Mark L. Lester’s 1977 action flick Stunts takes its B-movie premise and injects some satirical Hollywood commentary to match the dare-devil sense of adventure that the title promises. Pre-dating Richard Rush’s The Stunt Man by a few years, and certainly no where near as existential or surreal, Lester’s movie has a nifty premise — someone is killing off all of the stuntmen on the set of an action-adventure movie — with a young Robert Forster projecting all sorts of steely resolve as the brother of one of the dead stuntmen who shows up looking for answers. The accident scene with Forster’s brother is especially sketchy and rather nasty in execution. Made in the days before CGI and excessive blue-screen techniques, all of the set-pieces have a great sense of rough, physical action, and while the plotting is more or less what you might expect, there are a few surprises thrown in for good measure. Bruce Logan’s crisp and measured cinematography took full advantage of the various meta possibilities that the film-within-a-film narrative afforded, while capturing the action with a clear sense of spatial geography and an emphasis on lots and lots of car crashes. The filmmakers made terrific use of the legendary Madonna Inn (if you’ve never been then book a trip!) and as usual, Forster brought that amazing sense of gravitas, even as a relative up and comer, that so few current actors possess. Lester’s rather amazing and prolific career includes the iconic 80’s blockbuster Commando, and the extreme cult classic Class of 1984. Michael Kamen’s energetic score set an appropriately jaunty vibe with some streaks of menace peeking out from around the corner. Stunts has the distinction of being the first fully funded New Line Cinema production, after 10 years of being the premiere indie distributor in town. Available on DVD; recently screened via TCM HD.


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