The only redeeming features of the 1974 movie "The Ultimate Thrill" are the panoramic vistas of steep mountains blanketed with heavy layers of snow, or the symphonic music score played throughout. (Sweetly pensive, it seems more appropriate for a tropical picture.)
Set in Vail, Colorado, the story line is weak, and the film's action does not flow smoothly.
The film begins with a commuter plane landing. Two passengers who debark are Tom Moore (Michael Blodgett) - a cocky, arrogant young womanizer on the prowl, and his friend, Joe Strayker (Barry Brown) - a sensitive young author from Los Angeles on vacation.
Another passenger, Roland Parley (Eric Braeden)is met by his younger "trophy" wife, Michele (Britt Ekland). Parley (dark and craggily handsome) conveys an undercurrent of menace; he is an ogre straight out of a fairy tale. A super rich, multilingual international wheeler dealer, Parley also has plenty of time for spousal abuse.
Tom Moore is a case of arrested development: a loud, snotty "makeout artist", he has the rich industrialist's wife Michele squarely in his sights. (Having roiled Parley earlier by his insolence, Moore does not realize that Parley is a dangerous man to alienate.)
Parley is called back to his corporation on business; in his absence, Tom Moore pursues Michele Parley with an ill-considered recklessness. Ignoring her insistent demurrals, Moore shows up at Parley's lodge (deliberately wet from the snow) so that he can come inside to "dry off and change into something more comfortable." Parley comes home unexpectedly, and assuming the worst, orders Moore out. Moore compounds his stupidity by "smarting off" to Parley - which proves to be a fatal mistake.
Parley pursues the skiing Moore in a helicopter. Too late, Moore takes desperate measures to avoid the madman which, in the end, prove unavailing.
Parley then "punishes" his wife for her supposed infidelity by smashing her in the face with his fist, chasing her through the lodge, cornering her and ripping off her clothes, and finally subjecting her to a "rough sex" rape. (Michele Parley lies motionless, mutely resigned, meekly accepting her "punishment" at the hands of her psychopathic, murderous spouse.)
On the slopes afterward, Parley meets Joe Strayker, and "befriends" the unsuspecting author. the two men engage in a skiing contest, and the result is a dynamic, breathless race as both of them "hotdog" down the steep, snow-covered slopes.
Parley (impressed by the younger man's virtuoso performance)invites him back to the lodge. Again, a business call demands the industrialist's attention. Parley asks Joe to stay with his wife in his absence, but for the evilest of reasons: Parley is setting up the unassuming Strayker for the kill.
Joe lingers there awhile; he finds one of his books at the lodge, and commences to tell Michele Parley a fairy story from it. Michele is enchanted by Joe's gentle nature, and his sweet, sad smile - and falls in love with him.
Parley returns from business, sneaking into his home with a gun in his hand, ready to murder Strayker. He is enraged to find that Strayker has since headed back to the resort.
Michele, agitated by her husband's homicidal rage, rushes into town to find Joe, but won't tell him why she is upset. Joe tries to caress her cheek reassuringly, but Michele suddenly flees, leaving him perplexed.
Frustrated, Joe returns to the lodge for an explanation; confronted by Parley (who proposes a variant of the "Most Dangerous Game", in which man hunts man), Parley offers Joe a "sporting chance" for survival: a gun with one bullet in it. Joe dons his skis - and the chase is on.
Parley pursues Strayker, not by helicopter this time, but sails after Joe in a hang glider, while cradling a bow and arrows in his arms. Strayker skis with great determination, staying ahead of the deranged Parley who is gliding along lazily, waiting for the appropriate moment to strike.
Abruptly, Parley zeroes in on Strayker, kicks him from the air, knocking him down and causing him to lose the gun (which Parley retrieves.) Strayker recovers, then once again flees for his life.
However, Joe hits a rough patch while skiing and tumbles, apparently breaking a bone. Parley triumphantly hovers over him (like the Angel of Death.) He then throws Strayker the gun, ordering him to play a game of Russian roulette. In a surprise twist (at least, to Parley), Strayker uses the gun - with deadly accuracy...
In the final scene, a radio reports that search teams have been sent out to find Tom Moore, who went missing soon after having checked into the ski resort. there is also an announcement that the body of the industrialist Parley was found, shot to death upon the ski slopes.
The new widow, Michele Parley is seen hurrying along the streets of Vail, anxiously searching for someone until she sees Strayker seated at an outdoor café. Michele rushes up to him and as the movie ends, we see her hugging Strayker for dear life.
Eric Braeden (a popular soap opera star) was silkily sinister as the nefarious Roland Parley.
Britt Ekland was very convincing as the battered wife who stayed with her rich,sadistic husband not only for the money, but also for "validation" of her own shaky self-worth.
Barry Brown was darkly handsome, talented, with a smoldering intensity and movie-idol looks that would have made him a leading man in the glory days of Hollywood. He gave a subtly empathetic performance, although his considerable talents were wasted in such a limited vehicle.
With the exception of the fabulous landscape, skiing acrobatics, the haunting musical score, or unless you want to see Eric Braeden, Britt Ekland, and/or Barry Brown, the movie is not worth an hour-and-a-half of one's time; it's the ultimate disappointment.
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