"Why the Hell isn't this on DVD yet?" -- Volume 10
FAST BREAK (1979 Columbia) Starring Gabriel Kaplan, Bernard King, Mavis Washington, Michael Warren, Harold Sylvester, Reb Brown, Bert Remsen, Randee Heller. Directed by Jack Smight.
Today, The Horn Section remembers that special moment in time when one of television’s brightest stars made the leap to the big screen after three years of paying his dues in one of the most popular shows on television. He starred in a film that so belonged to the late Seventies that it would fit neatly into a time capsule. A film that told the story of a young Brooklyn man and his dream, a dream that suddenly appears to be within reach, if he can only muster the one big victory he needs as a springboard. A clichéd film, true, with a familiar and slight storyline, but one that briefly turned the former star of WELCOME BACK, KOTTER into one of the biggest movie stars in the country.
Oh, no, not him. I’m talking about the Great Gabe Kaplan.
|The great Gabe Kaplan|
But Kaplan has an ace in the hole: his streetballers in New York. After recruiting pool shark Bernard King and two guys with legal troubles (Michael Warren and Harold “Griff” Sylvester), he puts his recruiting skills to the ultimate test, and talks Mavis Washington (female college basketball and volleyball legend at UC Riverside in real life) into not only forgoing her existing scholarship, but masquerading as a guy, “Swish” in order to realize her own basketball dream. They pile into Gabe’s station wagon (the same car driven by Coach Kenny Reeves!) and head to Nevada.
Director Smight keeps the pace brisk and the tone breezy: while ONE ON ONE and BLUE CHIPS solemnly detail the shocking recruiting practices of college coaches, FAST BREAK plays the same shady recruiting for laughs throughout. The few serious interludes are brief and unintrusive. While no one will ever mistake Gabriel Kaplan for a great actor, he is always likable, a great asset in an overly recognizable and at times very implausible (A top-10 school scheduling a fledgling second-rate college in the middle of a season? Washington concealing her gender 24/7 for several months?) film. This would be Kaplan’s lone big-screen success: following the failures of TULIPS and NOBODY’S PERFEKT in 1981, Kaplan would turn to stage (triumphing as “Groucho”) and professional poker full-time.
So….why isn’t this on DVD?
There’s a million just like this one, it is dated, and it has some plot developments that are a bit hard to swallow.
Why it should be on DVD:
Ok, so there’s a million just like it. There’s a reason this sports movie formula gets repeated, over and over again: it works! Hell, to this day, they still look for true stories that fit the formula: witness MIRACLE and GLORY ROAD.
And what a great commentary we could have, with Gabe, who’s very informative and funny every time you see him on HIGH STAKES POKER; possible Hall of Famer Bernard King; collegiate two-sport legend Mavis Washington; and Harold Sylvester, for starters? A commentary is a must, dammit!
Finally, as unbelievable as it is, the Basketball Big Three of the late Seventies (ONE ON ONE and THE FISH THAT SAVED PITTSBURGH complete the trilogy) is Oh for 3 on DVD! How can this be? Hell, they should be available together in one boxed set, if possible! But, if I had to choose one:
red hot poker, I nominate FAST BREAK for DVD over ONE ON ONE because the latter is a hell of a lot more pretentious, while being just as implausible (i.e. Spradlin recruits Benson even though he doesn’t fit the system?). Case in point: a “sensitive” Seals and Crofts soundtrack, versus the uplifting, discofied “Go For It” by Billy Preston and Syreeta? I rest my case!
I’ll also nominate FAST BREAK over THE FISH as well. So they have Julius Erving and Meadowlark Lemon. I’ll counter with Bernard King (top 60 all time NBA player), Michael Warren (also NBA), USC footballer Reb Brown, Kaplan himself (who famously smoked Robert Conrad on BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS) and finally, Mavis Washington who adds gender equality in addition to her mad skills. Does THE FISH have a similar female basketball legend? Hell no! (As a side note, Mavis wuz robbed at the Oscars. I mean, Meryl Streep for KRAMER VS. KRAMER? WTF? Streep didn't even learn a new accent for that one!)
Gabe Kaplan, major movie star. Shouldn’t this moment be preserved on DVD for posterity? I vote yes!