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|DOWNHILL RACER (director: Michael Ritchie; screenwriters: James Salter/based on the novel by Oakley Hall; cinematographer: Brian Probyn; editor: Richard A. Harris; music: Kenyon Hopkins; cast: Robert Redford (David Chappellet), Gene Hackman (Eugene Claire), Camilla Sparv (Carole Stahl), Joe Jay Jalbert (Tommy Erb), Tom J. Kirk (Stiles), Dabney Coleman (Mayo), Karl Michael Vogler (Machet), Jim McMullan (Creech), Walyer Stroud (Mr. Chappellet), Carole Carle (Lena), Kenneth Kirk (D. K. Bryan); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Richard Gregson; Criterion; 1969)|
better than most sports films since it avoids sentimentality and
falsely romanticizing its unsympathetic egotistical hero."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This exciting ski film is based on Oakley Hall’s novel and has an
intelligent screenplay by James Salter. Salter has said that
he based his hero on American skier Billy Kidd, who raced in the 1968
Olympics. The film's star, Robert Redford, said he based his character
on Kidd's teammate-- the reckless
Spider Sabich--who broke his leg six times while a competitor. Former
television director Michael Ritchie ("Prime Cut"/"The
Candidate"/"Semi-Tough"), directing his first feature film, gives it a smart semi-documentary look, as
his character-driven film tells about the chase for fame and what price
winning means. It's better
than most sports films since it avoids sentimentality and falsely
romanticizing its unsympathetic egotistical hero, while at the same
time offering thrilling location shots of downhill races and fully
capturing the intensity of competing for medals in the world of
big-time amateur skiing in authentic settings.
skier on the
United States team is hurt on a European tour, a year before the
Olympics, coach Eugene Claire (Gene Hackman) gets
replacements David Chappellet (Robert Redford) and D. K.
Dave is a loner from Idaho Springs, Colorado. The cocky, ambitious Dave
is fixated on being a ski champ and doesn't care who he has to step
over to get there. While on the European tour, Dave makes a name for
himself by winning a number of downhill races and secures a place on
the Olympic team by pushing
the best United States racer, Johnny Creech (Jim McMullan), for top spot. Dave in the
his farmer father's (Walter Stroud) indifference to his success; has a
quickie romance with the hottie Carole (Camilla Sparv),
who works as an assistant for a pushy Swiss ski manufacturer, Machet (Karl Michael Vogler),
who is interested in getting top skiers to endorse his product; and the
self-absorbed, shallow Dave suffers from poor relations with his
teammates because of his aloofness and unwillingness to be a team
plotless story leads to the climactic downhil race at the Olympics,
with its memorable freeze-frame ending. It's an intriguing film that
should even please those who are not skiers.
Redford was so displeased with the way Hollywood's Paramount promoted the film, letting such a good film die in the box office because of no publicity and falsely calling it an action film, that he formed the Sundance Institute at his Utah resort and the Sundance Film Festival at Park City – both dedicated to independent filmmaking.
REVIEWED ON 6/2/2010 GRADE: A
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ