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   April 24, 2014



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Mad Bull (1977)


The VHS tape cover of Mad Bull.

The 1977 TV movie, Mad Bull, was designed to showcase the burgeoning acting skills of football player Alex Karras, who had been in the film and TV business about eight years by this point.

The former lineman for the Detroit Lions played Iago "Mad Bull" Karkus.

The Toronto Star's TV Week magazine described his role as "a hulking wrestler whose bizarre life in the ring has little meaning until he meets a woman who sees him as a warm, sensitive person instead of the booed 'villain' who arouses the fans' fury."

With a broken marriage and a strained relationship with his proud Greek father, Theo (played by Tito Vandis), who was once a wrestling champion himself.

In the ring, Karkus often forms a tag team with his brother, The Executioner (Chris Derose), and has a great feud going with "The White Knight" Jack Braden (Steve Sandor). As well, he has a stalker and has a young son that he tries to explain pro wrestling to. And don't forget the sleazy promoter (Nicholas Colasanto), as if there is any other kind.

The love interest was played by Susan Anspach (Five Easy Pieces), who is a grocery store clerk who can't stand his wrestling persona.

The Star noted that wrestling "seldom has received dramatic treatment, apart from a few passing references or scenes in movies and TV programs, the feeling probably being that wrestling itself has more than its fair share of emoting and any thespic embellishment would be superfluous."

The Los Angeles Times was not exactly kind to Mad Bull in its review ("a misshapen two-hour TV movie"), but did point out that "Karras' growth as an actor has been something to behold."

"Writer Vernon Zimmerman seems to be attempting some sort of indictment here, a kind of visual jeremiad on how we channel our violence; a statement on the middle to low-brow appeal of this odd entertainment," writes James Brown of the Times. "Unfortunately this, like nearly everything else in the film, is never fully explored. The subplots give it a proper burial."

A few actual wrestlers appear, including Los Angeles ring announcer Jimmy Lennon, Count Billy Varga, Rock Riddle, and Hard Boiled Haggerty.

RELATED LINKS

  • Obituary: Alex Karras was football star, actor -- and wrestler
  • The SLAM! Wrestling Movie Database

    -- by Greg Oliver, goliver845@gmail.com.