles: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Arabic, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Turkish



DVD RELEASE: August 25, 2005

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