Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Outlaw Blues (1977)

An enjoyable blend of redneck mayhem and music-industry satire, this amiable romp stars Peter Fonda as a jailed musician who performs his song “Outlaw Blues” for a country star visiting the big house, then watches in frustration as the star records the song without Fonda’s authorization and scores a hit. When Fonda gets out of prison, he confronts the star—who accidentally shoots his own foot during the resulting scuffle, then blames the injury on Fonda. Suddenly a fugitive, Fonda holes up with a sexy wanna-be music mogul, who makes a recording of Fonda performing “Outlaw Blues.” Soon that recording becomes an even bigger hit than the first one, making Fonda an outlaw and a pop star at the same time. Bill L. Norton’s breezy script delivers a fun premise and several interesting characterizations, even though the movie occasionally gets bogged down in repetitive chase scenes. Whenever the picture focuses on wigged-out Nashville types like the country star (James T. Callahan), the wanna-be mogul (Susan Saint James), and a sleazy label executive (Michael Lerner), it’s a fun travelogue of Fonda’s odyssey through a world with even less morality than prison, and the scenes of Fonda performing are so casual and warm that it’s easy to believe his character’s popularity. The title song is a catchy ditty, further embellishing the authenticity; incidentally, the tune was written by John Oates of Hall and Oates fame. Fonda is his usual laid-back self, letting the storyline do most of the heavy lifting, and Saint James is appealing as a liberated woman who’s still a sucker for a hard-luck case. Those chase scenes (involving boats, cars, and motorcycles) drag on endlessly, but they’re not enough to diminish the film’s low-key charm. (Available at

Outlaw Blues: GROOVY

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