Carnera: The Walking Mountain (2008)
Though boxer Primo Carnera appeared in nearly twenty films his career consisted mostly of cameos, battling everyone from Mighty Joe Young to Steve Reeves. Perhaps his more lasting contribution to cinema was serving as the inspiration for Requiem for a Heavyweight and The Harder They Fall. Though Carnera would unsuccessfully sue the makers of the latter film, in which a lumbering giant of a boxer is exploited by the mob, the similarities are inescapable.
Opening with his successful tilt at boxing’s Heavyweight Championship, the biopic subtlety cues a flashback when Carnera’s inaudible narration informs us that “maybe, I better start from the beginning”. After a brief visit to his home town of Sequals Italy, we find Carnera in a travelling circus as their resident strongman. An ex-boxer recognises his potential and before long the 'Ambling Alp' is knocking out all comers, not knowing that his manager has fixed most of his bouts.
In this role, F. Murray Abraham pitches his performance to the cheap seats, with no line too small that it doesn’t warrant some sort of flourish. He leads a strong supporting cast that includes Paul Sorvino in a nothing part as a circus owner and boxing pic fixture Burt Young as a mobster frontman. As Carnera, Andrea Iaia brings the right dimensions to the title role both from a physical standpoint and as an innocent caught up in the machinations of the boxing world.
Despite an over-reliance on VFX, writer/director Renzo Martinelli gives the film a distinctive look, in which facsimiles of black and white newsreels dissolve into scenes. Unfortunately, some VFX shots look about as fake as a Carnera knockdown and are as distracting as the succession of long slow-motion ten-counts that accompany each bout.
Max Baer, Carnera's final opponent in the biopic, had a significant film career himself, starring opposite Myrna Loy in The Prizefighter and the Lady and featuring in the aforementioned The Harder They Fall. Coincidentally, both of these characters fought Primo Carnera in one fashion or another. In his first role as Steve Morgan, Baer battled the real Primo Carnera for the Heavyweight title. In his later role, he beats Carnera stand-in Tony Moreno so badly that the giant boxer gives up fighting for good.
Carnera on the other hand continued boxing for more than ten years after his bout with Baer. He then took up a sport where the outcome was always on the level – professional wrestling.
Primo Carnera fought Young Stribling twice. In the first bout, at the Royal Albert Hall in London, Carnera and Stribling knocked each other down in the third round, while in the fourth Carnera went down to what claimed was a low blow. Carnera was awarded that fight, but Stribling won their rematch after Carnera was disqualified for punching after the bell ending the seventh round.
This Carnera-Stribling fight depicted in this biopic doesn’t resemble either stoush.
Biopic doesn’t cover any of Carnera’s film appearances, but it does faithfully recreate his title fight with Max Baer.