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OUTSIDE IN [a.k.a. Draft Dodger; Red, White and Busted (1972; Just For the Hell of It).

A Vietnam draft dodger returns home to face friends and family in this painfully earnest counterculture time capsule from Allen Baron, who later directed numerous episodes of CHARLIE'S ANGELS, THE BRADY BUNCH and THE LOVE BOAT, but is nowadays best recognized for his stunning feature debut, 1961's BLAST OF SILENCE. Inane, rambling and justifiably obscure, this film focuses on a serious topic but, ultimately, has absolutely nothing to say. Nevertheless, the distributor kept changing its title and ad campaign, in hopes that something would click -- premiering in 1972 as OUTSIDE IN, returning to theatres a year later as DRAFT DODGER, and again in '75 as RED, WHITE AND BUSTED... Ollie Wilson (Darrell Larson), an American kid who fled to Toronto instead of getting shipped off to Vietnam, sneaks back into the US for his father's Los Angeles funeral and promptly ends up running from FBI agents casing the cemetery. Eluding these coldhearted G-men, Ollie reunites with two old buddies. Bernie (Dennis Olivieri) went to prison for avoiding the draft and is now a traumatized addict clerking at a dirty bookstore, while Bink (John Bill) was injured in Nam, has cleaned up his act and lets Ollie hide out at a secluded beach pad -- sharing the place with Chris (Heather Menzies), a groovy, pretty free-spirit who finds screwed-up-yet-oddly-innocent Ollie a refreshing change compared to her past boyfriends. No surprise, romance and sex are in the cards for the pair, as Ollie drearily ruminates about his past... Larson is utterly forgettable -- imagine a shallow, more forgettable Eric Stoltz -- and this was his solitary lead role before (wisely) shifting to character-actor gigs. Menzies made her screen debut as THE SOUND OF MUSIC's Louisa Von Trapp; went onto star in PIRANHA and the short-lived LOGAN'S RUN TV-show; and married Robert Urich in 1975.. There isn't much to her part, but at least she's halfway believable, while also supplying a smidgen of gratuitous nudity while bathing and dressing. The supporting cast includes Yvette Vickers and Peter Brocco, with Logan Ramsey making an impression in the tiny role of Ollie's judgmental uncle, barking "Go on back to your coward's hole in Canada," at the gravesite. The script by Robert Hutchison (FROGS) is often incredibly angry about the then-current state of America, but continually gets weighed down by Ollie's tedious melodrama -- wondering what his dead dad thought of him, helping self-destructive Bernie, hanging out with laid-back Chris, and making one bone-headed decision after another. The whole thing shambles along, without any focus or deeper insights, while tossing in some cheap tragedy and a limp non-ending. There's workmanlike cinematography by Mario Rosi (CARRIE, THE STUNT MAN), plus it features an early film score and a couple insipid original songs by Randy Edelman, who later penned the theme music for MacGYVER and THE ADVENTURES OF BRISCO COUNTY, JR.

© 2020 by Steven Puchalski.