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By Merle Bertrand | June 4, 2000

I went through a daredevil phase when I was a kid. Jumping an ever-higher and longer series of ramps on my bike. Leaping from ever-more frightening perches, thinking (erroneously, of course) that it wouldn’t hurt if I just “rolled with” the landing. Uh, huh. The difference between the typical pre-adolescent male impulse to attempt stupid death-defying feats and the activity on display here is, well, the “star” of this tape looks to be old enough to know better. By a long shot. (Actually, I think I know this guy; worked with him as a grip on a movie several years ago. But, since there were no credits to speak of other than the “Carlton Productions” card, it’s hard to say for certain. Then again, the last name of the guy I know IS Carlton and the smeary, bleary image on this eight-year old, twenty-third generation video copy sure looked like him…) In any event, this tape purports to be the pilot episode of a show called “Stunt Boy,” which was presumably intended to showcase a different stunt each episode. The stunt for our prospective Stunt Boy in this premiere installment, let’s call him, ahem, “Martin,” was to leap across the abyss from the branches of one tree into the welcoming embrace of an adjacent tree’s branches. With a build-up worthy of one of Robbie Knievel’s death wish extravaganzas, Martin describes, from his wooded perch, the padding and extra clothing he’s wearing to cushion the blow. A brief delay follows as he explains to his camera-wielding compadre that he’s waiting for a police car to vacate a church parking lot across the street. Then, it’s show time!
Here, almost in spite of myself, I became wrapped up in this crude, primordial drama. Surely he wasn’t going to actually do this. There’d be a cut and a crude dummy would then go flying between the tree-tops, right? But then, you hear his voice change. The nervousness and fear creep into it like a kudzu vine. Then the camera pulls back and we see that he’s a looonnnggg ways up there. Finally, after plenty of time for the viewer’s heart rate to match his own, Martin counts down and…I ain’t tellin’. This tape must have been sent in to test our, “If it fits in a VCR, we’ll review it!” decree. Even so, it’s difficult rating or critiquing something like this in the same way we’d review someone’s lifelong passion of a feature film project. In any event, and this is just a guess here, I’m assuming that this amusing bad idea was the one and only episode of “Stunt Boy.” We all grow up eventually.

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