Welcome to Friday Night Flix, where there’s never a need to leave the couch or put on pants. Each week I’ll recommend an under-the-radar movie currently available on one or more of the major streaming platforms. They won’t all be classics, but every selection is guaranteed to be 100% watchable or your money back.
Do you want to feel like a complete weakling and waste of human skin? Then I demand you watch Pumping Iron (Netflix) immediately!
I had the 2014 movie Sabotage coming in the mail so I must have been in an Arnie mood as I was browsing through titles to commend unto thine eyeholes. While mentally debating for far too long whether I could in good conscience recommend Lars Von Trier’s Nymphomaniac (Vol. 1 definitely not, Vol. 2 almost) I chanced across Pumping Iron, a 1977 documentary that followed The Austrian Oak as he trained for his then record-setting sixth Mr. Olympia title.
Like bodybuilding in general whole thing is a little goofy, especially viewed through the prism of where Arnold ended up. But back then he was just a hulking 28-year-old immigrant at the top of his field and having the time of his life. He was literally larger than life and at the very beginning of a tremendous upswing that would see him crowned the biggest box office draw of the next two decades. And here you get to see him before he was Conan, hell before he was even Hercules. He was just a happy as hell manchild who spent all his time lifting weights, smoking weed in public and casually committing sexual assaults.
It’s honestly a pretty well done documentary and it chronicles what was then and still is a strange subculture: the bodybuilders. I’m super impressed by all these huge specimens. I mean even the ones that have no chance at winning are incredibly massive, so much so that you become numb to if after a while. It’s only when you see them wearing a t-shirt that can barely contain their biceps and standing next to a normal person that you realize how insanely monstrous these men are. But, like 95% of all humans, I have no earthly clue how or why they do what they do.
The crux of the movie is the battle between Schwarzenegger and up-and-coming challenger Lou Ferrigno a/k/a the future Incredible Hulk. What’s striking is that at 6’5″ and 265 pounds, Ferrigno was significantly taller and heavier than Arnold. In fact, he was the biggest bodybuilder ever at that point. Contrast that now with big Ronnie Coleman, Mr. Olympia from 1998 to 2007. During competition Coleman weighed in at around 297 pounds and he was only 5’11”. He was 30 pounds heavier than Ferrigno despite being six inches shorter. Check out this composite I shamelessly stole from someone’s Facebook page in which Schwarzenegger looks like he’s been fasting for a month. Steroids have come a long fucking way.
Added Bonus: And now for your reading enjoyment is a direct quote from the man who would go on to be elected governor of the most populous state in America:
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. It’s as satisfying to me as, uh, coming is, you know? As, ah, having sex with a woman and coming. And so can you believe how much I am in heaven? I am like, uh, getting the feeling of coming in a gym, I’m getting the feeling of coming at home, I’m getting the feeling of coming backstage when I pump up, when I pose in front of 5,000 people, I get the same feeling, so I am coming day and night. I mean, it’s terrific. Right? So you know, I am in heaven.
Me too, Arnold. Me. Too.