Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


BEST FRIENDS (1975). Director: Noel Nosseck. Screenplay by Arnold Somkin.

"There's gonna be so many girls. This one ya got is just not that special."

Jesse (Richard Hatch) and Pat (Doug Chapin) have been best buddies since childhood. After a hitch in the Army, they decide to take one last road trip in a rented van with their girlfriends/fiancees, Kathy (Susanne Benton) and Jo Ella (Ann Noland). Pat, the eternal adolescent, wants Jesse to forget about marriage plans and just bum around the country on a motorbike with him, but Jesse is in love with Kathy and has a good job waiting for him. During the trip Pat does his best to break up the relationship between Jesse and Kathy, each attempt getting more desperate and crazy, until, ultimately, tragedy results.  This interesting picture can be analyzed in a number of ways. For one thing it illustrates the fact that for some [heterosexual] men, their friendships with their buddies are much more meaningful than those with wives or girlfriends, whom they primarily use for sex. On the other hand, some viewers see a homoerotic component to the movie, with Pat the dysfunctional closet case who is in love with his best friend [this possible aspect of the story is never made explicit, however, although Pat's attempts to break up the relationship between Jesse and Kathy are provocative to say the least and there may be other hints]. Best Friends looks at four people who are unsophisticated and not terribly intelligent but shows that this does not stop them from being complicated and having emotions that are often difficult for them to deal with. All four lead actors are excellent, with Chapin's sensitive, tortured, outwardly happy-go-lucky performance a stand-out,  and the film is well directed by Nosseck. Crown International, which released the film, didn't quite know what to do with something that wasn't typical drive-in fare, so their ad campaign made it seem as if it was something about vacationers encountering vengeful natives! Best Friends was the last acting role for Chapin, who became a producer instead. Hatch has had a long list of mostly TV credits.  The two women appeared in a few other films in the seventies and eighties. Rick Cunha contributed some snappy country-western type song numbers.

Verdict: Absorbing drama with interesting undertones. ***.

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