Edward Dmytryk's 1956 production casts Spencer Tracy against type as Zachary Teller, a French mountaineer who lives a simple and honest life away from the big city and all the stress that it entails. His younger brother, Chris Teller (Robert Wagner), isn't quite as content with their life as Zachary is, however, and he's determined to get out of the village they live in and make a life for himself somewhere more exciting. Their lives change when an airplane crashes at the top of a nearby mountain. Zachary, an experienced climber though now retired after an accident in his past, is coerced into making it to the peak to help any survivors that might be stranded there, while Chris figures he'll go along because it will be easy to loot the dead passengers and make some easy money. The first search party couldn't make it to the top but Chris and Zachary manage.
When they arrive, they find only one survivor, a Hindu woman (Anna Kashfi). Zachary wants to build a sled out of the wreckage and bring her back to civilization for treatment, while Chris wants to leave her for dead and make off with the wallets and cameras and loot he's found. Zachary heads down the mountain with the woman alone, but soon has to return when Chris finds himself in trouble.
While it isn't particularly difficult to figure out where this movie is heading before it actually gets there, The Mountain is a well made picture with some gorgeous cinematography thanks to the locations shooting used, and a few great performances. If the story is predictable, so be it, as Tracy and Wagner still manage to make this one quite watchable. Yes, it's a stretch to cast them as brothers given their age difference here but they both do fine in their parts once we get used to that. Tracy in particular really puts himself into the role, and you won't have any trouble buying him as a European in this film, so committed is he to the part. Wagner is almost as good, playing the younger and more materialistic brother with just enough shiftiness to make the character work. The interplay between the two actors and the moral struggle that they engage in throughout the picture is the backbone of the film and what keeps it interesting, while the beautiful photography ensures that it's always easy on the eyes and at times rather impressive in its use of the widescreen format.
While the picture feels about fifteen minutes too long and as such struggles with a couple of pacing issues, but the way in which the film establishes its two central characters and sets up their different motivations will keep you interested. Obviously Tracy's character is intent on climbing for more noble reasons than Wagner's upstart younger man but they are still brothers and this allows for clever subtleties to work their way into the two different performances. If Tracy initially seems distant or uninvolved, that changes as the movie and his character progress and we soon realize it's not coldness so much as it is pensiveness and thought process driving him in a different manner than the greed that drives his younger brother. It makes for a pretty interesting watch as it offers up a character driven story and some great scenery to match.
The Mountain is presented in 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen and the transfer isn't bad at all. Colors are generally pretty decent though you might notice some fading here and there. Black levels are okay, but not reference quality and can sometimes look more like dark grey. Detail is strong and there isn't much in the way of print damage to complain about at all. Some grain is present but that's not a bad thing as it's neither overpowering or distracting at all.
The English language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is of decent enough quality. You won't have any trouble understanding the performers and the dialogue comes through clearly enough. Occasional scenes have a tiny bit of hiss here and there but if you're not listening for them then it's likely you won't even notice and it's certainly not enough to distract from the movie. No alternate language tracks or subtitles are provided.
The DVD includes a static menu screen and chapter selection but no other extra features.
While some extras certainly would have been nice, at least the audio and video quality for Olive Films' DVD release of The Mountain is pretty decent. The movie itself holds up well as a suspenseful adventure film with some strong performances from the two leads and some very strong direction and cinematography. Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.