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From 1974's "The Longest Yard."

The Longest Yard 

March 9, 2023


Robert Aldrich



Burt Reynolds
Eddie Albert
Ed Lauter
Mike Conrad






2 Hrs., 1 Min.


he Longest Yard (1974) acquaints us with the more toxic elements of its protagonist’s machismo first. The movie opens with the guy — a disgraced-for-point-shaving quarterback named Paul (Burt Reynolds) — hitting his wealthy girlfriend (Anitra Ford), who’d been “nagging” him; then he steals her car and incites a police chase through the Palm Beach streets. He, of course, crashes the car. He

also is quickly sentenced to 18 months in prison, a quasi-neutering stitched up when the warden unceremoniously shaves off the mustache that’d been a hallmark for both the character and the actor playing him. 


The Longest Yard doesn’t head into earnest redemption-story territory; it’s most of all a comedy celebrating Reynolds’ star persona, which, aside from the naked upper lip, is in maybe its most pristine form here, defined by knowing line deliveries, easy sexiness, and a tinge of assholery. The latter is a little more pronounced in this movie, though, and I wouldn’t say it’s exactly romanticized, even though Paul will become a kind of anti-authority hero in the film’s narrative.

The movie, written by Tracy Keenan Wynn and directed by the then-in-need-of-a-hit Robert Aldrich, is set almost entirely at the prison where Paul will spend the next year and a half. It makes clear from the jump that the people and industrial complex keeping the place humming are in no way morally superior to the men they keep under lock and key. The authority figure especially subjected to The Longest Yard’s ire is the prison’s warden, Rudolph (Eddie Albert), who is a football fanatic and wants Paul to shape up the semi-professional football team (comprising prison wardens) he manages. 


Rudolph is awful and tyrannical, though, so Paul instead assembles a competing team of inmates he calls The Mean Machine. Once a head-to-head opportunity arises, Rudolph tries to blackmail Paul and his team into a loss; the movie’s last act is a superbly shot football game adrenalized by unusually high stakes. Strokes stay broad throughout the movie; questionable, too, is how it positions its few women characters. The Longest Yard is best enjoyed for the way it complements the platonic ideal of a star persona whose at-one-time refreshing irreverence would only retain its freshness a little while longer. B

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