Every Which Way But Loose (1978) – James Fargo

When I was a kid, there was just something really fun about Every Which Way But Loose, a film that follows blue-collar Philo (Clint Eastwood) in his pursuit of a country singer, Lynn Halsey-Taylor (Sondra Locke) accompanied by his rescued orangutan, Clyde, his pal, Orville (Geoffrey Lewis) and Orville’s new gal pal, Echo (Beverly D’Angelo). To make money on the side, and fund the pursuit,, Philo bare-knuckle brawls, and he’s good, he could be the next Tank Murdock (Walter Barnes).

A couple minutes into the film, which I don’t think I’d watched since I was kid, Philo is deliberately starting fights with anyone, drinking and driving, committing theft, and more. HE’s a bit of a redneck, loves his country and western scene, and can’t usually take a hint. And he’s our hero.

After a quick romance with Lynn, she ups and leaves with a whole bunch of money he’s gifted her, and he sets off after her. He, in turn, is pursued by a moronic nazi-symbol sporting motorcycle club, and a pair of cops he got into a tussle with at a bar.

Consequently, watching it now, not even Clyde is especially likable. Through it all the story keeps cutting back to Ma (Ruth Gordon, who admittedly is pretty funny in this) who may or may not be Philo or Orville’s mother, though both refer to her as. She spends her time trying to get her licence renewed by finding DMVs that haven’t rejected her yet.

The film did well it enough that it inspired a sequel, Any Which Way You Can.

I like Geoffrey Lewis, and this is the time period when I really got a kick out of Eastwood, culminating with Unforgiven, but I just didn’t care for a single character in this film. It’s all about being a bit of a rebel, ignoring everyone else, and going your own way, following your heart and your own moral compass. Even if both prove to be wrong.

It’s silly, feels overlong, and I honestly don’t get how this was such a big hit with my family when it came out originally, though Clyde probably had something to do with it. The first half of the film is front-loaded with country tunes which sort of vanish for the middle half of the film and make a brief reappearance as the film nears its end. That may add to the film’s lack of balance.

Philo comes to a couple of conclusions by the end of the film, one he has to have beaten into him by Lynn, and for the other, he has to take a beating. I’d like to think he grows from that moment, but I can’t guarantee it because I’ve blocked the sequel from my memory.

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