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HARRY HAMLIN & DENNIS HOPPER IN KING OF THE MOUNTAIN

Harry Hamlin's perspective of Dennis Hopper's ride YEAR: 1980
As the story veers from the second to third act, the three male leads are at a record company party as would-be producer Richard Cox, as Roger, wants to go out back out on Mulholland Drive and tear up the famous nighttime road...

Hopper lectures Hamlin on fear
Joseph Bottoms as Buddy, a token gifted yet cursed, naive idealistic artist, whose songs are destined for greatness, turns to Roger and says, with a wry, knowing grin, “We’re at a fancy party and you want to go driving?” Well that’s what the movie promises so why the hell not? But what driving there is, up, down and around the snaky mountainous curves of L.A.'s notoriously dangerous Mulholland Boulevard ("slicing Los Angeles like a knife"), is filmed with the same meticulous precision that Harry Hamlin's Steve knows racing those potentially lethal curved "with my eyes closed." A leather jacket clad, underdog hero liken to a hot rod roadster flick from the 50's... but not the music: a metronomic groove of 1980's white boy R&B — not without a hint of the prior decade's yacht rock, trading genuine soul with glossy perfection but still sounding alright — catchier than most fictional bands.

Uneasy Rider
Harry Hamlin, though, only listens to music (listening to the recording sessions or blasting a Styx tape in his car as an imposing helicopter makes an aerial arrest). He's the road king by night, sometimes jailbird, and mechanic by day, already a nostalgic hero from the very start — more a legend than someone winning a string of makeshift races to build suspense or completely flesh-out the character — who has all his flesh right out in the open. He's tired of being what we expect him to be from the title alone. It feels like walking into a movie thirty minutes in, or experiencing a far more reposeful sequel where the protagonist is vulnerable and reluctant to risk everything, again, eventually waiting for the right amount of prompting to thrust him back into action...

Deborah Bottoms Harry Cox
To further mellow his potential edge while providing the necessary romantic angle, he meets WARRIORS siren Deborah Van Valkenburgh, who's recording vocals with Harry's struggling musician friends... the aforementioned Roger and Buddy. The film's lion share of screen time have these endearingly unapologetic losers hanging out: one figuring out his life while the others hope for a record deal with Seymour Cassel's shady record producer.

Speedometer Readout: ****
While more time on the road would be nice, they're a fun trio to hang out with, hopping from the road to their shared apartment to a rented studio back into the revved-up, headlight burning moonlight. And it's Dennis Hopper as a moody and pontificating, burnt-out has-been to give the film some road rage villainy... His character is also a mechanic who... working for an old racing buddy played by Dan Haggerty... is as bluntly humorous as he is slightly deranged...

Cassel & the Hot for Teacher teacher
Hopper, returned from his cinematic blackout during the 1970's, and having already gotten his feet wet with similar wacko roles in APOCALYPSE NOW and OUT OF THE BLUE, wears the character, Cal, like an old, weathered yet comfortable shoe, given ample chance to display his spontaneous, improvised rants — a standout scene has him chewing out the race's spectators: He becomes our sole hope in bringing the edgy race aspect back up front...

Green Ice starlet Tara Fellner as Steve's bitter ex
After sitting around at the sidelines for fifteen years, a bottle of booze in one hand and an old reliable stopwatch in the other, he fearfully waits for someone to break his record. After having become a legend for winning a string of mountain jaunts before narrowly surviving a crash that should have killed him, he eventually vows to take on anybody to reclaim his past glory, leading to several dangerous nighttime races in this high octane fable based on an article titled THUNDER ROAD about that famous street where, from the surrounding houses at the dead of night, a distant, muffled hum of engines could always be heard: KING OF THE MOUNTAIN provides a sparse glimpse into that echoing reverberation which, even at that time, and like the title character's desperate need to reign, was very soon to end.
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