Pumping Iron (1977)
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
This begins with Arnold Schwarzenegger doing ballet and continues with opening music that would sit perfectly in an episode of Sesame Street. It was made in the 70s though to be fair, which also explains a touch of political incorrectness. Bodybuilding seem a bit pointless to me, but this does attempt to put some weight behind its purpose. It’s about confidence, dedication and performance. It’s not all Arnie here though, there’s a few good stories, but he is the focal point and he’s pretty eloquent on the subject. I don’t know how things are now, but in the 70s bodybuilding feels like a sideshow, but it’s one with a hugely supportive community behind it. That said there are good guys and bad, Mike Katz coming off as genuinely decent and Ken Waller as a bit of a git. Even Arnie who mostly seems like the father figure of the scene, shows himself to be capable of mind games and screwing over other competitors (including The Incredible Hulk!), not to mention being pretty arrogant. There’s a lot of pressure, expectations, from pushy parents, friends, mostly from themselves. Even in this fairly fly-on-the-wall doc, there’s a lot of theatrics, they can’t help themselves and as that 70s soundtrack lifts over the montages it gets quite unintentionally comedic. Rarely is it mentioned what sort of numbers they’re lifting, it’s a given that it’s bloody heavy. Iron, it’s all about setting the target and reaching it... and then looking in the mirror!