Rocky Marciano Is Dead (1976, directed by Graham Evans)

Harry Marcus (Ron Moody) was once a welterweight boxing champion but that was a long time ago.  Now, Harry is an old man who lives in small London apartment.  His daughter (Yvonne Bonnamy) visits him weekly.  Sometimes, he talks to Sonny (Jeffrey Kissoon), the squatter who is living in the abandoned apartment next to his.  Harry still likes to go back to his old gym and relive the glory days of both boxing and England.  Harry feels that those days are long gone but after he witnesses Sonny fight off a group of muggers, Harry becomes convinced that Sonny could be the next great boxer.

Harry wants to train Sonny but Sonny and his wife (Lesley Dunlop) both think boxing is barbaric.  It’s not until Harry explains that, historically, boxing has been used by the oppressed and marginalized to pull themselves out of poverty that Sonny steps into the ring.  Sonny has the talent but does Harry still have the connections to get Sonny a fight?

Rocky Marciano Is Dead was aired as a part of the BBC’s Play For Today anthology series.  It aired at the same time that Rocky was first setting box office records in the States.  Harry has a lot in common with Mickey Goldmill, the trainer played by Burgess Meredith in the first three Rocky films.  Like Mickey, he’s a former boxer who is trying to make a champ out of someone who is not sure if he has what it takes.  Rocky took place in the slums of Philadelphia while Rocky Marciano Is Dead takes place in a London that is full of abandoned buildings, gangs, and angry graffiti.  This is the London that, one year later, would inspire Johnny Rotten to sing that there was “no future in England’s dreaming.”  Not surprisingly, Rocky Marciano Is Dead is a much darker and cynical look at boxing than Rocky.  Harry is trying to recapture a past that may have never existed.

Along with providing a look at London on the cusp of the Punk Revolution, Rocky Marciano Is Dead is an acting showcase for Ron Moody.  Moody is in almost every scene, as Harry goes from being bitter to hopeful to disillusioned.  Moody makes it clear that Harry sees Sonny as something more than just a good boxer.  To Harry, Sonny is a chance to return to the time when both England and boxing were great.  If he can make Sonny a champ, Harry will be a champ too.  Harry’s mistake is not considering that Sonny might have plans of his own.  Moody was a born performer, as effective on television as in film.  He was also a perennial contender for the role of the Doctor on Doctor Who.  He was even offered the part in 1969 but turned it down, a move that he always said he regretted.  After a long career full of memorable performances in dramas, comedies, and musicals, he died in 2015 at the age of 91.  He gives a good performance in Rocky Marciano Is Dead, making Harry into something more than just an angry old man.

Rocky Marciano Is Dead can be viewed on YouTube.

One response to “Rocky Marciano Is Dead (1976, directed by Graham Evans)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 3/13/23 — 3/19/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

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