Here’s another road movie. I don’t know why I like them so much, because I don’t like to travel. Every Which Way But Loose isn’t the first movie I saw in the theater, but it’s the first one I remember seeing. We used to have to drive into the city 45 miles away to see a movie, and I can remember riding with my parents in their green Dodge Monaco while my mother listed the curse words that might be in this movie, and what they meant, and why I shouldn’t say them. And then she said that the men weren’t really going to be hitting each other. I didn’t see a bar fight until about 1999 (Boneshakers, Athens GA, the bartender bought the assailant a drink because the guy who got punched really deserved it for running his mouth and everyone knew it), and I couldn’t believe how different it sounded when people actually hit each other in the face compared to in Every Which Way But Loose. My dad said people in our hometown used to go out and start fights after seeing Clint Eastwood movies, and one guy in particular would always get his ass kicked. I wouldn’t be surprised. Also, I liked this movie a whole lot more in the 90s when I was stoned all the time, but it still might make me happier than any movie I’ve ever seen. So imagine how much I still like it, knowing I used to like it more! It’s got country music, old cars, Ruth Gordon, bikers, fistfights, and an ape. And these are a few of my favorite things.
Clint Eastwood plays Philo Beddoe, the second best illegal boxer in the universe of this film in which everyone knows the name of the best, Tank Murdock. I’ve always heard that you don’t want to fight a fat middle aged construction worker unless you want your ass handed to you, and this movie seems to prove it. Philo doesn’t have much luck with the ladies until he meets Lynn Halsey-Taylor, played of course by his then-love interest Sondra Locke. But then she leaves him and he’s too dumb to realize she’s a hustler who can’t sing. She also says he sure talks funny, and I’m still not sure what she meant, unless it was a joke about Clint himself talking funny, which he kind of does. The inimitable Geoffrey Lewis plays Philo’s best friend and wingman Orville, and they pick up Echo (Beverly D’Angelo) at a roadside fruit stand on the way to chase Lynn. Echo saves their butts a couple of times and is a cool chick, even if her name is a running gag, like the “I thought you’d be bigger” of this movie. Before they leave California to go to Denver Philo pisses off two cops and a whole gang of bikers called the Black Widows. And of course, there’s Ruth Gordon as either Philo or Orville’s mother, and she just wants to get her driver’s license and not to have the ape, Clyde, crap on her porch or eat her Oreos.
I bet you knew that Geoffrey Lewis was the father of Juliette Lewis, but I bet you didn’t know that the guy who played Tank Murdock was the father of eurohorror screen siren Lara Wendel, who was in Tenebrae, The Devil’s Wife, The Perfume of the Lady in Black, and Ghosthouse, among other Italian classics. When I found that out a year or so ago I was so happy I ate all the Oreos. To know that there was such a person connection between this movie and Ghosthouse is everything.
As so often is the case with movies like this that are more of a collection of vignettes than a plot, the side characters make the movie. The little old guy who runs the trailer park where everyone goes looking for Lynn Halsey-Taylor is one such delight, when he says, “you know, some folks just don’t take me into their confidence.” That guy also played the elderly waiter at the hotel in Twin Peaks, and was the in real life roommate of the guy who played Bobby on Supernatural. But the best part of the movie is the biker gang. In the first scene in which we meet them all assembled at their hovel, we get the classic line deliveries, “at least I didn’t drop my bike and RUN,” and “it appears to me there can’t be too many guys driving around this valley with an APE.” I say “it appears to me” all the time. It’s the “let me tell you something” of the 1970s, and today.
Although this is not in any way what anyone would ever call an art film, I enjoy the two twists at the end of the movie: the end of the relationship with Lynn, and the outcome of the fight with Tank Murdock. It’s a Clint Eastwood movie, even if ostensibly a friend of his directed it, and so the point made by the final fight was un-subtle to the max, but still a good point. 1970s cinema was a series of beautiful, bleached, neutral-colored down endings, so that even redneck popcorn movies had that character to them. And I love it.
Would you like to see my copy of the soundtrack album?
Would you like to see the hat on the angry woman Orville pisses off at the fruit stand? I would buy this hat on Etsy or Wish for several dollars, if it existed.
I know you want to hear me sing the theme song from Every Which Way But Loose, so here it is: http://www.singsnap.com/karaoke/watchandlisten/play/bb74195e7
P.S. It just occurred to me tonight that without Every Which Way But Loose we’d have no Roadhouse, and I wouldn’t want to live in a world without Roadhouse. So everyone turn your hat around backwards and thank Tank Murdock that Every Which Way But Loose exists.
P.P.S. The bar at the beginning of the movie is the same set as the one at the end of the movie, even though they are in L.A. and Denver respectively. I just noticed that tonight.