Robert de Young directs Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches a glimpse into the film career of Australian actor Rod Taylor. Although Taylor passed away in 2015, his presence is still felt through talking head contributions filmed before he died. Pulling No Punches delivers in reminding us of Taylor’s many screen roles and professionalism in the field – despite not delving much into Taylor’s life outside cinema and television.
Written in collaboration with Stephan Wellink, de Young captures a snapshot of Taylor’s cinematic career with slight titbits about his other passions such as his artwork and early career designing murals for department stores. Among the features discussed are: Hong Kong, The Time Machine, The Birds, Welcome to Woop Woop, The Train Robbers, The Glass Bottom Boat, Sunday in New York, The V.I.P.s and Young Cassidy. Some undoubtedly more ‘classic’ than others.
There’s interest in Taylor’s anecdotes about shooting short-lived television series Hong Kong, and exploring how this lead to his increase in profile. Archive footage of the films and series provide a nostalgic and charm-filled aesthetic with Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches taking a very celebratory tone. Fortunately, talking head narration from co-stars and biographers are savvy enough to acknowledge that not all of Taylor’s films were classics.
Pulling No Punches hits its stride when it’s revelling in the nostalgia of the more classic films in Taylor’s back catalogue. Information about behind the scenes of The Birds and working with Hitchcock are amusing and informative. Taylor’s relationship with John Wayne leads to some amusing anecdotes. His friendship with Maggie Smith and the pair’s memories working on The V.I.P.s with a boozy Richard Burton makes for some interesting Hollywood gossip. The actor is open when sharing anecdotes with the filmmaker and an impressive selection of contributors including Tippi Hedren, Baz Luhrmann, Maggie Smith and Angela Lansbury lend further credibility to the documentary.
The real star, of course, is the titular performer, who even in the later stages of life and battling illness, proves to be a charismatic and exuberant storyteller. Taylor is clearly enjoying reminiscing and it’s undeniably infectious to behold. Not packed with depth, but Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches is light, breezy and charming entertainment filled with a glitzy Hollywood nostalgia sure to charm viewers.
Andrew McArthur | [rating=4]
Documentary, Biography | Australia, 2016 | NC | Glasgow Film Festival | Dir.Robert De Young | Maggie Smith, Tippi Hedren, Angela Lansbury, Rod Taylor