This was director Richard Rush's dream project and it took him nine years to get it on the screen. And, of course, it would! It's multi-layered, original, funny and packed full of story and circumstance that makes you think.

Why would any studio want to touch it? Fox even sat on it for two years before giving it a limited release. Now, Anchor Bay has created the ultimate DVD and I urge you to buy it. The Stunt Man is a movie you'll never forget and even on its umpteenth viewing, still manages to be as intriguing as the first.

It is a story told from the view of Cameron (Steve Railsback), a Vietnam vet on the run from the law. He stumbles onto the set of a WWI movie and accidentally kills a stunt driver. The director of the movie is the eccentric and megalomaniacal Eli Cross (Peter O'Toole, in one of his best ever performances), who takes Cameron under his wing and protects him from John Law, as long as he keeps his mouth shut about the accident.

Cameron practices to be a stunt artist and takes the place of the man he killed. But as the movie shoot becomes more elaborate and dangerous, he falls in love with the leading lady (Barbara Hershey) and starts to suspect that Eli is trying to capture his death on film.

Although it seems nasty, the movie is wonderfully light-hearted and the outrageous stunt scenes are backed up by a joyous score by Dominic Frontiere. I've been humming that theme since I was 12-years-old. A long scene with Cameron running over a rooftop, as biplanes attack and enemy soldiers give chase, is the stuff of legend. There is a great comic sense of humor in watching them trip over each other, fall off and get blown up.

John Law do not back down on their suspicion of Eli and, through half-heard conversations and eavesdropping, Cameron's paranoia becomes increasingly justified. Because the movie is seen through his eyes we never quite know what is going on with Eli. Is he a madman, or just a crafty director? Would you believe that O'Toole based his performance on his experiences with David Lean?

Why he never won an Oscar - it went to Robert DeNiro for Raging Bull - is beyond me. He truly gives the performance of his career, far exceeding even Lawrence of Arabia. It also sucks that Rush never won for Director, or Adapted Screenplay. Had he been awarded the golden statuette, maybe he would have received more recognition. He's clearly a better filmmaker than most of today's hack artists.

You simply have to see The Stunt Man. It's an overlooked gem and, despite the wide praise it received, it has never really reached a large audience. Now is definitely the time to rediscover this forgotten classic.

Reviewed on: 23 Mar 2003
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The Stunt Man packshot
An on the run criminal takes a job as a stuntman... and finds himself falling for the leading lady.
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Director: Richard Rush

Writer: Richard Rush, Lawrence B. Marcus, based on the novel by Paul Brodeur

Starring: Peter O’Toole, Barbara Hershey, Steve Railsback, Sharon Farrell, Alex Rocco, Allen Garfield, Chuck Bail, Adam Roarke

Year: 1980

Runtime: 130 minutes

Country: US

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