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DVD: Pumping Iron (1977) - 25th Anniversary Edition
Review Rating:   Very Good  
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1 (NTSC)

November 11, 2003



Genre: Documentary  
Before retiring from professional body building, 5-year champion Arnold Schwarzengger trains for one more shot at Mr. Olympia, competing against newcomer Lou Ferrigno.  



Directed by:

George Butler,  Robert Fiore
Screenplay by: none credited
Music by: Michael Small
Produced by: George Butler,  Jerome Gary

Arnold Schwarzenegger,  Lou Ferrigno,  Matty Ferrigno,  Victoria Ferrigno,  Mike Katz,  Franco Columbu,  Ed Corney,  Ken Waller,  Serge Nubret,  Robin Robinson,  Marianne Claire,  Charles Gaines

Film Length: 85 mins
Process/Ratio: 1.85:1
Anamorphic DVD: Yes
Languages:   English (Dolby 5.1)
Subtitles:   English,  French,  Spanish
Special Features :  

Featurettes: "Iron And Beyond" (14:15) + "Iron Insights" (13:55) / Documentary: "Raw Iron" (42:19) / HBO Promos: Arnold Schwarzenegger (2:10), 25th Anniversary Premiere (1:33) / Video bio of Arnold Schwarzenegger

Comments :

One of the most requested titles finally arrives on DVD in a clean transfer, taken from the Cinemax broadcast master which ran in 2002, and a subtle pseudo-surround mix of the original mono track.

Though regarded as a documentary, both filmmaker and stars Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno admit some material was invented to create some conflict between the outgoing champion from Austria, and a worthy rival from the Bronx. The problem, from a dramatic standpoint, was rather serious: all the athletes in the film – in spite of their own unique personalities – are good guys, who worked out at the same gym, trained together, and socialized together (often at Arnie's bachelor pad).

With no black sheep or deceitful rival, some creative license was employed – and that's where the filmmakers and cast explain the facts (training, and actual competition in front of audiences) from fiction (staged scenes, Schwarzenegger creating a cold-hearted, selfish persona, and Ferrigno as the poor city kid, hungry for fame).

“Raw Iron: The Making of Pumping Iron” originally book-ended the Cinemax airing, and includes clips from many deleted scenes (such as a fan who asks Arnie when he's going to run for U.S. president), and interviews with the athletes, and co-director George Butler (director of the exceptional doc, “The Endurance”). Flashy and fast-paced, it addresses the problems encountered by the filmmakers during shooting when they were searching for viable conflicts, and setting up situations with Schwarzenegger and his fellow athletes in different locales: A movie theatre, a luncheon, a meeting Reg Park, and a walk with Arnie and author Charles Gaines (whose book, co-written with George Butler, inspired the film). The most fascinating deletion is an aborted side-story, reversing the fish-out-of-water scenario, with actor Bud Cort at Gold's Gym; adding comedic material to a film subject the filmmakers were still worried might prove dull and disastrous with their financiers.

In “Iron Insights,” Arnold Schwarzenegger also addresses key questions that viewers in 1977 and today keep asking; and besides explaining what he did and didn't do, and how he really felt about rival Ferrigno, Arnie also clarifies whether pumping up is really better than a sexual climax (you have to see the film to believe why it's still a minor shocker). “Iron Insights” is a frequently funny session that uses very long takes of Arnie talking, and the lack of kinetic editing and arty digital effects captures the energy and humour of the iconic actor.

“Iron and Beyond” traces Arnie's still amazing career jump from Mr. Olympia to box-office sensation, and with (brief) comments from major stars (Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone) and directors (John Milius, John McTiernan), the featurette does a fair job in illustrating body building's gradual acceptance by Eighties health aficionados, and the creation of an action muscle-hero for that decade.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent ascent to California's top Governor position (chronicled in the 2006 doc Running with Arnold) seems like a natural move for the unmistakably charismatic actor, and the included “Video Bio” - really a shameless campaign advert in tissue-thin wrapping – punctuates the DVD's symbolic position as a visual bridge between Schwarzenegger's broad career strokes.


© 2003 Mark R. Hasan

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