Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds) is a washed up former football player who was kicked out of the league for point shaving and gambling. One night he gets into a fight with his rich girlfriend, steals her car is goes on a wild ride whilst being chased by the police. For his troubles, Crewe is sentenced to 18 months hard labor. Inside the big house, Crewe is bullied by the guards and his fellow inmates who disrespect him every chance they get. But he does meet a friend in a long timer named Caretaker (James Hampton). Over time, he slowly regains the respect of some of his inmates but not that of Warden Hazen (Eddie Albert), who wants something from Crewe. He invites him to check out his semi-pro team and offers Crewe a chance to make a team out of the convicts so his "boys" can have a tune up match before the season starts.
Crewe is given a few weeks to create a football team out of the convicts. Those that sign up are 7 foot tall Samson (Richard Kiel), former football star Nate Scarboro (Michael Conrad), serial killer and lockdown convict Connie Shokner (Robert Tessier), Granville (Harry Caesar), Mawabe (Pervis Atkins) and The Indian (Sonny Sixkiller). The team is a motley crew of former collegiate stars and misfits. The team also instills a sense of pride and camaraderie amongst the prisoners that the Warden senses and doesn't like. The big game is coming up, can Paul Crewe and his boys take it to the guards in an all out physical and brutal football game? Co-stars Ed Lauter as Captain Knauer, Bernadette Peters and John Steadman as "Pops".
The Longest Yard was a film directed by Robert Aldrich and it has been remade twice, once in 2001 as a soccer movie called "The Mean Machine (the title is also the name of Paul Crewe's team) and in 2005 starring Adam Sandler and Burt Reynolds. The cast has several football players in co-starring roles such as Joe Kapp (Minnesota Vikings and Calgary Stampeders) Ray Nitschke (Green Bay Packers), Mike Henry (Pittsburgh Steelers, L.A. Rams), Pervis Atkins (L.A. Rams, Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders), Ernie Wheelwright (N.Y. Giants, Atlanta Falcons) and Ray Ogden (St. Louis Cardinals, New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons Chicago Bears).
I really enjoyed this picture. It's also a time capsule on how pro football used to be. A brutal and hard hitting game that players played in "one-size-fits-all" helmets, minimal padding and equipment that wasn't all that protective. Burt Reynolds actually acts in this film instead of coasting along. I also like the performances of Ray Nitschke who plays the "Guards" leader of the defense Bogdanski and Joe Kapp who co-stars as Walking Boss. A great film that is miles better than the "okay" 2005 remake.