Little Known Fact: During his time in Los Angeles, Judge Patrick Naugle was Dick Clark's pet monkey.
I'll be a monkey's uncle!
Clint Eastwood has starred with some of Hollywood's great actors and actresses including Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman, Hillary Swank, Burt Reynolds and an orangutan. That's right, I said a mother humpin' orangutan! Book-ending the western Bronco Billy and the prison drama Escape from Alcatraz were Eastwood's comedic monkey movies, 1978's Every Which Way But Loose and 1980's Any Which Way You Can, both available in a double feature package care of Warner Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
In Every Which Way But Loose Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby) plays Philo Beddoe, a local truck driver with a big, hairy friend: Clyde, an orangutan that he won during a gambling spree. Philo's best friend is the gregarious Orville (Geoffrey Lewis, Every Which Way But Loose) and on their off time they fight in local dives and bars for money. While spending some time in one such watering hole Philo meets the attractive Lynn (Sondra Locke), an aspiring country singer with long blonde hair a deep, dark secret. When Lynn suddenly up and disappears from her trailer park one day, Philo realizes he's falling in love and hits the open road in search of what he thinks may be his one true love.
Any Which Way You Can finds Philo and Orville (Eastwood and Lewis again) continuing to make end's meet by taking on local challengers in what some might consider an early version of the "UFC." Philo makes the decision to retire when he realizes he's starting to like the pain a little too much. Enter Jack Wilson (William Smith), a new breed of East Coast boxer whose fighting style incorporates the martial arts. Since Wilson is so effective at taking down his opponents his handlers can't book him in a fight. The decision is made to pit Wilson against the West Coast's best fighter, Philo. To get Philo to agree a group of mafia goons kidnap Philo's lady friend, Lynn (Sondra Locke), and coheres him into fighting Wilson. With the dreaded Black Widow biker gang hot on his trail and a bunch of mafia hit men in the wings, Philo's going to need all his backwoods smarts—as well as the support of the every able Clyde—to outsmart his relatively inept enemies!
Seeing Every Which Way But Loose was like having deja vu; I know I'd seen the movie before (and in the last few years, no less), but had little recollection about its content or story. As the movie lurched forward it felt like recalling a dream—pieces and characters were recognizable, though fuzzy in my memories. Clint Eastwood is certainly not the face you think of when you think of comedy. In fact, I may go so far as to say he's the OPPOSITE of what you see when you think of comedy. Eastwood conjures up thoughts of comedy as often as Adolph Hitler makes you think of Cabbage Patch Kids. And yet, he made two movies with a co-star whose side hobbies include picking grubs off his friends and eating them.
Every Which Way But Loose was released after Eastwood had come off of a string of Spaghetti westerns which reinforced his tough guy image. Legend has it that Eastwood's closest confidants did not think making a movie about a man and an orangutan was a very good idea. When Every Which Way But Loose was released the film was a critical failure but a box office sensation—clearly, people wanted to see the most stoic actor on the planet paling around with a hairy, lippy monkey with bad teeth and an affinity for dressing in women's clothing. They may not have known this at the time, but dammit Warner Brothers was going to give it to them, anyway!
Every Which Way But Loose doesn't involve much of a story as much as a series of events that allow A.) Eastwood to beat people up and B.) Clyde to do whatever it is that monkeys do to make people laugh. It's the kind of movie that opens with a soft rock country song (the film's title, natch) and then proceeds to revel in every '70s movie honky tonk cliché ever created—trailer parks, country music, jealous boyfriends, bar patrons who'll pick a fight with everyone, cheap beer, grizzled and salty old ladies, good ole boy sidekicks and, of course, Clint Eastwood (lest you forget who the star is). Technically speaking, Every Which Way But Loose is just a southern comedy with a monkey in it. The film often plays to the lowest common denominator of comedy (usually a monkey making farting sounds with its mouth) and never attempts to rise above its dumbed down roots.
The actors are serviceable at best but don't really add much to the proceedings, save for character actor Geoffrey Lewis (who can be seen in fare as diverse as Fletch Lives to Rob Zombie's The Devil's Rejects and is the father of actress Juliette Lewis) as Orville, Eastwood's best friend. I've always loved Lewis's laidback, slow drawl delivery—it lends itself to some of the biggest laughs in the film. Sondra Locke was Eastwood's main squeeze on and off the set, before he booted her out in 1989 (which subsequently set off various litigations between the two ex-lovers) and she plays her role with a vacant stare. Eastwood himself is really just a variation on the Eastwood mythology—solid, silent and hard as nails.
Every Which Way But Loose is the kind of movie that features a man commenting on his monkey, "How many times have I told you I don't want him drinking beer except on Saturday nights?" It's the kind of movie where a motorcycle gang wears helmets with bullhorns and look like rejects from a Village People photo shoot. It's a movie where men get into fights simply because it allows the filmmakers to shoot an extended fight sequence with broken bottles and busted chairs. And, for better or for worse, it's a flick that features elderly actress Ruth Gordon firing a shotgun at the bad guys in a hairnet and a bathrobe. If everything I've described sounds like your version of purgatory, it may be in your best interest to skip Every Which Way But Loose. If not, then have at it, ya city slickers!
Due to lack of originality, I don't have a great transition into Any Which Way You Can. Apparently the prevailing theory behind the second film was, "one good Eastwood monkey movie deserves another," and so fans got Any Which Way You Can, which finds many of the principle actors (Eastwood, Locke, Lewis, Gordon) reuniting for more simian shenanigans. Unfortunately, the movie runs out of steam long before it's creaky conclusion. The movie is slow going (unless you find multiple scenes of late '70s honky tonk bar singers 'thrilling') and doesn't have much going for it in the way of narrative plotting. Then again, I don't think moviegoers were really clamoring for sharp stories or character twists when it came to this particular film series.
Once again, the MPV is Geoffrey Lewis as Philo's best pal. Every time Lewis shows up on screen it's to hysterical effect; he's an actor who was made for this kind of movie. Oddly, the joke that got old fastest is Clyde, Philo's orangutan. A new ape was used for this sequel (the previous incarnation of Clyde was deemed too old and cranky), and this poor monkey died only weeks after the film shoot ended. The fact is, a monkey is funny but only in small doses—I don't need to see an ape drinking beer and tearing a car apart more than once a movie. These activities seem to happen on an almost regular basis in Any Which Way You Can to diminished effect.
Silliness abounds. A motorcycle group wears women's wigs, are pulled over and subsequently laughed at by the police. A couple of monkeys get it on in a hotel room which in turn gets the rest of the hotel's patrons horny and excited. I did have one good hearty laugh in Any Which Way You Can. Ruth Gordon romances a hotel manager by smacking him in the jaw and kicking him in the crotch. When he finally comes to he sees Gordon wrapped in a pink shoal in his office and dreams that he's running on a beach. In the next scenes we see a moment from Blake Edwards' 10 as Bo Derek runs towards him. Cut away and back again and it's Ruth Gordon's face superimposed on Derek's body. If only the rest of the movie would have had the conviction to follow through with these kinds of gags it may have transcended itself. Alas, these moments are few and far between (read: almost nonexistent).
Maybe one of the most surprising aspects is that Eastwood agreed to perform in these two films. It's not like he was at the start of his career; he'd already had a successful run as both a director and an actor. Years later, Eastwood would become an award winning filmmaker whose movies plumbed human emotions and provided Eastwood with some of his best on-screen performances (including his alleged acting swan song in the wonderfully gripping Gran Torino). So why make not one but two movies about a man and his monkey?
Your guess is as good as Clyde's.
Both films are presented in 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p resolution. I shrug my shoulders at these two releases—while they are certainly better than their DVD counterparts, they're most certainly catalog titles that leave much to be desired. The images are crisper and cleaner than standard DVD but still retain a heavy amount of grain and some blemishes in the image. There is some light artifacting during the proceedings (most notably in the beginning of the films) but it's never too distracting to the viewing. Fans of the films will certainly be happy with how much better they look (quality wise, there isn't much of a difference between Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can) even if these aren't reference quality transfers.
The soundtrack for Every Which Way But Loose is presented in Dolby True 5.1 in English while Any Which Way You Can is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 in English (as well as Dolby 1.0 French and Spanish). Much like the video presentations, these soundtracks are serviceable but nothing to write home about. Much of the sound mix is located in the center speakers with the rear speakers utilized mainly during the song portions of the films. Dialogue is mostly clearly heard and the effects work—lots of "thumps" and "thuds" from the fighting sequences—register loudly. Also included on this disc are English, French and Spanish subtitles for each film.
The only extra features included on these discs are theatrical trailers for the film. Contrary to Amazon's listing, these movies are spread out on two discs, not one.
If you're a fan of these movies—c'mon, you know who you are—then his double feature is a no-brainer. Personally, I found both of these movies to have scattered moments of amusement and long stretches of tedium. Warner's work on discs is decent if unimpressive.
Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can Cater to a specific audience. If you're it, enjoy!
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