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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Drama > Counterculture > Electra Glide In Blue

Electra Glide in Blue


Picture: B+     Sound: B     Extras: B     Film: B+



One of the great-unsung films of the 1970s, Electra Glide in Blue, has finally made it to DVD and deserves to get rediscovered by younger audiences. Three decades before he became a murder defendant in real life, and two years before his hit TV series Baretta, Robert Blake gave one of his best performances as a dedicated Arizona motorcycle cop who yearns to trade his blue uniform and Electra Glide motorcycle for the tan cowboy suit of an Arizona homicide detective.


Electra Glide in Blue is the only film ever directed by music producer James William Guercio, who put both the original Blood, Sweat & Tears and the original Chicago on the map. The finished product is so good, you come way wishing he'd done more films. Guercio's directorial debut is very accomplished and was obviously enhanced by his choice of cinematographer, the late, great senior Conrad Hall. In his audio commentary, Guercio tells us that Electra Glide in Blue was a low-budget production for United Artists, but thanks to Hall's excellent photography and composition you'd think it had the benefit of a big budget.


Guercio made Electra Glide in Blue as the flip side to Easy Rider. At a time when law enforcement officials were under fire from the counterculture, Guercio wanted to make a film about a police officer with integrity who was simply doing his job. But just by showing a cop in a sympathetic light caused some leftist critics with agendas to ridiculously brand the film "fascist," the same idiotic thing they said about Dirty Harry. In fact, the fascist moniker is even more ludicrous when applied to Electra Glide in Blue. Even though we see him taking target practice at a poster of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda on their cycles in Easy Rider, Blake's character, John Wintergreen, is diminutive in size and of American Indian ancestry, which automatically makes him an underdog. We also see him being civil to hippies on a few occasions, which contrasts with the harsh way his fellow officers deal with members of the counterculture. And Wintergreen is ultimately a man who refuses to give up his principles and sellout to the establishment, even if it means sacrificing his dream.


Like other underrated gems from the same era such as Law and Disorder and The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Electra Glide in Blue is the kind of honest character study with scenes of gritty action that has, sadly, all but disappeared from movie screens. It stands as a fine example that epitomizes a glorious, but all too brief time of filmmaking after the limitations of the studio system and the restrictions of the Hays Codes collapsed, and before political correctness and the "blockbuster" mentality overtook modern-day Hollywood, and being real was all a filmmaker had to worry about.


Electra Glide in Blue, which MGM released briefly as a letterboxed 12 LaserDisc in the waning months of the format, has been given a terrific anamorphic widescreen transfer by MGM to DVD. Due to Conrad Hall's expert use of the 2.35:1 format and his panoramic vistas of the American West, this is one movie that lost a lot in previous pan-and-scan versions on video and television. The sound on the DVD is also above average for a 32-year-old film recorded in magnetic stereo, presented here in Dolby Digital 2.o Stereo with Pro Logic surrounds, though the 4-track magnetic source deserves DTS treatment, especially with such a fine score. And thankfully, we get more special features than usual for a catalogue title. James William Guercio delivers an informative and candid audio commentary and introduction. The original theatrical trailer is also included. For fans of gritty '70s cinema, Electra Glide in Blue is a must-have DVD.



- Chuck O'Leary


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