Judge Maurice Cobbs has learned that the only thing more horrifying than a man skiing in bikini briefs is a sumo wrestler skiing in a mawashi.
"[P]eople will do almost anything to get in front of the camera…We decided to go back into the vault, dig out some of the dumber things, and put them all together so you could look at them."—Warren Miller
I must confess that I've never understood the idea of strapping sticks to your feet and sliding down the side of a mountain. In my opinion, it ranks right up there with leaping out of a perfectly good airplane for no reason or trying, in vain, to balance yourself atop a raging ocean wave for kicks. To each his or her own, I suppose; my idea of extreme sports is tumbling out of bed in the morning.
Warren Miller understands the idea of strapping sticks to your feet and sliding down the side of a mountain so well, he's spent over half a decade making movies about people doing it. If you've never heard of Warren Miller, he's the so-called King of Skiing Comedy, among other things—at least according to the back of the DVD. I hadn't been aware that skiing comedy was such an expansive genre, but there you go. Then again, since the very idea of skiing seems inherently comical to me, I shouldn't be so terribly surprised.
Over the fifty-odd-year course of Mr. Miller's career of filming skiers in such a way as to make them look absolutely spectacular, he's collected (as you might expect) a large collection of footage of them also looking not quite so spectacular. They can't all be White Winter Heat, now can they? Some of the best of Miller's often hilarious and sometimes painful-to-watch footage is presented here, in the appropriately titled Warren Miller's Bloopers, Blunders and Bailouts. It is, as far as I can tell, the best argument to never venture onto a ski slope that I have ever seen (not that I needed to be too vigorously persuaded).
Actually, the DVD is composed of two collections that were previously released on VHS. The first offering is The Best of Winter Bloopers, Vol. 3, which demonstrates the boundless human capacity for falling down, falling over, and falling off things. Falling down while on skis is the least of your worries; in today's diversity-minded age, you can fall off snowboards, chair lifts, inner tubes, and just about anything else. Some of the unwitting master stuntmen featured here earn their bruises by proud insanity—attempting to, say, ride mountain bikes down steep, snowy ski runs—or give the lie to that silly old notion that you even need snow to ski when there's a perfectly good dirt hill around. It's unfair to call these daring souls maniacs—as far as I can tell, maniacs have at least some degree of basic survival instinct. Of course, this feature isn't limited to shots of people wiping out in spectacular fashion. There's also a sort of gallery of the bizarre; where else would you find, say, a 165-pound skiing koala bear? This DVD has it all. There's even people skiing in bikinis—one buxom blonde bunny in a blue bikini certainly caught my attention, as surely as the guy skiing in his bikini briefs made me huddle in a corner of the couch, shivering in the fetal position.
Miller travels all over the world to show us a constant variety of unusual snow play. In Australia, people pile into giant inner tubes and careen down the mountainside. "They can't have fun races like this in America," says Miller, with his trademark dry delivery, "because there are more contingency fee lawyers living in Beverly Hills than there are in all of Australia." In British Columbia, the folks wipe out vicariously, sending an assortment of creative and bizarre figures to a snowy doom in the "Dummy Downhill Race." There's a ski rodeo. People who ski into swimming pools. A man who skis with his cat perched on one shoulder (wearing a matching ski suit). And even a brief run-down on the legal troubles of Zudnick the half-wolf, half-husky Skiing Wonder Dog.
Zudnick the Wonder Dog gets an expanded bit of screen time in the second feature, Skiing Bloopers II. According to Miller's narration, the multi-talented Zudnick, along with being a notorious recidivist, is also a movie star—sort of a canine Robert Downey, Jr. Even though they call him the Skiing Wonder Dog, no filmic evidence is given of the dog's alleged ability; is it possible that Zudnick is actually coasting on the strength of his reputation? Like Robert Downey, Jr.?
As with the first feature, the bulk of Skiing Bloopers is a festival of misfortune and ineptitude, showcasing the kind of footage that keeps you in eternal hope that by the fifth or sixth time a fellow slams face-first into a snow-covered rock it will have perhaps knocked some sense into the silly bastard. Naturally, that never seems to be the case. This feature is slightly repetitive—an entire sequence from the first selection is repeated here—but no matter. I can always appreciate another opportunity to scoff at clumsy children and terrified beginners as they hurtle head-first through powder and ice and stone at terrifying velocities to land in a heap of oddly twisted limbs. And you thought that America's Funniest Home Videos was sadistic.
Have you ever seen a man rappel off a cliff while wearing skis? Well, here's your chance. There's also some different footage from the "Dummy Downhill," as well as more downhill dirt skiing, and of course, a variety of slips and spills—all in all, you're looking at over an hour and a half of senses-shattering skiing shenanigans and slapstick in the snow. Miller's droll delivery and avuncular charm made this DVD extremely enjoyable for me, and I imagine that it will be a nice little diversion for avid skiers, or people who just could never get enough of that poor jerk who wiped out every week in the opening credits of Wide Wide World of Sports, or anyone (like myself) who takes pitiless glee in the pain, suffering, and humiliation of others.
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