Friday, August 10, 2018


     Marketed as "biker" movie to latch on the then still popular drive-in genre, LITTLE FAUSS AND BIG HALSY is actually less of a motorcycle movie then a road movie/character driven film involving male bonding and friendship of guys that just happen to race motorcycles.  Playing a totally unremorseful a-hole it's probably Robert Redford's best role and thankfully has recently made a long overdue appearance on home video. Directed by the prolific Sidney Furie (DR. BLOOD'S COFFIN), it was written by Charles Eastman (who played bit parts in Monte Hellman's 60's counter-culture westerns RIDE THE WHIRLWIND and THE SHOOTING). Character actor Brad Dexter (the one member of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN that people always forget) was the executive producer. Immediately preceding his big box office hits of the mid/late 70's this film has always been the odd man out on Redford's resume and its frequent showings on TV after he become a big star reportedly rankled him.
    Opening on beautiful long shot of motorcycles racing through a vast expanse of empty desert while Johnny Cash's title song plays over the credits we're introduced to Fauss Little (Michael J. Pollard) and Halsy Knox (Redford) two participants in a motorcycle race. Immediately we're shown the two distinct personalities of the pair as Little clumsily falls over his bike and ends riding in the wrong direction while a bare-chested Redford arrogantly strolls about the track and steals a sandwich from a vendor who happens to be Fauss's mother & father. The parents are a pair of delightful performances by Noah Berry Jr. THE ROCKFORD FILES and Lucille Benson who along her numerous credits played the owner of the roadside zoo in DUEL as you can really picture them being Pollard's parents. 

   Halsey catches the eye of a photographer (ubiquitous TV character actor Ray Ballard) who notices a long scar down Halsy's back which we're shown in a long pov pan shot in close-up. The scar figures into Redford's character in that he gives various stories to its cause and adds to his shifty personality while also adding a touch of sympathy for someone who can never be completely honest. Using his girlfriend (Erin O'Reilly THE BABY 1973) to seduce the photographer the next morning Halsy steals his wallet and camera while sneaking out on the sleeping pair.
    Hooking up with Fauss, Halsy convinces him to go on the road together with Fauss acting as "tuner" or mechanic while Halsy races under Fauss's name as Halsy in banned from racing as we in leaned in an overheard conversation "that's the guy that was boozing it up in the pits". At first the pair seem to bond as Fauss looks up in awe to the womanizing braggart Halsy including an encounter with Linda Gaye Scott (THE PARTY 1968). The pairs journey takes them on what seems like endless miles of barren road with the only other encounter with other people being when they stop to race.
    They meet up with wondering hippie Rita Nebraska (Lauren Hutton in an early role) whose introduced in a long shot as she runs naked through shimmering heatwaves appearing like a mirage to a group of open-mouthed men. Although both men are dismissive of her when she hitches a ride, they both slowly become attracted to her which leads to clashes and Fauss slowly distancing himself from Halsy. Rita while initially coming across as bit spaced out eventually becomes the most mature of the trio while still being attracted to Halsy sees him for what he is while still felling some sympathy for him and at times treating him like a child.

   It's to Redford's credit that he makes Halsy a compelling figure that the audience does feel something toward especially during a couple of his monologues where he relates conflicting stories of his back injury. Michael Pollard is an actor that although always playing basically the same type of character also has that magical quality to quietly steal whatever movie he's in and reportedly Redford and he did not get along on the set.
     A great example of the road movie genre that proliferated during the 70's (starting with 1968's EASY RIDER) LITTLE FAUSS AND BIG HALSY like many those other films is set in the barren landscapes of the American west and with its scenes of dilapidated roadside buildings, seedy highway motels and greasy diners most of which have disappeared that make these films snapshots of a vanishing landscape.
     Long unavailable on any form of home video (I had an old VHS taped from Speedvision that I kept for years) it was only available via bootleg from random TV broadcasts that all but destroyed the widescreen cinematography, it's been released on Blu ray by Olive.


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