THE STUNT MAN -- At the Jenifer.

Life is but a movie set, and all the . . .

All the people in the movie business seem to think so.

There are movies about movies coming out every week. Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories," Brian De Palma's "Home Movies," Billy Wilder's "Fedora" and now Richard Rush's "The Stunt Man" have all come up with the metaphor that life is like making a movie, and you never know where illusion stops and reality begins. For some reason, no movie-maker has yet noticed that life is really like the grocery business and you never know what's going to go rotten on you next.

Although all these pictures are larded with elaborately comic scenes, just in case you should accuse movie-makers of taking themselves seriously, the message comes through that there is no higher calling than movie-making. The posture of look-I'm-really-laughing-at-myself is hard to bring off when there remains an assumption that no matter how outrageous the people and the activity, the product is, in the end, worth it all. probably because the film that the film's filmmakers are making is truly dreadful. It's not another case of we're-crazy-but-we're-doing-something terrific, because the exaggerated antics depicted are in the service of making a stunpendously dumb movie. Not being asked to make allowances for genius, we can laugh un-reservedly.

Peter O'Toole plays the god-like (in possessing complete power and in being worshipped) film director apparently the same way he has been playing "Macbeth" on the London stage. (The reviews were unanimous: "Hollywood at its most hilarious self-parody". . . "about as subtle as a battering ram". . . "Puts the Shakespeare to his lips and blows it like a trumpet" . . . "His walk is an exhausted lunge, his voice thick, hoarse and full of abrupt sledgehammer emphases.") It's rather funny.

And Steve Railsback, as a young man who has been trying to play one of the standard madman roles available outside of the film world, that of Senseless Killer, is an amusing foil.

But the best enjoyment this picture has to provide is the knowledge that we don't have to watch the combination message and slapstick World War I movie that we are watching being made.