Continental Divide (1981)

“When they met they heard bells. And that was just round one.” If you’re only familiar with John Belushi as “Bluto” in Animal House or “Jake Blues” in The Blues Brothers, you might be a little disoriented with his low-key performance as chain-smoking, flask-swigging Chicago newspaper columnist “Ernie Souchak” (based on the legendary Mike Royko) in this low-key romantic comedy written by Lawrence Kasdan and directed by Michael Apted. After Ernie gets beaten badly in response to a series of investigative columns he wrote about a corrupt alderman, his editor persuades him to head to the Rocky Mountains and write a fluff piece about reclusive bald eagle researcher “Dr. Nell Porter” (Blair Brown), who lives a Spartan lifestyle in a remote mountain cabin. After a rocky start to the relationship (no pun intended) and a few pratfalls down the side of the mountain by Ernie, sparks start to fly between the couple and complications quickly arise regarding their vastly different lifestyles. The supporting cast includes Allen Garfield as “Howard McDermott” and Val Avery as “Yablonowitz.” Also look for Tony Ganios (best known as “Perry” in The Wanderers and “Meat” in Porky’s) as “Max Bernbaum,” a former football star turned mountain man. Bottom line: Continental Divide is no masterpiece but if you keep your expectations fairly low you will probably find yourself reasonably entertained. Tragically, Belushi died of a drug overdose at the age of 33 on March 5, 1982, less than six months after the film was released. Continental Divide was the first film produced by Amblin Entertainment, Steven Spielberg’s production company.

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