15 Oct

Biker flicks – A Tank Riot supplement

Posted by Bryan White | Monday October 15, 2012 | Reviews

I’ve been a fan of the Tank Riot podcast for years and when I’m a fan of such media, I have a tendency to talk and talk and talk about it in the interest of promotion. I am a fan to such a degree that when their last Facebook page admin decided that he was “addicted to facebook” in the literal sense of addiction and had to walk to away in order to get his life in order (I swear I’m not making that up) they came to me about maintaining the group as people actually use it and it’s a good way to stay in touch in the event that you have no idea to what purpose an RSS feed serves (they have one – so do I, as a matter of fact). Every now and then the Tank Riotists will do an episode about a topic I’m rather versed in and I spend the entire podcast yelling at the radio about whatever it is that they forgot. They have a podcast about zombie movies and adequately cover the spectrum from the perspective of a trio that is unaware that Italy and Spain also produced some great flicks and the whole time I was all “OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS! THE BLIND FUCKING DEAD! HAVE YOU NEVER HEARD OF THE BLIND DEAD? GOD! SOMEBODY SAY THE BLIND DEAD!”, but I also can’t claim that I’m bitter or anything. I’ve actually been on the podcast twice. I’m featured at the very end of ‘Conspiracy Theories 3‘ talking about The Bohemian Grove and I was asked to chime in on my top 5 ‘so bad they’re good movies’ in their episode ‘Best Worst Movies‘. Recently they slipped past me again with their latest episode, Motorcycle Movies. A certain distinction has to be made, this being Cinema Suicide and all, that these are not necessarily Biker Flicks. Though Biker Flicks make up the bulk of the podcast’s conversation, it’s not necessarily the focus. A few movies discussed are simply movies which have a rather prominent bike in them. However, again, this was a podcast where the bulk of my commute to and from work, where I tend to listen to most of my podcast subscriptions, was spent yelling at the radio. So I figured I’d do a supplemental article here to go along with the Tank Riot

Mad MaxMad Max
Tank Riot’s Sputnik mentions this one and it’d be hard not to but very little is said about it. Sure, most people know about Mad Max at this point. Mel Gibson being such an anti-semite movie star these days it’s hard not to know this flick. There’s a ton of confusion over it since the Max sequels go off into post-nuke territory but this entry in the series, the first, is all taking place before any sort of disastrous cataclysm sends Australia down the toilet. As a matter of fact, without the context of the Australian outback, Americans are easily confused. Sure, this flick is pretty dystopic and things in Australia are clearly coming apart but the outback is really remote, like the American southwest was during the westward expansion. It’s not at all inconceivable that roving gangs of marauders could make life miserable for people out there with the police having a hard time keeping a lid on things. Check out Red Hill for a recent example. The Toe Cutter’s gang in this flick is a nasty bunch and totally on par with the usual gang of suspects found in any given American biker flick where the bikers are the bad guys. There’s a lot of crossover between American exploitation movies and Australian exploitation movies so this comes as no surprise. But like most of the great biker movies that aren’t trying to ape Easy Rider, they play as your typical western movie analog where a lone representative of law and order has to go balls-out in order to thwart the bad guys. Mad Max does it with aplomb, though. This is a movie best characterized by a soundtrack of roaring engines and clouds of flying auto parts as all manner of automotive crashes shatters vehicles and bodies go flying. It’s a beautiful thing.

StoneStone
Heading back to Australia, here’s Stone. If Mad Max is a Western where the bad guys ride motorcycles rather than horses, Stone is closer to an actual biker flick in the way that we understand it. At its heart, Stone is a murder mystery but it takes a sympathetic approach to the biker lifestyle where most people regard bikers as The Other and turn away from them, assuming the worst. Stone isn’t exactly Easy Rider, where the biker lifestyle is equated with the true American Dream of living free and doing as you please, the bikers in this flick, The Grave Diggers, are a rough motherfucking lot and their behavior is, in fact, deviant, but it’s probably the closest thing that Australia could come up with while still maintaining the exploitation vibe that film financiers were expecting. It’s filled with lurid scenery and violence and while it’s a definitely play to capitalize on the popularity of biker flicks, it’s just alien enough to register as original. It’s also a lot of fun to watch.

PsychomaniaPsychomania
England has never been a hotbed of motorcycle activity. It’s an entirely different culture fixating on different parts of its own industry. In the US it was easy to fetishize motorcycles as we have a tendency to fetishize anything with wheels and the lifestyle of the biker has a certain romance to it that symbolizes the true spirit of America, warts and all, but it never really hit in England even though England is the manufacturer of a popular line of bikes, the Triumphs. So it’s really weird that one of England’s coolest cult items, Psychomania, featured such an American paradigm in the role of its film’s villains. Psychomania is pure exploitation only it takes a really weird route on its way to a quick box office cash grab. This one attempts to exploit the popularity of A Clockwork Orange but throws in all this insanity involving a satanic biker gang called The Living Dead. They make a pact with Satan to become the living dead as long as they kill themselves. It’s about as ‘biker-flick’ as a British movie can get and man alive is this flick British!

Werewolves on WheelsWerewolves on Wheels
It comes as no surprise that the biker movie machine milked as much coin as they could from the paradigm so it didn’t take long for producers to starts mashing up genres. Biker movies already had a really mild horror vibe to them, the ones where the bikers were malicious sadists, at least. Werewolves on Wheels came right in the middle of the satanic hippies panic that was an unfortunate result of the Manson murders. Bikers already had a weird crossover with hippie culture at the time so it’s a natural pairing to be made when you’re trying to come up with something original to frame your drive-in movie presales meetings with. Well, yeah, we have this idea for a biker flick but it’s like no biker flick you’ve ever seen before! This one has satanic hippie bikers and, wait for it, werewolves. Every shifty exploitation movie financier suddenly showers you with dollars. The plot of Werewolves on Wheels, for such a piece of garbage, is remarkably convoluted that involves satanists poisoning bikers so they can curse this gang’s old lady so that she turns into a wolf by the full moon and then she turns her boyfriend into one, too. The poster is misleading. So is the title. There’s not a whole lot of werewolves riding motorcycles, which would be fucking awesome. As a matter of fact, it’s an early example of horrific body count movie as bikers are picked off night after, in what is the world’s longest recorded full moon period ever.

The Pink AngelsThe Pink Angels
Now, where each of the previous entries in this list weren’t pure biker flicks, each one had an element that would sell them to a wider audience or were barely a biker movie to begin with, The Pink Angels marks my fifth and final entry and it’s actually pure biker. The Pink Angels is named so because it’s rough and tough group of dudes on bikes is, in fact, gay. Very gay, as a matter of fact. The entire movie is a series of ridiculous gay jokes.  It’s like 80 minutes of zany stereotypes and gay jokes but for the most part it keeps a remarkably soft tone to its humor. This flick and it subject matter could have been incredibly mean spirited and trotted out its characters like morality freak show hitting low for the easy gay jokes and while it dances dangerously close to that territory at times, it follows the biker lifestyle of dudes on bikes living free how they want to and then it goes completely off the fucking rails in the end and has this insane, unbelievably sad ending that makes me wonder if director Larry G. Brown and I were laughing at the same thing. Seriously. It’s completely fucked up.

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