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Sunday 30 July 2023

Burl reviews Any Which Way You Can! (1980)


Ha ha, right turn Clyde, it’s Burl! Yes, I’m here to review one of the good ol’ boy apestravaganzas Clint Eastwood appeared in back in the late 1970s! In fact, the one I’m reviewing for you is not the epic that kicked it all off, Every Which Way But Loose: nope, although I did watch that one a while back (but didn’t review it for some reason), I’m skipping right to the second and final entry in this abbreviated series, Any Which Way You Can!

You might ask “Ha ha, but Burl, aren’t these movies terrible, and why are you wasting precious, precious minutes of life, which is so dear, to watch them?” Your inquiry has merit, and I’ve asked the same questions myself! But while the movies are indeed fairly terrible, they have a hominess to them, along with a little bit of nostalgia, that afford them a certain edge! They have other values as well, which I’ll get to presently!

But first: the plot! No, ha ha, there’s no plot, so I’ll give you the setup and the situation instead! It seems there’s a beer-drinkin’, engine-block haulin’ bare-knuckle fighter, lean mean and taci-tureen, who goes by the name of Philo Beddoe! He has a best pal, Orville (or is Orville his brother?), but an even better pal in his orang-utan roommate Clyde, an inveterate cop-car shitter! A hapless gang of Nazi idiot bikers are constantly after Philo, and are always outwitted by him, which, ha ha, isn’t all that impressive really, since they're dopes! He has an irascible old Ma, and in the first movie he fell for a lady singer named Lynne Halsey-Taylor, who dumped him at the end of it!

In this one, Philo decides to quit bare-knuckle brawling just as some gambler gangsters organize a big-money brawl! They want to pit Philo against their east coast monster Mr. Jack Wilson, played by Big Bill Smith from Fast Company and The Mean Season; but in the meanwhile Philo and Lynne Halsey-Taylor (played again by Sondra Locke from The Shadow of Chikara) have rekindled their romance by playing bohankie in the filthy barn where Clyde dwells, as the fascinated and horny ape watches! Ha ha, yikes! So under the influence of his family and friends, Clint decides to pull out of the fight; the mobsters kidnap Lynne Halsey-Taylor in an attempt to force the issue; Mr. Jack Wilson and Clint become friends while jogging and work together to save Lynne Halsey-Taylor; and then they have a big fight anyway! And, in an ending I did not expect, the Nazi bikers become millionaires!

See, here’s where we come to one of the virtues of this picture, to which I alluded before: the cast! Of course Clint, whom we know so well from Tightrope and Tarantula, is Philo, who is a pretty dopey guy really, and from his facial expressions frequently seems overwhelmed by a mystifying modern world that baffles him at every turn! But he’s a generally amiable dimwit, and he’s backed up by Geoffrey Lewis, familiar from Smile and ‘Salem’s Lot, in the role of Orville, the unscrupulous tow-truck driver who also lives in the compound; and Ruth Gordon from Rosemary’s Baby and The Big Bus is Ma, crotchety old Ma, ha ha!

Familiar faces abound! There’s Bill McKinney from Cannonball, Barry Corbin from My Science Project, Al Ruscio from The Naked Flame and Michael Cavanaugh from Collateral Damage! Plus the cast is filled with stuntmen of course, because the movie was directed by a stuntman, Buddy Van Horn, and so there are plenty of casual stunts to go along with the more obvious and heavily planned stunt gags! And then there are the Quinces, a Midwestern couple recently arrived in California and played by real-life spouses Logan Ramsey from The Beast Within and Anne Ramsey from Deadly Friend! They serve as completely marginal story elements, like living Sergio Aragones drawings, whose coincidental proximity to the ape-fuelled antics at first provides only alarm, but eventually reinvigorates their moribund sex life!

Digressions like this are one reason the picture runs an unconscionable 114 minutes, and musical interludes are another! In addition to the songs sung by Lynne Halsey-Taylor, we get material from both Glen Campbell and, amazingly, Fats Domino, sporting a cowboy hat and singing a country song in a shitkicker bar! And weirdest of all is the opening theme song, a duet by Eastwood and Ray Charles called “Beers to You!”

So there are items of interest salted throughout the picture, but ultimately it’s a pretty dumb good-old-boy comedy: the kind of picture that wildly over-commits to the running gag of an orang-utan befouling police vehicles! As a director, Buddy Van Horn makes an excellent stunt coordinator, and there’s a loose and ramshackle vibe to the whole thing that’s appealing if you’re in the right mood, irritating if you’re not, and in any event loses all value no matter what mood you’re in once the picture is over and you’re trying to remember it later! Ha ha, I give Any Which Way You Can one and a half flying car hoods!