Stunts [1977]

The "lost" sleeper hit of 1980 has since become one of the most revered cult movies of all time, largely due to its bawdy, irreverent story about the art and artifice of filmmaking and an outrageously clever performance by Peter O'Toole. As megalomaniacal film director Eli Cross, O'Toole plays a larger-than-life figure whose ability to manipulate reality is like a power-trip narcotic. The focus of his latest mind game is a fugitive (Steve Railsback) recruited to replace a stuntman killed during a recent on-set accident. In return for protective sanctuary, the fugitive takes a crash course in stunt work but soon discovers that he's the paranoid player in a game he can't control, with the dictatorial director making up the rules. Or is he? The Stunt Man is a game of its own, played through the fantasy of filmmaking, and half the fun of watching the movie comes from sharing the stuntman's paranoid confusion. Barbara Hershey has a smart, sexy supporting role as a lead actress who won't submit to her director's seemingly devious behavior; but it's clearly O'Toole who steals the show. Director Richard Rush adds to the movie's maverick appeal--in a career plagued by struggles against the mainstream studio system, Rush hasn't made a better movie before or since. The Stunt Man clearly represents the potential of his neglected talent. --Jeff Shannon

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