Stay Hungry (1976) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Scoop's notes in white:

From 1970 to 1990, director Bob Rafelson had a fairly solid string of successes.

It's interesting to look at them sorted by IMDb ratings.

By now you are probably thinking, "Among all those famous and/or acclaimed films, how could there be one movie on the list that I've never heard of - a film which scores below six at IMDb?"

That's a fair enough question, but I guess the film in question, Stay Hungry, wasn't that obscure when it came out. After all, it earned a Golden Globe for its co-star, a large muscular man named Arnold Schwarzenegger. About five or ten years later, the big fella hit pay dirt in Conan and Terminator, and the rest is history, but in this film he played a much more realistic role than his usual larger-than-life super heroes and villains. Arnie played a bodybuilder from Austria who was competing in the Mr Universe competition and trying to make a new life in the United States. You have to admit it was a pretty solid job of casting.

Jeff Bridges is the star of the film. He plays a rich boy whose parents died in a plane crash. He lives in his parents' home, but he still calls it "their" home. His own life has not yet begun. He doesn't really fit in with his rich relatives and friends.

Somehow, Bridges falls in with a sleazy real estate syndicate which is trying to buy up entire city blocks to erect high rise office buildings. One project is being blocked by a single hold-out.  (How many movies have used this plot?) A shabby mom 'n pop gym is the reluctant seller, and Bridges is assigned by the syndicate to charm, cajole, or otherwise convince the owner to play ball. Bridges, however, turns out to be one of those rich guys who is more comfortable with genuine working class people, and he strikes up friendships with some of the people in the gym.

(This is a recurring Bob Rafelson theme, and is also the basic concept behind Rafelson's best movie, Five Easy Pieces.)

Bridges pals around with Big Ah-nuld, as well as a slightly trashy but refreshingly unaffected female employee of the gym (Sally Field). Ah-nuld and Bridges form a relaxed love triangle with The Flying Nun, and Bridges pretty much forgets about his assignment to buy the gym, at least until some sleazebags show up to do with muscle what Bridges failed to do with guile.

Meanwhile, Bridges takes a certain perverse pleasure in foisting his new friends on his rich pals, and watching the fireworks between the two groups. Fields finds it callous of Bridges to take aloof pleasure from everyone's lack of comfort in the forced social mixture, so their relationship becomes turbulent.

Rural country music and Ah-nuld's bodybuilding provide the colorful backdrop for the film, often in tandem, because Ah-nuld's character is a helluva country fiddler as well as a bodybuilder! The bodybuilding and musical scenes provide a nearly surrealistic underscore to the film, especially when Ah-nuld's gigantic hands finger the ol' fiddle. Bridges does an amazingly good solo dance number when his character gets liquored up and is persuaded to dance inside a circle at an impromptu country jamboree. He has to perform well, albeit drunkenly, and he has to convey both exuberance and embarrassment at the same time. He pulls it all off with aplomb.

This is not a very good movie, as you can guess by the fact that you never heard of it despite the presence of several major talents. It is kind of an interesting movie in some ways, often veering off into truly quirky and surreal directions. Let's face it, there's a lot of fun in seeing Ah-nuld playing the fiddle, or Jeff Bridges clogging up a storm, or Ah-nuld wearing a Batman outfit, or Sally Field just prancing around in the altogether in her first and last real screen nudity. Perhaps you join me in having a lot of curiosity about seeing what those three big stars looked like a quarter of a century ago.

The major problem with the movie is this: after I watched it, I read the DVD box and noticed that it was supposed to be a comedy. I never suspected that for an instant. I thought it was just supposed to be an offbeat romance about a guy trying to find himself. I don't remember thinking anything was especially funny, although certain of the most surreal scenes seem funny in a way. There is a scene, for example,  with dozens of bodybuilders prancing through downtown Birmingham in their little bathing suits, occasionally stopping to do pose-downs for the street people, and even riding single-file, standing, on top of a public bus. I guess that was supposed to be funny.

The film was not extraordinarily popular back then; it has been forgotten over the years; and it doesn't seem good upon a fresh look either. Given the presence of Rafelson and some big talents, I expected more than this film delivers, although I still enjoyed watching it for the curiosity value.

Tuna's comments in yellow:

Stay Hungry (1976) is a Bob Rafelson comedy set in Birmingham, Alabama, The film centers on professional body building, which was not a well known sport at the time, and the "nouveau riche" Birmingham wealthy class. Birmingham, a relatively new city which did not exist during the Civil War, possesses an upper class which is newly wealthy, and more snobbish than old money would be.


  • Sally Field, in what I believe is her only screen nudity has a great full rear nudity shot, and then shows her left breast getting back into bed with Bridges.
  • Brandy Wilde shows breasts and buns
  • and Laura Hippe shows buns,

Jeff Bridges plays an heir who lives in his parents' mansion. Even though they were no longer alive, he still considered it their home, not his. He had never quite fit into the place in society that was expected of him. His uncle wanted him to go into the steel business, but he marched to his own drummer. His shady syndicate was trying to buy an entire block of downtown businesses so they could build a high rise for enormous profits, and Bridges was responsible for the last piece of property, a run-down gym. This is where he met Arnold Schwarzenegger, in his first non-documentary film, who was training for a Mr. Universe contest the gym owner was to hold. Sally Field, in her first adult role and performing her only nude scene, worked for the gym, as did Robert "Freddy Kruger" Englund, whose most important job in the film was to grease Arnold before competitions.

DVD info from Amazon

The DVD includes a feature length commentary with Rafelson, Fields and Bridges. The most interesting thing to come out of the commentary was that Arnold told Rafelson in 1985 that he was going to become the governor of California.

Arnold and Bridges became friends, then Bridges and Field became an item. Everything started to unravel when Bridges's society friends treated them shabbily, and then when the syndicate realized that Bridges wasn't going to complete the purchase, and started using strong-arm tactics. At that point, the film got way over the top, and even before that I only found isolated moments of humor in the first 2/3, but it is worth seeing for the cast, and the rare nudity from Sally Field. The cinematography is very nice, we get to hear Arnold playing country fiddle and, as one of the Birmingham snobs said, Arnold had most impressive musculature.

The Critics Vote ...

  • no major reviews online

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C.

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