When I was in college, The Other Side of the Mountain played on campus. I guess I’m showing my age, but it was a new release then.
Spoiler alert: I’ll be giving away key points of the plot, but not the ending here.
The movie is based on the true story of Jill Kinmont, a skier paralyzed from the neck down when she fell during a race leading up to the Olympics.
She has a boyfriend. Buddy’s a handsome, charming, wonderful fellow. But he can’t cope with her new realities. After strenuous effort and serious rehab, Jill invites Buddy to come see her because she has a surprise. He shows up, eager for good news. She proudly shows him that she can pick food up and get it to her mouth without help. She has to struggle to get it done, and it takes what seemed like forever to those of us rooting for her in the audience, and there is nothing graceful about the procedure, but she gets it done. She looks to Buddy for kudos. It is a major achievement, given her injuries. ‘But aren’t you going to walk?’ he says. “No,’ she says, ‘I’m never going to walk.” He can walk, and does, right out of her life. It is a devastating turn of events for her, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Enter “Mad Dog” Buek, played by Beau Bridges. Mad Dog’s looks were not in the same league as Buddy’s, so it was hard at first to see him as a step up. (We were college students, what can I say?) But when Jill makes it known that she’s not sure what the point is in living anymore, he kidnaps her, pushes her wheelchair at a sometimes-frightening run, and parks her in the middle of an intersection, if I remember right. Faced with the possibility of being run over, she discovers that, as it happens, there are worse fates than merely having physical disabilities.
One of the best things about watching the movie, newly released, its contents completely unknown to us, the wild turns unexpected, was that my friends and I in the audience went crazy; telling Mad Dog what he could do with himself when he was kidnapping her, and voicing strong disapproval when he put her in harm’s way. And then, as I recall, there was silence. When we realized that this maniac had gotten through to her and had given her not only a new way of looking at life but also the courage to go forward, there was silence. We’d been outmaneuvered, and we had been wrong. In our sheepish chats afterward, we admitted that we had gone into the movie wanting boyfriends like the popular, polished Buddy, and had come out wishing we could find our own Mad Dog.
The movie tagline (hat tip: amazon.imdb.com) is “Once in your life may someone love you like this”. If they were aiming at college coeds, they hit their target. The guys, I remember, felt a need after that to protest their undying devotion to their girlfriends: the general line for a while ran along the lines of ‘but, honey, I love you no matter what, really I do’. After watching the tragically disappointing Buddy walk out on our heroine, it was incredibly important for us girls to hear that.
(The poor guys. The campus also showed The Stepford Wives. This would be the original, non-funny one. The general line after that was something along the lines of ‘but, sweetheart, I love you just the way you are, really I do’.)
I haven’t watched The Other Side of the Mountain since then, nor did I see the sequel. Sometimes it’s a good idea to leave turning points in your life alone. This is not to mention that it can be jarring to see how much your tastes have changed since you were younger. I haven’t read the books, either: same reasons. I presume they are good books. Certainly they are about an inspiring lady. In any case, my thanks to the author for helping make the tale widely available.
There are two books tied in with the movies: The Other Side of the Mountain, and The Other Side of the Mountain, Part 2. Both are by E. G. Valens. As of post time, there were (just for example) 203 used copies of both titles combined on Alibris, and just under 200 on bn.com, many at $5 or less. The first book was originally released as A Long Way Up: The Story of Jill Kinmont, by Evans G. Valens. There are still copies of that title floating around as well.
The VHS releases are currently running from $20 to $150 on Amazon, with a plateau at about $30. Really. The original The Other Side of the Mountain movie was also released (in Europe) under the title A Window to the Sky.
Update: Follow-up post here, with a link to a Jill Kinmont Boothe website. The lady seems to have made the most of her life.