Comedy, Drama

Stay Hungry (1976)

Comments Off on Stay Hungry (1976) 29 July 2015

stayhungrylimiteddvd

Studio: MGM

Theatrical Release: April 23, 1976

DVD-R Release: December 16, 2014

Director: Bob Rafelson

R

Review by James Klein

Stay Hungry is a bit of an odd movie, a film that plays like a Lifetime made for television movie that got hit on the head by accident. With a simple and predictable storyline, the film is levitated by the performances of the strong and diverse cast. Shouldn’t any movie that has Sally Field and Joe Spinell be required viewing?

Stay Hungry 12Jeff Bridges stars as Craig Blake, a young, Southern man whose rich parents died in a plane accident many years ago. The real estate firm that he works for wants Craig to buy out a small gym  that the firm is buying in order to clear space for an office high-rise. Even before Craig interacts with any other character in the movie, one can only guess what the outcome will be as this is yet another “evil big business” type of film. One has seen this story countless times where a big corporation tries to force a smaller corporation to move or close down so they can make room for the big guy. While it may be nice to see the “little guy / business” win at the end, its been done to death, even back in 1976.

Stay Hungry 05However, what makes Stay Hungry stick out from the usual pattern is the cast of actors, notably Sally Field and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sally Field plays Mary Tate, a perky, bouncy gymnast who has her eye on Craig even though she is somewhat seeing Joe Santo (Schwarzenegger). Joe is the legend at the gym, a sensitive and kind body builder who is trying to win the Mr. Universe title. Joe is rather passive and takes to the friendly Craig once the two meet after a bar fight that gets Craig beat up. Joe takes Craig under his wing, showing Craig how to work out in a rather funny sequence. The gym is made of off all sorts of strange characters played by the likes of Robert Englund, Roger E. Mosley, Helena Kallianiotes, and R.G. Armstrong. It’s a shame that the film didn’t focus more on these oddballs.

Stay Hungry 07While Craig takes to his new friends and new love interest in the likes of Mary Tate, his snobbish friends find it funny that Craig is socializing with who they deem as beneath them. When his country club pals hold a party and ask Craig to provide the musical talent, Craig enlists Joe and his violin playing bluegrass performers. Quickly, Joe and his band are made fun of and ridiculed, forcing an argument between Craig and Mary Tate that could end their relationship for good.

Stay Hungry 09When the real estate firm gets wind that Craig may not seal the deal with the gym due to his friendships he has made, they go after the owner of the gym, Thor (played by the always great R.G. Armstrong) by giving him drugs, booze, and hookers. The last 20 minutes or so of Stay Hungry goes bonkers out of nowhere with bodybuilders posing in the streets, a violent fistfight erupts between Thor and Craig, and a bunch of gratuitous nudity suddenly on display. I so wish the entire film was as insane and strange as the last 20 minutes.

Stay Hungry 11Overall, Stay Hungry is a joy to watch, mainly for the rich and off the wall characters (I wanted more of that foreign bodybuilder who spoke only in noises and sounds, with his trainer only understanding him). Rounding out the already superb cast is Scatman Crothers, Ed Begley Jr, Joanna Cassidy, and Dennis Burkley. Director Bob Rafelson, who directed one of my all-time favorite films Five Easy Pieces, once again is an actor’s director. He doesn’t mess around with camera tricks and different blocking techniques. He lets his actors take over the film, getting some amazing performances out of them. Schwarzenegger is especially good as the shy, sweet natured Joe Santo which earned him the Golden Globe that year.

Stay Hungry 10Now on to the DVD-R release by MGM. The original DVD was released in 2004 and has since become out of print. This limited edition DVD-R ports over all of the special features that were on the original DVD which includes an introduction by Rafelson, a trailer, and an interesting audio commentary by Rafelson, Field, and Bridges. While the three commentators can get quiet at times, they do provide some insight about the making of the film such as Field crying hysterically after her nude scene was shot, Rafelson’s choice for shooting the film in chronological order, and Bridges knack for remembering the names of every actor he worked with on this picture. The DVD’s picture also looks very good, crystal clear with surprisingly no print damage for a 39 year old film. The audio is also nice, while not in surround one can still hear everything quite well.

Stay Hungry 08I rather enjoyed Stay Hungry despite the basic premise. I really found the characters interesting and funny and the odd third act of the picture was something I quite enjoyed. Just don’t go in expecting a serious drama or a Schwarzenegger shoot ’em up action film. But you do get to see Arnold play the fiddle, isn’t that something to see?

Stay Hungry 04

Movie and DVD Rating: ★★★½☆

 

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