Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Steelyard Blues


In the 1970 there were some films—I hesitate to call it a genre—that were somehow, in some way not easy to define, anti-establishment. I’m not talking about Easy Rider, which was right up front about it. Not even The Strawberry Statement, based on the Columbia student protests and campus takeover. These were films like Vanishing Point, Slither, Brewster McCloud, and this one, Steelyard Blues. They were about misfits, made no political statement, but spoke to the youth of the time in a way they might not even have been able to define. I was one of those youth, and I saw myself as a misfit, and like all filthy hippies, gloried in it. I remember liking this film a lot.

I don’t so much anymore. It doesn’t hold up. Jane Fonda plays a prostitute even more unlikely than Bree Daniels in Klute. Donald Sutherland is a demolition derby driver who was so irresponsible that even I didn’t like him. And Peter Boyle was insufferable as one of those loveable cinematic loonies you don’t believe in for a second. They’re all involved in restoring a wonderful old PBY Catalina flying boat, and for me, that was the real star of the show. And the bastards blew it up in the end!