Electra Glide in Blue (1973)

Electra Glide in Blue (1973), produced, scored and directed by James William Guercio.

A motorcycle policeman wants a promotion to detective, which is a mistake. As a patrol officer he is honest and kindly, if strictly by the book. In plain clothes he is in over his head. He does solve a murder, but no one thanks him for it.

I never saw the CHiPs TV series, so motorcycle cops of this era automatically suggest to me the death squad in Magnum Force (1973). The story is set in a mirror-universe to Easy Rider (1969), and in fact the cops use posters of that film for target practice, which I found hilarious.

When the director took the film to Cannes it was criticized as "fascistic", which is not what he intended. He wanted to show the dignity and endurance of the common working man, and also feature the seldom-shown courage of those who must give up their dreams and settle for less.

The cast:

The director was a career music producer, working with Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears and The Beach Boys. Many music people show up in bit parts in the film.

This is a remarkable effort from a one-time-only film director and you can tell from his commentary that he knows movies. His father and grandfather were projectionists and he grew up with an old Irish theater owner who thought John Ford walked on water. Guercio says he saw The Quiet Man (1952) 200 times one summer.

Returning to Monument Valley for this film sort of closes the circle. It is a western with bikes instead of horses, vans rather than wagons.

Photographed by Conrad Hall; Guercio took a $1 salary so he could afford him.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory. The director provides a worthwhile commentary track, although he apologizes after stretches of silence, saying he's not much of a talker and would rather let the film speak for itself.