Picks and Pans Review: All the Marbles

updated 11/23/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/23/1981 AT 01:00 AM EST

The people behind this film may have thought they had a women's Rocky on their hands. If they did, they've lost their marbles. Peter Falk is irritatingly miscast as the penny-pinching manager of the California Dolls, a two-woman wrestling tag team played by Vicki Frederick and Laurene Landon. They're trying to hustle from their nowhere Midwestern circuit to a big-money showdown with the Toledo Tigers. Falk imposes Pagliacci on his charges as they drive endlessly past industrial skylines and over bridges. Why? So he can sermonize, "He's just like us; he gotta hang in there even when his heart is breaking." It's enough to make you want to body-slam director Robert (The Longest Yard) Aldrich and scriptwriter Mel Frohman. But this film isn't merely dull. There is a racist overtone. The Dolls are sweet, statuesque surfer types. They fight clean. The Tigers, both black, bite, pull hair and stomp. The finale, while neatly choreographed by real pro wrestler Mildred Burke, is mostly an excuse to show women brutalizing women. When Falk stages a rally in Reno, with young boys chanting "We want the Dolls," the scene mirrors the film's puerile view of women as writhing, wriggling flesh in spandex. (R)

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