As our long-time readers know, I’ve seen my share of bad movies but it’s been a while since I’ve seen one as bad as 1970’s C.C. and Company.
C.C. and Company is about a drifter named C.C. Ryder (played by Joe Namath, who was a pro football quarterback at the time). Ryder rides through the desert on his dorky motorcycle. He doesn’t have a job. He doesn’t have much money. He does have a lot of hair and he also has a lot of teeth. We know that because it’s rare that there’s ever moment when C.C. isn’t smiling. C.C. is perhaps the most cheerful amateur criminal that I’ve ever seen. Even when C.C. really shouldn’t be smiling, he’s smiling. There are moments when people try to kill C.C. and he responds with a smile. This could be a sign of C.C.’s devil-may-care-attitude but I think it has more to do with Joe Namath being a really bad actor.
C.C. is apparently a member of a motorcycle gang. I say apparently because no one in the gang seems to like him and they’re constantly beating up on him. The leader of the gang is Moon (William Smith) and among the members of the gang is an intimidating figure named Crow (Sid Haig). Smith and Haig were both professional actors and genuine tough guys. They not only knew how to act on camera but they also knew how to throw a punch without faking it. Having them act opposite Namath doesn’t really accomplish much beyond emphasizing just how terrible an actor Namath was. Even though Moon is a Mansonesque creep, you still find yourself rooting for him whenever he and C.C. get into a fight because Smith creates an actual character whereas Namath…. well, he doesn’t. I sat through this entire film and never once did I find myself wondering what C.C.’s initials stood for. That’s how uninterested I was in C.C.’s life.
Anyway, C.C. meets the wealthy and chic Ann McCalley (Ann-Margaret) after Ann’s limo breaks down in the middle of the desert. C.C. not only fixes the limo but he also saves Ann from Crow and Lizard (Greg Mullaney). It’s love at first sight but, unfortunately, Ann has places to go so she drives off and C.C. returns to the biker camp and watches as Moon sends his girlfriend, Pom Pom (Jennifer Billingsley), out to make money on the highway. As I watched all of this, I found myself wondering how everyone else in the gang got stuck with names like Moon, Lizard, Crow, Rabbit, Pom Pom, and Zit-Zit (my favorite) but somehow C.C. was able to keep his innocent initials. The movie never explained the ritual behind receiving motorcycle gang names and I think that was a missed opportunity.
Eventually, C.C. trades in his dorky motorcycle for a Kawasaki, largely because Kawasaki apparently paid the film’s producers a lot of money. C.C. enters a race and wins. Ann sees him win and falls even more in love with him. C.C. gets into a fight with the gang and then he and Ann head to …. well, it looked a lot like Reno but honestly, who knows for sure? Eventually, Moon and the gang track C.C. and Ann down and it all leads to one last fight. We never do find out if the “company” of the title referred to Ann and her rich friends or Moon and the gang. Not even C.C. seems to know for sure.
So, there’s a lot of reasons why C.C. and Company doesn’t really work but mostly it all comes down to the lead non-performance of Joe Namath as C.C. There’s nothing tough or intimidating or rebellious about Namath. C.C. is the biker you can bring home to meet your parents. William Smith and Sid Haig are a lot more fun but they’re playing totally disreputable characters. Namath and Ann-Margaret have zero romantic chemistry and the entire film has the look of a cheap made-for-TV movie. Between C.C. and Company and Altamont, 1970 was not a good year to be a biker groupie.
That said, there is one good scene in C.C. and Company, where C.C. and Ann go out dancing. While Joe Namath awkwardly shakes his shoulders while flashing that ever-present grin, Ann-Margaret dances as if the fate of the world depended upon her. One year after the release of this movie, she would prove herself as dramatic actress and receive her first Oscar nomination for Carnal Knowledge.
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