Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1970s Viva Knievel! (1977)

Viva Knievel! (1977)

Real-life human crash test dummy Evel Knievel plays himself in a ridiculous PG-rated fictional adventure movie.

Some drug dealers in Mexico try to kill Knievel for his truck and he inspires miracles at an orphanage. Our hero also jumps over burning oil and lions. There’s also a rival rider to contend with, in the unlikely shape of Marjoe Gortner, but he redeems himself when he takes Evel’s place in a stunt orchestrated to go wrong by the villains.

Gene Kelly is Will, Evel’s mechanic, an alcoholic who is estranged from his young son Tommy (Eric Olson) after his wife died in childbirth. Big-hearted Evel sets up a reunion but it doesn’t go well – Will just doesn’t want the boy around – so yet another distracting subplot forges ahead.

The supporting cast includes Lauren Hutton, Leslie Nielsen, Red Buttons, Cameron Mitchell, Frank Gifford, Albert Salmi and Marjoe Gortner.

Warner had high expectations for this movie. Unfortunately, the film premiered just three months before Knievel and his associates attacked promoter Shelly Saltman with an aluminium baseball bat in September 1977.

Knievel was sentenced to six months in jail and lost most of his sponsorship and marketing deals as a result of the bad publicity.

Most of the stunts resemble the kind of action you would see on an episode of CHiPs and the more difficult stunts in the film were performed by stunt man Gary Lee Davis – though that fact was kept under wraps during the original release of the film.

Evel Knievel
Himself
Will Atkins
Gene Kelly
Kate Morgan
Lauren Hutton
Ben Andrews
Red Buttons
Stanley Millard
Leslie Nielsen
Barton
Cameron Mitchell
Frank Gifford
Himself
Tommy Atkins
Eric Olson
Sister Charity
Sheila Allen
Cortland
Albert Salmi
Ralph Thompson
Dabney Coleman
Norman Clark
Ernie F. Orsatti
Andy
Sidney Clute
Governor Garcia
Robert Tafur
Jessie
Marjoe Gortner

Director
Gordon Douglas