Movie review: ‘Every Which Way But Loose’

ewwblIt goes without saying that Clint Eastwood is a screen legend. From the spaghetti westerns to “Dirty Harry” (click here for my review) and following in the decades later on to a string of critically acclaimed and Oscar efforts, Eastwood as an actor or from the director’s chair is always watchable and, most importantly for studios, bankable. “Every Which Way But Loose” is one of his popular efforts of the 1970s but it is truly one of his cheesiest and cheapest-looking efforts. Its sequel, “Any Which Way You Can,” is one of those rare follow-ups that is actually better than the original. So, that alone is enough to be said about just how bad you’ll find “Every Which Way But Loose.” Besides, any film with an ape as a sidekick (pardon me, an orangutan here) has simply no chance of being good – with maybe “Tarzan” as an exception.

‘Every Which Way But Loose’
(1978; 114 minutes; rated PG; directed by James Fargo and starring Clint Eastwood, Sondra Locke and Geoffrey Lewis)

THIS ONE IS BAD … REALLY, REALLY BAD

Every Which Way But Loose” is nothing more than simply bad. Really, really bad. The acting is even more wooden than some Clint Eastwood efforts, but everything about it is cheesy – from the script to the production to the cinematography. I’d like to put some blame on the actors, but there are two good efforts here and the rest obviously couldn’t overcome a deficient script and a lack of competent direction.

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I believe the biggest sin among many in “Every Which Way But Loose” is how many times Ruth Gordon says, “Godd—.” I know this Clint Eastwood movie was trying to show an irascible old lady, but, jeeze, you didn’t need her to spout this word all the time. Since it was the 1970s, I guess they didn’t dare have her drop F-bombs. Gordon does a great job with her character (and reprised it in the sequel) but she didn’t have to have that word in a majority of her scenes.

The only other bright spot in this TV-movie lookalike is the motorcycle gang that’s pursuing Eastwood. The leader, John Quade as “Cholla,” does a great job with nothing from the screenplay and manages to be the equal as a leader of idiots (and as an actor) as Harvey Lembeck playing “Eric Von Zipper” in “Beach Party” (click here for my review) and other beach films of the 1960s. Quade’s work here has to be one of the most underrated and under-valued roles you’ll find.

In “Every Which Way But Loose” Eastwood is “Philo Beddoe,” a truck driver who moonlights doing bare-knuckles fights for money. He falls for a woman, Sondra Locke as “Lynn Halsey-Taylor,” but she’s really out to scam him (and any other man who comes along and falls for her). Once he finds out, Eastwood sets off in pursuit of her. At the same time both a motorcycle gang (a group of incompetents called the “Black Widows”) and a couple of cops are after him. The gang members because they’re looking for revenge and the cops for the same thing except it is in retaliation for Eastwood cleaning their clocks in a bar fight.

Oh, and Eastwood has an orangutan called “Clyde” as a sidekick – and that’s all you need to know about the film. Another thing decent about the film is the country and western music theme throughout. I’m not a fan of C&W, but it is handled nicely here (especially in one bar fight where a singer hits someone with his guitar and casually picks up another as he continues to sing).

Every Which Way But Loose” fails completely when Eastwood winds up smacking one of the cops with a fish (no, I won’t explain it here) and then, since he’s in a wooded area, bellows like Tarzan. Of course, I’m not making this one up. It is truly the lowest of low points in Eastwood’s cinematic history because of its complete second-rate cheesiness.

Here’s a look at some of the primary cast members:

  • Eastwood gives an average performance here. He’s good – he just cannot avoid being good. However, there isn’t the emotion you’ll find in either “The Outlaw Josey Wales” (click here for my review) or “Unforgiven,” and he’s a bit of a fish out of water in this effort. Some call it a comedy, but I didn’t laugh and whatever passes for comedy isn’t very good. If you want to see Eastwood do much better, check out “Play Misty for Me.”
  • Locke isn’t a good actor here. Actually, I don’t believe she is a good actor in any film. Locke approaches competence when she gets mad, but that’s about it. She was better (I’d say competent, but she was not good) in “Sudden Impact” with Clint. To complicate matters, Locke didn’t have enough to work with here even if she was able.
  • The actor I like best is Quade. He’s just having a lot of fun being the motorcycle gang leader and handles it with such verve that you look forward to his next scene because you know you’ll smile. Quade knows how to be resigned to his gang’s general incompetence and somehow convinces you he is a cut above his minions. Quade was in several Eastwood films, including “Josey Wales” and “High Plains Drifter,” as well as “The Sting” and “Papillon.” He died at 79 in 2009 of a heart attack.
  • Geoffrey Lewis plays “Orville Boggs,” who is Eastwood’s human sidekick. Lewis does an acceptable job because he doesn’t do a truly bad job and manages to be the somewhat foundation of the film. He doesn’t pop his character out at the audience, but he doesn’t embarrass himself, either. Lewis was also in the excellent TV vampire movie “Salem’s Lot” (click here for my review) as “Pink Cadillac” with Eastwood. He had 220 acting credits in a six-decade career. Lewis died this past April of a heart attack at the age of 79.
  • The missed opportunity here is by having a young(ish) Beverly D’Angelo as “Echo,” who becomes Lewis’ girlfriend. D’Angelo, in only her third film here at 26 during filming, is open and eager, but doesn’t do much with a character that isn’t developed very well in the script. However, she’s fun and shows some spunk when she saves the guys after a fight with her gun that she packs in her purse. D’Angelo was in “National Lampoon’s Vacation” franchise (click here for my review of “Christmas Vacation”) and I liked her in “Maid to Order” (click here for my review).
  • Oscar winner Gordon (for “Rosemary’s Baby”) is as good as Quade here. He does the angry, bitter old lady part really well. Gordon is more than profane and has wonderful run-ins with all the people trying to find Eastwood in the movie. I liked her best in “Harold and Maude” and, despite a career beginning in 1915, had only 42 acting credits. She died after a stroke in 1985 at the age of 88.
  • Gregory Walcott plays “Putnam,” the cop who Eastwood punches out in both a bar and at a lake. Walcott, who’s pretty much wooden in his acting, was used to getting punched out by Clint. Walcott, who was tall at 6-foot-4, was beaten by Eastwood in “The Eiger Sanction” and was also with him in “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” and had a career of a variety of roles on TV (even “Eight is Enough”) and movies such as “The Sugarland Express.” Walcott died this past March at 87.

I’d like to mention a few of the motorcycle gang members, but they’re not that good and I don’t have the time.

Wiki notes that “the script, written by Jeremy Joe Kronsberg, had been turned down by many other big production companies in Hollywood.” It’s too bad that Eastwood didn’t pass on it, but with it ringing the cash register for a major profit, I can’t fault him too much for doing it (of course, it’s still a crappy film … but, whatever).

Every Which Way But Loose” was the fourth-ranked film at theaters in 1978 with $85.1 million, according to Wiki. The same source notes that “Every Which Way But Loose” was made on a $5 million budget. The No. 1 film of the year was “Grease” with $159.9 million. My favorite comedy film of the year was “Hooper” with Burt Reynolds (No. 6 with $78 million – click here for my review) and the hands-down best drama was “The Deer Hunter.”

Here are some of my reviews of other films from that year:

Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):

  • Gordon’s character in “Every Which Way But Loose” is only called “Ma,” but you know she’s Lewis’ mother (so she’s also “Mrs. Boggs”) and you find out her full name in the sequel: “Zenobia Boggs.”
  • The script was originally intended for Burt Reynolds – and I’d have to say that I think he would have been a better choice for this kind of film.
  • The third of six films with Eastwood and then-squeeze Locke.
  • Eastwood and Locke began a relationship in 1975 while filming “Josey Wales” and it lasted 14 years even though she remained married to her gay husband, according to Wiki.
  • Click here for IMDb.com’s extensive trivia page about the film.
  • Directly from IMDb.com: “Clint Eastwood‘s boxing coach for the film was Al Silvani, who used to train Jake LaMotta, and had recently prepared Sylvester Stallone for Rocky (1976).”

© Chuck Curry and A Gator in Naples, 2015.
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One comment

  1. Every which way but loose is a classic road trip comedy .you are picking it apart too much.it’s slob humour.sit back and enjoy..right turn Clyde …lol

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