ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE (1973)

PrintE-mail Written by Martin Unsworth

DVD REVIEW: ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JAMES WILLIAM GUERCIO / SCREENPLAY: ROBERT BORIS / STARRING: ROBERT BLAKE, BILLY GREEN, MITCH RYAN, ELISHA COOK JR. / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 15TH

'Big' John Wintergreen (Blake - later to star on TV as Baretta and as the creepy 'Mystery Man' in David Lynch's Lost Highway) is a motorcycle cop, working the long stretch of Arizona highway. As the squad gear up for the arrival of some hippies for a music festival, his mind is still on moving on to bigger things, namely the homicide department. Other than his aspirations, he's stands out for a number of reasons: he's a nice guy, giving everyone a chance and following the letter of the law, and he's also a full foot shorter than the rest. When a hermit is found dead of an apparent self-inflicted shotgun wound, John is convinced that it is murder, rather than suicide. A hard-nosed detective (Ryan) takes John under his wing on the investigation when they find he was shot in the back of the head before the shotgun blast to the chest.

An undisputed cult classic, Electra Glide in Blue is one of those '70s films that just get better every time you watch it. Which probably isn't often, since it's rarely seen on TV in the UK these days. The beautiful photography by Conrad Hall makes the most of the remote regions of Arizona, with everything looking particularly breathtaking, the desert expanse surrounded by stunning, cragged rock formations. There are camera angles that come from Wintergreen's height, focusing on other character's mid-torsos, which give us even more empathy with the ambitious cop's stature, but for the most part, it's the unpretentious, often ponderous, direction that fully engrosses, practically mesmerising the viewer.

The film is full of pathos, as Blake's Wintergreen realises the life he aspires to isn't as glamorous as he'd imagined, nor the cops he looks up to any less corrupt or unscrupulous as his regular squad. Veteran actor Elisha Cook Jr. (House on Haunted Hill) is brilliant as the demented Willie, distraught friend of the dead hermit.

Although it's the only directorial credit for Guercio (he would later be behind AOR band Chicago, some of whom appear as gang members; notably Peter Cetera - yep, that fella who sang the theme to The Karate Kid II), it's certainly one to be proud of. Electra Glide in Blue proves that one man can make a stand, however tall he may be. Don't pigeonhole this, it's not a cop movie; instead it's as much a counterculture film of rebellion as Easy Rider and Taxi Driver. A forgotten classic, not to be missed this time around.


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