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For, Friday, March 27, 2020

EDITOR’S NOTE: A largely forgotten but nonetheless sweet and engrossing drama, ‘Inside Moves’ deserves a revival — and apparently Kino Lorber agrees, having recently given this little gem a Blu-ray upgrade. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on Dec. 27, 1980.

Despite the downbeat nature of the material, “Inside Moves” is a surprisingly upbeat movie, one that deserves a bigger audience than it is likely to get during this super-hype season of big “Christmas” films.

In a pre-credits scene that requires a remarkable piece of stunt work, Roary (John Savage) nervously enters a downtown office building, takes the elevator to the 10th floor, goes into an office, climbs out the window and jumps, attempting suicide.

His fall is broken by a tree and he lands on the roof of a parked car. In the months that follow, Roary recovers in a hospital. He must now wear a brace, and he has trouble walking and sometimes just moving.

He eventually moves into a boarding house, and when he goes to a bar around the corner, called Max’s, he meets a group of physically handicapped and socially misfit souls: Jerry (David Morse), a bartender whose leg is deformed; wheelchair-bound Blue Lewis (Bill Henderson); blind Stinky (Bert Remsen); and Wings (Harold Russell), who has no forearms and wears prosthetic devices.

Roary also meets the beautiful Louise (Diana Scarwid), who eventually becomes a waitress in the bar, and Ann (Amy Wright), a young prostitute-drug addict with whom Jerry is in love.


John Savage, left, David Morse, 'Inside Moves' (1980)

And we soon learn, just as Roary and some of his newfound friends also learn, that life is to be enjoyed — whatever your condition or lot in life.

One of the things I liked most about “Inside Moves” is that the message is put across with a minimum of preaching. The direction and acting are so strong that the story carries itself far above soap opera level, and we really begin to care about these people.

In the lead, John Savage sets the superb acting pace for his colleagues. Savage may be best remembered for his recent portrayals in “The Deer Hunter,” “Hair” and “The Onion Field.” Each offered him a dazzling showcase for his talent but “Inside Moves” shows him off best. Savage has a wide range and uses it all here. His is an Oscar-caliber performance.

Morse, a New York stage actor making his film debut, is also excellent, as the one “curable” fellow in the group, who dreams of playing professional basketball. He is the surrogate hero through whom Max’s group become winners.

Henderson, Remsen and Russell play their roles with great humor and heart. It’s impossible to sit through this movie and not love these three men. (Russell won an Oscar in 1946 for “The Best Years of Our Lives” and is head of the President’s Commission for Affirmative Action on hiring the handicapped.)


Bert Remsen, left, Bill Henderson, Harold Russell, 'Inside Moves' (1980)

But perhaps the biggest surprise here is that “Inside Moves” was directed as a labor of love by Richard Donner, the man who gave us “Superman” and “The Omen.”

For a “blockbuster” director to come back with such a sensitive “little” film is a rarity and I hope it signals a trend away from the big-budget bores that have plagued the box-office lately.

It’s also interesting to note that “Inside Moves” was originally rated R due to a particular profanity used about four times that automatically gets that rating. Donner appealed to the ratings board and managed to get the film reduced to a PG without deleting a single syllable. One wonders if the same could have been done for Robert Redford’s “Ordinary People,” rated R for the same reason.

While “Inside Moves” is admittedly schmaltzy and perhaps old-fashioned in its sentimentality, it is nonetheless equally tender and touching.

Let’s face it, an awful lot of movies during the past decade have been extremely downbeat, very anti-hero and the audiences have been hard-pressed to come out of the theater feeling good.

Donner, screenwriters Valerie Curtin and Barry Levinson, and the very talented cast have come up with a movie that is much more than merely “happy” — it’s a celebration of life.