Evel Knievel (1971)

The fanfare blares, a procession of motorcycle cops rolls in, and a leather costumed George Hamilton steps out of a limousine to deliver one of the most bombastic introductions in cinema history. There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance leading up to this biopic but like many of Evel Knievel’s stunts, this film fails to stick the landing.

Flashing back and forth between Knievel’s attempt to jump a record-breaking 19 cars and his (ahem) youth in Butte Montana, Evel Knievel doesn’t so much celebrate its subject as mock him. With tongue seemingly planted firmly in cheek, Hamilton sports a black leather jacket, greased-back hair and sunglasses to help convey the teenaged rebel-without-a-clue. So while he may rob a store, blow up City Hall and lead the police of a merry old chase, we know it’s all in good fun because it’s invariably accompanied by George’s goofy grin and a jaunty little song called ‘I Do What I Please’.

 

The only notable difference between these flashback sequences and Knievel’s current stunt is the size of the crowds he attracts. The self-proclaimed King of the Stuntmen remains an immature, egotistical blowhard, chasing his wife with a flyswatter while being worried his legion of fans will tear him apart. Yet not even the delusional Knievel could have imagined some of the dialogue screenwriter John Milius provides him with.

Which pretty much leaves us where we started, a biopic that is the cinematic equivalent of an Evel Knievel stunt. A lot of hot air that sucks you in, maintains your attention (if not your interest), which concludes with a regret that you watched it in the first place.

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George Hamilton
George Hamilton

as Evel Knievel

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Evel Kneivel spun many stories about his past, and after this movie, incorporated some of John Milius’ inventions into his own biography. That being said, he did not blow up Butte's City Hall, but he did brag about blowing up its' courthouse.

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Biopic features footage Knievel’s Caesar Palace jump and his record-breaking jump over 19 cars at the Ontario Motor Speedway in California. 

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