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I could have been a Contender: Classic onscreen punch-ups

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No action movie worth it’s salt is complete without at least one bout of fisticuffs and in general we can’t get enough of them. Hence this roundup of some of the best knock-out, drag-out film fights of all time.

What did it take to make it on our list? We chose onscreen punch-ups that were larger than life, jaws that could take poundings like an anvil and of course fists of fury. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get ready to rummmmbbbbbblllllle!

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Shane (1953)
The Bar Brawl
This scene is, like, twenty minutes long, and more chairs are broken over backs than at a professional wrestling event. Shane and farmer Joe Starrett take on the posse of Emile Meyer, the land baron not man enough to fight his own battles. At brawl’s end, Shane and Joe are battered but still standing. They don’t make men like they used to.

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Enter the Dragon (1973)
Bruce Lee vs. Han
This had to make the list! Bruce Lee fights a baddie with detachable hand accoutrements, like the bear claw. And sneaky Han does give Lee a run for his money, slicing and dicing with his triple-bladed appendage. Inevitably, Lee pulverizes the body parts and drug-making operation of the villain.

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Rocky (1976)
Sylvester Stallone vs. Carl Weathers
Stallone’s Rocky is all guts while Weathers’s Apollo Creed is all footwork, and where the twain meet is in the ring. The culmination of blue-collar Rocky’s training, dreaming and courting of the shy Adrian, the fight itself is a roller coaster epic that leaves viewers as exhausted as the boxers. And of course, mangled-faced Rocky yells, “Adrian!”

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The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Mark Hamill vs. Darth “I’m your father” Vader
Talk about Oedipal complex, and there isn’t even a mom to battle over. The animus between Hamill’s Luke Skywalker and Vader burns elemental, as they represent the Yin and the Yang of the Force. And when Luke finds out Vader’s his father, the battle surpasses fever pitch. In the end, the upstart Luke finds he’s no match for Pops.

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Raging Bull (1980)
Robert De Niro in the ring
De Niro channels the spirit of violent, tormented real-life 1940s pugilist Jake La Motta. The fight scenes break new cinematic ground for their slow motion, bold tracking and b/w beauty, and the scenes’ brutality make you forget that De Niro is in the ring for just ten minutes of the entire movie.

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The Outsiders (1983)
The Rumble
It’s bitter class warfare as greasers Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio face off against the preppies. As the parties duke it out, fight newbie C. Thomas Howell eats fist sandwich after fist sandwich before his friends come to the rescue.

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The Matrix (1999)
Laurence Fishburne vs. Agent Smith
Sacrificing himself to save Neo and others, Morpheus (Fishburne) busts through a wall to fight Agent Smith in a dingy Matrix bathroom. The kung fu special effects coupled with the phone booth-like close quarters make this a rock’em sock’em thrill ride, as Agent Smith gives Morpheus a beating for the ages.

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Fight Club (1999)
Meatloaf vs. Edward Norton
Forget weight classes, timed rounds and the three-knockdown rule. Facing off in the fight club is more cleansing ritual than sport, and so lumbering Meatloaf takes on the bantam-weight Ed Norton. Norton’s series of jabs and punches shows he’s got speed, but Meatloaf’s superior size and submission hold prevail.

fisticuffs-crouching-tiger

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Michelle Yeoh vs. Zhang Ziyi
From their epic dojo showdown to their gravity-defying chase scenes across the moonlit rooftops, these two women go for broke at every confrontation, and their gritty yet superbly-choreographed battles earn them a spot in film fight history.

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Die Another Day (2002)
Halle Berry vs. Rosamund Pike
This is a duel like no other, as halter-topped Rosamund Pike takes on Halle Berry in a breathtaking display of martial arts prowess, weapons mastery and eye candy-all on a pitching, rolling, about-to-crash plane.

 

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Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess

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Xena Warrior Princess

What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.

Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.

Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.

Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.

Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?

Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.

Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Character: Xena

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Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife

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McMillan And Wife

Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.

Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.

And wifey?
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.

Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.

Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.

Tragedy?
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.

What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.

Other characters
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.

Famous guest stars?
Kim Basinger

The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.

Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.

Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.

Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.

The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.

A winner?
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.

Distinguishing features?
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.

Do say
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.

Don’t say
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.

Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.

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Classic TV Revisited: The Royal

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The Royal

The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.

The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.

Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.

Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.

Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”

A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.

First broadcast: 2003

Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden

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