To be clear this is the original 1974 version that stars Burt Reynolds—Boss Hogg from the remake of The Dukes of Hazzard—and Ed Lauter—Peppy’s Butler from The Artist, but he is recognizable as a TV guest star. It is lewd, crude and rude!
I think I broke his fucking neck.
Samson (Richard Kiel) in The Longest Yard, © 1974 Paramount Pics.
The penal system, or at least this prison, casts a shadow on the respectability of “the Citrus State.” I expect that peobeple already know the plot of this movie—former football star goes to prison, puts together a rag tag bunch of inmates to face the guards in football! But how do we get there?
1. Create a retired football player who is skilled enough to be desirable at a prison, felonious enough to be sentenced to said prison, and a decent enough human being to function as the protagonist. This is achieved through Paul Crewe–Burt Reynolds–a drunken former MVP booted from the league for points shaving who wakes up with a rich woman who hits him, so he hits her back, then he leaves with her car, which results in a police chase, a “Maserati” labeled Citroën that winds up in the drink.
2. An asshole lieutenant who is clearly a jerk who works for a baddie whose character is less clear. Ed Lauter is Captain Knauer who greets Reynolds with a nightstick to the gut. Eddie Albert—the photographer from Roman Holiday—is the warden who wants his semi-pro football team to win a national championship, but keeps coming up short.
3. Terrible offensive “comedy” to burn time until the football montages start.
4. Football montages.
5. Emotional stakes. This is achieved by having one jerk kill off the nice manager of the convicts’ team.
6. Football game. The end is really close and predicated on there being a 2 point difference.
7. Leverage to get the protagonist to throw the game. A half-time the warden threatens Reynolds with more time in prison by saying that he can frame him for accessory to murder of the manager.
8. Brief doubt. Reynolds throws interceptions, fumbles, fakes an injury and everyone hates him.
9. Surprise comeback. This has lots of slow motion for a touchdown to put the convicts ahead, but the director did not bother keeping track of the score of the game, so instead of 8-6 Convicts, he thought it was 7-6 Guards. So, so lazy.
10. One last doubt! As Reynolds goes to pick up the football the warden tells his lieutenant to shoot him for escaping and the lieutenant turns on the punk warden and refuses, since Reynolds just wanted the game ball. “Game ball!”
Ed Lauter & Eddie Albert, The Longest Yard, 1974 © Paramount Pics.
So that all happened. They pulled it off and it made enough money/cultural impact to get a sequel from Adam Sandler. I do not think I will be watching that any time soon. **