Electra Glide in Blue (1973) Poster

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Where have all the cowboys gone?
travisyoung12 October 2007
A requiem for the death of the American hero. No, this is not the plot--this is what the movie accomplishes. Do not mistake this existential parable for what may otherwise seem like a superficial counter culture exploitation flick--it is nothing of the sort.

Record producer Guercio's first (and last) effort at filmmaking (captured beautifully by the late cinematographer Conrad Hall) leaves the viewer wondering "where have all the cowboys gone?" John Ford taught us that the hero rode a white horse and did the right thing, even if it killed him-, and in this Vietnam era analogue, Blake is a five foot four inch leather clad motorcycle cop writing speeding tickets along a lonely two lane road cutting through monument valley. With high hopes and ideals, he aspires not only to do more but to become more...and for a while he succeeds. But the world is different, people are different, and the old heroes he admired are not just obsolete--they are extinct.

We are inexorably drawn through his disillusionment and our own to an ending that is sad, tragic, and inevitable.
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Electrifying Ending
Lechuguilla27 March 2009
With those evocative images and that emotionally charged music, the final fifteen minutes are electrifying. It's all about America, and a terrible ten years of assassinations, Viet Nam, and countless other cultural strife. The film's ending is saying ... enough is enough. Let the healing begin. And as American culture bled in the late 1960s and early 1970s, so too did the emotional lives of individuals, like the hodgepodge of aggrieved characters that come and go in this story.

Seeing some of these people and listening to their individual stories of pain and suffering is John Wintergreen (Robert Blake), a by-the-book Arizona motorcycle cop, short on stature but tall on dreams. Sometimes with his partner Zipper (Billy Green Bush), "Big John" encounters these tormented souls, on the road mostly. That's his job. The film's story is an ode to the courage and nobility of ordinary Americans pained by reality with only their dreams to comfort them.

The film's disjointed plot begins with a killing. And this incident keeps the plot moving. But "Electra Glide In Blue" is mostly a character study, not a crime film. Color cinematography is quite good. Interior shots have lots of close-ups, even extreme close-ups. There's a lot of diffuse lighting. Exteriors are shot like a modern-day Western. Indeed, the look and feel of the film is similar in some ways to the old John Ford Westerns, like "The Searchers".

The plot is the main weakness of the film. Some parts are overplayed, like the chase scenes. There's a lack of continuity both in storyline and in visual elements. It's as if many scenes were shot impromptu, on the rush. And some of the acting is way over the top. However, Robert Blake does a fine job as America's everyday cop with his sense of principles.

This film reminds me in some ways of "Zabriskie Point" (1970), a counter culture film which has a powerful ending that helps to make up for earlier plot problems.

Based on a real-life event, "Electra Glide In Blue" gets off to a slow start. Even midway through, one wonders whether this film is going anywhere or has any point to it. It is, and it does. You just have to wait for that powerful ending and its cinematic message of a tormented America, from the point of view of one lonely cop, just doing his job.
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An American anthem - Several films in one
Brewski-21 August 2000
Blake, as Big John Wintergreen, is the idealized American who is a Marine Corps veteran from Vietnam, comes back and wants to do the right thing: enforce the law fairly and not give favors to other cops nor hassle the hippies. He is "chopping the wood before him" by riding his Harley, working traffic and the concert and hoping to be a Detective. He tries hard and provides info to the lead Detective but he just can't bring himself to be brutal to the hippies at the commune or hassle the hippie VW Bus drivers. And he is a man, and hence tempted by the delightful Jolene. His traffic partner, Zipper, wants more but doesn't want to work for it like Wintergreen. And amidst all these human dynamics is a murder and theft of cash. Aside from being a great story, there are many specifics that will make you want to watch this film. The 70's flavor is a fun retrospective. The Police Bike vs. dirt bike chase scene is the greatest ever done. The desert scenery never looked better and the Monument Valley morning scene is a real treat. The soundtrack is perhaps the biggest star. You have Du-Wop, Country, Rock and jazz. Sadly, only parts of some songs are in the movie (or are spoken over) and the soundtrack is not available on CD. If you are ever in an old record store, look for the LP in a silver colored cover. You may even be lucky enough to get the posters and picture book that came with the album. I would love to see Rhino records give this soundtrack the same treatment they gave to Casablanca. You will like John Wintergreen and feel his joys and sorrows as his personal and professional life take their ups and downs.
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Neglected Masterpiece
carnivalofsouls12 December 2002
The seventies was a decade so overpopulated with great films that hundreds of truly great films went unheralded, and "Electra Glide in Blue" is one of these, sadly the singular film directed by the former Chicago manager, who penned the superb "Tell Me" sung by Terry Kath that plays at the end of the film. Like many late sixties/early seventies film the plot is insignificant, but rather a vehicle for lots of character development and social commentary. Blake is great as Wintergreen and the Conrad Hall cinematography is simply stunning, with the haunting lyricism of the ending beholding one of the finest closing shots in the history of cinema. Somewhere between the poetry of "Zabriskie Point " and "Easy Rider" (which it is frequently compared to but in many ways is the antithesis of) and the downbeat cop dramas that would follow during the decade like "The New Centurions" exists "Electra Glide in Blue", a gem certainly worthy of being rediscovered.
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This is real Cinema
frazer churchill19 October 2004
An incredible piece of film making, this beautifully shot movie really is about as poetic as it's possible for cinema to be and still have a coherent, gripping narrative. It feels like a western with its dramatic monument valley backdrop and masculine themes, but plays more like a European movie, with it's dark characterisations and existential mood . The soundtrack is fantastic and the feeling the movie imparts is unique. I always recommend this film to people because so few have ever seen it. I think it's a tragedy that James Guercio didn't make more movies because this was his first (and only) film and it's up there with the best of Peckinpah/Leone/Boorman/Seigal (whose work is similar). I'll never forget this film and the ending will live with me forever. If you like movies you need to see this film, This is real Cinema.
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Criminally obscure film has more to offer than 90% of modern day fare.
Poseidon-317 January 2005
Before he found himself on the wrong side of a murder investigation, Blake was noted for playing an unconventional cop on the TV show "Baretta" (and also the flip side as a brutal killer in the film "In Cold Blood".) Here he is a square peg trying to fit into a round hole as a California Highway Patrolman with dreams of more. At 5'4", he is a full head shorter than the shortest of his fellow motorcycle-riding fellow officers. Though his cohort Bush balances his days between sitting on his bike reading comic books and listening to the radio with pulling over anyone even remotely suspicious, Blake yearns to be a better cop than that and, ultimately, a detective. When (after a thoroughly gripping opening sequence) a man is found shot to death, Blake seizes the opportunity to piece the situation together and becomes the driver and right hand man to hotshot detective Ryan. As the pair attempts to solve the mystery of the man's death, their faults, attributes and insecurities are laid bare (notably in an extended scene with Riley, a barmaid who has known both men for a long time.) Finally, the truth of the death comes to light, but only after significant turmoil, carnage and some surprises. Blake is terrific in the lead. He perfectly captures the awkwardness mixed with ambition of his character. He has many memorable scenes, more than a few of which that poke fun at his size (though he was in great physical shape at the time.) Bush lends strong support as his rather amoral buddy. Ryan is splendidly authoritarian and paints a memorable portrait of a man who is a big shot (especially in his own mind) every time and everywhere except when it counts. He is perfect in the role. Cook has a very showy and effective role as a mentally challenged old man who discovers the body. Riley is effective in her sleazy, but sympathetic role, but her big scene does seem out of place somehow and shifts the focus of the movie more than it probably ought to. Dano, a strong character actor in countless TV and film projects, does an excellent job as a jaded coroner (a far cry from "Quincy M.D.", he not only eschews a surgical mask, but smokes a cigarette during the autopsy!) The film is gorgeously photographed and extremely creatively directed. It had to be way ahead of its time in terms of camera-work. The texture and atmosphere of the scenes is beyond most of what is cranked out today. It's also loaded with quirkiness and irony (some might say overloaded.) In any case, it's a unique viewing experience with many rewards for the patient and incisive viewer. There's also a motorcycle chase that rivals any of the best from this period. Like so many films, the only way it can be fully appreciated is in the widescreen format. The glimpses of Monument Valley are welcome and add much to the visual appeal of the film. The film isn't completely flawless, but it is highly memorable. The title refers to the make and color of a motorcycle.
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Electra Glide In Blue - Masterpiece
jonesrw12 April 2005
Much chat about this film, especially now since it's 'finally' out on DVD in wide screen format.

This is the best film of a specialized genre from the late 60's through early 1970's exploring the counter-culture revolution and the "Establishment".

Unlike Easy Rider, A Clockwork Orange and Billy Jack, EGIB hits the nail on the head. There is evil everywhere, and good intentions don't always result in good outcomes.

Beautiful directorial debut by Guercio, awesome cinematography by Conrad Hall.

In essence, one of the best films from 1973.
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John Wintergreen needs a pack of lifesavers and a Stetson.
copper196316 May 2006
Pigs! Killers! Fascists! Anti-cop? Not a chance. The locals took one peek at the script and threw the entire film crew out of their precinct, and escorted them to the edge of town and beyond. Wow! Sharp bikes. And movie title. Robert Blake is dead on right as the highway cop. He makes up for in height by what he delivers in toughness and compassion. Miss Jeannie Riley plays the love interest of both Blake and his superior. She has a lengthy bar room scene bordering on religious fervor and regret. Nifty character turns by veterans Elisha Cook Jr. and Royal Dano. The action sequences are staged and edited with flair. The great cameraman, Conrad T. Hall, experimented with the interiors, flooding the camera lens with smoke, diffused light and warped, fun house-type angles. Memorable moments one and two: Blake has two great dress-up scenes. The first involves his uniform and motorcycle. The second concerns his new threads when he makes detective. An old do-wop group, The Marcels, invades the soundtrack with the flip side of "Blue Moon." However, the best musical cue occurs at the end of the film. The closing song, "Tell me," written by the producer/director/composer, James W. Guercio, of this film, is a masterpiece of the rock genre. Worthy of an Oscar or Grammy, the song begins with a nod to Blood, Sweat and Tears, travels to Chicago and, later, dismounts in Spectorville. A road and a movie well traveled. And taken
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A great Road Movie, with themes of honesty, integrity and duty.
paulmoran9924 April 2004
EGinB should be seen as an anthem to early 70's America, and the ringing messages of all road movies at the time.The film is unique as a tour de force from a director who knew precisely what he was doing.From the opening scene, with it's brilliant use of close-ups, to the final incredible draw-back, EGinB relentlessly drives home the message of post-Vietnam America, with themes of honesty,realization,ruthlessness and duty.As in other Road Movies, the Road is the conduit along which America travels for hope and redemption.The implication is that it is only in the expanse and purity of the Big Country that these ideals can be attained.

Blake seizes his opportunity to wrest his character, Wintergreen, out of the Vietnam War and into a troubled American Society; not without a little resentment along the way. His remark to the truckdriver he books, displays his feelings; " I'll give you,what they gave me (in Vietnam)...nothing". His ideals of right and honesty give way eventually to acceptance of the system, with all it's failings.

The photography is beautiful and skillful, lending a curious winsome nostalgia to the Great American Outback.Wintergreen's gleaming bike,( the Electra Glide of the title), deserves a credit of it's own. EGinB has an ending that audiences have argued about for 30 years. I think it is an original devize by the director, that emphasises the plight of nations and individuals, who trade honesty and integrity for mundanity and compromise.Additionally, what you are really watching during the long 7 1/2 minutes drawback, is a pictorial unfolding of the American flag.This echos the ' God bless America ' lyrics of the Big Elk soundtrack.Watch it, and listen to the music of Big Elk as it unfolds.It somehow encapsulates the film and it's themes, and is mesmeric for that. See it, but realize what you are watching; it's worth the research; and you'll never see a Volkswagan Camper in the same light again!
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...it took a few times, but....
mickeeteeze10 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw this film, either with my Dad, or possibly at a local theater with my brother while Mom shopped nearby. The reason I remember it, quite frankly, is the magnificent cinematography described by almost every previous poster. Absolutely stunning, words really won't describe.

If anyone chooses to view this flick after reading through some reviews here, be sure to watch it on a big screen, full wide.

I didn't like this film when I was a kid, but I did like Blakes character. I tried watching it again about 10 years ago, and, for whatever reason, I found some of the disjointed scenes distracting. I didn't really care for the somewhat surreal scenes featuring Elisha Cook, the waitress, or the Zipper character at his mobile home. I also still believe the Bob Zemko character could have benefited with a real actor playing him, although the guy from Chicago was adequate. He just didn't have much film 'presence'.

OK, all of that said, I viewed the film yesterday, and it worked for me. It really, really did. The reason I gave it a 7 as opposed to an 8, is because It took three tries to really 'get it'. But it finally took, and I was able to get involved with the Wintergreen character, and why the more disjointed scenes weigh heavily onto his character development.

The waitresses scene is awesome. The Zipper scene showed the desperation of that character, and how much he looked up to Wintergreen. It almost reminded me of Harvey Keitels confessional scene in "Bad Luitenant", as in, he'd like to do the right thing, but he was just too weak. I found the 'Harve' character operates more as a benchmark for how 'big' the Wintergreen character is.....and always was. And without spoiling too much, it was just a story choice to give it the ending which speaks of the uselessness and randomness of it all. The film (as I interpreted it today) would have even worked with a 'nothing special' ending wherein Wintergreen could have split the force, become a great detective, whatever. It wouldn't have effected the 'meat' of the story for me.

But is was well filmed.
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It's taken 35 years to get over the ending....
innocuous28 May 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I first saw EGiB the very first weekend it opened in Boston. Back then, you had very limited access to movie reviews and there wasn't much buzz about movies prior to their release. Because of this, the ending of the movie surprised me a great deal. In fact, I think it overwhelmed my perspective of the movie as a whole.

Fast forward to 1989. While I had seen a few clips from the movie here and there, I only had the opportunity to watch the movie again in its entirety after I found that a local video store had a VHS copy for rent. I discovered that EGib has a lot more depth than I originally gave it credit for. I've only watched it a few times since, but it remains a very impressive accomplishment for a first-time director.

The cinematography really puts you there in the desert with the cops, investigators, barflys, and low-lifes. Blake is very good in his role, which seemed to be written for him. I only wish that the other actors had done a better job. Ryan is particularly disappointing.

Just remember when you're watching that this film was made at a peculiar time in US history. After ten years of anti-war protests, "Summer of Love," rapidly expanding drug use, and all sorts of wild-hippie-crazy-leftist-pinko-commie activity, basically the government and our parents' generation said, "OK...you win. We're out of SE Asia and you can look forward to disco." We were stunned. I think that EGiB is more of a parable of THIS situation than any other. After all, what do you do when you take the thorn out of the lion's paw and he eats you anyway?

Definitely worth your time to watch.
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It's in Arizona, Not California
bd18packer24 October 2006
Robert Blake's Character in "Electra Glide in Blue" was a motorcycle policeman in the fictional town of Stockman, Arizona, not California or the CHP. Also, the title "Electra Glide in Blue" refers to the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, Electra Glide, favored for many years by law enforcement agencies in this country, before the influx of foreign bikes, (namely Kawaski, etc.) and the "Blue" in the title refers to the Men in Blue, aka the police. A previous commenter referred to these in their comments incorrectly. Several references are given in the film, by Officer Wintergreen (Robert Blake), referring to areas around the Valley of the Sun, namely the Phoenix, Arizona area. Among the aforementioned are "Buckeye Road", "Camelback"(Camelback Mountain), "The Superstitions/Superstition Mountains". Strangely, the Mounument Valley area also appears as a backdrop in several scenes; this area is nowhere near the Phoenix area. The soundtrack from this movie was available on LP, after it's release. It is sometimes seen on Ebay; collectors should note that inserts of the Electra Glide motorcycle, the cover picture and glossy pictures of the cast and action sequences, in booklet form, from the movie were included in the original release of the album, and should be included in the sale of this collector recording. They greatly increase the value of the record. I have seen this movie almost 100 times since it's release, in theaters, on TV and Cable, and in video form. It is among my favorites of all time.
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A fine example of '70s cinema.
Hey_Sweden26 June 2013
Robert Blake has one of the best roles of his career as John Wintergreen, a dedicated motorcycle cop who yearns for more in life. What he'd really like is to be a detective - to wear a suit, a Stetson, and "get paid to think". He gets his chance when he discovers what first appears to be a suicide, but which John determines had to have been a murder. When John shows that he's got what it takes for the detective business, a charismatic hotshot named Harve Poole (Mitch Ryan) takes him under his wing, hiring John as a driver. What happens is that John becomes quite disillusioned watching Harve at work. John strives to be a good, kind, honest man, and doesn't like Harves' approach to law enforcement. A revelation regarding his colleague and good friend "Zipper" (Billy Green Bush) only adds to his dismay.

"Electra Glide in Blue" marked the filmmaking debut for James William Guercio, a veteran of the music industry who, with the help of ace cinematographer Conrad Hall, brings a lot of visual poetry which is not the action-packed murder mystery that some viewers might expect, or hope, it to be. That aspect of this film is never heavily stressed, as the movie clearly functions much more as a series of character vignettes. It's got a very deliberate pace to it, as it gives a number of its major players opportunities to tear into some meaty roles. Blake and Bush have fine chemistry and are quite engaging; you believe them as buddies. Ryan commands the screen whenever he's around; he's an excellent character actor (whom you may know best as the villain in "Lethal Weapon") who gives his role some real nuance. Royal Dano is a little under utilized as a grumpy coroner with whom John butts heads, but Jeannine Riley is wonderful as the barmaid Jolene, and Elisha Cook Jr. is as delightful as ever in the role of sad old sack Willie. Considering Guercios' background, it's not a surprise that some of the supporting players come from the music business - screenwriter Hawk Wolinski as the van driving hippie, and Peter Cetera and Terry Kath from the band Chicago; Cetera, amusingly, plays a scruffy biker. Keep a sharp eye out for Nick Nolte, uncredited as an extra in the commune scene.

The film turns out to be a moving meditation on personal ideals and loneliness, and leads to a shattering conclusion. This conclusion is much in line with films of this time period, and takes its time to play out. It's the kind of thing you don't easily forget.

It's not hard to see why this would have a following. It's interesting and it's entertaining, and well worth a look.

Seven out of 10.
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An underrated, misunderstood excellent movie
headhunter462 August 2012
I watched this movie tonight and toward the end I realized I had seen it years ago when I was much younger. I must confess, I didn't realize how good it was back then. There were parts of the movie that were downers, I guess I was looking for a feel good flick years ago.

Our main character played by Robert Blake is a straight by-the-rules cop. He has a partner that does not play fair and I suppose that was part of the turn off at the first viewing. Our hero has to deal with all kinds of set backs and surprises, dealing with other police who seem to be too focused on the "job" and less focused on right vs. wrong.

There were good, convincing performances all around. Never did I get the feeling they were "acting".

There is mystery, surprises, and some incredible scenery of the wild, open Arizona spaces. Even after a second viewing I'm still not certain what the message of the movie was although I did give it a nine rating. Are the majority of cops bad? Are most hippies good? Are most hippies bad? Does the desert make you crazy? I suspect the movie will leave you with similar questions. I don't think it strives to answer any in the first place. I get the impression it simply throws issues at the viewer and leaves you to fill in the blanks.

This movie will NOT spoon feed you a clear cut plot, but it will make you think.
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A Seminal Cult Cop Movie
Ronnie_Barko28 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
The film follows 'Big' John Wintergreen (Robert Blake), a diminutively statured highway patrolman based in the deserts of Arizona. John takes pride in his work and does his job fairly and efficiently but also yearns to be promoted to the rank of detective and see some real police work. When he discovers the apparent suicide of an eccentric loner and, rightfully, suspects foul play, his opportunity arrives and he is taken under the wing of no-nonsense Detective Harve Poole (Mitch Ryan). This sets John off on a journey that makes him question justice, authority and his own sense of identity.

I really enjoyed the film. From an era in which Hollywood was seemingly torn in half by rebellious counter-culture movies such as 'Easy Rider' and hard-boiled Cop dramas like 'Dirty Harry', Electra Glide In Blue makes a bold step in placing itself somewhere in between these two camps. The film, like John himself, views both authority figures and free-spirited hippies with an even-handed face value, with neither side being demonised or exalted. The influence of Easy Rider looms heavily over the picture, not only in the stylised photography of the American landscape and the depiction of the motorcycle as the modern day outlaw's 'steed' but also with some knowing references to 1969 counter-culture classic, the film's ending cleverly mirrors that of Easy Rider but Guercio is quite blatant in showing that his film has a different agenda entirely (one scene features Wintergreen and his other officers using a poster of Hopper and Fonda as target practice at the shooting range).

Although Wintergreen is depicted as the films 'hero', he is clearly a flawed and complex man. He seems to be driven to achieve greater things by a kind of Napoleon syndrome, as his height (or lack of it) is referred to throughout the film, not only is he jokingly referred to as 'Big' John, there are barely any scenes in which he stands eye-to-eye with another character. It's only when he's perched upon his motorcycle does he feel equal with the rest of the world. This, ultimately, becomes his undoing as he clearly begins to resent the fact that, when away from his bike, he lacks the confidence and grit to be an able detective. At one points an exasperated Wintergreen says (about his motorcycle) "I'm here to tell you there ain't nothing' in the world I hate worse than that elephant under my ass." The film is ultimately about loneliness, escapism, aspirations and a yearning to find one's true self. The murder investigation that ties the film together simply acts as a macguffin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGuffin- for those who aren't in the know) to base Wintergreen's journey of self discovery around. Another theme of the film is the ambiguity of justice and the middle ground between right and wrong as Wintergreen learns the difficulty of upholding the law without breaking a few rules, and his career aspirations become tainted as he fights against the apathy and corruption of his fellow police officers. This is a film which has neither good guys or bad guys.

As well as having a strong narrative structure the film is wonderfully photographed and it's a shame that, to this date, this is the only film that John William Guercio has directed as he shows a real flair for film-making. He establishes scenes by focusing on peripheral information as opposed to putting the main action right up front. The story unfolds at a gradual pace and Guercio uses the breathtaking Arizona landscapes as a character itself to highlight Wintergreen's isolation and loneliness (both of these aspects reminded me strongly of the work of Terrence Malick). The film also uses some wonderfully stylised sequences to set up the scenario and the opening credit sequence, in which Wintergreen meticulously puts on his highway patrolman's uniform seems to fetishise the appearance of the motorcycle cop (surely referenced by the T-1000 in James Cameron's Terminator 2- Judgement Day?) I thoroughly enjoyed Electra Glide In Blue and can find only a handful of flaws with it. There are a couple of sequences that seemed out of step with the rest of the film- There is a frenetic stunt-laden chase scene that, although it impresses individually, seems to jar with the philosophical nature of the rest of the film. Another scene, in which a waitress is revealed to be the object of affection of both Wintergreen and Poole seemed to drag a little and could have easily ended up on the cutting room floor without greatly affecting the structure of the film.

But all-in-all a very well made and interesting film. Robert Blake gives a brilliant performance, the pacing of the film and the dialogue hold up well and the cinematography is superb. It also features an exceptionally memorable final shot.


Now, I know James William Guercio has never made another film but has Robert Blake done anything interesting lately?.......
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The Pessimistic Outlook of Individuality
homestar_is_cool7 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Electra Glide in Blue, a 1973 film notable for being director James William Guercio's debut film, stars Robert Blake and Billy "Green" Bush as two cops who attempt to fulfill their own dreams: John (Blake) - a promotion; Zipper (Bush) - a bike. This film has recently gained critical praise, despite the original derision towards it and the dismal box office numbers for a film of this caliber. It's also notable for being the beginning of the short-lived acting careers of many Chicago members (all four of them play minor-role hippies).

For the plot: in a nutshell, John wants to get a promotion while Zipper wants the best bike in the world. John gets his promotion (to detective's driver), but with an added price: either conform to what detective Harve says or to write tickets on a motorcycle. John, seeing what Harve does for confessions and to solve murder cases quick, gives up his dream to find another one, leading to his own death. As for Zipper, he steals something viable towards the case and buys his dream bike out of his childlike naivete.

For the actual critique itself: the film has some of the most inspired cinematography I have ever seen. Using wide shots to show how isolated John, Zipper, and Harve are, it also uses zoom outs to show how the soul leaves the body, not caring about its former life. With that, it overshadows the hokey acting and the deliberately loose plot (patterned after "Easy Rider") - making Guercio seem like a master of the camera on his first try.

The sound quality varies on the copy I watched: at points, the film seems so crystal clear while at other points, Zipper sounds muffled (1970s muffle) whenever he speaks his innermost fears. Is that deliberate on the sound crew's behalf, knowing Guercio's production work with Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire? As for other parts of the film, it worked good as a clash between the real and the fake, while being a tale against being a manchild.

Overall, I give the film an A- for trying so hard and working about 95% of the time. This film has to be seen - due to its obscurity, nobody gets why too much freedom can make somebody fake or make somebody real due to loneliness. Oh, and there's some good dry humor in here: Bob Zemko playing the man who doesn't know who Bob Zemko is; John displaying his skills as a conservative-really-liberal cop; and Zipper's obsession with comic books, especially "Pogo". It, to me, predicted the rise of Chicago's mediocrity (John is Guercio, Zipper is Chicago - as Zipper becomes dumber to get his dream, John matures astoundingly - and he's killed by Terry, who killed himself in 1978). Yeah, after some bad things, this film becomes quite symbolic of many things.
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Minimalist but Effective Character Piece
iaido30 August 2001
From the opening ‘suicide' montage and shot of a desert landscape cut in half by a narrow strip of road, you can tell that Electra Glide in Blue will be a simple film relying on striking visuals to tell the story just as much as the dialogue. It may even be a tad too simple, since it sort of teeters out before the end and reaches its resolution rather abruptly, but its themes of dreams, loneliness, and obvious parallels to the death of 60's idealism, make it a very moving, worthwhile film.

Blake is note perfect as `Big' John Wintergreen, an idealistic, pure-hearted, easygoing motorcycle cop, who just want to be a detective and `get paid for thinking, instead of sitting on my a** getting calluses.' He gets his chance when an old desert denizen appears to have been murdered and he is taken under the wing of Det Harve Poole, a right wing, bigoted, commanding man, who establishes his character by saying `My religion is myself. When I talk to myself, I'm talking to the whole world.' In his zeal to become a detective, Blake follows him around like a puppy, until eventually he sees that his desire to be decent and honest just wont work. He refuses to sacrifice his nature, his kindness, if that's what it will take to get his dream. The final shot of the film (One of the best final shots EVER, by the great cinematographer Conrad Hall) sums up this tragic, fatalistic point and beautifully.
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Feel the space.
torrascotia13 March 2019
The title of this movie used to really bother me. What does it mean? Well Electra Glide is a type of motorbike used by the police in this movie so mystery solved. This is a 70s movie about a motorcycle cop who is bored with his job and dreams of moving to homicide because he thinks he will get more respect and excitement than his current role. When he is called on to investigate a suicide he has suspicions its a clear cut case and he gets the opportunity to work alongside a homicide detective for real. The movie is basically about someone wishing for another life while idolising others and having a grass is greener outlook in terms of occupation. During his stint working in homicide he comes to the realisation the grass isn't always greener and its best not to meet your idols should they turn out to be just as human and fallible as everyone else. This is typical of the big screen 70s with with wide vistas which feel very different to the current style of cinematography which seems cluttered in comparison. Its a slow moving story with plenty of room to breathe with the odd action scene. If you are fan of 70s movies or just someone who wants a change from the current style of action or cop movie this is a must see. This is an adult movie which does not rely on flashy action but story telling and great cinematography. Recommended for grown ups but not for generation short attention span.
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more of a zeitgeist-capturer than a gripping detective story
lasttimeisaw29 September 2016
American music producer James William Guercio's one-off dalliance with filmmaking, ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE is made when he is only 28-year-old. It stars Robert Blake as a motorcycle cop Johnny Wintergreen who patrols rural Arizona highways and aspires to be a homicidal officer.

The movie opens with a promising panache hardly betrays that Guercio is a greenhorn, conjecturing through its voyeuristic close-ups, audience would soon realize a face-unshown man prepares to kill himself, yet, Guercio's camera also cunningly suggests that he is cooking beef streaks at the same time. Then, boom! He blows himself dead through a shotgun, which unusually aims to his chest rather than the usual easy target, the head, it compellingly sets a paradoxical situation that one immediately knows there is something fishy about the whole act.

Also, before the title card, Guercio takes a tongue-in-cheek tack to introduce our unlikely hero, big Johnny, the camera lurks and swirls in the apartment where Johnny expertly gratifies Jolene (Riley) in bed, before revealing that Johnny is small in stature. When a man's masculinity is stunted by his appearances, it gives audience an idea why he is so eager to achieve something, to compensate the ingrained inferiority complex is a shoo-in. So the apparent-suicidal case becomes his stepping stone to be recruited by detective Harve Poole (Ryan) for his astute observation that it is indeed a murder underneath the hatched facade.

But the ensuing police procedural dampens Johnny's driving enthusiasm, especially after witnessing Harve hectors physically abuses and a group of hippies to milk information about their prime suspect, a drug dealer Bob Zembo (a cameo of Peter Cetera, one of the four CHICAGO members who take on acting roles here apart from their contribution to the picture's soundtrack), and the final straw is an awkward confrontation between him, Harve and Jolene, the latter turns out to be Harve's lover, and spitefully lambastes Harve's incompetence to make her contented and laments her ill-fated destiny, working in a barrelhouse after a dashed Hollywood dream, Johnny and Harv fall out afterwards.

Unambiguously Guercio conducts a half-hearted approach to solve the murder mystery, after trifling with a biker-chasing set piece to keep the action moving, the movie falls back on Johnny's "inner voice" for an expedient epiphany to realize who is the murderer at the end of a MADURA concert, with reasons unexplained, but that is not enough, ultimately there would be another revelation later, to further muddle the water and leave the opening scene ever so ambivalent when one retraces back, before reaching its chilling coda, completely hits viewers like a cold shower, willful but symbolic, overall, it is a loner's world against the canvas of a vast Arizona landscape, everyone in the story is either indolent, disillusioned or corrupt, only the hippies' community stands in as a getaway from the unpleasant reality, but their guarded world is defiant towards the mainstream values, Johnny represents a tragic hero who is doomed because of what he represents, an authority figure, cannot be saved by his amiable personality and all-too-well intentions.

Performance-wise, everyone on board is on a par with excellence, Elisha Cook Jr. is heart-rending to watch in his committed lunacy, Mitchell Ryan expertly imbues a certain degree of passing diffidence in his bombast mannerism and Billy Green Bush is so organic as Johnny's shade- hogging partner and nails his big scene with a flourish, so is Jeannine Riley, manages to steal some limelight even with a role riddled with platitudes. And our leading man Robert Blake, ever so self- reliant as a pipsqueak trying rather hard to chase his dream, only to get short-changed by a cynical world.

ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE, also bolstered by a symphonic soundtrack produced by Guercio himself and its striking wide-screen landscape sensation shot by DP Conrad L. Hall, is an astonishing debut feature, if it intends to be more of a zeitgeist-capturer than a gripping detective story, then I must give my whole-hearted congratulations to the crew, mission grandly accomplished!
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Great, Gritty Film That Looks Into the Darkness of the Human Soul
seeley-rich30 April 2013
Saw this film in '73 at a dingy cheapo type theater near L.A. City College and was mesmerized by it on a number of levels. This film seems to embody the times and the anti-society feel of our generation as no one within the "system" can be trusted for a millisecond due to their spineless acceptance of the status quo and the inherently corrupt system that pays their bills and gives them validity. Robert Blake was at his best in this film as he seemed to be the quintessential anti-hero who slowly awakens to the rottenness around him and eventually realizes he can only count on his own judgment and sense of right and wrong in a perverted and unjust world. The film has lots of quirky and odd-ball characters and the setting is dingy and gritty while still revealing the basic self-centered instincts that inhabit all of humankind regardless of social position. This is a wonderfully quirky film and magnificently dusty, dirty, and gritty while still encapsulating all the Shakespearean foibles of human nature on a realistic and often petty scale.
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Robert Blake Keeps His Zipper Down
BaronBl00d24 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This film is of interest for a variety of reasons: its surreal feeling through the Arizona desert, its ambiguous story, its thematic threads of honesty, integrity, and corruption amongst the police, its humanizing lust for meaning in an otherwise meaningless world, OKAY, it is getting deep but this film COULD be said to meander in all those areas. Does that make it a good movie? No, not necessarily. Nor is it a bad movie. It is certainly an interesting movie. Robert Blake plays Officer Wintergreen - a short, dedicated motorcycle cop out to become detective. He works with his partner Zipper who is happy just to have a job and get paid and have little work to do. Here the film explores goals and what life is like with and without them. We get more of this through other characters' eyes: Harv the eagle detective Wintergreen initially impresses but later is stripped of all manhood in front of him by a wildly over-acting Jeannine Riley. Riley's Jolene sees life as despair basically loveless and pimped out to Harve I think. We get some hippie characters caught up in life anarchy in communal life and a trucker and Wintergreen himself having just returned from Vietnam. The film has a lot going on in subtext - perhaps too much. I still am not sure what the film is trying to achieve. Is it a mystery of an old man being shot through the chest that may or may not have had some money? Is it a battle of integrity in Wintergreen(played rather decently by Robert Blake) versus corruption as in Zipper's character or Harve's police brutality. Is it meaning versus nihilism with the whacked out ending that leaves one scratching one's head. I honestly don't know. I do know that film will make you think, is evocatively filmed, and generally well-acted. Robert Blake is good - perhaps one of his best roles. The supporting characters are interesting with character stalwarts Royal Dano(great as a coroner in a brief sequence) and Elisha Cook faring well. And what about Jeannine Riley? Sure she overacts, but she is still beautiful. You might remember her as Billie Jo from the first few seasons of Petticoat Junction. Well, it's ten years later - but Jeannine is still sexy and still fills out a sweater wonderfully. Electra Glide in Blue is a strange film by a one-time director. It is definitely worth a look. Then you can figure out what you think everything means.
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engaging, visually stunning mystery
dlevitt-123 April 2005
This amazing sun drenched noir sleeper from the Easy Rider era stars attractive young Robert Blake, as a short motorcycle cop who dreams of becoming a detective and gets a chance to help solve a murder.

Conrad Hall's cinematography is startling from the start - when you don't quite know if you're witnessing a suicide or a murder - to the breathtaking finish. Close up or telephoto shots draw you in and keep you guessing; wide southwest desert locations are awe inspiring.

Ordinarily waxing about the imagery would suggest a dull story, but this mystery is full of surprising twists, characters, and some unexpected action. The cops vs hippies milieu is well captured. Billy Green Bush (Nicholson's "Five Easy Pieces" oil derrick sidekick) and old Elisha Cook have memorable roles.

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A Bittersweet Slice Of The American Dream
natalieandmonkey11 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This once rare slice of the 70's is now thankfully released at last, and available for a wider audience. It concerns diminutive traffic cop John Wintergreen and his quest to reach his dream- a detective. In his eyes the detectives wear their smart suits, smoke their cigars and get to work on REAL cases. After stumbling across a homicide and coming up against those trying to write it off as a suicide- John achieves his dream of riding with a bona fide detective however discovers it wasn't all he hoped for. Whilst this sounds pretty standard fare it is elevated beyond that through an endearing and heartbreaking performance by Robert Blake as our protagonist. Looked down upon (sorry, couldn't resist) by his peers for having a dream which isn't purely materialistic, watching his dream suddenly crushed as his friends and his ideal are exposed as being as corrupt as the supposed criminals they're trying to catch. This film is undoubtedly very much of its time- target practise on Captain America and Billy case in point- and many of the characters we encounter are morally ambiguous, neither black nor white. The stark Arizona highways are themselves neither beautiful nor ugly- the pleasure at recognising landscapes from countless Westerns countered by the realisation that John Wintergreeen- with all his morals and ideals of what a cop should be- is as doomed as the dream he hopes to encapsulate.
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Undeservedly underrated and yet deservedly forgotten
Maciste_Brother8 January 2007
I always wanted to see ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE for a very long time. I've always been intrigued by the title, the star and the desert but for some (now pretty clear) reason, this film is never shown on TV or I've happen to miss it if it's ever shown. Well, after watching the DVD, I now know why the movie is rarely shown: it's because it's not that good. In fact, I'd say it's pretty much of a mess.

ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE was made by a first time director and it shows. The film is mainly a series of vignettes with absolutely nothing holding it together. More like a collection of short movies haphazardly strung together. The movie can be boiled down to this: intro (murder); cop and girlfriend together; intro credits; cops going to work; crazy guy tells story; cop finds dead body; cop and chief and girlfriend at bar; chase scene; etc. The scenes just don't flow together. They're very distinctively independent from each other and because of this the characterization is weak, borderline amateurish. The scene at the bar with the girlfriend, the scene at the farm with the hippies, the scene with Big John and the Chief yelling at each other were cringe worthy. I almost stopped the film during those (awful) moments.

The film-maker's lack of experience is in evidence throughout the film. The style, like the 1970s, is all over the map. The intro credit scene makes the movie look like a commercial for law enforcement. Then it tries to be a buddy film (Big John and Zipper) then a murder mystery; then a melodramatic love story; etc. A film doesn't have to have one particular style in order to be successful but I'm afraid the style in ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE was confused. You can clearly see that the director had no idea what he was doing or where he was going with it.

The film is not a complete disaster. While the content of ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE is almost amateurish, the look of it is extremely (and deceptively) professional. The cinematography is stunning. Every frame is worthy of an exhibition at an art gallery. Or, because the first (and last) time director was involved in the music business, worthy of an album cover. The beautiful look of the film gives more credence to the finish product than it really deserves. And thanks to Robert Blake's acting (of a really badly written character), the film maintains a certain level of realism, even though nothing else makes much sense. What's remarkable about the look and composition of the film is that it's been copied and duplicated a million times over. The intro credits reminded me of something like TOP GUN, which was made 13 years later. Scenes of Johnny dressing up, with his clothes on the bed, reminded me of American Gigolo. Strangely enough, ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE has a very contemporary feel to it, due to the stunning visuals, even if the story and the philosophy behind it are hopelessly outdated.

So, ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE is, on one hand, a remarkably underrated and overlooked film because it obviously influenced a lot of future filmmakers out there when it comes to the look and composition. Very few films can claim to have achieved this and legendary cinematographer Conrad Hall should take full credit. But, on the other hand, EGIB is also deservedly forgotten because the poor characters, confusing story, and muddled direction, none of which are worth of remembering.
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First saw this film at a theater in NM in 1973.
sherrillita22 September 2001
The first time I saw Electra Glide in Blue was the year it came out. The theater lobby had a life-size cardboard Robert Blake standing next to a REAL Harley, identical to the movie's bike. When I saw this film in '73, I thought Blake would become a huge star...why didn't he? Blake makes us believe in Wintergreen and LIKE him. I'm watching the movie again, as I write; it's still entertaining, touching, a little scary, and a fabulous reflection of life in the early 70's in New Mexico & Arizona.
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