Action, Biography, Drama | 88 Mins | Released: 1971
Director: Marvin Chomsky
Starring: George Hamilton, Sue Lyon, Bert Freed, Rod Cameron, Dub Taylor, Ron Masak, Hal Baylor
Our Rating: 5
Evel Knievel is a biography of the famed motorcycle daredevil, who grew up in Butte, Montana. The film depicts Knievel reflecting on major events in his life, particularly his relationship with his girlfriend/wife, Linda. The film opens with Evel Knievel at the Ontario Motor Speedway in Ontario, California. Knievel is speaking directly to the camera describing his upcoming daredevil motorcycle jump:
- Ladies and gentlemen, you have no idea how good it makes me feel to be here today. It is truly an honor to risk my life for you. An honor. Before I jump this motorcycle over these 19 cars — and I want you to know there’s not a Volkswagen or a Datsun in the row — before I sail cleanly over that last truck, I want to tell you that last night a kid came up to me and he said, “Mr Knievel, are you crazy? That jump you’re going to make is impossible, but I already have my tickets because I want to see you splatter.” That’s right, that’s what he said. And I told that boy last night that nothing is impossible. Now they told Columbus to sail across the ocean was impossible. They told the settlers to live in a wild land was impossible. They told the Wright Brothers to fly was impossible. And they probably told Neil Armstrong a walk on the moon was impossible. They tell Evel Knievel to jump a motorcycle across the Grand Canyon is impossible, and they say that every day. A Roman General in the time of Caesar had the motto: “If it is possible, it is done. If it is impossible, it will be done.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I live by.
Following his introduction, the story follows a flashback narrative through Knievel’s life.
The film ends with Knievel successfully completing the jump at the Ontario Motor Speedway and riding off onto a dirt road which leads to the edge of the Grand Canyon. (At the time of production, the real Evel Knievel was hyping a jump over the Canyon.)
Evel Knievel was directed by Marvin J. Chomsky and was released on September 10, 1971.
Much of the film was shot in Butte, Montana. Actual footage of Knievel jumping his motorcycle was used throughout the film. Additionally, Knievel performed a series of new jumps at the Ontario Motor Speedway for the production, including a spectacular record jump of 129 feet over 19 cars that was included in the film (Knievel held the record for jumping a Harley-Davidson motorcycle over 19 cars for 27 years, until broken by Bubba Blackwell in 1998). Knievel received a flat rate of $25,000 for his rights and the consulting fee.
In 1973 Milius said he preferred the film “to the other movies from my scripts. They didn’t restrain it or tone it down, they shot the script. The guy is just as obnoxious and full of hot air as he was in the script. Just as full of life and vitality too. He’s Evil Knievel! He wouldn’t take a dime off of anybody.”
The music is conducted by Patrick Williams. The title song, “I Do What I Please”, is played throughout the film, including the opening and closing credits, and the montage of the real Evel Knievel’s stunt riding.