A western with motorcycles in lieu of horses. A right wing response to Easy Rider. The most beautiful b-movie ever shot. Electra Glide In Blue can be called a number of things, but it can’t be called boring.
In his one and only turn as a film director, music producer James William Guercio allegedly took a one dollar salary for his director rate so that he could afford to hire legendary cinematographer Conrad Hall. The film is absolutely gorgeous.
The movie succeeds in delivering a compelling character study of John Wintergreen (Robert Blake) as an Arizona motorcycle cop aspiring to be detective, but is not as successful in hammering down on a consistent tone. Guercio unintentionally creates a genre exercise that is part John Ford film, part melodrama, and part 70’s exploitation film.
The soundtrack does nothing to taper those flights of fancy. At the time Guercio was best known as the producer for the band Chicago (thus explaining the cameos by Peter Cetera and co.) and he seemingly couldn’t help himself from throwing the kitchen sink at the soundtrack, which he helped score. There are Byrds inspired country-folk ballads courtesy of Mark Spoelstra, a few Shaft-influenced cuts that could fit into the Blue Note Rare Groove Series, and a good amount of dialogue from the film. Nonetheless, like the movie, it’s a pretty fun ride.
“Overture,” written and produced by Guercio, opens like a Sergio Leone spaghetti western that eventually just builds into what sounds like the open to every network TV action show in the 70s.
“Tell Me,” also written by Guercio, but sung by Chicago guitarist Terry Kath, is an over the top ballad that acts as the exclamation to the dramatic final scene of the movie. Kath channeling Ray Charles croons about America and mankind in what is either sincerely earnest or very jingoist attempt to drive a point home.
[File under: heavy blogged about in 2009, when the book was originally published]
I’m not necessarily a Paul Thomas Anderson acolyte or a longtime Thomas Pynchon reader, but I am genuinely excited for the wide release of Inherent Vice this week.
Admittedly Vice is one of only three books I read last year, so that accounts for most of my enthusiasm, and while I didn’t love the beautifully written novel, it was pretty obvious that it could make for a fun movie. Los Angeles in 1970, a stoner gum shoe, a colorful cast characters, and a very layered underworld.
Paul Thomas Anderson re-teamed with Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood to score the film, but anyone who has read the book will tell you that the book itself has a pretty stellar built-in soundtrack that Thomas Pynchon acutely details throughout the novel.
The music denotations read like a tertiary character, and the songs highlight the various moods that were simmering in Los Angeles at the time: the lingering hangover of a squeaky clean Gidget-ization of the Surf culture and the hippie spirit trying to make sense of a post Manson murders world. Case in point, one of the central figures in the story is a heroin addicted saxophonist from a once popular surf band who gets entangled with the wrong dudes.
Pynchon revels in the surf du jour by the likes of the Trashmen, The Surfaris, The Champs, the psych pop of the Byrds, Pearls Before Swine and Piper era Pink Floyd, and maybe the most revealing of Pynchon’s intended tone, multiple references to clown princes such as Tiny Tim and Bonzo Dog Band.
Having Spotify by my side as I read this book was fantastic. Multiple users had created Playlists based off the book, and it definitely was a great companion to the novel.