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Wild Riders: 10 Classic Biker Movies

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

During the late 60s and early 70s, biker films became one of the most popular staples for drive-ins and grindhouses. They were essentially a reinvention of all the Westerns that moviegoers loved made for a new generation. These movies told stories of modern rebels and outlaws who roared across the country on two wheels instead of on the backs of four legged beasts. The films delivered all kinds of thrills while taking viewers on wild adventures with the rambunctious gangs of cycle savages who lived life on their own terms. The anti-hero bikers fought the Fuzz, brawled in bars, drank in droves and got high as hell as they rode the open roads on their hot steel hogs. While the humdrum hippies of the era promoted peace and love, the boisterous bikers seemed to be all about anarchy and mayhem. The roving bands of badass papas and mamas brought their own kind of outrageous counterculture escapism to the silver screen and it was met with much fanfare. To pay tribute to all the Wild Riders of cinema we love, GCDb has picked out 10 of our favorite bigger than life classic biker B-movies.

Read more about the Biker genre:

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The Wild Angels (1966)

If The Wild One was the film that gave birth to the biker gang genre, this 1966 production was the spark that ignited the fire to the massive wave of biker films that would come out in the late 60s and 70s. American International Pictures became interested in making a film about the Hell's Angels after seeing a photo on the cover of Life magazine for a biker funeral. They approached Roger Corman, who hired Charles B. Griffith to write a screenplay. Griffith's first draft was a near-silent movie which contrasted the bikers with the story of a police motorcycle cop. Corman did not like it and later gave it to Peter Bogdanovich to rewrite. The result was The Wild Angels. Peter Fonda plays Heavenly Blues, the head of the Venice California chapter of the Hell’s Angels. Blues, his best friend The Loser (Bruce Dern) and the other members confront a group of Mexicans for stealing one of their bikes. The two factions get in a rumble after which the cops chase The Loser (who takes off on one of their bikes) and end up shooting him. This leads Blues, his faithful girlfriend Mike (Nancy Sinatra) and The Losers’ old lady Gaysh (Diane Ladd) to set up a plan to bust Loser out of the hospital before he’s thrown in jail by the pigs. This film was particularly groundbreaking in its depiction of the Vietnam era anti-establishment attitudes of the day. It also featured a supercool fuzzed out rock and roll score by Davie Allan and the Arrows.

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Hell's Angels on Wheels (1967)

The Angels first take note of "Poet" (Jack Nicholson) after one of them inadvertently damages his motorcycle and breaks its headlight. Poet, with far more guts than brains, challenges the Angel that hit his motorcycle. This is an act that would traditionally result in every Angel present participating in a group beating of the attacker. "When a non-Angel hits an Angel, all Angels retaliate." But the leader of the Angels, Buddy (Adam Roarke), intervenes and tells Poet that the Angels will replace the headlight. In the meantime, he's welcome to ride with them while they take care of business—which turns out to be going to a bar and beating up the members of another club who previously beat an Angel. Poet is allowed to ride with the Angels and is eventually elevated to "prospect" status. He is attracted to Buddy's some-time girlfriend (Sabrina Scharf) who toys with him while remaining hopelessly committed to Buddy. Much of the story that follows consists of scenes of the Angels partying or being provoked to violence by "squares." Eventually, Buddy's girlfriend succeeds in provoking a confrontation between Buddy and Poet with only one surviving. Look for an appearance by the real Hell's Angels at the beginning of the movie. (Wikipedia)

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The Losers (1970)

A group of ex-veteran bikers from the United States have been brought into Cambodia on a secret mission to rescue a CIA operative that has been captured by the Red Chinese Army. They are The Devil's Advocates, a tough rowdy bunch of freaks headed by Link Thomas (William Smith). The rest of the gang is rounded out by Duke (Adam Roarke), Limpy (Paul Koslo), Dirty Denny (Houston Savage) and Speed (Gene Cornelius). As soon as the gang arrive they are briefed on their secret mission by the main man in charge: Captain Jackson (Bernie Hamilton). You can see the big influence Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch (1969) had on this film through the social commentary, the comraderie between the men as well as the violent slow motion action sequences (featuring tons of bloodspurting gunshot wounds) which are really well done. The Losers combines the War and Biker genres and it also has a great heart and charm. William Smith (Run Angel Run, C.C. & Company), Adam Roarke (Frogs, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry) and Paul Koslo (Vanishing Point) in particular are excellent. They've always been favorites of mine in the 1970s Exploitation films. Jack Starrett's direction is superb, he shoots some incredibly exciting action sequences.

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Psychomania (1971)

The leader of "The Living Dead" biker gang Tom Latham (Nicky Henson) appears to be fascinated with not just death, but crossing over in the unknown. Let's just say that it's his destiny to obtain these thoughts since his mother (Beryl Reid) had participated in some sort of pact involving witchcraft that had occured when Tom was an infant. After discussing these morbid ideas with his mom, the house butler, Shadwell (George Sanders) encourages Tom to live out this undead fantasy. Tom's initiation to crossing over is indescribable. Let's just say that it involves a secluded mansion room, a pair of his late father's eye-glasses, a mirror, a frog amulet, and...A frog! Oh, and you have to believe that you can come back from the dead too! Psychomania is simply a blast from start to finish. Beginning with the opening credits that showcase slo-mo images of the bikers riding around the "Seven Witches Cemetary" set to a KILLER soundtrack involving screeching organs and some badass fuzz guitar. The film takes no prisoners on shifting genres. Going from surreal (Tom's death journey), action-film (Well-filmed chase sequences and town destruction), dark comedy (The one-liners and the suicide gags) to sci-fi/horror (Witchcraft theme and a special FX finale). Psychomania is the best of it's kind. And it's kind is definitely one of the rarest.

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Angel Unchained (1970)

Feeling that his biker-gang days are over, Angel (Don Stroud) gains approval from his gang leader, Pilot (Larry Bishop) to break free from the gang and to venture out into the world. While picking up gas in some remote hicktown, Angel notices a pair of hippies being harassed by some rednecks. Sticking up for the hippies, as well as having his eyes set on a hippie cutie (Tyne Daly), Angel agrees to start his new life in the nearby hippie commune run by Tremaine (Luke Askew). As Angel later finds out, the rednecks have been causing hell to the hippies since day one, but once Angel draws blood during a fierce battle, the rednecks demand that there will be all-out war by the end of the week. Outnumbered and desperate, Tremaine gives Angel the idea to invite his former biker-gang for protection. Angel's very hesitant at first, but agrees to go through with Tremaine's offer. The biker-gang shows up and unexpected rowdiness ensues. To top if off, a few SEVEN SAMURAI nods can be found in the movie. With a simple and involving story along with decent performances and brisk action (Both in cinematic terms and physical activity) this one gets it's job done as good entertainment.

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The Peace Killers (1971)

This is one of the best examples of the peace and love generation coming up against the anarchic Manson-esque start of the 70s. An ex biker mama Kristy (Jess Walton) is kidnapped by her old boyfriend Rebel (Clint Ritchie), a sadistic brute who runs the Death Row cycle gang. Luckily she is rescued by a rival biker gang led by a crazy eyed woman called “The Black Widow” (Lavelle Roby) and brought back to her current lover Alex who is a complete Jesus wannabe. When Rebel discovers Kristy is hiding out at a commune in the country, an all out biker-hippie war begins with Kristy, her brother and Alex’s followers/Black Widow’s group on one side and Rebel’s psychotic gang on the other. Some pretty good special FX in this one too. Including one nice brief but effective machete-splatter in the final fight. And OUCH! Watch out for the pencil torture scene! The director, Douglas Schwartz, went on to direct some episodes of Baywatch, but he sure left one delicious slice of Grindhouse euphoria behind. Here's hoping that justice gets served and that this biker classic soon finds it's way to home video so that more cult-nuts won't miss this one! It’s a highly explosive, unique B-movie that packs a real punch!

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Satan’s Sadists (1969)

The idea behind most biker gang movies is to show a disdain for authority and for anarchy to reign, well this Al Adamson film is one of the prime examples of that concept. Russ Tamblyn stars as “Anchor” the head of the “Satans” biker club that roams the Southwest USA. He and his fellow sadists cause problems for anyone that get in their way. The film begins with the gang killing a couple then stopping at a diner in a small town where Anchor shoots a cop and his wife point blank after delivering a memorable monologue about his hate for police. Things just get crazier from that point on and the gang begins to self destruct because of him. Tamblyn gives an outstanding performance as the wreckless leader with no moral conscience. Satan's Sadists popularity put Independent International Pictures on the map. It was the company's first production and proved to be a big hit at the drive-ins in 1969. TRIVIA: The film was shot at the Spahn Movie Ranch in Simi Valley, CA, at the same time that Charles Manson and his "family" was living there. In fact, this was exploited in the film's advertising with the line "Filmed in the exact location that the Tate hippie killers lived their wild experiences!"

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Stone (1974)

This 1974 Ozploitation classic is essentially the only one of its kind. The story focuses on a gang who are being assassinated one by one. Enter an undercover cop named Stone (Ken Shorter) who is sent to find out who is behind the killings. Stone undergoes a life changing experience as he spends time with the gang and gets closer with the members. A main aspect that set this movie apart from the American movies is the actual bikes the gang ride, instead of Harley choppers, they’ve got Kawasaki 900s. The film is particularly special because it was able to capture a certain period in Aussie biker culture that was never seen again. TRIVIA: Director/co-star Sandy Harbutt got the idea for the story in 1970 when he wrote a script for an episode of the TV series The Long Arm in which he was appearing. The Australian Film Development Corporation later invested $154,000 in the film. The remainder of the budget and most of the technical facilities were provided by Ross Wood Productions in Sydney. The Hells Angels club (Sydney) provided assistance during production.

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Hell’s Angels ’69 (1969)

Two wealthy playboys (and half brothers) Chuck (Tom Stern) and Wes (Jeremy Slate) plan to rob a casino in Las Vegas and disguise themselves as biker gang members to do it. The only thing they have to accomplish beforehand is to join up with the infamous Hell’s Angels, and gain the trust of their leader Sonny Barger as a cover. After some wild confrontations the two are able to become friends with Sonny’s gang and even hook up with one of their mamas in the process. Their big caper seems to go off without a hitch but when Sonny and the gang later discover they’ve been duped by their new friends, a roaring rampage of revenge begins! This movie has an oddly compelling way of drawing the viewer in. That could be thanks to the interesting structure of the film. The "caper" aspect of the movie really isn't evident until you're deep into the middle of the movie. Then afterwards, the movie becomes a "Western" with the Red Rock Canyon backdrop and and the motorcycles replacing horses. It all falls into place rather nicely, considering that a majority of other biker films are stuck with one gear and one motive. What also sets this one apart from the pack is having plenty of the real Hell's Angels basically playing themselves. Hell's Angels aficionados are given a real treat with this gem.

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Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

Werewolves on Wheels blended the horror and biker genres to create a trippy, tongue in cheek monster movie that was put on double bills with other films at the time of its release like Evel Knievel. Director Michel Levesque previously worked with the "King of Sexploitation" Russ Meyer as art designer on films such as Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens and Up!. A gang called The Devil’s Advocates come across a strange cult led by the mysterious “One” (Severn Darden). During a secret sacrificial ceremony, the gang’s leader Adam (Stephen Oliver) and the others are unknowingly cursed with lycanthropy. After escaping One’s initial attack they hit the open road but one by one they transform into werewolves and leave a bloody trail of terror behind! Werewolves on Wheels is a low budget, fun Exploitation film, and while the acting isn't particularly great, it's the kind of thing where you watch it and just have to laugh at the way the characters behave. TRIVIA: The quote "We all know how we're going to die, baby. We're gonna crash and burn" is used by Rob Zombie in his song Sick Bubblegum.

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