Sunday, November 13, 2011

Electra Glide in Blue (1973), James William Guerico.

The fetishization of the uniform.  Robert Blake is so excited to get into his Homicide duds that he forgets his pants!

Super 70s flick:  testosterone! Cops!  Hippies!  This interesting film was the only one made by James William Guerico and is a character study of short man Johnny Wintergreen (Robert Blake),  a patrolman who rides the Arizona highways on his Harley Davidson (the Electra Glide of the title).  Wintergreen's dream to escape the drudgery of highway patrol comes true when he gets the chance to solve the murder of a recluse.

The film's pacing is uneven; bursts of wild action appear intermittently while the rest of the film ambles along in typical self-indulgent 70s fashion.  Similarly, I found the acting to be all over the map.  Almost all the main actors are allowed two minutes to chew scenery, flail around and work themselves into a sobbing frenzy - all except Robert Blake who actually puts in a restrained and dignified performance.  Billy "Green" Bush is great as his patrol buddy Zipper.  He doesn't get Wintergreen's dissatisfaction and is content reading Wonder Woman comics between slow moments, drinking out of his thermos under the desert sun.  "Wonder Woman - ever read that?  Man, that is meat and potatoes.  She is built!"    

Pick up line: did you know Alan Ladd and I were the same height?

Robert Blake's notoriety later in life makes this scene unsettling in retrospect -- even though he was acquitted of the murder of his wife.   Just seems like nothing ends well for self-loathing short men.  

Awesome hippie action!  Motorbike through the diner window!  Check out the look on the guy's face! 

Ultimately, I got the feeling that the film couldn't decide how to resolve itself, with Blake's character caught in the middle between the cops and the hippies.  Rober Blake uses a poster of the movie Easy Rider as target practice, but he's no Dirty Harry, either (who had already burst onto the scene by 1971).  Nevertheless, Electra Glide was still a great missing piece from the 70s canon for me.

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