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Directed by Michael Ritchie
USA
1969

 

Astonishing Alpine location photography and a young Robert Redford in one of his earliest starring roles are just two of the visual splendors of Michael Ritchie’s visceral debut feature, Downhill Racer. In a beautifully understated performance, Redford is David Chappellet, a ruthlessly ambitious skier competing for Olympic gold with an underdog American team in Europe, and Gene Hackman provides tough support as the coach who tries to temper the upstart’s narcissistic drive for glory. With a subtle screenplay by acclaimed novelist James Salter, Downhill Racer is a vivid character portrait buoyed by breathtakingly fast and furious imagery that brings the viewer directly into the mind of the competitor.

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Theatrical Release: November 6th, 1969

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DVD Review: Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 494 - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:41:45 
Video 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.21 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s   

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1

Edition Details:

• New video interviews with Robert Redford, screenwriter James Salter (33:45), 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 (29:48)
• Audio excerpts from a 1977 American Film Institute seminar with director Michael Ritchie
• How Fast?, a rare 12-minute promotional featurette
• Theatrical trailer
• 20-page liner notes booklet featuring an essay by critic Todd McCarthy

DVD Release Date: November 17th, 2009

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 13

 

Comments:

While it's not the sharpest Criterion transfer to DVD that I've ever seen - it is consistent and colors look quite strong. Considering the film's 40-year age - the appearance is quite good. It is very clean and bright, anamorphic - in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio (well, 1.77) highlighting the, occasionally, exquisite cinematography. It looked quite good on my system and I suspect that any softness is more inherent in the production than the fault of the transfer described as 'restored high-definition'. This dual-layered, progressive DVD supports a decent-to-strong presentation.

Audio is unremarkable but close, I'll wager, to the way it was produced. The sounds of swishing skiing, snow and the original, and compelling, music by Kenyon Hopkins and Tangerine Dream work very well with the narrative. There are optional English subtitles.

Extras consist of a 2009 interview with Robert Redford and screenwriter James Salter for 35-minutes discussing the film's origins and productions. There is another new piece with 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. They discuss the 'making of...' for 30-minutes. Criterion have included some audio excerpts from a 1977 American Film Institute seminar with director Michael Ritchie [1938-2001] who discusses, this his feature debut film, and his career in film and television. How Fast?, is a rare 12-minute promotional featurette from Paramount made in 1969 about, you guessed it, skiing. There is a 16X9 theatrical trailer and a 20-page liner notes booklet featuring photos and an essay by critic Todd McCarthy.

This film is an interesting choice for Criterion to release - there is much more under the surface than you might initially suspect. Redford's restrained David Chappellet character is highly intriguing as more than just a one-dimensional athlete. The competition aspect is less real than his emotional state. I enjoyed it very much and recommend. 

Gary W. Tooze

 



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DVD Box Cover

   

CLICK to order from:

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 494 - Region 1 - NTSC



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