Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Documentary on stunt women packs a punch

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

This week's DVDs are definitely a mixed bag.

Double Dare

When I was a kid learning about classic serials and westerns, I couldn't help but read about guys like Dave Sharpe, Tom Steele, and Yakima Canutt, stuntmen and second unit directors who added the action to action films.

Up until the 1960s and 70s, if you saw an actress performing a stunt, there was a good chance it was actually a man in drag. Stuntwomen came relatively late into the movies. Double Dare is a great documentary that examines the life and career of not only the trailblazer in women stunt doubles, Jeannie Epper, but one of the women who is a new stunt star, Zo Bell.

Among Epper's many credits is being Lynda Carter's double on the Wonder Woman television series. Bell was Lucy Lawless' double on the Xena series and Uma Thurman's stunt woman on the two Kill Bill movies.

Both are talented, likeable people who make their living in a pretty bizarre way taking calculated physical risks for others.

The film shows both the triumphs of these performers and the constant disadvantage they still face in the industry as women. For anyone who likes to go behind the scenes in filmmaking, Double Dare should be on your viewing list.

For more information, go to

Gunner's Palace

Here's another compelling documentary. Filmmaker Michael Tucker spent two months in 2003-2004 embedded with the U.S. Army 2/3 Field Artillery unit "The Gunners" and recorded their daily life in Iraq. The result is a film that brings forth wave after wave of conflicting emotions: sadness, anger, laughter, elation, hope and desperation.

The Gunners live in the partially bombed-out palace of Uday Hussein, one of Saddam's sons and it adds to the surreal nature of the war experience. Part of the structure is ruined, but they still can use the huge swimming pool on the grounds, as well as Uday's putting green.

Tucker talks to the soldiers while they are off duty and accompanies them to assignments such as routine patrols and raids to arrest suspected insurgents. One harrowing sequence dealt with a patrol seeing a box on a highway that could have been a bomb. Traffic is stopped while one member of the unit has to approach the box to see if indeed it's a bomb. It isn't a bomb and the soldiers speak about this aspect of the war in which soldiers must be cautious of a stray cardboard box or a paper on a street.

Every one concerned about the war should see this picture.

For more information, log onto

Prime Cut

Oh boy, now this is a sick movie with big stars and from a major studio! Lee Marvin plays a mob member sent to Kansas City to collect $500,000 from Mary Anne (Gene Hackman), a cattle baron and meat packer who is also involved in activities like prostitution.

Hackman doesn't want to pay up we knew that was coming and "on account" Marvin takes one of the girls whom Hackman has raised in an orphanage in order sell into bondage. Sissy Spacek, in one of her first screen roles, plays the girl with whom Marvin has instantly fallen into the purest love.

Oh sure.

Naturally, much nudity, profanity, gunplay and blood follow. How did the studio get these guys to perform in such a terrible film? This is on the same level of the sleaziest drive-in exploitation film and not a bit fun.

Avoid this one like the plague.

For more information, log onto

Starting Over

This is one of Burt Reynolds's best films, and perhaps most over-looked. In 1979, Reynolds was considered a macho action star and Starting Over provided him with a new acting challenge. He plays Phil Potter, a magazine writer who has broken up with his wife (Candice Bergen) who wants to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter. Potter is everything Reynolds' stock characters weren't: depressed, insecure and lonely.

Written by James L. Brooks, the film follows Potter as he puts together a new life for himself and meets a nursery school teacher played by Jill Clayburgh.

Funny and evocative, the film showcases Reynolds's acting ability and Bergen's tremendously bad vocals.

For more information, log onto