Retro Film Report #7: Viva Knievel! part 1

When I was kid, Evel Knievel was about as cool as it got. In retrospect, I'm not quite sure why this daredevil became such a phenomenon, but that's the way it was - they just didn't make 'em any cooler than Knievel. The 1977 film Viva Knievel! perfectly captures the awesomeness of Knievel in all his glory. In Viva Knievel the line between stunt man and superhero is blurred. All within this one film, Knievel helps an orphanage, unites an estranged father (Gene Kelly) with his son, defeats a drug lord (Leslie Nielson), bags a beautiful babe (Lauren Hutton), and of course performs a ton of kick ass stunts. However, Knievel's shining moment in the film is his anti-drug speech. It has to be seen to be believed.

I would never lie to you, so believe me when I tell you that I consider this is the most amazing speech in cinematic history. Hell, it may be the most amazing speech period. The combination of a poorly executed monotone delivery and inappropriate "blow all to hell" somehow makes it endearing, hilarious, and cool all at the same time.

Well, I have more to say about the film, but I guess I'll save it for the next post. This speech was a lot to take in, so I'll let you reflect on Knievel's words for another day. Check back tomorrow!


  1. Yes, I will proudly admit I had an Evel Kenievel lunchbox and his pull-start motorcycle. By the way, the man standing to the left of Evel, that is Monday Night Football legend Frank Gifford.

  2. I recently got this movie in a grocery store dvd bargain bin and a flood of childhood memories came back. Man...or Astroman sampled that speech for their song nitrous burnout 2001.

  3. On my list as one of the worst films ever! George Hamilton was much better at playing Evel in the previous film than Evel himself was here! And poor, poor Gene Kelly!

  4. Orville BoggsAugust 31, 2009


    We just watched the last time anything worthwhile was said on film...ever.

    Viva Knievel!!!

  5. Hitch- Yes, that's Frank soaking in the spiritual wisdom from the great Knievel.

    Skipper- I've actually saw Man or Astroman play a few times back in 1992. Love them.

    Booksteve- I think you had a typo in your comment - you said list of "worst" movies ever. I'm sure you meant to write "best".... right?

    Orville- If we were in the same room right now, I'd give you a high five.

  6. Aw, man...I wanted to see the jump! Loved Evel Knievel back in the day. Great Daredevil...lousy actor, though.
    Did Knievel have an album out in the 70's? Not sure if it was a spoken word bio or what. I mention this, cause I read in the book "Heavier than Heaven" that while Nirvana was recording "Nevermind" Kurt Cobain stole a gold record of Evel Knievel off the wall. Kurt was also a big Evel fan.

  7. Hitch and I have much in common. I too had the lunchbox, several action figures, and a poster on my wall of his... but my most prized possession was my Evel Knievel electric toothbrush. Oh the bumps, bruises and scrapes my body had from all the stunts I tried to mimic on my Schwinn. Good times

  8. Big fan of your site...I have one with similar interests. Here's one of my Evel Knievel posts which I uploaded Evel on the children's show Wonderama. Remember that show?


  9. Evel is the MAN! I used to love this guy. He sounds like someone who isn't used to public speaking making a speech.

    I'm going to use this one on my kids.

  10. All I can focus on is that yellow blazer that guy next to him has on. What was a Century 21 realtor doing in an Evel Knievel movie?

  11. In retrospect, I'm not quite sure why this daredevil became such a phenomenon

    Gotta agree with you there. As I recall, the bit that made him truly famous was his attempted jump of the Snake River Canyon. Which he failed!!!

    But I fondly remember the Sesame Street parody, wherein Grover Knover tried to jump the Grand Canyon. (And I got that rev-up cycle toy for my eighth Christmas...)