DOWNHILL RACER (1969, USA) ***
dist. Paramount Pictures; pr co. Wildwood Enterprises; d. Michael Ritchie; w. James Salter (based on the novel “The Downhill Racers” by Oakley Hall); pr. Richard Gregson; ph. Brian Probyn (Technicolor. 35mm. Spherical. 1.85:1); m. Kenyon Hopkins; ed. Richard A. Harris; ad. Ian Whittaker; cos. Cynthia May, Edith Head (uncredited); m/up. Bill Lodge; sd. Elden Ruberg, Kevin Sutton (Mono); sfx. Roy L. Downey (uncredited); st. Stefan Zürcher, Joe Jay Jalbert (both uncredited); rel. 28 October 1969 (USA), 19 March 1970 (UK); cert: PG; r/t. 101m.
cast: Robert Redford (Chappellet), Gene Hackman (Claire), Camilla Sparv (Carole), Karl Michael Vogler (Machet), Jim McMullan (Creech), Kathleen Crowley (Reporter), Dabney Coleman (Mayo), Kenneth Kirk (D.K.), Oren Stevens (Kipsmith), Jerry Dexter (Engel), Walter Stroud (Mr. Chappellet), Carole Carle (Lena), Rip McManus (Devore), Joe Jay Jalbert (Tommy Erb), Tom J. Kirk (Stiles), Robin Hutton-Potts (Gabriel), Heini Schuler (Meier), Peter Rohr (Boyriven), Arnold Alpiger (Hinsch), Eddie Waldburger (Haas).
Redford stars as a single-minded downhill ski racer who is called up to the US team following an injury to another team member. He is a loner and does not bond well with his teammates or his coach (Hackman). When he begins to place and then win races he is seen as a major challenger for the Olympic title. Along the way he hooks up with Sparv who works for a ski manufacturer looking for a contract with the US team. Redford gives an excellent understated performance and is well supported by Hackman as the coach attempting to make a team out of different individuals. Their clashes are the best part of this sports drama, which otherwise adopts a pseudo-documentary approach to its subject, thereby remaining at a distance from his motivations. As a result, there is little to endear us to Redford’s character. Scenes with Stroud as his father, who shows little pride in his son’s achievements, fall short in offering any observations as to character make-up. Even the sporting drama is somehow lost in Ritchie’s clinical drive for authenticity. The film ends without offering any conclusions to the questions it raises and ultimately falls short leaving us just to admire the Alpine scenery, the excellent ski action and two very fine actors making the most of the material.
BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (USA, 1969) *****
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox; Production Company: Campanile Productions / Newman-Foreman Company; Release Date: 23 September 1969 (USA), 5 February 1970 (UK); Filming Dates: 16 September 1968 – 13 March 1969; Running Time: 110m; Colour: DeLuxe; Sound Mix: Mono (Westrex Recording System); Film Format: 35mm; Film Process: Panavision (anamorphic); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: PG.
Director: George Roy Hill; Writer: William Goldman; Executive Producer: Paul Monash; Producer: John Foreman; Director of Photography: Conrad L. Hall; Music Composer: Burt Bacharach; Film Editor: John C. Howard, Richard C. Meyer; Art Director: Philip M. Jefferies, Jack Martin Smith; Set Decorator: Chester Bayhi, Walter M. Scott; Costumes: Edith Head; Make-up: Daniel C. Striepeke, Edith Lindon; Sound: David Dockendorf, Bill Edmondson; Visual Effects: L.B. Abbott, Art Cruickshank.
Cast: Paul Newman (Butch Cassidy), Robert Redford (The Sundance Kid), Katharine Ross (Etta Place), Strother Martin (Percy Garris), Henry Jones (Bike Salesman), Jeff Corey (Sheriff Bledsoe), George Furth (Woodcock), Cloris Leachman (Agnes), Ted Cassidy (Harvey Logan), Kenneth Mars (Marshal), Donnelly Rhodes (Macon), Jody Gilbert (Large Woman), Timothy Scott (News Carver), Don Keefer (Fireman), Charles Dierkop (Flat Nose Curry), Pancho Córdova (Bank Manager), Nelson Olmsted (Photographer), Paul Bryar (Card Player #1), Sam Elliott (Card Player #2), Charles Akins (Bank Teller), Eric Sinclair (Tiffany’s Salesman).
Synopsis: Two Western bank/train robbers flee to Bolivia when the law gets too close.
Comment: Classic Western came after the end of the golden period for the genre but was massively popular due to the charismatic chemistry between Newman and Redford as Butch and Sundance. The stars make the most of Goldman’s witty screenplay dealing with the outlaws’ final days as they flee a dogged posse to Bolivia. The themes of the passing of the old west and its values into a more modern society is given poignancy through Hill’s direction and his use of visual dynamics emphasised by Hall’s evocative cinematography. One of the great Westerns that bears repeated viewings. Sam Elliott’s feature film debut. Won Oscars for Screenplay, Cinematography, Music and Song for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. Followed by a prequel BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS (1979). The movie also inspired the TV series Alias Smith and Jones (1970-3).
Sting, The (1973; USA; Technicolor; 129m) ****½ d. George Roy Hill; w. David S. Ward; ph. Robert Surtees; m. Marvin Hamlisch (adaptor), Scott Joplin. Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Robert Earl Jones, Charles Durning, Ray Walston, Eileen Brennan, Harold Gould, Dana Elcar, Jack Kehoe, John Heffernan, Dimitra Arliss, James Sloyan, Charles Dierkop, Sally Kirkland. In 1930s Chicago, a young con man seeking revenge for his murdered partner teams up with a master of the big con to win a fortune from a criminal banker. Newman and redford along with director Hill repeat the success of their teaming on BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID with this caper. Great period design and a memorable score add to the charm and humour provided by a splendid cast. Won seven Oscars including Best Picture; Director; Screenplay; Art Direction (Henry Bumstead, James W. Payne); Costume Design (Edith Head); Editing and Music Adaptation. Followed by THE STING II (1983). [PG]
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969; USA; DeLuxe; 110m) ∗∗∗∗∗ d. George Roy Hill; w. William Goldman; ph. Conrad L. Hall; m. Burt Bacharach. Cast: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, Strother Martin, Henry Jones, Cloris Leachman, Jeff Corey, George Furth, Kenneth Mars, Ted Cassidy, Donnelly Rhodes, Jody Gilbert, Timothy Scott, Don Keefer. Two Western bank/train robbers flee to Bolivia when the law gets too close. Newman and Redford establish a charismatic chemistry and make the most of Goldman’s witty screenplay. Hill’s direction is spot-on capturing the end of an era in the American West through his use of visual dynamics emphasised by Hall’s evocative cinematography. One of the great Westerns that bears repeated viewings. Sam Elliott’s feature film debut. Won Oscars for Screenplay, Cinematography, Music and Song for “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”. Followed by a prequel BUTCH AND SUNDANCE: THE EARLY DAYS (1979). [PG]