Tuesday , June 18 2024
Saddle up and enjoy, kiddos.

DVD Review: Biker Mania

For those of you who may think that the genre of “outlaw biker films” is no more, think again–it’s alive and well and living vicariously via the all-new retrospective compilation Biker Mania. Presented and assembled by Johnny Legend, Biker Mania presents trailers and highlights from 40 different motion pictures, ranging from famous (e.g. The Wild One and The Wild Angels) to the infamous (including several Al Adamson flicks such as Hell’s Bloody Devils and Angels’ Wild Women) and right down to the completely obscure (a preview entitled Racers From Hell, featuring what appears to be a collection of real-life racetrack follies, comes instantly to mind).

The whole thing begins with the memorable intro from the trailer to the 1966 horror/comedy The Undertaker And His Pals (including the trailer’s hilarious narration–which accompanies Biker Mania’s credits) and moves the Marlon Brando epic The Wild One (1953) before hitting us with a number of B-Ditties from the '50s and '60s (many of which were produced or released by AIP and are more hotrod/racecar oriented) including Motorcycle Gang (1957) with John Ashley and former Our Gang/Little Rascals personality Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (his second-to-last role before his untimely death in ‘59); Dragstrip Riot (1958) starring Yvonne Lime and Gary Clarke; Racers From Hell (year unknown); and 1957’s Hot Rod Rumble with Brett Halsey (under the re-release title Road Devils).

A look at The Wild Ride from 1960 gives us a wonderful look at a very young up-and-coming star by the name of Jack Nicholson; Arch Hall, Jr. shows us what The Choppers (1961) are all about; and clips from the previews for Teenage Gang Debs (1966), Del Tenney’s The Horror Of Party Beach (1964), followed by Wild Ones On Wheels (which co-stars and was photographed by Ray Dennis Steckler) from 1962, and–thrown in for good measure–a vintage Yamaha commercial wherein two of the slowest motorized vehicles ever are seen in action.

Moving on, we find ourselves face-to-face with Roger Corman’s immortal The Wild Angels (1966) with Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra–a movie that was such an insurmountable hit that it created a huge surge in the genre and resulted in a lot of other (mostly cheap and exploitative) movies to be made. Need proof? Don’t worry, the proof is in the trailers that immediately follow The Wild Angels, such as 1967’s Hell’s Angels On Wheels (also starring Nicholson); Outlaw Riders (1971); Devil Rider (1970); Hell’s Blood Devils (1970); Tom Laughlin’s unforgettable Billy Jack debut, The Born Losers (1967); The Hellcats (1967); and the oh-so-wonderfully titled Bury Me An Angel (1972).

The fun continues with Adamson’s Angels’ Wild Women (1972); Cameron Mitchell and Diane Ladd being terrorized by Bruce Dern and Nicholson (again!) in Rebel Rousers (1970); Robert Dix and Casey Kasem in Wild Wheels (1969); Adam Rourke in The Savage Seven (1968); Angels From Hell (1968); The Cycle Savages (1969), featuring Dern and Casey Kasem; Don Stroud in Angel Unchained (1970); Run, Angel, Run (1969); C.C. Rider (1970) with (gasp!) Joe Nameth and Ann-Margret!; and Chrome And Hot Leather (1971).

The Losers (1970) gives us a wonderful look at the mashing of a dwindling biker genre fused with a Viet Nam warpiece; Adamson’s absurdly classic Satan’s Sadists (1969) has Russ Tamblyn exchanging his dancing shoes for a pair of riding chaps–be sure and see the cheaply-made second trailer for the same title (you can’t miss it, it plays right after the first one), wherein the distributors really tried to cash in on the Charles Manson murders. A Vespa scooter commercial breaks in to say “Hello!” and features twin sisters riding throughout a European city (and countryside). The Mini-Skirt Mob (1968) stars Diane McBain and Ross Hagen and is followed by France’s offering to the genre, The Girl On A Motorcycle (1968); a really low-budget trailer for Herschell Gordon Lewis’ She-Devils On Wheels (1968); and the famous Hell’s Angels ‘69 (1969), wherein a group of bikers storm and rob a Vegas casino.

Biker Mania concludes with some of the “odder” offerings from the genre: the Blaxploitation class-ick Black Angels (1970); the gay biker flick The Pink Angels (1970) featuring B-Movie favorite Michael Pataki; the horror/biker combo Werewolves On Wheels from 1971 (which probably killed the whole genre right then and there); and, finally, the comedy/horror homage/send-up Chrome Hearts, better known as Chopper Chicks In Zombietown (1989) and which features a young Billy Bob Thornton and The Return Of The Living Dead co-star Don Calfa.

Well, if sixty-six minutes of Biker Mania doesn’t get your engine-a-revving, then perhaps Biker Beat, the thirty-six-minute long videozine hosted by Johnny Legend and Beatnik (King of the Biker Zines). Featuring a good deal of footage from Johnny’s 1993 videocassette release Bikers, Blondes, and Blood (the movie clips from Biker Mania were also taken from this earlier effort), Biker Beat has a great deal of interviews and some additional clips from several other oddities, including Johnny’s “grandioso” performance in Pots, Parents and Policefrom 1972.

Video quality varies on both titles, which is understandable considering all of the clips came from different sources. The few trailers that are in widescreen are non-anamorphic (FYI). The only other special feature on the disc is a trailer for The Sadist.

Saddle up and enjoy, kiddos.

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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