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Shortly after he made Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and long before his skin resembled beef jerky, Robert Redford starred in the now-classic movie Downhill Racer. The 1969 film about a loner fighting for his spot on the U.S. Ski Team is getting the Criterion Collection treatment in its DVD rerelease on November 17. You can finally watch the film in DVD quality, and it includes plenty of special features—interviews with the filmmakers, audio excerpts, and a booklet with an essay on the film—that are a staple to all Criterion releases.
Despite the fact that director Michael Ritchie went on to make Fletch, Downhill Racer isn’t the usual schlock Hollywood ski movie that came to prominence in the 1980s. It’s a simple, bleak character study: At the end of the theatrical trailer (included in the special features), the voiceover says, “How fast must a man go to get from where he’s at?” And Gene Hackman as the hardass coach with the heart of gold is a nice preview of his later work in Hoosiers.