Saturday, October 09, 2010

James William Guercio

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. It is also littered with desolate desert speed traps and bored-off-their-ass motorcycle cops with nothing better to do than roust passing hippies.

Diminutive patrolman John Wintergreen (a pre-Baretta Robert Blake) is one such little man in blue with the pint-size Napolean complex to match. Lately, he's growing weary of coasting through Monument Valley on his Electra Glide Harley. He doesn't get the same kick pulling over tie-dyed VWs as his comic book lovin' partner Zipper (an always welcome Billy 'Green' Bush, aka "Elton" from Five Easy Pieces). Wintergreen wants to transfer to Homicide where he can tackle the big murder cases and add a few inches to his stunted stature with a detective-grade ten gallon hat. When a local recluse dies in an apparent suicide that Wintergreen fingers for murder, it looks like he might just get his chance.

Problem is, Wintergreen is not a very good cop. That's not to say he's a bad man. In comparison to the hayseed Dirty Harrys in his precinct, he's actually pretty decent. About the worst thing Wintergreen does in Electra Glide is take pot-shots at a poster of Easy Rider in the station firing range. His intentions are mostly pure, but his luck and timing are atrocious.

Electra Glide in Blue is an odd little relic from the early '70s. It's directed by a guy more known for producing Chicago albums (this is the only film he directed) than shooting film. It's the flip-side of Easy Rider done from the policeman's perspective. Riding the line between dark comedy, character study and Shakespearean tragedy on a micro scale, it's a movie about a small man who maybe thinks too big.

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