Bats, bombs, and the attempted shooting of a defenceless rabbit, the 1993 classic Cliffhanger has got it all. Apart from, debatably, any convincing climbing.
|Best Uses||Good hangover film.|
|Pros||The Rabbit survives.|
|Cons||Not great if you're training for your SPA.|
The exception being, early in the film, when Ron Kauk materialises in place of the half-ton climbing breeze block that is Sylvester Stallone.
Ok, well there is a lovely chalk bag dip from Sly the second time we see him and he bravely challenges climbing orthodoxy with his one point of contact climbing style but why is he on a roof with a full rack and no rope? Why?
So, the film centres round Stallone’s character, Gabe Dyno, sorry, Walker, who we find on a mission to get his injured mate, Hal and his girlfriend off a mountain. A minor quibble – the smoke from their emergency flare moves gracefully upwards as we hear a warning of extreme winds and turbulence on a helicopter radio. A Tyrolean traverse is set up to a neighbouring peak where said helicopter waits, piloted by Sly’s girlfriend and Paw Walton (always a comfort).
With Hal safely across, Ron Kauk’s hands get the woman on the line and she starts her traverse. Actually this bit of the film is genuinely terrifying even if it does hinge on her harness buckle breaking for no discernible reason, leaving her hanging, just one Sly biscep-vein away from oblivion. Gabe tries to hold her, his face straining as he hangs upside down, and you can’t help noticing that his mouth curl looks the same both ways up. Weird.
Anyway, spoiler alert……the girl falls and it’s brutal. Meanwhile the other strand of the film takes off, centreing round a wholly convincing mid-air heist of the National Treasury jet. This is masterminded by John Lithgow, mixing an acting cocktail of one part Captain Hook to one part Hans Gruber with a dash of Cruella Deville.
It’s one year on and Gabe is back from self-imposed exile in Denver, which, last time I looked is nowhere near the Dolomites. Ah well. However there is a shot of Stallone’s hands where his fingers look nicely mullered.
Back to the heist, there’s a lot of carefree gunfire inside the treasury jet, which then unaccountably crashes, sending gazillion dollar-containing cases into the mountains. Cruella wants these back and when Gabe’s ex-mate from Rocky Mountain Rescue (again, a fair distance from the Dolomites which is WHERE THIS IS) climbs up to the baddies he is forced to guide them to the signal-emitting cases.
Hal also favours the full rack/no rope technique. Finally we see a rope. Every single person (Baddies, Hal and Gabe who they’ve picked up) is roped together on a precipitous ledge with absolutely nothing attaching them to the rock (a classic example of the Death Rope technique). Sly is forced to climb an icy peak for the first suitcase, cramponless, ice axe-less, and wearing a T shirt. There is a rope! But it’s tied round his ankle. He climbs the rimey rock, a miracle with no crampons, he gets to the case, the villains throw a wobbly and try to pull him down and so he cuts the rope with his…crampons.
I’ll try and wrap this up, Baddies and Stallone play cat and mouse, Sly uses a baddie as a sledge, climbs through a cave of bats, stabs someone with a stalactite, does a few more double handed dynos. There’s some casual racism from Craig Fairbrass, the 90s answer to Vinnie Jones. Finally, he brings the film full circle by holding on to his woman when she falls, though his lazy technique is shown up when he tries to belay a helicopter from a woefully inadequate ladder. His arms inexplicably still in their sockets after several arrested falls, so resistant to hypothermia that he takes a dip in a glacial lake, at last he triumphs. I loved this film.
About the Author
Catherine Cusack is a co-owner of Cold Mountain Kit. She is a keen climber and has climbed extensively in the UK and also in Europe. But the bouldering bug still has her in its grasp because throwing yourself at unsuitable overhanging problems isn’t futile at all.