Monday, September 25, 2017

Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches (2016)


Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches

"He's a man's man. He's a woman's man. He's an ideal man." - Angela Lansbury

Australian actor Rod Taylor burst upon the Hollywood scene in the late 1950s but it wasn't until his seminal film The Time Machine came out in 1960 that he became a major movie star.  Good looks coupled with a talent for comedy and drama, Taylor was a force to be reckoned with. He had an artistic soul beneath a rugged Aussie exterior. He was a born adventurer and up for anything. Taylor did his own stunts, was an expert at accents and had a charisma that translated well on screen. As one of the top leading men of the 1960s, Taylor paved the way for Australian movie stars to come.

Born in a suburb of Sydney, Rod Taylor was raised by a very Aussie father and a very British mother who both had a profound influence on his creative pursuits. At a young age he pursued drawing, painting and pottery as his artistic trade. It wasn't until he heard a radio program that he realized he could be an actor. He worked on radio and on some movies in his homeland and was quickly scooped up by American filmmakers and lured to Hollywood. His early work consisted of small parts in big pictures. He worked alongside many greats including Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds, Bette Davis and more. When The Time Machine came out in 1960, Taylor was already dabbling in TV work with his series Hong Kong. Both made an impact on audiences and Taylor's life as a major movie star began. He continued to work throughout the 1960s and 1970s in some great parts with some of the best in the business. Even parts he didn't particularly care for helped him in one way or another. Taylor was driven by the love of his art, his adventurous spirit and as he liked to say "a bit of ego thrown in."

Rod Taylor


Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches, a new documentary by Robert de Young and Stephan Wellink, sets out to not only to tell the story of Taylor's acting career but to capture the essence of the man. Told through interviews, photographs and movie clips, we see the span of his work and talent. It benefits from having the man himself, Rod Taylor, as the main interview subject. The filmmakers interviewed him over two days at Taylor's home in Beverly Hills. Taylor passed away in early 2015 making this documentary a timely treasure. (We even get to hear a bit about Taylor's former love interest Anita Ekberg who passed away only a few days after he did.) Several other talking heads in the documentary, all of whom were important figures in Taylor's life, include Angela Lansbury, Tippi Hedren, Maggie Smith, Baz Luhrmann, Stephan Elliott, screenwriter Peter Yeldham, Susie Porter, Keitch Michell and others like Taylor's biographer, manager, lawyer, etc.

Films discussed at length include: The Catered Affair (1956), Raintree Country (1957), The Time Machine (1960), Colossus and the Amazon Queen (1960), 101 Dalmations (1961), Seven Seas to Calais (1962), The Birds (1963), The V.I.P.s (1963), Sunday in New York (1963), The Liquidator (1965), Young Cassidy (1965), The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), Dark of the Sun (1968), The Man Who Had Power Over Women (1970), The Train Robbers (1973), Welcome to Woop Woop (1997) and his final film Inglorious Basterds (2009). You'll hear Rod Taylor himself tell you stories about working on each of these. Taylor seemed to be a fun-loving guy who really enjoyed his work and looked back fondly on his career. He was a colorful character and that definitely shows through.


Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches reinvigorated my interest in Rod Taylor. I was instantly hooked. Taylor was an immensely captivating figure and it doesn't hurt that his blue eyes, with just a hint green in them, are simply mesmerizing. I've always been drawn to Rod Taylor films. I thought I had seen quite a lot of them until I watched this doc and realized I had to dive further into his filmography. I enjoyed the graphic design elements of the documentary and how it was sectioned by theme in a sort of chronological order. It was aesthetically pleasing and a lot of fun to watch.

Rod Taylor Pulling No Punches is a thoroughly enjoyable documentary that captures the essence of the Australian movie star who charmed audiences around the world. Highly recommended.



Check out the official Facebook page for more details about the film. I hope a DVD and Blu-Ray release will be in the near future. It recently won Best Feature Documentary at the Burbank International Film Festival.

My good friend Jessica reviewed the documentary and interviewed the director and producer on her blog Comet Over Hollywood. I recommend you read it. She introduced me to the film!

Many thanks to the filmmakers for the opportunity to review the screener.

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