CHAMPION [1949 / 2021] [EUREKA! Entertainment] [Blu-ray] [UK Release]
A Totally Knockout of a Movie!

The brutal and uncompromising ‘CHAMPION’ earned Kirk Douglas his first ever Oscar nomination and was a huge success for director Mark Robson (‘Von Ryan’s Express’ and ‘Valley of the Dolls’).

Michael “Midge” Kelly [Kirk Douglas] is a boxer whose fight to the top is unhampered by ethics or gratitude. A hero to his fans, his friends know him to be a selfish egomaniac who allows nothing to stand in his way. After winning a fight Michael "Midge" Kelly was supposed to throw the fight, and Michael "Midge" Kelly's life is threatened by the mob, and he is only saved through the intervention of a woman who becomes yet another pawn in his climb up the ladder. Ultimately, Michael "Midge" Kelly is forced to re-enter the ring and confront his biggest opponent... himself.

Fully restored and featuring gorgeous black and white cinematography by Franz F. Planer, A.S.C. (‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’), the Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present ‘CHAMPION’ on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.


“The boxing scenes are thrillingly realised, with a visceral immediacy that long predates the likes of Raging Bull, all brought together with exhilarating energy by Oscar-winning editor Harry W Gerstad” – Little White Lies

“Kirk Douglas here gives one of the definitive performances of his career” – Radio Times

“A brilliant boxing film and a reminder of the sheer physical presence of Kirk Douglas.” – Irish News

FILM FACT No.1: Awards and Nominations: 1949 Venice Film Festival: Nominated: Golden Lion Award for Mark Robson. 1950 Academy Awards®: Win: Best Film Editing for Harry Gerstad. Nominated: Best Actor in a Leading Role for Kirk Douglas. Nominated: Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Arthur Kennedy. Nominated: Best Writing or Screenplay for Carl Foreman. Nominated: Best Cinematography in Black-and-White for Franz Planer. Nominated: Best Music or Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture for Dimitri Tiomkin. 1950 Directors Guild of America: Nominated: DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures for Mark Robson. 1950 Golden Globes: Win: Best Cinematography in Black-and-White for Franz Planer. Nominated: Most Promising Female Newcomer for Ruth Roman. 1950 Writers Guild of America: Nominated: WGA Award (Screen) for Best Written American Drama for Carl Foreman.

FILM FACT No.2: Several clips from the film were used in the Kirk Douglas' 1999 film ‘Diamonds’ to illustrate his character's career as a boxer. Until his death in 2020 at age 103, Kirk Douglas was the last surviving cast member. RKO Radio Pictures sued the filmmakers claiming similarities between this film and ‘The Set Up.’ The film opened at the Globe Theatre in New York City on the 9th April, 1949 and grossed $41,000 in its opening week.

Cast: Kirk Douglas, Marilyn Maxwell, Arthur Kennedy, Paul Stewart, Ruth Roman, Lola Albright, Luis Van Rooten, Harry Shannon, John Daheim, Ralph Sanford, Esther Howard, Bill Baldwin (uncredited), Sam Balter (uncredited), Polly Bergen (uncredited), Don Brodie (uncredited), Ralph Brooks (uncredited), Mushy Callahan (uncredited), Sayre Dearing (uncredited), Paul Dubov (uncredited), Jimmie Dundee (uncredited), Joe Gray (uncredited), Chuck Hamilton (uncredited), Mike Lally (uncredited), Hal March (uncredited), George Meader (uncredited), Ralph Montgomery (uncredited), Forbes Murray (uncredited), Jack Perry (uncredited), Tim Ryan (uncredited), Court Shepard (uncredited), Charles Sherlock (uncredited), Hilda Simms (uncredited) and Charles Sullivan (uncredited)

Director: Mark Robson

Producers: Robert Stillman and Stanley Kramer

Screenplay: Carl Foreman (screenplay) and Ring Lardner (story “Champion”)

Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin

Costume and Wardrobe Department: Adele Parmenter (wardrobe: ladies) and Joe King (wardrobe: men)

Make-up Department: Gus Norin

Hair Stylist: Gertrude Wheeler

Cinematography: Franz F. Planer, A.S.C. (Director of Photography)

Image Resolution: 1080p (Black and White)

Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1

Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Running Time: 98 minutes

Region: Region B/2

Number of discs: 1

Studio: United Artists / EUREKA! Entertainment

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: With the film ‘CHAMPION’ [1949] we find Michael "Midge" Kelly [Kirk Douglas] is about to fight the biggest fight of his illustrious career, a real ‘rags-to-riches’ story. This has earned him thousands of followers and the arena is packed to capacity. This is how he got to this moment in time.

Michael "Midge" Kelly and his brother Connie [Arthur Kennedy] are men with a future, a future running a diner. But they have to get from Chicago to California, and with funds low they try riding the cargo trains, but the pair of them are set about and robbed. They are both thrown off the train and have to settle for thumbing it. Along this journey they are picked up by Johnny Dunne [John Daheim] and his girlfriend Grace Diamond [Marilyn Maxwell]. Johnny Dunne seems a nice enough fella, for a guy that is heading for the top of the boxing upper echelons, unlike Grace Diamond who looks down her nose at the destitute pair. But they have high hopes.

Johnny Dunne takes them as far as Kansas City, where Johnny Dunne is fighting that night; and he suggests that Michael "Midge" Kelly should try waiting tables at the venue, worth a try they think. But Michael "Midge" Kelly doesn’t take rejection well, and he ends up with an offer to earn $35 if you last four rounds in the ring, sure.

Michael "Midge" Kelly can take a punch, but he can’t land one, but his grit does not go unnoticed as Tommy Haley [Paul Stewart] tells him when he gets to California he should look him up at Brady’s Gym. Michael "Midge" Kelly passes it off as him and Connie will soon be hard at work running the diner.

The diner’s owner, Lew Bryce [Harry Shanon] offers them jobs, but warns them to stay away from his daughter Emma [Ruth Roman]. Michael "Midge" Kelly is immediately attracted to the pretty girl, and can’t help romancing her. After being forced to marry Emma, he takes off and decides to track down a trainer who had seen him box in that impromptu bout in Kansas City. Though initially reluctant, Tommy Haley agrees to take Michael "Midge" Kelly on. Under the tutelage of Tommy Haley [Paul Stewart], Michael "Midge" Kelly gains the necessary skills to be a boxer, and begins his ascent up the ranks.

Later, Michael "Midge" Kelly refuses to throw a fight as the syndicate instructs him. Instead, he wins the fight by beating his opponent to a pulp. Socially, Michael "Midge" Kelly uses Grace [Marilyn Maxwell], and then dumps her for the beautiful wife Palmer [Lola Albright] of his new boss, who in turn proves that he could be persuaded by money to end the affair. Despite all of that, Michael "Midge" Kelly it turns out isn’t really that bad of a guy after all. Yes, he’s awful when it comes to relationships with women, but aside from that, all he really wants is to be liked and respected. While this realization undercuts some of the film’s dramatic impact, Kirk Douglas’s performance still makes the film ‘CHAMPION’ a must-see.

Eventually, we find out that it is all about rise and fall of a sports star is a compelling drama as any and is the focus in Mark Robson’s film ‘CHAMPION,’ and based on the short story by American sports columnist and author, Ring Lardner. A fictionalised account of a man who rises through the ranks from a life of poverty into a boxing superstar is the kind of underdog story you can easily get behind. However inviting the storyline may be, it doesn’t hide or gloss over who is used or sacrificed in the making of a champion which is where this film grabs the viewer by the lapels.

For me personally, I have never been a massive fan of boxing, but the film ‘CHAMPION’ it made this particular sport a very emotional experience watching the film, but also the end of the film was a totally shocking emotional moment at the end what happens to Michael “Midge” Kelly who went thought such a dramatic experience throughout the film and battled so hard to get to where he climbed to be at the top of his game in the boxing fraternity and it is a film not to be missed.


NEVER BE IT SAID (Written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Goldie Goldmark) [Sung by Polly Bergen] (uncredited)

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Blu-ray Image Quality – United Artists and EUREKA! Entertainment presents us the film ‘CHAMPION’ with a brand new black-and-white high-definition 1080p presentation and is enhanced with a wonderful 1.37:1 aspect ratio. Grain exposure is very nice and there are no traces of problematic digital adjustments. From time to time grain can appear slightly overexposed or underexposed, but all of the visuals, including the ones that reveal the age of the master, have a very pleasing appearance and the entire master is very nicely graded, too. Blacks are stable and lush but not boosted, while greys and whites appear nicely balanced. Aside from some minor tweaks that can rebalance the whites and selected highlights, I think that the grayscale is already wonderful. Image stability is very good. Lastly, from time to time you will notice a few minor specks and even a couple of larger scratches, but they are not at all distracting. To sum up, what you get from this release is a very solid organic presentation of the film ‘CHAMPION.’ Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – United Artists and EUREKA! Entertainment brings us the film ‘CHAMPION’ with just one standard 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio. The audio has not been recently remastered, but there are no technical anomalies to report. The dialogue is very clean, stable, nicely rounded, and easy to follow. The music breathes quite easily throughout the film, though there are no big shifts in terms of dynamic intensity. Also, there are no pops, audio dropouts, or digital distortions to report and especially for a film released in 1949.

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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Special Feature: Audio Commentary by Jason A. Ney [2021] [1080p] [1.37:1] [98:43] With this featurette, we get to listen to this engaging new audio commentary that was recorded by Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney, and the film starts, Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney introduces himself and of course is here to talk in-depth about the 1949 film ‘CHAMPION’ that of course stars Kurt Douglas as Michael “Midge” Kelly. On top of all that, Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney informs us that he is a professor of literature and film and also is a writer in the publication NOIR CITY Magazine. Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney also says that the film ‘CHAMPION’ it the best boxing movie ever made, and as we watch the film Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney will explain why as we view the film. The film ‘CHAMPION’ made Kurt Douglas a Hollywood star and also launched producer Stanley Kramer and director Mark Robson into the “A” list. Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney also feels the film has a very historical significant with United Artists and informs us that it is a boxing “film noir,” and also says that we are seeing here, the film is deliberately introducing Michael “Midge” Kelly without revealing his face, but with his name on his back “Midge Kelly” and also with the two people with him, and the excitement of the roar of the crowds greeting the boxing hero. But also points out that it is the start of the film that starts in present day, and then most of the film concentrates on Michael “Midge” Kelly’s flashback on how Michael “Midge” Kelly got to the top of his game in the boxing ring, and when we get to the time 3:05 we finally get to see the face of Michael “Midge” Kelly who of course is Kurt Douglas and then finally the film goes into Michael “Midge” Kelly’s flashback in struggling to be the best boxer ever to appear in the boxing ring. Then Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney gets to talk about the actress Marilyn Maxwell who plays the character Grace Diamond, and the actress dyed her hair platinum blond for the role in the film, but at this point in the film, the actress was more known for being a singer and has performed with Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby, but the actress was more desperate to have an acting career in films, and Marilyn Maxwell also performed alongside Bob Hope overseas tours for the American troops in the Second World War. A t this point in the film I will only be doing certain highlights of this Then Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney’s audio commentary with the more interesting information about the film ‘CHAMPION’ and also points out in the film there are a lot of crooked deals going on and feels either Michael “Midge” Kelly should either go along with these crooked deals or should he walk away, but sadly Michael “Midge” Kelly is totally broke and has to go along with the crooked deals, as he is desperate to be the top of the game in the boxing ring. Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney says that the actor Kurt Douglas does some incredible physical comedy especially in the ring with his first fight, showcasing how unpolished Michael “Midge” Kelly with his first fight in the boxing ring, at 11:25 time Michael “Midge” Kelly gets his first encounter with a rotten corrupt side of boxing. At 12:47 time we finally get to see the famous restaurant “Neptune's Net” in Malibu, California that Michael “Midge” Kelly and his brother is supposed to be part owners with the establishment that is situated on the California Pacific Highway and the restaurant is a real place that is a landmark and has been featured in countless television and film productions and dates back to the 1930’s and was originally was a speakeasy. Then we finally get to me Ruth Roman who plays the character Emma who works in the “Neptune's Net” we get the start of a love triangle that plays out with Enna, Michael “Midge” Kelly and Connie played by Arthur Kennedy. Then Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney now talks about the cinematographer Franz F. Planer, A.S.C. [1894 – 1963] and was an Austrian-born in Karlsbad, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic) who was also had trained as a portrait painter, but realizing that photography was becoming very popular, and would replace the requirement for talented artists changed his career path. He changed direction into films, and thus began his career as a director of photography for films in Germany and later throughout Europe in the early 1900’s until 1933, and with the rise of Hitler and the Nazi regime, in 1937, he left the Austrian film industry, and escaped to America to begin work in Hollywood and he shot over 130 movies, including ‘Letter from an Unknown Woman’ [1948], ‘The Big Country’ [1958] and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany's’ [1961] to name just a few, and also got Nominated for Cinematography on five films and they included ‘CAMPION’ [1949], ‘Death of a Salesman’ [1951], ‘Roman Holiday’ [1953], ‘The Nun's Story’ [1959] and ‘The Children's Hour’ [1961] and Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney felt Franz F. Planer, A.S.C. always contributed professionally towards any “film noir.” Now Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney now goes into the history of Michael “Midge” Kelly’s background at 17 years of age where he beat up his kid brother Connie [Arthur Kennedy], and then Michael “Midge” Kelly beats up his mother to the ground Mrs. Margaret Kelly [Esther Howard] who Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney thinks is a wonderful actress and complains that the actress is not featured in a lot of films, and then runs away from home to become a boxer, and of course we get to see why the character Michael “Midge” Kelly is determined to be the best boxer in his profession, which we see as we view the whole film, but we also get to see a film that shows the boxing fight matches are totally brutal and corrupt. At chapter 5 at around 30:28 time we finally get to view Kirk Douglas as Michael “Midge” Kelly and his extensive training montage to be able to be the best boxer in the boxing ring, it is also fair to say this film made Kirk Douglas a Hollywood star, but also most importantly, this film launched Staley Kramer’s career in the film business. At chapter 5 we finally get to meet Mrs. Margaret Kelly who of course is Michael “Midge” Kelly mother which is a short moment in the film where Michael “Midge” Kelly has just bought a house for his mother with his winnings of a fight he has just won, so at this moment in the film Michael “Midge” Kelly has not lost his way. Also a bit further on in the film, we see Michael “Midge” Kelly has moved up in the world and has a swanky new apartment with his brother Connie in New York City. At chapter 6, we get to see why Michael “Midge” Kelly did not play by the rules of the corrupt mob in being told not to win the fight against Johnny Dunne [John Daheim] but was credit in the film as John Day, and we see his manager Haley [Paul Stewart] helping Michael “Midge” Kelly to escape the brutal corrupt mob who want to beat up Michael “Midge” Kelly for winning the boxing match, we finally see Michael “Midge” Kelly trying to fight off the mob in the boxing ring and tries his best, but unfortunately the corrupt mob beat up Michael “Midge” Kelly really bad and eventually ends up unconscious, but instead he becomes a hero for standing up against the corrupt mob and in the eyes of the public. At chapter 7 we see Michael “Midge” Kelly is in the office of Harris [Luis van Rooten] where he is bribing Michael “Midge” Kelly with a large sum of money to be his manager and now is dumping his original manger Haley and is too weak to say no to the massive amount of money, and now Michael “Midge” Kelly is now becoming rotten and corrupt like everyone else in the boxing fraternity, and when he finally meets Haley and informs him that he has been dumped as his manager, and where Haley in return calls Michael “Midge” Kelly a “Golem” is sculptured from Jewish folk law, because now Michael “Midge” Kelly is weak and who ever possess him can pull his strings at will. At chapter 9, Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney now talks about Kirk Douglas’s career and what made the actor want to play the character Michael “Midge” Kelly. Which turns out to the outbreak of his career and his start of his Hollywood film career began when Hal Wallis signed him up for a 5 picture deal, but initially turned the deal down, wanting to pursue a stage acting career, because he felt insecure, because he didn’t see himself as a movie actor, and as Kirk Douglas was slowly running out of money, and stage plays were thing on the ground and so quickly got back to Hal Wallis and his first film part was in the film ‘The Strange Love of Martha Ives’ [1946] where he played the character Walter O’Neil and also starred the actress Barbra Stanwyck as Martha Ives. We find out that Paramount Films informed Kirk Douglas that if he wanted to be in a film of theirs, he had to have his dimple on his chin filled in, so Kirk Douglas replied back to them, “Either the dimple stays or he left” and of course the dimple stayed for the rest of his acting career, and Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney also informs us that Kirk Douglas wanted to take more control over his is movie acting career, and descried to break his contract with Hal Wallis. At a certain point in the film, Michael “Midge” Kelly enters a room where his new manager Harris hands him a massive cheque payment, and now shows us that Michael “Midge” Kelly is now just as callous and mean minded, because of his obsession with money and nothing else counts in his life and could not care less about any ones else’s feelings, and is now in the driver’s seat. At chapter 11 we are nearing the end of the film and we see Michael “Midge” Kelly in his fight of the century to be crowned king of the boxing ring. Now Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney now wants to talk about the director Mark Robson, Born in Montreal, he attended Roslyn Elementary School and Westmount High School in Montreal.[3] He later studied at the University of California, Los Angeles and Pacific Coast University School of Law. Mark Robson then found work in the prop department at 20th Century Fox studios. His first job was at RKO Pictures as a film librarian and earned 66 cents an hour and eventually became an assistant film editor and now earned the wonderful sum of $1.25 an hour, and in 1940, he worked as an assistant to Robert Wise on the editing of ‘Citizen Kane’ [1941] and was the film debut of Orson Welles. Mark Robson and Robert Wise also edited Orson Welles' next movie, ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ [1942[, and made drastic cuts to the ending of the film, which Orson Welles disagreed with. Mark Robson was promoted to editor for The Falcon's Brother (1942), an RKO B picture. Mark Robson then edited ‘Journey into Fear’ [1943], made by Orson Welles' company and the editing was again done without Orson Welles' involvement. Mark Robson then worked on the following films and the first was ‘Cat People’ [1942], then ‘I Walked with a Zombie’ [1943] and then ‘The Leopard Man’ [1943]. Then went onto direct ‘The Seventh Victim’ [1943], so then went onto to direct ‘The Ghost Ship’ [1943] and then ‘The Curse of the Cat People’ [1944]. Now Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney is now back talking about the film ‘CHAMPION’ where Michael “Midge” Kelly now gets beaten to a pulp in his last boxing fight, and he sees Grace in the audience looking at him and it goads him into really battle to the bitter end to win the boxing match, and folks it is really a boxing match one should see, and how a boxing film by director Mark Robson should be made in such an amazing way, and Mark Robson made the right decision to direct the film ‘CHAMPION,’ and the film helped Mark Robson to go onto other big box office hits. But sadly Mark Robson was not very well known as a director, especially with films like ‘The Bridges at Toko-Ri’ [1955], ‘Peyton Place’ [1957], ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness’ [1958], ‘The Prize’ [1963], ‘Von Ryan's Express’ [1965], ‘Valley of the Dolls’ [1967], ‘Earthquake’ [1974] and ‘Avalanche Express’ [1979]. Now Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney says as we near the end of the film and we fee Kurt Douglas is in the dressing room and feeling top of the world after the fight of the century, and director Mark Robson showing the character Michael “Midge” Kelly really in an emotional psychological and physical collapse in the scene in the dressing room and sadly Michael “Midge” Kelly realises he took the wrong route into corruption in the boxing fraternity. Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney also says that the film ‘CHAMPION’ had such staying power and in 1954 United Artists re-released the film and eventually it raked in nearly $18,000,000 compared to the $ 500,000 it cost to make the film, and sadly today it is not a very well-known boxing film, where it should be, and especially as it is a boxing “film noir” and the film has been quoted as: ‘CHAMPION’ remains exceptional film, it is brutal, realistic and uncompromising, end quote, and Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney agrees 100% with that quote and that is why he is thankful for the opportunity to talk about the film ‘CHAMPION’ and why more people should appreciate the film, and so he hopes this audio commentary provides you with the meaningful prospectus and especially the people who made the film, so until the next time, thanks for listening, and at that point the audio commentary by Professor and Film Scholar Jason A. Ney ends, and to me it was a very interesting and fascinating into the whole concept of the film ‘CHAMPION.’                                 

Special Feature: Stills Gallery: With this featurette, we get to view a collection of 52 wonderful 1080p black-and-white promotional materials for the film ‘CHAMPION’ and also Kurt Douglas as the character of Michael “Midge” Kelly, plus we get to view 11 wonderful colour images, mainly of the film poster for the film ‘CHAMPION.’    

PLUS: FIRST PRESSING ONLY: A beautiful collectors 28 page booklet featuring new writing on the film ‘CHAMPION’ by critic Richard Combs entitled HOW TO BUILD A GOLEM CHAMPION. A piece on boxing in the cinema by author and screenwriter S. B. Caves entitled IN THE RING, ON THE SCREEN: BOXING AND CINEMA. Viewing Notes. Special Note. Blu-ray Credits. Plus lots of wonderful black-and-whites images from the film ‘CHAMPION.’

BONUS: Reversible printed Blu-ray sleeve featuring a stunning black-and-white scenes from the film ‘CHAMPION.’

Finally, ‘CHAMPION’ isn’t a boxing film of great complexity or ambition. The story it has to tell, is “a story that could only have been lived in the fight game,” and is simple and forthright. But it’s told so well — both by the cast and by the team behind the camera — that it’s addictively watchable and completely absorbing from beginning to end. The film is also riveting drama unmasking the ups and downs of the fight game and the impact it has on those around them, and the film ‘CHAMPION’ gives us an insight into what it takes to be the champ in the boxing ring. Overall then, though there isn’t a great amount of supplemental material, what we have is of great value, so the release still comes out on top. Very Highly Recommended!            

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado 
Le Cinema Paradiso 
United Kingdom

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