With all the various cult movie trailer compilations being released on DVD, it’s bloody well time someone deliver us one on the subject of exploitive biker films. Basically a reworking of his 1993 video compilation/documentary “Bikers, Blondes and Blood”, Johnny Legend here presents “Biker Mania”, 65 minutes of cycle coming attractions along with an amusing 30+ plus minute video magazine piece. Although this can’t be deemed the ultimate biker trailer compilation (too many are missing, including THE DEVIL’S ANGELS, THE GLORY STOMPERS, THE PEACE KILLERS, THE HARD RIDE, THE DIRT GANG, etc.) this is still a fun party disc for drive-in and grindhouse addicts.
Starting off with some footage from THE UNDERTAKE AND HIS PALS (accompanied by narration from the trailer), we kick right into Stanley Kramer’s production of the THE WILD ONE (1953) with Marlon Brando, widely acknowledged as the very first biker movie. A number of the trailers that follow have more to do with hot rods and drag racing than bikes. American International Pictures (AIP) got into the act in 1957 with Edward L. Cahn’s MOTORCYCLE GANG starring John Ashley (and his DA), Anne Neyland and Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer in one of his last roles. DRAGSTRIP RIOT (1958) is another AIP drive-in filler with Yvonne Lime and a bleach blonde Gary Clarke (HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER) and it features both bikers and hot rodders. RACERS FROM HELL is a real obscurity, and the trailer features the image of a skull wearing a motorcycle helmet. ROAD DEVILS (1957) features Brett Halsey and THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US star Leigh Snowden, and it’s better known as HOT ROD RUMBLE. A skinny, baby-faced Jack Nicholson plays a punk in THE WILD RIDE (1960), while Arch Hall Jr. has his turn in THE CHOPPERS (1961). TEENAGE GANG DEBS is here because it features a Brooklyn biker gang, and THE HORROR OF PARTY BEACH also has a biker gang invading a bikini beach party. The trailer for WILD ONES ON WHEELS (1962) is followed by a vintage color Yamaha motorcycle commercial, showing a happy couple riding their new motorbikes and waving at picnickers.
THE WILD ANGELS (1966) is Roger Corman’s groundbreaking film for AIP, and it was the one that started the 1960s biker trend which remained strong for at least five years. Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd star. It’s available as part of MGM’s Midnite Movies DVD series. HELL’S ANGELS ON WHEELS (1967) was directed by Richard Rush and gave Jack Nicholson one of his best early starring roles. Nicholson plays a loner who joins the Angels and fights leader Adam Roarke over mama Sabrina Scharf. The best DVD of this underrated gem is the anamorphic widescreen one released by Image Entertainment. OUTLAW RIDERS (1971) is a poorly made, rarely seen effort (you might still be able to find it on VHS) starring breast-augmented Bambi Allen, Jennifer Bishop, Bill Bonner and Rafael Campos. DEVIL RIDER (1970) is another rare cheapie shot in Florida which stars Sharon Mahon as a rebellious type who latches on to a scumy biker gang.
HELL’S BLOOD DEVILS (1970) is an Al Adamson film, made over a period of several years, which mixes a condensed biker gang with a plot about a Nazi organization and the FBI. Lots of old timers (Broderick Crawford, John Carradine, Scott Brady) are in the cast, and Robert Dix is a gang leader named Clunk. It’s available on DVD from Media Blasters. THE BORN LOSERS (1967) marks Tom Laughlin’s first (and best) appearance as Billy Jack, protecting bikini-clad Elizabeth James from rapist bikers lead by Jeremy Slate. The trailer is great but blows the whole ending! Laughlin released the film on DVD through Ventura Distribution, but it’s now out of print. THE HELLCATS (1967), with Ross Hagen and Dee Duffy is pretty bad, but the now defunct BCI released a nice looking transfer of it on a double feature DVD with Lee Frost’s CHAIN GANG WOMEN.
BURY ME AN ANGEL (1972) has tall Dixie Peabody as a biker chick out to avenge her brother’s death. Roberta Peters directed the film for Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, and like most of the New World biker flicks, it’s not available on DVD. ANGELS’ WILD WOMEN (1972) is another Al Adamson film, and its advertising underplayed the biker angle when the genre started to peter in favor of the “women in prison” cycle. The best part of the trailer is busty Regina Carrol and her whip. Troma released a special edition on DVD. REBEL ROUSERS (1970) has married couple Cameron Mitchell and Diane Ladd tormented by bikers Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson (in ridiculous striped pants) and Harry Dean Stanton. It was shot in 1967, but not released until 1970, and the trailer is not shy about hyping Nicholson as the star of EASY RIDER. Rhino released a decent DVD of the film during the format’s early years. WILD WHEELS (1969) is another obscurity (apparently, there's a budget DVD of it out there) and it features Robert Dix, Bruce Kimball and Casey Kasem as a character named “Knife.”
THE SAVAGE SEVEN (1968) is Richard Rush’s masterpiece, which has bikers (lead by the late, great Adam Rourke) pitted against peaceful reservation Indians by a fat bastard businessman. Released by AIP, asleep-at-the-wheel MGM is yet to release it on DVD, which is a damn shame. ANGELS FROM HELL (1968) is a Joe Solomon-produced AIP release, another which MGM is yet to release on DVD. Tom Stern plays a Nam vet who returns home to lead his biker gang, falls for sexy Arlene Martel, and is harassed by policeman Jack Starrett. THE CYCLE SAVAGES (1969) is a sleazy Bruce Dern vehicle which MGM did release on DVD as a Midnite Movies double feature with ANGEL UNCHAINED (1970), the next trailer here. The AIP film features Don Stroud as a biker helping out a hippy commune from some rednecks in dune duggies.
RUN, ANGEL, RUN (1969) is another one produced by Joe Solomon, and it’s directed by Jack Starrett, who also acted in a number of these films. William Smith plays a biker who sells out his gang by giving a tell-all story to a magazine, and he has to hide out with his beautiful wife (Valerie Starrett). Media Blasters released it on DVD. William Smith is back in C.C. RIDER (1970) which stars Joe Namath and Ann-Margret. Wayne Cochran sings Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose.” An Avco Embassy release, it’s available on DVD through a number of budget labels. Lee Frost’s PG-rated CHROME AND HOT LEATHER (1971) is one of AIP’s last biker films. It was released as part of MGM’s Midnite Movies DVD series with THE MINI-SKIRT MOB (see below). THE LOSERS (1970) is considered the “ultimate” biker film by many. Adam Roarke, William Smith and Paul Koslo are bikers hired by the CIA to go into Vietnam and save a hostage (played by the director, Jack Starrett) from the Red Chinese army. Dark Sky Films put out an excellent special edition DVD. SATAN’S SADISTS (1969) is a violent Al Adamson production which really lives up to its name. Russ Tamblyn (“In his greatest performance since WEST SIDE STORY”) leads a cast of exploitation film favorites. The trailer’s tagged-on extension makes comparisons to the Manson murders and it’s sometimes called “Citizen Kane of biker movies.” Troma released the DVD. The SATAN’S SADISTS trailer is followed by a vintage color Vespa scooter commercial.
THE MINI-SKIRT MOB (1968) is another fun AIP drive-in filler, with hot blonde Diane McBain and her gang tormenting Ross Hagen and new bride Sherry Jackson in the desert. THE GIRL ON A MOTORCYCLE (aka NAKED UNDER LEATHER) (1968) is a pretentious British/French effort starring former Mick Jagger girlfriend Marianne Faithfull and trendy French actor Alain Delon. Jack Cardiff (THE MUTATIONS) directed it. It was available on DVD through Anchor Bay, but it’s now out of print. SHE-DEVILS ON WHEELS (1968) is “Godfather of Gore” Herschell Gordon Lewis’ contribution to cycle cinema, about a tough all-girl gang called The Maneaters. It’s fairly violent and includes a great decapitation scene. Lewis narrates the trailer himself. Available on DVD from Something Weird Video. HELL’S ANGELS ’69 (1969) is one that gets better with repeated viewings: rich playboy stepbrothers Tom Stern and Jeremy Slate frame the Angels for a Las Vegas casino heist, something they pull off simply for kicks! Originally released by AIP, Media Blasters issued a nice DVD.
BLACK ANGELS (1970) is from Laurence Merrick, the late director of GUESS WHAT HAPPENED TO COUNT DRACULA and MANSON. Black and white biker clubs are at each others’ throats as the racial tension heats up. James Whitworth from the original THE HILLS HAVE EYES is in it. Something Weird Video sells it on DVD-R. THE PINK ANGELS (1970) is a strange spoof(?) about a gay biker gang who also like to do the drag thing. John Alderman plays their leader. BCI (RIP) released a beautiful anamorphic widescreen transfer of it as part of their “Drive-In Cult Classics Vol. 3” collection. Buy it. WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS (1971) is a desperate attempt to mix bikers and monsters, and it’s actually not too bad, though you don’t get to see much werewolf action until the end. Dark Sky Films released a special edition DVD. The last trailer on the disc, CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMBIETOWN, brings us all the way up to 1989. A Troma release, it’s best known today for an early performance by Billy Bob Thornton!
Quality varies on the trailers, as they were taken from varying film and video sources (some widescreen and some full screen), but the non-anamorphic presentation is acceptable overall. BIKERBEAT is a 36-minute video presentation, with 1990s interviews with Johnny Legend (showing his vast knowledge of the biker genre) as well as Dave Allan, the influential guitarist on many a biker film soundtrack and leader of The Arrows, who also performs. Also included is recently shot footage of Johnny interviewing Elske McCain and Regan Redding, the star and director of the upcoming KILLER BIKERS CHICKS. There’s also a spoof of EASY RIDER. The only other extra is a trailer for THE SADIST, now available on DVD on the Raunchy Tonk label. (George R. Reis)
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