Thursday, December 6, 2012


Laurene Landon, Peter Falk and Vicki Fredericks in All The Marbles (1981)
"…ALL THE MARBLES" is one of my favorite 80s films. A cute and surprisingly gritty little sports themed action comedy in the same vein as Bad News Bears and Diggstown.

The movie tells the story of two struggling female wrestlers named Molly(Laurene Landon) and Iris(Vicki Fredericks) who form the wrestling tag team “The California Dolls”. Along with their wily and mercenary manager played by Peter Falk, and a secret weapon of a wrestling move called the Sunset Flip, the California Dolls rise up the ranks of the Womens Wrestling circuit to face off against their arch rivals The Toledo Tigers in the championship match in Las Vegas.

The California Dolls face the Toledo Tigers for "...All The Marbles"
It’s directed by the late, great Robert Aldrich who directed some of the best films ever made, in my opinion. The classic, violent and widely regarded film noir “Kiss Me Deadly”, the darkly comedic horror film “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane”, the wonderfully cynical anti War film “Too Late The Hero” and the gritty sports comedy “The Longest Yard”. So something like All The Marbles seemed right up Aldrich’s alley. Unfortunately, the film was heavily edited by the studio to be more upbeat and several scenes of abuse in the seedy world of the Women’s Wrestling circuit was taken out. However, enough of the Aldrich touch remains to make the characters entertaining. One scene that stands out is where we see the psychological toll on the two women in the aftermath of a humiliating mud wrestling match that the Dolls are pressured into by manager Falk in order to both promote the women and get enough money for the trip to the championship game. The ending is a wildly entertaining, no holds barred wrestling match in which the California Dolls must overcome two skilled and ruthless opponents as well as a corrupt referee played by Richard Jaeckel with only their tenacity, skill and a little something called the Sunset Flip.
The California Dolls turn opponents The Toledo Tigers sunny side up in All The Marbles
All The Marbles was the last film to be directed by Aldrich (although he did direct a few projects for television) and it certainly isn’t his best. It did do well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel that unfortunately was axed due to Aldrich’s death. However, this film is fun and has a lot of heart. Landon and Fredericks aren’t the best actors in the world but they’re spunky and they give it all they’ve got and that goes a long way. The wrestling scenes have a definite look of authenticity to them and that is no doubt due to the fact that Landon and Fredericks were both trained by the legendary female wrestler Mildred Burke. The wrestling scenes are a lot of fun and actually look a bit painful.

In red, Laurene Landon takes on her oponent in All The Marbles.
I also have to say that I had a bit of a crush of Laurene Landon back in the day. Landon appeared in two of my favorite 80s films, All The Marbles and the 1982 film adaptation of the Mickey Spillane novel “I, The Jury” in which Landon played Mike Hammer's sexy, long suffering girl Friday “Velda”. Corey David Lacroix has a great interview with Laurene Landon over at Slam Wrestling that goes into wonderful depth about Landon’s career, training with Burke, her experience with Robert Aldrich and the making of All The Marbles. It’s a very entertaining interview worth reading in preparation for watching the movie.

Turner Classic Movies will be showing All The Marbles on Saturday, December 8th at 3:45 am Eastern.  As always, be sure to check local listings just in case.

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