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