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Body Slam

Kino // PG // June 15, 2021
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ryan Keefer | posted June 15, 2021 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

In 1986 the pro wrestling marriage of pop music was something that was red meat for this kid. I loved Hulk Hogan, hated Captain Lou Albano and Roddy Piper (whom folks would recognize from the John Carpenter film They Live), and wanted Hogan to rule the day. Little did I know! But "rock and wrestling" was a flashpoint that elevated pro wrestling to a ground higher than it had seen before, and Body Slam was an attempt to capitalize on that.

Steve Burkow wrote the screenplay that Hal Needham (Cannonball Run) directed, and stars Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Galactica) as Harry Smilac, a struggling music promoter who stumbles into trying to promote "Quick" Rick Roberts (Piper), thinking that he's a musician but is actually a pro wrestler. Smilac finds some success with Rick's wrestling next to Tonga Tom (Sam Fatu) while Rick raises his daughter (Kellie Martin, ER), and is eventually able to match his wrestlers against The Cannibals, who are managed by Captain Lou Murano (Albano).

Having never seen Body Slam until this point weirdly enough, I can understand the reasons for dismissal; Piper wasn't used to acting (wrestling joke aside) at this point, and Benedict is kind of playing a peak Dirk Benedict character; hustling with a smile, flashy wardrobe and cigar between his teeth. The story's road film concept is one used before and since, so there's nothing special to it, and the other wrestlers in the film play their characters, who are limited within the scale of this production.

The film also includes actors whom you would presume would appear in a Hal Needham film; Tanya Roberts (That 70's Show) plays Candice Vandervagen, a politician's daughter and love interest for Harry. Charles Nelson Reilly, John Astin and Billy Barty appear in various guest roles to help push the characters and/or story along as well, doing a scene or two and then going back to living their lives, forgetting that they appeared in this.

Well, the intent of Body Slam appeared to be to do for pro wrestling what Cannonball Run or Smokey and the Bandit were for surreptitious high speed road-trips. But Body Slam didn't have the horses for that, since the main characters were trying, and everyone else didn't appear to be. It's remembered as an infamous touchstone of sorts for pro wrestling's evolution into the latter part of what was later coined "sports entertainment," and as entertainment, it doesn't do that very well.

The Blu-ray:
The Video:

Kino took the liberty of striking a new HD Master from a 2K scan of the Interpositive and the results are good. Film grain is present, colors are natural and the film has more detail on facial features (pro wrestlers bladed back in the day) than I was expecting! Darker moments provide a little bit of contrast but nothing to write home about, and I was pleasantly surprised by this presentation.

The Sound:

Two-channel DTS-HD MA, which gets to show off that very 1980s music and musical montages accordingly! Dialogue is consistent and the wrestling sequences sound a little broader but are devoid of low-end for obvious reasons. It sounds how you would expect it to.

The Extras:

Barry Gordon (who plays Sheldon Brockmeister) comes in for an interview (7:10) where he goes over the production, the allure of pro wrestling and other odds and ends. There are two trailers (4:00) to round things out.

Final Thoughts:

There have been other movies with professional wrestling as a backdrop that show off the sport better than Body Slam, but Body Slam serves as a time capsule and warning of what could happen when things go a little pear-shaped. Technically the film looks nice and sounds straightforward, and the lack of existing or willing participants for the film makes the extras feel hollow. If you've got an urge for Mystery Science Theater type schock, give this one a spin.

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