Despite its unfortunate title, White Vertigo, the film of the 1956 Winter Olympics, contains some beautiful footage, beginning with ten minutes of “sad” late autumn turning into invigorating white winter. Humble villagers are shown collecting firewood and preparing for the cold – a far cry from the posh scenes in the resort of Cortina as it hosts the Winter Games.
Director Giorgio Ferroni, who would go on to make such films as Bondage Gladiator Sexy, Secret Agent Super Dragon and Gunman Sent by God, uses a technique in which he juxtaposes two events to demonstrate the diversity of winter sports, such as women’s downhill and four-man bobsleigh or women’s slalom with 10,000-meter speed skating, bouncing back and forth between musical themes for each. In the case of his cutting between 500-meter speed skating and figure skating, he demonstrates that there is an artistic beauty to the techniques of the leading speed skaters.
We are reminded that the athletes are normal young men and women who relax and read and flirt and, in the case of women, knit and emerge from the “chrysalises” of their sporting outfits to don fashionable dresses. The varied breakfasts consumed by the athletes from Finland, Japan, Russia and Canada are described. And we get to see actress Sophia Loren attending the women’s slalom. As for coverage of the competitions themselves, all sports are shown, with extended segments on the 50-kilometer cross-country race and the cross-country relay, as well as Austria’s Toni Sailer, who swept the three Alpine skiing events. After a montage of skiers in the men’s downhill falling in the Romerlo meadow section of the course, Sailer’s technique to save himself from losing control is shown with a freeze frame of his splayed skis and then his recovery.
Emphasis in the ice hockey section is on violent play. The match between the Soviet Union and the United States is described as “dramatic and polemic.” The Soviet team, competing in the Winter Olympics for the first time, wins the tournament. The film incorrectly states that Canada had won the last five Olympic championships. Great Britain won in 1936, albeit with a squad composed of Canadians.
There are artistic montages of unnamed figure skaters and, to conclude the film, ski jumpers.