'Stay Hungry' Blu-ray: TFB Jeff Bridges & Body Builder Schwarzenegger Unlikely Friendship in '70s Era Gym
The Olive Films October 31, 2017 Blu-ray release of the 1976 dramedy "Stay Hungry" by Bob Rafelson of the counter-culture classics "Five Easy Pieces" and "Head" hits the trifecta of being a perfect example of the urban gritty comedies of the era, bringing this Golden Globe winning acting debut of Arnold Schwarzenegger back to life, and showing that some things never change in reel or real life. Having numerous future well-known members of the B List in supporting roles is a terrific bonus.
Jeff Bridges stars as 20-something trust fund baby Craig Blake, who experiences a severe existentialist crisis in the wake of the sudden death of his parents. He is fairly literally rattling around alone in the family mansion on the "hill" outside Birmingham, Alabama.
The effort of Blake to define himself and to meet the directive of his uncle that he perform a useful function in life prompts working for unscrupulous Birmingham real-estate developer Jabo (Joe Spinell of the "Godfather" trilogy). The assignment that Blake has no choice regarding accepting is to be a strawman in a transaction in which he buys a run-down gym and then sells it to the company of Jabo to facilitate a construction project.
Blake subsequently integrates himself in the life of the gym to the extent of befriending very odd aspiring Mr. Universe Joe Spano (Schwarzenegger) and pursuing a romance with gym receptionist/former Spano squeeze Mary Tate Farnsworth (Sally Field). These relations with working-class folks get Blake thinking about his own lifestyle and prompt second thoughts about facilitating the scheme to oust his new friends from their home away from home.
The adventures of Blake include getting in a bar fight and escorting Farnsworth to a country club event where a club friend (Ed Begley, Jr.) pursues her.
This mixing of classes in a manner that centers around blue blood dating blue collar is not the only similarity with the better-known (and more comedic) 1981 Dudley Moore/Liza Minnelli film "Arthur." Character actor Scatman Crothers plays long-time family servant William who reaches his considerable limits when Blake essentially makes Farnsworth the lady of the manor. Watching William literally take what he considers his due is hilarious.
Rafelson does a terrific job building up to the madcap climax; quirky middle-aged gym owner Thor gets very excited when Jabo brings him "masseuses" as an incentive to sell the gym, Farnsworth finds herself in related peril, and Blake becomes under attack as well. This leads to a hilarious version of the running of the bulls with just as much beefcake.
As mentioned above, the timeless themes of Wall Street driving out Main Street for fun and profits and the challenges related to the mixing of the classes make films such as "Hungry" timeless. The visual images are a little dated, but the messages remain just as powerful 40 years later.