The Movie Waffler DVD Review - <i>Electra Glide in Blue</i> (1973) | The Movie Waffler

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DVD Review - Electra Glide in Blue (1973)

Reissue of the cult 70s cop drama, from Odyssey DVD.

Directed by: James William Guercio

Starring: Robert Blake, Billy Green Bush, Mitchell Ryan, Jeannine Riley, Elisha Cook Jr, Royal Dano


Made at the tail end of the counter cultural movie movement, James William Guercio's one off acts as a bridging point between the end of America solipsism of Easy Rider and the birth of the proto fascist anti hero most famously embodied in Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry character.
Nominally, it's a police procedural, in which diminutive motorcycle cop John Wintergreen (Blake, in a vanity free performance) investigates the supposed suicide of a local eccentric in order to fulfil his dreams of becoming a homicide detective.
In truth, the plot is little more than a MacGuffin; what we have is an exploration of disillusionment and thwarted ambition, a man whose dreams are literally diminished in the litmus test of reality. Blake has never been better, a laconic health nut with a desire to be the man and transcend his highway patrol career.
What differentiates him from his partner Zipper (Bush) is his empathy. This is most visible in a scene in which Zipper tears into the van of a hippy, looking for contraband, before planting drugs when he gets no satisfaction. It is an act that Wintergreen condemns but passively accepts, an action that has consequences later in the film.
Playing like Easy Rider in reverse, Wintergreen is essentially a rebel in police issue leathers; he may be in the system but is never truly part of it. In this, Guercio makes great use of Blake's stature to remove himself from the camaraderie of the detectives he so wants to join, making him look like a kid playing fancy dress in grown up clothing.
There are issues with the character development. Wintergreen seems liberal in his views from the off, so it is hard to understand why he dreams of being part of an institution that he seems ideologically opposed to. Once he teams up with Detective Poole (Ryan) to solve the murder, the veil is removed, a hard ass who is prone to abusing Miranda rights and solving crimes using his gut rather than hard evidence. A scene on a hippy compound shows just how out of his depth Wintergreen has become. In truth, Wintergreen seems wise or naïve more for the exigencies of the story than for consistent character reasons.
A subplot involving Jolene (Riley), a bar owner who has been sleeping with both detectives, appears to go nowhere other than to prove the sexual orientation of the protagonists and a tacked on scene of concert footage seems only there to promote the director's day job as producer for MOR band Chicago.
As a first time director, Guercio shows such promise that it remains one of the great travesties that he never returned behind the camera. Monument Valley looks amazing, as ever, and the sun bleached photography of Conrad Hall and the dark interiors make you wish that this was released on blu-ray.
Paced to perfection, and with a climax that ratchets up the misery and disillusionment as Wintergreen's world falls apart, this is one of the key films of 70s cinema, and ripe for reappraisal. Add to the mix a climax of depressing nihilism that leaves many troubling questions, not the least that the worrying worldview of Zipper and Poole may be the only sane response to an America that seems to literally be going to pot.
9/10
No extras on review disc.