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."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Cycle Savages

The Cycle Savages
D: Brill Brame (also wrote)

A crazed biker, upset with an artist who's been skectching the gang, seeks to teach him a lesson. Probably inspired by the Angels stomping Hunter Thompson over his book.

Keeg (Bruce Dern) is the leader of Hell's Chosen Few MC (great name), and also a procurer for his pimp brother (Casey Kasem, the film's EP, in a cameo). He gets word that a Polish artist named Romko (Chris Robinson) who's in town has been drawing them. For some reason, he's sure that the drawings could somehow be used as evidence against them for something, and gets angrier and more violent as Romko continues. Keeg threatens him, attacks him, sends chick Lea (Melody Patterson) to spy on him as the bikers ransack his pad, and finally decides to crush his hands, intending to "make it look like an accident"(?!).
Like Keeg needs this shit. He's also got broads to turn out, like the one who gets raped, dosed, and forced to participate in a gross PG-rated orgy.
Nothing happens in the finale that you didn't see coming a mile away, and the whole thing moves along pretty slowly. Aside from the cool instro theme by the Cycle-Mates, the music isn't anything to write home about. A real drag, honestly. Without Dern's over the top lunatic performace, this would be unwatchable; with great struggle he lifts this dud into 2 territory.

Angels' Wild Women

Angels' Wild Women
D: Al Adamson (also wrote and produced)

Notable: Scenes shot a Spahn Ranch

There is not enough of a plot to merit a plot summary... Bikers feud with a Manson type figure; meanwhile, their women go on a small rampage.

Where to even start with this Al Adamson messterpiece... It's important to know ahead of time that this was shot in about 1970-early '71, and looked to capitalize on the Manson trials. By the time it was actually released, wild women pictures were making big coin at the drive-ins, so it was reedited into one. Hasitly, it appears.
It opens well enough, jumping between two scenes. In the first, a stuntman, Turk (Preston Pierce, whose hair is a wee bit long for the WWII film he's supposed to be in), gets a little fresh with Donna (Jill Woelfel), a girl on set. Biker Speed (Ross Hagen) shows up to save the day, and the two go at it in a hilarious brawl, with dubbed over voices that immediately remind one of Popeye and Bluto. It ends in a motorcycle chase, with Turk making a jump that Speed can't follow (swiped from "Angels from Hell"), but his reaction indicates "no hard feelings."
Meanwhile, some bad guy types are about to rape a black girl (Maggie Bembry, who looks amazingly like Oprah Winfrey and has nice tits). She's saved by whip-toting Margo (Regina Carrol) and her pals, obvious Adamson-versions of "Manson girls" (especially the one who reminds me of Ouisch); after one (Claire Polan--Mrs Ross Hagen) first bares her breasts, they attack.
The girls, who also "rape" a Jethro Bodine type, beat up a cop, and so forth, just kind of go off in their own direction and have almost nothing to do with the plot for a while. It's explained away with the story that the gang they're with is going on a men-only run.
Ah, yes. The gang. After a Speed and Donna love scene in which Hagen reminds me of David Koresh, Speed gets jumped by members of an unnamed club, kicks their asses, and zipzip, he's the leader now. Off they go on their run, ending up camping not far from Spahn Ranch.
Unknown to the bikers, Spahn is also where Terry, Donna and the rest of the girls are--and so is Turk, as it happens. All are guests of the camp's guru, King (William Bonner, who is surprisingly bad) and his right hand man Slim (Arne Ward) (and filling in for Shorty Shea, Kent Taylor as ranch hand Parker). Though King seems the peaceful type at first, things go very, very badly for all involved. Viewers included.
The whole thing is an utter mess, with the editing particularly bad in every way. Storylines are abruptly dropped and resumed out of nowhere, and shots are painfully obviously reused. Some scenes are simply out of order: The girls, on foot, seduce a farm boy after one of their bikes breaks down, and then comes the scene where the bike breaks down. Much of the plot concerning King & Slim was cut in favor of shots of the girls, so none of it completely makes sense. The bikers are a bore (though Gus Peters's Preacher character had potential), and the music is mostly pretty bad.
Still, it's somehow entertaining in that Adamson way. It's good trashy entertainment, even if it doesn't really hang together. For the boobs, the Manson connections (including that some Family types still at Spahn were used as extras), the stilted dialogue, and Al being Al, this dumpster run yields three bags of good, usable stuff.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Losers (Nam's Angels)

The Losers (rereleased as Nam's Angels)
D: Jack Starrett

Trivia: The movie Bruce Willis is watching in "Pulp Fiction"

Members of a motorcycle club go to Vietnam to prerform a covert mission in Cambodia, the rescue of a CIA agent

In 1965, Sonny Barger, a supporter of the war and himself a veteran, sent a letter to President Johnson, volunteering a group of Angels to be deployed. While Johnson declined, at least someone had the good sense to turn the idea into a dumb movie.
One would expect a movie with this premise, starring the always reliable William Smith (and directed by Starrett), would be a can't miss, but somehow they manage. Watch the trailer and you'll see about half of the entire movie's action. This is especially disappointing, because as the film opens the Devil's Advocates (nice colors, by the way) are already in 'Nam, and you're thinking, "Holy shit, this one moves fast." But how wrong you are.
Though Link (Smith) is the lead character and the leader of the DA's, his is the only backstory left hazy rather than fully told to bore the shit out of us. Dirty Denny (Houston Savage; the character name was probably an in-joke) was a minor crime boss/pimp when he served there and looks to reclaim what was his; Duke (Adam Rourke) falls in love with a local with a baby fathered by a black soldier; Limpy (Paul Koslo) is there to retrieve a girl he was in love with when he served. Most of them are incredibly boring, and what's revealed in one would mean the guy would have to have been in Vietnam for at least three years.
The central plot that they keep pulling away from: A CIA agent (played by Alan Caillou, the screenwriter), with whom Link has an unpleasant past, is being held prisoner by the Chinese(?) in Cambodia. US troops can't go in--but the bikers can. Their bikes will be armored and armed, and they're to find him and bust him out. Nonsensical, ok, but it should have been enough.
Though it takes forever getting there, the climax is actually pretty worth the ride. Some genuine action, and a very good ending. I won't give it away, but the script had an opposite ending that would have ruined it.
The whole culture part of it is a little lazy, with everything just feeling sort of generically Oriental. It was shot in the Phillippines, with locals playing the Vietnamese.
The music is by Stu Phillips, and is mostly pretty solid. A local band mimes to an Iron Butterfly-ish tune that's not bad at all.
Most of the bikers look pretty good (I mentioned the great colors)--with the major exception being Speed (Eugene Cornelius)'s green headband with magic marker swastika. Some of the older soldiers, who would have joined shortly after WWII, would not have tolerated it. And it looks like it was made by a child. I'd kill for the tie-die shirt Link is seen wearing.
It sounds like I just shit all over this, but it's actually pretty watchable. I picked up the DVD, which comes from a really nice print (and even includes commentary tracks and the like), so now I can toss my taped from tv copy. It's one of those you can watch any time, from any point, and gets a solid 3.

Angels Hard as They Come

Angels Hard as They Come
D: Joe Viola

Notable: Jonathan Demme (who produced and co-wrote) and Scott Glenn work together 20 years before "Silence of the Lambs"; first film role for Gary Busey

Hippies and "good" bikers vs "bad" bikers

When their drug deal is interrupted by the cops, Long John (Scott Glenn) and some other Angels far from home decide to hang around a couple days and complete the transaction when the heat dies down. John, Monk (James Igelhart), and Juicer (Don Carerra) meet up with some members of the Dragons, who invite them to party and crash at the old ghost town they'd taken over from the hippies squatting there.
John meets flower chick Astrid (Gilda Texter, later seen riding a cycle nude in "Vanishing Point"), and the two are intrigued by and attracted to each other; unfortunately, the Angels also meet General (Charles Dierkop), the insane and Napoleon-like Dragons president. The paranoid General and his right hand man Axe (Gary Littlejohn) don't much care for the Angels, and begin showing it.
In a darkly shot scene, a Dragon starts to rape Astrid, and John bursts in to her rescue. A chaotic fight ensues, Astrid ends up stabbed to death, and the Angels are blamed. Though they're clearly innocent --and John suggests that maybe the killer was a Dragon looking to take out General-- they're tried in a kangaroo court and held in the old town jail. And Henry (Gary Busey) and the rest of the hippies aren't much help, at least at first, but their club brothers from earlier are starting to wonder where they are.
This is kind of a strange one. It aims fairly high with the violence as entertainment and senselessness of violence themes, but offers some cheap thrills of its own, like trying to have it both ways. The Angels were sentenced to "The Games," which includes being dragged down dirt streets and a game of "chopper ball," where they're surrounded, hands bound, in the desert by pool cue-wielding Dragons on motorcycles. And for all of Henry's anti-violence speeches, it's some serious ass kicking that saves the day.
The pacing is odd as well, moving briskly along here and getting bogged down there. Monk escapes into the desert but the bike breaks down, and the attention to his trek feels like padding to me. It feels, in fact, like it was prolonged just to have some racist on a dune buggy fuck with him for a bit.
Though three Angels are captured, it almost seems like it's just Glenn, who takes the role seriously and it shows. Monk ends up on his own, and Juicer is a pretty thin character, played by Don Carerra in a performance you'll never remember. Kristofferson lookalike Dierkop has a blast as the completely insane General, and Littlejohn is always reliably greasy. Some good minor bikers as well, like John Raymond Taylor as Crab (because...oh, you know). Dirty Denny, the first biker seen, has three credits under three names. Three checks? Doubtful.
Some of the music is ok, with a neat fuzz & tablas instro into the theme song, which goes for a Band type sound (with Levon Helm type vocals even). I should mention somewhere that there are some pretty nice titties in this one.
For Scott Glenn's performance (and those titties), "Angels Hard as They Come" gets a 3.5.

Devil's Angels

Devil's Angels
D: Daniel Haller

Claim to fame: The John Cassavetes one; produced by Roger Corman

MC president looks to hold his club together and true to itself, despite threats both from without and within.

Sort of a follow-up to "The Wild Angels," with respected actor John Cassavetes and future starlet (they hoped) Beverly Adams in Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra type roles. The plot here takes a few twists and turns; it's less a single storyline and more a character study of Cody (Cassavetes), leader of the motorcycle club the Skulls.
The Skulls, we learn, were once a mighty MC with hundreds of members, but now just over a couple dozen remain. They're tolerated in their home town, though that changes when member Gage (Buck Taylor) accidentally runs down a citizen while fleeing police. Inspired by Gage's tales of Butch and Sundance's Hole-in-the-Wall, Cody takes the club in the wind, in search of just such a place that they can call their own.
They find the first town they stop at less than accomodating. Cody and Lynn stop at a campground to rent some space and are turned away; meanwhile, the rest of the boys check out the town fair and do not impress the local citizenry. To keep the peace, the tough but fair sheriff (Leo Gordon) makes a deal with Cody: He'll get them space at the campground, provided they stay out of town and leave in the morning --and if there's any trouble, Cody will be held personally responsible. The parties agree, though both deal with negative reaction. The men of the town, led by Royce, Sheriff Henderson's far-right opponent in the next election, want the bikers gone pronto, and the rest of the Skulls, particularly Gage and Billy the Kid (Stiv Bators lookin' Marc Cavell), see any such deal as knuckling under to pressure from The Man.
A local girl (character actress Mimsy Farmer) joins the club at their beach party, and when she's nearly raped, all hell breaks loose. Cody is arrested, as promised, and the Skulls look to retaliate, calling in the huge club the Stompers for backup and security. Cody's then left with the difficult task of exacting retribution without letting things get out of hand.

"Devil's Angels" is a pretty standard character driven story, wrapped in a biker film. Cody is getting older and trying to reclaim the club's glory days --or at least what he remembers as the glory days-- while being pulled at from both sides. Is he outgrowing the club, or are they pulling away from him? Though the leader of an outlaw biker club, he's a quietly intense brooder who thinks things through and balances the violence and wild partying with his thoughtful demeanor and loving relationship with Lynn. Fortunately, Cassavetes is just the actor to pull it off.
The progression of the bikers' violence is well done and even subtle for the genre, building tension as things start to spiral out of Cody's control, up to the satisfying climax.
As for the usual biker movie trappings, just about everything is top notch. Riding, party, and fight scenes boast outstanding music, mostly by Davie Allan & The Arrows (the great theme song is credited to Jerry & The Portraits, though that's clearly Allen on guitar). A lot of extras --both human and machine-- were used, giving it a realism boost, and all the bikers generally look legit. (One minor exception is the mildly retarded Robot, whom I mention mainly because during this, my first viewing of "Angels" in many a year, I nearly spit out my beer because he reminded me so much of Jack Black.)
Not just a classic biker flick but a solid movie, period. Still a solid 3-3.5 with any other lead, and the credible, engrossing John Cassavetes brings this up to 4 star territory.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Satan's Sadists

Satan's Sadists
D: Al Adamson

Claim to fame: That really violent one with Russ Tamblyn

Sicko biker gang heads into the desert, chasing two witnesses to their rapes and murders

A bike gang out riding happens upon a couple fooling around in the woods. They rough up the guy, and pull a train on his girl. Gang mama Gina (Regina Carrol, looking like a trashier version of Sinatra in "Wild Angels") tells her to just relax and enjoy it, which she seems to quickly do. When the gang's through with them, their bodies are put in their car, which is then rolled off a cliff. And this is before the cool opening credits, which are of course accompanied by "Satan," far and away the best theme song from any biker movie.
Cuts show three parties headed toward their destiny at a remote cafe. Besides the Sadists are a vacationing cop and his wife, who pick up Johnny (Gary Kent), a young vet hitchhiking, and college student Tracy (Jackie Taylor), who works there.
The Sadists arrive after the others, and begin acting all wild-bikery --except for leader Anchor (Tamblyn), who has the cool detatched thing going on. Eventually things get out of hand--the cop (Scott Brady) has his gun taken and Johnny is knocked out. While Tracy is forced to clean up a wounded biker, the cafe owner and the cop and his wife are herded outside to an auto graveyard (nice shots). The cop's wife is "brutally" raped (not very convincing) by Anchor, who then gives a self-righteous speech and shoots all three of them dead.
Meanwhile, Johnny comes to and busts out Tracy, and the two flee in her dune buggy with the bikers behind. They break down and have to head into the desert on foot. Fortunately for them, the bikes can't handle the terrain and they'll have to hoof it as well. Only Anchor, Firewater (John Cardos), Acid (Greydon Clark), and Gina remain. And off we go from there.

This is probably the best known movie by Adamson, and one of the most notorious biker flicks overall. For an Al Adamson movie, it's extremely simple and coherent. And like "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," for instance, it's not as violent as its reputation, but still manages to live up to the hype.
While it's really not all that violent, especially by current standards, it's the tone that sets it apart. It ranges from a detatched, "Oh, is this really shocking to you?" to a sort of campy glee. Nothing is ever cut for shocks, but to come across as just another moment in the lives of the Satan's Sadists. Though Anchor eventually takes things too far for much of the gang, it takes a lot to get to that point.
Adamson also mines the psychotic bikers as militant wing of the counterculture vein, portarying them as a violent reaction to the Establishment's treatment of the hippies like the Klan emerging from the Reconstruction.
For a film with such a tiny budget it looks pretty damn good. There's very little obvious padding, and except for some awful in-out-in-out zooms during a party, the gimmicks are kept to a minimum. The only thing that really comes off looking cheap are the club's colors. The soundtrack is great, featuring three versions of "Satan."
Adamson also did, for the most part, an excellent job casting it. Tamblyn, of course, was an exploitation film vet for a decade before this, and is perfect here as Anchor--a coldly aloof complete bastard, a hepcatish older than the rest of the gang. Though only John Cardos as the tough but more tempered than Anchor Firewater and Greydon Clark as the drug casualty Acid are major characters, just about every other character --biker and non-- is played by someone who had and/or would do this again. This is almost a who's who of cycle movie character actors.
A notable exception is Jackie Taylor, who is jaw-droppingly bad. Had I researched this, I would probably find a connection between Taylor (aka Jacqueline Cole) and someone who fronted money for this film. While scrambling up a mesa with psychotic bikers in persuit, she asks Johnny if he thinks they'll make it. She asks as though little more than mildly curious; the way she delivers it the line might as well be "Do you think it'll rain?" or "Does my hair look ok?". Her acting is bad enough to be distracting.
For any other complaints, I really have to pick at it... One of the college girls, complaining about her boyfriend's busy hands, says, "I keep telling him its geology, not biology"; it's a line a few years behind --"gynecology" would have been funnier, and trust me, certainly not "too much" in this film... I'm sure Tamblyn looked very cool in that hat in '68, but I first saw it 20 years later so he always just reminded me of Chuck Barris... And it's not the film's fault, but I've never seen a particularly good print of this.
This is one you just keep coming back to. Anyone who says they don't like this does not like biker movies, because tasteless trash like this is what it's all about. As important to my impressions of 1969 as Altamont, the "Manson murders," the Doors Miami concert, and the first Stooges album.
An absolute must see. Over and over. A perfect 5 outta 5.

Friday, May 13, 2011

testing, testing, 1-2...

Just looking to see what the fucks going on here... The last two posts have completely disappeared, though half of one is still in my drafts folder. Not typing all that shit up for nothing again. Thanks, Blogger. Really.

Maybe it's a Friday the 13th thing.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Stone Cold

Stone Cold
D: Craig R. Baxley

Claim to fame: Aw, shit, isn't that that fucking Brian Bosworth movie?!

Suspended Alabama cop goes undercover for the FBI, infiltrating an out of control biker club seeking revenge for a member's imprisonment.

For those of you who weren't football fans in the '80s, "Boz" was what is referred to as a draft bust. A standout linebacker for the Oklahoma Sooners, his accomplishments seemed a little less impressive after he tested positive for 'roids. Drafted in the first round by the Seattle Seahawks (after sending letters to some other teams informing them that he'd refuse to sign if they picked him), he showed up for camp in a helicopter and immediately sued the NFL for the right to wear his college number, 44 (uniform number series are based on position, and he lost). His mediocre career was cut short by injuries, and he's remembered most for his antics, and for boasts he'd never lived up to (like that he'd "shut down" another young player, Oakland's Bo Jackson, in a Seattle-Oakland Monday night game--highlights of Bo's 221 yard breakout performance are occasionally shown to this day). Following his two year football career, he went into acting. Having learned nothing from Joe Namath, he started with a biker flick.
Like "C.C. & Company," in fact, this one opens in a grocery store. In this case, it's being robbed by a too-old looking street gang. Boz, looking like the gay Road Warrior, shows up to kick some ass and thwart the robbery in a scene with exactly the cliche action and "tension building" music you'd expect in such a film--right down to the cops arriving just as he finishes dispatcing the bad guys, and the PD brass mentioning that Bosworth's character is a suspended cop. Things do not improve from here.
Cut to the bikers. The unnamed club is shown at a party, doing insanely ridiculous shit like shooting cans of beer (Dixie brand beer, no less) off of each other, William Tell style, in one case with a fucking Uzi. In a flashback, a member's killing spree is shown; he's convicted and gets 45 years, and shortly afterward the gang blows up the judge in his fishing boat. They're also out to get the DA, who's now running for governor and has also appealed the 45 year sentence, seeking the death penalty (can a prosecutor even fucking do this?!)
The suspended cop turns out to be Joe Huff, who has busted more bikers than anyone in Alabama history. He's also a complete caricature who wears only the hippest in 1991 jock wear (except when he's walking around in a speedo), nails only the hottest fake-titted broads, has that happy-go-lucky tough guy attitude, and lets his pet kimodo dragon wander around his condo. Huff is asked by FBI agents (Richard Gant and Sam McMurray, who's the comic relief) to spend his suspension across the state line, working for them and infiltrating the bikers in Mississippi. Clearly they need a man of such experience, one familiar with such biker argot as "prospect" and, uh, well that's about it. Huff agrees, and goes undercover under the equally stupid name John Stone.
Huff, now Stone, heads out to meet him some bikers at the titty bar, which, nipples aside, looks straight out of a Miami Vice episode. Gang VP & enforcer Ice (a doing-his-best William Forsythe) is not impressed, calling Stone a "grown up Bab Bam" in one of the three good lines in the picture. The two get nose to nose, but an unrelated fight breaks out. Stone saves Ice's ass, but the help is not appreciated. Gang member Gut (Evan James) is impressed, though, and Stone has himself a toady.
Gut brings Stone to the next party, and whaddya know, Stone turns out to be better than everyone at just about everything... If you guessed that leader Chains (Lance Henriksen) would take a shine to Stone but Ice would voice some doubts, congratulate yourself for not being retarded. Chains does, however, call a chick he knows in state PD and ask her do do a background check... We learn of the gang's plan to kill the DA.
Rather quickly, Stone is asked to prospect, and agrees. Part of the initiation is to kill a South American (I dunno, maybe they mentioned a country) drug dealer who crossed them. The SA is picked up by the FBI, and his ear tattoo is copied onto a cadaver's ear, which is removed as proof of SA's "death." He's then simply put on a plane and told not to return. This couldn't possibly come back to bite them on the ass, right?
Desperate for kill-the-DA money, the bikers have been encroaching on mob turf. Nancy (Arabella Hulzbug), Chains' old lady, is accosted by a captain and his crew, and saved by Stone. In retaliation, Eyetalians toss a grenade at dorky biker Tool (Tony Pierce), blowing him up real good but not killing him.
The bikers strike back, and bring the mob boss the grenade-throwing captains head --and a proposition. Via the FBI, Stone gets his hands on $1 million worth of P2P (the kind used to make speed, not Playstation devices), which the gang offers to sell to the mobsters. Unless I missed it, they never explain what P2P is; this may be because they wanted to avoid having the viewer wonder why bikers would be selling a crank ingredient to the Italian mafia. The deal is a go.
Either things happen really fast in Mississippi politics or this movie has a fucked up time sequence, because the DA has now been elected and sworn in as governor. To protect the courthouse from the bikers, he calls in the National Guard to seal off the town. The MC kidnaps and kills two Guardsmen to "send a message," which is where things get too heavy for Nancy, and for Gut, whose fingers are ground off in motorcycle spokes (not shown) as punishment. Stone works on Nancy, looking to turn her. (At about this time I noticed with disappointment that there were a good 40 minutes left.) He leaves their lunch date to meet with the feds, and is spotted by Ice. After a chase that includes lots of explosions and dead cops, Ice crashes and gives Stone his final words: "Fuck you, cop." No one in the gang knows what happened, but the call from their cop friend comes in--Stone might, in fact, be a cop. It's Nancy who takes the call, however, and she sits on the imformation.
The deal with the mafia types goes off, but Chains has taken over the deal. Not only is Stone cut out of his end, but the RV point is moved, preventing the FBI bust. Not to worry, though: Stone later keeps the dope off the streets by SHOOTING THE TRAILER OFF OF THE BOBTAIL WITH HIS PISTOL, blowing it (and the Eye-ties) up.
The bikers use their drug money to buy a helicopter from a crooked military guy at a National Guard post or over in Ft Rucker or someplace... Stone returns to find that Nancy has told Chains that he's a cop, and that the "dead, earless" SA from earlier has returned. Chains kills them both anyway, but has bigger plans for Huff. He'll be strapped to a bomb and thrown out of the helicopter.... Fuck this. Chains gets into the courthouse disguised as a priest, and the rest of the bikers begin a seige. Chains delivers a decent line about his father's last words ("Don't, son, that gun is loaded!") and kills the governor... Lots of alleged action, including the deaths of most of the bikers and a cycle crashing into and blowing up the helicopter (a chopper on chopper crash, geddit?)... Huff finally beats the crap out of Chains, who then grabs for a gun and is shot and killed by the Sam McMurray guy. End.

This not only stars a complete douchebag but was helmed by a stuntman whose other directing credits were some A-Team episodes. The plot is not only ridiculous but was used in about two dozen cop movies in the 80s and 90s. Any indicators of time passage are all over the place and make no sense. Though Henriksen is a good action movie bad guy and Forsythe is always dependable, they sure as hell aren't enough to save this clunker. McMurray's role was probably trimmed to cut back on the comedy, but pushing him into the background makes the ending suck even more. This isn't even entertainingly bad, it's just a complete bore.
Out of five choppers, this gets a Sportster that some tool got his daddy to buy him after seeing Sons of Anarchy a few times, now collecting dust in the garage because he beat it to shit until he got bored with it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Angels from Hell

Angels from Hell
D: Bruce Kessler (also producer)

A brash, angry biker returns from 'Nam and quickly takes over the local MC. And unlike their previous president, he's not interested in playing nice with The Man.

Biker Mike (Tom Stern) returns to Bakersfield from Vietnam even angrier than when he left. After beating the crap out of a couple locals who jumped a black biker, he hooks up with old pal Smiley (Ted Markland), who introduces him to the club he's running with, the Madcaps. Mike quickly takes over the club, as well as its hottest hanger-on chick, Gina (Arlene Martel). Most Madcaps seem happy with the new arrangement; a few, notably Dennis (former San Francisco and Portland wrestler Pepper Martin), are not.
George, the club's former president, had an agreement with the local police captain (Jack Starrett): If they don't bother anyone in town, the cops will leave their clubhouse alone. Mike isn't too interested in such a deal. Biker-cop conflicts begin, with a few bikers pulling pranks on a rookie cop--one of which hopspitalizes him.
The Madcaps split the scene for a while, crashing the home of a movie star, an old pal of Mike's. A producer there likes the guys, and talks about doing one of them there popular cycle pictures with them. Such events futher swell Mike's head and plant seeds for future plans...
Shortly after their return, things start to sour. Dennis, still disgruntled, is caught cannibalizing Mike's bike and dealt with. Nutty Norman (Paul Bertoya) is a little free with his fists when dealing with his ol' lady. And back in town, Speed (Stephen Oliver) is picked up on trumped up charges by a couple of cops out for revenge, who end up beating him to death. Though Mike is seething, Bingham persuades him to go on the club's planned run and let him try to bust the rogue cops legally.
Ride they do, and are welcomed at a commune in the midst of an outdoor party (where the Lollipop Shoppe are playing). Unfortunately, things continue to turn to shit: Nutty ends up killing his old lady. Though a few --notably Gina-- want him turned in, Mike would rather cover it up and rein in and channel Nutty's violent urges.
The gang returns to town, and Mike's hubris and unquenchable thirst for power, glory, and revenge peak. He lays out his plan, one so over the top that even his pal Smiley wants out, leading to a great ending.

For some reason this one isn't as well remembered as I think it ought to be. It manages to do the "message" thing without being preachy or corny, and moves at a good pace even when it meanders a bit. Though it opens pretty violently and then fails to keep that pace, it does build good tension. Even the incidental stuff, like the bikers meeting the hippies, and member Durkens (looking like a proto-Johnny Depp) waxing philosophical about weed, is entertaining stuff. All the acting is pretty solid; Starrett is superb.
It also looks great. Some of the extras are actual members of the Madcaps MC, and presumably that's where the very nice bikes come from. The bad-ass looking titles and the clubhouse interiors were painted by Von Dutch.
The strong soundtrack by Stu Phillips includes the classic title track and songs performed by the Lollipop Shoppe and the Peanut Butter Conspiracy (and a lame protesty tune sung by Markland).
Sonny Barger gets a "story consultant" credit.
4 outta 5 choppers for this solid entry.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Wild Rebels

The Wild Rebels
D: William Grefe (also screenwriter)

Claim to fame: Now best known as a popular episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Three bikers recruit a stock car legend to be their getaway man in a bank robbery. He agrees--but only because he's undercover for the man...

Soon after the release of moneymaker "The Wild Angels," Florida schlockmeister William Grefe cranked out a biker flick of his own, starring Steve Alaimo, a local musician who'd had some minor national success.
Steve Alaimo stars as Rod, a stock car driver who grows sick of the racing grind and calls it quits. He sells off his shit and hitches a ride to a swingin' bar (Swinger's Paradise, in fact). Miami band the Birdwatchers are playing; spotting Rod with his acoustic guitar, they invite him up. He does join them (doing the original "You Don't Love Me," though in the film it's a standard). At this point, the three members of the could-you-get-less-originally named Satan's Angels (whose colors are more street gang than MC--though they do all wear cool MF patches) recognize him, and approach.
Said bikers, there with mama Linda (Bobbie Byers), who is just in it for the kicks, as she makes clear, are Banjo, the lust for violence guy; Fats (Jeff Gillen--later Santa in "A Christmas Story"!), the fat guy/dumb brute/one who wears his colors on a long brown vest (there's usually one); and Jeeter, their leader. Jeeter is an outrageous caricature, constantly speaking in an arrogant, overly polite manner with lots of pauses. If you...gentlemen...get my meaning?
They agree to meet at the gang's temporary clubhouse, a small Everglades shack, where, after cooling his forehead with a glass of room temperature red wine, Jeeter lays out his proposition. The three are members of a California club, good on two wheels but not four, and not overly familiar with the area. Seeing how he's retired from racing and in need of dough, howzabout he be their wheelman for a bank job? He declines and leaves, though Jeeter figures he'll get hungry enough to return.
Soon (actually immediately) after, Rod is approached by the police, who convince him to participate in the robbery and be their man on the inside. Rod agrees. To explain his coming back to the gang, Rod enters another race, but crashes and demolishes his car. He's accepted back, but is not completely trusted and not told of the plan.
In preparation of the robbery, Linda, Banjo, and Fats rob Ye Olde Gun Shoppe (seriously). Though it begins with the tired cliche of the frail woman buying a gun ("Can you show me how to load it?"), it soon turns violent. The shopkeep gets roughed up a bit (and the viewer is left wondering why the cops can't just bust them for this instead of sending a civilian in undercover to foil a bank robbery). Most of the "violence" in this one is pretty tame, so the bit here is pretty jarring in context.
The gang goes over the plans, but Rod is kicked out and Linda is sent to keep an eye on him. After he serenades her and gives her the old "what's a nice girl like you..." bit (answer: kicks, baby), they get makey-outey. Banjo, sent out to check on them, does not approve and a fight follows to establish that Rod can hold his own.
Early the next morning, the robbery goes off, but not quite as planned, leading to the decent but completely predictable finale.
This is a weird one. Like any Grefe (one of those directors known for shooting one take) film, it's incredibly cheap. The sets, particularly the clubhouse, look like those of a low budget play. The cheapness, however, works at times: The riding scenes, without the benefit of long or overhead shots, actually end up more exciting. And despite the low budget, the bikes they used are pretty goddamned nice.
Flubs and technical flaws abound as well. In a couple of scenes they seem to have forgotten to add sound effects. It's explained that Fats is an ex-surfer who took a board in the head and "hasn't spoken since"--shortly after some of his ad libs are dubbed over a scene of the bikers roughing up some college boys. To Grefe's credit, though, Fats isn't heard again (though he does whisper to Jeeter).
And everything is oversold. When Rod decides to race again, it makes the sports section's front page, in a large type above-the-fold headline. Though I guess that's not surprising, as the race announcer informs us that "ALL SPEED RECORDS SHOULD BE SHATTERED TODAY!"
Though Byers isn't bad, the less said about the acting, the better.
All that said, it's got its positives. The music is a big strength here. The Birdwatchers seem to have been a pretty cool Merseybeat type band, and the theme song (as well as the instrumental versions of it used as incidental music) is really cool. Though the love song Alaimo does is a beyond corny attempt at Porter/Carmichael type songwriting (and though it's just he and an acoustic guitar in the woods, guitar is about the only instrument you don't hear), the tune he does with the Birdwatchers is pretty cool. Alaimo, by the way, had had a few Hot 100 hits, though he never cracked the Top 40. About a year after this movie he and Gregg Allman would write "Melissa."
If you watch any crime movies from the '30s-'50s or read hard boiled fiction, you've seen this plot more than once. But it moves along pretty well here, and other than some racing footage a couple times, there's very little padding and few especially slow parts. In fact, the pacing really isn't bad at all.

This is bad, but good bad--one that grows on you. Not counting the MST3K episode, I saw this twice and liked it better the second time. Bet it'll be even more entertaining when it gets a third screening sometime, and will probably peak at the 2.5 I'm gonna give it now.
Kicks, baby. I did it for kicks.

The Hard Ride

The Hard Ride
D: Burt Topper (also screenwriter and producer)

Black biker killed in Vietnam leaves his custom bike to his white Marine buddy, to be delivered to his former MC leader--who isn't the only one who wants it.

Lenny, black former outlaw biker, ends up a dead Marine in Vietnam. For some strange reason, his death means his closest buddy, Phil (Robert Fuller), redeploys stateside. Phil gets Lenny's "in case I don't make it" letter, leaving everything to the orphanage that reared him, except for a nice bit of change for Phil, and a request that he deliver his chromed out custom bike Baby to his old club leader, Big Red.
Phil meets up with Sheryl (Sherry Bain), Lenny's ex-(white) girl, who clearly doesn't trust him. At the (great) bar and grille where Sheryl works, he meets some bikers who promise to take him to Big Red. They take him instead to their cool-ass desert hangout, and "Big Red" is actually their own leader, Grady (William Bonner*). Not tricked for long, Phil fights his way out.
The bulk of the middle of the film is the Phil-Sheryl relationship, and heavy-handed liberal themes. He's a square, she's a free spirit; he's no racist, Lenny was like his brother, darn it, etc. A cop pulls them over just to check out the bike (squares ain't so bad), a black thug figures she's an easy piece who just digs dark meat... All the straights/heads, black/white tedium you'd expect.
Finally out of the reach of Grady's gang --Big Red made it clear that he'd kill any of them who came near his territory-- Phil and Sheryl finally track Red. He turns out to be a prick who never particularly cared for Lenny, but Phil lays the will on him: Show up at the funeral, and Baby is yours. Red agrees.
Will it be that easy? Grady and his boys look to make sure it isn't...

Other than Baby, the only thing here particularly exceptional was the soundtrack by Harley Hatcher. The only word that comes to mind is competent. It's a pretty original story for the genre, and moves along at a decent pace. Early use of the Vietnam flashback device, I guess, when Phil fights Red and war sound effects are used. But the messages hit you with less subtlety than the most overwrought episode of a Norman Lear tv show. And everything just begs to be just a little better. Mike, the tough padre who runs the orphanage, should have been a bigger character, for example. A good watch, but nothing special. I'll give it a hard 2.5.

*Didn't want to clutter shit up with such an aside. Bonner was also in "Angels Wild Women," another one I've seen recently for the first time. Seeing this, I immediately recognized him as the biker in the dreadful "Dracula vs Frankenstein." I saw that movie once--on "Creature Double Feature" when I was about 8. No clue why, but it's seared in my mind like no other horror film. Weird.