Electra Glide in Blue

Electra Glide in Blue soundtrackElectra Glide in Blue has finally been released in Region 1, unfortunately it’s the American release with a second of violence missing (which only partly explains the astonishing PG certificate). Even better, it’s less than a tenner and has a director’s commentary.

For the uneducated, this is a story of a traffic cop in Arizona with aspirations to become a detective, hampered by his corrupt bosses and the fact that he’s only five feet four inches tall. It’s the only movie directed by music producer James William Guercio and is stunningly photographed by the great Conrad Hall, and the story is slow and unpredictable but never boring.

Incidentally, the vinyl LP version of the soundtrack for this movie (see above) contains more stuff than any album I ever bought – a six foot poster of Blake and his bike in Monument Valley, stills, an Electra Guide blueprint and more. I suspect Guercio was involved in the album presentation, as well as getting several members of his most famous band Chicago to appear in the movie – fans of The Karate Kid should keep their eyes peeled for Peter Cetera…

The poster for this movie can be seen behind Frank Furillo's desk in Hill Street Blues
While I’m doing trivia, you may recognise the song Tell Me, performed by Terry Kath, which plays during the extended tracking shot at the end of Electra Glide In Blue – it was also used in the last scene of the final episode of the TV series Miami Vice.

Commercially, Electra Glide in Blue never really recovered from being labelled as ‘fascist’ at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival – another indicator of how much times have changed – but it’s slowly picked up a cult following over the years, and is now seen as more of a companion piece to Easy Rider than a direct attack on its politics. For my money it’s much better and has certainly stood the test of time better. It’s the sort of movie that doesn’t get made any more, and to be honest wasn’t made that often back then. Presumably it’s only being released due to star Robert Blake being in the news after being acquitted of murdering his wife, but either way it’s a fascinating snapshot of a very different time.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★★★☆

Anything For Her

Kruger and Lindon in Pour Elle

I used to have  a well-earned contempt for French cinema, the only exceptions being the films of Claude Chabrol. However in the last few years, I’ve either been getting old or it seems that French film-makers have been attempting to make movies for audiences outside their usual target.  It’s hard to imagine Alexandre Aja’s Haute Tension or the TV series Spiral as anything other than a reaction to the earlier cultural isolationism. Even more unlikely was the recent French adaptation of Harlan Coben’s typically American novel Tell No One.

Hard on its heels comes a similar edgy thriller, Pour Elle, retitled for the English-speaking world as Anything For Her. Vincent Lindon stars as a middle-aged dog-eared teacher who is inexplicably married to Diane Kruger, more famous as Helen of Troy. After Kruger is jailed for murder, apparently unjustly, Lindon works on a plan to free her.

In a weird reversal of Tell No One's fate, Anything For Her is being remade in Pittsburgh by Paul Haggis
The main point of the plot seems to be to demonstrate how difficult it would be for a normal respectable citizen to involve himself in the criminal underworld, where no-one can be trusted. Lindon is completely convincing in this regard, becoming even more dog-eared after getting out of his depth and getting a good kicking. Eventually he comes up with a plan and the question is not whether his wife is guilty- she isn’t – but how can he free her and start a new life with their son.

Anything For Her isn’t the most plausible story, but Fred Cavaye ensures that it rattles along without giving you too much time to question various events,  and films most scenes as if they were action scenes.  Lindon and Kruger appear mis-matched but manage a fair bit of chemistry to convince you to invest some emotion in their fate.

Even if you don’t like subtitles, or French films in general, you’re likely to find Anything For Her a watchable and involving thriller.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★★½☆

The Mothman Prophecies

Will Patton in The Mothman Prophecies

Another true story (said with tongue firmly in cheek) inspired The Mothman Prophecies. What we’ve got here is an X-Files-type story with a bigger budget, wrapped around the actual event of a bridge falling into a river in Ohio in the late ‘60s. This is connected to several appearances in the weeks before the disaster of a winged creature with red eyes. (In fact, wasn’t there an episode of the X-Files based around the mothman, or did I dream it?)

Anyway, this version is relocated to recent years, and has Richard Gere as a bereaved reporter drawn to a small town where he encounters lots of spooky events leading up to the disaster. Gere displays the complete range of emotions from confused to puzzled, but he’s helped out by some fine supporting actors including Alan Bates and the great Will Patton. Mark Pellington, who previously made another oddball thriller with Arlington Road, directs it extremely well and adds lots of stylish touches, although the concentration on atmospherics and lack of a concrete villain (or even a rubber monster) may well irritate most viewers. But given the title and the star, the whole thing is much better than anyone had a right to expect. Just don’t expect a man in a giant moth costume.

Mild Peril Rating: ★★★★☆

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