Theme Song: Mad Bull was a made-for-television movie, so most of the music is boring orchestral sweeps and flourishes signaling the place where commercial breaks would occur.
Interesting Dated References: Professional wrestling consisting of several small, local promoters, different for each city/market; Being allowed to freely stalk someone without fear of legal repercussion; Being able to freely stalk someone in a super-unique, tricked-out car without worrying about them noticing the vehicle.
Best Line: There’s a lot of screen time given to the reading of ridiculous rules for various wrestling matches.
Social Context: As someone who missed the peak era of made-for-television movies, it’s hard to understand their target market. With Mad Bull, we have a well-acted and well-paced movie about an aging professional wrestler. But there are ludicrous plot holes quickly glazed over in favor of filling screen time with an overly long romantic subplot and familial drama. It’s like a soap opera targeted toward mothers of 8-year-old boys who need something to watch while caring for their child who is also paying attention.
Summary: Iago “Mad Bull” Karkus (Alex Karras, Webster’s dad) is a dissatisfied wrestling heel. The crowd hates him, the promoter pushes him around and forces him to be a baddie, his father doesn’t respect his work ethic, and his ex-wife and son barely even talk to him.
Then he meets Christina (Susan Anspach, Montenegro) during a supermarket strongman promotion, and she makes his life worth living again. They spend their time going out to dinner and talking long distance on the phone. Eventually she comes to like the brutish Mad Bull and they end up falling in love. He even starts calling her “Peaches!” Doesn’t that sound like a great movie for your mom or grandma to watch on a quiet afternoon in 1977?
Except that entire time Mad Bull is being stalked by a crazed killer, Coley (Tracey Walter, Batman, Repo Man, Middle Man, Ultraman, Raggedy Man, Honkytonk Man, Manhood, Man on the Moon, Man in the Chair, The Man from Elysian Fields, The Manchurian Candidate, Amanda), who stoically and continuously gives Mad Bull the staredown every time he’s in public.
Coley thinks wrestling is real and wants Bull dead for being such a baddie. Walter must have watched Taxi Driver right before filming his scenes, because, aside from his weird 70s stoner mullet-thing, it’s a Travis Bickle impression. All of this kind of upsets the relationship dramedy going on, compounded by the fact that there are endless scenes of wacky wrestling hijinx.
Bull wins back the crowd, his father’s love, his son’s love, and Peaches love in a final championship cage match that lasts 76 minutes, after which Coley shoots him in the arm.
Coley is arrested after several wrestlers flip over his righteously-customized pickup truck, and Bull and Peaches drive off assumedly to go make love.
– If you are into wrestling, there is a lot of it in this movie. I would say half of this movie is vintage 70s wrestling.
– Regis Philbin appears as the emcee at the supermarket strongman competition.
– Ernie Hudson has a minor role as one of the wrestling goons.
Poster and Box Art: The Thorn/EMI/HBO clamshell is kind of boring, so here’s the original TV Guide advertisement:
Availability: Used VHS on eBay.