Lifeguard

Yearning for Sam is like fallin’ in love with the wind
Released:
1976

Director: Donald Petrie

Starring: Sam Elliott, Anne Archer, Kathleen Quinlan, Parker Stevenson

The Setup:

Sam is a lifeguard, a hot, hot lifeguard, who begins to become aware that his life is going nowhere.

Discussion:

There are approximately 10 reasons to watch this movie: 1) Sam Elliott in swim trunks, 2) Sam Elliott in aviator glasses, 3) Sam Elliott in a tight tie-dye tank top [with a unicorn on it], 4) Sam Elliott in a tight tie-dye tank top driving a Mustang convertible… You get the idea. There’s also a few trashily free-spirited 70s songs, lots of 70s atmosphere, and the added attraction of Sam Elliott.

Unfortunately, however, there are no shark attacks.

Sam is a lifeguard on an L.A. beach, which he has done since his high school years. All his contemporaries have moved on, gotten jobs, and had more respectable lives. During the course of this movie Sam has a bit of a crisis about how his life is going nowhere. I wouldn’t dare reveal how this stunning odyssey reaches its thrill-packed conclusion, but I would advise that the first line of the movie: “the only place jogging is going to get you is right back where you started,” may provide a clue to those canny viewers blind to Sam’s incandescent hotness and searching for the deeper text behind the intricately plotted storyline.

Sam plays one of those sleazy 70s devil-may-care studs that were completely imprinted on my consciousness when I was little. I recall a comic strip in the 80s—though I can’t recall the name of the strip or this character—that satirized this kind of guy, and it’s clear that Sam is one of the figures that inspired that ridicule. You can currently see a cousin of this kind of guy made fun of [hilariously] in Anchorman. He’s tanned and hairy, with a mustache and aviator glasses, driving from the burger stand to the beach in his convertible, lovin’ the ladies and gatherin’ no moss. Now these same guys are clean-shaven and waxed with longish mop hair and dumb as rocks. You know, the more things change, the more boring they get.

Anyway, the movie features the presence of Parker Stevenson, a cheesy synth score making “bweeaawww” sounds, and a few dumb but fun songs, including one that is the theme of the 17-year-old girl [played by a very good young Kathleen Quinlan] who quite rightly wants Sam to screw her. This song goes “I’m fallin’ in love with the wind… and it’s blowin’ me away. I-hi-hi-hi-HI-hay, feel like a woman today.”

Some of the other searingly 70s touches include a hanging wicker egg chair in Sam’s apartment, and his outrageously sexual jokes to an oblivious receptionist in a gynecologists office: “I hear there’s a lot of openings in that field.”

So Sam has some development where he starts to feel like a loser whose life is going nowhere, which is really fucking boring. He rekindles a high school romance with the nightmare of Anne Archer, who is already preparing to for her mature roles in which all she does is deliver mousy “Be careful’s” as her husband goes off to fight terrorists or whatever.

Near the end of the film, Kathleen Quinlan, who has turned into quite a little jailbait stalker, tries to kill herself, cleverly engineering it so that Sam has to come out and save her. As he’s towing her back to shore, I thought “Wouldn’t it be awesome if a Great White shark bit her in half right now?” THEN we’d have a movie, ya know what I’m sayin’?

Anyway, watch it if you lust for Sam, but be careful; like me, you may be fallin’ in love with the wind. God, I feel like a woman today.

Should you watch it?

If you want to see some hot Sam, or you like mustachioed 70s men in general. Everyone else, steer clear.

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