|they misspelled Lynda Carter's name. Well done, person in 1976.|
Format: TCM on DVR
Decade: 1970's - and very much so
Director: Mark L. Lester. Go figure!
So, this came up on Prime, and I'd been meaning to watch it because it starred a pre-Wonder Woman Lynda Carter (reason enough), and then I found out it co-starred Marjoe Gortner, who you may remember from Starcrash. And then the movie started and it said it was directed and produced by Mark L. Lester, and my brain about melted, because he's the guy who brought us one of my favorite movies: Commando.
Here's the thing - I wasn't expecting a ton out of this movie and was pretty sure I wouldn't finish it - but it was... okay? Fine? Nowhere the disaster I was expecting. Like, it's a legit movie trying to do a thing, and it's competent, which I figured it would be when I saw Lester's name attached. Which, honestly, was maybe a little disappointing, because I figured it was going to be terrible enough for a Friday night screening. But, alas, it is not.
Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (1976) is part of the trend of movies that's -frankly - existed since the gangster pictures of the 1930's, but returned in force as stories of misfit individuals railing against normalized society (and winding up on the wrong side of the law). The genre exploded with the counter culture adopting the idea with Cool Hand Luke and Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, and this movie borrows heavily from the latter film.
Bobbie Jo is a car-hop in New Mexico when she meets Lyle Wheeler, a smart but possibly crazy guy who idolizes Billy the Kid. She's had it with her nagging mother and humdrum life, and decides Marjoe Gortner is her ticket out. As one does.
The movie does a pretty good job of bringing the "crime spree" part up a bit later in the movie, letting Bobbie Jo and Lyle find their groove, do some peyote, and get up to basic shennanigans before it becomes clear Lyle stole the very cool muscle car their driving, and he's got no real jobby job. They recruit Bobbie Jo's sister, her boyfriend and a nerdy pal and hit the road, eventually deciding to do some crimes - which Bobbie Jo is *delighted* about. It's all fun and games.
There's a Buford T. Justice cop that goes in hot pursuit (which frankly makes no sense as he'd be leaving his jurisdiction, the FBI is nowhere to be seen, and he winds up accidentally killing a bunch of innocent people - which is never mentioned again).
Anyway, the movie is predictable enough, because it wants to show that an outlaw like Lyle is too good or too much for this world, and Lynda Carter must survive in order to mourn him, gorgeously.
It does feel a bit too reminsicent of Bonnie and Clyde at times, but I'm not entirely sure how you avoid the comparisons when it's two stories of outlaw lovers robbing places and trying to stay ahead of the law in the open spaces of the West. You're gonna face some convergent evolution, even if you never saw Bonnie and Clyde.
Watching the movie does make you wonder: wait, how was Lynda Carter *not* a bigger deal when she hit Hollywood? Famously, she had less than $100 left when she was cast for Wonder Woman and otherwise wasn't finding any work. This film was released in 76', and WW originally aired in 75', and I'm honestly not sure which shot first. Wonder Woman premiered in late 75 and this movie came out in March of 76' and was an indie picture, so could have take a while to get assembled. But before all that, her work is spotty.
Carter can sing, she can dance, she can act, and she - frankly - looks like Lynda Carter. Maybe she didn't have the right mid-70's earthy qualities movies were looking for? She's more old school in her approach than, say, Faye Dunaaway, but it sure *seems* like someone would have been smart enough to work with her. Carter's part here is underwritten - she's mostly there to tell the audience that Lyle is sympathetic and not a sociopath (he is obviously a charistmatic sociopath, but I'm not sure the movie knows this, and thinks he's romantic). But if you're more used to the polished Lynda Carter, it's a kick to see her getting high and playing with guns.
Anyway - for a movie I was expecting to mostly suffer through, it was okay. Maybe not the first thing I'd direct you to, but. Anyway.