I'm currently taking a Clint Eastwood course at UT Austin, and we recently watched this movie.
And its a bit confusing. I'm not sure what to make of this fun, wacky, and somewhat random movie. Eastwood himself seems to strive and always aims for ambiguity in his work. And it shows here.
There were a lot of dumb ass critics in the 60's and 70's that liked to bash Eastwood and used the popular buzzword of fascist and labeled him as such. So in response, Eastwood was very particular about what he did afterward and would do things that contradict (in the eyes of critics) his previous work or characters. This of course confused critics and ultimately forced them to look at his work again and see that they were being dumb ass idiots and were just going along with the popular liberal clap trap at the time.
So we have this movie, in which Eastwood is this hillbilly mechanic and competent street fighter and his adventures with his orangutan (not a monkey Afsheen, they have 12 ribs like us). And its this almost really weird PG comedy. It has these sort of random plots and events that are kind of incorporated into the story and well, not really sure how I can best put it into words, but its just fun. It shows that Eastwood can do this wacky road, comedy.
But it has some surprisingly dramatic moments as well. The audience is well aware of the Sandra Locke's characters true intentions before Eastwood's Philo. And when he does figure it out, its pretty brutal. And I really bought into that emotional confrontation and Philo's reaction. And then Eastwood throws a fight, and in some ways its bleak. But in other ways it isn't. Philo I think found a little bit about himself and learned who his true friends are, people like Clyde and Orville, and Orville's girl Echo(a young Beverly D'Angelo).
The character of Tank Murdoch I believe is meant as an allegory to Clint Eastwood and his celebrity status, his celebrity and his star persona. Philo wants to challenge Murdoch and beat him. Murdoch is a guy who everyone knows and has this huge reputation. And then Philo sees Murdoch who's really pretty sad. His friends turn on him and aren't real friends, and he realizes he doesn't want to be Tank Murdoch. And he doesn't want other people gunning for him. So at the end of the movie, it almost feels like it was Eastwood REJECTING his own star persona and choosing to stay in obscurity with his friends. Makes me wonder how Eastwood truly feels about his celebrity status.
Jeffrey "The Vile One" Harris