Sunday, November 19, 2017

#2,466. Every Which Way But Loose (1978)

Directed By: James Fargo

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Geoffrey Lewis

Tag line: "Clint Eastwood will turn you Every Which Way But Loose"

Trivia: Sondra Locke learned that she was pregnant just as production was wrapping up (at Eastwood's request, she had an abortion)

According to the DVD notes for Every Which Way but Loose, not many people believed in this 1978 action / comedy. Neither his agents nor his production team felt it was a good fit for star Clint Eastwood, and once the film was finished, Warner Brothers (which financed its production) didn’t know what to make of it. 

Yet, despite the naysayers, Every Which Way but Loose was a smash hit, fetching $85 million overall at the U.S. Box Office (it was, up to that time, Clint Eastwood’s biggest financial success). 

And once you see the movie, you’ll understand its appeal; Every Which Way but Loose is flat-out fun! 

Truck driver / bare-knuckle fighter Philo Beddoe (Eastwood) shares a small house in the San Fernando Valley with his best friend / manager Orville (Geoffrey Lewis); a cantankerous old woman he lovingly calls “Ma” (Ruth Gordon); and his pet orangutan, Clyde. Philo’s penchant for fisticuffs sometimes lands him in hot water, and the only thing that seems to calm him down is some good, old-fashioned country music. In fact, one country singer in particular, Lynn Taylor-Halsey (Sondra Locke), has even managed to capture his heart. 

Lynn plans to eventually open a club in her native Denver, and Philo does what he can to help her raise money for it. Their relationship seems to be heating up, but Lynn tells Philo she's afraid that her live-in boyfriend, who she no longer has feelings for, might somehow get in the way of their happiness. 

Then, one day, Lynn disappears, and Philo suspects that her boyfriend dragged her back to Denver. So, joined by Orville and Clyde, Philo hops into his pick-up truck and heads to Colorado. 

Will he end up reconnecting with Lynn, or was their love never meant to be? 

Despite what the above synopsis might lead you to believe, Every Which Way but Loose centers more on its characters than it does any straightforward storyline. Over the course of the film, Philo Beddoe - who's never lost a bare-knuckle fight - has a few run-ins with members of the hapless Black Widows biker gang, whose leader, Cholla (John Quade), vows revenge on him (mostly because Philo, after whooping the various bikers’ asses, steals their motorcycles and sells them off). 

In addition, a barroom brawl causes some friction between Philo and local policeman Putnam (Gregory Walcott), who, while off-duty, was on the receiving end of one of Philo’s patented punches. Both Putnam and the Black Widows are so anxious to get back at Mr. Beddoe that they follow him all the way to Denver! 

But Philo Beddoe isn’t the only character in Every Which Way but Loose, and the supporting cast proves every bit as interesting as its lead. Orville, well-played by Geoffrey Lewis, is responsible for setting up Philo’s bare-knuckle contests (which he does whenever they're in need of some quick cash), and at one point manages to arrange a fight between Philo and his idol, Tank Murdoch (portrayed by former NFL player Walt Barnes). Ruth Gordon’s “Ma” isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and is especially critical of Clyde, who steals her Oreo cookies and “craps” all over the place. In one of the film’s funnier scenes, we discover that Ma is also pretty handy with a shotgun. 

Also turning up in a supporting role is Beverly D’Angelo as Echo, a fruit stand employee who falls for Orville and tags along on the trip to Denver. And then there’s Clyde the Orangutan, who Philo treats as if he's a human being (Philo even breaks into the zoo to find a "date" for Clyde). Manis, who played Clyde, had tons of personality, and was as important to the film’s success as any of his co-stars. 

Normally, I’m not a fan of country music, but I have to admit that the soundtrack for Every Which Way but Loose fits the movie perfectly. Eddie Rabbitt’s title song went on to become a hit after the film’s release, and the various songs that Sondra Locke performs are equally as strong. There are even cameo appearances by such Country/Western artists as Charlie Rich and Mel Tillis (both of whom contribute tunes of their own). 

So, while it may not feature much of a story (Philo’s romance with Lynn is as close as the movie gets to a plot), its colorful characters, toe-tapping music, and plethora of funny scenes are enough to ensure that - even 40 years later - Every Which Way but Loose is a rollicking good time.

1 comment:

Dell said...

I watched this a couple times as a kid, but don't remember much other than it being Clint Eastwood and a monkey. One of these days, I should revisit it.