The Evel Has Landed.
Practically the only other actor who would be less likely to play EvelKnieval than Hamilton is Anthony Perkins, yet somehow Hamilton managesto turn in a reasonably effective portrayal (and as producer of thefilm, he wasn't likely to be fired or told he wasn't right for thepart!) The early life of the daredevil motorcyclist is recounted herein multiple flashbacks. The film opens with a rather silly prologuewith Hamilton in his white-leather, star-spangled gear spouting theworld according to Knieval as if to say, "Don't worry. This film isabout my youth, but I'll be back in my familiar costume by the end ofthe picture." Hamilton is preparing for a huge jump, yet is stilllicking his wounds from the previous one as devoted wife Lyon bothsupports and derides him. He recalls various vignettes of his childhoodand delinquent teenage years along with his early days as a stunt riderand blossoming celebrity. This flip-flop approach is pretty abrupt andsometimes disjointed, but it does prevent the movie from sticking toone of its inexpensive sets for too long a time or from getting into arut with the fairly pedestrian characters. Hamilton, usually a suaveand debonair persona, does a very fine job of enacting the tiny detailsof his subject's mannerisms and demeanor including his walk. His hairis a shade lighter and longer and he works hard to give the rightinflections in his speaking. (He even pays minor tribute to Knieval'smany injuries by appearing in a skimpy towel while his shoulders arecovered in "scars" from the multitudinous accidents.) Facially, helooks nothing like the real cyclist, but he does suggest him in hisphysical performance. Lyon is excellent at playing the young girl heloves and then the more worldly wife, though her 3-pack a day voicedoes threaten to give her away at any given moment. She and Hamiltonstrike up an easy chemistry which goes a long way in putting the filmover. Other nice supporting turns are given by Freed as his jadeddoctor, Cameron as an early influence and Taylor as a flea-bittensideshow barker. The film was made on a low budget, but the story is arather low rent one anyway, so that doesn't affect it too badly. Themakers wisely used actual Butte, Montana locations to give the film aproper small town ambiance. Several of Hamilton's antics are amusing,though the character is certainly reckless and inconsiderate of otherpeople's property! Some of the real Knieval's completed and failedstunts are included in some blurry footage, one of which features amind-boggling "splatter" in which the man is rolled up and snappedaround like a rag doll. Hamilton's then-wife (Stewart) appears brieflyas a nurse.