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.