Vintage Movies: “Slap Shot”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 100 titles—from the ’20s through the ’80s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.

Slap Shot (1977, 123 minutes)

A rare bird, a great sports movie, Slap Shot follows the Charlestown Chiefs, a struggling minor-league hockey team from western Pennsylvania as it tries to stay afloat in a town where the local mill is about to lay off 10,000 workers. Costume design here scores a hat trick, cherry-picking from a painted desert of bad mid-’70s fashion: loud sports jackets, wide-collared floral-print shirts and double-knit trousers.

With most of tonight’s sparse hometown crowd already booing the Chiefs’ players, the organist strikes up the National Anthem, a truncated instrumental version that goes from “Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight” directly to “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Before the game is two minutes old, the Chiefs’ goalie, looking like an epileptic fighting off a swarm of bees, has already let in two easy ones, with plenty more to come.

General Manager Joe McGrath (Strother Martin) orders aging player/coach Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman)—in full denial that his long, undistinguished hockey career is nearly over—to pick up three kids he’s just signed to beef-up the Chiefs’ roster.

Looking around the train station, Dunlop hears a thunderous crash in the lobby. He finds Jeff, Steve and Jack, the Hanson brothers, tipping over a Coke machine that has swallowed their quarter. All three, peering out from behind owlish, horn-rimmed glasses, are Joey Ramone clones. “We pay for you to stay here a week,” says Dunlop of their temporary quarters as the brothers unpack model Indy 500 cars and plastic dump-trucks from their luggage. “You think they show Speed Racer here?” asks one of the Hansons.

“Are you crazy, you cheap son of a bitch? Those guys are retards! They brought their fuckin’ toys with ’em!” roars Dunlop at McGrath. “I’d rather have them play with toys than play with themselves,” says McGrath. “They’re too dumb to play with themselves,” says Dunlop. As the Chiefs suit-up for a road game, Dunlop watches the Hansons tape something heavy under aluminum foil around their knuckles. “They don’t leave the bench,” he mutters, realizing the mayhem these young goons would cause in enemy territory.

McGrath forces some of his players to model boutique fashions down the runway of a local department store, the afternoon before a game. “I’m gonna flash ’em!” screams defenseman Johnny Upton (Allan Nicholls) at the GM. “I’m gonna open this faggot bathrobe and wiggle my dick at ’em! When I yank it out, everybody in that room is gonna be running for the exits! I want you to have a heart attack and die, so we never have to do this shit again!” McGrath stoically replies, “It’s good publicity.” But the high-pitched screams from the next room testify that Upton has already carried out his threat.

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