Body and Soul (1981) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This was a movie that had a lot of potential, almost all of it unfulfilled.

The basic idea was to update an eponymous 1947 boxing movie with John Garfield, a little-seen film which seems to be regarded positively (8.2 at IMDb). Since the original was respected and virtually unknown, it really seemed like a perfect candidate for a remake in 1981. Since the ethnic composition of the boxing world had changed dramatically between 1947 to 1981, it also made sense to have the script updated by African-Americans, and to star black and Latino boxers. Leon Isaac Kennedy took on the remake as a vanity project. He and his wife, a 5'10" beauty queen turned sportscaster named Jayne Kennedy, played the leading roles. Jayne, formerly Miss Ohio, was one of the most beautiful women who ever walked the earth. Several gorgeous women got naked in this film, including three former Playmates (Azizi Johari, Rosanne Katon, and Ola Ray). The greatest living boxer, Muhammad Ali, took a major acting role, playing his cocky self as the mentor of the fictional boxer. I liked some of the musical score, especially a romantic duet with Billy Preston and Syreeta Wright (once Mrs. Stevie Wonder).

The publicity machine was also oiled well for this film. Jayne Kennedy was a fast-rising and much discussed star. The Playmates' presence  guaranteed good coverage from Playboy. Muhammad Ali was - well, only the most recognizable man in the world.

The right pieces seemed in place. It should have worked ...

Unfortunately, Leon just didn't have the right stuff to pull all that off. Despite the gimmicks, it wasn't a box office success, and it just wasn't a good movie either.

Mind you, Leon was not such a bad actor. He was no James Earl Jones, but he was able to create a character who seemed both cocky and sensitive, and he also possessed star looks and zero percent body fat. But his boxing just never looked right. His footwork seemed smooth enough, and he did have a conditioned body, but he never seemed to learn to throw a punch. He delivered his blows while crouching over, with his weight way back, and he used no shoulder power, just a little limp arm-waving and occasionally a big stiff-armed roundhouse swing.

Float like a butterfly

Sting like a ... smaller, weaker butterfly.

Leon's real weakness, however, was not the boxing, but the writing, which he inexplicably chose to do himself. He just didn't have the skills and savvy to deliver a polished movie script. His characters are unrealistic caricatures, his dialogue isn't natural, and the storyline is about as syrupy and trite as possible.

The star is an amateur boxer planning to go to medical school, but forced to turn pro to earn money for the care of his little sister, who has sickle cell anemia. His mama hates his boxing. His girlfriend thinks at first that he's a cocky scumbag and leaves him, but comes back to him when she finds out that he's really fighting for his dying sister. At first our hero stays aloof from the temptations and corruption of boxing stardom, but then he gets caught up in his own hype, starts getting corrupted by the temptations of the good life, and is persuaded by some  promoters to throw a big fight. At this point, his girlfriend leaves him yet again. But maybe, just maybe, he'll defy the evil gamblers and fight the big fight to win, thus saving his soul and winning his fickle girlfriend back yet again, even though the gamblers and promoters will kill him if he does so.

Or maybe not.

The big fight makes up the last 20 minutes of the film, and the direction is clumsy. Show some ring action. Show Muhammad Ali's reaction. Ring action. Mama's reaction. Ring action. Little dyin' sister's reaction. Wave to little dyin' sister, get punched by bad guy while waving. Get way behind, need a dramatic knockout to win. You know the drill.


Leon does not throw the final fight. He sees it through, and wins, even though his opponent is a real bruiser. The fight strategy was similar to Ali's own rope-a-dope strategy against Foreman.


The sappy story and clichéd dialogue were not good, but boxing movies seem to be able to work around those problems, as Rocky did. The bad acting from Playmates and Peter Lawford might have been ignored. I was ready to forgive the dyin' sister and the fact that Jayne woke up in the morning with her hair done and her lipstick unsmudged. Even Leon's wimpy punching style might have been overlooked, except ...

 ... except that there is also a complete deal-breaker which makes the film just downright irritating. The script simply didn't deliver on its own promises. The end of the fight is the end of the movie.

He wins. He raises his hands.

Credits roll.


Every single plot thread ends unresolved. I was actually starting to get into the soap opera elements of the plot - you know how it is, even with corny movies -  and then when it ended so abruptly, I had no idea what happened to any of the elements that they had used to hook me in.

  • What about all the gamblers/promoters who threatened to kill him.
  • What about all the wiseguys that those gamblers were indebted to.
  • If Leon survives the gamblers and wiseguys, will he finally quit boxing and go back to med school?
  • What about the mother who hated his boxing, no matter how successful. Is she proud of him now that he may have saved his sister?
  • What about that dying sister? Is she gonna make it?
  • What about the girlfriend who kept leaving him? She came back to see the big fight. Since he did not throw it, are they together again?

What the hell? I really wanted to like this film, and forgave it a lot of mistakes, but this crazy ending was the last straw.

Maybe I saw a print where they forgot the last reel. 



According to IMDb Jayne Kennedy starred in an unreleased movie called "The Dorothy Dandridge Story" in 1980. Ultimately, the story was produced by HBO and starred Halle Berry.

Leon Kennedy disappeared from show business altogether in 1987. IMDB says he is now a preacher, and a partner in Smokey Robinson foods. (Smokey was the best man when Leon and Jayne got married.)

I'm the greatest. You're not.

Oh, Leon is in for a world of hurt.

Al Pacino's dad was an actor?



Oh, sure, Jayne looks good when she's all fixed up.

But look how rough she can look in the morning!

DVD Report
  • There are two versions of the film on the disc: a 4:3 full frame version and a 16x9 widescreen anamorphic version. The widescreen transfer is excellent. The other is mediocre, and is obviously from a different source, but the 4:3 version is needed in order to display 100% of the nudity.

  • There are no features except the original widescreen theatrical trailer (in excellent condition).


  • Ola Ray (former Playmate in 1980), Ingrid Greer, and Laurie Semit all showed their breasts and the side of their hips in a four-way sex scene with Leon (It's good to be the writer and star). Miss Ray also showed her booty and a very brief flash of lower frontal nudity.
  • Azizi Johari (former Playmate in 1975) shows her breasts in a pre-sex scene.
  • Jayne Kennedy used the ol' "breasts behind the shower door" trick.
  • Rosanne Katon (former Playmate in 1978) showed her breasts in a fleeting bathroom sex scene.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...

  • I think this film must have been virtually unreleased. Although it opened on Friday, November 20, 1981 in New York, and was reviewed in the Times in that Sunday's edition, it is not listed on this list of 1981 releases.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. It's not a good movie at all. In fact it's downright bad, but it is not without some ancillary positives. The transfer is good, Jayne is beautiful, the musical score is pleasant, and the legendary Muhammad Ali (playing himself) appears as a character in the story.

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