Cliffhanger: Stallone’s Film About Climbing a Rock

Cliffhanger the 1993 Stallone film
Hang on this!

Cliffhanger is one of those movies that makes a certain sect of people go, “Ah, they don’t make them like that no more!”

It’s a proper macho film with more hypermasculinity than an enraged walrus!

The film is also goddamn excellent fun and we’re here to take a bloody good look at it. Hold onto your butts!

Cliffhanger (the 1993 movie)

Cliffhanger begins with a notorious death scene, where mountain rangers Gabe Walkers (Sylvester Stallone) and Jessie Deighan (Janine Turner) are on a rescue mission.

They’re there for what appears a routine save, on this occasion of Gabe’s mate Hal Tucker (Michael Rooker) and his girlfriend.

Check out this epic ’90s intro for a look into how it all goes down.

However, and as Ace Venture: When Nature Calls (1995) parodied, there’s a mess up and Hal’s girlfriend plunges to her doom. Shucks!

Eight months pass and Gabe, still wracked with guilt, returns to his former ranger station to collect his final belongings. He also finds Hal hasn’t forgiven him for the death of his broad.

But whilst back, Gabe and Jessie receive a distress call.

Jessie persuades Gabe to help out and the two head on out for what appears to be a good old-fashioned saving jaunt.

But Gabe, Jessie, and Hal are actually tricked to attend a fake distress call. Instead, a group of international thieves are up on the mountain and take the three hostage.

Headed up by the despicably evil Eric Qualen (John Lithgow on fun form), they’re in possession of $100 million of uncirculated bills.

But after a recent crash landing with a heist gone wrong, the bills are in briefcases across the mountain. And the thieves want Gabe and Hal to help them find the ruddy things!

Because they’re on a massive mountain, and it’s ruddy cold, this results in all sorts of macho action hijinks.

Gabe eventually is able to escape the thieves and catches up with Jessie, where the two try to save Hal and put an end to the other evil bastards.

This results in some impressive flights of fancy, Free Solo style, and tense action to find the briefcases.

There’s all the usual chaos, death, and fist pumping action along the way as Stallone does his action hero bit to wipe out the baddies.

And you know what? It’s bloody great. As implausible and daft as the plot is, its bare bones action roots and unflinching brutality make it a classic ’90s action romp.

This is helped along as John Lithgow (probably most famous for his comedy work) is on great form as the baddie.

As effective as he is in comedy roles such as 3rd Rock from the Sun, he’s also a fantastic villain in Cliffhanger and other stuff such as Dexter.

And he’s perfectly loathable up until the point when he gets his cliff face demise, which of course (being a chest thumping sort of film) is always inevitable.

With Cliffhanger, it was one of those films in the 1990s we waited to catch up on.

All our friends seemed to have seen it, but it took us forever to watch it.

It was the days of VHS and four TV channels, so you had to be patient and wait for a channel like the BBC to run the film on a Friday night or some such. Them was the days!

And so we finally got to watch it. And we bloody loved it. Sure, it’s got its daft flaws and nothing makes much sense, but it does action very bloody well.

Stallone is a bit wooden at times, but on the whole endearing with his screen presence.

So, we think it gets a solid thumbs up from us. Very 1990s and one of those high-concept action romps that drifted out of favour as the decade wore on.

Indeed, 1993 saw Jurassic Park the film launch as well.

As you might expect, and as impressive as Cliffhanger’s special effects are, when up against the Spielberg dinosaur there was no chance of glory! Roar.

Cliffhanger’s Production

Off its $70 million budget the film was a rollicking great success, earning back some $255 million at the box office.

The weird thing here is Stallone was supposed to be involved in a different Carolco Pictures project, one with comedy actor John Candy (1950-1994).

In the end he, obviously, signed up to do Cliffhanger. Once onboard, he rewrote the script a great deal. If you wonder why, Stallone did write the screenplay for Rocky (the film that made his name in the ’70s).

Renny Harlin directed (that one who also did the epic stupidity of Deep Blue Sea) and he really showed his action pants panache.

Other talent was brought in, including the notable addition of Trevor Jones for Cliffhanger’s score. He’d worked on the legendary The Last of the Mohicans soundtrack in 1992.

Most of the film was shot in the Dolomites in Italy. A lot of miniatures were used to create the special effects, but there were some proper dangerous stunts going on.

Stuntman Simon Crane received $1 million alone for one mid-air scene, such was its dangerous nature. He crossed between two plans at 15,000 feet. Nicely done!

Meanwhile, Stallone had two stunt doubles for the film as he actually has a phobia of heights (acrophobia).

Anyway, Cliffhanger was also a big hit for VHS rentals, earning back yet more coffers. But, unfortunately, the film wasn’t massively well received by film critics.

It received mediocre reviews, but did claim three Oscar nominations. Including for Best Visual Effects.

But it was up against Jurassic Park. Bad luck, Stallone. But as Rocky Balboa once said:

“Remember, the mind is your best muscle. Big arms can move rocks, but big words can move mountains.”

And big CGI dinosaurs can move film buff butts into cinemas.

Cliffhanger the Reboot (hold onto your butts)

Brace yourself for this, because there’s a reboot of Cliffhanger on the way. And the lead is going to be… a woman!!

Unfortunately, that means we’ll have to endure more belligerent political folks complaining about why the woke are destroying society. Ho hum.

Sure enough, there are already videos on YouTube whining about it. “No one wants a Female reboot of CLIFFHANGER!”, claims one individual who clearly understands exactly what people of his mindset want.

Anyway, there’s some good news for the right as the reboot was announced in 2019.

But little has been heard of it since. Presumably, COVID-19 got in the way of production getting anywhere. So, we’ll have to watch this space!

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