As a kid who was a high school wrestler (at least for a little while, read this) I certainly identified with this movie. I am imprinted and conditioned to have a visceral reaction of “activation” when hearing the song Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider. The way it was woven into the movie was great, and I used to listen to this before many of my racquetball matches. It would get me fired up to say the least, and even now I replay the scene from the movie in my head and can hear the jump rope, the call for Loudin Swain to the mat, the big metal doors getting flung open and the crowd noise as he walks out.
And yes, this is the VHS tape cover I chose to use for this blog. :-)
This coming of age movie has a lot of really good subplots to it, including the dynamics between the main character and several of the peripheral characters. One of these is an older guy that Loudin works with in a local hotel at night. Although this video clip will be out of context, I still think it is worth sharing:
“It’s what happens in that six minutes that matters”. Amazing word play, delivered in an albeit mediocre acting performance, by a secondary father figure in Loudin’s life. He lives in a dingy apartment, smokes, drinks, and has a seemingly downtrodden life. But he respects what Loudin is doing, and in his own way, does his best to keep Loudin on the path. When you have people who are supporting you in your efforts, you must uphold that support to the best of your ability. They want you to win, both for you but also for them too. They played a part in the process, and that is important to them. Don’t ever forget that…
The woman who enters this high school wrestlers life and turns things upside down is played by Linda Fiorentino. She is a little older and quite edgy compared to the small town, naïve Swain. He is drawn to her immediately, but doesn’t know how to handle her. Swain gets so wrapped up in her that he almost loses sight of the goal his life rotated around for much of his senior year. I the end, she shows up at the right time and convinces him to follow through on his quest. She teaches Loudin a lot in the short time they are together. Again, totally out of context, but here is a clip that still gives me chills to this day (and I referenced above in the opening paragraph)
This movie has a great soundtrack, and I would listen to it before I played tournament matches. I even made a copy of the video above, with the jump rope and the doors opening, etc. to listen to. In retrospect, I probably overhyped myself in many cases, and would start out my matches so geeked out of my mind I would have to play through some of that extra energy to settle down into a manageable rhythm. To this day, if I hear Lunatic Fringe on the radio, I get chills.
Keep in mind, I thought I was destined to be a high school and college wrestler, so I am sure this movie had even more impact on me than it may for some. But the overarching message of battling some of life’s circumstances, outworking the competition, having a burning desire to succeed, and the fortitude to perform under pressure is certainly what sports, and life in general, is all about. We all have challenges to overcome, the question is: Are you going to do what it takes to win?” The “win” is whatever you need it to be, insert your challenge here. This is why sports movies are so well received in many cases; the general message of hard work, overcoming adversity, etc. are something we can all identify with easily.
I personally would rate this movie right up there with Rocky I & II. I loved it. It was one of those movies that had a major impact on me at a young age, and those affects have lasted all these years. I don’t think movies today have this same impact on audiences the way the movies from my “younger days” do. Maybe I am just showing my age, but it seems to me that this is something that kids of today are missing out on.
I highly encourage you to check it out, even if you need to rent a VCR to do it. :-)