by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here on the IndyBlog.
The 1979 cult classic The Stunt Man is one of those much-mythologized movies that only a select few seem to remember, which is weird considering it was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Actor. According to the feature-length making-of documentary, various studio forces tried desperately to keep it suppressed and withdrawn. It’s good to know that not only did they fail, but Severin Films has released a special edition Blu-Ray that celebrates what should’ve been one of the biggest movies of the decade. In a dangerously madcap look at the movie industry, Steve Railsback is a fugitive who finds refuge on the set of auteur director Peter O’Toole’s latest anti-war epic. Hired on as a stuntman, Railsback is put through his paces to the point where he becomes convinced that O’Toole is trying to kill him. Too mainstream to be considered arty, too arty to be considered mainstream, The Stunt Man is a total “damn the man” cinematic experience.
Before Ron Howard became Hollywood’s mainstream, audience-pleasing, fast-food filmmaker du jour, he was desperately trying to break the public perception of him as sweet little Opie Taylor or comically naïve Richie Cunningham. Not wanting to become another washed-up child star, he enlisted the help of the legendary Roger Corman to put him on the proper roads, with one caveat: that he star in the cheapie car-chase flick Eat My Dust! first. It's a supremely silly teen flick, with teens who steal cars, drink beer, shoot shotguns out car windows, and cause thousands of taxpayer dollars worth of damage with little to no repercussions. The follow-up — and Howard’s 1977 directorial debut — Grand Theft Auto, is another car-chase flick, but also a decidedly funnier one, with a very Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World-vibe going on as a teen couple races to Vegas to get married, complete with bounties on their head. It might just be the best thing Howard ever did.
As a kid, I used to love the Hal (Smokey and the Bandit) Needham joint Rad. The story of a teen who follows his dreams to BMX stardom, all the while taking down an evil corporation, really resonated with me, a chubby 6-year-old with an off-brand bike and parents who told me to “be a man and shake it off” on when I flipped my wheels and cut my skull open. It’s heartwarming to think that, while I was outside, badly imitating those slick tricks, kids were in Australia, doing the same thing thanks to a movie called BMX Bandits. Starring a young Nicole Kidman, Bandits is the simple story of three stunt-loving BMX-enthusiast teens who manage to find themselves embroiled in a caper with dastardly bank-robbers. There’s also a charmingly obnoxious fat kid — isn’t there always? The plot is completely inconsequential; it’s merely an excuse for 90 minutes of sweet flips, hops, jumps, handlebar handstands, seat-surfing and, at one point, careening down a waterslide. Purely radical fun from start to finish.