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Hustler turns 25: seeing Arnold Run

Hustler turns 25: seeing Arnold Run

Greg Merritt

* The recent airing of See Arnold Run reminds us how rare it is for a movie to focus on competitive bodybuilding. There’s the legendary documentary Pumping Iron (1977), its inferior but still worthwhile sequel, Pumping Iron II: The Women (1985), and the peculiar mix of character study and farce, Stay Hungry (1976). Those three are available on DVD, but two other movies in this mini-genre are not. Both Getting Physical (1984), which focuses on female bodybuilding, and The Hustler of Muscle Beach (1980), which focuses on a male bodybuilding contest, were made for TV.

The Hustler of Muscle Beach, which first aired 25 years ago (May 16, 1980), is a lackluster comedy about a fast operator from New York (Richard Hatch) who moves to Venice, California, to promote a major bodybuilding contest. It’s a typical lightweight ABC movie of the week, but it includes some of the best physiques from the era pumping up and posing down. Pro bodybuilder Steve Davis plays villainous Ken Rock, Tim Kimber (later a co-owner of the Gold’s Gym chain) is Todd Nash, and Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Lisa Lyon and Stacey Bentley all appear in speaking roles as themselves. Also included are Tom Platz, Kent Kuehn, Dave Dupree, Roger Callard and Bill Grant. It’s not Pumping Iron, but as a rare movie to focus on bodybuilding and with a cast that includes some of the best competitors of the Iron Age, The Hustler of Muscle Beach deserves a DVD release.

* Cutting back and forth between Arnold Schwarzenegger’s successful 2003 run for governor of California and his lifestyle before the 1974 Mr. Olympia, the A & E biopic See Arnold Run is a mixture of the good, the bad and the just plain wrong.

GOOD

* Though notably slimmer than vintage Arnold, Roland Kickinger as the 27-year-old Oak is as spoton as any actor could be in that role.

* Amateur bodybuilder Michael Ergas steals scenes in a small role as Franco Columbu.

* With her Kennedyesque jawline, Mariel Hemingway makes a credible Maria Shriver.

* Shot through a warm filter, the re-creation of mid-seventies Venice, California–including Gold’s Gym and the Muscle Beach weight pit–is evocative. Watch closely for a wigged Chris Cook as Dave Draper.

BAD

* Jurgen Prochnow as the 56-year-old Arnold is the movie’s biggest problem. The German actor looks more like a 70-year-old Ronald Reagan and is incapable of imitating the Oak’s trademark Austrian accent. What’s worse, he comes off as too lethargic or dull to capture Schwarzenegger’s charm, energy and enthusiasm. Transitions between the younger Arnold and the older Arnold are jarring. The movie would’ve been better served with Kickinger also playing the older Schwarzenegger.

* The film is mostly a collage of headlines. It’s unlikely anyone with even a passing interest in politics or bodybuilding history will learn anything new.

WRONG

* Schwarzenegger’s father died in 1972, not 1974.

* There is much focus on Schwarzenegger’s dad and even his brother and nephew, but you would never know that he and Shriver have four children.

* There were four competitors in the 1974 Mr. Olympia, not six, as the movie portrays.

* The Olympia score sheets have more than 20 names (many of whom were never known bodybuilders), and the names and numbers change from shot to shot.

* Onstage in the Olympia, a smooth Bob Cicherillo, as Lou Ferrigno, appears at least three inches shorter than Kickinger’s Schwarzenegger, although in reality, Ferrigno is three inches taller.

* Speaking of jarring height differences, in one shot, an actor as tall as Todd Bridges plays diminutive Gary Coleman.

CHANNEL SURFING

* Click to the Discovery Channel. Each week on American Chopper, dressed in his ubiquitous tank top, Paul Teutul Sr. shows off the biggest “pipes” on TV. This season, he demonstrates how he earned his beefy bis and tris, as the cameras follow him through a workout at the local Gold’s Gym. At 55, Teutul is seen bench pressing an impressive 405 pounds, while his not-so-buff son Mikey tries not to mess up the spot.

* Commercial break. Gunter Schlierkamp appears as Thor in a Visa check card commercial that debuted on Super Bowl Sunday. NPC amateur David Hughes plays Wolverine.

RANDOM ACTS OF MUSCLE IN CELEBRITYLAND BY GREG MERRITT

COPYRIGHT 2005 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning