The Stunt Man

January 15, 2015 | Posted by Lesley Jakobsen | Drama Film, FILM, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS | 2 Comments |

Swivel-eyed loon, Peter O'Toole

(with a Minority Report and a PS)

(Director R. Rush) (1980)

Tedious,  unhinged and thin.  Yes, that’s both The Stunt Man and its eyerolling star, the world’s worst actor, Peter O’Toole.  Why is Charles Manson blond?  Who COULD that old woman in the water be?  There’s something about a bridge.  O’Toole leers insanely from a helicopter.  People’s legs are shot off, or not.  Let’s all applaud for no reason.  Barbara Hershey wanders about in a Barbara Hershey shaped mist.  What the heck is going on?  Who could care?


Yes, this film has problems.  Yes, O’Toole invariably chewed the scenery (although how can you call him the world’s worst actor amid such spoils of choice?)  Yes, Barbara Hershey does float about in a ham-smelling miasma of her own.  But there are some who do care about this film, which is a mirror to the make-believe of film and film-folk.

Based on the 1970 novel by Paul Brodeur and bearing the scars of the decade Richard Rush took to wrestle it to the screen, the piece suffers from fragmented structure and overly-talky style but the essential story, of a deserter hiding out on a film location, protected by the fey, other-worldy director in consideration for replacing the recently deceased stunt man, stays intact and is highly witty, amusing and intriguing.  (When the stunt car goes into the river and the driver fails to surface, O’Toole tells his assistant to “Call my mother – have her convince me it wasn’t my fault.”)  But there is no denying the finished film is a little rough and oddly-lit.


O’Toole, as the ‘omnipotent’ Director (in the book called Gottschalk or ‘servant of god’) is probably mad, obviously unscrupulous and obsessed with his latest project, some kind of Great War burlesque.  In this context, his performance can be understood and appreciated as rather daring satire, of the kind he did in The Ruling Class and My Favourite Year.  There is a varied and interesting cast, although we regret that the hideous Bruno da Fe (the cameraman who makes porno on the side) was left out – the role would have been perfect for Steve Plytas.

So there!  We can agree to disagree!


I now realise my mistake.  As our friend M, who runs a theatre company pointed out sagely, Peter O’Toole is not an actor.


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