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This 1:15 documentary gives an outsider a somewhat-superficial insider's look at what it takes to be a champion bodybuilder. It doesn't go very deeply into the workouts or nutrition regimens themselves, but interestingly takes some time to focus on character development and the fascinating psychological gamesmanship employed (who knew there was so much, and why should it matter?)

While Schwarzenegger's clearly the star here, the massive Ferrigno (TV's Incredible Hulk), the proportioned Columbu, and the tenacious Katz all get their due as well. Since the film is done chronologically, ultimately zoning in on Schwarzenegger's final competition, there is a clear element of suspense as well that is natural, and not at all forced.

I recommend this film for anyone curious about the pre-bulk (and by that, I mean pre-Lee Haney) era of bodybuilding. Yes, they used steroids like horses, but they were dwarfed by Haney and his followers. The 1970s was a transitional age of bodybuilding, with the whole sport in flux - compared with the 1950s (view 1955 Mr. Universe, Hungary's Mickey Hargitay - look at his trapezius muscles!), the contestants are giants; compared with the 1990s, the contestants are rather modest in size.

50s = Hargitay

70s = Schwarzenegger

90s = Haney

And around the turn-of-the century, competitors got even more massive with perhaps the biggest-ever, Ronnie Coleman.

Even though he'd already appeared in Stay Hungry (1976) as well as a couple films before that, "Pumping Iron" is generally considered the film that launched Schwarzenegger's formidable Hollywood career. Hollywood *loves* stars, and a star was certainly born here, albeit in something of a clumsy, awkward way. This snippet would have read much differently had it been written in 1977.

Picture that deep, Austrian voice:

"To me, sex was just another form of exercise."

-- Arnold Schwarzenegger (not in this film)

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