7.4/10
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17 user 6 critic

Third Man on the Mountain (1959)

Approved | | Adventure, Drama, Family | 10 November 1959 (USA)
A boy attempts to realize his father's dream of climbing an alpine peak known as the Citadel.

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Walter Fitzgerald ...
Herr Hempel
Nora Swinburne ...
...
Andreas
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Storyline

In 1865 Switzerland, a country mostly covered by high mountains, the main hobby is mountain-climbing. For some locals it's a personal passion and for others it's a lucrative business. Many tourists, mostly rich foreigners and explorers, come to Switzerland to attempt world records by climbing mountain peaks that have never been climbed or seldom been climbed before. Of course, some of these brave explorers lose their lives in their dangerous quests. The local Swiss villages provide experienced mountain guides and porters to the mountain climbers willing to pay the price, in coins or lives. Kurtal is such a small Swiss village located at the base of the famous Citadel mountain. The Citadel is the highest and the most dangerous peak in the region. Many have died trying to climb it but for the past 16 years no one has ventured on it. The last man to lose his life on the Citadel was the famous local mountain guide Josef Matt who died sacrificing himself in order to save the lives of his ... Written by nufs68

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FROM WALT DISNEY A NEW HIGH IN THRILLING ACTION, SUSPENSE AND EXCITEMENT! (original ad - all caps)


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Release Date:

10 November 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Banner in the Sky  »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The Citadel mountain in the film doesn't actually exist, with the Matterhorn standing in for it. The real Matterhorn was only scaled for the first time in 1865, a year before this film is set. See more »

Goofs

The amount of blood on Captain Winter's bandage keeps changing from scene to scene at the end of the movie. See more »

Quotes

Frau Matt: Would you want to be the wife of a guide?
Lizbeth Hempel: Yes. Or of a dishwasher, or a hotel proprietor. But never the wife of a hotel proprietor who wanted to climb mountains! Because a man must do what he feels he must do; or he isn't a man. And no one, wife mother or sweetheart, has the right to make him into something that he wasn't meant to be.
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Soundtracks

Climb the Mountain
Written by Franklyn Marks and 'By' Dunham
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User Reviews

 
Mountain Men
16 May 2002 | by See all my reviews

I saw this film on the old Disney show back decades ago, and liked it very much, then sort of forgot about it. These days the Disney channel shows it periodically, and whenever it's on and I'm watching television, I can't help but stayed tuned to this one. For anyone who's ever climbed a mountain this movie is a treat.

The story is beyond simple: a young man in 19th century Switzerland whose father was killed trying to climb the Citadel (which is what the Matterhorn is called here) wants to become a mountaineer himself, and of course climb to the top of the Citadel, which no man has done. His mother strictly forbids it, and his uncle downright nasty to him whenever the subject comes up. Persistent fellow that he is, the boy hooks up with an English mountain climber, then coaxes his uncle to take him along on a climb, makes an ass of himself, then has a go at it again. The boy doesn't really have the maturity for the task, but persists, and in time he grows up, almost in spite of himself.

There's a larger than life quality to this movie, which was filmed on location. Director Ken Annakin, who never achieved his potential, shows himself a first-rate movie man here. The Swiss village and the looming mountains beyond convey an odd mood, as the place feels alternately dangerous, as if on the edge of the world, and beautiful, because of what one sees out the window every day. There's an intimacy between the clannish villagers, with their peculiar garb and gingerbread homes, that's caught to absolute perfection by Annakin and his crew. Everything seems real in this film; stylized as it sometimes is, it has an unmistakable ring of (admittedly Disneyfied) truth.

As to the climbing scenes, they are wonderfully photographed, with the camera seemingly in the right place at all times. One gets just close enough to experience at least some of the danger and excitement of mountain-climbing, with the camera pulling back periodically to show a larger view, invariably breathtaking. The actors are all competent. James MacArthur's non-charisma actually helps movie the picture along, as one is often more aware of who he's with than his character. He fades into the background somewhat, as young men often do, with the older, more experienced adults dominating. James Donald is brilliant as his uncle, creating a fully rounded portrait of a man who looks after his nephew, who for reasons never wholly explained, likes to belittle him. Michael Rennie is sturdy as the Englishman and Janet Munro makes a perky love interest. Herbert Lom almost steals the show as Saxo, the outsider from beyond, who also wants to climb the Citadel, and has a disagreeable disposition. He dresses differently from the others, and even wears a different sort of hat. Lom comes across as foreign, as we can see why people don't take to him in this little close-knit society.

There are few surprises in this film, but it tells its familiar and largely predictable story with great flair and feeling for the people it's about, showing once more that one can make an outstanding, maybe even great film, out of seemingly routine, even threadbare material, if one hunkers down really hard and gives it one's best shot, as clearly everyone connected with this movie did.


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