3 user 2 critic

The Challenge (1938)

Approved | | Adventure, History, Romance | September 1939 (USA)
Dramatization of the first climbing of the Matterhorn in 1865.


(screenplay), (scenario) | 1 more credit »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Frank Birch ...
Rev. Charles Hudson
Geoffrey Wardwell ...
Lord Francis Douglas
Moran Caplat ...
Lyonel Watts ...
Morris - Publisher
Jean Antoine Carrel
Mary Clare ...
His Mother
Fred Groves ...
Felicitas - His Daughter
Laurence Baskcomb ...
The Podesta - Mayor (as Lawrence Bascomb)
Ralph Truman ...
Reginald Jarman ...
Minister Sella
Tony Sympson ...
Luc Meynet
Customs Officer
Lloyd Pearson ...


In 1865, the unconquered Matterhorn beckons; former rivals, Italian Carrel and Englishman Whymper, hope to climb it together, but national rivalry intervenes. Rival parties dangerously race for the summit in realistic, well-photographed climbing scenes; but when the mountain is climbed, the danger is far from over... Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

September 1939 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A kihívás  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This film was included in the first syndicated television presentation of a package of major studio feature films on USA television; it premiered in New York City Friday 1 October 1948 on WPIX (Channel 11), and in Los Angeles Sunday 24 October 1948 on KTLA (Channel 5). The package consisted of 24 Alexander Korda productions originally released theatrically between 1933 and 1942. See more »


When Cassell rescues Whymper at the start of the film, he throws only one rope down but is seen descending using two ropes. See more »


Referenced in Obscene (2007) See more »

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User Reviews

Worth Seeing For the Mountain Footage
29 September 2010 | by (Louisville, KY) – See all my reviews

Challenge, The (1938)

** (out of 4)

The "Mountain" genre was pretty much a German thing but there were a few other examples made outside that country. This one here finds Luis Trenker, who had just escaped Germany, making a sound attempt at the Mountain film but the end results are rather mixed. In the film he plays an Italian who guides a Englishman (Robert Douglas) up the side of the Matterhorn in 1865. The two men eventually have a falling out and end up going up different sides of the mountain and trying to become the first to reach the top. I've rather new to this genre but I doubt this here is the best example. There are some terrific moments here but sadly the story in between the mountain-climbing footage is rather weak and we also have to sit through some really horrid performances. Apparently Trenker directed the stuff on the mountain and it's too bad he didn't direct the rest of the film because it's the stuff off the mountain that really hurts. I was shocked to see how unprofessional some of this stuff was because it seems like everyone was in a hurry. There are several times where actors would appear to be speed reading their lines just to get through them in a quick time. It really took me by surprise the first time it happened and it was rather shocking when it continued. A couple times it seems like something you'd see in a gag reel where an unknown actor was reading for the first time and just going so fast where a director would eventually jump in and slow them down but that doesn't happen here. The majority of the story centers on the Englishman trying to find funding to go up the mountain and of course his eventual fall out with the Italian. There's even a subplot at the end when four men are killed and rumors get around that the Englishman cut the rope. I'm not sure how factual this true-story is but there are some moments towards the end where things are so over the top it left me scratching my head. There are some good things here and that includes the performances by Douglas and Trenker. I thought both made the film a lot more entertaining thanks to their work. The major reason to watch this is for the mountain climbing scenes that take place at the start and finish of the film. There's a sequence where four men fall off the mountain and even though it's clear we're seeing dummies fall, the sequence is pretty harrowing.

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