It seems common sense to label Arnold Schwarzenegger as a terrible actor and there are plenty of examples to back up that point of view. But there are simply far too many quality films with Schwarzenegger at the helm for me to ever dismiss the big man’s status as worthwhile Hollywood icon.
For me, it is the late 70’s documentary, Pumping Iron, that is the hidden gem of his filmography.
I knew nothing about body building before watching Pumping Iron, save for stereotypes (they’re all steroid users, right?). What makes Pumping Iron great is that it humanised a group of people that I once considered, well to put it mildly, freaks. It made me realise that a lot of hard work and dedication (and yes steroids) goes into making people look like… well, Arnold.
Although Pumping Iron humanises the world of body building, it still left enough strange in there to make the film captivating. My fiancé walked in on me and questioned why I wanted to watch almost half naked men flexing and lifting weights and I couldn’t give her a suitable manly heterosexual answer. Truth is, as a lad of no more than 5ft 7inches I found the (again, apologies) freakish composition of Arnold’s and Lou Ferrigno’s body captivating. I found it hard to understand how anyone can be as big as Arnold without… well, exploding.
The star of the show is Arnold. He is ridiculously charismatic in this documentary, more so than in any film I have ever seen him in. This charisma lets him get away with being an utter bastard. Make no mistake about it, Arnold is the anti-hero of this piece, you cheer for him but he says and does some pretty dickish things. The story he tells about missing his father’s funeral because he had to train for an event is chilling. He tells the story as if he was delivering dialogue from The Terminator.
It’s been admitted that some of Pumping Iron isn’t factually correct and things were said/ staged for dramatic effect – I don’t think that takes away from the fact that this is a strangely appealing film. It also allows us an early glimpse of someone that changed action cinema for a generation.
I’m a huge Arnie fan and this is a must see for any like minded people.