Friday, 29 August 2014

Electra Glide in Blue (1973)

        One of the many cult films made in the USA in the early 1970s, James William Guercio’s sole directorial credit gets a new DVD release from Odyssey. I must confess to being aware of the title and a little bit about the film, but I’d never had the chance to catch up with it until now. The title comes from the Electra Glide, which is a brand of motorcycle presumably used by the US police in the days when this was made.

        Robert Blake (who until this I only knew as ‘Mystery Man’ in David Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY) plays John Wintergreen, a highway patrol cop in Arizona who is short on stature but big on dreams. His ambition is to be transferred to homicide. His chance comes when an apparent suicide turns out to be a case of murder, and he is assigned to assist Detective Harve Poole (Mitchell Ryan) in investigating it. Keen to learn from his senior, it soon transpires that Poole’s methods and ways of thinking are not the high and mighty ideals Wintergreen had been anticipating, and he finds himself back on the highways by the end of the movie.

I’m not going to give away any more than that, but suffice to say that there is a lot more going on in the film’s 114 minute running time. Rather than a straightforward police procedural, ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE uses its fairly thin plot to depict and explore a variety of social attitudes of the period. Blake’s Wintergreen is relentlessly upbeat, even in the face of failure, which makes the movie’s finale - one of the all-time great endings of 1970s cinema - all the more poignant.

       Conrad Hall’s photography is quite wonderful, with the gorgeous Arizona landscape also enhanced by the use of the widescreen format. The acting is fine but it’s Guercio’s show, as he creates a fascinating, thoughtful and frequently mesmerising movie. Someone on imdb has claimed they have seen it over a hundred times and having seen it only once I can now understand why. Perhaps not as well known as Dennis Hopper’s EASY RIDER, or Antonioni’s ZABRISKIE POINT, ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE is nonetheless just as vital a movie from that period and in some ways it surpasses both of those. 

Odyssey’s DVD presents ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE in widescreen format. The disc provided for review had no extras and none are listed on the press release. A previous Optimum UK DVD release apparently has an introduction and commentary from director Guercio.

Odyssey are releasing James William Guercio's ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE on Region 2 DVD on 15th September 2014