Clad in a gaudy, light gray striped suit, a stunned M. Harry Smilac asks Quick Rick Roberts, "You've never heard of M. Harry Smilac?" There was a time when I'd be inclined to ask a friend the same question or a variation, such as "You've never heard of 'Body Slam?'" For a large portion of my life, I was a hardcore pro-wrestling fan, one brought up on the 80s and 90s spectacles from the WCW and WWF (now the WWE). Like any self-respecting young fan, a chance to see one of my favorite stars in a movie or TV show was an opportunity not to be missed. 1987's "Body Slam" was, on paper at least, a dream come true. Wrestlers in a movie, about wrestling; surely someone must be joking?! Sadly, Hal Needham's "Body Slam" delivers wrestlers in a wrestling movie, headlined by Dirk Benedict (yes, that Dirk Benedict) as slick, failed music producer, turned wrestling promoter, M. Harry Smilac.
Hal Needham, who is best known for his work on the goofy action movies, "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Cannonball Run" directs a cast of questionable talent in an incomprehensibly bad movie, that will only garner unintentional laughs from the most veteran wrestling fan. Anyone not familiar with the sport, will scratch his or her head at a fantasy world where kayfabe (wrestling terminology for staying in character) is alive and well. Wrestlers scuffle in parking lots, showing rivalries don't end in the locker room or ring, and clueless outsiders (Smilac) can just enter the business, because after all, the business isn't owned by individual entities, right?
While Benedict is obviously the star of the movie, most viewers: young and old are likely to recognize Roddy Piper as Smilac's first client, the previously mentioned Quick Rick Roberts. Roberts and his partner, Tonga Tom (Sam Fatu/The Tonga Kid) don't just have their new manager's conman tendencies to watch out for, but the constant threat of violence by The Cannibals (Sione Vailahi better known as WCW's The Barbarian and Tom Cassett), because they jumped ship from Captain Lou Murano's employ. Murano is played by none other than, drum roll, yes, you guessed it Captain Lou Albano. To say "Body Slam" panders to wrestling fans and only wrestling fans is an understatement; even with my knowledge of the business, the film comes off as a poorly written (by pro wrestling standards even) disaster.
While the wrestlers employed in "Body Slam" deserve an obvious pass for their less than stellar thespian skills, Benedict on the other hand doesn't get off so easy. To this day I wonder who saw him as a leading man, when his glory days of "Battlestar Galactica" were behind him and he was arguably third banana on "The A-Team." The only thing memorable about his portrayal of M. Harry Smilac is the character's name. Benedict throws subtlety out the window and comically sleazy, but not comical enough to fit in the pro-wrestling world. Needham, desperate to keep things going moves Smilac from one goofy shenanigan to the next and you're never exactly sure what the biggest problem in his life is. A shining example is the appearance of the stereotypical Asian villain, Mr. Kim, a man in the "corrections" business, or if you aren't fluent in stereotypical broken English, "collections." His appearance seems nothing more than excuse to bring in wrestling favorites Afa and Sika as Kim's hired goons to continually destroy Smilac's car with their bare hands.
The one question that remains amidst a near incoherent attempt to make sense of the movie is, "is there anything memorable about it?" Yes, but barely. Amidst my cloudy childhood recollection of "Body Slam" one element still sticks out and that's Smilac's showdown with Captain Lou on the Carson show. Carson, Vic Carson to be specific is the host of Ring Talk and none other than THE Charles Nelson Reilly fills his shoes. Make no mistake, the dialogue is still awful, the performances puzzling, and sense is still nowhere to be found (random vulgar Billy Barty cameo!), but it's just so weird that it must be seen to be believed. Thankfully Carson (and Barty) show up a few more times before this turkey weakly lays down for the three count (obligatory, bad wrestling reference).
For wrestling fans "Body Slam" might hold a level of nostalgia for the appearances alone; the actual matches are dull and the less said about the finale's rock concert turned brawl, the better. To the uninitiated, "Body Slam" will break your brain and make you wish you could get your 90 minutes back. I honestly regret revisiting this movie, because while, sure I laughed at it's inanity, I was horrified at how such a disaster was funded in the first place. It remains a testament to the power pro-wrestling once had on pop culture and often how devoid of originality the 80s were. Still, more films could use random Ric Flair cameos.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is plagued by noticeable edge-enhancement while colors are hazy and muddy, and detail is average at it's finest hour, with a general level of noise/grain present throughout.
The English 2.0 audio track is passable in dialogue driven scenes, with distortion free and well mixed being the key adjectives, but during any of the big wrestling or musical sequences, the track is decidedly shrill and lifeless.
The film's theatrical trailer is the lone extra.
Awful, awful, and awful, "Body Slam" will only appear to the most seasoned pro-wrestling fan, wanting to poke fun at the goofiness of the 80s and just how far some wrestlers have come in the acting world. MGM's technical presentation isn't outstanding, but for as terrible as the movie is, it feels better than it should be. The general population should stay far away from this one though. Rent It.