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MICHAEL WINNER DIRECTS STANLEY BAKER IN 'THE GAMES'

Title: THE GAMES Pictured: Stanley Baker, Michael Crawford Year: 1970 Rating: ***1/2

In 1970, between working with Oliver Reed in Swinging Sixties flicks and Charles Bronson in exploitation crime, a mainstream Michael Winner directed THE GAMES, centering on a group of worldwide runners training for the Rome Olympics... but the trainers are the most intriguing characters...

In particular Stanley Baker, at this point a British veteran actor (who always looked older than he actually was), as a former running champion with a limp so serious he never lets the viewer forget... 

Michael Crawford and Stanley Baker in THE GAMES

Which takes the kind of energy that's completely lacking in the extremely miscast Michael Crawford as a milkman turned record-breaking sprinter (randomly romancing ingenue Elaine Taylor), whose lightweight acting chops seems more befitting the quirky comedies he was used to...

Although his scenes with Baker are pretty good because the tough coach makes every scene count... As does the Australian Aborigine's own trainer, more of a promoter, in get-rich-quick-schemer (and kangaroo poacher) Jeremy Kemp, as offbeat-crooked as Baker is headstrong-intense...

Michael Crawford and Stanley Baker in THE GAMES

Meanwhile Ryan O'Neal's American runner has a pusher instead of coach... A pill-popping womanizer with a breezy sex symbol appeal, he seems like part of another movie altogether.... 

In fact every participant's individual story from THE GAMES (including an aged Frenchman seeking a comeback) feels underdeveloped since director Winner, using a barrage of that era's zoom shots and choppy edits, has to stuff them all inside a single 100-minute sports programmer that passes the time decently... But could have been better if Stanley Baker only had another runner/actor to train, and more time to do so.

Ryan O'Neal in THE GAMES

Stanley Baker in THE GAMES
Stanley Baker in THE GAMES
Charles Aznavour in THE GAMES
Elaine Taylor as the girlfriend in THE GAMES
Michael Crawford and Stanley Baker in THE GAMES
Michael Crawford and Stanley Baker in THE GAMES
Rafer Johnson in THE GAMES (Baker's Last Grenade co-star)
Jeremy Kemp in THE GAMES
Stanley Baker in THE GAMES
Stanley Baker in THE GAMES with Michael Crawford and Elaine Taylor
Ryan O'Neal in THE GAMES with Sam Elliott (the pill pusher)
Ryan O'Neal in THE GAMES with then-wife Leigh Taylor-Young

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