'Downhill Racer' on Blu-ray

Category: Blu-ray's and DVD's

Downhill Racer was one of the first feature films to focus on the sport of downhill skiing. It is the story of a self-centered loner who is a gifted skier yet doesn’t quite know how to handle being a teammate. This 1969 movie includes plenty of action as the skiers race down the mountains of Europe in preparation for Olympic gold.

Robert Redford stars as David Chappellet, a cocky, self-absorbed young man from a small Colorado town. He might not be good in a social environment, but when he’s racing down a mountain he is in his element. He has the guts and the talent but only lacks social skills.

Gene Hackman stars as the American coach who sees the talent oozing out of Chappellet and needs to find a way to harness his cockiness and make him a team player. With all this raw talent, Chappellet can bring home the gold for America, but he lacks consistency. So he undergoes a rigorous training to prepare his body for the long haul of downhill racing on the world stage.

The movie has the appearance of a documentary, in many ways, which is something the filmmakers intended. It isn’t a flashy Hollywood ski film. It is a movie that takes viewers into the lives of the skiers as well as the harsh and unforgiving mountains on which they race. With amazing photography, viewers get the sensation of being with the racers as they speed down world-renowned mountains to make it to the finish line a fraction of a second quicker than the previous guy.

The bonus features on this new Criterion edition are just as interesting if not more so than the actual movie. Robert Redford and screenwriter James Salter discuss forming the concept of the story and how it evolved over time. They also talk about director Michael Ritchie and producer Richard Gregson, who was married to actress Natalie Wood at the time. Behind-the-scenes clips of Wood on set with the actors and helping Redford with his makeup are just snippets of the backstage insights viewers get with this highly interesting featurette.

Another bonus is a 12-minute documentary with Robert Redford narrating information about the movie and the sport of downhill racing. And in another featurette, viewers see how they got the impressive skiing footage. This was 1969 and technology was not as advanced as it is today. There were no GoPro cameras. So how did the filmmakers get the shots of the skiers racing down the mountains? Watch this featurette to find out.

This Criterion special edition includes a booklet about the story and making the movie.

Downhill Racer was produced in 1969 yet it is not outdated. Skiers loved this movie in 1969 and continue to hail it as one of the preeminent skiing feature films of all time.

About the Author

Francine Brokaw has been covering all aspects of the entertainment industry for 20 years. She also writes about products and travel. She has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines as well as Internet websites. She has written her own book, Beyond the Red Carpet The World of Entertainment Journalists, from Sourced Media Books.

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