Weekend music movies: Cisco Pike | Bleader

Weekend music movies: Cisco Pike

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I have a taste for underappreciated films, abetted by a couple of generous movie-geek friends, who keep me set up with a steady stream of DVD-Rs containing digital rips of all sorts of weird stuff: foreign horror movies, bizarro documentaries, backwater knockoffs of Hollywood blockbusters, old Sabbath concert movies. Lately our long-running shared interest in hippie exploitation flicks has led us, strangely enough, to the products of a brief love affair between the American film industry (at least some of the lower-budgeted rungs of it) and country music.

The best of these hippie-tinged countrysploitation movies star Kris Kristofferson, and the best I've seen of them is Cisco Pike. Kristofferson plays the title character, a struggling country singer-songwriter whose attempts to break into the music biz were derailed by a brief stint in prison after he was busted for the apparently legendary weed-selling operation he'd been using to fund his career. Fresh out of jail, Pike has vowed to ride clean, but his plan's quickly derailed by a dirty cop (a young, manic Gene Hackman) who blackmails him into selling off the evidence in a huge pot bust that he's decided to convert into a retirement package.

Though Hackman is the best (as per usual), the main plot is about the least fascinating part of the whole movie. What makes it worth seeing is Kris Kristofferson in full hippie-hipster mode, exchanging slang-heavy drug talk and wisecracks with a spectrum of countercultural types, including stoner-country legend Doug Sahm and Harry Dean Stanton, who plays Pike's doomed songwriting partner. The soundtrack draws heavily from Kristofferson's 1971 album The Silver Tongued Devil and I, which even before I encountered the movie had become one of my favorite rediscoveries this year. The film also contains a couple of gorgeous live performances, including this duet between Kristofferson and Karen Black, who plays his girlfriend:

According to Wikipedia, Cisco Pike has had a legitimate DVD release in the states. I'm sure crafty movie-downloading types might know how to find it in other formats.

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