King of the Mountain (1981)

Before Paul Walker and Vin Diesel’s exploits in The Fast and the Furious, there was Harry Hamlin and Joseph Bottoms in this film that first chronicled the real life street racing communities of Los Angeles. However, in this tale, they don’t pull a “Point Break” and use their street racing exploits to front a crime wave: they’re just a group of competitive friends who race their high-powered cars up and down a dangerous and deadly mountain road known as Mulholland Drive — to become the “King of the Hill.”

Here, we get all of the actors we care about: Joseph Bottoms, Deborah Van Valkenburgh (The Warriors), Seymour Cassel (Trees Lounge), William Forsythe (Smokey Bites the Dust). Yeah, this rocks. Oh, yeah. And some guy name Dennis Hopper (The Last Movie) shows up.

So, did Neal H. Moritz, Rob Cohen, Paul Walker and Gary Scottt Thompson pinch this forgotten VHS-to-HBO obscurity? Well — did they — as Sam pointed out, pinch (even more so) 1987’s No Man’s Land starring D.B. Sweeney and Charlie Sheen thirteen years before (also reviewed this week, search for it)? Nah, it is surely coincidental: their film was a film where Days of Thunder collided Donnie Brasco — and those were released waaaay after King of the Mountain and No Man’s Land.

Leigh Chapman based the screenplay on “Thunder Road” written by David Barry for Los Angeles’ New West Magazine. The characters of Hamlin’s Porsche-obsessed driver and Dennis Hopper’s Corvette aficionado were based on the article’s real-life subjects of Chris Banning and Charles “Crazy Charlie” Woit. Director Noel Nosseck made his debut with the Richard Hatch-starring, Crown International Pictures’ vansploitationer, 1975’s Best Friends, as well as the 1981 TV Movie biker flick, Return of the Rebels, which starred Barbara Eden, Don Murray, and Christopher Connelly (Atlantis Interceptors).

You can watch this on You Tube . . . and wet your whistle with this clip of the final race.

While this played in theaters — where I saw it — it made its way to HBO — where I saw it again — then eventually to VHS in the ’80s. The film found its way into the grey market via VHS-to-DVD rips sold on eBay. However, in 2016, the film was officially released in the U.S. for Digital HD and Video On Demand services through iTunes and Amazon Prime.

Update: As we went to press, we discovered Kino Lorber acquired the rights to King of the Mountain with plans to re-release it to Blu-ray on November 24, 2020. The brand new 2K Master also features interviews with star Harry Hamlin and director Noel Nosseck. You can learn more about Kino Lorber’s complete roster of films at their official website and Facebook, and watch the related film trailers on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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