Image courtesy Repetrope.
1998 NPC USA

Coverage: Backstage posing

Format: DVD

Length: 75 minutes

Issuer: Repetrope/USA Muscle in 1998

Link: [trailer available]

“Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up now.”

These men get their close-ups in this film, documenting over forty-five competitors at the July 1998 NPC USA contest in Las Vegas.  The USA is a pro qualifier for the NPC, and a desirable contest to win. The men here have all won other contests—some have won many of them—and we get an up-close view of each posing under bright lights at the side of the pump room against a dark blue curtain. Men in all weight classes, from bantam to super-heavyweight, appear in no particular order for about two minutes each (a few more briefly than that). The only sounds are weights being handled off-screen for last-minute prep, with inaudible chatter along with periodic lineup calls by the NPC manager, who’s all business (“No belly rings, no earrings”).

The camera work in this video is extraordinary. There is no distance between the poser and the viewer; it’s gone. This is one of the most complete displays of bodies I have seen.The camera varies from a few feet to a few inches, with many low-angle shots giving the impression of a giant towering over you. These bodies eat up the camera, swallowing it whole. In backstage posing we get a full disclosure of a competition-level body in shrink-wrapped skin. The men here have pushed their bodies as far as it’s humanly possible for them to go.

The pattern for filming each man is the same. The competitor hits compulsory poses, at times stopping and giving the cameraman the pose he requests. The camera moves over the arms in bicep shots; it pans up and down the front side for a double bicep or side chest or most muscular shot; it climbs the abs like a ladder; it goes high-angle to shoot down the shoulders (delts, traps), showing how thick the man is chest to back; it tracks down the legs in front for quad shots; it takes in lat spreads from the back, then dips down for the glutes, hamstrings, and calves. The camera is close enough at times to show skin pores. One startling high-angle shot of the front torso looks straight down the separation in the pecs as the man shifts his abs back and forth. Each competitor is a practiced poser; most have spent hundreds of hours in front of mirrors in order to isolate a body part at a moment’s notice. The best posers offer a mind-blowing stage routine, although we’re only seeing excerpts from it. All are ready, self-possessed, and proud of what they've accomplished. With one exception none is holding water, and most are in the best shape of their lives. Each has strong points and is well worth seeing.

The competitors aren’t identified here, but some have familiar faces—and bodies so recognizable we wouldn’t even need their faces to ID them, like Aaron MaddronJason Arntz appears briefly (he didn’t win the show but did take the Nationals later in 1998); so does Dennis James, who won this show. All the guys deserve to be here, and some of the best I had never seen before. It’s a shame they’re not better known, but some established their reputations in this contest. Most have short hair, some buzzcuts, a few shaved heads; those with longer hair have it in a ponytail or braid in back. A few have sideburns (to ear bottom), some have moustaches, a few goatees, and of course no body hair below the neck. Almost all wear posing trunks in a variety of different styles, colors and fabrics, but one poses in his street clothes and another in boxer briefs. Quite a few tattoos are visible; frowned upon by some judges, tats remain popular. Most competitors are in their twenties, with a few older than that. All are ripped.

In short, a very good film.

Mike Emery
June 1999, revised November 2019