Every Which Way But Loose
I want an orangutan now.
Did you ever find a film that you think you’ve seen but actually haven’t? Usually an older flick, one that might crop up on late-night TV, or a Bank Holiday afternoon. Well about a month or so ago I stumbled across a few minutes in the middle of Every Which Way But Loose. Everybody knows it’s the one with Clyde but, watching Ruth Gordon blasting away at a gang of bikers on her lawn with a shotgun, I suddenly realised that I had seen this scene a hundred times but had no idea what was going on. I had never seen the whole film! That thought filled me with a momentary dread, and I went out the next day and bought it and the sequel on DVD – by the way, I haven’t seen Any Which Way You Can yet either. Can you guess what tomorrow’s column will be about? – and now, thanks to this grand scheme, I have an excuse to bask in a couple of hours of Clint at the height of his manliness and then share that with you.
For anyone in the same boat as me, Clint plays Philo Beddoe, an occasional truck driver and mechanic who makes most of his money from bare-knuckle boxing. He lives with his friend and promoter Orville, played by Geoffrey Lewis, and Orville’s Ma: the aforementioned shotgun-toter herself, Ruth Gordon. I suppose technically he lives in Orville’s garage, but he has company. That company is the living legend that is Clyde the orang-utan. So one night Clint is out at his local Country & Western bar and he meets a young singer named Lynn Halsey-Taylor, from Ohio. Lynn and Philo go out a few times and are getting on like a house on fire. Suddenly, Lynn takes off with her supposedly controlling manager. The fact this happens right after Philo gives her a load of cash to buy her way out from the manager is entirely coincidental. Of course, Philo assumes she’s gone against her wishes and he, along with Orville and Clyde, goes after her, themselves being chased by the world’s most ineffectual Nazi biker gang (with a rapidly dwindling supply of bikes) and a pair of cops that Philo beat up in a bar fight! Hilarity ensues.
WARNING! Cap’n Spoiler says: “Yarrgh! Here be spoilers, yarrrgh”*
Where was I? Oh yeah. Is this the first time Clint played such a softy? Yes, I know he’s a bare-knuckle fighter, but for a bare-knuckle fighter he’s a bit of a big girl’s blouse. I mean he follows this girl he barely knows halfway across the country and continues to chase her even after she stands him up and tries several times to drive away from him. Take the hint, man! Although I suppose if he knew from the start that Lynn was such a horrible person he might not have been so eager. It would have made for a much shorter flick though.
The way he handles the fight against Tank Murdoch at the end also shows a depth of character in Philo that has barely been hinted at up to that point. Seeing the way the crowd turn on their exalted champ when Philo’s winning, he realises that one day the same will happen to him. Dropping his guard, he lets Tank get one good shot in and goes down. He goes home poorer, but satisfied with his anonymity. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, I suppose. All things considered, Philo is one of Clint’s most instantly likeable roles. Sondra Locke, who plays Lynn, was Clint’s real-life squeeze at the time which does make you wonder about the strength of their relationship off screen. They did manage another three movies together after this one though.
Cap’n Spoiler says: “Yarrgh! Spoilers be gone, yarrrgh”
This is one of those great knockabout action comedy flicks that the late 70s/early 80s were so good at, like Smokey and the Bandit and Convoy. The fights in particular are fantastic fun. There are a lot of handheld and even POV shots so it feels like you’re the one getting punched sometimes. As much as I love Eastwood and Lewis however, I reckon this could have worked just as well with, say, Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reid. I have decided I am going to try and mention Jerry Reid as many times as possible in these posts. I hope you don’t mind.
*Yes, I have made my spoiler warning into a pirate. Life can be so dull without a bit of whimsy once in a while.