Friday, April 3, 2009

aloha, bobby and rose (1975, Floyd Mutrux)

Floyd Mutrux's second directorial effort finds the filmmaker's affinity for car culture, rock music, and radio in full bloom. Unfortunately, all of these elements are in the service of a rather conventional "doomed lovers" narrative.  Where Mutrux used the voices of night time rock d.j.s to profound, haunting effect in the docudrama Dusty and Sweets McGee, here the incorporation of radio is perfunctory and its impact is weakened by the fact that it's there simply to parrot back the cliches of the central romance.  

Paul LeMat, fresh off a successful debut in American Graffiti, stars as Bobby, a gas station mechanic with no prospects for a brighter future.  Dianne Hull is Rose, a young, single mother who falls for Bobby.  Bobby and Rose fall in love after one night together, but their happiness is ruined when they become involved in a tragic accident and take to the road to escape the authorities.  Neither character is very memorable or compelling, but LeMat and Hull do the best they can. Truth be told, Bobby and Rose are really pretty stupid, a point which Vincent Canby drove home in his review.  While Mutrux's central figures and story are lacking, the movie is of interest for its soundtrack (Elton John dominates), '70s Los Angeles locales, and supporting cast (Tim McIntire, Robert Carradine, Edward James Olmos).  Mutrux again benefits from the presence of top drawer d.p. William A. Fraker, who I can only imagine is a good friend and who shot every one of Mutrux's films.  

The movie comes alive for about twenty minutes when Tim McIntire's big, blustery Texan enters the picture.  McIntire's larger-than-life persona, which Mutrux would utilize to its fullest in his subsequent American Hot Wax, is a real breath of fresh air and just about steals the film from the leads.  McIntire plays a former football player who befriends Bobby and Rose after they flee Los Angeles.  He and his wife (Leigh French) take the young lovers south of the border to Tijuana where McIntire buys a flashy new suit, treats everyone to dinner, gets in a fight with nearly every other gringo he encounters, and pisses in the car of one such yokel, who McIntire refers to as "shit for brains."  Sadly, McIntire died way too young in 1986 of heart failure.  He was 41 and the son of actors John McIntire and Jeanette Nolan.  He left us with a superb performance as Alan Freed in American Hot Wax and fine work in films such as this one, Fast-Walking, The Gumball Rally, A Boy and his Dog, and Brubaker.

Back to Bobby and Rose, there are a few great moments within its disappointing package.  At the top of the list is an extended night car ride down Sunset Boulevard in which Bobby and Rose listen to KKDJ 102.7 radio personality Humble Harv introduce Junior Walker's "What Does It Take to Win Your Love." Mutrux and Fraker pay tribute to the many rock billboards, clubs, theaters, and music stores that dot the route.  It's really a unique way to mark the time and place.  As someone who always gets a kick out of pop culture references within films, this scene was a real treat and shows us where Mutrux's heart is. Bring on American Hot Wax...please.

“I’ve scored all my films to the car radio, because I believe rock & roll is a fervent, infinitely powerful force. It brought down the Berlin Wall." - Floyd Mutrux


kevin said...

I thought that the script and story were a bit pedestrian as well, but this film is so well photographed. I loved it. I was willing to forgive it's shortcomings and take it for what it is: a vivid snapshot of an era and place that is gone. Plus, I really like the actors quite a bit.

Ned Merrill said...


Thanks...I appreciate your comment. I agree with your assessment that it is a "vivid snapshot" of a distant era. I also like Paul LeMat quite a bit. Never saw Dianne Hull in much of anything else. McIntire was a top-drawer talent who was lost way too early.

Timmy said...

KKDJ/FM, it's shotgun jingle and DJ Humble Harve are heard through out the 1975 movie Aloha Bobby and Rose as they cruise the streets and highways of Los Angeles and southern California.
In 1971 KRHM/FM changed its call letters to KKDJ and followed with a Top 40 format that lasted until 1975. At the time am station 93 KHJ was dominant and KKDJ split the FM top 40 audience with KIQQ, known as K-100, denying both FM station the success of 93 KHJ, which many consider to be one of the great top 40 stations of all time.

Dean Treadway said...

Tim McGraw is the standout in the film, which plays a little better at the drive-in on a double bill with MACON COUNTY LINE. Love the frame grabs of 70s LA!

Ned Merrill said...


Indeed, Tim McIntire is THE MAN in this film as he also in Mutrux' AMERICAN HOT WAX and FAST WALKING. He also voiced the dog in A BOY AND HIS DOG and wrote the soundtrack along with that of JEREMIAH JOHNSON. Sadly, his parents, actors John McIntire and Jeanette Nolan outlived him by many years. McIntire, like Warren Oates, was a too-young casualty of drink / drugs and hard livin'.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good music and a little bit of love. Cool Camero, too. Takes a dramatic twist so it's different than American Graffiti.