Monday, November 22, 2010

Film Review: GLORY DAYS (1988)

"Why the Hell isn't THIS on DVD yet?" -- Number 48


GLORY DAYS (1988 CBS-TV) Starring Robert Conrad, Jennifer O’Neil, Shane Conrad, Ed O’Ross, Stacy Edwards, Pamela Gidley. Directed by Robert Conrad

Robert Conrad is a self-made businessman who has been successful beyond his wildest dreams, able to retire in his early fifties. Perhaps inspired by Rodney Dangerfield, he elects to rectify his biggest regret and go back to college with his son, Shane Conrad (imagine that). He immediately gets the hang of it--as old Bob explains, U.S. tire regulations are a lot more confusing than the classwork. The elder Conrad elects to emulate Thornton Melon further by joining his son athletically on the football team, which seems to be about as successful as Grand Lakes University’s diving team. That is, until injuries force the elder Conrad into action as the team’s new starting quarterback. The team goes on a winning streak as Robert threatens the league’s passing record(!), and charms the comely Gidley in the process, putting a strain on his marriage with O’Neil.
Everybody loves this guy!  Everybody!!!

Very few things in this world are funnier than a vanity project that gets out of hand. Witness the word of mouth that caused 2003’s barely released THE ROOM to become a sensation as possibly the worst film of the 21st century so far. Yes, I realize that Dangerfield saved the day in BACK TO SCHOOL, but that film was played completely for laughs.  Conrad is serious!  In GLORY DAYS, the erstwhile Eveready spokesman asks us to believe that he can play quarterback in college at 5’7” AND (at least) his early fifties, with a throwing motion that makes Charlie Hough's look like Dan Marino's.  And not just playing, mind you, but establishing himself as conference MVP despite not picking up a football for 30-odd years. The WILD, WILD WEST star is a much better actor than director, as he fails to make any of the football sequences look any more convincing than his passing.

Y'ever....seen a show called Hawaiian Eye?

No worries about going “middle age crazy” or letting the adulation get out of hand, though. He might be the savior of the coach, team, school and the oldest B.M.O.C. in history, but his essential morality wins out. Conrad bypasses a chance to prove he’s still “got it” with Gidley and elects to stay, not stray. Jennifer O’Neil fans can rest easy. Then with his son sufficiently recovered from the injury, Robert graciously walks to the sideline a few yards shy of the league record(!) to let the younger Conrad (then 17 and just starting his own acting career) take his turn in the spotlight. Tough, talented, athletic, agelessly virile, a terrific student---and humble.  What a guy!

In a world where misfired vanity projects provide copious amounts of unintentional hilarity, GLORY DAYS deserves rediscovery. Although he co-directed THE BANDITS in 1967, DAYS remains Conrad’s only feature-length effort as solo director. Aside from this one telefilm his efforts behind the camera would be limited to his numerous series (BAA BAA BLACK SHEEP, HIGH MOUNTAIN RANGERS). It’s easy to see why when giggling your way through this one.

So…..why isn’t this on DVD?

Movies made for television in the 1970’s and 1980’s continue to have a low batting average in getting released, even the high quality productions.

Going back to college in your late middle age ain't easy, at least not in DVD land.  Dangerfield's BACK TO SCHOOL is available, but Bing Crosby's HIGH TIME (1960) joins Conrad's effort on the sidelines.

Why it should be on DVD:

It's comedy gold, people.  Name any unsuccessful attempt at looking like a quarterback you can think of: the aforementioned Sandler (THE LONGEST YARD), Charlton Heston (NUMBER ONE), even Alan Alda as George Plimpton in PAPER LION. Conrad provides more laughs than any of them without even trying.  To be fair, he was far older--59 when GLORY DAYS was filmed, according to court documents from his 2003 trial).

Acting, directing, producing. About the only thing Conrad didn’t do in this one was go out for the track team and avenge his Battle of the Network Stars loss to Gabe Kaplan, but I guess you can't have everything.  Still, GLORY DAYS is highly recommended for those of you who love finding humor in unlikely places.

1 comment:

Frost said...

Give ol' Conrad a break. There's no way he could pull off something as spectacular as a Triple Lindy with those Eveready batteries on his shoulder.