Part documentary, and part (as Schwarzenegger points out in the extras) total fabrication,Pumping Iron follows Arnie as he prepares to compete for the Mr. Olympia title onemore time. His principle competitor, as presented here, is future Hulk Lou Ferrigno. All sorts ofmachinations ensue between the various body builders. Most of the character stuff is, it nowappears, pure fiction, but it serves the purpose of making the film more interesting. The freakshow qualities …hould not, however, be underestimated. A fascinating document, one that hasonly become more intriguing with the passage of time.
The remastered disc is supposedly in 5.1. Really. Well, this may well be the case with someof the extras, and the track of the feature is 5.1 in purely technical terms, but you would neverguess it from the sound, which is essentially indistinguishable from mono. There is no soundfrom the rear speakers whatsoever, not even when it comes to the score. That said, the sound isclear enough and free of distortion, and I wouldn’t expect too much of an inexpensive indie fromthe late 70s.
The picture is much the same deal. The aspect is fullscreen, and the image is hardly earth-shatteriing. The colours and flesh tones are fine, but the picture is very grainy. This, though, isthe nature of the source material, not the transfer. I don’t care how much remastering you do,there are some pictures that, given the nature of the shoot, can’t be transformed into visions ofKubrickian perfection. This is rough and raw, and that’s all there is to it.
The extras, much like the movie itself, are a mixture of the interesting and the propaganda.The entire DVD is not too far from being an extended informercial for Schwarzenegger, and Ican’t help but be surprised that they waited until AFTER the election to release this. At any rate,”Iron and Beyond” is a brief featurette that rather simplistically sums up Schwarzenegger’s careerand the impact of the movie on the fitness and entertainment industries. “Raw Iron” has a reunionof the major players of the film (featuring all kinds of hearty backslapping and socializing thatfeels about as genuininely spontaneous as precision marching), but also has lots of outtakes andbackground on the movie and bodybuilding. “Iron Insights” is a 14 minute interview withSchwarzenegger, where he debunks and explains many of the movie’s myths. There’s also a videobio of the star, which is a bit more complete than what is offered in “Iron and Beyond.” There aretwo promotional pieces for the Cinemax presentation of the film, and if they are not radicallydifferent from the other featurettes, at least they are explicitly identified as being promotional.Finally, there are some DVD-ROM features as well. The menu’s main page, intro and transitionsare animated and scored.
A worthy release, given its importance to the way American popular culture developed overthe couse of the succeeding 25 years. Approach with many grains ofsalt, and the study could bequite enlightening.
Special Features List
- “Iron and Beyond” Featurette
- “Raw Iron: The Making of Pumping Iron” Documentary
- “Iron Insights” Interview
- Schwarzenegger Video Bio
- Cinemax Promos