Another bodybuilding film has made its way into Keep Fit Kingdom’s film review section. This time it’s the movie “Sandow” which was released in April 2018. Read on for our thoughts…
Finnish actor Timo Kervinen takes on the role of the legendary Eugen Sandow whilst Tiffany-Ellen Robinson plays his wife Blanche Brookes Sandow. The film’s director takes on an acting role in the movie as Launceston Elliot and Olivier Maigniez takes on the influential role as the American, Florenz Ziegfeld.
British Olympian Launceston Elliot tells his story about the famous strongman Eugen Sandow.
It’s not often we get to see a bodybuilding film which is set in an era around one hundred years ago. “Sandow” takes place in a time decades before the renowned “Mr. Olympia” contest had even been conceived of and certainly many years before the most famous bodybuilder on the planet, Arnold Schwarzenegger, was born. Not many people know that there is a rich history to bodybuilding which goes way beyond the current crop of modern bodybuilders; therefore, Alexander Cooper’s film is certain to prove informative and refreshing to most viewers.
After the film opens with a nice piece of music, we are introduced to Launceston Elliot, an Olympian and a pupil of Eugen Sandow. He narrates the story of Sandow to an inquisitive newspaper reporter who keen to know more about the Prussian strongman. Elliot proceeds to tell his story about an extraordinary showman who would later become known as the “Father of Modern Bodybuilding”.
Sandow, real name: Friedrich Wilhelm Muller, was endlessly belittled by his father while growing up. This created a burning desire to prove himself worthy to his father and became the driving force in his life’s aim to become the perfect man.
Launceston describes some details of the young Sandow’s life, including working in a circus and his encounters with violence and homelessness. We are then introduced to Timo Kervinen who now animates the adult Sandow. With a lean, muscular physique and handsome looks, he proves well-suited to playing Eugen Sandow.
After years of making an average living from performing in circuses and wrestling, Sandow crosses paths with a confident American by the name of Florenz Ziegfeld. Ziegfeld, an ambitious man sees great potential in Sandow’s phenomenal strength and wastes no time in seizing opportunity assisting him in building a career to exhibit his prowess and muscular physique to the public. Sandow’s displays of strength and muscular development heretofore unseen grow to eventually capture the attention of the world stage.
Despite having a hectic life travelling worldwide to perform his strongman acts, Sandow finds time to marry. The relationship between Eugen and his wife Blanche Brookes is a focal point of the film with Tiffany-Ellen Robinson’s acting talent shining through as she convincingly plays the part of Sandow’s strong-headed wife. She endures some difficulties with Eugen’s lifestyle and tires of all the travelling for his work. Their relationship becomes a mix of joy, pain and some strongly conflicting views – she craves a settled life whereas he craves more success, fame and recognition.
As the film unfolds, key moments of Eugen’s life are captured. The rise to fame, the opening of his physical education schools, production of his magazines, and posing for Thomas Edison in one of the first ever animated films. One of the best scenes in the film is the tense strongman challenge between Sandow and his rivals “Cyclops” and “Sampson”.
Sandow was obviously a man of strength, both physically and mentally, but he also had his vices or weaknesses. There were times when he would smoke, drink and gamble. He spoke of the idea of everything in moderation but didn’t actually seem to live by that ethos! Whatever flaws he had, Launceston Elliot praised him and said, “Sandow the Magnificent” was the best friend a man could have.”
A low budget hasn’t stopped this film from being an absorbing piece of entertainment. I remained fixated throughout while Alexander Cooper’s film took me through the journey of Eugen Sandow’s life. Having my own keen interest in the history of physical culture, I can see that Cooper has kept close to the facts about Sandow and portrayed a realistic character. Watching the film made me want to step into a time machine to go back to the era to witness Sandow’s acts of strength and larger than life persona with my own eyes. In my opinion, I think that Alexander Cooper has produced a fine piece of work that he should be proud of!
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