Retro Film Report #29: Best Friends (1975)

The movie posters for Best Friends are among the most misleading I've ever seen.  The standard poster art and lobby cards feature a line of hostile looking Native Americans with the tagline "She became the ravaged victim of a century of revenge!"  If they wanted a story like that, they should have made that movie - but this ain't it.  And the irony is, this a pretty damn good movie in its own right, without the need to add the exploitative element.

As far as star power goes - this has basically none.  Richard Hatch was a Battlestar Galactica heartthrob later in the decade; but otherwise no one, not even the director, really went on to do anything of note.  I mean, unless you count starring in an episode of Love, American Style or directing an episode of Hunter.

But unless it's Charles Nelson Reilly, I don't care about star power in my movies.  I want good acting, a good story, and gratuitous nudity.  This has all of the above.  There's only four characters in this film, so let's get to know them.

Left to right: Jesse (Richard Hatch), Jo Ella (Susanne Benton), Pat (Doug Chapin) and Kathy (Ann Noland)

The Backstory Is Thus:
1. Jesse and Pat have been friends since childhood
2. Both serve in Vietnam
3. Jesse comes home from the war, and decides to get a job, find a wife (Kathy) and settle down
4. Pat comes home from the war and is BATSHIT CRAZY

So, the gang goes on a road trip in their rented RV.  What could go wrong?

Ever seen that independent film Chuck & Buck?  This is just like that, except it's actually good.  Pat confides in Jesse that he doesn't want him to get married.  He wants things like they were before they went to 'Nam.  Jesse will have none of this crazy talk.

Now, I'm going to say something here that is going to sound like an exaggeration.  You're going to brush it off as hyperbole.  But I entreat you to take me seriously when I say that Pat is the most annoying character in cinematic history.  I repeat, Pat is the most annoying character in cinematic history.

Pat goes and buys a motorcycle while the gang eat lunch. If Jesse, Joe Ella and Kathy had any sense whatsoever, they'd use this opportunity to ditch crazy Pat and enjoy a nice trip across the country.  But, no, they ignore all the warning signs that they have a man aboard their RV who is not only annoying, but has serious mental problems.

But let's take a minute to step back and look at the two ladies of the picture.  Kathy is Jessie's girl (I know - you thought of Rick Springfield too; it's impossible not to).  She's mild mannered and fairly bland all around.  But Jo Ella on the other hand is a wild child.  She wears skimpy clothing throughout the picture, giving the guys plenty of eye candy.  No complaints.

What Jo Ella sees in Pat is a mystery.  He's goofy, inappropriate, spastic, and slightly scary...... I take that back - A LOT scary.  Even eating a Twinkie becomes a disturbing spectacle with Pat.

So, one of the first stops on the road trip is a strip club on an Indian Reservation.  This single solitary scene is obviously where the movie posters focused on, because it's the only time we see the gang meet with Native Americans.

Jessie tries to get goody-two-shoes Kathy to get up on stage, but she refuses.  That leaves Jo Ella to supply the gratuitous nudity - which she does with flair.

Unfortunately, it pisses of the stripper (Renee Paul) and leads to a bar fight.  It worth noting that this film is pretty racist to Native Americans - I'm not one to pull the race card often, but DAMN! I mean, each and every Native American in the place is portrayed as hateful, ignorant, cretins.  I understand, you don't necessarily attract the most respectable lot at a strip joint, but c'mon!

Anyway, Pat comes back later that night and kills one of the Native Americans.  I have to admit, the tenseness that created as viewers are just waiting for Pat to completely snap and hurt someone, is extremely well executed.

So, douche-bag Pat concocts a plan to get Jessie to cheat on Kathy, and it works.  First, he convinces Jo Ella that Jessie has the hots for her.  Then, he takes Kathy to get groceries, leaving Jo Ella and Jessie alone.  Sweet, sweet lovemaking ensues.

Of course, Pat's next move is to get it on with Kathy, who is wise to his weirdness.  As Pat gets more and more deranged, this films starts to resemble a horror movie.... or at least a grindhouse thriller.  If you've ever seen Hitch Hike (1977), this movie will definitely seem very similar, where David Hess plays another convincing psychopath ruining a road-trip.

This is a great scene.  Jessie catches Pat with Kathy, and he doesn't know if it's consensual or a rape (which it actually is). Either way, Jessie's pissed off and the two BFF's start to beat the crap out of each other in a very realistic fight scene on the beach.

During the course of the kerfuffle, Pat punches Jo Ella in the face and sucker punches Jessie.  In the end, both parties are exhausted and bloody. Pat storms off like a little bitch on his motorcycle.

Surely, this must be the end, right? Surely, the gang has had enough of Pat's bullshit by now, right?  Wrong.

Jessie goes to the local bar to find his BFF.  Instead of working things out and starting over, scumbag Pat wants Jessie to lay the pipe with a couple of college freshman.  When Jessie reminds Pat that he still plans to get married, Pat offers the ultimate deal: He will turn over a new leaf if Jessie will just let him sleep with Kathy just once.

When Jessie declines the offer, things get even more tense.  Pat tells Jessie that he's going to take Kathy whether he likes it or not, to which Jessie says that he would then have to kill him.  Shit is getting real!

Back at the RV, Jessie tells the girls that they need to get the hell out of Dodge.  What follows is a scene not unlike The Hills Have Eyes where the innocent victims hole up in an RV while evil stalks all around them.  A similar RV scene of terror is in the woefully underrated Race with the Devil (starring Peter Fonda).


The climactic scene ends with Jessie firing shots into the night.  Unfortunately, as it turns out, he blows away Kathy instead.  Nice move, Jessie.  I hope your happy, Pat.

I must admit, the final scene is a bit of a disappointment.  I was hoping Pat would die a quick painful death.  Perhaps a chainsaw, or maybe an impalement..... I'd have been happy with most anything as long as it meant Pat dies.

But, no.  The final scene is Jessie shell shocked, and Pat rambling on and on about the good old days.  He stops only for a moment to call Jo Ella a whore and throw dirt at her.  Then it's back to his lame stories again.  THE END

Did Pat have a homosexual attraction to Jessie? And was he a victim of post-traumatic stress from his time in Vietnam? And what will become of these three now that there's a dead Kathy on their hands?  I guess these were meant to be left to the imagination.  Still, I like my movies with a contrived ending that makes me feel closure, and happy inside.

My ending: Jessie ties Pat to the bottom of the RV where he is slowly eroded away, inch by inch as Jessie continues the road-trip with his two groovy girls.  Several threesomes ensue.  



  1. Did you get suckered into the "Drive-In Cult Classics" 8-movie set like I did? If you did there's a few on it even more ripe for uh, analysis(Cindy & Donna","Pick Up").
    That Suzanne Benton was Orson Welles' WAC-mistress in "Catch 22". The leg-crossing that started a riot.

  2. Great review, going to put a link on my blog to it. As it happens, I just saw this about a month ago on the aforementioned drive-in movie set. I also thought it was surprisingly entertaining for a b-movie and the cast is good, the guy that plays Pat (Doug Chapin) is great. I don't know if I'd say he is the absolute most annoying character in all of movie history but he definitely belongs on the top 3, lol. All in all, if you like 70's and retro, put this on your list of must-see, not necessarily tomorrow but sometime.

  3. AnonymousJune 07, 2013

    You know, I hadn't thought of Charles Reilly in years... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7ufmuvVtHc

  4. AnonymousJune 07, 2013

    Your reviews are so funny! I haven't seen this movie yet, but you certainly have given me something to look for. Your review of Bobbie Jo & the Outlaw was absolutely spot-on hilarious!

  5. Sorry, Gilligan, but I think you got Kathy and Joe Ella mixed up. I remember Susanne Benton who plays Kathy, and she's the one who gets killed. Jo Ella is the wild child who wears skimpy clothing throughout the picture.

    1. Thank you, Toledo. I had them mixed up in my head. It's been fixed.

  6. So, are THESE the types of movies we are going to see with the returning Iraqi war vets now? All the scripts are going to be dusted off, a few geographic changes, and we have a new generation of "broken soldier" movies to look forward to.