I'd probably never have known about "Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story" had a friend not told me about it, nor would I have been inclined to watch it were it not for my being able to consistently trust his recommendations.
Despite its subject matter (which I would normally find less-than-intriguing), I thought it was extraordinarily well-done. The contemporary music selections and newsreel clips were well chosen and added immeasurably to the mise en scene. And that final reconciliation scene between Griffith and the son of the boxer who died after fighting Griffith packed a well-earned emotional wallop.
Griffith is a sad case - certainly not meant for the career that ultimately pretty much destroyed his life. He seems a person of genuine charm and a certain gentleness - not what many might associate with the personality of a champion professional boxer. I was surprised how, in the final sequences, the makers didn't shrink from discussing the gay aspect of the story, even while Griffith seems to still be disavowing that he's actually gay.
The widow of Benny "The Kid" Paret was quite a camera subject, very expressive, and Sadie Griffith, Emile's left-behind wife, is still quite a dazzler - what a smile! (Though that close-cropped hairdo wasn't very flattering.)
Previously I knew nothing about Griffith and his story and was certainly grateful that the USA Network chose to show it uninterrupted, since I suspect that I may not have stayed with it had it been constantly cut into for the usual number of commercials.
I have a complaint about the title, though. "Ring of Fire" has been used a number of times, including for an Andrew and Virginia Stone potboiler from 1961, released by M-G-M. (IMDb erroneously says the aspect ratio is 2.35:1, but I saw it in a theater and it was not a widescreen movie). It starred the then-popular David Janssen and was filmed in Metrocolor in and around Vernonia, Oregon, not too far from where I now live. I thought the documentary makers ought to have come up with something more original and, perhaps, a trifle more appropriate to Griffith's sad story.
I understand, from the Message Boards on this film's IMDb title site that the story may be filmed by Paramount (in conjunction with the USA Network) as a major motion picture. They should leave well enough alone, especially since I can imagine the rap "star" or some other currently "hot" black personality who'll probably get the title role. Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, perhaps. Puh-LEEZ!
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