Retro Film Report #8: Viva Knievel! part 2

Time to spread some more love for the incomprehensibly awesome Viva Knievel! (1977). As my gift to you, I present the theme song from the film. Not since Handel's Messiah has there been a piece of music that heralds the glory of the composition's subject with such triumphant jubilation.

[update: song link dead.  sorry.]

As if that weren't enough, there's the cast: Gene Kelley as a drunken deadbeat dad and the beautiful Lauren Hutton as the cocky, hard-to-get journalist. Plus we get Leslie Nielsen as a ruthless drug lord (!) and Cameron Mitchell as his goon. Check out the photo below: Nielsen, Knievel and Dabney Coleman. If that doesn't qualify as a "When Legends Gather" image, then I don't know what does!

Let's not forget Frank Gifford, whose only purpose in this film seems to be to wear orange and yellow polyester and remark over and over again how "deadly" and "dangerous" Knievel's stunts are going to be.

One of my favorite moments in the film comes when Tommy (a combination of Adam Rich and Damien Thorne) is invited to Knievel's van. My jaded 2009 mind couldn't help but find this amusing.

I've read several reviews of the film, and, not suprisingly, they're extremely critical. I guess I was just appreciative of real stunts, not CGI fake looking crap. When Knievel jumped his bike off a bridge onto a moving semi, I knew it was the real deal.

Plus, I think it's considered pretty corny these days to portray movie heroes as flawless. In this film, Knievel is a daredevil, spiritual healer, sexual dynamo, role model, and total badass all rolled into one.... and that's not always such a bad thing.

[go to Viva Knievel! part one]


  1. And who could forget Marjoe Gortner as Jesse. Look up his bio sometime, pretty interesting stuff.

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  3. Yep, too bad Evil ruined his entire life's accomplishments by helping his goons hold down that pesky reporter while they beat him to a pulp with an aluminum baseball bat.

    Sigh...our two greatest known Montana celebrities...Evil Knievel & The Unabomber!

  4. Skipper- Yeah, I contemplated putting some information on Marjoe on this post, but it's so freaking strange, I thought it would take away from our guest of honor, Knievel.

    Damn, Viva. I hadn't heard about the incident you're referring to. I'm going to look that up. Interesting (and disturbing).

  5. Well... reports can just get on your nerves.

    I miss the days of a straight hero. I'm not the only one, it's why John Wayne is still one of the top 20 most popular actors.

  6. Great post. Always a big fan of Knievel. I prefer to see real stunts like he did to all the CGI crap out there these days.

  7. I hoped that kid watched out, lest Knievel's collar poke his eye out. Those things are huge!

  8. Evel's career came to a screeching halt. Makes us Montanans look bad.

    Assault charges per Wiki:

    "While Knievel was healing from his latest round of injuries, the book Evel Knievel on Tour was released. Authored by Knievel's promoter for the Snake River Canyon jump, Shelly Saltman, the book painted an unflattering picture of Knievel's character, alleging that he abused his wife and kids and he used drugs. Knievel, with both arms still in casts, flew to California to confront Saltman, a VP at Twentieth Century Fox. Outside the studio commissary, one of Knievel's friends grabbed Saltman and held him, while Knievel attacked him with an aluminum baseball bat, declaring, "I'm going to kill you!" According to a witness to the attack, Knievel struck repeated blows at Saltman's head, with Saltman blocking the blows with his left arm. Saltman's arm and wrist were shattered in several places before he fell to the ground unconscious. It took numerous surgeries and permanent metal plates in his arm to eventually give Saltman back the use of his arm. Sheldon Saltman's book was pulled from the shelves by the publisher after Knievel threatened to sue. Saltman later produced documents in both criminal and civil court that proved that, although Knievel claimed to have been insulted by statements in Saltman's book, he and his lawyers had actually been given editorial access to the book and had approved and signed off on every word prior to its publication. On October 14, 1977, Knievel pleaded guilty to battery and was sentenced to three years probation and six months in county jail, during which he publicly flaunted his brief incarceration for the press as just one more publicity stunt."

    "After the assault of Saltman and time served in jail, Knievel lost most marketing endorsements and deals, including Harley-Davidson and Ideal Toys. With no income from jumping or sponsorship, Knievel was eventually forced to declare bankruptcy. In 1981, Saltman was awarded a $13 million judgment against Knievel in a civil trial, but never received money from Knievel or Knievel's estate."

  9. You know, I have a vintage metal Evel Knievel lunchbox I've had since I was a kid. It's probably worth about $7.42 but it still rocks in a non-rocking kind of way.

  10. I seem to recall some controversy over the stunts as they wouldn't let Evel do the more dangerous ones himself because while he was a fearless daredevil, he wasn't always a good one and the insurance company needed him NOT to break anything before completion.