Tuesday, January 1, 2013


D: William James Guercio.  After recently receiving the limited edition soundtrack CD, I went back to this film, one of my favorite unsung 70’s indie road films.  The film has a desolate western noir vibe portraying an America lost in moral disarray, sort of an anti-Easy Rider where the hippie and cop cultures are not painted in broad strokes.

Robert Blake (OUR GANG, IN COLD BLOOD, TV's BARETTA) is moody and captivating as John Wintegreen, an ex-Viet Nam vet turned desert motorcycle cop who tries to rise above the corrupt system when he comes upon the scene of an apparent suicide.   He soon has reason to believe the suicide is not what it appears to be and he stands alone and faces a series of physical and spiritual obstacles to prove it.   To seek justice, Blake's Wintergreen faces a series of tough individual moral choices while juggling murder suspects, a missing stash of five-thousand dollars, shooting his partner in self-defense and trying to make personal restitution for the harassment of some hippies!  The murder subplot gradually becomes the motor that  revs and sparks the characters to reveal their true selves.  There’s also a love triangle involving Jeanine Riley (TV’s PETTICOAT JUNCTION, HEE HAW) as a slutty barkeeper that puts even more strain on Wintergreen’s antagonist relationship with the emotionally volatile investigating detective (Mitchell Ryan).  You'll be unprepared for the powerful sucker punch of an ending (well, I guess now you will be).

All the performances are pitch perfect with Elisha Cook Jr (THE MALTESE FALCON, BLACULA) and Royal Dano having especially intense scenes.  Music producer Guercio features Chicago band member friends such Peter Cetera and Terry Kath in key cameo roles.  Guercio's music score boasts a dynamic, memorable mix of orchestral, pop, country, jazz-rock, doo wop and gospel as performed by many artists including key members of Chicago and studio vets like guitarist Larry Carlton.  This film was supposedly instrumental to his getting the BARETTA TV series.  Nick Nolte appears fleetingly as an extra in the tense hippie commune stand-off.

The incredible scope cinematography is by Conrad Hall who shoots the cramped interiors very low key and back lit while the exteriors of Monument Valley are shot super bright in wide John Ford-style vistas, visually representing the two sides of the American psyche.  Some of the action sequence angles and editing foreshadow George Miller’s ROAD WARRIOR.  ELECTRA GLIDE is Guercio's sole writer/producer/director credit.  His main career is in music and he has numerous credits as a producer most notably of Chicago.

There is an excellent, concise video introduction by the director (who also provides the audio commentary) where he explains how the film was initially attacked at Cannes as fascist.  The DVD is currently out of print and available on blu-ray in Australia.  The soundtrack was originally issued on vinyl LP with an elaborate gate fold sleeve that included a color booklet and two posters.  The recent CD is a limited edition pressing of 1,000 from Quartet Records of Spain.  The film and score are both worth seeking out!

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