Hey, neat, here's a mid-70s western adventure that stars Kurt Russell and Tim Matheson. I love those guys! How is it I've never heard of this movie before?
Well, dear reader, it's because The Longest Drive is only a "movie" inasmuch as Farewell to the Planet of the Apes is one too. (In other words: It's not a movie.) See, back in 1976 there was a goofy little western series called The Quest. It starred Russell and Matheson as a pair of long-lost brothers; Matheson was the city-boy doctor, while Russell was the one raised by Native Americans.
How this pair of mismatched siblings met back up in the first place, I do not know. Mainly because The Longest Drive is nothing more than two episodes of The Quest jammed back-to-back. But at least they're episodes that deal with the same story -- and that story is "Cattle Drive!"
Russell's character is known as Russell Two Persons, while Mr. Matheson gets to play the less exotic Quintin Beaudine. Apparently they spent all 15 episodes of The Quest searching for their missing sister, stopping once a week to involve themselves in some sort of conventional western adventure.
In this one we have a long and dangerous cattle drive that boasts contributions from folks like Brian Keith, Keenan Wynn, Cameron Mitchell, and Erik Estrada -- which means you'll most likely have something to rest your eyes upon once you're sick of looking at cows and giggling at Kurt Russell's Pocahontas outfit (or his intermittently hilarious broken-English line readings -- and yes, I did say "Erik Estrada.")
The hazardous bovine escort takes many days, yields a few adventures, and leads to a few deaths along the way. Meanwhile, fans of all things western-flick-related may find themselves fitfully entertained, but let's face facts: Were it not for the presence of Mr. Russell and Mr. Matheson, one suspects that The Longest Drive would still be buried in an NBC vault somewhere. As a family-friendly western adventure, you could surely do worse -- but you could also do a hell of a lot better too; probably with your eyes closed.
(Sequel note: An additional pair of episodes were later wedged together to form a TV-movie entitled The Captive: The Longest Drive 2, and since that one co-stars Russell, Matheson, and a very young & comely Susan Dey, I suspect it's only a matter of months before that one hits the DVD shelves as well.)
Video: C'mon, DVD fans, it's a 2-part television episode from 1976. I know you're not expecting some sort of pristine Widescreen Anamorphic what-not. The Longest Drive is presented in its original (and somewhat grungy-looking) fullscreen format. The picture quality is certainly solid enough to enjoy the show, but not much more than that.
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. Not awful, not fancy.
Extras: Just a few trailers for Silverado, The Professionals, Major Dundee, Glory, and a catch-all Sony Westerns Collection promo.
Kurt Russell and Tim Matheson have been favorites of mine since as long as I can remember, so it was kind of fun to look back on this forgotten old section of their rise to fame. I can offer The Longest Drive a Rent It recommendation to fans of either actor or westerns in general, but don't go in expecting much more than a mid-70s curiosity piece with lots of cows, gunfights, and silly costumes.