Sunday, June 14, 2020

Outside In (1972)

          The draft-dodger drama Outside In starts off strong—first comes a tense border crossing during which Ollie Wilson (Darrell Larson) sneaks back into the U.S. from Canada, and then comes a funeral, during which Ollie barely evades capture by FBI agents while attending his father’s burial. Alas, the picture shifts into slow gear after the opening salvo, and the sedate quality of the storytelling undercuts the intensity of the subject matter. Still, Outside In is an earnest endeavor, and the fact that it was released three different times during the early ‘70s, each time with a different title, indicates that the picture’s backers recognized something exploitable (beyond costar Heather Menzies’ nude scenes, which are prominently teased on the original poster). For the curious, the picture’s other titles are the blunt Draft Dodger and the incrementally more imaginative Red, White and Busted.
          After his escape from FBI agents at the cemetary, Ollie visits old friend Bink (John Bill), who in turn connects Ollie with Chris (Menzies), the owner of a small beach house at which Ollie is given permission to crash while he’s in LA. Over the course of several leisurely days (or weeks—hard to tell), Ollie contemplates his next move. Weighing heavily on his mind are visits with another old friend, Bernard (Dennis Olivieri), who also dodged the draft but got caught and served time behind bars. Now angry, paranoid, and whacked out on pills, Bernard wastes his time working behind the counter at a porno store. Although Ollie finds his fugitive life depressing, Bernard’s example makes facing legal consequences seem horrific. Predictably, Ollie falls in love with Chris, who’s so mellow that she wanders around the house naked and reacts gracefully once she learns the truth about Ollie’s situation.
          Outside In ambles from one adequate scene to the next, losing what little momentum it has during flat romantic passages, and it feels as if some of the most potentially interesting scenes were never even contemplated by the filmmakers, much less attempted. Where’s the big confrontation between Ollie and his mother? And why did the filmmakers bother establishing friction between Ollie and his callous uncle, seeing as how that subplot never goes anywhere? Oh, well. The best material is the stuff with Bernard, because those scenes hit the main theme effectively—and because Oliveri’s performance is as fiery as Larsons is muted. FYI, many sources list character actor G.D. Spradlin as co-director of this picture, but his name appears nowhere on the credits. It’s possible that confusion arose because the same year this picture was released, Spradlin directed something called The Only Way Home, which shares a writer with Outside In.

Outside In: FUNKY