Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Strongest Man in the World

Now You See The Strongest Computer in Tennis Shoes in the World

What is it about?

Tonight's nostalgic pic is "The Strongest Man in the World" (Disney, 1975). Medfield College is in dire financial straits yet again. We join Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn) as he is being informed by Regent Dietz (Harold Gould) that he is to be replaced with someone who can bring the school back in the black.

Pictured, Harry Gould, classy as ever.

The slimy Higgins convinces Dietz that he has a plan and needs thirty days to bring it to fruition.
Our hero. Seriously.

Meanwhile, the science class of Professor Quigley (William Schallert) is busy trying to create a dietary supplement for cows to increase their strength, appetite, and milk production.
Can confirm: Cows are very pet-able animals, but not very lap friendly.

A formula being developed by Richard Schuyler (Michael McGreevey) doesn't seem effective…
The brains of the operation. You would be forgiven for thinking it was the dog.

until a lab accident laces his vitamin-enriched cereal with another formula developed by his fellow seventh year student (at the four year college) Dexter Riley (Kurt Russel) -- then whoever eats the cereal becomes superhumanly strong for a brief time.

Suddenly, Higgins gets the idea to sell the formula to the Crumply Crunch cereal company, headed by the powerful Harriet Crumply (Eve Arden) and her nephew, Harry (Dick Van Patten).
Yeah, and keep those legs crossed!

Harry Crumble: Totally innocent and not the bad guy. Probably.

After a demonstration Harriet is keen to purchase Higgins' formula, but warns him of corporate spies from the Krinkle Krunch cereal company, headed by the devious Kirwood Krinkle (Phil Silvers).
Is Phil Silvers ever actually not funny?

A bitter spy game ensues, resulting in a weightlifting competition between the two cereal companies' chosen teams. Can the Medfield college misfits rediscover the secret formula and save the college?
Will Medfield beat the state team?

Not without some disturbingly disfiguring injuries at least.

This is the third and final film in Disney's Dexter Riley trilogy. It's notable for a number of reasons, including the fact that it was actor Joe Flynn's final role (he died of a heart attack a year before the film was released). It has a lot of callbacks to the two previous films, "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" (1969) and "Now You See Him, Now You Don't" (1972), and much of the cast (although the college students around Russel and McGreevey rotate every film).

Can confirm: Tennis shoes! Or maybe trainers. Whatever, I'll take it.

Not positively positive

It's your typical goofy 1970s teen film, with nary a scent of bad language or sex to be found (well, there is one "it's not the size but what you do with it" joke, but that's as raunchy as it gets here). There is a bit of violence near the end with a rather well-choreographed fight between a superhuman Dexter Riley and the gang of returning villain A.J. Arno (played once again by Caesar Romero).

I never realized just how tall Romero was in the "Batman" show.

It's not bloody or anything, but it is surprisingly action movie violent for such an otherwise benign film, so if you're trying to wean small children away from that, don't watch it with them.
Dick Van Bowling Ball.

It has problems

There's other problems with the narrative, most glaringly, for a film in the "Dexter Riley Trilogy," there's surprisingly little of Dexter Riley.

"What am I doing with my life?"

I can't find any information on why Kurt Russel is absent throughout MOST of the film, but he's basically just there for the inciting incident (as with all of these films) and shows up to save the day at the end.
Less of a car chase and more of a race against the clock.

As such, there's no direct hero in this film, unless you count Dean Higgins, whose antics we follow throughout most of the film. I welcome this, as Joe Flynn is hilarious, and watching his skeevy dimwitted character bumble his way through much of the film is a nice change of pace. Also, shouldn’t Dexter and Schuyler be doctors or professors by now? They've been in college since at least 1969 (at least there's a joke to this effect in the movie if you catch it).
Dexter Riley... Not the hero we need.

Where can you watch it?

If you want to watch the Dexter Riley Trilogy, well… You're out of luck. But if you want to watch the first film and the last film, both "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" and "The Strongest Man in the World" are streaming on Disney+. As for "Now You See Him, Now You Don't?" Well… you don't.

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