Cult Classic + Peter O’Toole = get the disc. Which I did. When Cameron (Steve Railsback) stumbles on to a movie shoot, he unintentionally causes the death by drowning of the stunt man. Running from the law anyway, the director (Peter O’Toole at the top of his game in this one) offers Cameron shelter if he’ll become his replacement stuntman. Since he’s never done stunts before, this is a bit outlandish. But then there’s a lot about this film that is a bit outlandish as it tweaks the film industries attempt to replace reality with film. Cameron comes to the set as an outsider, and loses his ability to tell what’s real in the scenes and what is not. It’s a heady game that the director (the film Director, Richard Rush) plays, and it mostly works.
Cameron falls for the leading lady (Barbara Hershey) and she reciprocates? Or does she? She’s a loyal ally of the director, so who’s to say? The movie within the movie is a take on WWI, and plays a lot like slapstick. Another seemingly odd approach, but fits in with the movies intent: comedy mixed with romance, reality mixed with artifice. And an anti-war film within a film about perception? Brilliant. The film includes a great look behind the scenes at movie-making, and it’s to be included on any lists of movies about movies. I’m glad I filled in one of my O’Toole gaps with this one. He was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in 1981 for his performance here, but lost out to DeNiro’s Raging Bull. How could the Academy not given DeNiro the Oscar in that year? The man has never won it, although nominated like eight freakin’ times, which is a crime. He didn’t win it for Lawrence of Arabia or for Becket or for The Lion in Winter. He didn’t even win it for the great The Ruling Class. The Oscar that year went to Brando’s The Godfather, and he didn’t even want the damned thing!