The Stunt Man
by Jef Burnham
Now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Severin Films and MPI Media.
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Director Richard Rush’s (Freebie and the Bean) 1980 film, The Stunt Man, is one of the most beguiling pictures you’re apt to ever see. Equal parts comedy, drama, action, and romance, The Stunt Man flows seamlessly from one genre to another without warning, creating perhaps the most unique and captivating anti-war picture ever made. Anchor Bay’s 2001 Limited Edition of the film went out of print some time ago, but it is available once again from Severin Films and MPI with an all-new HD transfer care of Richard Rush himself.
The film opens with Cameron (Steve Railsback, Helter Skelter), a psychologically traumatized Vietnam vet, being trailed by lawmen for an unspecified crime. After wandering on to the set of a World War I film, a confrontation between Cameron and the film’s lead stunt man results in the accidental death of said stunt man. Thus, with the local police chief threatening to close the film down a mere three days away from the completion of location shooting, the film’s desperate, megalomaniacal director, Eli Cross (Peter O’Toole), hires Cameron to pose as the deceased stunt man. What begins as a normal working relationship between director and stunt man spirals wildly out of control as Cameron and Eli feed one another’s madness, altering the tone of the entire piece.
Given Cameron’s delicate mental state, participating in the creation of a work of fiction strains his faculties beyond to dangerous levels. Reality and the fictional world of the film bleed into one another until Cameron can’t tell the difference and his co-workers become entrenched enemies. Even his affair with the film’s lead actress (Barbara Hershey, Hannah and Her Sisters) cannot stabilize his fractured psyche. And being told from Cameron’s perspective, the film becomes something of a cross between a movie about the filmmaking process and a war picture steeped in paranoia— like a cinematic hybrid born of Day for Night (1979) and Apocalypse Now (1979). But it has a sense of humor too, and it is every bit as funny as it is suspenseful (or romantic or action-packed for that matter). I’ve simply never seen anything like The Stunt Man— nothing that was artistically successful like it anyway.
The Stunt Man was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Actor (Peter O’Toole), and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is available from Severin and MPI in three editions, including a single-disc DVD, a 2-Disc DVD Special Edition, and a Blu-ray edition. Included in all editions are an audio commentary with Richard Rush, and stars Peter O’Toole, Steve Railsback, Barbara Hershey, Alex Rocco, Sharon Farrell, and Chuck Ball; as well as an exclusive interview with Peter O’Toole, the theatrical trailer, and deleted scenes.
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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