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Sergio Oliva and Frank Zane
V-115: Sergio Oliva and Frank Zane
This is a historic film. The Oliva footage was shot shortly after he lost the IFBB Olympia in Essen, Germany, to Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a close decision. Oliva was in the best shape of his life then. The Zane material was done on the day he won the NABBA Universe (the IFBB Universe won by Ed Corney in '72 was another contest). Both sequences were filmed in a London park, in different locations I'll describe below.
As a mass monster, Oliva was "way ahead of his time," as Casey Viator said (Musclemag International interview, Sept. 2001). Oliva had monstrous shoulders, upper arms bigger round than his head, huge pecs, thick quads, and a narrow waist you won't see on any bodybuilder his size these days. Oliva dominated the Olympia contest in the late '60s, winning it three years in a row from 1967 to 1969. He placed second to Arnold in 1970 and '72. Many preferred Oliva's build at the time -- some still do. Whoever should have won, at least we can see the physique that set the "freak" standard in this video. Oliva is 31 years old here, already going a bit bald, with his usual light moustache and close-cropped hair.
The scene is an open park, in a field lined by trees. The sky behind Oliva is blank, sharply outlining his body. At times you can see a pond several yards behind him. Dressed in a red posing suit, Oliva starts out oiling his arms. Classical music on the soundtrack (Bach's most famous Toccata) sets up the weight of what we'll witness. He oils his chest, all over and under his arms, and an assistant steps in and helps with his back. Oliva starts pumping dumbbells, at first standing and then leaning over for concentration curls, after which he pumps triceps behind his head, shifting the dumbbell from one hand to the other to hit both sides. He continues with hammer curls, cranking his arms up to their full size (over 20 inches cold). We get extensive closeups of his arms from several angles, including concentration curls from both the inside and outside as he works the 'bell.
Next, Oliva moves into a series of compulsory poses, showing off his torso, legs, and back, while always circling back to his greatest pose -- the double bicep, either from the front or back. Personally I prefer his back double bi, which shows off triceps almost too big to be believed. This pose is an epiphany, like the moment in "Anecdote of the Jar" when Wallace Stevens writes, "The wilderness rose up to it." Posing in this open space, Oliva becomes a force of nature. Still, his trademark pose is not the double bi, but what he called "the victory pose," where he holds his flexed arms directly over his head. This was the pose audiences wouldn't let him leave stage without doing, and it appears at a culminating moment in this film.
The camerawork is superb. Let me give you an example. One shot starts by studying Oliva's quads, then holds as he turns to flex his calves from the back; the camera then moves up to a side chest shot, shifting to the arms as he hits his biceps. Rather than just moving one body part, Oliva swings his entire torso to twist into a bicep pose, at which point the camera pulls back for the full effect. Oliva knows exactly what he's got, and doesn't stint on showing it off. Now the victory pose appears, and an amazing moment with Oliva is over. Never has a bodybuilder at his peak been better displayed.
At 14 minutes in, we get Frank Zane. It's in the afternoon, the shadows of the trees moving closer to him as the film goes on. Behind him is a row of London flats, giving the scene an urban feel. Zane is much smaller than Oliva, but embodies a different physique ideal. His build is closer to a fitness competitor by today's standards, but remains solid and dense. At age 30 here, Zane has longish styled hair with full sideburns, and wears a brown posing suit. Like Oliva he starts by applying oil, never looking up or smiling while doing it. Bodybuilding is a serious enterprise for Zane, who projects a physique from the inside out here.
Oliva's arms dominate his film, but no body part dominates Zane's. The poses are so tightly woven that the full effect is the point of each one. At one moment we get a good look at his quads from both front and side; then he turns and flexes his calves by standing on his toes, the late summer leaves lying around his feet. Zane specialized in honing variations on standard poses, and here shifts a double bicep into a variety of angles. He moves carefully, seamlessly, from one position to another. The camera holds on individual poses, then moves closer or further away when he shifts to another one.
Ab shots are a Zane specialty, and there's plenty of them in the 16 minutes here. Of course we get the famous "vacuum pose," where Zane compresses his abs by "blowing it out" (as audience members yell to prejudging lineups), while holding his elbows up to either side of his head. Still, Zane integrates ab poses into others so well that they don't call attention to themselves. Don't worry, his abs are impossible to miss. This isn't the raw power of Oliva, but a sculptured ideal. Self-possessed, Zane shows balance at all times; no wonder he later did so much with Zen. The bulked-up look he needed to win the Olympia contest for three years running (1977 to '79) didn't offer the etched detail he has here.
At one point late in the tape, the camera pulls out so we can see the filming setup -- a circle of chairs, with various people watching the proceedings. For a moment Zane's wife joins him, then vanishes as we get more poses from various angles and distances. Finally the credits appear over Zane's image -- and the Apollonian bodybuilder has answered the Dionysian. See them both and choose the one you prefer.
(Video stills used by permission of copyright holder, Wayne Gallasch, with all rights reserved. They may not be reposted without his permission.)