In the late 1960s and into the 70s, a lot of Hollywood films tried very hard to upend the old notions of movies. Instead of the nice old Production Code, the late 60s brought in all sorts of deliberately unsavory things--things meant to challenge traditional morality. Think about it...films like "Bonnie & Clyde" and "The Wild Bunch" brought violence to a whole new level. Additionally, films like "Sex and the Single Girl", "Midnight Cowboy" and this movie, "Klute" brought sex out of the closet and right into the audience's faces. Because of this, back in 1971 this film really had a big impact and brought Jane Fonda an Oscar for playing a prostitute. But is it good? I would say yes...but certainly not great. While Fonda's performance is very good, the story itself seems almost like an episode of "Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit". It was novel then but today it doesn't seem quite to groundbreaking. Overall, I'd score this one an 8 back in '71 and a 6 today.
There are two versions of this film. First, it was a made for TV film shown in the States. Second, a bit of new material was then added to it and the film was released theatrically in Europe. The version I saw is the longer European version. Perhaps, in hindsight, I should have seen the shorter version.The plot is simple. Some guy (Dennis Weaver) is on a business trip and driving on a lonely road out west. He encounters some truck going extremely slow and passes it...only to have the truck then pass him and begin playing a game of cat and mouse with him...hitting his car several times as well as forcing him off the road in his much smaller Plymouth Valiant. This happens again and again and the truck driver is apparently some sort of crazed sociopath bent on killing him!The problem with this film is that the plot is TOO simple...so the film was heavily padded. You hear the car driver talking to himself a lot, you have a lot of unnecessary scenes and the pacing is an issue. Additionally, to keep the film going, the film needs to repeatedly ignore various logical ways this duel could have been ended sooner. After all, at one point after he's forced off the road early in the movie, folks ask him if he's okay...and the car driver says he's fine and never mentions the crazed truck driver! He could have called the police as well...but didn't for the longest time. As for me, I sure as heck would NOT have gotten back in my car for a very, very long time after so many near-death experiences!! No one else ever seems to notice what is happening. The road is lonely...but not THAT lonely. And, when he meets up with a bus driver, he does an absolutely horrible job explaining what's been happening. None of this makes a lot of sense but the young director does his best with the material he's been given--I doubt if other directors could have done much better. However, I think it's odd that many folks give this a 10....even if Fellini, Hitchcock or Truffaut had directed this, it never could have come close to being a 10 due to the super- thin plot. It is, in spite of this, very tense, very interesting and yet very flawed.FYI--If you care, I used to drive an orange/red 1971 Valiant and it was an incredibly ugly but incredibly fast car. So the notion of a truck EASILY passing or catching up to it is really scary...and definitely hints at the supernatural!
I have always liked this film. Despite the new film (which I like even more), I still enjoy the old fashioned aspects of this film. For 1971, it's pretty good children's fare--much better than crap from the same era (such as CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG and DR. DOOLITTLE). Some may find all the singing annoying or complain that the songs are not the ones Roald Dahl wrote in the book (which appear in the remake), I still found them catchy and cute. In fact, I have no major complaints other than the stupid sequence where they are on the boat. All the awful and pointless images projected across the screen look cheap and gratuitous--unlike the rest of the film.However, I think that the BEST thing to do is to watch this and the recent remake and think of them as totally different movies. The 1971 film is a bit saccharine and kitschy but is still fun and memorable. The new Johnny Depp version is much darker and full of modern special effects. And, as a result they are so different, it's worth watching them both and DON'T compare them--just enjoy. 2b1af7f3a8