"The Other Side of the Mountain, Part 2," now at area theaters, doesn't match or enhance the inspirational impact of its predecessor, an unheralded but understandable box office success two years ago.
The sequen is also saddled with that wimpiest of young leading men, Timothy Bottoms, a terminal obstacle to romance and a sad comedown from Beau Bridges, whose charming, diffident performance gave genuine diffident performance gave genuine distinction to the original and created a palpable sense of loss when the character he played was killed.
Nevertheless, it would be no surprise if the sequel duplicated the original success. Jill Kinmont's story is so inherently moving that nay representation from the sincere to the shameless would probably be effective at some level.
These film biographies have been perfectly sincere, of course, but they derive much of their human interest from subtexts, from one's awareness that Jill Kinmont is a real woman who has survived her terrible injuries emotionally intact.
Kinmont, a skiing champion, was paralyzed from about the chest down after falling in a race at Alta, Utah, in 1955, when she was 18. She retained use of deltoid muscles and biceps and some wrist flexibility but no use of pectoral muscles, triceps or fingers.
The original film re-created her accident and rehabilitation, which owed a great deal to her love for a daredevil, accident-prone friend named Dick Buek who refused to allow her any self-pity. Having helped restore Kinmont's will to live, Buek himself died in a plane crash, but his survival training hadn't been in vain. Though grief-stricken, Kinmont had become tough-minded enough to cope with his loss as well.
Producer Edward S. Feldman and director Larry peerce evidently planned a sequel before Kinmont herself focused the screenplay by meeting and marrying a man named John Boothe from her hometown of Bishop, Calif. The sequel depicts this courtship, which seems doomed on several occasions by the heroine's self-doubts, but eventually culminates in a sunrise wedding ceremony on the outskirts of Bishop.
The strongest element of the sequel is Marilyn Hassett's performance as Kinmont. Her emotional range seems to have expanded, perhaps in a response to hte limitations of her new leading man, whose stock-in-trade consists of passivity, boyish awkwardness and a kind of hurt-puppy vulnerability around his eyes. Bridges was such a vital, humorous personality that it's a little difficult to adjust to his draggy successor. You're not sure, what it signifies. Has the heroine's type changed, and if so, is loneliness the cause of the change?
Peerce has described the real John Boothe as "a low-key, tranquil man, very much at peace with himself." Could he be closer to the sort of down-to-earth type embodied by Kris Kristofferson in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore"? Bottoms embodies something else, and it's something weak. When he professes his love to the doubting heroine, you don't think, this is a guy in a million, grab him! On the contrary, she seems to be uniting with the child she's longed for instead of the husband she's longed for.
The romantic chemistry malfunctions, but audience goodwill may compensate for the casting mismatch. Hassett helps to compensate by carrying the emotional load.
When the heroine brought up the painful subject of sex in the original film, her suitor brushed if off gallantly by remarking: "It's not all it's cracked up to be, anyway." The sequel includes a peculiarly ambiguous love scene that suggests the possibility of conventional sexual satisfaction. This is rather murky romantic business, and it invites clinical speculation that I'm not sure the movie needs or the subject justifies. It the emotional bond between people like Jill Kinmont and John Boothe isn't transcendent, what is the inspirational point of their love after all?