King of the Mountain (1981)
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H.R. Christian's rugged, no-kidding sinewy script, heavily suffused with manly man deep-think introspection and inspired by David Barry's "Thunder Road" article in "New West" magazine, trenchantly examines the many intriguing facets of male obsessiveness: the obdurate refusal to grow up, pushing yourself to the limit ("Ya gotta ride the edge in order to win"), not compromising your values, succeeding in life on your own terms, the deep-seated desire to amount to something in life and achieve a certain lofty stature, hyper-masculine competitiveness, and even knowing when you're beat and just learning to accept your losses, especially when said losses may very well mean the possible untimely end of your life. Donald Peterman's garishly bright, glowing, neon-hued cinematography vividly captures the steamy and crackling California night life. The thrillingly quick and dangerous no-holds-barred car race scenes are handled cinema verite style: no music, short, snappy edits, and unfancy ground level camera-work. Nice bits by Seymour Cassel as an obnoxious hipster record company president, Dan Haggerty as a gruff mechanic, Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson as an annoying neighbor, and the late, great Steve James as a meddlesome cop. Director Noel Nosseck treats the potentially silly subject matter with laudable seriousness, injecting a strong sense of underlying despair, a feeling of going nowhere fast and wanting something more out of life which transcends the mundane and explicable, which makes this mighty fine and satisfying unsung sleeper one hell of an excellent car race drama.
Well that's what the movie promises so why the hell not? But what driving there is, up, down and around the snaky mountainous curves of L.A.'s notoriously dangerous Mulholland, isn't so bad. Harry Hamlin is the road king and he's already a nostalgic hero; more of a legend than someone winning the makeshift races. He meets sexy WARRIORS siren Deborah Van Valkenburgh, who's recording songs with Harry's struggling musician friends, and she alone might just have a future.
Most of the film are these characters hanging out, dreaming about something other than racing that mountain. So it's Dennis Hopper's burnt-out has-been roadster, a mechanic where Hamlin works, that brings the race back on: he'll take on anybody to reclaim his past glory. Leading to several nighttime races, replete with high octane energy and burning headlights, that keep a cool pace and will keep the viewer guessing not only the winner, but who won't buy the farm.
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The movie captures the freedom and the energy America had some years ago before it started to shift to more of a beehive mentality. It also features the pre Gen-X culture when the ME generation ruled the world.
One thing I can say about the ME generation is that they can party like nobody else. Music was big part of it, and the music in this movie is great.
The women of this movie are also great. I'm sure some women would say the same about the men in this movie too.
What this country lost in terms of the car culture seems to be still going in parts of Asia, especially Japan. Initial D is almost a transplant of this movie to the hills of Mt. Akina.
The good old days. I like this movie better than the Easy Rider. It really brings back the good times.