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The Set-Up(1949)

Long considered one of the best boxing films ever made, this film noir has grown in stature over the years. Robert Ryan stars as an aging boxer facing his final fight. His wife (Audrey Totter) wants him to throw the match so he can retire unharmed. His manager (George Tobias) wants him to throw it so he can get a big pay-off from the mob. But Ryan wants to quit on his own terms, setting up a moral dilemma played out in the boxing ring. At the urging of RKO head Dore Schary, director Robert Wise had the story unfold in real time, three years before High Noon (1952) won rave reviews from the critics for doing the same. Cinematographer Milton Krasner melded film noir’s contrast of light and shadow with a documentary feel so effectively his work was honored at the Cannes Film Festival. This gritty, realistic tone caused it to suffer at the box office, losing out to more escapist fare. But its reputation has grown over time to make it one of the most treasured of all fight films. Martin Scorsese liked it so much, he had to make sure that he didn’t directly copy too much while filming Raging Bull (1980). (d. Robert Wise, 73m, 35mm)

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