a.k.a. Cassius Clay (1970)
I stumbled across this documentary about Cassius Clay/ Muhammed Ali in a discount DVD bin a few months ago, but only finally got around to watching it last night.
a.k.a. Cassius Clay was made in 1970 during the time that Muhammed Ali was not allowed to fight professionally because of his conviction for refusing to be inducted into the army to serve in the Vietnam War. He had also been stripped of his championship title.
This was a tough time for Ali as he was unable to box, he faced a five year prison term (which he was appealing) and his alignment with the Nation of Islam had him in poor favor with the general public.
There is plenty of history in this film, particularly through the use of lot of footage of Ali’s early fights, training, and frequently over-the-top antics both in and out of the ring. Additionally, there is some footage of Ali with legendary trainer Cus D’Amato as the two debate Ali’s ability or inability to defeat boxers from an earlier era like Joe Louis. These segments also contain a lot of rare fight footage of Joe Louis, Max Schmeling, and Jake LaMotta among others, so if you’re a boxing aficionado, there are a lot of treats in this film.
The documentary is a bit disjointed at times, particularly as it jumps back and forth between the early rise of Cassius Clay and his present (in 1970) struggle with his public image as Muhammed Ali.
The best thing about this documentary is the use of historical footage. There’s Ali clowning with the Beatles, there’s Malcolm X delivering his famous speech about “house negroes” versus “field negroes,” but, mostly, there’s lots of boxing. Classic boxing. No ear biting. (That we can see.)
Of particular interest to me was some very brief footage of Ali performing in his short-lived (7 performances) Broadway debut in the musical Buck White.
If you’re into boxing or just interested in Muhammed Ali, a.k.a. Cassius Clay is a real gem.
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