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World's Greatest Stuntman - Vic Armstrong

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      28.09.2012 14:05
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      A unique career resulting in an entertaining and unique book

      "Vic Armstrong, the World's Greatest Stuntman" is the autobiography of Vic Armstrong, well-known as Harrison Ford's stunt double. However, his career covers far more, working with everyone from Sophia Loren and Gregory Peck to Harrison Ford and Will Smith. He has worked in the film industry for over forty years, as stuntman, extra, stunt co-ordinator, and director, and the book covers his life from growing up planning to be a jockey, getting his break into movies, and then up to the present day (2012).

      The main selling points for this book are the behind the scenes stories of how the stunts were done, and there it excels. Armstrong has a real passion for his work and it comes through clearly on paper. The writing is clear and understandable, with no unexplained jargon to take you away from the events. The planning and detail behind the stunts is incredible, and some of the Superman material has to be read to be believed. Much of his work was before cgi took off, so what you saw on screen was what the stuntman actually did. Wires couldn't be hidden so stuntmen risked their lives, and sometimes died, performing many of the more dangerous feats. Armstrong himself has been injured a few times, as he details within the book.

      Having got his start with horses, several of his roles involved training horses for the stars, (and training stars to manage horses). One thing covered in detail are the animal handling techniques used now to avoid animal cruelty in films, particularly with horses that need to fall onscreen.

      There are some charming ancedotes from behind the scenes on major pictures, and also a few more risque ones that make it unsuitable for younger children. The book portrays almost all his co-workers in a favourable light, as you would expect from someone still working in the business, but the text does give you the feeling Vic Armstrong could get on with just about anyone - as long as they are professional. The foreword is written by Steven Spielberg, and to round it out there are short comments and opinion pieces scattered throuigh the book from actors and directors Vic Armstrong worked with, which give a more complete picture of the films and stunts.

      One real treat in the book are the photographs. The hardback contains black and white photos throughout the book, most showing Vic Armstrong and his wife Wendy in the roles they were doubling for - including the Indiana Jones and Superman films - or backstage pictures with the people they were working with. There are also a set of colour plates showing family pictures, onset images and more.

      If you are interested in how this stunts were done, special effects work, or what it is like working backstage on a movie, this is definitely one to read. Even if you aren't it's a good and entertaining read, and an interesting look behind thet scenes at the film industry, as it has changed over the last forty years.

      Overall this is an entertaining, informative, and worthwhile read written by a man with a unique career. 5 stars.

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