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Outlaw Blues has always been one of my favorites. I enjoy it every time I watch it. Peter Fonda and Susan St. James made a very believable couple. I just wish they had made more movies together. The fact that Peter Fonda was willing to put his "song" out there for the world to critique makes him more of a man to me. This movie was made during a time in my life when there was much less stress and it never fails to bring me back to those carefree days. And for that I thank them both. They have both been favorites of mine for years and seem to be genuine (real people) and that is very rare in their profession. Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to sing my praises.
This is a little-seen movie, which is too bad. It may not be great, but it's worth showing now and then. CMT should show it. Maybe they do. Outlaw Blues is a good title for this movie. Austin, Texas, is the Texas Nashville, and was a stomping grounds of Waylon and Willie, who were on the 1976 album Wanted!: The Outlaws. I never saw the beginning of the movie, but it seems that Bobby Ogden is released from prison, a country music star (Garland Dupree, I guess) steals a song that Bobby wrote and makes it a hit without compensation, and Tina Waters becomes Bobby's manager. Ogden and Waters seek vengeance. It seems they were being chased, and they rode a motorcycle through a wedding reception. And a truck carrying watermelons swerves and dumps watermelons on the street. Bobby is a wanted man. He is to record an album, so he and Waters record it in a Purina Feeds store. But someone tells the cops, and they have to break away in a feed truck. Then they're in a Glastron boat (Glastron boats were made in Austin, Texas) on a lake heading for a dam. Will Bobby get killed here? Will he and Waters sneak off to Mexico? Will Bobby go back to prison? Will his album be a success?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The always happening Peter Fonda is his usual mellow and coolly
engaging self as soulful aspiring country and western singer/songwriter
Bobby Ogden. While serving time in the joint Bobby pens a mournful
ballad about the hardships of penitentiary life, only to have said song
stolen by arrogant, hot-headed country music superstar Garland Dupree
(played to obnoxiously blustery perfection by James Callahan), who in
turn makes a hit out of Bobby's tune and palms it off as his own
composition. Shortly after getting sprung from the hoosegow Bobby
confronts Dupree about the theft of his song. Dupree denies the
charges. Bobby and Dupree get into a fight, which ends with Dupree
taking a bullet in the foot and Bobby going on the run. Brash, shrewd
background singer Tina Waters (an appealingly spunky Susan St. James in
her first major film role), smelling a golden opportunity, hooks up
with Bobby and turns him into a bona fide populist outlaw hero by
sneaking him into bars and radio stations so he can belt out his number
to the adoring enraptured masses.
Richard T. Heffron's smooth direction keeps the narrative barreling along at a nice peppy clip. B.W.L. Norton's sharp, witty script has a ball showing how the media can turn a fugitive into a celebrity, knocking pompous authority figures off their pedestals (for example, Dupree gets exposed as an egocentric jack-ass), and celebrating America's abiding affection for beat-the-system nonconformist anti-establishment types. Fonda and St. James display a pleasant, relaxed chemistry which gives the film an ingratiating charm. Michael Lerner as a sleazy music label agent, John Crawford as a hard-nosed police chief, and Matt Clark as one of Bobby's jailbird buddies contribute solid supporting performances. Jules Brenner's handsome, polished cinematography, prolific B-flick composer Charles Bernstein's jubilant, banjo-plucking, fiddle-picking hillbilly score, some sensationally sassy dialogue, a few lively chase sequences, and the unlikely sight of Peter Fonda warbling country songs in a hoarse, pained, croaking tenor (Pete's excruciatingly raspy theme song and another tune were actually released together as a two-sided 45 with Pete's picture on the sleeve; I'm sure copies of this honey sell for at least $350 bucks a pop on E-Bay) round off this delightfully breezy and spirited Southern-friend couple on the run drive-in action romp.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Outlaw Blues was a OK film. Not great, but not the worst ever made. I was a student at the University of Texas at Austin when it was filmed. A friend and I were extras in the movie. The scene when Peter Fonda was in the record store and he was being mobbed was filmed at Dobie Mall, a high rise private dorm with a shopping center on the first two floors. Two friends and I were going to Dobie Mall to buy some film and we saw the movie crew outside, setting up for the shoot. They had closed the mall part of the building, so we just stood on the street and watched. After a while, a man (looked like a director type) walked up and asked how long we would be standing there? One of my friends got smart and said "You can't make us leave, this is a public street." The director type said he was looking for two more extras for the scene. The same friend then asked, "How much will you pay us?" The director said there was no pay and he only needed two guys. The director looked at my other friend and I and asked if we would do it? We jumped at the chance, leaving the other friend standing on the street with a stupid look on his face. We were taken aside and told when the cop came out of the mall chasing Fonda and Susan St James, to get in his way and hold him up. They told us to grab him and just kind of hold him back. We ran through it a couple of times and then they shot the scene. The cop ran out through the crowd, we grabbed him and that was it. From the time we were approached until it was over it was only about thirty minutes. After it was over, we were told "thanks" and they closed the set and left. When the movie came out, we went and waited for our scene. After all of that, all that was showing in the movie was my shoulder and arm. My friends ribbed my about it, but I know it was me. I still have the shirt I wore in the scene. I know it wasn't much of a screen presence, but I was in a movie, even if it was just my arm and shoulder. When it is on TV, it is fun to watch and see Austin the was it was then, how the places looked then, see some other people I knew in college that were in the film, and of course, my shoulder and arm.
Unambitious, unassuming gem from the undervalued pile of movies over at Warner Bros. Director Richard T. Heffron and talented screenwriter Bill L. Norton concoct an easy-going scenario full of rascally characters and lively action in tale of a luckless musician, recently paroled yet back in trouble after assaulting a country-western singer who stole his song. In the lead, Peter Fonda isn't his usual hole-in-the-screen self (Heffron helps him loosen up and be a bit more likable), while Susan St. James is very fresh and funny as a music-biz insider who turns the convict into an anti-hero. Scruffy, charming picture was probably the perfect drive-in entry; it should play even better on the tube. *** from ****
This is definitely a drive-in flick, and I saw it at the drive-in here in
Houston in the late 70's.
I've been listening to the soundtrack of "The Harder They Come" and it occurred to me that there are similarities in this drive-flick and the reggae cult classic. The heroes are on the run, and are recording artists (talented in Jimmy Cliff's case, supposedly "talented" in Fonda's case).
Well, I had my say.
I wish IMDb would allow for some TEXT/COMMENTARY about release dates
because it is not as clear-cut as they would like it to be sometimes.
Many pictures from this era were released regionally, and it was not a
matter of 1500 prints nationwide all at one time. 1500 prints in the
late 1970s was a HUGE saturation. Nowadays 3500 prints is common! Big
epics of the 1960s and blockbusters like GOLDFINGER were released with
400 prints or fewer! JAWS was about 450 prints.
Anyway, in the case of Outlaw Blues, the first dates were in the South and Southwest US, starting July 1, 1977; it opened in New York City on July 15; and in the midwest the release was July 22.
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