The Best Films You've Never Seen: 1. The Stunt Man
Film // Jim // 5th September 2011
The Stunt Man//1980//Dir. Richard Rush
"If God could do the tricks we can do, he´d be a happy man"
During the lengthy post-production/pre-release gestation period of this amazing movie, director Richard Rush was extremely keen that his undiluted vision was not compromised by any studio interference. At a preview screening for the suits, when, during Rush´s introductory remarks the editor piped up and said he had made a few changes to the cut, Rush pulled out a handgun and shot him dead.
Now, this was all staged to prove a (very blunt) point to the terrified executives, but it also closely parallels the experience of watching The Stunt Man.
The story is of Cameron, a man on the run from the law who stumbles dramatically into the web of despotic yet magnetic film director Eli Cross, played at the zenith of his powers by Peter O´Toole. Given little choice, Cameron agrees to become a stunt man on the First World War drama in return for sanctuary from the police, hidden by the film-within-a-film´s crew.
Cross manipulates Cameron into ever more dangerous and extreme stunts, while he also falls into a relationship with the leading lady, Barbera Hershey.
Where The Stunt Man takes a turn away from a standard action drama is the constant switching in the perception of Cameron (and indeed the audience) as to what is really happening and what is a fabrication of reality, either due to Cameron´s frazzled paranoia, Cross´s faustian machinations or the slight of hand tricks deployed by Richard Rush and the actual film-makers.
So, you are left with a deeply philosophical tract in the form of a huge action-movie drama on a blockbuster scale - with the sort of live action stunts that you cannot imagine being legal anymore.At the centre of this maelstrom is O´Toole, buzzing around in a helicopter, floating around on his personal camera crane and generally being an absolute cunt to everyone involved - it is a masterclass.
The Stunt Man was based on a novel by Paul Brodeur, you can get the film on DVD or Blu-ray and it is especially worth getting the version that includes the documentary ´The Sinister Saga of The Stuntman´ the imdb page is: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081568/