Director: Renny Harlin
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Janine Turner
Released: May 28, 1993
Best Sound (lost to Jurassic Park)
Best Sound Effects Editing (lost to Jurassic Park)
Best Visual Effects (lost to Jurassic Park)
(Dang those pesky dinosaurs!)
Would you believe that I've never seen Cliffhanger? Sure, I've seen parts of it on TV while flipping through the channels, so I know the basic plot of it, but I had never seen the entire thing in all it's R-rated glory until recently. The movie stars Stallone as Gabe, a fearless mountain climber who guides people up the mountains of Colorado. (If he's so good, why isn't he doing this on Everest?)
The opening begins with him on the top of a narrow peak where he's "just hanging around" with a couple of picks (my mountain climbing vocabulary is a little rusty) and he's just hanging upside down from a mountain 4,000 feet high in the air without any safety harness from what I can tell. Already I can sense something bad is going to happen. He's with Hal, another professional climber who also gives tours and Hal's girlfriend, Sarah, who has never been mountain climbing in her life. Uh-oh. Okay, why the hell would you bring someone who has never climbed a mountain to one of the most challenging mountain that you could possible climb? I want to know how she even got up there!
But she's having a grand old time and everyone is laughing and in good spirits. It's time to go home and the helicopter has landed at another peak about half a mile away (er, don't quote me on that, I'm really bad with measurements) where the pilot and Jess, Gabe's girlfriend, are waiting for them. They throw a wire to them and the climbers have to clip themselves to the wire and rappel across it and into the helicopter. Sounds easy enough. So Hal goes first and gets there safely. Then it's Sarah's turn. She's already scared enough, so you can imagine how much worse it got for her when she was halfway across the wire and her safety harness came undone and the only thing holding her up is a buckle that's gotten stuck. Uh-oh! What? Did her professional instructors forget to check her harness to make sure everything was secure? Isn't that the first rule in mountain climbing?
So Gabe goes out to try to save her, even though the wire isn't supposed to have all that weight on it and just as she's about to fall, she grabs her arm. I'm not sure how he plans to get her back to the other side, but it's a moot point anyway because his hand slips and she falls to her death.
Fast forward one year later. Still distraught over the death of Sarah and blaming himself, Gabe has not been back to those mountains. However, he must return, along with Hal, when they get a call that a group of people have become stranded and need help getting out. The group of people in question are the bad guys led by Lithgow. Their plane crashed in the mountain and they've lost a couple of suitcases with millions of dollars and now they need experienced mountain climbers who can find the suitcases for them.
Lithgow's Qualen has a British accent and I don't understand why they decided he needed to speak with an accent because his voice is so distinct already, so it sounds ridiculous everytime he talks. Nobody plays a bad guy better than John Lithgow. In fact, I mentioned in my review of Batman, that he was considered for the role of the Joker and I think he would have made a better one than Jack Nicholson. I still maintain that notion.
Why this movie wasn't nominted for a Best Original Screenplay, I'll never know! There were so many great quotable gems, most of them from Lithgow:
"You want to kill me? Well, take a ticket and get in line!"
"Let's see if your little angel really can fly!" (After he threatens to shove Gabe's girlfriend off the mountain).
"Kill a couple people and you're a murderer...kill a million and you're a conqueror!"
Lithgow: "You're a piece of work!"
Stallone: "And you're a piece of sh*t."
"It costs a fortune to heat this place!" (Gabe to Jess as he's burning the money to keep a fire going).
"He's the one 4,000 feet down wearing a helicopter." (Gabe referring to Qualen).
And I could go on and on. All of the bad guys end up getting their comeuppance, but probably the most notorious death was the guy Gabe impaled on a stalactite. (Stalagmite?) I just love how the bad guy was beating the crap out of Gabe and he was all tired and worn down, then miraculously got the strength to grab him, lift him over his head and impale him on the stalactite. Okaaaaay, movie.
Cliffhanger: probably one of the most unintentionally funny movies I've ever seen.