Sunday, April 17, 2011

Peter O'Toole & Barbara Hershey in The Stunt Man (1980)

A conundrum wrapped in an enigma. That's what The Stunt Man is like. Cameron (Steve Railsback) is on the run from the police. He's able to elude them, only to find himself caught up in the middle of a World War I film shoot. Due to a misunderstanding he causes the death of one of the film's stunt men and stumbles away unnoticed, only to encounter the shoot at a different location. The director, Eli Cross (O'Toole) notices him and is able to put two and two together, discovering that he's on the lamb, and he was the cause of the accident earlier. He offers Cameron a job as stuntman to replace the man who has just died, then proceeds to torment and toy with his new protege mercilessly.
This film is a strange mix of high minded ideals, superb acting, raunchy, base visuals and effects and strange homosexual overtones. It's obvious that Eli is very accomplished. He's able to marshal the forces of his crew, the local police and just about anyone else within hearing distance of him and he uses any and every dirty, inappropriate and unsavory trick he can devise to get the performance he wants from his actors. At the same time, they're shooting the picture at the Hotel Del in San Diego and trying to make it look like Europe. The whole effect is skewed - is Eli a brilliant director or is he a hack? Hollywood loves to see itself satirized, and this film definitely aims at that, however, the choreography of the action sequences is so far removed from how they would actually be done that it comes off as somewhat clueless. It's entirely possible that these discordant elements are fully intentional and they do support the surreal quality of the film. Peter O'Toole gives a magnificent performance as the director and was nominated for an academy award for it. Steve Railsback is also very powerful in the part of the fugitive/stuntman.

This film is available on DVD, though it seems to be out of print, so copies are a bit pricey. The trailer for it is above, uploaded to YouTube by FanOfMovies123. The poster above is featured at  The Imp Awards.


  1. One has to keep in mind that this movie can be viewed only once to appreciate the full effect and affect. The point also needs to be made that one is not entirely clear as to the mental condition of the Railsback character. One also has to understand that much of what we perceive in this movie is what the Railsback character experiences: i,.e, when he yells 'MEDIC...MEDIC' during the battle seen at the beachfront. WE, the audience forget that we're watching a movie about a movie being made and get lost in the illusion of the battle. THAT'S what the movie is ALL about.

  2. Yes, there's something to that. The film is very subjective...