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Pumping Iron

By Tom Keogh

Arnold Schwarzenegger works the crowds, plots strategies for defeating multiple opponents, shares his parents' values with the press, and inspires legions of admirers with his resolute optimism about the future. And all of this long before he decided to run for governor of California, in 1977's hit documentary, Pumping Iron. Larger than life, though not necessarily larger than his rivals for the Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia bodybuilding titles (especially a young Lou Ferrigno, hot on Arnold's competitive trail but much less interesting), Schwarzenegger still comes across, at age 28, as a consummate politician, smart, likable, and crafty about exploiting others' psychological weaknesses. The film still feels redundant (there's only so much beefcake the human eye will tolerate), but the emotional dramas--the unrewarded hard work, the unanswered hopes--are compelling. Complete with a revealing 2003 interview with Schwarzenegger and a reunion of the film's bodybuilders and director.

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"To genuinely appreciate Pumping Iron, a man must go into the gym and sweat an hour session at least one time. Or cruise down Nielson Avenue in Venice and view the old Golds Gym that was nothing more than a big garage then walk to the pit on the beach nearby where one can still get bona-fide, Super70s style ambience as depicted in the film. The most revealing scenes in the film were the ones showing Lou and his entourage rounding the street corner in Brooklyn on their way to the gym and Arnold and the boys grunting like beasts and pushing huge loads of iron in the west coast gym. We get just a hint of the reality of the grueling twenty-year gauntlet each one of these notables endured for their moments of glory in the limelight. To me, the best part of Pumping Iron is the scene where Mike Katz loses to Waller and then, after commiserating backstage, rises to his feet uttering "is'nt this great - he must feel incredible right now" to go back up on stage and congratulate the man who beat him out of his long dreamed of trophy. They should have made Katz governor. He was the biggest man."

--Jericho

 

FILM FACTS

Buy this VHS movie from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Buy this DVD from Amazon.com! (Click here!)Soundtrack unavailable at Amazon.com - try eBay (see links below)Rated PGNot on an American Film Institute 100 list

Director: George Butler (II)

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno,

Released: December 2, 1977

Availability: DVD VHS


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