Either that, or men just had bigger balls back then. You decide.
This amenable little action-packed drama begins with a bang, in the form of a daring bank robbery gone sour: Guns blaze, a body tumbles down a stairwell, another falls from a third-story window. Then the camera pulls back to reveal it’s a movie within a movie — perhaps one of cinema’s first meta moments?
We’re introduced to the Lucky Devils stuntmen, who sport names like Skipper and Slugger, and adhere to superstitious beliefs that a broken bottle soon will result in death. They also proclaim that stuntmen shouldn’t be husbands, which is where the dramatics come in: One character dies shortly after getting hitched, while another blossoming couple battles over the male half’s decision to keep pursuing this line of work.
These romantic angles pale to the exploits of falling into fire or rolling over a waterfall — however fake by today’s standards — but there’s a nice balance between the melodramatic and the mayhem for something that runs all of 64 minutes. Today, it may be known best for providing an early role for Oklahoma City-born Lon Chaney Jr., if it’s known at all. Interested parties can meet these Lucky Devils through Warner Archive. —Rod Lott
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• Drive film review
• Lon Chaney Jr. feature
• The Stunt Man Blu-ray review