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Grunt! The Wrestling Movie
When this 1985 comedy film, which is dressed as a documentary, begins we flashback to 1979 where Mad Dog Joe DeCurso (Greg 'Magic' Schwarz) challenges Skull Crusher Johnson (Victor Rivera) for the championship belt. Mad Dog gets Skull Crusher's head between the ropes, gets a drop on him and then… literally decapitates his opponent in the ring! This sends Mad Dog into a deep depression that results in homelessness and then, ultimately, in his suicide when he jumps to his death from a bridge into the river below. His manager/girlfriend, Lola (Marilyn Dodds Frank), is devastated and the officials take five years to figure out what to do with Skull Crusher's belt, since Mad Dog has been disqualified for killing his opponent in the ring.
Five years later and a new wrestling Phenom has arrived on the scene. Known only as The Mask (Steve Strong) and accompanied by a beautiful French woman named Angel Face (Lydie Denier) acting as his manager, similarities to Mad Dog send wrestling fandom into a tizzy. A filmmaker (Jeff Dial) who has been a wrestling fan since he was a kid teams up with Dr. Tweed (Robert Glaudini), the president of the ‘Mad Dog Is Mask Fan Club' to head deep into the wrestling world and try to figure out once and for all if Mad Dog and The Mask are one and the same or not. Along the way they're yelled at a few times by Lola, they're rebuked by pretty much anyone they try to interview about either one of these wrestlers' pasts, they wind up on the Wally George Show and watch a whole lot of wrestling matches.
This one starts stronger than it finishes, with the decapitation scene really setting the stage for what we assume will be a pretty outlandish ‘look' at the world of professional wrestling. From there, the comedy is pretty uneven for the rest of the film. There are a few good laughs and clever ideas worked into the film's running time but a lot of the film is taken up by footage of… wrestling. Which makes total sense, but which isn't always comedic, hence the tone being all over the place. Still, wrestling fans should find quite a bit to enjoy here. Some of the matches are pretty great, a highlight being when The Mask squares off against four dwarfs who literally stand on top of one another to become ‘The Human Pyramid' or another match where The Mask gets into the squared circle with a matador-styled wrestler dubbed El Toro.
The movie does a pretty good job of keeping up the faux-documentary style and appearance. This definitely looks like it could have been made as a legitimate expose in the mid-eighties, it has that slightly less than polished look and sound to it you'd expect from a movie made by a small crew running around various local wrestling events. This means that sometimes the camerawork is a bit shaky and that sometimes the levels jump a bit, but it's all in keeping with the ruse that Grunt!'s actual director, Allan Holzman, is trying to create here.
While Jeff Dial and Robert Glaudini get a lot of the screen time here, they're pretty fun to watch together. Glaudini in particular plays the sleazy fan club president really well, annoying to be sure, but in all the right ways. Lydie Denner and Marilyn Dodds Frank are fun in their supporting roles, while Greg Schwarz (who some may remember form his appearance in Over The Top is fine in his part too, having very little dialogue but very much looking the part because he was actually a wrestler in real life. Steve Strong has a similar vibe to his work, he doesn't speak, but he handles himself well in the ring and just looks like a real wrestler (and he was, in fact, also a professional wrestler at one point in his life). The movie also features cameos from quite a few other wrestlers of note, Exotic Adrian in particular getting a lot of screen time here and, on top of that, none other than Wally George has a pretty sizeable cameo on the film as himself.
Grunt! The Wrestling Movie comes to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, taking up just over 22GBS of space on a 25GB disc and taken from a "brand new 2k scan from the original interpositive." By and large, this looks pretty nice. There's some damage here and there but it's all very minor. The film's natural grain is left untouched and colors are handled well, looking lifelike and realistic throughout. There are no noticeable issues with any compression artifacts and skin tones look nice and natural. Noise reduction and edge enhancement are never a problem and while the movie does intentionally have a gritty, faux-documentary feel to it, detail is pretty solid here.
The only audio option on the disc is a 24-bit DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track in the film's native English language. The track sounds fine, overall. There are some spots where crowd noise is a bit loud but again, this is in keeping with the faux-documentary style that the filmmakers employed here. Otherwise, no problems to note and that theme song from Sha Na Na sounds pretty good here! Optional subtitles are provided in English only.
Extras are limited to a trailer for the feature, trailers for a few other Scorpion Releasing titles, menus and chapter selection.
Grunt! The Wrestling Movie is an enjoyably goofy comedy dressed up as a faux-documentary that may not have broad mainstream appeal but which should provide some good laughs and ringside thrills to those with an appreciation for wrestling and its sometimes rabid fandom. Scorpion's Blu-ray release of this reasonably obscure title is very light on extras features but it looks and sounds pretty decent. Recommended for old school wrestling fans, a fine rental for the curious who don't necessarily fall into that niche.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.