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Electra Glide in Blue is a 1973 film starring Robert Blake as a motorcycle cop in Arizonamarker and Billy Green Bush as his partner. The movie was filmed in Monument Valley, and was produced and directed by James William Guercio (who is best known as the producer of Chicago's first eleven albums). The film was entered into the 1973 Cannes Film Festival, but was loathed by critics. However, it garnered a great deal of critical acclaim upon its nationwide release. Overall, it saw only limited commercial success.

Several members of 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.

Plot

Blake plays a motorcycle cop named John Wintergreen who patrols the rural Arizona highways with his partner, nicknamed "Zipper" (Billy Bush). Wintergreen is a rookie cop who resents being in traffic enforcement and wants to be transferred to homicide investigation. Wintergreen is laid-back but upright about enforcing the law, while Zipper is alternately lazy (preferring to read comic books in the shade) and hard-nosed about busting hippies, even going so far as to plant evidence on a young man during a search of his van.

At first his supervisors ignore his request for a transfer; however, he is informed of an apparent suicide by Crazy Willie (Elisha Cook). Wintergreen believes the case is not a suicide, but is instead a murder; after a shouting match with the local coroner (Royal Dano), he meets Detective Harve Poole (Mitchell Ryan), who admires Wintergreen's savvy, and arranges for Wintergreen to be transferred to homicide to help with the case.

Wintergreen's initial joy at being promoted is short-lived, as his relationship with his fellow officers deteriorates. Wintergreen begins increasingly to identify with the hippies whom the other officers are endlessly harassing; in one scene he watches as Harve brutally interrogates the same hippies who had cheerfully lied to Wintergreen about not knowing a suspect by the name of Bob Zemko (Peter Cetera).

Workplace politics also cause him to be quickly demoted back to traffic enforcement; the final straw comes when Harve discovers that Wintergreen has been sleeping with Jolene (Jeannine Riley), Harve's girlfriend and waitress at the local bar. Harve is verbally emasculated by Jolene in front of Wintergreen, his subordinate, when Jolene mocks Harve's sexual prowess (implying that Harve is impotent) and brags that Wintergreen can "go three times in one morning".

Wintergreen eventually realizes that Crazy Willie committed the murder; the victim was an old friend of his who had taken to selling seconal and hanging around with the young hippies. Jealous, Willie had murdered his friend and arranged it so it appeared to be a suicide. Wintergreen then informs Harve that he is "full of horseshit", as Harve was convinced Zemko had committed the murder and stolen money from the victim.

Wintergreen then discovers another terrible fact: Zipper's dream was to own his own Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorcycle, and had stolen the dead man's drug money (initially blamed on Zemko) to pay for it. Zipper is intoxicated and begins firing his gun at Wintergreen, but hitting one of his neighbors. Horrified, Wintergreen shoots Zipper in self-defense, and Zipper dies in his arms.

On the road again, he encounters the van of the hippie that he and Zipper had interrogated earlier in the film; the hippie is now accompanied in the van by a friend (Terry Kath). Wintergreen pulls the van over when he notices that it is without a front bumper, but when he recognizes the driver and remembers the trouble he and Zipper caused him, Wintergreen pardons the hippies and sends them on their way. As the van drives off, Wintergreen discovers that he is still holding the driver's license, and rides after them in an attempt to return it. However, the hippies interpret it as an arrest attempt (they are apparently carrying drugs in the van), and before Wintergreen is able to return the driver's license, the accompanying hippie leans out the van's back window and shoots Wintergreen with a shotgun. The hippies make their escape, and Wintergreen dies on the desert road, his motorcycle lying some meters ahead of him. The film ends with the song "Tell Me" by Terry Kath and James William Guercio in a static scene of the empty road with the monument rock formations in the distance before the credits begin.

Cast



Production

First-time director Guercio took a salary of one dollar, in order to allow the film's budget to have the money 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 State Police would not cooperate with production.

Critical reaction

The film has appeared on Turner Classic Movies as part of the TCM Underground program hosted by Rob Zombie, who hails the film as a masterpiece. The British Film4 channel also included the film in their series of cult classics.

References



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