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"Shadows are the sails of night, they soon will come to hide the light."
on February 16, 2006
Did you ever see those old commercials for Reese's Buttercups? The ones where one person's got a bar of chocolate, another person just happens to be standing around with a jar of peanut butter, and some thing happens causing the two edible products get mixed together? Afterwards the two individuals accuse each other of ruining their respective foodstuffs, that is until they taste the combination and discover `two great tastes taste great together'. Well, that's not really the case here with Werewolves on Wheels (1971), as someone tried to mix two genres (biker films and horror films) together, the result being something that tastes kinda icky, cinematically speaking. Co-written and directed (his debut) by Michel Levesque, who would later find his true calling as art director on films like Supervixens (1975), Cannonball! (1976), and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979), the film features Stephen Oliver, who would later go on to portray the muscled heavy Dugan Hicks in the films The Van (1977) and Malibu Beach (1978), both of which I've had an opportunity to see, for better or worse. Also appearing is Severn Darden (Vanishing Point, The Hired Hand), D.J. Anderson (Dream No Evil), Duece Berry, Billy Gray (The Navy vs. the Night Monsters), inventor of the F-1 guitar pick, and Barry McGuire, former member of The New Christy Minstrels and artist behind the 1960s protest song "Eve of Destruction".
After nearly four minutes of opening credits set against, what else, a group of bikers toolin' down the road, the movie begins proper as said bikers, known as the Devils Advocates (according to their colors), led by Adam (Oliver), chase down a hapless pair of men in an old pick up truck (the driver had a near miss with one of the bikers). The gang finally catches up to the pair at a gas station, proceed to give the driver a beating, followed by fun and games with the gawky, geeky gas station attendant, during which a gang member moll named Shirley pops her top...not bad, a severe thrashing and some sleazy boobage all in the first ten minutes...anyway, soon the gang is back on the road, and they end up camping near a strange, isolated structure populated by monks in brown robes (all members of a Satanic cult). The monks offer the gang some bread and wine, which turns out to be drugged, and the bikers pass out. The leader of the cult, simply named One (Darden), engages in an overly long black magic ceremony, the intent being to turn Adam's chicky Helen (Anderson) into a bride for Satan, culminating in a nekkid snake dance by an enchanted Helen. The gang, finally rising from their doped up stupor, proceed to crack some monk skulls, snatch up Helen, and escape into the desert to `get their heads straight'. They seem in the free and clear, that is until night falls and a couple of members get viciously mauled and killed by some shadowy figures emitting guttural animal-like noises. The bad vibes continue as each night following brings more attacks, and we learn a couple of member of the gang begin displaying lycanthropic tendencies, brought on by a super whammy placed on them by the cult. The plan now is to return to where the cult is and settle the score once and for all, that is if they can keep from ripping each other's throats out before getting there...
This movie started out with potential, but as it progressed, it seemed something was missing...oh yeah, a story. Actually, I think the plot got lost during one of the 162 scenes where we see the boys riding through the southwestern landscapes, perhaps falling off the back of one of the choppers and ending up among the tumbleweeds, never to be seen again. As a result, we get a whole mess of pointless sequences of the boys riding their bikes from place to place, and drinking beer, making camp, building bonfires, and wrestling with each other in the desert (seriously). Eventually the horror elements kick in, as a couple members of the gang go wolfen on their brethren, setting up for a decent biker/werewolf clash near the end, but the wait was long and boring. There were a couple of bright spots, one being during the funeral for the first two members killed (the other members attributed their deaths to accidental causes, namely they were stoned out of their minds, fell down a wash, and broke their necks). Adam delivers a proper eulogy for his fellow biker brother, followed by someone else asking about Shirley (the man's girlfriend, who also died), and another replies `She was a great freak, man!' Another sort of impromptu bit of humor comes from an encounter with an older, uptight, opinionated, mouthy gas station the boys goof on before stealing his gas. My biggest disappointment with this movie was the general lack of skull crackin' fun. During the confrontation between the bikers and the cult members, the cult offers no resistance to getting smacked around, each falling to the ground once struck. I was hoping for some sort of battle royal, the bikers vs. the Satanists, but it never came. Even after the bikers took off, there was no pursuit by the cult members for the sake of retribution.
Here are some things I learned from this film...
1. Bikers sure like to wrestle with each other (maybe a little too much).
2. Bikers generally don't pay for gas.
3. Bikers spend a lot of time trying to `get their heads together'.
4. When on fire, rolling yourself on the ground into a bonfire isn't helpful.
Another disappointing aspect was we don't get to see any real beast action until the last third of the movie. Things do pick near the end, as the movie finally gets its wolf on, and I'll say the creature make-up was decent. There is some bloodletting, but it's fairly minimal (actually, I heard some of the more violent scenes, along with some of the profanities, were removed due to issues with the censors). The acting is so-so, the dialog improvised, and the direction was actually decent. If you don't mind the fact there's so little actual story, you might find this trippy, off-beat, oddball flick fun, albeit a little boring at times.
Dark Sky Films provides an excellent looking, widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic print on this DVD release, along with a suitable Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track. The picture exhibits some very minor flaws from time to time, but otherwise it's much better than I would have expected. As far as extras, there are English subtitles, a good commentary track featuring director Michel Levesque and co-writer David M. Kaufman, a photo gallery featuring promotional materials for the film, two radio spots, and a rough looking theatrical trailer for the movie along with one for another film called The Losers (1970). All in all an excellent release of a middling film.