This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Continental Divide (1981)



"But why ornithology?"
"I like the uniform."
-Ernie Souchak and Nell Porter




Thirty years ago this month, John Belushi tragically died of a drug overdose. Like Robert Shaw and John Candy, Belushi was a wonderful and underrated talent who was taken from us too soon.
He deservedly became famous with his work on Saturday Night Live, but it was National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) that made him a film star. That film is one of the few to give bodily humor a good name and Belushi's character, Bluto, became ingrained into the minds of filmgoers.
Continental Divide, however, showed people that there was more to Belushi's acting than just playing a college delinquent who thought the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.
Here, he played Chicago Sun-Times columnist Ernie Souchak, whose work has both its fans and detractors. His fame comes in handy when muggers recognize him, giving police time to arrive. Ironically, those very cops put Souchak in a hospital due to their unhappiness with his work.
This hospital stay prompts his editor to give Souchak a change of pace by sending him to the Rocky Mountains to interview reclusive ornithologist Nell Porter (Blair Brown).
Souchak is against this due to his love for the city life and his unfamiliarity with the country. Although they argue at first, Sourchak and Porter slowly fall in love the more they adjust to each other's personalities. This love wins out despite the fact that they are in their professional depth at opposite ends of the country.
This film reminds me a bit of Crocodile Dundee(1986), in that it deals with a reporter who goes into unfamiliar territory only to find happiness with one of the locals.
In the cases of both films, the romance is played in a nice way which doesn't hammer into our skulls that our two leads just have to get in bed together (and the pathetic way other subsequent comedies have tried to put irony into the proceedings by having them hate each other when they first meet). The fact that the two evenutal lovebirds are likeable-in contrast to, say, Tomcats(2001)-is another reason we hope this love story ends on a happy note.
In addition to being proof that Belushi could play a 'straight man' role, this film was the first to be produced by Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment company (although Amblin would become better known once it got its logo of E.T. and Elliott on their bicycle). The film would also prove a good thing for its screenwriter, Lawrence Kasdan, because it was his Divide script which would convince Spielberg and George Lucas that he was the best choice to write the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
The less said about Belushi's next and final film-Neighbors (1981)-the better, but Divide should stand proudly alongside Animal House and The Blues Brothers (1980) as proof of how good he really was.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for all the background information on this film. I added it at random to my Blockbuster @Home queue when I did a search for John Belushi. Since Animal House and Blues Brothers have been the only films I’ve watched of his, a romantic comedy definitely piqued my interest. I was pleasantly surprised to see Steven Spielberg’s name in the opening credits, but I didn’t realize this was one of the firsts for Amblin. I’ll have to suggest this to one of my young co-workers at Dish who has also formed a recent interest in Belushi. This film has proven to me that Belushi could’ve gone on to be a great dramatic actor and it saddens me that he had to pass too early in his life. Thanks again – next in my queue is Neighbors, which I was excited to find also stars Dan Aykroyd!

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