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By Pete Vonder Haar | April 5, 2004

The Passion of Hal Needham

Some filmmakers are born to tell stories of epic adventure, some to bring to life the exploits of fantasy heroes, and still others are content to tell smaller stories of life and love. And then there are those who like to film orgiastic displays of property damage. Our subject today, Hal Needham, could teach us all a thing or two about how best to jump a car over a moving train. So gather ‘round, friends, as we examine some of the movies that made Needham the champion of bootleggers, white guy afros, and unrepentant speeders.

Needham started his career as a stuntman, and later acted as stunt coordinator in several films, but he always wanted more. Breaking chairs over a guy’s back and getting thrown through plate glass is a satisfying career, after all, but Needham saw there were stories that needed to be told; stories of brave men, the women who loved them, and the vehicles in which they taunted the forces of law and order. As no one was making enough of these movies, Needham decided to grab the steering wheel, as it were, and fishtail into destiny.

The man who’d performed stunts in everything from “Gunsmoke” to “Major Dundee” to “Blazing Saddles” finally got a chance to show his chops behind the camera. The results would change the landscape of American cinema forever, make a star out of a balding, hirsute ex-football player from Florida State, and lead to more idiot children ending up in emergency rooms than Jackass and “Beavis and Butthead” combined.

The story continues in part two of FOOTAGE FETISHES: THE PASSION OF HAL NEEDHAM>>>


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