Downhill Racer

Downhill Racer

4.5 6
Director: Michael Ritchie

Cast: Michael Ritchie, Robert Redford, Gene Hackman, Camilla Sparv


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Director Michael Ritchie's ongoing satirical spin on the American Dream is dressed up in quasi-documentary fashion in Downhill Racer. Robert Redford stars as an Olympic-grade skier, whose talent is matched only by his aloof self-involvement. As the cocksure Redford rises to the top of his class, he discards any emotional attachments that might impede his…  See more details below


Director Michael Ritchie's ongoing satirical spin on the American Dream is dressed up in quasi-documentary fashion in Downhill Racer. Robert Redford stars as an Olympic-grade skier, whose talent is matched only by his aloof self-involvement. As the cocksure Redford rises to the top of his class, he discards any emotional attachments that might impede his progress, ranging from girlfriends to his own father. When Redford finally attains his goal in life, the thrill of victory is an empty one indeed. The cold-bloodedness of Redford's character may have worked against Downhill Racer at the box office; on the other hand, Ritchie's similarly structured political satire The Candidate offered a "warmer" Redford -- but it, too, was a box-office disappointment.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Hastings
If any film could be described as "exhilaratingly dispassionate," Michael Ritchie's icy take on the world of professional athletics would be it. One of a pair of image-skewering films the director made with mega-star Robert Redford at the height of his popularity -- 1972's The Candidate being the other -- Downhill Racer never goes for the easy satirical punchline in its analysis of Redford's arrogant Olympic skier, David Chappellet. Instead, the movie has documentary-style snippets of his life on and off the slopes, and the ski scenes and supporting characters are conveyed with so much scruffy, propulsive realism that David -- the hub that holds them all together -- seems all the more shallow and undeserving. In the end, Ritchie and Redford expose the time-honored fallacy that a talented performer is as passionate and charismatic outside of the spotlight as he or she is in it. Although very much a piece with the late-'60s, early-'70s New Hollywood trend towards unsavory protagonists and social exposés, Downhill Racer's unflinching portrait of hollowness almost bears more in common with the empty anti-heroes of such literary works as John Updike's Rabbit novels, John Cheever's Falconer, or Jerzy Kosinski's Being There (the latter of which Hal Ashby would potently adapt for the screen in 1979).

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
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[Wide Screen]
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Special Features

New video interviews with Robert Redford, screenwriter James Salter, film editor Richard Harris, production manager Walter Coblenz, and former downhill skier Joe Jay Jalbert, who served as a technical adviser, ski double, and cameraman; Audio excerpts from a 1977 American Film Institute seminar with director Michael Ritchie; How Fast?, a rare 12-minute promotional featurette; Theatrical trailer; A booklet featuring an essay by critic Todd McCarthy

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Redford David Chappellet
Gene Hackman Eugene Claire
Camilla Sparv Carole Stahl
Karl Michael Vogler Machet
Jim McMullan Johnny Creech
Christian Doermer Brumm
Kathleen Crowley American Newspaperwoman
Dabney Coleman Mayo
Kenneth Kirk D.K. Bryan
Oren Stevens Kipsmith
Carole Carle Lena
Rip McManus Bruce Devore
Joe Jay Jalbert Tommy Erb
Tom J. Kirk Stiles
Robin Hutton-Potts Gabriel
Heini Schuler Meier
Eddie Waldburger Haas
Marco Walli Istel
Jack Ballard Candy Vendor
Jenny Dexter Ron Engel
Michael Gempart Hotel Receptionist
Noam Pitlik TV Announcer
Harald Dietl Journalist
Walter Stroud Mr. Chappellet

Technical Credits
Michael Ritchie Director
Nick Archer Art Director,Editor
Harold Arlen Songwriter
Walter Coblenz Asst. Director
Kip Gowans Asst. Director
Richard Gregson Producer
Richard A. Harris Editor
Kenyon Hopkins Score Composer
Henry Mancini Songwriter
Cynthia May Costumes/Costume Designer
Johnny Mercer Songwriter
Kostia Palarmas Songwriter
Brian Probyn Cinematographer
James Salter Screenwriter
Spiro Samara Songwriter
Kevin Sutton Sound/Sound Designer
Ian Whittaker Art Director

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Downhill Racer
1. Opening Sequence [6:05]
2. The Team [10:38]
3. First Race [8:29]
4. "Way of Life" [6:38]
5. Home [9:38]
6. "Try a Pair" [11:19]
7. Self-Denial [8:06]
8. A Good Season [6:05]
9. A Week Off [8:26]
10. "Quite a Stunt" [5:29]
11. "This Is It" [3:45]
12. "Very Fast" [13:12]
13. Color Bars [3:47]


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Downhill Racer 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
The_Beastlord_Slavedragon More than 1 year ago
Franz Klammer flew to victory in at the Munich games of 1976. If any of you are old enough to remember, he was the man who coined the phrases 'kamikaze' and the 'crazy kanuck'. Scientific review later revealed that his weight and wide stance and all of his seemingly erratic aerodynamics were the only combination of gravity and inertia which could have propelled him to victory. The Downhill will forever be a man's event. No Susie Chaffe' hotdog style here. Robert Redford and Gene Hackman make great prolific performances in re inacting a fictitious American Downhiller's World Cup Victory, which was unheard of up until the Maher Brothers of Washinton State. The back story of his girlfriend and lack of panache with women was key. There are some really sick shots of chicane and cornices and wipeouts. Apparently Redford did some of his own skiing....some of it. The Beastlord Slavedragon, he hath spake freely upon these matters
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Incredible action shots as one of the cameras, manned by an expert skier, follows Redford down the mountain. Story is somewhat difficult to follow as the scenes transition to different times such as the summer break, but overall an example of a film with incredible realism especially considering that there were no digital special effects in those days. Another sports film from the late 60s to catch is Frankenheimer's Grand Prix, also with real action sequences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
An unbelievably young Robert Redford (oh hell, he always looks young!) and Gene Hackman bring to the big screen the first dose of what it's like in the Men's World Cup Downhill. If you can get past the lace boots, cable bindings, wooden skiis, and music of the late 1960's, this film will grip you with its adept capture of mood of the fans, the mountains, the weather, the tension and thrills of the Downhill. A movie with a cult following to rival 'Easy Rider', it's hard to believe no one has yet had the sense to convert this to a DVD. Super flick!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a movie only skiiers and ski-movie lovers could enjoy. The scene changes are odd, the music is bizarre, and it's so old Gene Hackman (even) looks only middle-aged. Dabney Coleman is unrecognizable even though he's in most of the film! The movie can almost be taken as a camp comedy satire on the 60s, with the names, the clothes, the distached distance everyone maintains from one another; Jesus this movie is a trip. I remember my much older sister and her friends looking, dressing and acting like these characters and believe me, they looked hokey even to a six-year old. There is some good ski action, but you've gotta turn off the sound because the god-awful background music spoils it. Check out the 'vintage' 911 that was only about a fourth-year model when the film was made. Dig the wooden skis! Cringe at the nylon and acrylic ski-togs! One of the truly odd sensations comes when you realize that most Autrian skilodges still look the same and offer the same entertainment shown in many background shots.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the story of USA's first men's alpine/downhill skier Olympic Gold Metalist Bill Johnson, Sarayevo '84 at age 23. Robert Redford excellently portrayed his life, both in action and good looks. I believe this movie was one of the first storylines of Redford's attempt to bring America's heroes to film, and has an added documentary flavor, showing the gruelling discipline and self-determination needed to succeed. Since this was not a top boxoffice hit, I read that soon after, this prompted Redford to start his own company of independent filmmakers....Sundance. Billy suffered a skiing accident while training for Salt Lake games 2002, and continues to work hard rehabilitating which evidences his determination in his survival and love for life and family. He proudly carried the Olympic Torch for US ski team at the Salt Lake 2002 games. He'll always be an Olympian. And am sure he will champion whatever he pursues in his future endeavors with his American pioneer spirt. Thanks, Robert Redford, for telling his story, and good wishes Billy!