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Danger On The Silver Screen: 50 Films Celebrating Cinema’s Greatest Stunts Book Review

“Danger On The Silver Screen: 50 Films Celebrating Cinema’s Greatest Stunts” might be the best TCM Presents book yet.

After a foreword by VP of Stunts Unlimited Buddy Joe Hooker and an introduction by author Scott McGee, “Danger On The Silver Screen” kicks into high gear by delving into great stunts from 50 films that include car chases, martial arts, risky jumps and so forth. As one might imagine, the list is heavy on James Bond movie sequences (nobody does it better after all) and car chases from films such as “Bullitt,” “The Blues Brothers,” “Vanishing Point,” and “Ronin.” Legendary stuntmen and stuntwomen like Dar Robinson, Zoe Bell, Alan Gibbs, and Bill Hickman are discussed throughout the book, but actors and actresses who did their own stunts (such as Douglas Fairbanks, Charlize Theron and Keanu Reeves) also get the spotlight. Each film entry is accompanied by film and stunt team credits, photos, and a written piece about the history of the movie, the stunt and the stunt people involved with the iconic stunt. At the end of each entry, there’s a short associated tidbit that could be about anything from Jackie Chan’s numerous injuries to the myth of the horse jump from the lost movie “Three Jumps Ahead.” The book concludes with acknowledgments, a bibliography and an index.

With a lot of the past TCM Presents books, many of the lists mostly covered a lot of obvious picks for those well versed in cinema history (although there are hidden gems sprinkled throughout). With “Danger On The Silver Screen,” author Scott McGee dives into a subject that doesn’t get the respect or recognition it deserves. We all remember stunts from movies like “Mad Max: Fury Road” (which is basically one long stunt) and the thrilling “Ben-Hur” chariot race, but we seldom learn about the people involved with the stunts. Thankfully, this book pays tribute to those brave professionals who perform often death defying iconic movie moments. Not only does this book cover silent films like “Steamboat Bill, Jr.” to modern gems like “John Wick,” but it also highlights films that feature grand stunts in movies that aren’t as well known ala “The Great K&A Train Robbery” and the cult classic “Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry.” Moreover, the book really pays special attention to the stunt artists behind-the-scenes whether they’re stunt people or movie stars who do their own stars ala Tom Cruise in the “Mission: Impossible” films. Each page offers up a wealth of fascinating tidbits whether it be Ross Kananga’s multiple takes on hopping across real crocodiles in “Live And Let Die,” details about the 3 month long shoot for the freeway sequence in “The Matrix Reloaded” and the absolutely wild production story behind the 26 block car chase in “The French Connection.” Personally speaking, it was a blast to see the ever underrated tanker truck wheelie sequence from the ever underrated “Licence To Kill” get the spotlight here, but I may be biased as a James Bond aficionado. 

While I can’t argue with any of the picks here, there were a few notable omissions with the most puzzling being the lack of “Jackass.” The whole franchise is comprised of crazy stunts that few would ever perform! It was also a little strange to see the lack of Tony Jaa, “The Man With The Golden Gun” car jump (which is mentioned in a sidebar), and more Jackie Chan stunts (although films like “Drunken Master 2” and “Supercop” are mentioned in the “Rumble In The Bronx” piece). Perhaps those can be in a sequel?

March 13, 2022 - Posted by | Book review | , , , , ,

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