Cisco Pike (2005) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

We had some non-disagreement on this film which appeared to be a disagreement because of our radically different expectations. We both found the film mediocre, but Tuna expected to enjoy it immensely and found it disappointingly mediocre, while Scoop expected to despise it and found it gratifyingly mediocre.

Tuna's notes in white

Cisco Pike (Kris Kristofferson) was a rock star who lost everything due to drugs. Pike is hoping to make a comeback in the music industry with his estranged partner Jessie (Harry Dean Stanton), but all of that is on hold as he awaits trial on a second drug dealing charge. Out of nowhere, the narc who busted him twice (Gene Hackman) coerces him into dealing more drugs! The narc gives Cisco gets 100 bricks of high quality evidence pot, which Cisco must turn into at least $10,000 to be given to the narc after one long weekend. In return, the narc will make Cisco's current drug charges go away and will allow him to keep anything he can raise in excess of the $10,000. (The theoretical street value is at least $20,000, at the minimum price of $200 per kilo.) Of course, things do not go smoothly as we watch him trying to unload all of the pot.

IMDb lists the film as a drama. I would say more drama/comedy. It rather accurately depicts the "hippie generation" nearing the end of the 60s, when many were in legal trouble, and many had fallen from fame to poverty. The narc is also very believable. I, for instance, knew of one police detective who was the biggest fence in Southern California.

This 1972 film marked the acting debut of Kris Kristofferson, and the sound track was a real treat for me. It featured four Kristofferson songs, and a theme written and recorded by the blues harp master, Sonny Terry. It is also a film set in a period and an area I am well acquainted with, the early 70's (read 60s) in Venice, California. That's three reasons why I should adore this film. Add a topless performance from Karen Black as his old lady, and Gene Hackman as corrupt cop/villain, and it sounds like it was custom-made for me. However .. I found the film terribly dated, and not that enjoyable. It didn't offer any insight into the times, and seemed like yesterday's news.



  • The widescreen transfer is anamorphically enhanced for 16x9 screens
  • No significant features. No commentary even though the three main actors and



Karen Black does a lengthy topless scene in good light.

Joy Bang show one breast for about three frames, under Kristofferson's arm, and quite far from the camera.

Scoop's notes in yellow

My overall appraisal of this film tops out near the same level as Tuna's, but I reached a radically different conclusion about how the film got to that point. When I saw this movie in 1972 (yes, I was the one) I thought it was just another rambling, drug-addled cinema verite movie which attempted to ride on the Easy Rider bandwagon with a deliberately casual hand-held aesthetic and various other similarities to the Fonda/Hopper box office phenomenon.

Let's see. Pretty cool drug dealer with a conscience. He's not really a "hero" but a classic late-60s/early-70s antihero. He wanders around making deals, but is really hoping to get out of dealing. He spends a lot of time driving around wordlessly while complete songs play on the soundtrack, creating trite "mood footage." He has a buddy who is not as cool and, in fact, is kind of wasted and pathetic. They meander from place to place, pick up two hot chicks and have drug-distorted adventures. Karen Black is on hand. Cops are mean pigs. Along the way, the dealer loses one of his companions to 70s Death Syndrome, a disease which had two variants, either OD or KBR (killed by rednecks). The whole thing leads up to a wildly melodramatic guns-blazing climax.

Now which movie was I just writing about, Easy Rider or Cisco Pike?

When this film came out it was a complete failure. It just seemed to consist of a bunch of stock 1972 characters running around doing the usual stuff they did in all counter-culture movies. It didn't provide any insight because you could walk down the city streets yourself for 48 hours and experience the same sorts of random characters and disconnected events. The critics raped the film. The DVD box is promoted with the damnation of Leonard Maltin's faint praise that it is "surprisingly good." One might make the point that this is not really praise by noting that his comment is "surprisingly accurate." Audiences stayed away from Cisco Pike, and I hated it as well, after watching it in an empty theater as part of a double feature. That's right! The studio was so convinced of its total lack of drawing power that they packaged Cisco as part of a double bill (a rarity in 1972) with some dubbed four-year-old "Spaghetti gangster" film called Machine Gun McCain, a film which held a certain fascination for me because Jim Morrison of the Doors had a small acting role.

We see Cisco Pike in a different light today. In 1972 all the cool-ass 70s iconography in this movie was lost because it was familiar. Hell, in 1972 you'd never really notice a lava-lamp on a guy's desk because it was just part of the background. Today, however, lava-lamps are iconic and ironic 70s symbols, and they draw immediate attention to their presence, as the one in this film did. That provides a metaphor for the entire film - it's a cinematic lava-lamp. It draws one's attention to an alien culture long since disappeared, and offers a snapshot of times and attitudes generally forgotten. It pictures the era as it saw itself, and also gives us an intimate glimpse at Hollywood's 1972 theories about marketing to the counter-culture. It is a priceless cultural artifact which provides an authentic time-travel experience that could not be duplicated by watching a 2006 film about 1972.

Tuna called Cisco Pike dated, and I have to agree, but to me that's what makes it so much more interesting today than it was in 1972. People would watch it in 1972 and ask "What's the point?" Now, 34 years later, there is a good answer. Cisco Pike is a magnificent time capsule.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C. Tuna says, "Had I watched it in 1972, I would have been enthusiastic about it. Now, it is barely a C." Scoopy says, "I had the opposite take. I did see it back then, and despised it. I probably would have rated it an E if we had this rating system in 1972, but I actually enjoyed watching it today, and would have to call it a solid C for its appeal as a time capsule, and for the melancholy Kristofferson score."

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