Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches
"This is one of the most enjoyable works of its kind."

Rod Taylor – star of The Time Machine, The Birds and Inglourious Basterds, as well as countless more popular films and hit TV series – was 84 years old when he died in 2015. Shortly before that, he contributed to this documentary about his life. Often it’s a little saddening to watch a film about a star who has just died, but with Taylor, there’s no room for such sentiment. This is one of the most enjoyable works of its kind.

To be fair, there never were many stars like Rod Taylor. A square-jawed Aussie with a broad sense of humour who exuded confidence but never let ego get in his way, he was something of a shock to the system when he first arrived in Hollywood. No-one here seems able to decide if he was a man’s man or a ladies’ man, because his male co-stars immediately warmed to him but he constantly enjoyed female attention, dating several of the era’s most glamorous stars. There are some great anecdotes here about his turbulent relationship with the equally fiery Anita Ekberg, but what really seemed to win over actresses, models and audiences alike was his willingness to show vulnerability. This wasn’t just emotional – in one television role he got beaten up on a weekly basis, with fans apparently thinking no less of him as a fighter just because he always lost. For a male actor in that period, this was uncharted territory.

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Robert de Young’s energetic and affectionate documentary brings together a host of big name stars who worked with Taylor, all of whom seem genuinely fond of him and have great stories to tell. The man himself contributes in an extended interview, which is delivered, like everything here, in easily digested bite-sized chunks. We see clips of his film and television roles and occasional behind-the-scenes archive material. But for all its sense of fun, the film doesn’t shy away from showing us the price Taylor paid for his art, especially late in his career when his body started to show the strain of all those adventures. A scene of him tap-dancing on a bar on what turned out to be a broken foot reveals the real determination that drove him throughout his career, and the pain never once shows on his face.

Despite his success, Taylor has never enjoyed the recognition granted to other stars of his era. Though he was much loved at the time and some of his films are seen as classics, he has gradually faded from view, perhaps because of his generosity as an actor, his willingness to give ground to his co-stars (something else that made actresses fond of him). This film goes some way to redressing the balance. Even if you have no idea who he is when you start watching, you’re guaranteed a good time – and that was Rod Taylor, all the way.

Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2018
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An interview with the Australian actor.

Director: Robert de Young

Year: 2016

Runtime: 80 minutes

Country: Australia


Glasgow 2018

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