I picked this little gem up at Movie Stop for about $3 expecting it to be a mix of Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit, perhaps with some added madcap comedy thrown in to sell it to the audience. However, what I got was one of those great 70s movies that people seem to instantly dismiss because it suffers from the typical low-budget issues.
As I started writing this, I looked up the IMDB page for the movie (which apparently is also known as The Last of the Cowboys, a much better title) and one of the IMDB commenters talks about how lacking the film is. I have to wonder if he was really paying attention. Everything he states is not in the film or is neglected in the film is actually handled as it should be. There’s a lot of story to tell, can’t fit in every little bit of a cross-country road trip.
The movie is about Elegant John (Henry Fonda), a truck driver who has fallen ill (cancer we would find out later) and had his truck repossessed. He sneaks out of the hospital and steals his truck back, determined to make that one last, great run. On the way, he picks up hitcher Beebo (an innocent yokel played by the one and only Freddy Krueger, Robert Englund) and the two, despite an early “misunderstanding” about money (John tries to trick Beebo into buying a full tank of gas for the rig), the two decide to help one another.
Right at the start, we meet one of John’s main “roadblocks” on his mission, a young buck who thinks he’s the greatest thing ever named Charlie (played by Gary Sandy, Andy Travis from WKRP in Cincinnati). Charlie wants John’s rig, and when John refuses to sell, Charlie decides to help the police catch John.
On top of all this, John is having trouble actually getting a job hauling anything because he has stolen his truck. The weakest point in the movie I saw was John’s reaction to a nasty little ass who calls him unnecessary names when he finds out the truck has been reported stolen. Completely demoralized, all he does is take the abuse. This is me throwing in my own personality, but I would have said something to this schmuck.
This is one of those 70s movies with a “damn the man” message that was so abundant at the time. I really enjoy these movies. Also, it’s one of those stories that handles sexuality in a very blunt manner, but not so much as some modern movies do.
Eileen Brennan (such a marvelous actress) plays Penelope, a madame who has just been told to leave town when a group of undercover cops bust her and her girls (interestingly, waiting until the “deed” was done before identifying themselves as police). Now, they must find a way out. Enter, John. John and Penelope have a history and the two decide that running Penelope and the girls will be John’s last run.
Of course, this doesn’t help his situation, now the police are looking for John, Penelope, and the girls.
Amongst the girls is a still very fresh Susan Sarandon (she had done The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Front Page, a few others, and some television, but she was still kind of an unknown). She and Beebo hit it off.
This movie is reminiscent of Vanishing Point; that ideology of deciding to do something regardless of the cost, being in such a state of affairs that you have nothing left to lose.
Looking at the cover art for the movie, it appears to be a complete comedy in line with the Burt Reynolds movies of the time and things like Animal House. And with actors like Dub Taylor, it seems implied as well. Instead, this is much more dramatic than you would expect. Not to say that there isn’t any comedy, there is a great deal. But, it is one of those movies that rides a fine line between the two.
In the end, I would not classify this movie as a comedy. I recommend everyone try to find a copy of this rather obscure flick (it shouldn’t cost much).
William, the Movie Nerdfighter
who will always consider The Last of the Cowboys a better title for this movie.