Sports movies we need on DVD --''Oxford Blues'' and ''This Sporting Life'' are just some of the films we are dyin' for

Downhill Racer

Sports movies we need on DVD

That Robert Redford: what a vain, careerist jerk! All right, so this isn’t the image he’s cultivated, maybe because he was so scarily steely in this early role that he figured he should spend the subsequent decades warming us up. The future resort entrepreneur finds his ski legs as a would-be Olympian without much on his mind besides winning and women, to the chagrin of his coaches (the then more hirsute Gene Hackman and Dabney Coleman). Paramount has no DVD plans yet, but we’re holding out hope for the gold — and not just because Redford’s such a golden boy. — Chris Willman

Scrappy, reluctant boxer James Cagney goes big time to keep up with his sweetheart (Ann Sheridan), who’s dancing her way to the top. Between bouts, Cagney lends emotional support to his composer-in-the-making brother (Arthur Kennedy). Then comes the big match and…great hokum that would put a lump in your throat, if only you had the chance to watch it. (Warner just completed a restoration, but doesn’t have a release date yet.) Cagney — who hated director Anatole Litvak, calling him a ”squirrelly son of a bitch” — was displeased with the final film. Not to start a fight, Jimmy, but we don’t agree. — Tim Purtell

And in this corner, Errol Flynn, knockout handsome and bouncing with easy masculine gusto as boxer Jim Corbett, who rises from cocky bank clerk to cocky champ. Flynn has all the right moves in the ring — he was so energetic in the climactic bout with Ward Bond that he collapsed on the set. The movie’s such a blast, you’ll feel punchy afterward. And Warner has plans for a restored version, so get ready. — TP

It taught us that character wins races and that Rob Lowe is, in fact, as good as he looks. In his first lead, Lowe is Nick, an American rower/gold digger who enters Oxford to chase his dream: Lady Victoria (Amanda Pays). Naturally, she’s engaged to a top oarsman (Julian Sands), who, like the rest of the school — save a coxswain from Weehawken, N.J. (Ally Sheedy) — finds Lowe arrogant and useless until he’s needed to avenge a 25-year-old loss to Harvard. A Warner rep says a DVD release is ”under consideration,” and writer-director Robert Boris is already pondering extras: ”Rob and Julian sank with their scull into the freezing Thames,” he recalls. ”It was more than a blooper.” — Mandi Bierly

From the graphic opening shots of rugby players getting muddied, bloodied, and kicked in the teeth, it’s clear This Sporting Life isn’t going to be an uplifting ”win one for the Gipper” flick. A strapping Richard Harris, looking like Stanley Kowalski’s British twin, plays a loudmouthed bloke more at ease with his teammates than with the depressed widow he loves (Rachel Roberts). Bleak and moving, it’s one of the rare films that portray an athlete’s dark soul with honesty and depth. Criterion holds the rights, so Life could well get a new lease. (And speaking of the Gipper, Knute Rockne-All American will debut on DVD from Warner in 2006.) — TP

In another noir Brit pic, Tom Courtenay is Colin Smith, a rebel who winds up in reform school for robbing a bakery. He takes up running, at first in a phony bid to please the school’s stone-faced governor (Michael Redgrave), but when he breaks through the oppressive iron gates, he submits body and soul: His arms flail, his head bobs, his legs wobble, and the events of his checkered past flash before his eyes with remarkable clarity. And the defiant ending is unlike any you’ll ever see in a sports film. The DVD can currently be found at, and Warner is planning a rerelease in 2007. — Melissa Rose Bernardo

Downhill Racer
  • Movie
  • 101 minutes