Directors: Martin Davidson and Stephen F. Verona
Writers: Martin Davidson, Gayle Gleckler, Stephen F. Verona and Sylvester Stallone
Starring: Perry King, Sylvester Stallone, Henry Winkler, Paul Mace and Susan Blakely
Two years before writing and starring in Rocky, Stallone wrote additional dialogue and starred in The Lords of Flatbush a coming-of-age drama about four teenagers in 1958. They are all in a gang, known as The Lords of Flatbush. It deals with their day to day lives in school, dating, stealing cars and hanging out at the local diner.
The plot for this film is kind of thin, not a lot seems to happen and then at the end it shows a montage of the film, and you feel like you’ve been on a journey with them. The opening scene is the four leads hanging outside of school, taking a book from a girl, and passing it around so she can’t get it back. They are immature and unruly. Throughout the film their struggles force them to grow and become adults. It’s a nice little story, that does feel a little flat, but there’s enough here to enjoy.
One of the first thing you’ll notice about the film is how unconvincing they are as teenagers, with them all being in their late twenties at the time. Stallone who only two years later would play Rocky, as a boxer that missed his opportunity and is too old, is not convincing in the slightest as a teenager. In the first classroom scene the leads look like they’re undercover in school. It’s not uncommon to see people playing teenagers despite being much older, but that doesn’t make it any less distracting to see.
The characters are interesting and that makes this film more entertaining to watch. Not a lot happens, but there is a lot more depth to each of the four leads than you first expect when it starts. Henry Winkler (Happy Days) plays Butchey, who hides his intelligence to fit in with the rest. Perry King (Riptide) plays Chico, the sexist pig who can’t deal with rejection. Stallone is Stanley, who spends his free time reading maps to escape Brooklyn, where he’s stuck. In one of the oddest and funniest moments of the film he says that to get to Tokyo you first need to imagine that you’re a pigeon and fly there and look down. And that since he has the imagination to do it, no one can tell him that he hasn’t been to Tokyo. It’s a funny moment and at the same time shows the desperation of Stanley. He’s desperate to leave but can’t afford a car to travel.
Another reason to give this a go is seeing a scene Stallone and Winkler, among others, sing a cappella. Another strange moment. There is a lot of heart throughout Lords of Flatbush, but there’s an unescapable feeling that it doesn’t really add up to much. It’s a great time capsule of actors who would go onto greater things and it’s worth watching for that alone. At one point Richard Gere was supposed to play Chico, but clashes between him and Stallone on set ended up getting Gere fired.