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Cliff Hanger
(Action, R) Sly Stallone and his bolt gun run amuck.

Format Video Category Fiction
Title Cliff Hanger  Mins 118 
Starring Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow  RRP  
Director Renny Harlin  Reviews 13 
Edition 1993  Ave Rating *** (2.50 of 5)


User Comments

Cliff Hanger is not a movie about climbing. It's a Stallone Hollywood action flick, pure fiction, with about 1 minute tops of actual climbing footage, most of it fake. It does have some nice mountain scenery, and is entertaining enough if you're into action movies, but as a climbing movie it plainly leaves a lot to be desired. Lots of people get shot, killed, beaten up, fall out of planes, helicopters and cliffs. There are also ample explosions to satisfy the masses. In it's day, Cliff Hanger was probably a highly popular movie, but it's got little or nothing to do with climbing.

Most of the climbing footage involves stallone, supposedly soloing mixed rock and ice in a half torn off T-shirt and hike boots, high up in the mountains. At one point his character does a double dyno, solo, with possibly 500 metres of air below. This is the kind of thing you can expect, along with the usual action movie cliche and melodrama.

On the plus side, any real climbing is performed by his stunt double Wolfgang Gullich, who was one of the world's strongest and most talented climbers. If there was more than 8 seconds of Wolfgang in the movie, it would be worth renting just to see it. Unfortunately we see only snippets shot at a distance, along with the other stunt double Ron Kauk, also a very talented climber in real life.

The actual plot centres around some bad dudes hijacking a plane full of cash, only to botch the job and have it plummet into the mountains below. They crash, then go in search of the money, conning the Rocky Mountain Rescue team (Stallone, etc), into helping them, more or less at gun point. After many heroic stunts, and bullets fired, the bad dudes are dispatched and Stallone saves the day. Surprise, surprise.

The movie's opening scene is perhaps the most exciting, in which Stallone's character (Abe Walker) manages to let his best friend's girlfriend fall to her death while traversing a cable between two peaks. A fabricated, fictitious incident involving a climbing harness undoing itself after one buckle snaps.

Below: The infamous bolt gun, which fires a bolt with preclipped hanger into the rock.

Also of note, and worth a giggle, is Stallone's infamous "bolt gun", which he uses to lead solo (though we never see him roped up). It's a device best suited to Batman, and topic of much speculation over on rec.climbing. The net result of this conjecture is that firing a bolt, point blank, into the rock in this manner would likely blow your hand right off.

In summary, Cliff Hanger is worth watching purely as an older, fairly violent action flick, but contains little of value or realism in terms of actual climbing. It would probably appeal more to non-climbers. At least it's got that cute click out of Northern Exposure in it which makes it mildly more watchable.

Well, considering there is something Stallone could never do, which is act, this movie is rated with one star because I like old Sly. However, bad concept and utterly fake. From the opening scene, this movie stretches the impossibilites of climbing. I was hard for me to believe that Johnathan Lithgow, whom I find a fantastic actor, even considered the script. One star. 
Mad Dog
I gotta toss some stars Stallone's way. Sure, there's plenty of bogus bravado here, but it's a Sly flick. What do you expect? Once you look at it that way, it's easier to swallow. There's great mountain footage and plenty of action. On the down side, Vertical Limit never could have happened without Cliff Hanger leading the way. On the plus side, without these two, we'd never have the line: "Strap on the nitro!". So just deploy the Alien, and go fer it. 

Dood, This movie totally gets a star for the two base jumping compadres (and the great Cheesehead namesake).

Apart from that, NO 

As a climbing movie it rates about a half star. As a Stallone action movie it rates three and a half due to being a bit far-fetched ~> = average of two from me.

The initial 'climbing' scenes are suitably spectacular, though it annoys me greatly that the general public are fed misinformation regarding harness safety; particularly in this instance as I happen to use an identical harness to the one which allegedly fails in the movie. For it to do so (as the one in the movie did), would require more than just the buckle failing, ... but that's hollywood I guess.

I was also suitably impressed when the baddie shot his accomplice baddie girlfriend while giving her a parting kiss .... 
I'd retire that harness M8. You never know!
Stallones climbing double was the late Wolfgang Gulich. Unfortunately apart from the opening sequence (which is definatly the only reason to watch this shite) most of the climbing scenes were shot in studio which is really why this movie is less appealing to climbers.
The failing harness was a real issue with the climbers advising the production team.(John Long et al I think) They tried to convince the production team the harness failure could be caused by not doubleing back through the buckle. A plasible scenario that has resulted in fatalities in the past. The production team said this would make the hero look like a dick so went for the lead buckle option. Obviously free soloing with a giant bolt gun doesn't make you look like a dick.
Go figure!
I thought it was a comedy....... 
best climbing movie ever
taught me everything i need to know about climbing
got me interested in the sport of rock climbing
when my team won washington's states speed climbing competition in 1997 it was because of this movie
maybe it is not accurate but it help put rock climbing on the map for the regular person and there is something to be said about that 
lol anonymous. bravo
Really fun movie to watch, Stallone does a great job looking like a badass the entire time. The opening scene is unfortunately the best in the entire movie, and perhaps the only good climbing scene at all, but as an action film, "Cliffhanger" is above average. 
Just a respectful reply to the gentleman who states that there is "1 minute of actual climbing and most of it fake" FYI We shot for 6 months in the Italian Alps while based in Cortina Italy. Wolfgang, before he died, (he fell asleep at the wheel and was killed in the one car accident) Ron Kauk and many others were filmed while climbing some of the most dramatic and exposed routes every captured on 35mm film. Yes, Sly climbed the fiberglass walls at Cinecitta in Rome for the match cuts however the climbing double scenes are very real and were captured on film at great risk to the climbers who worked as stunt doubles. The Hollywood stunt men on this film were clueless about climbing so everything in the mountains was done by the American rigging crew, Georgia Phipps (400'' wire fall) Wolfgang and Ron. Not everything is a fake as you believe. It''s a Hollywood action film not a climbing documentary however a lot of the climbing scenes are real. They just do not actually feature Sly.
Worst movie ever. In the hypothetical situation that this flick did have good actors in it, their career''s would inevitably have suffered from the script which was obviously written by some sophomoric rich-boy who got the gig through nepotism.
This Hollywood garbage is so mired in mediocrity, it deeply disturbs me that they were able to find so many people willing to sully their reputations by putting their names in the credits. How stupid do they think people are:
Climbing mixed rock and ice in the winter with bare hands, "bolt guns", faulty harnesses, the Italian Dolomites= the Colorado Rockies?
Much of this film takes place on via ferrata routes in the Italian Dolomites which look absolutely nothing like the Colorado Rockies... why not just tell the truth; do the Rockies really sell better than the Italian Alps? Why is it so difficult for Hollywood producers and script writers to research their material? 
A note to a previous anonymous: If you want to complain about a bad plot but an aesthetically-pleasing film, watch some of the silent films made by Arnold Fanck (for instance, the White Hell of Piz Palü, 1929), except the actors did their own climbing, and it was actually in the Alps. 
Mike, you hit it on the nose. I''ts not climbing movie. 

Further Reading:
Big Picture - Review by Bob Banka
Amazon - Details on purchasing, reviews, etc.


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