Friday, August 21, 2015

The Ultimate Thrill (1974)

          There’s a great pulp idea at the heart of The Ultimate Thrill, although the potential of the idea is almost completely neutralized by bad writing, one-dimensional acting, and tedious skiing scenes. Patient B-movie fans might enjoy trudging through the boring bits in order to reach the sensationalistic high points, but even those viewers are sure to be underwhelmed. Suffice to say, the title of this picture promises much more than the movie actually delivers, even though the title refers to the kick that the story’s villain gets out of killing people. And that’s where the great pulp idea comes into play—the villain, a super-wealthy businessman, uses his beautiful wife to lure unsuspecting young men to his ski chalet, and then he hunts them down and murders them, using the pretense of being an aggrieved husband as his justification. Chances are the story would have worked in an erotic-thriller sort of way had the filmmakers added in one more element—the bad guy getting a psychosexual charge by actually watching young men sleep with his wife. However, The Ultimate Thrill is so ineptly written and directed that expecting the film to provide a fully rendered narrative concept is unreasonable. At most, this picture offers a kinky premise, some attractive shots of snow-covered mountains, and a few surprisingly nasty instances of violence.
          Set in the posh resort town of Vale, Colorado, The Ultimate Thrill concerns Roland (Eric Braeden), a powerful and wealthy stud with a porn moustache and a private helicopter. Roland’s long-suffering wife is blonde hottie Michele (Britt Ekland). In the first act of the movie, Roland abandons Michele long enough for wannabe seducer Tom (Michael Blodgett) to make the scene. Then Roland returns and boots Tom from his house, telling the young man to flee on skis. Roland follows in his helicopter, leading to the gory but silly scene of Tom skiing off a cliff—and smashing face-first into the passenger-side window of the helicopter, leaving a mess of blood and viscera in his wake. Roland finishes Tom off in somewhat spectacular fashion. The remainder of the movie concerns Michele’s entanglement with a writer, Joe (Barry Brown), and the inevitable showdown between Joe and Roland. At one point, a hang-glider becomes involved. Directed by the prolific Emmy winner Robert Butler, who spent most of his journeyman career in episodic TV, The Ultimate Thrill is competent in terms of visuals, but anemic from the perspective of character and story. The dialogue is trite, many scenes feel padded, and the performances are robotic. Worse, the picture includes the ugly cliché of a female character submitting to rape because she interprets the assault as an act of misguided passion. Yuck.

The Ultimate Thrill: FUNKY

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