Danger on the Silver Screen–TCM celebrates more than 50 of the greatest stunt films

Review by C.J. Bunce

TCM’s film reference library of books has looked at the best sci-fi and horror movies, dynamic actresses, Christmas movies, summer hits, noir and war movies, plus it’s highlighted more than 100 movies that are the best of the best–with another book that looks at the best of a century of movie directors.  Tomorrow movie fans finally get the first exploration of the greatest stunt work from a century of film and the people behind it all in Danger on the Silver Screen: 50 Films Celebrating Cinema’s Greatest Stunts (available for pre-order now here at Amazon).  From an icy peril in 1920’s Way Down East to a harrowing drive through Atlanta in 2017’s Baby Driver, readers will see how it’s done from contemporary accounts and new interviews.

Of course those chase sequences in Bullitt and the chariot race in Ben Hur made the list!  But Danger on the Silver Screen goes beyond just its selection of 50 key films to include mentions from other memorable films like The Poseidon Adventure, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and The Dark Knight.

Writer Scott McGee delivers a yeoman’s effort in collecting, compiling, and whittling down so many iconic scenes.  He really captures it all in words and black and white and full color photographs: actor-stuntman Tom Mix and all his injuries, Buster Keaton replaying the set-up for that famous falling house wall scene in 1928’s Steamboat Bill, Jr.  McGee includes Yakima Canutt’s detail of setting up his famous horse jump in Stagecoach, stunt pilot Paul Mantz (who died flying a plane in The Flight of the Phoenix) gets a worthy tribute, as does actor-stuntman Richard Farnsworth, who seemed to be everywhere throughout film history.  And Terry Leonard recounts getting dragged under a truck as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, as an homage to another famous stunt of years past.

A history of people on fire–the fire gag–is provided throughout these stories, along with a chronology of jumping, falling, flying, and fighting on film.  Car chases up the ante every decade, including in The French Connection, Smokey and the Bandit, The Blues Brothers, and Mad Max: Fury Road.  Readers may be surprised the major force the James Bond franchise has played in escalating the next big stunt scene.

I love that It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World–one of the greatest all around film experiences ever–at last gets its due nod here (director Stanley Kramer said there wasn’t a day of filming that movie that didn’t include stunt work).

Movie buffs who have read up on stuntmen and stuntwomen won’t be disappointed.  New to the topic moviegoers will meet Lillian Gish, Harold Lloyd, Douglas Fairbanks, Richard Talmadge, Frank Tallman, Ben Johnson, Bill Hickman, Bud Ekins, Carey Loftin, Howard Curtis and Mickey Gilbert (who together made Redford and Newman’s high cliff jump as Butch and Sundance), stunt queen Polly Burson, too many James Bond stuntmen to list, Bird Minor, Barbara Stanwyck, Micky Moore, Eddie Smith, Ross Kananga, Tony Cecere, helicopter pilot Chuck Tamburro, Janet Brady, Alan Gibbs, Bob Herron, Hal Needham, Dar Robinson, Grant Page, John Landis (yes, that John Landis), Tommy Huff, Eddie Donno, Vic Armstrong, Jeannie Epper and Vince Deadrick, Jr., Daniel Bernhardt, Charlize Theron, David Leitch, Sam Hargrave, Tom Cruise, and Jackie Chan, the 50+-year physical performer who could get a book dedicated to his stunt work alone.

Danger on the Silver Screen is a must for fans of action movies and anyone wondering “how did they do that?” after an unthinkable, daring, fantastic scene.  This is also a must for every James Bond fan’s library.  Pre-order TCM’s Danger on the Silver Screen today here at Amazon from publisher Running Press.  It arrives in stores this week.

And don’t miss the other volumes reviewed at borg from TCM’s film library: TCM’s 20th Century Fox: Darryl F. Zanuck and the Creation of the Modern Film Studio, TCM’s Essential DirectorsDark City: The Lost World of Film Noir52 Must-See Movies That Matter52 More Must-See Movies That MatterMust-See Sci-FiDynamic DamesForbidden Hollywood, Christmas in the MoviesFright Favorites, Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics, and TCM’s Hollywood Victory.

Leave a Reply