Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Hellcats

The Hellcats
1967 D: Robert F. Slatzer (also co-wrote, acts)

Army vet, out to avenge his cop brother's murder, infiltrates gang who runs dope for the mob

All I remembered about this was that I never really followed it; after seeing it again about 15 years later while watching more closely, I still have no idea what the hell's going on. I've been putting off reviewing this, because it's so utterly incoherent that I'm not sure how.
The film opens with the funeral of one of the club's members, whom we learn from a couple of cops watching from nearby was about to rat on them. Also watching are two mob guys (one of whom, Mr Adrian, is terribly played by the director), who are actually "hiding" by squatting behind a tombstone. I have no idea what the hell they're talking about.
After a ridiculously long, hand-off filled relay, the bikers deliver "the powder" (which is never identified and looks like about half an ounce) to Mr. Adrian and his Fred Willard-ish henchman. Later, a cop is killed by a mob sniper for some reason.
Enter Ross Hagen as Monte, the cop's brother, just out of the Army. He and his brother's former fiancee Linda decide to infiltrate the club, and with an ease that's stunning even for a film like this, do just that. From there it's drug running, kidnappings, and fights, none of which make any sense at all, padded out with what are possibly the most boring "partyin'" scenes ever put on film.
Slatzer is just awful as an actor, far worse as a director, and still worse as a writer. Compared to him, everyone else seems to be chewing up the scenery, the cuts to close-ups when lines are delivered are downright disturbing, and between those lines (pathetic attempts at biker/hepcat and mobster lingo: "I tell the blue, I got rights. Freedom of speech. And they say, not here you don't. And they smack me five times on the wrist. And I'm a believer, man." Or how about: "Hey, what's the action? Drop the steel." ) and the mess of a plot, the viewer's constant reaction is "Wait--what?"
To prove his mettle, Monte (btw-- fucking "Monte"?!) competes with rival biker Snake in a game where each is tied by the feet to the back of a trike and must hold onto another by his hands for at least 15 seconds as the bikes pull in opposite directions, then let go and be dragged down a dirt road. Sounds like a cool scene, no? Slatzer makes this so mind-numbingly dull that it's almost impressive.
Does it at least have a decent soundtrack? No, it does not.
One of the weakest of the era. I'm only giving this a 1.5 because the eyepatch wearing Rita (Shannon Summers, who according to imdb never worked before or since) is so incredibly cute.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Northville Cemetery Massacre

Northville Cemetery Massascre (aka Freedom RIP)
D: William Dear & Thomas L. Dyke

Outlaw bikers are hunted down by the man for a crime they didn't commit

Like "The Black Angels" and other classics, this was a very low budget film shot for the local drive-ins, in this case the Detroit area. I'd heard about this for years, then finally got a DVD-R of it some years back (shortly after, a splendidly done special edition DVD was released). I was not disappointed.
Vietnam vet Chris is a friend of the MC the Spirits (all played by Detroit club the Scorpions; Carson Jackson as Deke is especially good); his older brother was a Spirit who was killed in an accident while Chris was in 'Nam. He and girlfriend Lynn are partying with the club at an outdoor wedding of one of its members.
Later, he and Lynn adjourn to a barn loft to get it on--but the evil Putnam and another cop knock him out and rape Lynn. Putnam threatens Lynn to keep the truth to herself, and puts the blame on Chris and the Spirits. He then riles up Lynn's over-protective, gullible, reactionary father, and enlists the aid of wealthy right-wing kook Mr. Armstrong. Fuck framing the bikers--the plan is to hunt them down and kill them.
When two Spirits are gunned down outside their clubhouse, they assume it's the work of another club, the Road Agents (played by the Road Agents MC). Eventually they realize that the Agents aren't involved, and prepare for war with the real culprits, renting rifles and buying grenades from a local crazy militia type. It all builds up to the final showdown at the burial of the two killed Spirits at Northville Cemetery.
This was renamed; the somewhat ill-fitting name refers to the film's climax. This was shot, and occasionally released, as "Freedom RIP." This is important to note, as it ties in with the flick's "statement." The Spirits' colors are American flag-ish, and their bottom rocker is "RIP" and not a chapter; Putnam and Lynn's father first meet in front of Rip's diner, and only "RIP" from its sign is in frame; as the bikers are pulled over and hassled by the cops, the National Anthem is playing on a car radio's broadcast of a ballgame; a biker is shot while reading from a Bible... OK, it's not too subtle. Nor are the characters: the corrupt and power-drunk cop; the protective father who's a good man but easily led by the alleged good guys; the crazy, rich, conservative reactionary type; the second amendment extremist who thinks he's Patton... It's a wonderfully cliche relic from the days when it was the right wingers who were the joyless fascist assholes. This all makes it sound like a corny, heavy-handed statement film, but everything works.
The shoestring budget gives it an air of realism, like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" or "The Last House on the Left," and while gun dealer Captain Freedom is a bit over the top, the directors get some pretty strong performances out of a cast of amateurs and non-actors. The buildup of tension is very well done, and there are some great scenes. The Spirits-Road Agents meeting at a drive-in stands out, as does the post-shooting bleep-filled tv interview with one of the Spirits. Includes some great lines as well (judge to bikers: "I know all about you. I go to the movies").
The opening voiceover is by an unbilled Nick Nolte, and the entertaining narrative-type soundtrack is by Michael Nesmith (and really needs an official CD release--Rhino Handmade, where ya at?).
A solid 4 stars for this once-lost classic.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Psychomania (aka The Death Wheelers)
D: Don Sharp

British gang learns how to become immortal--through suicide

In the intro to the (fantastic looking) dvd version, Fangoria editor in chief Chris Alexander mentions that this was the first horror video he ever purchased; I could say the same, only mine was on an LP-recorded twofer with the utterly unrelated (and far less entertaining) "Alice Sweet Alice." This one has a special place in my heart. It's part "Angels from Hell," part "A Clockwork Orange," AND it's a horror film! With some great black comedy!
British gang the Living Dead, with prophetic name and bad ass skull-painted helmets, are led by Tom (Nicky Henson), the wealthy and nihilistic son of a medium. Through his mother and her... butler? master? personal assistant? mentor? Shadwell (George Sanders), Tom gains spiritual knowledge, including the secret to becoming immortal: Killing yourself while believing 100% that you will return. There are the expected conflicts and plot devices, but the highlights of the film are the bikers (with great names like Hatchet, Gash, and Chopped Meat [the latter of whom looks like an evil Danny Bonaduce]) killing themselves.
"Psychomania" is an absolute blast. Tom is an incredible bastard, a cross between Alex from "Clockwork" and Brian Jones, Mary Larkin is perfectly corny as his girlfriend Abby, and although Sanders is kinda sleepwalking through his role*, everyone else is solid as well... While some of the horror elements come off a bit dated, they're mostly quite good and are blended well with comedy, both intentional and un-: Tom's burial, sitting astride his motorcycle (and I guess funerals at national historic sites are ok in England) is ridiculous, but his rising is cool as shit looking. The opening sequence is brilliant.
In a fairly recent interview in Rue Morgue, Henson said he was disappointed by the bikes; he wanted to do the film based on the first lines of the script, depicting the guys on Harleys. On set, he was disappointed to see British motorcycles. As an American viewer, I disagree. It seems more fitting to me that they be on their own country's bikes. Still, having the spoiled rich dude on the crappiest looking Triumph of the bunch does kinda stand out as a distraction.
Apart from the godawful "Riding Free" (which I'd occasionally torture my wife by earnestly singing), the soundtack, by a band called Frog, is mostly outstanding.
This one gets its pick of any four candy bars in the bowl, and not that "fun size" bullshit, either.

* This was also his last. Shortly after this film, George Sanders killed himself, but, as the Pschotronic Encyclopedia of Film points out, "did not return on a motorcycle."

The Violent Kind

The Violent Kind
D: Mitchell Altieri, Phil Flores

Some white trash young adults in a remote house are menaced by something even nastier than outlaw bikers...

In the first third, it's established that Q (Bret Roberts) is a tough guy, DILIGAF* member of the not-quite inventively named MC The Crew. His best friend Cody (Cory Knauf), who was never patched in due to a scandal that landed him in prison, and another pal head up to Cody's mom's remote place in the northern California woods for a club party. They establish Cody's backstory of conflict with Q and the Crew (which sounds like a terrible '80s pop-r&b outfit), the party soon ends, and all trappings of this being the kind of biker movie the ads and box art imply are pretty much over and done with.
From there, it's half typical direct to dvd young people stranded in a remote house being stalked by outsiders movie, and half direct to dvd young people stranded in a remote house where a supernatural force is building movie. Someone in the woods is watching them, there are what seem to be flashbacks of violent murders, people die and are possessed, etc. Until the final third, when said stalking outsiders appear.
They turn out to be a group of street hoods from the '50s who are now undead '50s retro hipsters. Greaser Vern, hepcat Jazz, mildly retarded greaser thug Murderball, and their gals Trixie and (I am not making this up) Pussywagon do the tie them up and fuck with them thing.
I quickly saw that this was in no way, shape, or form going to be a biker flick, and the whole Crew backstory was probably added to glom onto the popularity of The Sons of Anarchy. Still, I at least expected a halfway decent horror movie. I did not get one... This isn't exactly my first foray into direct to disc horror; I know what I'm getting into. I'm ok with going in expecting a cheap good time. The less than spectacular effects, for example, are no problem. This was simply not good.
I don't anticiapte top-notch performances, but the leads should at leat be passable. While the women were ok, the males were brutal. I figured a guy named Cory playing a guy named Cody was a bad sign, and his way-too-McConaughey performace was worse than I'd expected. Bret Roberts was simply terrible, and the less said about the villains, the better. I'm pretty liberal with accepting plot holes, but the overall plot should at least make some kind of sense (and if you hang in there with this thinking, "I hope it at least has a decent ending," you're gonna be pissed). The direction and editing are terrible; the scenes with the greasers are supposed to by David Lynch-like, and it's just embarrassing. The only thing shocking about the gore is how little of it there is.
The soundtrack was actually not bad at all.
One piece of candy (the Raisinettes nobody wants) for this Halloween dud.

* "Do I look like I give a fuck?"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Still on the road

No, the man ain't run me outta town. 'Fact, this is just a quickie before the Halloween post tomorrow... Just been busy on the new bar & clubhouse... Any wine dinkers out there? Those Aussies know that since any cheap red is likely a good one, the best way to hook some of us types is with the label. Been a fan of Old Plains' Stooges/punk rock themed Raw Power for a while (and their Funhouse pinot grigio isn't bad either, for a ten dollar white), as well as silliness like the actually OK Luchador. But dig on this Malbec/Shiraz, part of their pulp themed labels: Cycle Buff Beauty. A label suitable for framing, and - no shit, brothers - a damn fine cheap red.

In other non-film news, and for you Manson...uh...buffs? fans? enthusiasts? Our man in Arizona tipped me off a few weeks back that someone was on ebay selling the Straight Satans San Fernando Valley chapter cut seen below. Bidding price got well up into four digits but then the auction was pulled. Don't know by whom or why, but it's not exactly surprising. Selling a club's rags -whether you were ever the one who earned 'em or not - is (fuckin' DUH) a goddamn NO-NO. Still pretty cool to see 'em though...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

On hiatus again

Got some thangs going on 'round here, no time for movies. I shall return, though.
I've had time for just half an hour to an hour of teevee lately, so I've been watching Combat! on dvd. In syndication it seemed that they mainly showed the later (color) seasons, so I hadn't seen many of the really early episodes - the direction is outstanding. Man, you could really count on seeing some great shots in those '60s b&w dramas.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Beyond the Law

Beyond the Law
D: Larry Ferguson (also wrote)

Pretty much Stone Cold with Charlie Sheen instead of Brian Bosworth

"Beyond the Law," yet another reason I have no regrets about the fact that I ignored the biker flicks of this period when they were new, has almost the same exact set-up as the previous year's "Stone Cold." Crazy cop is kicked off the force, then approached by the FBI to go undercover. He ends up deep inside a motorcycle club, and feels conflicted and begins to lose sight of his original mission. Fortunatley differences do emerge, because for a while this just seems like a remake.
There's other good news as well. Charlie Sheen is just a bit better an actor than fucking Brian Bosworth, the FBI guy is Courtney B. Vance (ADA Carver from Criminal Intent, my favorite of the Law & Order shows), and the main supporting actor and bike club prez is Michael Madsen. Let's put off the bad news for now.
Since Sheen is not the one dimensional actor Bosworth is, his character has a little more depth as well, corny as it may be. Dan Saxon was himself raised by a cop, a sadistic uncle who beat him severely and without reason, until Saxon shot him to death at age six. He is, of course, still haunted by nightmares of this. He's also not suspended for being a badass like John Stone, but fired, essentially because his boss is a prick. And he doesn't exactly have immediate success as an undercover man.
Saxon, in fact, has no luck at all making contacts as a drug dealer, and confides in a grease monkey he meets in a white trash dive--who just happens to be a motorcycle mechanic that always wanted to be a cop and offers to help him adopt a biker image and infiltrate local club the Jackals.
After learing how to "be a biker," building a Harley from scratch, and adorning colors for a fake club (the Pythons, Cleveland chapter), Saxon is ready. And, this being a movie, he's accepted rather quickly by Blood (Madsen), the Jackals' president.
From there things vary wildly, from the not bad to the ridiculous. Mostly ridiculous. Worst of all is the love story angle, involving Linda Fiorentino. She's a photojournalist hanging out with the club, who recognizes Saxon as the cop who pulled her over prior to his firing and undercover work. Despite the fact that she repeatedly mentions how dangerous his work is and that she'll be heading home to finish her project soon, she falls for Saxon, and after one night of lovin' (in a rather unsexy sex scene), allows him to bond with her six-year-old daughter. It also leads to an absolutely painfully cliche "Renee...I..." as he walks out the door.
Aside from the typically watchable Madsen performance, most of the rest of what's enjoyable here is only fun in retrospect. There's a three-way gun standoff like in "Reservoir Dogs," and in 2011 a scene where Charlie Sheen is pressured into doing coke (he likes it!) is pretty goddamnned funny.
I can't say enough about Madsen, who's always fun to watch, and would finally get to do a good biker film a decade+ later. And other small parts go to Rip Torn (as Saxon's original partner) and Dennis Burkley (from Sanford, "Mask," etc). All in all, this should have been a pretty enjoyable movie. So what's the problem?
The problem is that this is close to TWO FUCKING HOURS LONG, which is just obscene. And it's not exactly a tight 110 minutes, as there are so many fucking montages in this (even for an action movie of its era) that I started to wonder if it was a joke. The learning to be a biker montage, the getting ready to go out montage, the riding montage, the falling in love montage...Bloody hell.
Besides Michael Madsen and Sheen's performance (a throwaway, which from him is still good), the only real fun here is the titty bar, The Hole Thing, which features a Pabst "This Is The Place" sign that I would kill to own.
Would have been a good one if half of it was left on the cutting room floor, but as it is, this gets 1.5 lines of heavily stepped on blow.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Werewolves on Wheels

Werewolves on Wheels
D: Michel Levesque (also co-wrote)

With roles as bikers for Barry McGuire (it was the "Eve of Destruction" for his acting career) and Bud from Father Knows Best
Bikers, cursed by occultists, become werewolves

As far as movies I hadn't seen in a while living up to or exceeding my memory of them, I've had a pretty good run. So I guess it had to end eventually.
In this '71 biker-horror (odd how few of them there were), an MC called the Devil's Advocates, a typical hassle the squares type club, tempts fate by scoffing at a Tarot card reader and later partying in a graveyard, and then hanging out with some clearly evil cult types. Jeez, what could this lead to that's any good? (Certainly not the movie.)
After being drugged by the cult, Adam (Stephen Oliver) and the rest of the Advocates pass out, and the ritual begins. Cult leader One (Severn Darden, who not only has a great name but was in "Vanishing Point" and the final two of the original "Planet of the Apes" movies) guides them through some pretty cliche occult stuff in a scene that would be pretty cool if trimmed a bit. Adam's girl Helen (DJ Anderson) is bewitched after eating bread dipped in blood; when the bikers come to, they beat the crap out of the cult, grab her, and split to the desert to get their heads straight, man.
I dunno, then some stuff happens. Helen is suddenly fine, but then not fine because she looked into the fire. A couple is killed by a werewolf (not shown, but the resultant gore isn't too bad), though it's assumed to have been a coyote attack. Tarot (Duece Berry [Duece Berry was a workin' man...(Neil Young joke, in case you missed it)]) gets lines about heavy vibes and bad omens and the like, weird shit goes on, etc. And it all just kinda limps along to the ending.
Though a bit silly, this really isn't a bad premise. There are also some fantastic shots (the dust storm looks especially good), the acting is ok, and the soundtrack (by Don Gere) is great, especially the opening theme and a Velvet Underground-ish tune during the topless snakedance. Plus, yeah, there's a topless snakedance. Not to mention a van that's a-rockin' and a cool "local" type with a Billy Jack hat. The bikers look pretty legit, and include characters named Scarf, Mouse, and Movie.
The problem is that the script should have been fleshed out a little more, because there's a huge amount of padding and filler. Though it's only an 80 minute film, it's an 80 minute film that should have been an hour at most. I should probably mention as well that you only actually see a werewolf on a Harley for a few seconds, at the end.
And while I'm complaining, I'm really tired of seeing colors attached with pins and/or glue in so many movies. I can dig the low budget thing but can getting some sewing done really eat into a budget all that much?
This shoulda-been-great plodding mess is nowhere near as fun as I remembered it. Two dull, chipped wolf fangs for this one.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Angel Unchained

Angel Unchained
D: Lee Madden (also P, story writer)

Another biker-hippie teamup movie

Like "Run, Angel, Run," the lead is a biker named Angel who leaves the outlaw life behind; like "The Peace Killers" and "Angels Hard As They Come" it's a hippies-team-up-with-bikers tale. And it's not as good as any of those.
Busy character actor Don Stroud stars as the titular Angel, a club VP who's had enough and wants to move on. He leaves the club with the blessing of prez Pilot (Larry Bishop), whose life he's saved; Pilot even reminds him that he's always there if Angel needs him.
After some lone wolf riding, Angel saves some members of a commune, which he quickly joins. As it turns out, the hippies are constantly harrassed by the local rancher types. He tries to deal with the 'necks; doing so peacefully doesn't work, and due to their numbers, his fists aren't enough, either. Reluctantly, he goes to his old bros for help. Which opens up the expected can of worms.
There's really not a lot to this not particularly original film, but it's one I've always liked. The action's pretty decent, especially the opening brawl at an amusement park. In fact, the stunts are quite good overall. Randy Sparks provides the soundtrack, which doesn't hurt.
It's mostly carried by the cast, which besides Stroud and Bishop includes Luke Askew, Aldo Ray in a small role, and Neil Moran (the Boss from "Eraserhead"). I've heard a lot of jokes about it including some brief nudity by female lead Tyne Daly, but fuck them, she's a good actress and was pretty damned cute then. The Arizona Dirty Dozen appear as extras for some realism.
Nothing special, but it's one I've just always dug for some reason. It's where I swiped the "Our Man in Arizona" credit, by the way.
Honestly though? A 2.5.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Loveless

The Loveless
D: Kathryn Bigelow & Monty Montgomery (also co-writers)

Notable: First big role for Willem Dafoe, first feature by director Bigelow

Set in the late '50s, a gang of biker/greasers stops in a small town on their way to the races in Daytona, which of course leads to trouble.

While a little light on plot, the mood and atmosphere in this one is laid on with a trowel. The whole thing is a modern hipster's dream, and I find it hard to believe this hasn't garnered a big cult following (that I know of, anyway).
Told in a noir-ish flashback ("You never can tell on a day like this- things could be goin' jake one minute, then, presto --before you know it, you're history...), just out of jail Willem Dafoe and his gang of denim 'n' leather clad, switchblade wielding bikers --including neo-rockabilly singer Robert Gordon-- rendezvous in a small town on their way to the Daytona races. They rent garage space to work on the bikes, and take a short break before continuing on. Although they arouse some interest from the local women, the menfolk aren't exactly happy to have them there. "They're animals," says one. "Wish I could trade places with 'em for a day or two." The rest aren't even that kind, figuring them for goddamn commies. The violence in the air is finally manifest in the climax and somewhat existentialist ending.
Really, there's not much more to it than that. If you need a deeper plot than that you might not be satisfied here, but you do get some classic tunes ("Raunchy," "Rip It Up," Brenda Lee's "I Want to Be Wanted"...), great lines, a strip scene with some very nice naturals, great looking Harleys, classic Daytona footage, hoods being hoods (gunplay, playing "spreads" chicken with switchblades, etc), and more mood than any other movie you're likely to watch this week. The bikers look fucking great, with the creepy/cool Dafoe looking and acting like the exact point at which James Dean and Charlie Starkweather meet (If you've seen "Streets of Fire" from two years later, his character Raven is sort of an amplified version of this role). I also dig the probably local extra who looks like a real life version of Harry Dean Stanton. 3 stilettoes for this one.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Chrome and Hot Leather

Chrome and Hot Leather
D: Lee Frost

Claim to fame: With Marvin Gaye, Cheryl Ladd in a tiny role, and (uncredited) Erik Estrada and Grizzly Adams

Soldier hunts down the bike club responsible for the death of his fiancee

Odd that there were only a few biker flicks aimed at the "returning vet" audience; this is one of the best.
Motorcycle club the Wizards (nice colors), out riding, start clowning with a couple of girls in a car. One, Casey, gets a little too aggressive; the girls get scared and make a hard turn, causing Casey to lay down his bike. Not heeding club prez TJ (William Smith), Casey gives chase and smashes their windshield with a chain, sending the car out of control and over a cliff, killing the girls. (Like in "She-Devils on Wheels," the chain is left behind as evidence.) Casey, a very pissed-off TJ, and the rest of the Wizards split the scene.
Turns out one of the girls (Kathy, played by a very young Cheryl Ladd, then known as Cheryl Moor) is the fiancee of Mitch (veteran character actor Tony Young), a sergeant who trains young soldiers on their way to 'Nam. The police have no solid leads, so Mitch enliststs (sorry for the pun) a few of his buddies (including Marvin Gaye; oddly the publicity for the film doesn't seem to have really pushed him) to help him track down the club responsible. No outlaws will help a bunch of squares like them, so they decide to form their own club as a front.
In a learning to ride montage accompanied by a pretty lame song, the three master riding their (dirt)bikes, create dopey cuts with sergeant stripes to try to look like outlaws, and are on their way.
Meanwhile, TJ is not happy about Casey bringing possible heat on them, or Casey in general for that matter. They've got a good thing going, with the local police and citizens intimidated, and dumb shit like killing girls is grief they don't need. TJ would clearly like to just dump a headache like Casey, but a brother's a brother so what can one do.
Eventually Mitch tracks the Wizards down to their hangout at the Piru Billard [sic] Parlor, and even gets so in with them that he gets the whole story out of Casey's girl. The club eventually gets wise to and captures Mitch, but his buddies manage to free him and plot their final revenge.
A pretty cool (if a bit corny) plot, carried by a strong cast. Tony Young is so stiff it's enjoyable, and Michael Haynes is great as asshole Casey. William Smith is William Smith--the best. The big motherfucker, with his fu manchu and open-legged riding style, could not look cooler. Gaye is actually pretty natural as an actor, and Larry Bishop steals his scenes as the spaced out Gabriel.
Wish I know who that was doing the rockin' main theme. The rest of the music mostly sucks.
A legitimately solid and enjoyable action movie with very little filler or padding that still shows up on tv sometimes, usually on Turner stations. A fun and satisfying 3.5

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hard Ride to Hell

Note: "Trailer" is actually the first seven minutes of the film

Hard Ride to Hell
D: Penelope Buitenhuis

Young vacationers in an RV are terrorized by a bike gang that's actually a cult of immortals

Based on the descriptions, I was hoping for a zombie biker film; what I got instead was a pretty dull afternoon.
A group of 20-somethings, including token black guy Dirk, and couple Danny and wants-to-get-pregnant-but-can't Tessa, is out and about in their RV. They stop along the way to camp, and are briefly joined by a creepy but seemingly kind travelling knife salesman. He manages to make a sale, but also warns them of possible danger in the area. They have no idea how right he is.
After running frightened from a snake (no stereotypes here), Dirk (in an Average White Band tee no less) happens upon a party thrown by some bikers, and hunkers down to watch. But maybe this isn't a party at all... The bikers are led by Jefe (Miguel Ferrer, the biggest name here), whom we know from an earlier flashback must be at least 100 years old, and include the creepy pervert, the guy with the mask, the guy who looks like Bill Eadie, and a couple of big dudes, not to mention their naked or barely dressed women. The bikers begin eating the women alive; just then, they spot Dirk and persue.
After some violence at the camp, Jefe abducts and rapes Tessa, deciding that she is the one he'd long been searching for. Jefe, you see, was trained by Aliester Crowley, and further has achieved immortality through the consumption of live human flesh. He is also the conduit for Satan to be born of earth, and looking for the prophesized mate.
Bob the knife salesman returns to help, and most of the kids escape alive--though the bikers persue, and the infertile Tess is not only knocked up, but her pregnancy is progressing VERY rapidly. Things finally reach a head in a showdown in a small church.
Despite a coherent if not quite cliche-free or original plot, and violence that includes a chainsaw, flesh eating, a guy's face ground into the asphalt at a high speed, rape, lots of vomit, and a molotov made from a Jack Daniel's bottle and a tampon, this was an utter bore. None of the violence is especially graphic, and it's all very by-the-numbers and devoid of fun. I've seen dozens of enjoyable direct to video horror flicks, and this ain't one of 'em.
As we'll see, biker horror isn't so easy to pull off. A mere 2 for this effort.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Double feature time again: two hyphenated-title chick-led features from '68

She-Devils on Wheels
D: Herschell Gordon Lewis

The exploits of the all-girl gang the Man Eaters, and their feud with some local hot rodders

Though best remembered for his horror titles, Herschell Gordon Lewis met few exploitation genres he didn't like, and it was just a matter of time before he let loose his own biker film, done as only he could. While, for example, the movie below (released the same year) and the previous year's "The Hell Cats" were female-driven biker films, none were quite so chick-dominated as this one, and of course none had the HG Lewis weirdness of this one.
Led by Queen and including, among others, the on-the-fence-about-being-an-outlaw Karen, attractive but mega-butch Terry, rather large Whitey, and incredibly cute prospect Honey Pot, the Man Eaters are the scourge of whatever small town they're supposed to be in and men everywhere. They party, fight, and do whatever they want, and even have what's essentially a harem of men to serve them. This ain't your kid sister and her freinds out on scooters.
Though Karen is rather conflicted about the life, particularly after Queen scolds her for selecting the same guy to service her--as if a man is a person a gal can get attached to and not someone to be used-- things generally go along fine, with everyone knowing their roles and staying out of the gang's way.
Problems arise, however, when Joe Boy and his hot rod buddies attempt to take over the old airstrip where the Man Eaters have their races and generally hang out. The girls handily kick their asses, and a couple even piss on them (offscreen). Humiliated and out for revenge, the guys abduct and brutalize Honey Pot--and then Queen gets really mad.
Like any Lewis movie, this one hints at and implies far more than it actually shows. The bevy of guys who service them notwithstanding, the girls are clearly lesbians. For all the "sex," not a single female nipple is ever seen, and despite fights, a guy dragged from the back of a motorcycle, and even a beheading, it's really not very violent. Even the dialogue is rather tame, with dirty limericks that aren't very dirty and lots of people referring to body parts as "the you know what." Yet like any Lewis movie, with all that it still fails to disappoint, even if you don't know to expect that going in.
In fact, I'm glad I'm writing all this down (or typing it out--whatever). I pop this one in every few years, and am always surprised at how much I enjoy it. It just seems to be better than I remember it being. Not much really happens yet it flies by entertainingly.
As for the biker movie trappings: Pretty interesting selection of bikes, with Harleys going to the tougher girls (nice detail). Honey Pot has a moped that Whitey refers to as a "sewing machine." The colors look great, except the dopey bowtie. Good soundtrack of cheesy, sleazy rawk and absurdly overly dramatic orchestral stuff. The theme song is trash genius, and the Cramps' cover is one of the few times they didn't do justice to a classic (it's just not as ghostly).
My only complaint would be that, like most HG Lewis movies, the sound is pretty bad. A solid 4.

The Mini-Skirt Mob
D: Maury Dexter

Hell hath no fury...

There have been (and will be) a few films covered that are really only barely biker flicks; this is not a biker movie. But that's what it was marketed as, so here we are.
Rodeo star Jeff (Ross Hagen) has just gotten married. His rodeo buddies, notably his ex- Shane (Diane McBain), Lon (Jeremy Slate), and their flunkies LG (Ronnie Rondell) and Spook (Harry Dean Stanton), who happen to also ride motorcycles (probably a late addition), decide that they don't much care for Connie (Sherry Jackson), Jeff's new bride. Jeff's attempts to play peacemaker fail.
The problem is Shane, who is clearly still obsessed with Jeff; this is essentially a stalker movie. She whips up the guys and, with her kid sister Edie (Patty McCormack) tagging along, begins the stalkin'. Unfortunately, this leads to Jeff unknowingly running LG's bike off the road, killing him. With the men riled up further with pleas for revenge for LG, they persue, leading to the expected showdown.
The plot here is pretty decent, especially the buildup to the climax. Mostly solid cast, with the great Jeremy Slate, Harry Dean Stanton in a Harry Dean Stanton type role, loveable doofus Hagen, and Patty frickin' McCormack. Female lead McBain, however, does not pull this off. Granted, the lines are pretty bad, with lots of "creepy" (dull) monologues. Still, anything can be pulled off.
The attempts to make this into a biker movie are just painful. They stuck them on motorcycles and put cute Mini-Skirt Mob cuts on a couple of the girls. When the larger group peels of, two guys who get a couple of lines look, repectively, like a casual menswear store manager and a very low level mob associate. And not one Harley. So much for meeting the nicest people on a Honda.
If I watch this again, I'll fast forward through every scene Spook isn't in. 2

Friday, August 5, 2011

Nam Angels

Nam Angels
D: Cirio H. Santiago

Plot: More or less The Losers

Trash vet Santiago (who just this year passed away while making a post-apocalyptic type flick with Michael Madsen) took the premise of "The Losers," wrung the cynicism out of it, added more action, and more than likely turned a profit with this testosterone- and anachronism-filled direct to video entry.
This time some US soldiers are captured not by VC or NVA, but by tribesmen loyal to Chard (Vernon Wells, who was kinda a biker himself in "Weird Science"), a low-rent Col Kurtz who's a former Nazi that later deserted the French Foreign Legion to build a private native army. Calhoun (Brad Johnson) persuades Gen Donipha (Ken Metcalfe) to let him lead a raid to rescue the men before the whole area is bombed--and to let him hire some Hell's Angels who for some fucking reason seem to be in Vietnam just hanging out.
Just Calhoun's luck--the Angels just happen to start some shit in a local bar, and are arrested  (again, for some fucking reason) by MP's. He bails them out, provided they agree to the mission, and to sweeten the deal offeres them a healthy cut of the gold (it's clear that when this was shot they didn't know if the treasure they were seeking was gold or perhaps herion) that Chard possesses. (Say it with me:) For some fucking reason he does not mention that they're also to rescue captured soldiers.
Along the way are the usual twists, conflicts, and subplots; mutual distrust and dislike becomes grudging respect, you know the drill. It all builds to the action packed climax and somewhat abrupt ending.
Vernon Wells (sporting what may literally be the worst ponytail ever) tries to have fun with the role, and Rick Dean (whose character's name, by the way, is fucking Sonny Larger) does his best as well. And the action and buildup are all a little better than you'd expect. However, everything about this alleged period piece looks very, very late '80s, and I couldn't stop thinking Jumpin' Jesus does this place not look like Vietnam. Fun enough to get a 2.5 while I'm feeling charitable over here.

Bury Me an Angel

Bury Me an Angel
D: Barbara Peters (also W)

Tough biker chick hunts down her brother's killer

For just her second feature, exploitation director Barbara Peters shot her own script, a more feminist take on the revenge movie. Here the lead is not a once-timid girl who snaps after being raped, but is already a tough broad and is hunting down her brother's murderer. While it certainly has its flaws, this is one of the most ambitious of the chick-themed biker movies, and certainly one of the best. (For the record, though, it's really a stretch to call this a biker movie.)
After leaving a party, Dag (a playing-it-to-the-hilt Dixie Peabody) is witness as an anknown assailant blows her brother Dennis's head off with a shotgun (the cheap FX here aren't bad). Though completely shattered, she does recover. Dag collects up her buddies Jonsie and Bernie (Terry Mace and Clyde Ventura), hops on the bike Den stole for her, and roars off to find the sumbitch.
After questioning various bikers and spending some time on the road, they track the guy to a small town. Here Dag meets nice guy Ken (Dan Haggerty)... Sign after sign has told her that vengeance was not the correct path. Can love finally make her see?
The movie is sure of where it wants to go, if occasionally less sure about how to get there. While there are some great scenes and some pretty cool ideas, like the weird-ass trippy nightmare, fantasy, and flashback scenes (one of which includes music remarkably similar to the "Taxi Driver" climax), it doesn't always work. The scene with Oriental mystic lady Op (who is, oddly, played by Angel Colbert, though Joan Gerber provides the voice), for example, is one of the interesting ideas that really doesn't add much of anything to the movie but time. And Dag, with her cussing, fighting, beer chugging, etc, can get a little over the top. Peters clearly took this movie pretty seriously, and therefore was maybe a little too close to the project to direct.
Still, it's paced fairly well; those scenes that don't work don't detract so much as just fail to add. And things get pretty weird at the end. An original take on a good story, with decent action and a pretty good soundtrack by the East-West Pipeline. And Dixie (who shows some bush, I might add) looks pretty goddamned good indeed on that bike. A solid 4.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Glory Stompers

The Glory Stompers
D: Anthony M. Lanza

Claim to fame: While Dennis Hopper is generally thought of as a '60s biker movie guy, this is the only true '60s biker flick he did. With Casey Kasem as a biker.

MC kidnaps a rival club member's girlfriend

A pretty simple, even simplistic, entry, yet a classic one.
Chino (Hopper) and his up-to-no-good buddies in the Black Souls stop by a hamburger joint where the up-to-a-little-less-no-good Glory Stompers are hanging. They find themselves unwelcome, particularly after Chino hits on Chris (Chris Noel), girlfreind of Stomper Darryl (Jody McCrea). Outnumbered, they are persuaded to split.
Later, however, Chino and a few of the Souls get Darrly and Chris alone. The two are generally hassled, and finally Magoo (Robert Tessier) takes Darryl out with a tire iron. He's left for dead, and the Souls abduct Chris, who witnessed what they believe to be a murder. It's eventually decided that they'll sell her to a connection in Mexico, where she'll be strung out and whored out.
Along the way: The usual. Magoo constantly wants to rape her, Chino's brother Paul (Jim Reader) falls for her, Chino wants her to want him purely out of arrogance, Chino's girl Jo Ann (Sandra Bettin) is jealous--and all the while Darryl, now accompanied by retired Stomper Smiley (Jock Mahoney), is in persuit.
It all just kinda chugs nicely along, but somehow the sum is greater than the parts--not that its parts are anything to scoff at.
Hopper's performance is exactly what you'd expect; he's one of the best at the somewhat intelligent but borderline insane characters. Lanza's direction overcomes the clearly pitifully low budget (they couldn't even afford a better seamstress? Some of the colors look like they're pinned to the jackets), with some great cuts, especially in the fight and party scenes. And "Blues' Theme" aside, this is, overall, Davie Allen & The Arrows' best soundtrack. It's nothing special...yet somehow it is. A legit classic that still shows up on TV (I've seen it on the tube within the past year). A solid 3.5

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hey, y'all

Didn't resign, OD, lose a turf war, or get busted or anything. Been working 8-10 hours a day, 6 days a week, all but an hour or two of it outdoors. Although my sawbones wouldn't be happy about it if he knew, that normally wouldn't be a big deal. But with the heat wave we got goin' on (104 and incredibly humid today--and I start getting uncomfortable from the heat when it hits 75), it sure as hell is. Once I've had a shower, a meal, and a few beers, that's about it for me. Barely have the energy to watch a goddamn movie, never mind set my burnin' eyes in front of a flickering screen and yammer on about it.
Rest assured, I ain't goin' nowhere until this job is done. Like the ol' panhead Coe sang of, it's a bitch to get me started sometimes, but once that's accomplished I will by god run.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Black Angels

Black Angels (aka, sadly, Black Bikers from Hell)
D: Laurence Merrick

Claim to fame: Most of the movie clips on the Savage Pencil compilation LP Angel Dust are from this film

White club vs cop vs black club

OK, some quick words before we start. As I said, I grew up on watching the early (peak) years' biker movies on heavy rotation on mighty UHF teevee (and this seems as good a place as any to mention that you can still see such cool shit on the tube, on This  for example). So when the fam FINALLY got a VCR, we (usually me and my buddy Joe) would head to the local mom 'n' pop video store, which actually had a no shit cult section, and rent trash like "Suspiria," "Amin: The Rise and Fall," and even that notorious piece of shit "Snuff." Add some bad pot and worse food, and you got yourself an afternoon... Anyway, they had a pretty good selection of biker movies, but most of them were on tv all the time anyway. Among the few that weren't was "Black Angels." "Fuckin' A," I thought, "Finally a black biker movie." It looked pretty cheesy, but so were some of my favorites, so I gave it a chance. And fell in love. This, maybe more than any other, is my comfort biker movie.
(Pause here for unsolicited plug. I finally got a copy of this in the mid '90s from a tape trader guy, but that's been gone now for years. I finally got this on DVD from Trash Palce)
I warn you about my personal fondness for this movie before I wax about its virtues because, to some, there's a lot to scoff at. For starters, the title is slightly misleading. The "black angel," in the movie, is what the bikers call the cop, Lt Harper (who by the way reminds me of Michael McKean playing the Mike Myers character Dieter). It's forever getting in, the lead is terribly miscast (I'd buy him as a hot rodder or even a trucker, but not an MC leader), and the sets are about community college play level. Much of the acting is quite bad, the fight scenes are mostly awful, and they couldn't even afford a police car. Oh, and the white and black club leaders are named Chainer and Knifer, respectively. That's a lot to overlook, but it's worth it.
Young, cracker hatin' Jimmy just got his colors as a member of the Choppers (who are apparently all played by members of the actual Choppers MC), and already has a big plan to lure Chainer, leader of the white Satan's Serpernts, out of his pad for a beating. In the course of the (long) chase, Chainer makes a jump, but Jimmy doesn't. Being a solid brother, Chainer returns Jimmy's colors to the Choppers, to let them know that one of their own had died, and that he wasn't at fault.
If this isn't enough for Chainer to deal with, Lt Harper is constantly hassling the club, and there's growing schism between Serpents Frenchy and Big Jim. Soon a new guy shows up, a Triumph riding Texan fugitive named Johnny Reb. They decide to let him hang around, because "any cat that'd work his old lady over with a ball bat can't be all that bad," though Frenchy doesn't like it.
Meanwhile, Harper warns each gang that the other is "on the warpath," leading to the building tension and eventual clash.
While, as I said, the title is a little misleading, race is a major theme here. The Choppers do the sarcastic "yes, masssa" bit with Harper, and Knifer goes on a rant about "300 years"(?!) of oppression. Generally speaking, the blacks in the movie are much more race-conscious than their white counterparts. Reb spouts off some racist BS, but is cut off by Chainer, who doesn't want to hear that shit. But while he hates racism, what Chainer really hates is unfounded racism allegations, lamenting the fact that when a white club fights a black one, it's assumed that it's based on race and not territory. And behind it all, it's The Man pulling a divide and conquer, pitting the clubs (races) against one another. Though not exactly earth shattering, still pretty heady stuff for a biker movie. Additional politically incorrect moments include comic relief bits with an angry nun and with an outrageous gay stereotype, and Chainer's warped relationship with his old lady.
The directing, while a bit dated, with its hard cuts and frequent flashbacks and flash forwards, is tight and well done. Even the terrible, seemingly stuntman-free fight scenes benefit from good editing. Director Laurence Merrick, by the way, would later do the must see (and Academy Award-nominated) "Manson."
The "aw, shucks" Des Roberts (Chainer) aside, the actors --even the biker non-actors-- are all at least decent, though James Whitmore ("The Hills Have Eyes") is the only recognizable face. That John Donovan (Frenchy) wasn't cast in another biker flick is a fucking crime.
As far as I can determine, no soundtrack LP was released, but if I'm mistaken on that, I NEED IT DESPERATELY. Though the closing theme is hilariously bad, most of the songs are pretty good. Bobby Stevens's soul rockin' "What's Going On" (not the Marvin Gaye song) stays in my head for days, as does Smokey Roberds's bizarre "Cigarettes" (which I would love to hear Mojo Nixon or Rufus & Ransom or somebody cover).
No hate mail, please, but for its great soundtrack, bold themes presented in a cheesy manner, great final shot, endearing cheapness, dialogue like Papa Jupiter delivering the classic line, "This time I'm gonna kill you, Frenchy, you filthy, no-good, egg suckin', finger lickin', scab pickin', scuzzy faced rat," and my own nostalgia, I have no choice but to give this a solid five. This is what a cheap, bold, trashy, drive-in biker movie is supposed to look like.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Born Losers

The Born Losers
1968 (imdb says 1967, the DVD says '69; seems to have hit theaters in 1968)
D: T.C. Frank (Tom Laughlin, who also co-wrote with wife and EP Delores Taylor as "James Lloyd")

Claim to fame: The first Billy Jack film; one of AIP's all-time top grossers

A motorcycle club rapes four girls, and only a local outcast will stand up to them

Truth be told, I am not the world's biggest Billy Jack fan. Despite the fact that I own the boxed set, I have never seen all of "Billy Jack Goes to Washington," or, to the best of my recollection, any of "The Trial of Billy Jack." While "Billy Jack" is undeniably a drive-in classic (that I still enjoy), it also always left me a bit uneasy. Movies like it --as well as TV shows like Kung Fu-- helped cement my impression that most peaceniks aren't pacifists, but cowards looking for someone to fight their battles for them. For all of the left wing messages, the movies always ended up with an unintentionally hawkish payoff: Turn the other cheek all you want, but the bad guys are only thwarted by a Tony Lama to the ass... And just to be honest, it didn't help, by the way, that the female lead from "Billy Jack" on was Laughlin's unattractive, bad acress wife Delores Taylor... At any rate, before these three sequels (plus one or two that never came out), there was "The Born Losers."
Unable to get the film made that they wanted (released as "Billy Jack" in 1971), Laughlin and Taylor came up with a prequel film, with Billy Jack as a Shane type hero/anti-hero (and this has even more of a western feel than most biker movies, enhanced by Mike Curb's soundtrack) confronting a motorcycle club. Biker movies were really raking in the coin, and the plot was loosely based on a late '64 Hell's Angels rape and witness intimidation case that was still fresh in people's minds (with elements of the Kitty Genovese case thrown in as well), so this seemed a much better way to get the Billy Jack character over.
The Born to Lose MC rides into a small town, mainly to pick up its president's brother. While in town, they generally terrorize the citizens. Only Billy Jack, a loner, ex-Green Beret Indian (who's always recognized as such, despite looking 100% white) stands up to them, and for his trouble he's arrested and slapped with a crippling fine, a harsher punishment than the bikers received.
With no one to stop them, the club ends up raping three girls in their late teens and, separately, a spoiled college girl. Further, they appear destined to get away with it, as the victims are all afraid to testify.
The (mostly leftist) social commentary in this one is non-stop, though not all of it is as heavy handed as Vicky's painful graduate student speeches.
The role of bad parenting in helping turn kids into both criminals and potential victims is laid on pretty thick. Club leader Danny's father is a hard-ass bastard (and in a subtle scence shown later, it's implied that Danny is an uninvolved dad himself), Vicky's is rich and powerful but has no time for her, and the other victims' parents are overprotective, uninvolved, or too busy trying to make ends meet to be the parents the kids need. Adults in general, in fact, let the kids down, as they give in to the cowardly urge to look the other way.
The film is no less tough on the police, with a strong "they can't protect you" message. This is done pretty effectively, by not showing the cops as inept or unwilling; if anything, the deputy in particular would be seen by some as being overly harsh.
Besides all this, they're tossing other stuff at you as well --on racism, the enviornment, the inability of a poor man to get a fair shake, the selfishness of the rich, and on and on, finally padding the movie out to nearly two hours... With all this going on, it would seem to be exactly the kind of film I can't stand, but quite the contrary.
What saves this otherwise overly earnest script is its co-writer, Tom Laughlin. His understated performances rescued the Billy Jack character from ridiculousness, but it's as a director that he really shines. There are some great shots and all that (one of which led to the film's brilliant poster), but the performances he gets from his cast are what impresses.
Jack Starrett is always great, and I sometimes neglect how good Elizabeth James (essentially a stand-in for Delores Taylor) is because I hate her character so much. Jane Russell is often praised for this performance, but for me it feels a little too 1951. But aside from Starrett (one of the best movie cops ever, from these biker films to "First Blood" to "Death Chase"), it's the bikers who steal the show.
Jeremy Slate, who was never better, leads the way here as Danny. The character has surprising depth, which he draws out easily and convincingly. The confrontation with his father is closed out with a brilliant ad lib, and Slate's scenes with Starrett are just outstanding. William Wellman, Jr (son of the respected director) is great as the beatnik-ish Child, Paul Prokop is genuinely creepy as Speechless, and Edwin Cook is funny and very natural as Crabs. But Laughlin also gets solid performances from the rest of the bikers, who weren't actors but members of a small MC called the Devil's Escorts. One of them, Robert Tessier (here as Cueball, despite the fact that he had hair at the time), of course, went on to have a career as a great character actor.
Apart from some corny fake swastika and "13" tattoos, the bikers look great. I love the club's colors, and details like Danny's hands, with small cuts, knuckle band-aids, and a juvie hall type tattoo of his initials. The wardrobe is great, down to Slate's cool newsboy cap and his impressive ability to pull off wearing those outrageous sunglasses.
Which isn't to call the film flawless. Vicky can really get on your nerves at times, and while I enjoyed the hell out of Jodell's strip tease, it's not exactly realistic behavior for a girl who was just gang raped. It's hard to suppress a groan when the bikers trap Vicky by spinning the arrow on a road sign, and the post climax epilogue is pretty bad.
Overall, an even better mix of exploitation and earnesty (yes, I know it isn't a word) than "Angels Hard as They Come," and an MC prez as good as (while very different from) Heavenly Blues of "The Wild Angels" or Anchor in "Satan's Sadists." 4.5 for this bona fide classic.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hell Riders

Hell Riders
D: James Bryan (also co-writer)

Claim to kinda fame: Starring Batman and Ginger

As a newspaper headline in the film puts it, "Bikers defy town!"

Uber-cheapo (direct to video?) trash from the man who brought us (the more entertaining) "Don't Go into the Woods Alone!" (and was also part of the Kristofferson/ Vincent crap classic "Vigilante Force"). The bulk of the budget clearly went into hiring the stars--and the stars are Tina Louise and Adam West. (The rest of the cast is filled out with Bryan regulars and actors who never worked before or since.)
Led by the cartoonish Snake, the Hell Riders (whose colors look like iron-ons bought at an '80s suburban head shop) go on a rampage in a '60s TV show set looking small town, terrorizing its citizens and the visiting Claire (Louise). They also do a lot of fighting with one another, as well as a larger group of bikers with whom they were once a part (and whose leader seems to be gay). Since the sheriff is a clownish coward, the town's chief protector is its doctor (West, who wears hilariously bad clothes and is never seen without a ball cap). Doc's daughter also happens to be engaged to the sheriff's son, who looks about 50. Got all that? Doesn't matter.
What you do get: Nudity and awkwardly placed profanity to remind you that this is not the TV movie that it appears to be; some of the worst fight scenes you'll ever see; Adam West calling someone a "sick fuck"; a Three Stooges level jailbreak; a "weirdo" biker who wears a football helmet a la Nicholson in "Easy Rider"; a gang member who had his hand cut off by Snake (though fortunately it grows back for riding scenes); bikers who prove their toughness by stabbing themselves and somehow burning themselves on cold exhaust pipes; a van that's a-rockin'; a biker who keeps a nude woman on a leash...
On the rare occasions that something happens that you didn't see coming a mile away, it's because it's so ridiculous that it never would have occurred to you. Surprisingly violent climax though.
As if it matters, the music is decent enough for the period and budget. A C&W type theme, bad "hard rock" and Devo-ish music for the bikers, a bluegrass type tune for "horny hillbilly" and chase scenes, etc.
As for a rating, that depends on how you feel about really bad movies. I'll leave you to decide whether this is a positive or a negative, but out of five choppers, this gets a Schwinn.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Hell's Angels '69

Hell's Angels '69
D: Lee Madden

Claim to fame: Written by its two stars, who'd both been in two of the genre's best films; nearly all bikers are played by members of the Hell's Angels' mother chapter

Two spoiled rich boys who pull crimes for kicks pose as bikers to use the Angels as a decoy for a casino heist

Chuck (Tom Stern from "Angels from Hell") and his brother Wes (Jeremy Slate from "The Born Losers") are suave and partying but jaded and bored products of inherited wealth who, unbeknownst to their freinds, commit major crimes on the side. Posing as members of a Boston club called the Salem Witches who are visiting California, Chuck and Wes befreind Sonny Barger and the Angels, and even convince them to make a run to Vegas and let them tag along. Their plan, of course, is to focus the cops' attention on the Angels while they rob a casino. What they don't figure on, however, is that they'll be stuck with Terry the Tramp's ex-old lady Betsy (Conny Van Dyke) tagging along --and, worse for them, the unforgiving Angels figuring out that they'd been made saps.
The Stern/Slate story is a novel one for the genre, and it progresses quite well. The storyline with Betsy has a tacked-on feel to it, but not so much so that it drags down the action. So it's hard to pin down where it went wrong.
Sonny Barger (who does a very good job here; portaying oneself in film isn't always as easy as it sounds) had previously had frustrating (and sometimes infamous) dealings with authors and filmmakers, but here presumably got his club fairly paid for a change and, one would guess, also had quite a bit of say in the film itself. The image of the club as bad motherfuckers who just want to be left alone and extend the same courtesy --unless you cross them, in which case they're coming at you with everything-- comes across just as he'd like it to. Though I wonder if he's also responsible for the film's rather dull title.
Oddly, I think it's the realism that is its undoing. Though Terry the Tramp is particularly fun here and Barger always has that great creepy/cool quality, the Angels, being actual Angels, are not as fun to watch as the cartoonish Satan's Sadists, for example. In the end it's a great story, professionally told, but nothing special.
And what's with the music? What little there is is impossibly dull. Sonny couldn't have asked the Dead for a couple tunes or something?
I should stress again that this is a good story, and aside from stuntman Bob Harris nearly every biker here is a real one. So it qualifies as essential viewing, despite its grade of 3.

The Angry Breed

The Angry Breed
D: David Commons

Notable: Bike 'em, Danno!

A brash young actor wants to make his film his way, but must contend with a sleazy producer, a double-dealing agent, and another actor --who happens to be a lunatic biker on the side

I don't even know where to start with this one, except to assume that writer Rex Carlton was probably rather bitter when he penned this story, and go from there.
While in Vietnam, aspiring actor Johnny (a miscast, too young, over-acting Murray MacLeod) saved the life of a legendary Hollywood writer also serving there who, in gratitude, gave him his latest can't-miss script before dying in a seperate incident. Johnny's unable to sell it, however, because he insists that as part of the deal, he play the lead. His luck changes --he thinks-- when he saves Diane (Lori Martin), who turns out to be the daughter of a big-time producer, from some bikers with bad intentions.
Ah. The bikers. While some extras are sometimes used, it's usually Deek (James MacArthur), who's also a young actor (and has the same agent as Johnny, no less), and two other guys. Not content with merely the occasional Nazi regalia seen on other movie bikers, Deek & co dress up in complete SS uniforms. And that's not even close to being the weirdest thing about this film.
Diane takes Johnny home to meet her parents: Mom (Jan Sterling, a long way from the roles that won her awards in the '50s) is a heavy drinking, bitter ex-actress, while dad (William Windom) is a sleazy, twisted movie producer who gets off on mentally abusing his wife, has a kung fu chauffer and a mute Asian girl he "adopted" (read: bought), and, it is implied, kinda wants to fuck his daughter. Though he acts as if he's interested in doing the film with Johnny, he makes a backdoor deal with Johnny's (and Deek's) agent to cut him out. A plan is hatched to use Deek and his biker pals to get Johnny out of the way.
It's tough to know how to take some of this. It seems like MacLeod is awful, but the directing is so bad that I'm not even sure. It seems like he's supposed to be brash and cocky, but he just comes off as a prick. Then again, every other film industry-related character is so unlikeable that it may be intentional. The "clever," "witty" verbal sparring between Johnny and Diane's father Vance is absolutely painful.
With a pretty good "decadent party" scene (featuring Melody Patterson, who was then Mrs MacArthur, also dressed as a Nazi), lines like "Dance. You may dance" and "You need killin'," and an ending so bad that it's enjoyable. The Curb label soundtrack music is by Jamie & The Jury and the Orphan Egg, edited in with a butcher knife.
While not exactly good (and in fact it barely even qualifies as a biker movie), getting a grade here of, oh, say 2.5, I still highly recommend checking this one out, simply because it's so fucking warped.

Savages from Hell

Savages from Hell
D: "Joseph G. Prieto" (Joseph Mawra)

Notable: Produced, co-written, and with music by K. Gordon Murray, the man behind classic sleaze like "Shanty Tramp." With Cyril (older brother of Sidney) Poitier, and members of the first Florida chapter of the Outlaws.

Bike club leader falls for the daughter of a migrant worker and won't take no for an answer

Marco (Diwaldo Morales), son of a migrant worker, has dreams of a steady job and planting roots, and of success as a swamp buggy racer on the side. But for now he and his buddy Reuben (Cyril Poitier) have more pressing concerns --protecting Marco's sister Teresa from High Test (William P. Kelley) and the bike club he leads. But while his brothers may have his back, High Test's girl Lucy (Bobbie Byers, looking for kicks again) isn't too hot on the plan.
The story, while pretty standard, isn't too bad. Lucy's character is particularly good, and she plays the vengeance-seeking, passive-aggressively bitchy, jilted lover well. The problem is just about everyone else.
Morales isn't terrible, I suppose, but Poitier is the complete flip side of his younger brother and clearly got the few roles he did based on his name. I think Teresa is supposed to be naive and innocent, though Viola Lloyd's portrayal comes off more as retarded and mildly creepy. While Kelley had been in "The Wild Rebels," it should be noted that he played a bank teller. Seeing a supposed MC leader act like such an inept dork while hitting on a chick (you're waiting for him to kick at a pebble and mutter, "Aw, heck...") is simply ridiculous. As for the rest of the bikers, the guests --"Fuzzy Miller, Bones Cogeswell & The Outlaws Motorcycle Gang" (a credit they probably didn't care for)-- really stand out from the actors.
A number of scenes really drag; the catfight between Lucy and a big-titted MILF that High Test (what a stupid name, by the way) hit on even gets boring. All of the fight scenes, in fact, are terrible. But the bulk of the filler is swamp buggy race footage, which I actually enjoyed the hell out of.
The film builds toward the ending with a scuzzy, scream-filled rape, but then it just gets stupid.
Murray's soundtrack is quite good. Some songs sound, jarringly, more like early-'80s neo garage than music actually from '68.
I'm in a good mood, so since they threw a little (probably very little) dough at an actual club and the soundtrack was pretty OK, I'll give these "Savages" a two.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Savage Seven

The Savage Seven
D: Richard Rush

Minor trivia: A very early role for future Laverne and later director Penny Marshall. The pic at the top of the blog page is from this movie, and she can be seen on the far left. Produced by Dick Clark

Bikers and Indians feud both with one another and their common enemy, the bossman of a company town

A bike club makes a stop in an Indian work camp/company town in the middle of nowhere. Though the club initially clashes with the Indians --especially the white-looking Johnnie (Robert Walker Jr)-- they soon find a common enemy in he boss men, Fillmore (Mel Berger) and his muscle, Taggert (Charles Bail). Further friction comes via a possible romance between the (unnamed) club's leader, Kisum (Adam Rourke) and Johnnie's sister Maria (Joanna Frank).
But the club is new in town and not exactly attached to it, and owes it no allegiance. And Fillmore is looking to drive the migrants off so he can make a profit on the land...
That's really about it for the plot, but it does move along nicely. The uneasy and fragile alliance between the bikers and the Indians is built up well, with little padding. They don't go overboard with riding scenes, and the party and fight filler is well done. A satisfying violent climax, somewhat undone by a payoff after that was pretty lacking.
No complaints about casting, except that as usual for the time, Mexican or Indian leads had to look white.
Fillmore and Taggart are appropriately hateable, and the background bikers, like the oaf Bull (Richard Anders) and Joint (Larry Bishop), who's always stoned and keeps a pot plant on his bike ("potted pot, man"), are all good.
The soundtrack is worth noting. The bulk of it is hit/miss soundtrack type music by Barbara Kelly and the Morning Good, and Iron Butterfly add five more. But the standouts, for the sake of weirdness alone, are two by Cream, though you wonder how Jack Bruce got Clapton and Baker on board. "Anyone for Tennis?" is a laid back thing with winds and lyrics that, for random stupidity, blow away even the shit about rainbows with moustaches in "Swlabr" (you can see them mime "Tennis" on a tv appearance here). "Desert Ride," which clocks in at 1:23, is their (Bruce's?) take on a standard biker movie insrto--and it's my favorite Cream song (though I'm not much of a Cream fan).
Overall, nothing special but a solid and reliable 3.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Hard-on Wheels" and "Cycle Sluts"

Hard-on Wheels
Cycle Sluts
early 1970's
no credits for either title

Two early '70s biker-themed porns

These two features, along with a (more professional) non-sickle porn, are available on a cheap 2-disc set. Listed on Amazon as soft-core, but it's not.

"Hard-on Wheels" opens with a shot of the Statue of Liberty and a great voice-over about the dangers of those violent, revenge-seeking motorcycle gangs. A good sign.
A biker "party" (a few people sitting around in a living room) gets busted, and the leader is arrested. As it turns out, the detective is a corrupt drug dealer just looking to bust the competition, and the bikers (whose shitty colors sport a name that looks like Draft Beer Note or something) break into his house to exact some revenge. The two (one of whom looks like a slightly older and much filthier Peter Fonda) attack while the cop's getting blown in the shower. The cop is tied to a chair, and Biker #2 rapes his girlfriend while Fonda and his girl fool around while watching one of the cop's porn films. The biker leader, now out on bail and wearing pretty cool jeans, shows up to join in on the rape. Others who get involved include a couple who show up to buy weed from the cop, and a comic-relief wino who climbs in the window. After all the fucking, there's a poorly done violent finale.
The porn itself isn't too bad, though the film-within-the-film filler (with a guy who looks a lot like Lemmy and two Asian chicks on a staricase) is more professional. Most of it has that great '70s porn feel, where people look like they're fucking and not porn fucking. A biker going down on a chick with a weird pelvis and, we later see, an enormous pimple on her ass, is particularly realistic. Some bits, notably Leader forcing oral on Cop GF while a chick goes at her awkwardly with a dildo, go on way too long. With standard porn stuff --fucking in various positions, several orals, 69, etc-- as well as a chick penetrated by what looks like a Bushmills bottle, in a bit of product placement they probably would not approve of.
In what's likely an unintentional Manson Family reference, there are characters named Squeak and Rabbit.

"Cycle Sluts" is a little thinner on plot and more to the point. Two bikers pick up a couple of chicks at a taco stand in the difficult to hear, hastitly shot probably without a permit opening. This leads to an actual biker movie type riding scene, as they take the chicks home. Since their aunt is out of town, the four hang out a while, and after they smoke weed and the more clownish of the two bikers makes bad jokes and generally runs his mouth A LOT, the couples pair off and get down to business. After they're done, the girls' aunt unexpectedly comes home and chases the girls out. The two bikers seem bent on raping her, but it proves to be unnecessary, as she's very interested. She and the bikers engage in a three way after Clown Biker fetches the vibrator he just happens to keep in his jacket.
The girls aren't bad, though one had a patch of white hair in her otherwise dark pubes that kinda grossed me out. Some sex scenes are too long, and feature too many close-ups of balls. Biker 2 has a hell of a time getting off; some editing would have helped here, as you start to feel frustrated and embarrassed for him. The fuck scene music is pretty cool strumming-guitar-based stuff, though unauthorized James Brown and Creedence clips are used during two money shots (I am not kidding).

Mediocre porn, worth having as a conversation piece if you're a cycle flick collector I suppose. Not going to even bother rating this--you give a shit, or you don't.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Wild Riders

The Wild Riders
D: Richard Kanter (also wrote)

Two bikers, too depraved even for their own gang, are on the run after a murder and hole up in an upper class home occupied by two women

Before the credits even roll, two out of control bikers at an outdoor party sexually assault a young woman, then nail her to a tree. This is an attempt to out-tasteless "Satan's Sadists," and/or what happens when a home invasion/ rape movie is made by a porn director.
The bikers are Pete (Arell Blanton) and Stick (Alex Rocco), sort of a sadistic, angry George and a sexually warped Lenny, if Of Mice and Men was written by a pervert with class and anger issues.
The gang leader (Dirty Denny) discusses the attack with Pete, who's less than repentant to say the least, and decides that Pete and Stick have to go for the good of the club. After Pete starts a fight with another member by calling him a nigger (just to throw in that Pete's also a racist I guess), Pete and Stick part ways with the club.
When Pete spots two girls lounging by the pool at a swanky house, they decide to take over the house and its occupants. Rona (Elizabeth Knowles), whose husband is out of town and bores her anyway, is intrigued and invites them to stay for a bit, while her friend Laurie (Sherry Bain) is a bit more wary. As she should be.
Pete and Rona go off to do their thing, and Laurie is left to occupy the simpleton Stick. While Pete and Rona are making sweet sweet love, Stick loses his shit for no clear reason over a frog statue in a very effective scene. The film then jumps between Pete and Rona fucking and Stick raping Laurie; its clear afterward that Stick has no concept of rape, and to him they just made love.
The other couple learns of the rape, and though he does scold Stick, Pete insists it wouldn't have happened if Stick weren't provoked somehow; shockingly, Rona seems to accept this. Which is where the film starts making people uncomfortable. Though Pete is a violent criminal who steals from her (and, unknown to her, looks to rent her out to a biker buddy) and his partner has raped her friend, Rona clearly starts falling for him. In 1971, and with an exploitation writer/director at the helm, this comes off as the fucked-up trash it is, not as some bold Stockholm syndrome story. Though some of the action does effectively show some of the complicated emotions and conflicting feelings she'd be going through, that's clearly not the point. Pete spouts a lot of poor white rage rants to justify his behavior, and nothing in the film really refutes that.
For those reasons, and because watching this makes you feel just a little sleazier than you already are, even a lot of trash film fans dump on this one. Don't listen to those sissies.
This is uniquely warped and sleazy --and well crafted. The constant violence and tension build very nicely, the characters are developed very well, especially for such a movie, and overall it's sick, engrossing stuff almost on par with "The Last House on the Left" even. Probably not the best date night movie ever, though if you find a gal who enjoys it you've got a keeper (or someone you need to really worry about). Like with "Last House," just repeat to yourself: It's only a movie, it's only a movie... and you'll clearly see why this is a hard 4, and would get five full rapes if it were more of an actual biker movie than it is.

C.C. and Company (Chrome Hearts)

C.C. and Company (released on video as Chrome Hearts)
D; Seymour Robbie

Claim to fame: Joe Namath and Ann-Margret

Happy-go-lucky biker parts ways with his old club, but leaving's not that easy

Joe Namath brings his schnoz, his meager acting talents, and his winning smile to this tale of the absurdly named C.C. Ryder, a guy just floating through life who fell in with the motorcycle club the Heads ("Some are picked, few are chosen" [huh?]). Though liked in the club, it becomes increasingly clear that he doesn't fit in --though they're too polite to mention it, he's considerably cleaner than the rest, and he begins to butt heads with club president Moon (William Smith).
C.C. meets Ann (Ann-Margret), a photographer covering the dirtbike races, and enters the competition himself. He nearly takes first and fetches some prize money, turning all but $100 over to Moon. Demanding all for the club, Moon suckers C.C. and bests him in a fight, taking all of the money. Later, however, C.C. bangs Moon's girl  Pom Pom (Jennifer Billingsley) and steals back the money before splitting back to Ann's.
Moon and the Heads aren't just walking away, however. They kidnap Ann for ransom, and it's up to C.C. to save her from his old club.
Thanks to its stars and its frequent tv appearances on tv in the '70s and '80s, this one is much better remembered than it really ought to be. Though the story moves along well enough and everyone in it is likable enough, it's really nothing special. Aside from one passable fight scene and the decent enough finale, the action is limited to the dirt track. The Kawasaki product placement deal is pretty obvious (also on that note, everyone sure likes to drink Hamm's).
It's not all bad, however. Namath is good enough for this role, and his casting lets you know right off that the character is at base a nice guy. Smith is always solid, other bikers include character actors like Sid Haig (in a kick-ass Mongolian type helmet) and Bruce Glover, and Ann-Margret shows some T&A. The scenes are respectably acted out and are just enjoyable enough that you don't mind how slowly it's actually moving. A very watchable movie, is what I'd say. The opening shoplifting scene is justifiably a classic.
Besides the boring score, the music includes Margret singing the mediocre "Today," plus Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels' "Jenny Take a Ride," and Wayne Cochran & The CC Riders are seen in a nightclub doing a great "I Can't Turn You Loose" (probably the film's high point).
Joe on a Harley and Ann's tits, plus William Smith and Sid Haig, Wayne Cochran--what are you gonna do, not watch it? Doesn't beat the spread, but a winner. Three touchdowns for this one.

"The Jesus Trip" and "J.C."

Early in the VHS tape trading days, these two were sometimes confused with one another, with people assuming one was the other with an alternate title. Surely, they must have figured, there can't be two different Jesus themed biker movies. But luckily for us, there were. So I sat myself down for a blasphemous double feature...

The Jesus Trip (also released as Under Hot Leather)
D: Russ Mayberry

Some bikers on the run take along a nun as their hostage

Waco (Robert Porter) and his gang are on the run after being duped into smuggling heroin in from Mexico, and hole up in a convent. Local cop Tarboro (Billy Green Bush) finds them, but he's subdued and the bikers take off with Sister Anna (Tippy Walker) as their hostage. They keep Anna around longer than needed, primarily because of Waco's infatuation.
Tarboro turns out to be a borderline crazy vigilante cop with some 'cycle buddies of his own, and he's bent on tracking the gang down. Also after them are the drug smugglers--whom biker Pinole (Carmen Argenziano) may or may not be working with.
It's a fairly unique story that builds to a decent enough ending, but despite a few entertaining moments (like the great scene where Tarboro forces a couple of bikers to talk, or Folsom [Virgil Frye] very realistically shitfaced in a bar, yelling like he has Tourette's), "The Jesus Trip" is a letdown overall.
First and foremost, things like backstory and insight to motives are almost nonexistant. This is absolutely inexcusable, because there's a lot of time that would be better spent making us give a shit about the characters (and explaining what the hell the deal is with Tarboro and his gang) that is instead given over to an insane amount of filler. Riding scene, stop to rest and talk a second, riding scene. Every lingering shot lingers three or four times what is even comfortable, nearly every scene is just too long. It's a potentially original story, but it's never fleshed out; in the end it's interesting enough that you only feel you've wasted about 40 minutes of your life rather than the entire hour and a half.
By the way, why the hell is the soundtrack so horror movie?
Only 2 crosses for this one, but nice try.

D: William F. McGaha (also wrote and produced)

A peace-loving biker and his crew stop in his hometown to visit his sister, and are not welcome.

I really need to know more about William F. McGaha, the southern filmmaker who cranked this one out. He'd previously done "Bad Girls for the Boys" (1966; sounds like a porn) and "The Speed Lovers" (1968) before this one, which has a labor of love feel to it.
The film's writer, producer, and director also stars as the titular JC, the leader of a loose collection of bikers. No more into negative waves than Oddball, JC would rather smoke weed in his underwear than be out there with all the bummers, but a trippy dream leads him to give a sermon to his gang about peace, freedom, and a giant eye winking up in the sky that's one part lefty cliche and two parts insanity. They hit the road, deciding to stop at the small Alabama town JC grew up in. He wants to visit the sister he hasn't seen in ten years, but as we learn in bits and pieces, his past there is a dark one.
Aside from JC's sister Miriam (Joanna Cook Moore), no one in town is pleased to see him. Miriam's husband, the blue-collar, southern, angry racist stereotype Carlton, never liked JC even pre-biker, never mind now that he's got a nigger couple with him, and JC's former friend and rival Dan is now a deputy in line to be sheriff.
This never goes where you think it will, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. The whole JC/Jesus Christ thing would have been far more effective if we'd gotten some background info earlier than we do. All of the "can't we all just get along" themes are typically syrupy, but somehow all of the related angles transcend the schmaltziness. Somehow, the way it's all tied together, the fact that it's actually not very good never bothers you. The only part that really bugs you, unfortunately, is the one that sets the climax into motion. In a major "dude, seriously?" moment, it's David (Hannibal Penney) --the black guy who has the rednecks the most irate-- who makes the beer run into town. How do you suppose that goes over?
A good job is done capturing the biker movie feel and mood, not bad considering no one involved had done one before or would again. McGaha pulls of being rivetingly good despite the fact that he's not very good; while not a terribly talented actor, he's got enough "it" to hold your attention (he also, I believe, breaks the record for ending sentences with "man," a record set by Duane Allman in a radio interview). The other bikers and mamas --with names like Mr. Clean, Happy Von Wheelie, and Shirley the Saint-- are nearly all non-actors, carried by the townspeople, mostly played by actors with minor TV and movie experience. The notable exception, of course, is the sheriff, played by Slim Pickens. The role, unfortunately, is a little inconsistent, with him sometimes seeming like a not-so-bad guy trying to keep peace, others like a bigoted thug. As a result (and also since he probably just wanted to shoot his scenes, pick up his check, and split), it's an uneven performace, with Pickens not clear on which way to go with it. But at his best, he has a ball with the role.
Hate to be a heavy negative vibe merchant, but the music, mostly hippie-christian folky pop by a group called Bethany, is just awful. Worse, the gang includes its own minstrel, who frequently warbles cringe-inducing ballads about their situations. He's a real bringdown, man.
But while I wished I was deaf here and there, I was never bored. This is a unique story that, cliches and all, moves along nicely. McGaha aimed higher than "The Jesus Trip," and was also more successful. Three crosses, and a recommendation that you check this out at least once.

Neither of these are the Bizarro World Jesus as MC prez/ cult leader you or I wish existed, but at least both sure beat the shit out of "Jesus Christ Superstar."