Monday, March 24, 2014

Stunts (1977)

          Gonzo director Richard Rush has opined that during the long gestation periods of his film projects, disreputable producers frequently copied his ideas and created lesser versions that diminished his box-office potential. Watching Stunts, which bears an uncomfortable resemblance to Rush’s demented drama The Stunt Man (1980), it’s tempting to give Rush’s complaint credence. Like The Stunt Man, Stunts depicts an out-of-control film shoot on which a maniacal director’s quest for spectacle endangers the lives of stunt performers. Yet the similarities mostly end there, since The Stunt Man is as deep as Stunts is shallow. Stretching credibility way past the breaking point, Stunts implies that authorities would allow production to continue after not one but three on-set deaths, and that authorities would be content letting macho stuntmen investigate the mortalities. Just because Stunts is silly, however, doesn’t mean the movie lacks entertainment value. The various stunt scenes, including falls from tremendous heights and tricky automotive gags, are staged and filmed well, with hack director Mark L. Lester employing a range of stylish camera angles and maximizing tension through the use of brisk editing. Furthermore, the production values are slightly more than adequate, and it’s always fun to see behind-the-scenes footage showcasing what movie sets looked like back in the day.
          Atop all that, Stunts shamelessly panders to audience expectations with such clichéd characters as the lone-wolf stud, the nosy reporter, the obnoxious director, and the tweaked special-effects guy. Incarnating these one-dimensional roles is a fun ensemble cast comprising offbeat men and sexy women. Robert Forster, at his most endearingly indifferent, stars as a heroic stunt man investigating the death of his brother. Portraying his fellow daredevils are Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner), Bruce Glover (Diamonds Are Forever), and Richard Lynch (The Sword and the Sorcerer), among others. Meanwhile, petite blonde Candice Rialson and sultry brunette Fiona Lewis play the women romancing Forster’s character, while veteran character actor Malachi Throne appears as the overbearing director. Alas, none of these actors is given a single original moment to play—beyond the trite elements already mentioned, Stunts features a starlet sleeping her way to the top and a scene of macho dudes honoring a pact by pulling a paralyzed pal off life support. Nonetheless, the movie’s colorful milieu, impressive stunts, and zippy pace make for 90 minutes of pleasant viewing.

Stunts: FUNKY


Unknown said...

Ha ha, leave it to you to find a sneaky way to slip in a micro-review of 1980's The Stunt Man, thank you for that. Never seen this, and it's a shame they're wasted -- but still, that cast!

SLOnative said...

Rush's The Stunt Man cast (Peter O'Toole!) is superior to this film shot in San Luis Obispo County.