Electra Glide in Blue
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|Electra Glide in Blue|
Original 1973 movie poster
|Directed by||James William Guercio|
|Produced by||James William Guercio
|Screenplay by||Robert Boris|
|Story by||Robert Boris
Billy "Green" Bush
|Music by||James William Guercio|
|Edited by||Jim Benson
Gerald R. Greenberg
John F. Link
|Distributed by||United Artists (1973, original)
MGM (2005, DVD)
Electra Glide in Blue is a 1973 film starring Robert Blake as a motorcycle cop in Arizona and Billy "Green" Bush as his partner. It was produced and directed by James William Guercio. The name stems from the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorcycle issued to traffic cops.
John Wintergreen (played by Blake) is a motorcycle cop who patrols the rural Arizona highways with his partner "Zipper" (Bush). Wintergreen is a experienced patrolman looking to be transferred to homicide. When he is informed by Crazy Willie (Elisha Cook, Jr.) of an apparent suicide via shotgun, Wintergreen believes the case is actually a murder. Detective Harve Poole (Mitchell Ryan) agrees it is a homicide, after a .22 bullet is found in the man's skull during the autopsy, as well hearing about a possible missing $5,000 from the man's home, and arranges for Wintergreen to be transferred to homicide to help with the case.
Wintergreen gets his wish, but his joy is short-lived. He begins increasingly to identify with the hippies whom the other officers, including Detective Poole, are endlessly harassing. The final straw comes when Poole discovers that Wintergreen has been sleeping with his girlfriend Jolene (Jeannine Riley). The hostile workplace politics cause him to be quickly demoted back to Traffic Enforcement.
Despite being demoted, Wintergreen is able to solve the murder. The killer turns out to be Willie, who confesses while Wintergreen goads him into talking about it. Wintergreen surmises Willie did it because he was jealous of the old man he killed, who frequently had young people over to his house to buy drugs. Shortly after, it is discovered that Zipper stole the $5,000, which he used to buy a fully dressed Electra Glide motorcycle. Wintergreen is forced to shoot Zipper after he becomes distressed and belligerent, and shoots an innocent bystander while brandishing a gun.
As the film ends, Wintergreen is alone and back on his old beat, when he runs into a hippie that Zipper was needlessly harassing near the beginning of the film. Wintergreen lets him off with a warning but the hippie forgets his driver's license, and Wintergreen drives up behind his van to return it to him. The hippie's passenger points a shotgun out the back window and shoots Wintergreen, killing him.
- Robert Blake as John Wintergreen
- Billy "Green" Bush as Zipper
- Mitchell Ryan as Harve Poole
- Jeannine Riley as Jolene
- Elisha Cook as Willie
- Royal Dano as Coroner
- David J. Wolinski as VW Bus Driver
- Peter Cetera as Bob Zemko
- Terry Kath as Killer
- Lee Loughnane as Pig Man
- Walter Parazaider as Loose Lips
- Joe Samsil as Sgt. Ryker
- Jason Clark as L.A. Detective
- Michael Butler as Truck Driver
- Susan Forristal as Ice Cream Girl
- Nick Nolte as hippie (uncredited) can be seen about halfway through the film in the commune
First-time director Guercio took a salary of one dollar in order to have budget available to hire Conrad Hall as the cinematographer. During their discussions, it transpired that Guercio and Hall disagreed on how the film should look; a compromise was reached where Guercio would shoot the exterior scenes in a manner reminiscent of John Ford's films (which was the look Guercio wanted to achieve), while Hall could set up and shoot all the film's interior scenes any way he saw fit. According to the DVD commentary, Guercio claims that a majority of the film was shot without permits, because the Arizona Highway Patrol would not cooperate with production. The movie was filmed in Monument Valley and Fountain Hills, Arizona, in the area around Shea Boulevard and the Beeline Highway (SR 87), which at the time, was undeveloped desert.
Guercio was best known as the producer of rock band Chicago's first eleven albums, and several members of the band Chicago appear in minor roles, including Peter Cetera, Terry Kath, Lee Loughnane and Walter Parazaider, as well as David "Hawk" Wolinski from the Guercio-produced band Madura. Chicago also appears on the movie soundtrack. The soundtrack album also included a four-page fold-out poster of Robert Blake standing beside his cycle on a bluff overlooking Monument Valley.
The film got a negative review in The New York Times, which described the film as "portentous" but portraying "very ordinary or very embarrassing things: a crudely staged bike chase, or the confessions of a demoralized bar girl in what looks and sounds like a second-year acting exercise in drama school".
The film was entered into the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, but was loathed by critics. However, Robert Blake was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance and it garnered a great deal of critical acclaim upon its nationwide release. Whilst it saw only limited commercial success, it was given cult status for many years.
- "Guercio's 'Electra Glide in Blue' Arrives: Director Makes Debut With a Mystery The Cast Police Officer Tracks Recluse's Killer, Roger Greenspun, The New York Times, 20 August 1973
- "Festival de Cannes: Electra Glide in Blue". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-04-18.