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Electra Glide In Blue (1973) James William Guercio, film locations
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1973 Electra Glide In Blue Film Locations
A short Arizona motorcycle cop gets his wish and is promoted to Homicide following the mysterious murder of a hermit. He is forced to confront his illusions about himself and those around him in order to solve the case, eventually returning to solitude in the desert.
Director: James William Guercio.
Writers: Robert Boris (screenplay), Robert Boris (story)
Stars: Robert Blake, Billy Green Bush, Mitchell Ryan.
Cult biker/cop movie (the only movie from James William Guercio, the manager of rock band Chicago – he wrote the music for the film too), beautifully photographed by Conrad Hall (who had recently completed Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and went on to shoot American Beauty).
With the a sympathetic cop, John Wintergreen (Robert Blake) as lead character, taking aim at a still of Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda on the police firing range, the movie seems like a riposte to Easy Rider, and was roundly dismissed as ‘fascist’ at Cannes. Yet the police rejected the script and there was little, if any, help from the police department.
In the end, it was filmed largely guerilla-style, without permits, on the roads of Arizona around Phoenix and Carefree, to the north.
John demonstrates his integrity handing out a speeding ticket to the smooth LA detective on Cave Creek Road, south of East Carefree Highway, a couple of miles southwest of Carefree itself. The bar scene, after the cops hassle the hippies in the van, was filmed at Harold’s Cave Creek Corral, 6895 East Cave Creek Road, which is still going strong.
The ice cream truck, where John tries to chat up the two girls, is on Shea Boulevard Scenic Overlook, Fountain Hills, east of Scottsdale.
A few miles further east, Zipper (Billy Green Bush) plants dope on a hippy at North Bush Highway, east of Salt River.
The bike chase was a late addition, filmed months after the film had wrapped, around Victorville in the Mojave Desert, California.
The famously haunting final shot, with the buttes and mesas of Monument Valley on the horizon, was filmed on US163 Scenic, about 20 miles north of Kayenta.
This film was inspired by a real incident, which occurred on December 28, 1970, in Arizona. A Phoenix Police Motorcycle officer was shot off his motorcycle and killed by a man firing from the back window of a stolen camper. The murdered officer was Patrolman Albert Bluhm. The killer, who later confessed, was James D. Parle. Phoenix Police Motorcycle officer Dale Stone died in an accident responding to Officer Bluhms Emergency call.
First-time director James William Guercio wanted the great Conrad L. Hall to photograph this film, but Hall’s salary was more than was budgeted for a cinematographer. Guercio reduced his own salary to one dollar so he could secure Hall as the cinematographer.
Peter Cetera, bassist and lead vocalist for the group Chicago, plays a character named "Bob Zemko". A character named "The Beard" is played by an actor whose real name is Bob Zemko. The real Zemko was a Chicago truck driver who became famous in that city in 1969 when he saved a teenage girl from an attacker and later prevented a gang of thugs from murdering a man in the street. He died a year after making this film, which was his only movie role.
The cover for the soundtrack album consists of one large picture, showing seven tall highway patrolmen standing in a line and a short one (Robert Blake)l in the middle of them. Exactly the same picture is hanging on the wall of the office of Capt. Frank Furillo (Daniel J. Travanti) in the TV series Hill Street Blues (1981).
Debut theatrical feature film of James William Guercio. This picture is the only ever movie Guercio has ever made and as such is his first, final and only ever feature film (to date, March 2014). Guercio performed a number of roles on the film: Guercio was the producer, the director and the composer.
The movie’s title refers to the "Electra Glide" police motorbike that give’s the film its Electra Glide in Blue (1973) title. The "In Blue" phrase of the film’s title is a reference to the police force (policemen wear blue uniforms). The title of the movie is also a reference to the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide series motorcycles ridden by Patrolman John Wintergreen (Robert Blake) and his partner Zipper (Billy Green Bush). During the 1970s and 1980s the Electra Glide was in fact a staple of police departments both in the US and abroad. The make and models seen in the film according to the IMCDb are 1970 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motor-bikes.
Director James William Guercio has only ever directed one feature film – this movie. Reportedly, First Artists and Warner Bros. later hired Guercio to direct the Steve McQueen western Tom Horn (1980), but Guercio allegedly got fired one week into production.
John Wintergreen (Robert Blake) carries an unusual-looking sidearm. It is actually a standard Colt Python .357 magnum with a four-inch barrel, a popular police weapon in the 1970s. Wintergreen’s weapon, however, sports an unusual two-tone finish, in which the frame is blued but the cylinder and barrel are nickel-plated. This was a sort of fad in the 1970s called a Pinto finish. It was offered as a custom option in many gun stores at that time.
First of two consecutive movies where actor Robert Blake portrayed a police officer. Blake, who plays motorcycle cop John Wintergreen in this 1973 movie, also played a policeman, Vice Detective Patrick Farrel, in his next picture, 1974’s Busting (1974).
The rough cut of this picture ran for around three and a half hours.
The motorcycle chase sequence was shot over five days in Victorville, California months after principal photography had already been completed.
This early-mid 1970s film is considered to be a "cult movie".
Three-quarters of the film had been shot and completed by late February / early March 1973.
The film was selected to screen in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973 where the picture was generally disliked intensely by film critics. On the DVD, director James William Guercio says that the Cannes reception had the film being interpreted as being a "fascist" film.
James William Guercio only became attached to the film just ten days before principal photography was to commence. Guercio received a phone call from United Artists executive David Picker who asked him if he would like to make a film.
When Zipper (Billy Green Bush) holds a tree stump over John Wintergreen (Robert Blake)’s head, actor Blake says he was genuinely concerned for his safety when this scene was being shot.
The painting on the screen door of Zipper (Billy Green Bush’s trailer is actually a self-portrait of Bush painted by him.
Because of his appearance in this movie lead actor Robert Blake got offered the hit TV series Baretta (1975).
Lead actor Robert Blake disliked the movie’s Electra Glide in Blue (1973) title and preferred the picture to have been instead called "Chopper Copper".
The picture’s exteriors were filmed by director James William Guercio with a Fordian aesthetic and as a homage to the legendary American film director John Ford.
The rendition of the Stephen Foster’s popular American song "Gentle Annie" heard during the film’s opening sequence was taken directly from the sound-track of John Ford’s classic 1939 western Stagecoach (1939).
The credo and philosophy of young Arizona motorcycle cop John Wintergreen (Robert Blake) was: "The most noble thing that a person can do is to do the best he can wherever society places him".
Publicity for this picture reported that James William Guercio edited the film at his Cariobou ranch in Colorado – but Guercio is not credited as an editor on the movie.
A rough cut of the picture was completed by July 1973.
James William Guercio once said of this film for the movie’s original theatrical release publicity: "Electra Glide in Blue (1973) was going to be the film where I learned how film was made".
The Scottsdale, Arizona Police Department disliked the film’s screenplay by Robert Boris and Rupert Hitzig and disallowed filming permits because of this.
Due to the limited budget many friends and family relatives of the cast and crew appear in bit roles in the picture.
The film was made and released about eight years after the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorcycle was first introduced in 1965. This make and model was notable for being the first ever big Harley motor-bike to have an electronic push-button starter.
According to James William Guercio’s DVD commentary, the majority of the movie was filmed without government permits because the Arizona State Police did not want to co-operate with the production of the film.
Director James William Guercio and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall disagreed about the look of the film. A settlement was reached. Guercio, having grown-up and been influenced by the films of John Ford, wished to shoot the exteriors with such a Fordian aesthetic. In return, Hall could should the interiors any way he liked.
The movie is entirely in color bar except for the last few minutes where the film dissolves into black-and-white.
This 1973 movie and the previous 1972 year’s Dirty Little Billy (1972) represent the first ever on-screen cinema movie appearances (both uncredited) of actor Nick Nolte. Reportedly, according to director James William Guercio on the DVD, Guercio wanted to give Nolte a speaking part in this film, but said the production had run out money.
The film was originally going to be shot around the environs Phoenix, Arizona but director James William Guercio changed this to the regions around Carefree in the same American state.
Some of the colorful character names featured in the film’s cast included Zipper, Pig Man, Loose Lips and The Beard.
Both the director James William Guercio’s wife Lucy Angle Guercio and the cinematographer Conrad L. Hall’s daughter Kate Hall both appeared in the film in bit parts as an ice cream girl and a child (uncredited) respectively.
United Artists executives visited the set and complained that director James William Guercio was ten days behind in the shooting schedule. To resolve this problem, Guercio ripped out ten pages of the script, dropping the whole romantic subplot between Zemko and the hippie girl character played by Melissa Greene. Reportedly, Guercio then told the UA execs words to the effect of: "There we are. Now we are on schedule!".
Composer James William Guercio recorded the music score bar the title track for the film in just the one day and conducted a sixty piece orchestra to achieve this.
Producer-director-composer James William Guercio used to be producer and manager for the popular rock band Chicago as well as being a some-time songwriter for them. Guercio produced the group’s first eleven albums. The band’s song "Tell Me" plays over the film’s closing credits. Several members of Chicago are featured as hippies in the film. Peter Cetera plays "Bob Zemko", Terry Kath is "Killer", Lee Loughnane is "Pig Man" and Walter Parazaider plays "Loose Lips".
Robert Blake has claimed in interviews that the film was mostly directed by himself and cinematographer Conrad L. Hall due to first-time director James William Guercio’s inexperience.
The movie was made and released about four years after Easy Rider (1969). That movie featured two hippies crossing America on motor-bikes. Electra Glide in Blue (1973) is considered to be a form of motor-cycle cop version of Easy Rider (1969) with a poster from that earlier movie classic even displayed in one scene in this film.
The amount of money that went missing in the film’s storyline totaled to US 00.
The part of the shoot which shot in Monument Valley commenced late March 1973.
The two minute concert sequence seen in the film featuring the band "Madura" was filmed in mid-April 1973 in Tucson, Arizona.
Cameo Nick Nolte: Uncredited, as a hippie. Nolte can be seen briefly in a crowd scene at the commune.