Documentary Review: Pumping Iron (1977)

Also known as: Pumping Iron & Stand Tall (Australia VHS title)
Release Date: January 18th, 1977 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: George Butler
Written by: George Butler, Charles Gaines
Music by: Michael Small
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno, Franco Columbu, Mike Katz, Ken Waller, Ed Corney, Serge Nubret

Rollie Robinosn, White Mountain Films, Cinema 5, 86 Minutes

Review:

“The greatest feeling you can get in a gym, or the most satisfying feeling you can get in the gym is… The Pump. Let’s say you train your biceps. Blood is rushing into your muscles and that’s what we call The Pump. You muscles get a really tight feeling, like your skin is going to explode any minute, and it’s really tight – it’s like somebody blowing air into it, into your muscle. It just blows up, and it feels really different. It feels fantastic.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Pumping Iron is a much better film than one might think at first glance. It’s really more than just a documentary about bodybuilders, as it features Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno before both men would go on to become superstars of film and television.

With that, you really get to know these guys at this point in their lives and man, are they super competitive and charismatic. Most importantly, both of these mastodon men were incredibly driven and obsessed with taking the Mr. Universe crown.

This takes a subject that may seem completely uninteresting to an outsider and it makes it really damn interesting. The whole culture around bodybuilding in the ’70s was fascinating and this film captures it magnificently. In fact, had I been alive back then and saw this picture, I might have been inspired by it.

Pumping Iron is the culmination of multiple journeys, many of them incredible, as we see these men transform themselves just to be called “the best”. I loved the camaraderie between Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno’s family. This was just a really fun, entertaining watch.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno’s films and television shows, as well as other documentaries about competition.