Blu-ray reissue: The Stunt Man ****

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on July 2, 2011)

The Stunt Man – Severin Films Blu-ray

How tall was King Kong?” That’s the $64,000 question, posed several times by Eli Cross (Peter O’Toole), the larger-than-life director of the film-within-the-film in Richard Rush’s 1980 drama. Once you discover that King Kong was but “3 foot, six inches tall”, it becomes clear that the fictional director’s query is actually code for a much bigger question: “What is reality?”

That is the question to ponder as you take this wild ride through the Dream Factory. Because from the moment our protagonist, a fugitive on the run from the cops (Steve Railsback) tumbles ass over teakettle onto Mr. Cross’s set, where he is  filming an art-house flavored WW I drama, his (and our) concept of what is real and what isn’t becomes diffuse. O’Toole chews major scenery, ably supported by a cast that includes Barbara Hershey and Allen Garfield.

Despite lukewarm critical reception upon original release, it’s now considered a classic. A 43-week run at the Guild 45th Theater in Seattle (booked by Rush himself, out of his frustration with the releasing studio’s lackluster support) is credited for building the initial word of mouth with audiences and eventually assuring the film’s cult status. Truly  a movie for people who love the movies.

The Blu-ray transfer does reveal it to be a candidate for a full-blown restoration at some point-but you can’t have everything. Luckily, Severin Films has seen fit to include the full-length documentary, The Sinister Making of the Stuntman, because it makes for a fascinating tale in and of itself.

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