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MGM Studios DVD presents
Stay Hungry (1976)

"I don't like being too comfortable. Once you get used to it, it's hard to give up. I'd rather stay hungry." 
- Joe Santo (Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: December 30, 2004

Stars: Jeff Bridges, Sally Field, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Other Stars: Scatman Crothers, Fannie Flagg, Ed Begley Jr.
Director: Bob Rafelson

MPAA Rating: R for (nudity, language, violence)
Run Time: 01h:42m:15s
Release Date: May 18, 2004
UPC: 027616907233
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-B-C+ C

DVD Review

There's little doubt from looking at the case housing this DVD which member of the cast went on to pump up the box office returns in a slew of action movies. It's Arnold front and center, oiled up and with a bad haircut, and a sticker on the packaging reminds us that Schwarzenegger won a Golden Globe for his performance—Best Newcomer of 1977. But this isn't a movie for fans of his Pumping Iron years or of his best shoot-'em-ups (The Terminator would surely top that list). Instead, this is a moody coming-of-age picture from Bob Rafelson, at the height of his years as an angry young man—his work in the last couple of decades has been decidedly uneven, but this movie is very much of a piece with the director's early work. Stay Hungry was preceded by Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens, and this film may be the most overlooked of the three. It's certainly a mercurial and unusual picture, but it's from arguably the last great period of American filmmaking, and features three performances that changed the courses of actors' careers.

Jeff Bridges plays Craig Blake, orphaned heir of Birmingham, Alabama; he's got oodles of eccentric aunts and uncles and cousins, and lives the lonely bachelor's life in the epic family manse, a man with money but nothing else in his life. He's involved with some real estate developers, who dream big dreams of the New South, and want Birmingham to be at the heart of it—to that end, they want to build a skyscraper, and the only thing standing between them and stories of glass and steel is a seedy little gym. Blake is deputized to negotiate a buyout with the gym's owner; capitalism isn't what motivates him, however, and he gets caught up in the world of the people he's supposed to help get rid of.

Blake gets sidetracked not just by the scene, but especially by Mary Tate (Sally Field), the perky young thing behind the front desk, and the sometime girlfriend of Joe Santo (Schwarzenegger), in training for the upcoming Mr. Universe competition. Bridges is terrific in the lead role, fulfilling the promise he demonstrated in The Last Picture Show; that was an ensemble piece, and here he's asked to carry the picture, and he does so admirably. This is Field's first screen work of any significance, and this performance goes a long way toward eradicating the image of her as either Gidget or Sister Patrice; this seems like a necessary transitional performance for her, making possible her work in movies like Norma Rae and Places in the Heart. And even with superstardom, the Governor of California was never much of an actor; but here, for the first time, he's human, and lacks the annoying self-consciousness and smugness that characterizes so much of his later work.

As Joe Santo, Arnold is Blake's ambassador to the backwoods of Alabama; Joe can play the fiddle and swill moonshine with the best of them. (Arnold doesn't fake the fiddle playing very well, though.) And Blake returns the favor by taking Joe and Mary Tate to a party of the nouvelle riche, where they are hopelessly condescended to and mocked, as if they were a Hee-Haw roadshow. The weak link of the piece is probably Thor, the gym owner who starts stupid and ends violent; he's necessary as a plot element, but he's not very convincing, and R. G. Armstrong gives a cartoony performance. The cast is peppered with notable supporting players, though, including Fannie Flagg in high dudgeon, Ed Begley Jr. begging to get his clock cleaned by Bridges, and Scatman Crothers as a long-suffering Blake family servant. It's worth sticking with this movie, if only for the mad spectacle at the end of bodybuilders flooding the streets of Birmingham like so many greased-up Pamplona bulls. 

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: The colors have faded some with the years, but the transfer does well with the materials available; the palette can be uneven, but there seems to be no new debris or scratching. This is a flipper disc, and though it's not cinematographically extraordinary, it's still worth watching the anamorphic widescreen side, and not the panned-and-scanned one.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishyes


Audio Transfer Review: There's a good amount of popping on the mono track, and some of the location shooting brings with it muffled dialogue, though nothing too egregious here.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Bob Rafelson, Jeff Bridges, Sally Field
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Rafelson provides a video introduction (05m:02s), situating this project in its time and place, and talking about how much he was forced to learn about bodybuilding. He and two of his stars sit for a commentary track; while they seem to be having a fine old time, there's not a lot of insight. They're enjoying one another's company, but listening to this is sort of like attending someone else's high school reunion. They all retain a fondness for the project, Field especially, remembering this as her first adult role, more or less; this is also the first commentary track she's done, so perhaps we can look forward to efforts in the future.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

An uneven but well-crafted film from Bob Rafelson's most fertile creative period, featuring three pivotal performances by Bridges, Field and, yes, Schwarzenegger.

 


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