Tag Archives: Peter Fonda

92 in the Shade (1975)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rival fishing boat captains.

Tom (Peter Fonda), a lifelong drifter, moves back to his hometown of Key West, Florida where he hopes to start up his own charter boat business. However, Nick (Warren Oates) already owns one and not happy about having competition. He along with his friend Carter (Harry Dean Stanton) decide to play a cruel practical joke on Tom, who in an effort to get some revenge, destroys Nick’s boat, which sets off a warring rivalry.

Thomas McGuane was lucky enough to get to direct his own novel despite having no experience behind the camera yet frittered it all away with wild parties as well as an affair with the film’s co-star Elizabeth Ashley despite being engaged to Margo Kidder who was also cast in the movie and which set off quite a few fireworks behind-the-scenes. On a technical level I loved the way the working class/old town side of Key West gets captured along with the glowing gold sunshine of the region and Michael J. Lewis’ soothing banjo strumming soundtrack helps bring out the film’s laid-back ambiance, but outside of a few amusing moments that’s about it.

Initially the leisurely pace and quirky nuance is refreshing and I liked the contrasting personalities of the two leads, but not enough happens. By the second act you wonder what happened to the story as too many extraneous scenes and characters get thrown until it ends up being an abyss to nothingness.

The cast though is definitely game. The wacky dialogue between Burgess Meredith and Sylvia Miles, which I’m pretty sure was all ad-libbed, is quite amusing although the scene where she tries to shatter a glass by wailing out a high-pitched screech should’ve been extended. Joe Spinell, one of cult cinema’s great character actors, practically steals the whole thing with his few minutes of screen time. The scene where he is taught about the different kinds of fishes by having them displayed on top of a pool table is the funniest moment of the movie although the garish outfit that he wears when he goes out on the boat with Fonda comes in as a close second.

Spoiler Alert!

The ending, at least in this recent version I saw from Amazon Video, took me by complete surprise. I had seen this movie twice before and both of those times it ended with Oates confronting Fonda on his boat, but instead of attacking him they sit down and have a friendly chat. Here it ended with Oates shooting Fonda and then immediately freezing the frame and rolling in the credits.

For me this alternative ending was frustrating as it left open too many unanswered questions. Having a film drag on as it does with virtually nothing occurring during its second and third act only to abruptly end it when it finally gets interesting is like a slap-in-the-face to the viewer and helps to explain why this bombed so terribly at the box office.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 22, 1975

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes (Alternative ending) 1Hour 33Minutes (Original ending).

Rated R

Director: Thomas McGuane

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Amazon Video.

Outlaw Blues (1977)

outlaw blues

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: Singer on the run.

When country music giant Garland Dupree (James T. Callahan) visits a Texas prison in order to hold a Johnny Cash-like concert for the inmates he meets up with Bobby Ogden (Peter Fonda) a prisoner who while spending time in jail has written a song called ‘Outlaw Blues’. Garland likes the song so much that he decides to steal it and make it his own only to be confronted by Bobby who once out on parole will stop at nothing to get it back and expose Garland for the fraud he is. With the help of Tina (Susan Saint James) who acts as his manager he does just that, but finds himself again on the run from the cops after accidently shooting Garland during a confrontation inside a recording studio.

This film is notable for not only being filmed in Austin, Texas, but also being the first film to ever use Austin as a setting. The movie can be fun for people from the area especially those living in the city during the mid-‘70s. There are a lot of car chases that occur in the center of town making it entertaining to see all the old buildings some of which still stand today. The scene that takes place at what was then called Texas Memorial stadium during halftime of a Longhorn’s football game where Tina and Bobby take part as members of the marching band is pretty cool as is Tina’s serene houseboat that she lives in and has docked on the Colorado River.

Unfortunately the story itself evolves little and relies heavily on a lot of car chases and clichéd one-dimensional characters. Bobby’s hit song is too low key and melodic making it hard to imagine why so many people would get so crazy about it as a more up tempo country/rock sound would have worked better and given the soundtrack more of a kick.

The film also suffers from a few goofs and lapses of logic. The biggest one is when a lone cameraman films Bobby accidently shooting Garland and it gets replayed on the evening news. Yet when it gets shown it has several edits and footage of the incident from different viewpoints and angles, which if truly shot by just one camera wouldn’t have been possible. The idea of having Garland chasing Bobby down through the streets of Austin in broad daylight while shooting at him is utterly insane even for a deluded, egotistical character that he is as it would just get him thrown into jail. Since the Garland character is portrayed as having a lot of money then he should do what most rich people do when they want someone dead, which is hire someone else to do it while creatively covering up the paper trail.

Fonda too laid back in the lead and comes off as transparent and boring. Saint James, Callahan and John Crawford as an obsessed police chief lend some amusing support, but their presence as well as a nifty boat chase at the end cannot save a film that is otherwise generic and silly.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: July 15, 1977

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Richard T. Heffron

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: VHS, DVD (Warner Archive)

The Trip (1967)

the trip

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: He tries some acid.

Jack Nicholson wrote the screenplay to this film which is based loosely experiences he had while taking LSD as well as the break-up of his marriage to actress Sandra Knight. The story centers on Paul (Peter Fonda) a director of TV commercials whose marriage to Sally (Susan Strasberg) is on the rocks. He has a need to ‘find himself’ and seeks help from his friend John (Bruce Dern) who is a self-styled acid guru. John gives Paul some acid while promising that he will stay with him during his drug induced trip. The rest of the film then deals with Paul’s experiences both in his mind and in his dealings with the outside world while he is hallucinating.

To prepare for the film Nicholson, Fonda and Dennis Hopper, who appears in a minor supporting role, all took part in a group LSD trip and the various visions that they experienced are incorporated here. Director Roger Corman also tried LSD at a different time to prepare for the film. The only one not to try it was Dern who was staunchly opposed to recreational drug use and in fact even his character doesn’t take any as evidenced by a scene where everyone is taking a puff of some marijuana and when it gets passed to him he simply passes it to the next person without trying even though everyone else does.

The scenes recreating the acid trip are not all that interesting or imaginative. It’s all pretty much what you would expect with a barrage of artsy colorful designs popping up at the viewer in split second intervals that reminded me very much of looking through a kaleidoscope. The images aren’t coherent, nor meant to be, and become vapid in the process. The scene involving Paul sitting on a merry-go-round while trying to justify his existence to Hopper who is dressed in a devil-like costume gets quite tedious.

Things improve during the second half when John, who promised he would stay at Paul’s side during his trip, ends up leaving him momentarily to retrieve some apple juice. During this time Paul escapes from the home he is in and goes out onto the city streets. The editing and effects here are impressive and ahead of its time. Some of the visits he has with the people he meets prove interesting including an offbeat conversation that he has with a lady that he meets inside a Laundromat as well as one he has with a very young girl inside her house.

Although he starts out shaky I felt Fonda’s performance was pretty good and this may be one of the best roles of his career. Strasberg who receives second billing appears just briefly and has very few speaking lines. Dern is always fun when he is playing eccentric or intense characters, but here where he is playing a relatively normal one he is boring. His part was originally written for Nicholson to play and I think he would have done better.

I was expecting some sort of tragic or profound-like ending especially with the opening paragraph that starts the film and is read by a narrator with a very authoritative newsman-like voice describing the ‘horrors’ of drug use and how it is becoming a serious societal problem. However, nothing really happens. The movie just kind of stops and that is it. The weak conclusion hurts what is already a so-so film making it like the drug itself an interesting experiment, but nothing more.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: August 23, 1967

Runtime: 1Hour 25Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Roger Corman

Studio: American International Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Wanda Nevada (1979)

wanda nevada

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Go for the gold.

Wanda Nevada (Brooke Shields) is a 13-year-old runaway from an orphanage. Beaudray Demerille (Peter Fonda) is a drifter/con-man who ‘wins’ her during a poker game. The two don’t get along at first, but then they come into contact with an old prospector (Paul Fix) who tells them of gold that can be found in the Grand Canyon. They follow his map, but find weird unexplained events begin to occur the closer they get to the treasure.

Uneven mix of gritty western/comedy doesn’t ever gel. This is a far cry from The Hired Hand, which Fonda directed 6 years earlier. Although that was not a perfect film it still had a great cinematic style and moody flair that this one completely lacks. The story is slight and predictable and goes on much too long with a laid back pace that while not completely boring is never very interesting either. The biggest hurdle though is the fact that we have a 13-year-old girl and a man in his 30’s not only expressing their love for each other, but forming a relationship, which many viewers will probably find quite creepy.

Shields is great and helps give energy and flair to an otherwise lackluster production. She displays a nice sassy attitude and her facial expressions are amusing. She looks ready to blossom into late adolescence and many times seems to show more acting ability and charisma than her older counterpart.

The supporting cast is good although they appear much too briefly. Unique character actor Severn Darden is on hand who tries to steal Wanda away from Beaudray, but just when his character starts to get interesting they have him killed off. Peter’s dad Henry appears in a cameo looking almost unrecognizable in a long beard and bug-eyed goggles. Brooke’s real-life mother Terri has an amusing scene as a hotel clerk. Fix is also good in what turned out to be his last film.

On the flip side Luke Askew and Ted Markland are boring as the bad guys who chase after Wanda and Beaudray through the canyon. Their comical banter is unfunny and their bumbling ways allows for no tension.

The scenery is gorgeous and if you’ve never made it out west you’ll feel like you have after you’ve seen this. The best views are the bird’s-eye shots of the two rafting down a river. The color is bright and vivid and an overall excellent transfer from MGM’s Limited Edition library.

In some ways this film reminded me of Mackenna’s Gold as both films had a similar plot and both also added in a mystical element at the end. However, like in the other one the special-effects look cheap and hokey. The light pleasing quality is hampered by an otherwise bland execution. Why it was chosen for the setting to be the 1950’s instead of the present day I am not sure as it doesn’t add anything to the plot.

My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: June 10, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 45Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Peter Fonda

Studio: United Artists

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray (Import)