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DVD cover art The Stunt Man Director as Devil graphic The Stunt Man Movie on DVD cover art
"The Stunt Man"
"The Stunt Man" DVD
Reviewed by Ivana Redwine

Guide Rating -  

Length: 131 minutes
MPAA Rating: R

Pauline Kael called "The Stunt Man" (1980) "a virtuoso piece of kinetic filmmaking," and I certainly agree. I like this offbeat movie’s quirky mix of dark comedy, drama, action, and romance, and Peter O’Toole creates a truly memorable character as Eli Cross, a tyrannical film director who has a benevolent side as well.

In "The Stunt Man," there is a movie-within-the-movie. Eli is making a film about World War I, and he ruthlessly manipulates his cast and crew to get what he wants. But Cameron (Steve Railsback), an athletic man on the run from law enforcement, happens to wind up at one of the locations where Eli is shooting. When Eli’s top stunt man is killed, he persuades Cameron to take over the dead man’s duties by promising to shield him from the police in return. While doing daredevil stunts for Eli’s movie, Cameron becomes romantically involved with leading lady Nina Franklin (Barbara Hershey), only to discover that he is a little uncomfortable about her relationship with Eli. But as the time approaches for Cameron to perform the key stunt in Eli’s film, which involves driving a Dusenberg off a bridge and into a river, Cameron begins to fear that Eli is going to arrange things so that he will be trapped inside the car and drown.

I really like the way "The Stunt Man" depicts Eli as sometimes being god-like, while at other times he’s more like a devil. I thought the film was very successful in creating a fine line between illusion and reality. The highly cinematic nature of "The Stunt Man," combined with its sharp dialogue and biting wit, make this movie one that no cinephile will want to miss.

The DVD includes an audio track featuring the commentary of writer-director Richard Rush and actors Peter O’Toole, Barbara Hershey, Steve Railsback, Alex Rocco, Sharon Farrell, and Chuck Bail. When you listen to the commentary track, it sounds as though it was recorded in at least three or four sessions and then edited together. Although some of the banter on the audio track sounds like a mutual admiration society, I still found listening to it to be worthwhile.

There are a few other special features on the DVD, and I particularly recommend watching the deleted scene "Police Station." This is a madcap scene where Eli and Nina pull some zany antics in order to free their leading man who has been accused of molesting a sailor. There are other bonus materials on the DVD, and I’ve listed most of them below.

In this review, I’m writing about the DVD version of "The Stunt Man" which consists of only a single disc containing the movie plus the special features listed below. There’s also another DVD on the market that consists of a single disc containing the 114-minute documentary "The Making of ‘The Stunt Man,’" which is written, directed, and narrated by Richard Rush, director, producer, and co-writer of "The Stunt Man." There’s also a Limited Edition DVD set that packages both of these two discs together.

Selected Special Features on the DVD:

  • Commentary by Director and Actors
  • Deleted Scene: "Police Station"
  • Deleted Scene: "Sand Pile"
  • Production Stills
  • Behind-the-Scenes Stills
  • Production and Advertising Art
  • Trailers (3)
  • Screenplay and Director’s Notes (DVD-ROM)
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