Just in time for football season, here’s Jim Brymer with his review of the 1974 comedy classic The Longest Yard.
Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds) is a renegade. And a rebel. And a misogynist. He does what he wants, when he wants and to hell with what anyone else has to say about it. But it gets him into trouble when he takes his girlfriend’s car for a joyride after shoving her into a wall. Which gets him arrested and sent to prison.
Warden Hazen (Eddie Albert) pulled every string in the book to get Crewe sentenced to his prison. Because Crewe was a former NFL star and Hazen thinks Crewe could be an asset in getting his amateur prison guard team into shape. Unfortunately, Chief Guard Capt. Knauer (Ed Lauter) doesn’t want Crewe’s help and uses force to convince Crewe to decline Hazen’s offer. Which leads to a battle of wills. Hazen gives Crewe every crappy work detail he can think of to convince Crewe to change his mind.
Eventually they come to terms. Crewe doesn’t take the job of coaching the prison guards. Instead he offers the warden an opportunity for a warm-up game. Crewe will enlist a group of prisoners to form a team. But Crewe is up against something else on that respect. You see, as an NFL player he was involved in a gambling scheme in which he shaved points of off games to help win big bucks for the gamblers.
Caretaker (James Hampton): “All I’m saying is that you could have robbed banks, sold dope or stole your grandmother’s pension check and none of us would have minded. But shaving points off a football game? Man, that’s un-American.”
Crewe does manage to get a few recruits by using the promise that they could kick the crap out of the guards and exact some semblance of revenge for past indiscretions put on them by the guards. So Crewe has a team that can play, and they are pretty good. So good in fact that Hazen tries to convince Crewe to throw the game. Initially Crewe agrees because the warden has promised that after a sufficient lead he will have his guards relax on their brutish play. But Hazen has no intention of keeping his promise. So Crewe is forced to show up Hazen and his guards. Leading to a final 15 minutes of some great football play.
A whole slew of then current and former NFL players appear on both sides of the field in this movie. If you were a football fan in the late 60’s and early 70’s you will probably recognize quite a few of them: Ray Ogden, Ernie Wheelwright, Pervis Atkins, Joe Kapp, Mike Henry, Joe Nicholson and of course the great Ray Nitschke, one of the players instrumental in helping the Green Bay Packers win the first two Super Bowls.
The Longest Yard was remade in the 2000’s with Adam Sandler in the Burt Reynolds role. Don’t make the mistake of confusing the two. The Reynolds movie is the real deal. Burt actually played football in college. Sandler probably couldn’t even have made the team as The Waterboy.
Jim Brymer, AKA Quiggy, runs the movie blog The Midnite Drive-In, check it out for more insights on other classic films.