[box cover]

Stay Hungry

Some artists only have one or two stories to tell, and they spend the rest of their careers piddling away the goodwill garnered them from such early efforts. Of course, there's nothing wrong with having one truly brilliant story (just ask J.D. Salinger). But unfortunately, a lot of these one-trick ponies end up making work after work that offer none of the richness of their best titles. This argument could be made of director Bob Rafelson; he started with TV's "The Monkees" and directed their 1968 film Head, and then hit a career high with Five Easy Pieces (1970). Two years later brought the troubled but fascinating The King of Marvin Gardens (1972), and then Rafelson stopped for four years, making Stay Hungry in 1976. After it, his filmography reads like a train wreck. Yet it seems that Stay Hungry — a film that was largely ignored upon release, and is best known for featuring a young Arnold Schwarzenegger — is the missing piece of the puzzle of Rafelson's career. Craig Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a rich layabout, involved in a scheme to buy a city block to build a high-rise with one of his upper-class friends, and some none-too-clean looking gentlemen. One of the buildings they have to buy is a gymnasium, and Blake quickly becomes interested in getting in shape, and in the place's habituates. He meets Joe Santo (Schwarzenegger) and becomes fascinated by the Mr. Universe contestant who seems more worldly than lunkheaded. He also meets Mary Tate Farnsworth (Sally Field) and falls for her, though Craig is unsure of Mary Tate's relationship with Joe. While stalling, Craig's business partners grow increasingly annoyed, but for Craig — whose parents died six months previous — it represents a huge turning point, though he can't seem to integrate his old bourgeois life with his new one. A lackadaisical southern film, Stay Hungry seems the third chapter in Rafelson's personal trilogy, starting with Pieces and concluding here. But the big difference with this title is with the drifting male protagonist (which may be why it was ignored); in the first two he was portrayed by Jack Nicholson, while here it's Jeff Bridges — an equally fine actor, but one who doesn't have the same sort of brooding intensity. Bridges' presence makes the movie that much more sunny; it's an upbeat picture, filled with all sorts of asides, and many of Rafelson's stock players (including future author Fannie Flagg and Helena Kallianiotes), as well as solid supporting work from R.G. Armstrong, Joe Spinell, Robert Englund, and Scatman Crothers. Field seems to be giving a real performance, and the film shows that if Schwarzenegger had made different choices or worked with better directors, he might have been an honest-to-goodness actor. One can see that Rafelson-surrogate Bridges is content at the end of the film, and it's easy to theorize that with this — his last great work — Rafelson was no longer an angry young man, and one who, after this, simply had less to say. MGM presents Stay Hungry in both anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) and full-frame transfers. Extras include a commentary with Bridges, Field, and Rafelson, along with a video introduction by Rafelson (4 min.) and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—DSH



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