Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: North Dallas Forty

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, February 28, 2009

“Yep. I’d rather face Pittsburgh’s defensive line than one of Peter’s parties.”

The “Any Given Sunday” of 1979, and probably as controversial. I was willing to see Nick Nolte in any number of crappy movies after North Dallas Forty (I think I gave up after 48 hours).

RecommendationPossible Purchase
DirectorTed Kotcheff
WritersPeter Gent, Ted Kotcheff, Frank Yablans
Movie Rating6
Transfer Quality5
Overall Rating5
  • Enhanced Widescreen
Quarterback Sandwich

This is what you call a quarterback sandwich.

I don’t remember when or where I first saw North Dallas Forty. I do remember being very impressed. It was based on the novel of the same name by former Dallas Cowboy Peter Gent and was heavily autobiographical. Most of the major characters can be traced to another Cowboy; one of them is apparently played by the Cowboy who they were based on.

This is a movie that is beginning to overcome the formula of its time. The love interest is downplayed—we never got a stormy courtship, nor even a big kiss at the end. One scene they meet, a few scenes later in their second scene, they’re together. The movie wasn’t about love for anything other than football.

The tone is conversational, and the movie doesn’t abandon the conversational tone in order to explain exactly what everyone is thinking or exactly why everything is happening. As in real life, that’s for us to examine. The story is focussed firmly on Phil Elliott. There are no subplots. There is, however, a whole lot of subtext. This makes it, despite it definitely being a product of its time, a very rewatchable movie.

Nick Nolte is the star. He plays the character who, in the book, was the author’s autobiographical character, and he has all of the screen time. He’s a smart guy but a bit lost; there’s something going on in the management, and he never quite figures it out, even at the end of the movie. Because he never figures it out, it’s never explained to us, either. Were they trying to use him as a scapegoat at the end? He seems to think it’s just about the money, but we already know that football’s not a big money-maker.

North Dallas Steamroom

The best scenes are the football scenes. The whole thing seems to take place in about a one-week time period. Monday morning after the football game he wakes up in pain; and the film climaxes during the next Sunday’s football game in Chicago, in which we get to hear the game from the announcer’s point of view and both see and hear it from the players’s point of view. On the outside it’s clean, on the inside it’s ruthless.

It’s well worth seeing, both for its own sake and for a glimpse into the football of the late sixties and early seventies.

This is a very bare-bones DVD; the only thing that can really count as a special feature is that it contains both the original monaural audio and a new 5.1 track. It’s funny, at the bottom it says that “certain of its advanced features may not play on all machines”. What would those features be? The ability to choose a scene? To listen to the movie? To watch it? Or to read the subtitles? Those are all the special features listed on the back of the box, and I don’t see any more on the DVD itself.

Recommendation: Possible Purchase

DirectorTed Kotcheff
WritersPeter Gent, Ted Kotcheff, Frank Yablans
Based onNorth Dallas Forty (Book)
ActorsNick Nolte, Mac Davis
Length1 hour, 58 minutes
Spoken languageEnglish
More links

If you enjoyed North Dallas Forty…

For more about football, you might also be interested in The Waterboy.

For more about seventies, you might also be interested in Almost Famous, Boogie Nights, Detroit Rock City, Dick, All the President’s Men, Better for being ridden: the eternal lie of the anointed, Hobby Computer Handbook: From 1979 to 1981, and Hesperia Class of ’82.