003797Reviews & Counting
Pumping Iron
DVD disk
10.07.2004 By: JoBlo
Pumping Iron order
George Bulter & Robert Fiore

Arnold Schwarzenegger
Lou Ferrigno
Franco Columbu


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This 1977 docu-drama (see more about that in the EXTRAS) features none other than bodybuilder/actor/governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his final participation in the Mr. Olympia competition versus a bunch of other muscle-heads including his best friend Franco Columbu and newbie (and future Hulk) Lou Ferrigno. The film documents all of the mens’ workouts and mental preparations for the competition.
This is a short and sweet docu-drama for anyone interested in the field of bodybuilding, as well as the art of “psyching out” your opponents, a concept that 6-time Mr. Olympia winner Schwarzenegger obviously mastered as per his major cocky, confident and cold attitude throughout this movie. How cold is Schwarzenegger when he’s training? At some point in the film, he remarks about how his mother once called him two months before a competition to tell him that his father had died, but Arnold could not be bothered enough to fly back home for his funeral (“What’s the use? He’s already dead.”) Ouch. He also delivers a slew of hilarious one-liners (you can see his action hero persona in training here), including my personal favorite in which he compares “pumping up” to cumming, as well as his answer to a question about whether or not he drinks milk: “Milk is for babies, when you get older, you drink beer”

The man knows exactly what to say, even if he doesn’t always mean what he’s saying (see more on that in the EXTRAS section). He psyches poor blue-collar Brooklyn-bred puffy-haired Ferrigno right out of the competition before they even hit the stage and speaks derogatorily about his best buddy Columbu during a pre-competition interview (“Franco’s smart, but he’s a child.”) The film slows down a little here and there, mostly when Arnold isn’t on camera, but offers decent background on each man (loved the mid-70s Brooklyn shots with Ferrigno—reminded me of SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and SERPICO) and plenty of oiled-up pose-downs and mind-games. For anyone who has yet to accept Schwarzenegger as one of the more self-confident and charismatic men in the world, watch this movie and be amazed by his accomplishments. Oh, and I absolutely love the shot of Arnold after the competition, lying down in the backroom with a plate of fried chicken on his stomach, a T-shirt that reads “Arnold is numero uno”, a joint in his mouth and a glass of champagne in his hand. Wow! The final scene, after the competition, in the bus with Ferrigno is yet another perfect example of how even Arnold’s “enemies” are ultimately charmed by him.
A few extra features are also included on this dvd with the 15-minute “Iron and Beyond” featurette starting it all off. This piece basically discusses the impact that PUMPING IRON had on people all over America, and how it took bodybuilding out of the shadows and into the spotlight, with millions of people joining gyms and toning their own bodies soon thereafter. It also goes a little into Arnold’s transition to Hollywood movies with quickie interviews with several top dogs including Sylvester Stallone, director James Cameron, Clint Eastwood as well as up-and-coming major Arnie fans like The Rock. A decent feature, despite its mucho back-patting. A “Video Bio of Arnold Schwarzenegger” which runs about 12 minutes, but is actually just a scrolling text story of his life as narrated by some voice-over guy, is next, but nothing particularly interesting. Pictures accompany the narration, but an actual video-documentary a la A&E’s “Biography” would have been much better. Thumbs down.

The disc’s next feature is called “Raw Iron: The Making of Pumping Iron” which is a 42-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, concentrating on many outtakes from the 100 hours that were shot for the film, intercut with recent interviews with all of its main “stars” including Arnold, Ferrigno, the filmmakers and most of the other bodybuilders. Many of the cut scenes are interesting to see now because they showcase the men in a variety of situations, not just in the gym, including their camaraderie, which the filmmakers purposely kept out of the film, in order to create some “tension” for movie-goers. A party sequence at Arnold’s bachelor pad is particularly fun, as well as a lunch with all of the guys and the museum exhibition which ultimately got the film financed entirely. What was also interesting to learn was how some of the stuff in the documentary were, in fact, “made up” to make things a little more interesting. For example, Ferrigno’s dad apparently wasn’t really his trainer but pretended to be for the movie. Hmmmmm. What I liked the most though was everyone’s look-back now, especially Ferrigno, who admitted that he wasn’t “having fun” back then and wasn’t being himself, and Arnold who also admitted to going a little “overboard” sometimes, and even regretting some of the things that he had said and done.

Finally, “Iron Insights” is a 14-minute “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Pumping Iron but Were Afraid to Ask…” one-on-one interview with Schwarzenegger answering all of the questions that folks have had about the film over the years like if pumping up is really better than cumming (no, it really isn’t), if he really was psyching Ferrigno out (not really, he loved him…even back then), if he skipped his dad’s funeral because of an upcoming competition (again, this was a lie to make his “character” sound colder) and did he really smoke that joint after his win (yes and believe it or not…he inhaled as well!) He also admits to having taken steroids. This featurette was doubly-interesting because Arnold actually clarified how the “documentary” isn’t, in fact, a “documentary”, but rather a “docu-drama” since most of the training and competition stuff was real, but a lot of the other stuff was simply “made up for dramatic purposes”. What a bummer. Oh well, at least they’re honest now about being liars back then. “HBO Promos” includes a 2-minute interview with Schwarzenegger pushing the re-release as well as a 2-minute feature on the film’s 25th anniversary red carpet premiere with sound-bytes from many of the film's principals.
A decent pick-me-up for all Arnold fans, especially those who don’t know much about his life before becoming the international mega-movie star. The extras are also fun, interesting and informative, answering many of the questions that you will surely have after watching the quick 85-minute documentation on body-building. Actually, Arnie’s one-liners and cocky attitude are worth the price alone. Go Governor…you keep smoking that joint and drinking that beer!
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