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.