Film: Continental Divide (1981) Rated: PG Written by: Lawrence Kasdan Directed by: Michael Apted Starring: John Belushi as Ernie Souchek Blair Brown as Nell Porter Allen Garfield as Howard McDermott Carlin Glynn as Sylvia
By Efferdent Johnson
Pre-screening memories: There were many reasons I was excited to see Continental Divide many years ago. And while it may seem strange those same reasons applied when given the opportunity to view it again.
Growing up in Colorado, just an hour or so west of the continental divide, I was hoping some of my extended backyard would be in the movie. As my friends and I watched the flick for the first time we argued about locations. “Oh, that’s just above Wagon Wheel Gap,” Scott said. “No, that’s just off Slumgullion Pass near Lake City,” was my ill-informed retort. We looked for landmarks throughout the film and not one of us had a clue.
Now with the advantage of IMDB I found that we were all off by a few hundred miles. We all picked the wrong mountain range. Any of you familiar with the Sangre De Cristo range in southern Colorado might recognize some vistas. I sure didn’t.
Familiar landscapes aside, I would have set patiently for a chance to watch any flick that included John Belushi. He was a hero for my friends and I. We all imitated his Samurai Tailor from Saturday Night Liveor Blutarsky from Animal House. In fact, Dave Wilson did such a spot-on impression of Blutarsky running deceptively to avoid detection on the Faber Campus that we all would do spit takes just recalling it. After 25 years, I still grin when I recollect Wilson’s impersonation.
Most people choose predictable role models. Men like John Elway, Han Solo or John Lennon are obvious choices. Me, I chose guys like Belushi, Bill Murray and John Bonham. Have you ever heard the quote “Fat dumb and stupid is no way to go through life”? Well, my role models seemed to do a pretty good job of it if only for a short time for two of them. Me, I haven’t done as well. Don’t get me wrong though, fat, dumb and stupid are not an issue for me.
I was the only one in our group not disappointed by the movie so many years ago. My friends wanted debauchery and drunken profanity laced with pratfalls and catch lines. I was satisfied with, “It’s so quiet up here you could hear a mouse get a hard-on.” To this day it is my favorite movie quote and usually the only one I can remember. I watched the film any time it came on HBO and each time found something new to latch onto.
New memories: Ernie Souchak was a window into just how much charisma resided within Belushi’s body. A body obviously built by ingesting copious amounts of “Little Chocolate Donuts”. He was a man of the people, approachable, funny and sarcastic. A model I wish to emulate to this day. In this window you can glance of what might have been Belushi’s future if not for a tragic end.
Now, as I live on the East Coast I will watch Continental Divide for the same reasons as I did in the 1980’s. I’ll watch hoping to rekindle fond memories of the Rocky Mountains and of my long gone hero. I also look forward to seeing Blair Brown’s very pretty smile.
Download Natsukashi’s ‘Continental Divide podcast with Richard Walden here
Or you can hike a little further down the screen and listen to it online:
Our featured guest: Cinematographer Richard Walden
Now in his third decade behind the lens, Richard has been a part of some seminal films in our memory’s library, including: Heaven Can Wait, The Bad News Bears Go to Japan, 1941, American Gigolo, Xanadu, Cat People, 48 Hrs., War Games, Top Gun, Lethal Weapon, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and many, many more.
Walden got his start on the 1972 TV movie Fair Play as a painter, and his worked steadily in the business since. His extensive resume (and memories) has been a wonderful advantage to us here at Natsukashi, and we thank Richard for sharing them with us.
He has also worked on TV, serrving as cinematographer on the popular HBO series, Dream On.