There’s just something about the title of The Bob Mizer Foundation’s latest DVD compilation, “The Male Form in Motion: 19 Films for Artistic Study.”
By now, if you’ve studied Mizer, you’re aware that his earlier works were produced as reference materials for healthful living and ways to maintain a toned, muscular physique. Of course, most of his patrons enjoyed them for purely aesthetic and erotic purposes. The title of the compilation is a wink and a nod to this concept, and though the men flying through the air and doing handstands are the quintessential pictures of good health, we’re guessing that’s only part of the reason that you’re interested.
And that’s perfectly fine with us. Now that we have that admission out of the way, on to the meat of the DVD’s content, for lack of a more cogent term.
The models in “The Male Form in Motion” appear in wider shots and in close-ups from the groin area, up. Here, Jim Lloyd lifts barbells with ease; there, Randy Caine runs in place; here, blond-haired Heath Avery does sit-ups poolside; there, David O’Boyle engages in tumbling and jumping jacks. To connoisseurs of male physique photography and films, it is a familiar sight, as similar films of the mid- to late 1960s were filmed in nudist camps such as Ramona Ranch.
Bell worked to select a variety of models in both black and white, as well as stunning color. Some of the films have been edited to include activity in slow motion, allowing the viewer ample opportunity to see each muscle at work. The colorful settings suggest that most shorts appear to have been filmed throughout Mizer’s compound.
Of course, the title of the film itself seems to be almost tongue-in-cheek, a nod to the auspices under which, thanks to puritanical laws, Mizer had to produce his films before 1968 – as studies in health, far removed from any hint of sexuality. The unavoidable truth of each segment in this compilation, however, is that they convey a playful sensuality. The models grin, laugh and speak directly to Mizer, who appears off-camera. They are all too happy to oblige when being given direction.
The selected films are a mélange of basic poses and more playful moments, such as “The Boy of the Fountain,” featuring a model drinking from and posing atop a fountain, ending the segment with a series of cartwheels and leaps.
A personal favorite from this collection is the sideburned brunette Joe Napolie, who mugs for the camera before doing backflips off a small trampoline. Napolie, like the other models who appear on this DVD, appears to genuinely have fun with Mizer’s camera on him, and he looks so comfortable in his segment that one wonders whether he has a gymnastics background, as some of the models in this compilation do.
In a solo film, Jim Giussi, who later appears in a duo segment with Tom Short, appears at ease, shedding his slacks, button-down shirt and necktie in front of a large sea shell mounted on the wall, giving. Coyly, he turns around, grins at the camera and oils himself up, a homoerotic “Birth of Venus.” Giussi lounges in front of the seashell a bit before doing handstands.
The final third of the DVD is comprised of pairings of certain models, who apply sunscreen to each other, stretch and generally engage in horseplay. Mizer’s inclusion of closeups at certain points in each film is especially welcome. Wrestling pairs also may be found toward the end, including Johann Bach and Larry Brouwer, and brothers Ron and Tony Warner (the former is a dead ringer for a young Val Kilmer).
In addition to the 19 short films, the DVD includes a host of extras, including a short documentary on the state of the Foundation; trailers for the Foundation’s previous movie compilation discs; and a 2015 interview with model Randy Caine, who tells the story of traveling to Los Angeles and meeting Mizer in 1968, shortly after graduating from high school.
“Watching the DVD … wow,” says Caine, who died shortly after the interview was conducted. “I miss that period in my life. … I’m blessed.”
The most engrossing feature to come from the ‘extras’ menu, however, is restored footage from a 1973 Xan Cherelle film, kept by Mizer and restored by Bell and the Foundation’s volunteers. According to Mizer, only 15 feet of film remained unruined after becoming caught in the editing machine.
Mizer spoke of Cherelle with disappointment when the model visited him a year after the shoot, noting that Cherelle’s hair had grown “distressingly” long.
“Like many of the other aging models, Xan felt he looked ‘better than ever,’” Mizer wrote. “On rare occasions, some do improve physically with age, but most on giving up their previous athletic life tend to disintegrate rapidly.”
The restored footage shows Cherelle in his physical prime, smacking away on chewing gum and lounging in front of a greek statue on Mizer’s rooftop studio. His shadowboxing is almost a lazily choreographed dance, and Cherelle sticks his tongue out intermittently. He ends the shoot by collapsing to the ground and flailing about – a far cry from other models, who smile complacently, or wave, or lie down and catch their breath. There is something wholly different, somewhat out of place, and slightly off-putting about Cherelle, who, instead of appearing to have fun with the experience, seems to almost mock the viewer. Though physically appealing, Cherelle lacks the chemistry with the camera that his fellow models on this DVD share.
On the whole, the Foundation’s latest DVD compilation is a most welcome addition to its cadre of previous works. The films each offer a glimpse into the male physique, with just a hint of sexuality – though nothing overt, of course. The looks of the models are diverse enough to satisfy the viewer, regardless of his or her own personal tastes. As the Foundation grows and more archival work is completed, it will be interesting to see what other treasures find their way onto future discs. For now, "The Male Form in Motion" is a gratifying addition to collections of both Athletic Model Guild veterans and novices alike.