Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (2018) 1080p

Movie Poster
Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (2018) 1080p web - Movie Poster
Documentary | Sport
Frame Rate:
29.97 fps
English 5.1  
Run Time:
95 min
IMDB Rating:
6.9 / 10 
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Directors: Robert S. Bader [Director] ,

Movie Description:
The life and times of Muhammad Ali, as shown through the lens of his numerous appearances on The Dick Cavett Show (1968).


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  • Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (2018) 1080p web - Movie Scene 1

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Needed More Focus And Less Re-Hashing

When focusing on a documentary subject like Muhammad Ali, who has been picked apart by storytellers and journalists almost ad nauseam and will continue to be until the end of time, it is easy to fall into the trap of re-hashing all the classic stories and losing focus on the uniqueness of the concept that may have prompted the new doc on him. While "Ali & Cavett" isn't bad by any means, it does spring that trap far too much to be considered "great".

Ostensibly, the angle on Ali that this documentary takes is examining The Greatest via his appearances on the popular 1970s TV talk show hosted by Dick Cavett, who was able to get some candid and genuine moments from the gregarious Ali when others failed at the task.

Those interview clips are indeed fascinating, and in terms of the info this doc presents on Ali's involvement within the Nation of Islam (and how he was very likely used as their puppet/mouthpiece), it did provide me with some interesting information to chew on. To be honest, I wish the entire runtime would have simply focused on those two concepts (Cavett & Ali's religion/politics). Had that happened, this probably would have received a higher star ranking from me.

As I said in the opening, though, "Ali & Cavett" spends too much time re-hashing Ali's boxing exploits and showing the same clips or sound bytes we've seen over and over already. Ali's larger-than-life status likely renders this too irresistible for the film makers to avoid, especially if roping in casual viewers is important (and it always is). For someone like myself who has "seen them all" when it comes to Ali docs, though, a solid 70% of this one is "old news".

So, while I can't say this is a bad documentary by any stretch of the imagination, the amount of fresh, new material is relatively small within in. As such, your enjoyment of it overall may be determined by your previous Ali knowledge level.

A whole lot more about Ali than it is about Cavett

"Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes" (2018 release; 95 min.) is a documentary centered around Muhammed Ali's frequent guest appearances on The Dick Cavett Show. As the movie opens, we see a multitude of short clips where Cavett introduces Ali, while a voice-over reminds us how big the show was in that era (late 60s-early/mid 70s), taking it "to the edge of the racial debate in this country". We then go back in time, understanding how these two met in the early 60s when Cavett was working on the Jerry Lewis show, and we work our way up in time from there. At this point we are 10 min. into the documentary.

Couple of comments: the documentary is the directing debut of Richard S. Bader, the long-standing Dick Cavett expert who has produced a number of Cavett-associated releases. He co-wrote the script with Cavett himself for this film. While the movie's title indicates equal billing for Ali and Cavett, in reality this movie is a whole lot more about Ali than it is about Cavett, to the point where it seems Cavett is mere background dressing, and providing a convenient entrance angle to look at Ali's fascinating, if complicated, life as an athlete, political activist, and all-around global mega-star. "Ali is much smarter than he lets on", observes Cavett, but I don't know if that is the case, as the many clips ooze with Ali's savvy and smarts. "Was Ali a racist? a mouthpiece for the Nation of Islam?", someone ponders, and that is a darn good question, and one that is impossible to fully answer. Certainly Ali said things that, if there were spoken by a white person, would immediately be condemned as racist. But one thing that nobody can negate or deny: Ali (as demonstrated in his many appearances on the Dick Cavett Show) was a magnetic personality and an amazing boxer. We can only wonder how much more he would have accomplished in the boxing ring had he not been banned for 3+ years in the prime of his boxing career. Back to Cavett: it is clear from the clips and from Cavett's own comments taped for this film that his affection for Ali is genuine and runs deep.

"Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes" originally premiered 2 years ago at SXSW and then... nothing. But it started showing earlier this week on HBO and is now available at HBO On Demand and other streaming services. I quite enjoyed this documentary, and if you have any interest in Muhammed Ali, I might suggest you check it out and draw your own conclusion.

An Amazing Lost Treasure Reveals the Story of the "Greatest"

Ali & Cavett was enthusiastically welcomed in its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. The film was introduced by film critic Leonard Maltin who interviewed Dick Cavett afterwards. The documentary was made with recovered footage of more than a dozen appearances that Muhammad Ali made on Dick Cavett's talk show. Ali was electrifying. When he was at his height his speech was mesmerizing and he was really a force of nature. The film beautifully captures Ali as a sports figure, but more importantly as a cultural figure who broke barriers to challenge barriers of race and religion. He challenged the U.S. government's attempt to draft him and although he won, he paid a very heavy price. It shows him with his friend Dick Cavett and brings the politics and social conflict around Ali into clear focus. These tapes are a lost treasure. The director skillfully edits the tapes with other footage to provide a mini-biography of "The Greatest." The film would fit together well with the Oscar-winning documentary "When We Were Kings" about the Ali- 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" with George Foreman. I hope that the film gets distribution, because it can help bring this larger than life figure a new generation that came of age when he was well past his prime. Highly Recommended.
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