Iron Man (1951)
Directed by Joseph Pevney
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg
Screenplay by Borden Chase, George Zuckerman
Based on the novel by W. R. Burnett
Cinematography by Carl E. Guthrie
Edited by Russell F. Schoengarth
What Noirvember would be complete without a boxing noir? But is Iron Man a knockout or should you throw in the towel before getting involved in this bout?
In the opening of Iron Man (a remake of the 1931 film directed by Tod Browning), we see heavyweight champion Coke Mason (Jeff Chandler) getting booed by nearly everyone in the boxing arena. Soon we hear a woman, Rose Mason (Evelyn Keyes) in voiceover narration: “20,000 people hating just one man. It isn’t him they ought to hate; it’s me. I fell in love with him.”
Rose’s flashback takes us back to Coaltown, Pennsylvania, where Coke works in a coal mine with several other guys including a bully named Alex (James Arness), who goads and challenges Coke every opportunity he gets. When he gets him in the ring at a local gym, Coke eventually reaches his breaking point and tears Alex apart.
Coke’s opportunistic brother, George Mason (Stephen McNally), sees a big future for Coke as a fighter, but Coke’s not interested. He’d be content opening a radio shop with Rose, but George tells him that’s chicken feed.
Emotionally immature, and easily angered, Coke reluctantly begins his fighting career, taking apart his opponents through sheer brutality without any kind of boxing finesse or style. Yet boxing fans who love to hate Coke gather in droves, eager for someone to clean his clock.
I’m no boxing expert, but the fight scenes seem to be pretty standard at best, and often substandard, especially in how they’re choreographed. The good cast here is mostly wasted on a script that should be considered more drama than noir, although it certainly contains noir elements. Perhaps the film’s most entertaining element is a young Rock Hudson (in only his 10th film) playing Tommy “Speed” O’Keefe, an up-and-coming fighter who idolizes Coke. Iron Man isn’t bad, but it isn’t great, either. Someone should’ve called this one in the fourth or fifth round.
But hey, don’t beat yourself up! Stick around, I’ll have a much better one for you tomorrow.
Photos: Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings, RareFilm, Doctor Macro