Sunday, August 03, 2014
One of my favorite forgotten films
Watched one of my favorite movies that will never make the AFI list. It’s THE STUNT MAN from 1980 – one of the few movies that was nominated for a bunch of Oscars and yet very few people have heard of it. Directed by Richard Rush from a script by Laurence B. Marcus and Rush (adapted from the novel by Paul Brodeur) THE STUNT MAN is that rare movie that combines a compelling story with great acting, terrific action sequences, and Barbara Hershey when she was really hot.
Here’s the plot: the late Peter O’Toole (in his best performance EVER…and yes, I know he was amazing in SUPERGIRL) is a flamboyant brilliant director making a movie about World War I. Steve Railsback (no one can play a psycho better – not to give him a swelled head) is a fugitive running from the police. He accidentally finds himself in a scene being filmed and just as accidentally, kills a stunt man. (It's a sad parallel to the recent Sarah Elizabeth Jones accident on the set of MIDNIGHT RIDER.) O’Toole agrees to hide Railsback if he takes over for the fallen below-the-line worker. From here the lines of reality and art and ethics and game playing and illusion blend into one thoroughly engrossing experience. Can anyone say that about TAMMY?
Visually, the movie is also striking. It was filmed primarily at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, the same location Billy Wilder used for SOME LIKE IT HOT, although Wilder never took advantage of the roofs to stage a World War I battle scene. Everything about this movie crackles, from the pace, to the music (done by Dominic Frontiere several years before going to prison for scalping Superbowl tickets).
If there’s such a thing as a postmodernism thrill ride movie, this is it.
When THE STUNT MAN came out it was poorly marketed and didn’t get the attention it deserved. As Peter O’Toole said, “the movie wasn’t released, it escaped.” The DVD features all kinds of bonus goodies and commentaries. And there’s Barbara Hershey.
Check it out.