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Film: Viva Knievel
"Yeah... hard to believe Evel Knievel was a mega-giant superstar, but in defense of the seventies, you have to remember that most people were coked up and had at least one venereal disease."

Viva Knievel! is a 1977 action film starring Evel Knievel as a strangely dressed man who jumps his motorcycle over things.

As the greatest bike jumper in the world, Knievel is offered a huge sum to exhibit his skill in Mexico. But the engagement is actually a trap laid by a drug lord (Leslie Nielsen), who intends to kill Knievel as part of an elaborate scheme to smuggle cocaine into the United States. Along the way, Evel must recover from a traumatic crash, reunite an alcoholic mechanic (Gene Kelly) with his estranged son, and win the affection of a standoffish reporter (Lauren Hutton).


This film provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Will Atkins, formerly a champion motorcycle jumper, now Evel's mechanic.
  • Alternate DVD Commentary: In 2013, RiffTrax gave it the comic treatment.
  • As Himself: Both Evel Knievel and Frank Gifford appear as fictionalized versions of themselves.
  • Batman Gambit: Millard knows that Evel will react magnanimously to Jesse's approach.
  • Borscht Belt: Ben, the corrupt promoter played by Red Buttons.
  • Bragging Theme Tune
  • Broken Aesop / Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Evel scolds other characters for engaging in harmful vices like drinking and drug use, but he routinely endangers his own life with his motorcycle stunts. This contradiction is lampshaded in the Rifftrax commentary.
    Mike Nelson (as Evel Knievel): Remember kids, whatever you do, don't engage in risky behavior that might harm you! Now watch me jump some angry lions and make more money than your dad does in a year!
  • Chickification: Kate starts out as a sassy, outspoken professional, but by the end of the film she has degraded into a damsel in distress.
  • Coffin Contraband: Millard's plan is to kill Knievel in Mexico and smuggle cocaine in the van carrying Knievel's body back into the United States.
  • Cool Bike: Naturally, there are several in the film. One is even used as a bribe.
  • The Corruptible: Jesse (played by Marjoe Gortner).
  • Death by Childbirth: The fate of Will's wife, and the apparent cause of his alcoholism and antipathy towards his son.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Evel is vocally opposed to drug use, even preceding his bike jump with an anti-drug homily. Later he angrily refuses to believe that his alcoholic friend might be on "dope".
  • Easily Forgiven: Apparently, Evel doesn't hold grudges - it's even a plot point. Tell that to the biographer Evel attacked with an aluminum baseball bat.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: The end of the final chase.
    Kevin: (guffawing) And of course, since every car in The Seventies were made of pure nitroglycerin!
  • Exact Eaves Dropping: Jesse just happened to be listening at the door when the bad guys announced their intention to eliminate him.
  • Friend to All Children: In the first scene, Evel is delivering toys to orphans. However, he also slaps them awake, and scolds them harshly for hugging them too hard.
  • Functional Addict: Will Atkins, who manages to fix Evel's motorcycle and also get blackout drunk.
  • Good Flaws, Bad Flaws
    Evel: If he's been drinking, all right. But dope? No way!
  • Hollywood Atlas
    Kate: I'm flying out to cover that new revolution in South America.
    Evel: Big deal. There's always a revolution in South America.
    • Evel's hometown is Montana, the entire state.
  • Hot Scoop: Kate, the reporter sent to cover Evel Knievel.
  • Insane Forgiveness: Evel is too magnanimous for his own good.
    Millard: I've studied Knievel. He's a big man. He never holds a grudge. He forgives and forgets.
  • Ironic Nickname: Evel's explanation for his sobriquet. "I was such a good little boy, they nicknamed me Evil."
  • Magnificent Moustaches of Mexico: Sported by many of the Mexican characters.
  • Mistaken for Junkie: Will Atkins is falsely imprisoned in a sanatarium, supposedly because of a drug overdose, but in reality to keep him from revealing Mallard's scheme to Knievel.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Evel is the #1 ranked jumper. Will was the #1 jumper at one point in Texas. Who knew there was a daredevil jumping league?
  • Parental Abandonment: Will blames his son for his wife's death in childbirth, and treats him accordingly.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Evel, of course.
  • Ransacked Room: Evel takes a break from chasing the villain and drives his motorcycle through a Mexican saloon, leaving the place a shambles.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Kate delivers one to Evel and Will.
  • The Seventies: Feathered hair, cocaine, and Marjoe Gortner!
  • Slipping a Mickey: Jesse drugs Will's booze in order to gain access to Evel's van.
  • Stay in the Kitchen
    Evel: Are you a woman... or a "mizz"?
    Kate: Chances are you'll never know.
  • Stern Nun: Sister Charity.
  • Stunt Double: In a sense, Jesse serves as Evel's stunt double during the fateful jump.
    • Evel also has a real double for the stunts.
  • Tap on the Head: For a stunt biker, Evel is pretty easy to knock unconscious.
  • Title Drop: Clumsily.
    Evel: Viva tequila!
    Ben: Viva... Knievel!
  • Too Dumb to Live: Even after learning of Mallard's scheme, Evel takes no action to prevent or expose it. He continues to play into the drug lord's hands, and only escapes death when Jesse happens to knock him out and take his place before the rigged jump.
  • Undermined By Reality: The film presents Evel Knievel as gentle and long-suffering. But mere months after the film's release, Knievel attacked a former promoter with an aluminum baseball bat. (The promoter had written an unflattering biography of him.) Knievel spent six months in prison and lost most of his corporate sponsors, leading to his bankruptcy in the early eighties.
    • The film also has to pretend Knievel's wife and children don't exist so he can have a romantic subplot with Lauren Hutton.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: Remember when a motorcycle jumper could be a huge celebrity?
  • Wearing a Flag on Your Head: Evel's wardrobe and accoutrements are all decorated in an American flag motif.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Evel's crooked promoter Ben (Red Buttons) disappears without explanation after the first act, and his subplot is never resolved. It is mentioned Knievel never breaks a promise, and the promoter has been signed to two more jumps - but Knievel only performs one stunt under Ben's contract before doing a jump with Millard has his promoter. If Knievel is a man of his word like everyone claims, it's doubly odd Ben would vanish.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Kate lays into Evel and Will over their treatment of Tommy. It's last time she shows any backbone, and the only time Evel gets criticized.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: After Evel is killed, Jesse is next - too bad Jesse overhears the betrayal.
WizardsFilms of the 1970sThe 36th Chamber Of Shaolin

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