Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw (MGM LE Collection) Review

If people know of or remember the 1976 American International film Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw it's probably because it co-stars Lynda Carter just prior to her big introduction to celebrity via the Wonder Woman television series. While the small screen show surely inspired a legion of fans to want to see more of her, this movie actually granted and continues to grant their wish. Yes, Wonder Woman topless. Moving on...

Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw is perfect lowest common denominator trash without being so worthless or without enjoyment as to ruin it for everyone else. Lest that sound overly insulting (either to the film or its audience), another way of putting it would be to praise the steady flow of crime, violence, nudity, car chases, and the like for keeping our attention in between advancing the plot but doing so without entirely losing the facade of there being something more than those very basic elements. To be sure, there probably isn't considering how messy and unfocused these larger ideas are, but it's still nice to be comforted.

Adding more intrigue than just the Carter casting is that the male lead is Marjoe Gortner, a name far less known today but someone with a fascinating past. Marjoe had been a famous traveling minister as a child until he outgrew it. A documentary on the young adult Gortner, called simply Marjoe, was released in 1972 and won the Oscar in its category. In that film, he publicly disavowed his ministerial past and revealed it to have been a sham. Following Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw, Gortner continued to do films but without any major lasting successes. His last acting on camera was apparently a small role in Walter Hill's 1995 western Wild Bill.

It's another Old West figure that Gortner's character Lyle is obsessed with here - Billy the Kid. Initially it seems like this idolization, including Lyle's fast draw ability, will steer the plot of the film but it, like other parts hinted at, fades in and out with little purpose or discipline. Instead the film becomes a mishmash of Badlands, Bonnie and Clyde and various cheaper, lesser known movies. The central premise of the romance between Gortner and Carter is at once both ridiculous and conceivable. It's the former because she sticks by someone who's little more than a stranger despite his confession that he stole the car they're riding in and the subsequent criminal escapades in which they become involved at his urging. Her dead end, small town future lends credibility to the idea that a girl like Bobbie Jo might latch on to someone or something that could take her away from the misery of her current existence, including a rather terrible mother at home and a carhop job where she's constantly being harassed.

Even if the film is never less than entertaining, that doesn't mean it's particularly smart. Indeed, it's closer to dumb and poorly made in terms of continuity and editing. Things that occur and character actions don't always make much sense, and not just in the motivational sense. The same sheriff follows the outlaws across county and even state with apparent (and mystical) jurisdiction. When this sheriff and other cops fire on a motel room where they believe Lyle, Bobbie Jo, her sister and the sister's boyfriend are, they instead kill the wrong people, leaving three dead bodies. The initial shot of this motel room shows one of the bodies, a female, as naked but covered strategically with a sheet. A second shot of the exact same room and angle has the sheet no longer on the woman's upper half, and her naked breasts are now visible.

Speaking of which, Carter really is a knockout in this film. Her acting talent is limited but I have the feeling that, in addition to the sexual element, there are things here you just would have never seen on Wonder Woman, like her firing an assault rifle. Is that worth a recommendation? Probably not, and most people's time would be better spent elsewhere I'm sure, but Bobbie Jo and the Outlaw really is decent cinematic stupidity. The dusty charm of the '70s is fairly strong here and that may be the single most persuasive aspect that makes the picture worth watching.


The Disc

This is a made-on-demand DVD-R release from the MGM Limited Edition Collection. The art department seems to understand exactly what it's selling by having Lynda Carter in a low-cut top holding a pistol on the cover.

The disc is single-layered and presents the film in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for widescreen televisions. The existing elements or, more likely, the original film stock must not allow for a very spiffy-looking transfer because, despite being progressive, the image is heavy with grain and the colors appear washed-out. It's more dull than sharp. Spots and specks of damage are littered throughout the picture. Again, too, I ran into some obvious ghosting at times. This haloing around actors and other objects is likely to be more noticeable and annoying to some people than others. It's a preventable problem, though, and shouldn't show up at all.

Audio is a very flat English mono track. This is a modest listen with few strengths aside from basic clarity of dialogue and sound effects. There are no subtitles offered.

A trailer (1:52) has been included.


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