The only thing good-hearted motorcycle cop John Wintergreen (Robert Blake) wants is to become a detectiveto wear a big Stetson, smoke fancy cigars and be paid to think. So when he stumbles upon a dead body, he takes on the case-and proves his stuff! But as soon as he's promoted, the corruption he must tolerate makes the Stetson not fit so well and the cigars not taste so good. Forced to confront his own disillusionment, Wintergreen heads out on his bike, the Electra Glide, where he makes another shocking discovery that could cost him his life!
One of the more eclectic titles from the independent movie scene of the early 1970s, James William Guercio's Electra Glide in Blue
is a compelling mix of character drama and counterculture commentary on the American dream, anchored by Robert Blake's lead performance as an ambitious motorcycle cop who learns a hard lesson about upward mobility. Best known prior to its release as the manager and producer for the band Chicago (whose members turn up in minor cameos throughout the film), Guercio proved a capable filmmaker with Electra Glide
, despite a severely limited budget; in an introduction filmed for the new Blu-ray presentation, Guercio discusses his appreciation for the films of John Ford, whose elegiac tone and landscape vistas of Monument Valley inform much of the picture's visual style and theme. Blake's John Wintergreen can also be viewed as a descendent of Ford's complicated heroes, pinned between his loyalty to his job and his desire for something more than handing out traffic tickets on Arizona back roads. An opportunity for advancement presents itself in the form of a suicide that Wintergreen believes to be a homicide, but the crime only serves to underscore some cold, hard facts about the nature of justice and societal standing. Pilloried upon its release as "fascist" for its convoluted depiction of police officers and the counterculture movement, Electra Glide
has enjoyed a modest cult following among aficionados of early '70s American cinema for its unvarnished view of both sides of the American social scene, as well as its proudly eclectic tone and Guercio's assured direction. Blake, too, deserves considerable credit for the film's success for his fine, underplayed turn as a man all too willing to look past obvious red flags until it's far too late, and he's well supported by a cast that includes Mitchell Ryan as a self-impressed detective, Billy "Green" Bush as his partner, who desires the titular motorcycle, and the great character actors Royal Dano and Elisha Cook Jr. Guercio is featured on a commentary track in which he discusses his collaborations with Blake and cinematographer Conrad Hall, whom he was able to hire by deferring his directing fee, as well as the aforementioned introduction, which should be seen after
the picture by first-time viewers, as it contains several spoilers. --Paul Gaita