Kris Kristofferson is CISCO PIKE
Kris Kristofferson made his acting debut in this film as Cisco Pike, a down on his luck folk musician whose life went off the rails due to drugs. When he wanders back to the doorstep of his old girlfriend Sue (Karen Black) Cisco seems to have plans of working on his music again but that is put on hold when Leo Holland (Gene Hackman) a corrupt cop he was once busted by blackmails him into selling a stash of impounded marijuana. Cisco reluctantly agrees since he has to get $10,000 over a weekend. He hops in his stationwagon and begins making the rounds while Holland keeps tabs on him.
A colorful cast of supporting characters turn up on Cisco’s adventures around town including Warhol superstar “Viva”, hippie icon Wavy Gravy, Alan Arbus (Coffy), Antonio Fargas (Foxy Brown), Severn Darden (Werewolves on Wheels), Howard Hesseman (Billy Jack) and Doug Sahm. We are also treated to some of Kris’ classic tunes such as “Loving Her Was Easier”, “Breakdown” and “Pilgrim Chapter 33” which act as the perfect bluesy soundtrack to the mellow gold atmosphere. The great Harry Dean Stanton makes a memorable appearance as Cisco’s old musician pal Jesse, a poor soul who is hooked on junk and can’t break free.
Cisco Pike is a bit rough around the edges but has enough charm to keep it together and acts as a time capsule style look back at the hazy California of the early 70s. Kris Kristofferson does a commendable job in his first film role giving Cisco a grounded, informal presence instead of going too over the top with intensity as you might expect with most singers turned actors. The film was largely ignored upon its release but later found a cult following with film buffs and music aficionados. Cisco Pike now fits into the same niche as something like Two Lane Blacktop with its post-Easy Rider existential desolation and failed hippie ideals. Director Sam Peckinpah was so impressed by Kristofferson’s performance he cast him in the lead of his classic western Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) a year later.