But for years, my experience of the film was simply the soundtrack album and its superb packaging. Don't get me wrong, I don't buy films and albums to get free gifts and posters (very often), but as a teenager looking through an Our Price record sale, I couldn't pass this up. Half price at only £2, this baby was heavy! The shiny silver sticker on the cover (above) listed a booklet and two posters. I'd not seen the film, nor heard the music, but I was very much into posters...
With dialogue from the film between the music tracks, the soundtrack album also tells (and spoils) the story of the film. It would be years before I first saw it on late night TV, but through the album I already appreciated it. I wouldn't know, until recently seeing the 'making of' documentary on DVD, that the director was already big in the music business. He knew how to make the album just as special.
One of the posters folds out to six times the size of the album, again of the painting, but with added lists of handwritten technical details about the bike. For scale, here's a shot of the poster (above) over the album cover and the open booklet.
Because I put this poster up on the wall a couple of times (using blu-tac to fix it), it became stained and was badly ripped when I was taking it down once. It may have become so tatty that I threw it out (would I really do that?), but I'm hoping it's still rolled up somewhere.
As a purchase, it's the most impressive record album packaging I own. As for the music, the mix of folk rock and jazz didn't appeal mostly, but I used to listen to it to try and match up the dialogue with the photos in the booklet. The last track, 'Tell Me', the closing track to the film, is my favourite. It meant much more once I'd finally seen Electra Glide In Blue.
(All images are deliberately imperfect, handheld photographs, rather than scans, in an attempt to prevent them from being resold as images on coffee mugs...)
ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE
John Wintergreen is a short motorbike cop and lives in a spectacular middle-of-nowhere town but yearns to be a big city detective. He decides to investigate a case of his own, when completely disagreeing with the detective in charge. His normal patrols on the road keep pitting him against young people living locally in the desert, or passing through. While his partner wants to rough them up and bust them for drugs, Wintergreen apologises and tries to make amends.
Electra Glide In Blue wants to show a different angle of the police, but flips the opposing sides of Easy Rider so that now the various young hippies are barely represented as characters, and often negatively.
Wintergreen's quest to be a better policeman is also an unlikely portrayal, initially shown as a by-the-book rookie, suddenly gathering his wits, with no interim journey. The clash of characters is well-played, as is the theme of small town dreams and their destruction. A high speed motorbike chase comes out of nowhere, adding a misleading pace to the trailer. But the action is well-staged, reminding me of some of the slow-motion mayhem in Mad Max (1979).
It works best as a movie played at midnight - great to look at, occasionally fraught and violent, but an easy-going story.
I always think that the film inspired the successful TV series CHiPs (1977-1983), also centred on motorcycle patrols and the exciting, glamorous image of the uniform and machine.
I watched the DVD (don't look at the director's introduction if you've not seen the film before - because of spoilers). There's also an interesting documentary, with director James William Guercio pointing out that you can clearly spot a young Nick Nolte among the hippies!
And now there's also Electra Glide in blu-ray! Shout Factory recently released it high definition.
Another view on Electra Glide in Blue from Rupert Pupkin speaks!