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JACK NICHOLSON'S DRIVE, HE SAID

year: 1971 cast: William Tepper, Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Michael Margotta, June Fairchild rating: **1/2
As most people know, Jack Nicholson is a rabid basketball fan. He has his own center seat at the L.A. Lakers games and even before becoming really famous, according to Roman Polanski in a CHINATOWN interview, he furiously demanded to watch a televised game in his trailer...

So it may come as no surprise that Jack's directorial debut, a few years before that, would center on a college basketball player drawing crowds during the “turbulent” hippie era.
William Tepper on the team bus with Bruce Dern
The games and practices are filmed nicely, combining a shaky documentary style with creative editing that went into other BBC productions like EASY RIDER, in which Jack co-starred, and surreal aspects of HEAD, that he co-wrote.

Bruce Dern’s hard-nosed Coach Bullion wants to win games, and his star player Hector, played by William Tepper, best known as Tom Hank’s uptight brother in BACHELOR PARTY years later, is the perfect fit for the role – but only in one important aspect: He’s tall and can play the game really well.
Michael Margotta plays hippie rebel Gabriel
Unfortunately Tepper isn’t interesting enough to carry the story along. Remaining in peripheral rhythm with Gabriel, his rebellious roommate, Hector, like the film itself, isn't sure whether to center his attention on basketball or the student revolutionaries, and winds up meandering pointlessly in-between.

As the bushy-haired radical, Michael Margotta's Gabriel is the token messianic anti-hero. From heading a non-violent guerrilla raid during an opening game, to feigning insanity to avoid the Vietnam draft, he eventually takes personal wrath on Karen Black’s Olive, who, as Hector’s on/off girlfriend having an affair with an enigmatic character played by writer Robert Towne, is, compared to her standout performance in FIVE EASY PIECES, ultimately wasted in a filler role.
Director Jack Nicholson cameo as an annoyed bearded guy
Nicholson juggles noisy basketball games and the hippie students gathered with Henry Jaglom’s radical campus professor, while June Fairchild, best known as the Ajax-snorting lady in Cheech and Chong’s UP IN SMOKE, appears as a cheerleading hippie.

The soon to-be-famous Cindy Williams turns up in a quick cameo and future HILL STREET BLUES actor Mike Warren, as one of the players depending on Hector’s talent, simply wants the team to go all the way.
Cindy Williams cameo as a bored girlfriend
DRIVE, HE SAID tries really hard to capture drug culture angst and, straying from a sport providing the core of the film’s energy and purpose, and with two leading actors not strong enough to carry either the athletic or protest storylines, is more of a curio for anyone interested in what Nicholson was up to before blasting off into cult, and then mainstream, superstardom.

Think of this as Jack’s “student film,” and for that, it’s not entirely shabby.
Karen Black in DRIVE, HE SAID
A smoking Karen Black as Olive
June Fairchild as cheerleading hippie Sylvie
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO SHOWING JUNE FAIRCHILD AND HER AJAX LADY ORIGINS...
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