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(aka "Monkey on My Back: The Story of Barney Ross" )


directed by André De Toth
USA 1957


UNITED ARTISTS' involvements with narcotics addiction films and the concomitant disapproval of the Production Code people have yet to result in any startlingly dramatic revelations. It will be recalled that in December, 1955, the company defiantly released without a Production Code seal Otto Preminger's "The Man With the Golden Arm," starring Frank Sinatra as the harrowed "junkie" of the title. There was no record of any major dislocation of the nation's cultural habits following its appearance on our screens.


Watching films that deal with heroin addiction or reading up on the subject will drive home the point that opiate dependence can be extremely debilitating and ultimately, deadly.


Yesterday U. A. repeated history by presenting a seal-less "Monkey on My Back" at Loew's State. Like "Golden Arm," "Monkey on My Back" is a serious but largely unimaginative study of one man's triumph over a horrible craving. The producers have created a professional and generally credible portrait of Barney Ross, one that has been much publicized and, therefore, proves to be a too-familiar picture. Their intentions appear to be noble but with the exception of a scene or two, "Monkey on My Back" is, by and large, unsensational drama.

The bone of contention between Code authorities and Edward Small, the producer, is one scene in which Cameron Mitchell, desperate for a "fix" (junkies' jargon for a shot of dope), slugs a belligerently villainous "pusher" of narcotics, avoids pursuing police and, hiding like an animal in an alley, injects the opiate into his arm with a hypodermic needle. It is not this viewer's option to decide on the effects of this sequence on the paying public. It is a tough and melodramatic depiction, but its shock values appear to be minimal.

Excerpt from the original NY Times Review located HERE


Theatrical Release: 29 May 1957 (New York City, New York)

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DVD Review: MGM - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Gregory Meshman for the Review!

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Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 1:33:57

1.33:1 Open Matte format
Average Bitrate: 5.40 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (English)
Subtitles English, Spanish, French, None
Features Release Information:
Studio: MGM

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1.33:1

Edition Details:
• Theatrical trailer (2:06)

DVD Release Date: February 8th, 2005
Keep Case

Chapters 20



Monkey on My Back is a mix of a serious sports drama, a cautious tale about drug addiction, and for one memorable image of war. At its center is an excellent performance by Cameron Mitchell as a true-life boxer Barney Ross. MGM released Monkey on My Back back in 2005 when they were still releasing a lot of 1950's films in standard, pressed DVD format.*

*NOTE: MGM's DVD-R program - exclusive through Amazon has shown some real weaknesses utilizing older non-anamorphic masters. Their Truffaut's Green Room released as Vanishing Fiancée is one such disaster.

Unfortunately, they chose to present the film open matte instead of in its intended theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There is a lot of head room, as you can see in the captures below, and it would have been better if the transfer was anamorphically enhanced for higher resolution, but the image quality is very good with almost no damage or marks on the print.


The English mono soundtrack is fine and there is a choice of English, French and Spanish subtitles available. Only extra is a theatrical trailer, but I'm just glad this film is available on DVD with a very good transfer, even if it is in the wrong ratio. The title was recently offered for only $2.98 from 3rd parties on Amazon, so look out for sales and definitely pick it up when you see it priced reasonably.

  - Gregory Meshman


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Region 1 - NTSC



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