Friday, May 15, 2009

The Bad-ass and the Beautiful

To commemorate the two-year anniversary of THE OTTO MANNIX REPORT, we present, in concert with The United Provinces of Ivanlandia, Toestubber, and American National Standard, an examination of those lowbrow, high-speed classics that left us all in the dust before we even knew what hit us. (click highlighted text for important shit; click pics to enlarge)

It seems THE WILD ONE is the first real biker movie. Released more than a decade before the genre took hold, it encompasses most the biker flick conventions to come. The fuse was lit, but the explosion would come later. In the meantime, other piss was brewing. REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE was among the first to whine about the teen delinquency problem.

From the late fifties we get a spate of Juvenile Delinquent movies, such as THE COOL AND THE CRAZY, or HIGH SCHOOL CAESAR. Many showcased rock-and-roll bands. BLACKBOARD JUNGLE features BILL HALEY AND HIS COMETS. HIGH SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL opens with JERRY LEE LEWIS and his band rockin' down the road in a big convertible. GIRLS TOWN features a gooey, insipid PAUL ANKA, at his post-puberty worst. The low point of an otherwise entertaining spectacle.

More about these retarded masterpieces later. So what happened to all these hep-cats? Well, they got older, bought bikes, and really got it on... in BIKER MOVIES! There had been some early works, such as MOTORCYCLE GANG, 1957, and WILD ONES ON WHEELS, '62, but in 1966, a great low-budget New York street-gang movie, TEENAGE GANG DEBS, teams the stiletto-wielding hoodlums with the outlaw bikers, and features a couple real NYC bike gangs. The RPMs are credited in the opening, and we later see a fuckhead with a leather jacket which reads: THE ALIENS - QUEENS. Obscure as it is, this movie is a whopper! It's the bridge, or even the missing link, between the two genres.

The real kick-start came the same year, when Roger Corman shocked us all with THE WILD ANGELS. It has it all, raucous madcap antics, fuzzy guitar strains, a rape scene, and real bikers (supposedly). Like all Corman entries, no pretension, strictly entertainment; crucial to the spirit of the genre. Peter Fonda revved up good in this one, but Petered out in the end, proving for the first of many times that he's a big pussy. And speaking of pussy, Nancy Sinatra dragged hers onto the screen, much to the revulsion of all. No matter, the movie is turbo-charged. The funeral scene rips hard, leading to a classic biker procession. We could expound upon plot elements, Bruce Dern, and other bullshit, but enough has already been written about these stupid movies, so fuck it, let's ride on...

In '67 we get HELL'S ANGELS ON WHEELS, a great biker flick and failed buddy movie. Don't ask IVANLANDIA; they hate this movie's guts and want to beat it with a bike chain, but for the very reason that we at OMR give it our seal of approval! Because... these flicks come in two types, you either ride with the gang and everyone else can go to hell, or you're asked to root for some square who has to grow balls and battle a stinkin' pack of cycle dogs. We're still scratching our heads as to where this movie fits in. The protagonist, a disillusioned young man called Poet, played by Jack Nicholson, winds up riding with the Angels. He becomes enamored of the lifestyle, but even more so of Shill, the leader's ol' lady, played to sickening perfection by Sabrina Scharf. Despite Poet's advances on his ol' lady, the leader Buddy (Adam Roarke), takes a liking to him and brings him in, is protective of him, and even suggests him as a 'prospect'. He conveys to Poet the loyalty between men, but Poet, in his lameness, can't resist the goofed-out Shill, a spoiled, well-heeled manipulator. Along the way, each of the gang's crimes is ethically justified and Buddy seems to be the only stand-up dude. We the audience are left with our parts in our hands. Great if you like stupid shit as much as we do. SONNY BARGER sez, "... it was something to do, something we could do, without thinking too much." and, "... some of the crew thought Nicholson was a member from another charter, his style was so convincing. Even a few of our club members thought he was a Hell's Angel."

What is a TRUE biker picture? Here are some tell-tale signs that you are actually watching a biker movie:
1. An outlaw motorcycle club.
2. A good gas station scene.
3. An outsider along for the ride; either an infiltrator or a prospect.
4. Confrontation with society at large, preferably at a gas station.
5. Nazi paraphernalia, Iron Crosses, swastikas, etc.
6. Beer spraying all around, spilling all over the place and dribbling off the filthiest beards your dead grandma ever imagined in her sluttiest days.
7. A good raping, preferably at a gas station; and hopefully the whole joint goes up in flames.

HELL'S ANGELS '69 is the best of 'em all, except for the better ones. Jeremy Slate and his bozo brother attempt to look hip enough to infiltrate the Angels, in order to pull a casino heist and blame it on the bikers. Although they never end up looking cooler than a couple of middle-aged rump-riders, they somehow ingratiate themselves to the club, played by actual Hell's Angels, who look cooler than the sissy actors who would portray them. Great performances by all, even the Angels, particularly Terry the Tramp (second from left) who works the camera quite well. Aw fuck it, check it out for yourself. You won't be bored unless you're one of those assholes that expects a movie to be good. Barger sez, "I must say, the movie is pretty accurate on the way we looked and acted and the kind of Harleys we rode at the time."

SATAN'S SADISTS, 1969, presents arguably the wickedest pack of One-Percenters ever. These bastards rape and kill as casually as scratching their ass. Russ Tamblyn invites utmost enmity as the leader of 'The Satans', (And this from the Shakespearean delinquent in West Side Story, and the mama's boy in the turgid skull-fucking melodrama Peyton Place!) Unfortunately the story takes us into the desert for the second half, a common pitfall in these vehicles; convenient for the budget, but how many arroyos and cacti can we suffer? Well whatever, this movie may be the nastiest in the canon. For that alone, two big thumbs up... yer ass.

HELL'S BELLES,1970, is an interesting entry, as we cheer on a stoic cowboy motorcycle racer, played hilariously by Jeremy Slate, as he tries to retrieve his stolen prize-bike from a ruthless gang of ne'er-do-wells headed by the obsessed Tampa, played well by Adam Roarke. Tampa, refusing outright to return the bike, offers up his old lady as a trade. (Bitch-as-property is another important property of any self-respecting bike gang film.) And the bitch in question, clad in a killer leather mini, is indisputably the hottest bike wench in the universe. Jocelyn Lane was an English model-turned-actress who bedazzled groins for a few flicks and then quit the biz to marry into rag-head royalty. A true shame considering she flashes the best crotch since "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm Douches at the Babbling Brook", dir. Arnheim W├╝rtfangler, 1952.

ANGEL UNCHAINED, 1970, has Don Stroud leaving the pack and hitting out on his own. He musta taken one too many puffs watching Easy Rider, because no sooner does he exit 'the gas station scene', than he winds up in a hippy commune. And who rules the commune, but the same self-righteous pinko freak played by Luke Askew from Easy Rider. But the movie climbs out of the crapper when Stroud is beseeched to recruit his former comrades to fend off a bunch of hippy-hating cowboys who ride around terrorizing in colorful dune buggies! A real free-for-all for the whole family. The best part is Stroud, who comes off as a likable, pragmatic fellow. An under-appreciated actor... where the fuck is the Kleenex?

And finally, GIMME SHELTER, 1970. It starts as a rock-and-roll documentary, but the bikers roll in and take over the third act. Candid shots of the Angels at work make this a REAL biker movie. The club even provides, free of charge, an excellent denouement by justifiably homiciding a gun-toting shitbag, all on camera! Hell, they may have even saved that goofball Jagger's life! The only downside: no good gas station scenes. In his book, Sonny sez, "Altamont might have been some big catastrophe to the hippies, but it was just another Hell's Angels event to me... I was headed for some wilder times that would make Altamont look like a church picnic." If you've made it this far, you have NO LIFE, but thanks for that. We'll hit some other bike flicks in future posts. For now, take 'er easy, we love you and FUCK YOU.


Ivan said...

Awesome post, dude--your brevity and humor put me to shame--and damn, you've got a thematic eye: the shots from the flicks match your obsessive photo-logs of the Potemkin Villages of the Great Plains.

Of course, I NEED more shots of Jocelyn Lane!

And your links are, heh-heh, mindblowing...

KinoRama said...

I, I, do not know what to say. Mr. Mannix you have topped all expectations. My Biker flick expertise is paltry compared to your expert analysis. We here at the Standard salute you.

Mr. Ed Porter

Tommy said...

What was that photo of a headless "biker"'s crotch, in a purple shirt. Are you ottomannix guys gay? WTF?


Otto Mannix said...

At Otto Mannix Industries, we swing all ways, which can be confusing at times: nipples penetrating ear-holes, scrota caressing eyelids, and so forth. It's not a kosher situation by any means. So a good 'biker bulge' is no stranger to us. We happened to like that picture because it's just so MADCAP! The bulge was merely a bonus.

Paul said...

Do you remember MAD's "The Wild 1/2"? That story was the best thing ever when I was like 5 or something. I think I'll get ahold of that issue and see if that story can fill maybe 3 or 4 of my brain cells with un-crap.

Erich Kuersten said...

Ride with the gang and everyone else can got to hell! I like that. I'm glad my defense of the Angels' semi-impeccable conduct at Altamont got me to find this site. Thanks for trashing that freakin' pinko from Easy Rider, Luke Astow, or whatever you said his name was. Hippies can go to hell, and I should know!! Love you lots and fuck you too -- Erich