REVIEWED BY MIKE DORAN:


ALIAS THE CHAMP. Republic Pictures, 1949. Robert Rockwell, Barbra Fuller, Audrey Long, Jim Nolan, John Harmon, Sammy Menacker, Joseph Crehan, John Hamilton, Gorgeous George (George Wagner), Bomber Kulkovich (Henry Kulky). Director: George Blair.

    From Wikipedia:

    “George Raymond Wagner (March 24, 1915 – December 26, 1963) was an American professional wrestler best known by his ring name Gorgeous George. In the United States, during the First Golden Age of Professional Wrestling in the 1940s-1950s, Gorgeous George gained mainstream popularity and became one of the biggest stars of this period, gaining media attention for his outrageous character, which was described as flamboyant and charismatic.     […]

ALIAS THE CHAMP Gorgeous George

    “It was with the advent of television, however, that George’s character exploded into the biggest drawing card the industry had ever known. With the networks looking for cheap but effective programming to fill its time slots, pro wrestling’s glorified action became a genuine “hit” with the viewing public. […] [I]t was Gorgeous George who brought the sport into the nation’s living rooms, as his histrionics and melodramatic behavior made him a larger-than-life figure in American pop-culture.     […]

    “[I]t was Gorgeous George who single-handedly established television as a viable entertainment medium that could potentially reach millions of homes across the country (in fact, it is said that George was probably responsible for selling as many TV sets as Milton Berle).”

   In the comments following Michael Shonk’s review of The Hunter, the subject of wrestling came up, prompting me to take a quick look at at c2c DVD I have of Alias The Champ. With a 59-minute running time, little else was possible.

   Briefly, there’s this honest cop (Robert Rockwell, aka Our Miss Brooks’s dense boyfriend Mr. Boynton), who’s out to stop The Mob from taking over honest professional wrestling — brief pause while those of you who’ve fallen out of your chairs laughing can get back in — ­ with the aid of Gorgeous George’s beautiful female manager (Audrey Long).

   After clearing it with the police commissioner (John Hamilton, pre-Superman), Rockwell becomes de facto wrestling czar in order to battle the Mob Guy (Jim Nolan), who suborns a rival wrestler (Slammin’ Sammy Menacker, using his own name — bear this in mind as we proceed) in order to provoke and then discredit Gorgeous George.

ALIAS THE CHAMP Gorgeous George

   We first see GG in the ring with Bomber Kulkavich (aka Henry Kulky) in a match as close to “the real thing” as a movie can get; At its outset, we hear GG’s deathless line, spoken to the referee: “Get your filthy hands off my hair!”

   After winning this match, GG meets Rockwell, to whom he takes an immediate dislike, especially since he seems to be attracted to the pretty female manager (You may all feel free to make whatever inferences you wish, but this is a 1949 Republic programmer, so I’ll just stay on the surface).

   Anyway, there are some more confrontations between GG and Menacker, including one at a gym that turns into a free-for-all with the added participation of other wrestlers (including the Super Swedish Angel – Tor Johnson), resulting in the Big Match – which ends up with Menacker dead, and GG accused of his murder.

ALIAS THE CHAMP Gorgeous George

   Yes, Slammin’ Sammy Menacker was an actual pro wrestler (you might remember him as one of the strongmen who did the tug-o-war with Mighty Joe Young {along with Henry Kulky, op cit.}), and he gets “killed off” in this movie.

   So anyway, Menacker is “dead,” GG is in jail, and it’s up to Rockwell to clear him and restore honest wrestling’s reputation. Rockwell does this with the aid of “new technology” — the film of the televised match that was made for the East! (The word kinescope wasn’t used.)

   I’ve condensed the daylights out of this plot, so as not to spoil it for so many of you who might want to track it down. As to the acting … no, it’s too easy.

ALIAS THE CHAMP Gorgeous George

   But I should mention the director, George Blair, a Republic workhorse who went on, a few years later, to a regular stint on TV’s Adventures Of Superman.

   And I do want to quote another of Gorgeous George’s classic lines, just after one of the face-offs with Menacker, delivered to his concerned lady manager:

   “Come, little one. It’s time for my marcelle.”

   I make no judgement. This one you gotta see for yourself.

Editorial Comment: Alias the Champ was the first and only film in which Gorgeous George was to appear.

ALIAS THE CHAMP Gorgeous George