Better known for co-writing the iconic book "Pumping Iron," author and occasional screenwriter Charles Gaines had also written a novel about the "new Old South" - a snobbier level of modern, southern nouveau riche - called "Stay Hungry," in 1975.
Stripping away the social satire and then-unique backdrop of the body-building profession, "Stay Hungry" is really just an old-fashioned romance, in which the hero (Jeff Bridges) can only achieve personal redemption and genuine romance by revealing the original, less-neighborly intentions that brought him to his newfound girlfriend (Sally Field) and buddies (Arnold Schwarzenegger et al).
Of course, the film's real novelty is casting Schwarzenegger in a straight dramatic role, playing a humble athlete who also plays fiddle with the local artists. (Note, however, the cast list, which includes a substantial collection of up-and-coming talent).
For director/co-writer Bob Rafelson (who also provides an informative introduction), and stars Field & Bridges, this marks their first commentary track, and they collectively admit some confusion as to why people would find watching a film with a cast/crew discussion of interest. That said, aside from some modest gaps, the track provides a lively reunion for the trio, whose own careers ascended after this very odd but noteworthy film. Covering the colourful Birmingham locations, casting, and of course the enigmatic, pre-Governor Arnold, "Stay Hungry" can also be seen as a companion piece to Schwazengger's breakthrough appearance in "Pumping Iron." The body-building aspect (which includes cameos by other "Pumping Iron" athletes) eventually takes over the film, adding a really surreal, comedic conclusion that's reminiscent of a wacky "Monkees" episode (of which Rafelson actually directed a few).
Rafelson also discusses his unusual career; which ranged from TV shows, to later producing indie films like "Easy Rider," and the long time gaps between films that have more or less characterized his otherwise intriguing career.
© 2004 Mark R. Hasan
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