Clint Eastwood was warned by his associates not to make this picture, but he made it anyway, and his share of the profits was reputedly in excess of $15,000,000. So much for associates . . .
Eastwood plays Philo Beddoe – a trucker who picks up money by challenging the toughest men in every area to bare-knuckle bouts.
In an early match, he won a huge, 11-year-old orangutan (Clyde) that he now travels with. His other driving partner is thick-witted Orville Boggs (Geoffrey Lewis).
On a pub-crawling evening, they meet Country & Western singer Lynn Halsey-Taylor (Sondra Locke), and Beddoe falls for her. He thinks that the two of them can establish a life together, but she is flighty and departs before a permanent arrangement is established.
Determined not to let the woman walk out of his life, Beddoe sets out to catch up with her. Along the way, he has a few fights and makes enemies of two lawmen and a rag-tag gang of bikers calling themselves the Black Widows.
Over the course of the film, Eastwood beats the lawmen and the motorcyclists several times.
Later he encounters Echo (Beverly D’Angelo), a hitchhiker, and takes her aboard. She is a former fruit-stand vendor and is an excellent shot – a skill that comes in handy later.
When Lynn appears again, she apologises for walking out on Philo. The relationship resumes, but Lynn has not changed. Her feelings for Beddoe are lukewarm, and she much prefers her former boyfriend.
Philo allows her to leave and fights one last fight against a town tough. Although he knows he can beat the old clown, he realises that winning means more to the beer-bellied guy than it does to him, so he throws the fight, thus keeping the braggart’s local image intact.
Ruth Gordon, as Eastwood’s 80-year-old mother, has most of the best lines, but most of the huge laughs are at the antics of Clyde, an incredible animal with near-human abilities.
Lots of cars crash, plenty of blood is shed, Eastwood doesn’t say much, and everyone has what appears to be a good time.
Every Which Way But Loose also features arguably the best barroom brawl. In the blue corner, Eastwood and pugilistic orang-utan Clyde. In the red corner, a bar full of boozy bikers. The shakedown: a massive punch-up with Clyde emerging the simian answer to Lennox Lewis.
The sequel is Any Which Way You Can (1980), and if you didn’t see the title of the movie, it would be hard to know which one you were watching.