Being the bitch and taking over the more ways than one.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Swoomer Ski Movie Review: Downhill Racer

In 1969, Robert Redford sealed the deal to becoming a movie star. Not only was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid released, but so was Downhill Racer. It was the film debut of director Michael Richie (Fletch, The Golden Child) and produced by Richard Gregson (married to Natalie Wood, who actually has an uncredited Extra role in the film). Roman Polanski was originally scheduled to direct, but instead switched to direct Rosemary's Baby. Good move, Roman.

The original movie poster and full set of lobby cards

The  movie also stars another great movie star, Gene Hackman. Redford, an upcoming cocky ski racer (David Chappellet), joins the US Ski Team mid-season in Europe. Hackman (Eugene Claire) is the team's head coach with also well known actor Dabney Coleman who plays the team's assistant coach. Redford has a fling with actress Camilla Sparv (Carole Strahl) who works for a ski company promoting new skis for the team to race on. Mixing business with pleasure, how usual.

The tagline, "How fast must a man go to get from where's he's at?" almost sounds like a math question. The answer is simple. Fast -- Duh. In the film, Redford's character, a mighty American ski racer from Idaho Springs, Colorado, wins the GOLD medal in the downhill. Like what the movie Major League did for the Cleveland Indians, I believe Downhill Racer did for US Olympic men ski racers. Even though it took fifteen years after Downhill Racer, Bill Johnson took home the GOLD medal for downhill in the 1984 games in Sarajevo. He was the first US man to do so.

Bill Johnson, 1984 (Getty Images)

The movie is entertaining and location beautiful!  Shot in Switzerland, Austria, France, and Colorado, the mountain views are majestic and the camera stunt work is smart. They got a camera/stunt man to ski alongside the skiers for in your face shots. Something new and experimental at that time. The best quote of the movie is from a woman reporter interviewing the US Ski team minus Redford. As the men talk about the US women's team training elsewhere, the lady reporter is surprised there are even women who ski race. "Men look stronger in the morning..." Wow. Hello 1969.

Some other fun and memorable quotes I noted:
"I'm here cause I ski and ski fast." -- David (Robert Redford)
"All you had was your skis and that's just not enough." -- Eugene (Gene Hackman)

2009, Criterion Collection DVD

Robert Redford is a stud and playing a ski racer increases his stud status. I've said it before, but people who ski/snowboard tend to be good-looking. Casting Redford was no mistake! If you want a night of ski racing fun with a 60's twist, you'll like this film. The Criterion Collection re-released the film this past November in re-digitized splendor! It includes the restored high-def trailer, interviews, and more. Go get it!  It's worthy for any ski film fanatic collection.

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