In 1977, an independent documentary movie shone a light on the world of bodybuilding, becoming a huge box office hit and creating an international sensation. It launched one man's multi-million dollar career and changed the world of bodybuilding and physical exercise forever: PUMPING IRON. Starring five-time Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the movie followed the 28-year old bodybuilder as he competed for his 6th title.
Arnold Schwarzenegger works the crowds, plots strategies for defeating multiple opponents, shares his parents' values with the press, and inspires legions of admirers with his resolute optimism about the future. And all of this long before he decided to run for governor of California, in 1977's hit documentary, Pumping Iron. Larger than life, though not necessarily larger than his rivals for the Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia bodybuilding titles (especially a young Lou Ferrigno, hot on Arnold's competitive trail but much less interesting), Schwarzenegger still comes across, at age 28, as a consummate politician, smart, likable, and crafty about exploiting others' psychological weaknesses. The film still feels redundant (there's only so much beefcake the human eye will tolerate), but the emotional dramas--the unrewarded hard work, the unanswered hopes--are compelling. Complete with a revealing 2003 interview with Schwarzenegger and a reunion of the film's bodybuilders and director. --Tom Keogh