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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Pumping Iron
Directed by George Butler
Warner Home Video 1977 DVD/VHS Documentary

Watch their muscles develop. "When you have driven your body past the barrier…and then you relax, all the blood comes rushing, pounding back into your muscles. You feel like you're swelling up, like your skin is about to explode. That's the pump," says Arnold Schwarzeneggar, the Austrian-born world body-building champ for the last six years in a row. This documentary features some of the philosophy, exercises, competitions, and subculture of the ninth-largest spectator sport in America.

In the first section of the film, George Butler and Robert Fiore focus their cameras on men in training for the amateur Mr. Universe contest. Mike Katz, a physical education teacher, squares off against Ken Waller, a fellow who is convinced the mind (psyching the opponent out) is as important as the symmetry and size of one's muscles. The second part of Pumping Iron deals with the 1975 professional Mr. Olympia contest. Here we meet Louis Ferrigno, a strong-willed Brooklyn boy and his trainer-father. The two sweat and strain to build his body into an artwork. But the diligent youth is no match for Arnold Schwarzeneggar who at twenty-eight is 5'10" and 240 pounds of sculptured musculature.

Pumping Iron contains some visually poetic segments and is an informative meditation on the sport as an old mixture of pain and narcissistic pleasure. Schwarzeneggar who was seen in Bob Rafelson's film Stay Hungry recently retired from body-building. He is sure to have a career in the movies.


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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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