Archive for September 24, 2022

Highway Patrolman

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2022 by dcairns

The thing about ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE — the only film directed (and scored) by James William Guercio — or one thing about it, anyway, is that every shot is a hero shot. Conrad Hall photographed it in Monument Valley so that’s unsurprising. I don’t understand why, even if Guercio wasn’t snapped up as a useful talent at the time, he wasn’t snapped up later by Jerry Bruckheimer, whose signature style (we can certainly call Bruckheimer an auteur of the particular kind of thing he makes) seems anticipated by the aggressively photogenic, operatic and at times homoerotic splendour on show here.

But the cutting, acting, music and script are also impressive. The writing is hard to explain — Rupert Hitzig hasn’t written anything else, either, and Robert Boris doesn’t seem to have written anything GOOD. Maybe he has.

Robert Blake is pretty terrific — his natural, ah, ebullience, constrained by playing a really admirable man — Johnny Wintergreen seems to genuinely want the best for everyone. And he so rarely gets it. Mitchell Ryan, who just died this year, is outstanding as the alpha male cop with a core of decay, and there’s a full-on turn by Elisha Cook Jr.

The movie’s weirdly positioned between copoganda and anti-authoritarian. The hippies are as passive as Eloi, except when they’re murderous drug-dealing Manson types. It’s a much, much better film than EASY RIDER. Guercio’s showing-off is always APPROPRIATE.

Oh, and yes, the cutting. In the spectacular chase scene — slightly gratuitous, but the film’s meandering, seemingly picaresque structure disguises a tightness (screenwriters need to learn to DISGUISE their structures) — much admired by Edgar Wright — the first spill (all the stunts look properly SORE) is just getting started — motorcycle hits car and biker flies over the hood in sudden slomo — and then we cut away to a reaction shot at normal speed…. Hold on it a hair TOO LONG — convincing the viewer that s/he’s not going to get to see the body hit asphalt, because it must have done so already — and then we cut back and we SEE IT.

It’s breathtaking, and though the alternating speed is Kurosawa via Peckinpah, the specific timing of it is unique. One of the three cutters was Gerald B. Greenberg whose list of credits will astound you. John F. Link’s are good too. But for all I know, this sequence was cut by the other guy, who directed some episode of Quincy..