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THE LONGEST YARD
Lockdown Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert, Ed Lauter, Michael Conrad, James Hampton
Director: Robert Aldrich
Audio: Dolby Mono, French Dolby Mono
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 121 Minutes
Release Date: May 10, 2005

“I think I broke his f***in’ neck.”

“I think he broke his f***in’ neck.”

“Get the ambulance! I think he broke his f***in’ neck!”

“See, I told you I broke his f***kin’ neck!”

Film ***1/2

With the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard, starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Burt Reynolds, to kick off in theaters this summer, what a better time than now to reflect on the original comedy gem from 1974.

Burt Reynolds was one of the biggest movie stars during the 70s, and the movie to forever ignite his movie legacy is The Longest Yard, which is also one his best films ever. Although he had already become a noticeable movie star following such films as Deliverance and White Lightening, this was the first movie where Reynolds was able to bring the full package to the table. Added to that, for a movie made in 1974, the raw and edgy comedy of the movie made it one ahead of its time.

The film is an all out, unapologetic, no-holds-barred sports comedy filled with some of the biggest lowlifes you’ll ever meet in any movie. Reynolds plays Paul Crewe, a pro football has been who is living a lavish, but ultimately depressing, and alcohol-induced, life as a result of being kicked out of the NFL for points shaving. After roughing up a woman, stealing a car and leading police on a wild chase, Crewe is thrown in the slammer.

Serving a term of 18-36 months in the Florida State penitentiary, Crewe isn’t exactly met with enthusiasm by the fellow inmates. There are those who simply don’t like him, and there are those who appreciate his sports celebrity, but despise what he did to get thrown out of the league. Crewe himself is simply a wise ass who could care less of what anyone thinks, something that Reynolds (a college ball player in real life) throws into the role with effortless charm.

But there is one person in the prison who is fascinated by the star quarterback, and that is Warden Hazen (Eddie Albert). A fan of the game, Hazen insists that Crewe take over coaching duties for his semi-pro team, consisting of the prison guards. After refusing, Crewe is thrown into swamp reclamation.

He lasts only two days before deciding to change his mind about the offer. The quarterback says he will accept the position, but on an entirely different condition; that he put together and coach of team made up of prison inmates. The Warden sees no problem, especially when he gets the idea of structuring a no rules match between the cons and the guards.

Assigning fellow inmate Caretaker (James Hampton) as his assistant coach, Crewe finds it easy in recruiting potential players. The reason for this is quite simple; the cons want an easy crack at the guards as means of obvious payback. And since many of the recruits happen to convicted murderers, Crewe thinks his team has a pretty good chance of claiming victory. Crewe soon forms a team dubbed the Mean Machine.

As the game approaches, Crewe is confronted by Hazen, who tells him that his team will in fact lose to the guards. He wants Crewe to accept the rule, or otherwise suffer an extended prison sentence. Since this echoes the very thing that resulted in his banishment from his profession, it only escalates his desire to take home the glory.

The football match-up, which accompanies the last 45 minutes of the movie, is a remarkably executed sequence. It provides many laughs, while at the same time providing endless bone-crunching moments guaranteed to make any sensitive viewer feel the pain. Without giving away the outcome of the game, I’ll just mention that the final moments in the film, particularly the dialogue, is just simply perfect.

Bottom line; there’s hardly been another film of its kind to match the sheer brutal physical contact and pure hilarity of The Longest Yard. For Burt Reynolds, the film represents a career highlight, and for sports comedies, it’s a classic of gargantuan proportions.

Video **1/2

This is the second go-around, or second down I should say, for The Longest Yard on DVD. No matter how much age a film has, some are better mastered than others, and this must have been a case of trying to master film stock that simply couldn’t be made perfect. I can safely say that this anamorphic offering from Paramount is about as good as you’re going to find in terms of video presentation. Having said that, this is actually a decent looking disc, as images are nice and clear for a good portion of the film. Several image flaws do find their way in the presentation, most of them in the latter portion of the movie.

Audio **

With a Mono track, you simply know what to expect. Despite the limitations, the disc could definitely sound less than it does. Dialogue is clean and clear enough, and the game sequence has enough energy to keep you hooked in, thanks to the sound performance.

Features ***

This new Lockdown Edition does score with some good kickin’ extras. To start with, there’s a commentary track with Burt Reynolds and writer/producer Albert S. Ruddy. Two featurettes; “Doing Time on The Longest Yard” and “Unleashing the Mean Machine”, as well as an exclusive look at 2005 remake. Also included is the original theatrical trailer, as well as the trailer for the remake, and additional bonus previews.

Also included is a ticket for $5.00 off admission for The Longest Yard, which lands in theaters on May 27.

Summary:

The Longest Yard is as badass a movie as you’ll ever come across. If you’re looking forward to the remake as I am, then there’s no better time than now to get reacquainted with the original brutally funny classic, with Burt Reynolds in his all time top form!

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