This latest in an ongoing series of reviews on vintage Warner Archive titles further illustrates the unparalleled diversity of the seemingly bottomless Archive vault. The DVD release of the 1981 dramedy "...All the Marbles" is a prime example of the gritty films of that period that are more heavy on the "dram" then the "edy." "Marbles" further is notable as the final film by director Robert Aldrich, who is better known for "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" and "The Dirty Dozen."
"Marbles" stars Peter Falk playing Peter Falk as rumpled and crude manager of female tag-team wrestling duo "The California Dolls" Harry Sears. We meet this group in Akron during a match for promoter Eddie Cisco (Burt Young). Sears playing hardball with Cisco both leaves the team and their manager wondering where their next meal is coming from and Harry spectacularly burning a bridge.
A subsequent bout with the "Really Rottens" in the form of "The Toledo Tigers" leaves the Dolls battered, bruised, and bitter. In comparison, having to resort to the lower form of female mud wrestling where they get their tops ripped off is not much of a downfall.
The match against the Tigers leads to the mother of all grudge matches in true sports film tradition, The victory of the Dolls in the rematch sets the stage for a championship fight at the MGM Grand in Reno. The stakes regarding this event gives the film its name.
The primary depth comes in the character studies of the trio, Sears is completely untrustworthy and seems to actually revel in living in cheap motels and driving a car that is beyond beater. Meanwhile, one of the dolls is addicted to drugs and the other has a clear willingness to take one (or more) for the team. The common element is that all of them are shameless.
Additional substance is in the form of "Marbles" playing the same role as other members of its genre; it shows "respectable people" the life of folks who live and work in the underbelly of society. Most of us give little if any thought to female wrestlers and pay even less attention to their lives.
Although this is not a "grace of God" situation, we still see the realistically sympathetic side of women (and their men) who understandably often are the subject of scorn when they even are thought about. Putting a human face on them and literally seeing their pain and deprivation make them more sympathetic,