(Above: Jim Carr, about to be schooled on various hockey penalties.)
Forty years ago this weekend one of my favorite films of all time made its premiere. Slap Shot is, in a variety of ways, offensive. It’s also hilarious. Director George Roy Hill took a cast of legit stars (Paul Newman, Strother Martin) and unknowns (the Hanson brothers!) and got the ensemble to work.
Watching hockey was an important part of high school and college life. In high school, Blackhawks games always seemed to fall on the same nights as school dances. Since the group of us rarely had dates for the dances, we’d get together, usually at my house, sneak a few beers, and watch the game. Once we discovered this movie, it worked its way into the rotation of “put that on again” films. There are so, so many lines from this movie that turned up in conversation in our friend group over the years (depending on who else was around, of course.) The whole Jim Carr interview fell into that category (“You go to the box, you know, two minutes by yourself, and you feel shame, and then you get free”) as did the National Anthem sequence (“I’m listening to the f—ing song!”) which sends an interesting message about respect.
What many sports fans don’t realize about Slap Shot is that it was written by a woman. Yes, one of the few films that I can think of that has “the C word” in its dialogue owes its screenplay to Nancy Dowd, who also wrote Ordinary People, Coming Home, and North Dallas Forty (clearly, she didn’t stray away from controversial content). She also wrote the two sequels to the film, but we won’t hold that against her.
There’s not much to the soundtrack of the film, with one exception: in the original release, when the team bus hits the road, strains of Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back Where We Started From” filled the theater. When the film was later shown on network television – I should say “some of the film was shown,” since the editing for broadcast was ruthless – the song was missing, replaced with stock music. I hadn’t heard the song on the radio for many years until I got to WCFL in Morris in 1990. It was in the rotation there, and I may have been guilty of turning up the volume to unacceptable levels in the studio. At Oldies stations that I programmed later, I’d often break my “the playlist stops here” rule to sneak this one in. It’s just a fun song.
Get on the bus. You can hear – and see – Maxine sing by clicking here.