THE LORD'S OF FLATBUSH,, 1974
Cast: Perry King, Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler, Paul Mace, Susan Blakely
A group of kids in Brooklyn form a gang. From this moment on they do everything together. This makes things easier but at the same time they have to face new problems.
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After the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam War and Watergate, nostalgia for the ďsimplerĒ times of the 1950s became a cultural phenomenon during the mid-1970s. Of course, there were plenty of problems then too, but looking back twenty years later with rose-colored glasses, people decided to focus on their own coming of age stories, choosing to gloss over, if not ignore completely, the racial strife, McCarthyism and the threat of nuclear war that defined the decade. Beginning with the release, and massive success, of George Lucasí American Graffiti (1973) and continuing with the television show ďHappy DaysĒ, longing for this, seemingly, more innocent time in our nationís history was at an all-time high. This led to a rash of other films eager to capitalize on the craze; one of these films, The Lordís of Flatbush (1974), is now remembered more because of its then unknown cast, some of who have now become cultural icons.
The Lordís of Flatbush is the story of four friends who form a loose gang called the Lordís (the grammatical mistake is intentional). There is Chico (Perry King), the leader of the group, who is attempting to woo a girl who is out of his league. Stanley (Sylvester Stallone), the muscle of the group, has knocked up his girlfriend and is now being pressured into marriage. Butchey (Henry Winkler) is the brains of the group, more quiet and reserved than his friends, and Wimpy (Paul Mace) just seems to go along with whatever the others do. The four friends raise hell at school and try to navigate through life.
All of these years later, the Lordís of Flatbush seems to be an American Graffiti knock-off, but the two films were actually shot within six months of each other in 1972 and have a very intertwined relationship. Graffiti had the bigger budget of the two films, and was completed first; when it was released, it was such a huge critical and commercial success that it essentially created the 50ís nostalgia wave all by itself. The most enduring legacy of this fad was Happy Days, a television series about teens growing up in the 1950s, starring Ron Howard, who was also the star of American Graffiti, and Henry Winkler, co-star of the Lordís of Flatbush. Happy Days was an enormous success, becoming the number one show on television and running for eleven seasons; Henry Winkler became a superstar for his role on the show, the motorcycle riding, leather-jacket wearing Fonzie. Winker later said he based his iconic performance on that of his Lordís co-star, Sylvester Stallone. Winklerís new popularity helped The Lordís of Flatbush become a box office success. In more ways than one, The Lordís of Flatbush owed a lot of its success to American Graffiti.
Before landing the role of Stanley, Sylvester Stallone had starred in one film, a softcore porn called The Party at Kitty and Studís (1970). His acting in The Lordís of Flatbush would help pave the way for his massive success two years later in the Best Picture winner Rocky (1976). Stallone received two Academy Award nominations for his work in the film, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor. Stallone went on to become one of the major action stars of the 80s and 90s, writing numerous projects in which he starred, including F.I.S.T. (1978), First Blood (1982), which was the first appearance of the famous Rambo character, and Cliffhanger (1993). He would also go on to become a fairly successful director, going behind the camera for all but one of the sequels to the original Rocky.
The screenplay for the Lordís of Flatbush is based on writer, and co-director, Stephen Veronaís own experiences being in a motorcycle gang in the 1950s; therefore, the film is more of a series of vignettes and incidents, meant to evoke a feeling of the era more than to have an actual plot. In this sense, the film does work; it has a feeling of authenticity that many other movies fail to accomplish. However, the lack of plot is also a hindrance on the film; the characters sometimes feel distant, and it becomes hard to know and care about them since we donít learn very much about them. Of the four members of the gang, only Chico and Stanley are given plots, and they are not the most original stories at that. It would have helped if Verona had given the audience more insight into the actual lives of these four boys, instead of just having them represent an era. Overall, the film is well made, though it will forever be in the shadow of its big brother, American Graffiti.