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USA 1980
Directed by
Richard Rush
129 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

The Stunt Man

This is one of those interesting 70s films which jauntily plays with established filmic styles in order to say something about …well I'm not sure. Reality and representation, yes, but what else? Fidelity, ego, the Vietnam War? The latter is a recurring subject but the connections are oblique. Mixing irony, humour, satire and self-parody the film which took 9 years from the first screenplay to release was post-modern before the word was commonplace. The opening title sequence demonstrates director Richard Rush’s fluidly complex style but the film’s polymorphousness was sufficient to hurt it at the box office despite being critically well-received.

Peter O'Toole, in a role originally considered for Jack Nicholson, does his flamboyant thing to good effect (he was nominated for an Oscar for his effort) as Eli Cross, a director making an anti-war film set in WW1. Steve Railsback, (an actor who has not had such a major role since) plays Cameron, a young Vietnam vet on the run from the police who stumbles on the set just as Cross is trying to explain to the local police chief (Alex Rocco) what happened to his stunt man who appears to have drowned.  The quick-thinking Cross passes off Cameron as the missing stuntman and Cameron finds himself in the mind-bending world of  film-making. Matters compound when he falls for the film's mercurial starlet, Nina (Barbara Hershey) .

Rush, who had directed the early Nicholson film, Hell's Angels On Wheels,as well as other exploitation films before hitting gold with Elliot Gould in the 1970 smash, Getting Straight (unseen) has only directed one film since and the cult flop Color Of Night although in 2000 he released a making-of documentary about what will no doubt go down as his most memorable film.




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