23rd May2019

‘Andre the Giant’ DVD Review

by Chris Cummings

ANDRE_THE_GIANT_DVD_2D

So, to point out the obvious right now, I’m a rather big fan of professional wrestling. Yep, the world of spandex, drama, clotheslines and bodyslams has been part of my life for over 26 years. I guess some things in life change, but some things stay the same. My love for wrestling has remained throughout the years. When I first started watching wrestling it was obvious who were the big stars in the business, which guys were featured in the big roles, and which were the bigger names, larger than life, top of the card, front of the VHS cover. Hulk Hogan. “Macho Man” Randy Savage. The Ultimate Warrior. Andre the Giant. Back in 1992, when I began watching, Andre was pretty much finished as an in-ring worker, but his presence was still present, the aftershock of his run was still felt by the business, the fans and the wrestlers he’d worked beside. He stopped wrestling at the beginning of the 90s due to his body breaking down, and sadly, he passed away in 1993, a year after my love-affair with pro-wrestling began.

Andre truly was a giant in so many senses of the word. His stature, obviously, warranted the moniker, but his sheer impact on the business he chose was gigantic too, and the way he, like not so many have done before and since, transcended wrestling and became a household name across the globe, was good reason to call Andre Roussimoff “The Giant”.

Andre’s career in the ring spanned across four decades, beginning in the 1960s and ending in the early 90s. He wrestled across Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, before settling in Canada which led to him being signed by WWF (now WWE). This was when Andre became the mega-star that he remains to this day. A name synonymous with wrestling, a name that became familiar to people who didn’t even watch wrestling. Yep, Andre did what Hogan did in the 80s, and The Rock did in the 00s, and became a name that was known regardless of wrestling.

His wrestling career was legendary. Used as a special attraction by promoters like Vince McMahon Sr and his son, Vince Jr, Andre was a larger than life superstar who would draw crowds across the States and the World. Beginning and ending his career as a popular babyface, with a famous “heel” run in the middle, he carved out a legacy that, as current-day fans of wrestling will attest to, lasts even now. The tremors of the giants steps, can indeed, be felt in 2019.

His name grew with his work in the motion picture The Princess Bride, where Andre appeared as the character Fezzik. A gentle giant role that Andre himself loved. It was a wonderful role, and the film holds a special part in the hearts of many. He also appeared in smaller TV roles, in shows like The Six Million Dollar Man, The Fall Guy and BJ & The Bear. It was Fezzik, though, who helped make Andre Roussimoff even more famous.

This documentary goes into all of this and much, much more. The life of Andre is fascinating and this 90 minute documentary takes a glance at the good and bad elements of it. His wrestling and acting career is looked into, with talking heads like Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair, Vince McMahon, Jerry Lawler and others giving their thoughts and memories of Andre. His former traveling partner and assistant, of sorts, Tim White, who went on to referee in WWF, talks about his memories of his friend too, in some emotional moments. We hear about Andre’s difficulties with his size, and how difficult he found traveling. We hear stories of his legendary drinking, with some pointing out that, joking-aside, he did it to numb his increasing pain and discomfort.

There’s a lot going on here, but HBO do a damn good job of not skimming over things too quickly. I mean, it’s 90 minutes, which isn’t long to cover the life and career of someone with as interesting a life as Andre, but they use the time well, and most things that you’d expect to be covered, are covered. The people who are interviewed are relevant, and offer plenty of thoughtful and insightful remarks much of the time. From the wrestling personalities who worked closely with Andre for many years, to actors who worked with him in film and television, to his family and friends. They did a great job with the interviews.

In January of 1993, in a hotel room in Paris, France, Andre Roussimoff passed away in his bed. Found late in the day by the hotel manager, the strain on his heart had become too much for him. The documentary looks into this, though doesn’t spend too long on it. The difficulties Andre dealt with due to his illnesses and his sheer size were plentiful. Its truly sad to hear these stories and realise that the glitz and glamour of show-business didn’t really help ease his pains. He was judged and mocked on the streets, he couldn’t hide behind a beanie-hat when he wanted to be left alone. I have a real soft spot for wrestling documentaries. There have been some truly brilliant ones through the years, and this certainly becomes part of that list. A memorable and wonderfully made film that shows a mass of respect to the man it aims to understand.

This Andre the Giant DVD is terrific, because this is an unmissable documentary on a true wrestling legend. It features the HBO documentary, obviously, as well as a selection of matches with Andre, featuring Hulk Hogan and others. I urge you, wrestling-fan or otherwise, to seek this out and give it a watch. The life of a man, a myth, a legend, a true giant.

Andre the Giant is available on DVD now from Fremantle Home Entertainment.

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