By: Anthony Francis
Jean-Claude Killy is a triple Olympic skiing champion who won three gold medals at the 1968 Winter Olympics. At that time, Killy dominated the sport throughout the early 70s and became an international skiing legend.
As with many handsome and popular athletes at the time, Hollywood came calling. Killy’s shot at silver screen stardom came in the form of the 1972 Alps-set heist/action film “Snow Job”.
Set in Cervinia, Italy, Killy plays Christian Biton, a ski shop manager who is a skilled skier (of course) working at a popular ski resort. Biton is a man with expensive tastes. He likes fancy clothes and expensive wines. He has a wealthy girlfriend Monika (Daniele Gaubert), who he talks into helping him with his plan to rob the lodge’s bank of $250,000.
Cliff Potts plays Bob Skinner, an American ski instructor who is seduced by both Briton’s heist plan and the allure of Monika.
Potts is a handsome and talented actor who should have had a more successful career in films. The actor has a natural charm that translated well onto the big screen, but Potts never seemed to find the right project that would shoot him to big screen stardom. This film shows of his talents as well as any could. The actor was also an avid and well-trained skier, which brings authenticity to his moments on the slopes.
The heist has many moving parts that must all come together for it to be successful.
Monika must win the affections of Simonelli, the manager of the lodge, so she can get closer to the inner workings of the vault that holds the money. Christian must use his skills to master traversing extremely dangerous parts of the mountain where he will make his getaway. Bob must prepare for his one-time shot at jumping a snowmobile over a chasm that will lead him to the hidden cash.
The film excels on important levels. Where 1969’s Robert Redford-starring philosophical sports film “Downhill Racer” rendered its skiing scenes rather dull, “Snow Job” probably holds the finest and most exciting skiing sequences I have ever seen.
The first 10 minutes shows Christian skiing fast and dangerous over the beautifully shot locations, immediately striking interest from the audience and promising exciting things to come, which it will indeed deliver.
While the setup takes a while, patient audiences will be rewarded. The characters are well written and while Jean-Claude Killy was in no danger of becoming the next Brando, his skills on the slopes make for many jaw-dropping moments of tension and awe.
Once the heist is in motion and the money in the hands of Christian, Simonelli sends out his helicopters and security force in skis and snowmobiles to chase after the robbers.
This is where some exciting and quite amazing ski stunt work captures the audience. As the supposed easy getaway becomes more dangerous, Christian is forced into even more dangerous sections of the mountain as the helicopters close in.
These scenes (mostly Killy with only the occasional use of a stuntman) are pure nail-biting tension in their presentation. There has never been anything quite like them before or since.
Director George Englund keeps his camera moving and captures his action naturally. Having a world-class skier as his film’s star, there was no need for trickery.
Cinematographer Gabor Pogany captures the action in wide frames and a fluid camera that makes sure the beauty of the surroundings never gets lost.
While Potts was a skilled skier in his own right and does some of his own stunt work, it is left to the professional team to pull off the snowmobile jump over the chasm. It is one of the film’s most exciting stunts.
After the money is buried, a new problem arises in the form of Enrico Dolfi, an Insurance Investigator played by the great Italian director Vittorio De Sica.
Dolfi immediately sets his sites on the trio and the film’s final third becomes a clever game of cat and mouse. Backed into a corner with almost no options, Christian, Monika, and Bob feel they may have to make a deal to return the money. Or is there something else in Dolfi’s bag of tricks?
Jeffery Bloom and Ken Kolb’s screenplay is smart and always interesting. The actors have good dialogue and the plot never becomes jumbled in exposition.
The screenplay also lays out the canvas for the action scenes, allowing the stunt team to choreograph some exciting action moments.
Upon its release on 1972, the film received a lukewarm critical reception so the studio gave it a limited run in theaters which led to the film becoming a box office failure.
It is a sad fate for a film as exciting and interesting as this one.
“Snow Job” is an action film, a heist film, and a playful thriller rolled into one completely entertaining film.