Thursday, April 4, 2024

Not so Serious Movie Review: Damn Yankees


I finally watched the movie Damn Yankees. In March of 2023, I read the novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglass Wallop, the book from which Damn Yankees is based. The movie and the musical took the novel to another level as most people now associate the story with the Damn Yankees title and not the book's original title.

Several of the reviews for Curveball at the Crossroads have mentioned Damn Yankees, inspiring me to find the movie and the book. There are some similarities, although my novel is based more on blues music and southern folklore. Damn Yankees is a more generic Faustian tale.

What I liked:

  • As far as I remember, the movie stuck pretty true to the novel. 
  • It's light, quick, and fun - an easy watch. 
  • The Yankees lose. Which is always a good thing.

Being a musical and made in the 1950s, the movie doesn't get too deep into the dark side of a deal with the Devil. Ray Walston keeps the Devil humorous and mischievous. He is evil, but with a quick wit. After working with the Devil in my novel, I like seeing how the Devil is portrayed in other works.

My biggest critique of the movie has to be why "Who's Got the Pain" was part of the production. While impressive for its dancing, it doesn't advance the story at all.

If it wasn't a musical, the movie could have dove deeper into the characters. I thought Lola was especially overrated. She is a side character at best and definitely doesn't deserve to be the focus of the poster. But Gwen Verdon is an amazing dancer and steals the show in her dancing scenes, and that's the focus of musicals, hence she is the biggest face on the poster. 

On a related note, no offense to Gwen Verdon, but she doesn't come off as a temptress very well. The fake accent scene didn't make sense and not until the end does the viewer get the idea that Joe Hardy might even like Lola. She is more concept than character. The novel version of Lola is a bit more tempting. Neither are as seductive as Kim Bassinger in The Natural, however.

Overall, Damn Yankees is recommended. Especially if you have read Curveball at the Crossroads. I also recommend reading The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant, which I like to think is Curveball at the Crossroads's spiritual predecessor.

Side note: I realized after watching Damn Yankees that the song "Heart" is from the musical. I have seen the video of the 1969 Mets on the Ed Sullivan Show performing the song many times but never knew where it was from. Mystery solved.

By the way, could someone look less excited than Nolan Ryan being forced to sing on late night television?