Cisco Pike (1972)

Kris Kristofferson, Karen Black, Gene Hackman, Harry Dean Stanton,
Cisco Pike is a movie starring Kris Kristofferson, Karen Black, and Gene Hackman. A down on his luck former drug dealer is forced by a corrupt LAPD policeman to sell 100 kilos of confiscated marijuana in one weekend.
  • 6.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Robert Towne, Writer:
  • Bill Norton, Director:
  • Gerald Ayres, Producer:

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7 / 10

A lost early 70's gem

This hard to find film has always been a favorite presenting the changing L.A. music/hippie scene of the early 70's. Kristofferson, in his starring film debut, is marvelous as the down-on-his-luck troubadour of the title. At times he appears genuinely and functionally smashed, but it fits the character to a tee. It's also interesting to watch him composing his often sad, literate tunes, as one realizes this was probably how he wrote many of his greatest songs ("Help Me Make It Through the Night", "For the Good Times", "Me and Bobby McGee", "Sunday Morning Coming Down"): in lonely desperation. None of them are here, but he does do "Loving Her Was Easier" and "Pilgrim Chapter 33". The latter autobiographical song is perfectly fitting for the character of Cisco Pike. Kristofferson is so charismatic and his screen presence is such that we root for him in typical early 70's anti-hero fashion even though he is essentially a drunken pothead who cheats on his girlfriend (the always welcome Karen Black) and is racing to unload $10,000 worth of marijuana in a single weekend. But you'll seldom find a more real and lived-in performance than this debut. Sam Peckinpah saw this and cast him as the doomed Billy the Kid in his next film.

Kristofferson's desperation is fueled by crooked cop Gene Hackman (in fine if eccentric form) who himself is desperate for the money. So the thrust of the film is Kristofferson racing around L.A., weaving on the freeways in his beat-up station wagon full of pot, and encountering Roscoe Lee Browne, Wavy Gravy, Antonio Fargas, Severn Darden, Howard Hesseman, Doug Sahm, and a menage a trois with Viva and Joy Bang. It's a time capsule to be sure. In the final reel Harry Dean Stanton shows up memorably as an old buddy who's even more wasted and down-on-his-luck. The underrated B.L. Norton is behind the camera, and the film is highly recommended. This begs for a DVD release with extras. A Krisofferson commentary would be particularly insightful.

7 / 10

Early 70's standout drug-selling flick!

This film was barely seen in 1972 starring Kristofferson and Gene Hackman as a scumbag cop. Harry Dean Stanton is marvelous as Kris' friend and Karen Black is always interesting. The cute Joy Bang is even here. This film was so far under the radar, most people forgot it even exists.

A 7 out of 10. Best performance = Harry Dean Stanton. Hackman should have played more characters like this one. This may be Kristofferson's best work (as an actor) along with Blume in Love. Great cinematography and location work. I can't believe this wasn't a hit in 1972. Track this one down and you won't be disappointed.

There was plenty of "junk" in the golden age 70's, but this film should not be included.

9 / 10

An overlooked classic

Somebody please bring this out on DVD, because I'm desperate to own a copy so I can watch it whenever I feel like it. It's rarely seen and it's a fantastic piece of 1970's cinema.

Strong, realistic, natural performances from Kris and Harry Dean, stacks of great cameos including the might Antonio Fargas. Fantastically evocative and one of the few occasions when Kristofferson's great presence and offscreen persona have been used to good effect in front of the camera.

If you love 1970's American films (and if you have any feeling for movies at all, you have to love this period), then this is up there with the best.

If you have a chance to see it, take it.

9 / 10

The merchants of Venice

One of the lost 70s movies that seldom turns up in books or on 'best' lists, and yet it defines the time (1972) and place (Venice Beach, CA) like no other. Leading the stellar cast is Kris Kristofferson, playing a down-on-his-luck musician - kind of ironically as his soundtrack is every bit as good as his performance. The ever-wonderful Karen Black is his much put-upon girlfriend, though a strong character in her own right. Harry Dean Stanton strums a guitar and shoots up, while Gene Hackman plays a rogue cop, Factory model Viva appears looking somewhat out of place in LA, and the Doug (Sahm) in the Sir Douglas Quintet plays himself, even doing a turn in the studio. Finally, there's the perfectly named Joy Bang, and that's pretty much all you need to know. Sure, there's a story going on about a dope deal that inevitably goes tits up, but we've all seen that before. This is a character driven movie with a vengeance and while it may be the only film of note from writer/director Bill Norton, it's a great one.

10 / 10

One of the best

I'd never heard of Kris Kristofferson until I saw this movie in a double feature. I'd gone to see the other feature, which I now forget. This was so good, I got bored with the other feature. I immediately bought Kristofferson's early albums and went back to see this a second time. I haven't seen it since but I can remember dialog and scenes, including one which evidently includes a Jack Elliot character. It's a good, basic thriller plot raised well above the average by the acting, the directing, the script and the ambiance. I, too, would love to own it on DVD and shelve it up there with the ten or twenty movies I'm always happy to watch again. Kristofferson was never better. A forgotten 70s classic, far and away better than many of the better known movies of the period.