The tagline for Cisco Pike (1971) reads: "A has-been rock star, a crooked cop, and a lot of money." Rarely has one sentence summed up a film so well because there's not really much else to the 94 minutes of Kris Kristofferson's first star vehicle. Cisco (Kristofferson, naturally) has just been released from prison after his second bust for dealing drugs. A washed up ex-pop idol, he's determined to clean up his act and get back into the music business despite repeated rejections from industry contacts who'd rather see him back together with his old partner than go solo. But the cop who busted him (a mustachioed and sideburned Gene Hackman) comes calling with an offer that he won't let Cisco refuse he's come into possession of 100 kilos of grade-A pot and he needs Cisco to sell enough of it to raise $10,000 in just two days. Shot by writer and first-time director Bill L. Norton with all the artistry of a made-for-TV movie (Norton would, appropriately enough, go on to direct a number of television flicks like Hercules in the Underworld and The Women of Spring Break as well as episodes of series like "Seaquest DSV," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and "Medium"), it's less a compelling drama than a walk down a familiar-face-filled 1970s memory lane. Warhol superstar Viva shows up as a pregnant hipster who sleeps with Cisco and helps him set up a deal, while Roscoe Lee Browne, Antonio Fargas, Howard Hesseman, and Allan Arbus appear in small roles. Hilariously, Cisco's partner a burnt-out druggie who's worried about his age affecting their comeback is played by Harry Dean Stanton, proving that Stanton has always been old. Plot-wise, though, there's just not much there. Cisco drives around selling dope in extended montages accompanied by forgettable Kristofferson songs, Hackman does a fine job of getting across his character's mental instability but doesn't get enough screen-time, and Karen Black plays the standard clueless "it's me or the drugs" girlfriend role. It's fun as a visual time capsule of three decades past L.A. natives will enjoy seeing the freakish early permutation of the fast-food icon Jack in the Box and the uncluttered freeways and it's not a terrible film, really. It's just an insubstantial one. Sony's DVD release of Cisco Pike features a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) from a source-print that's very clean and bright, with a minimal amount of dust and scratches. The monaural Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (English with optional subtitles in English, Chinese, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish or Thai) is fine flat but clean and clear. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.
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