Werewolves on Wheels (DVD)

Werewolves on WheelsStarring Stephen Oliver, D.J. Anderson, Duece Berry, Billy Gray

Directed by Michel Levesque

Released by Dark Sky Flims

Man, the 70’s sure was a weird time for film. Back then it was more about the concept than the actual execution; how easily the title and tagline would get the asses in the seats. Before the days when the internet allowed opinion of a film to surface and become accepted long before it was even released. If someone tried to pull of Werewolves on Wheels today, the biggest bitch us horror fans would have is the quite noticeable lack of werewolves for a god portion of the film’s running time. Since it was actually done in 1971, though, some allowances can be made.

Our tale follows biker gang The Devil’s Advocates, a group of ruffians who spend their days motoring around the deserts of California and it’s neighboring states, looking for any kind of trouble they can find, and their nights drinking, getting high, and spending time with their old ladies. The leader of the group, Adam (Oliver), is about as stereotypical a biker as you can ask for, rough good looks and a fierce dedication to the life of being a biker and the death he knows is inevitable. The rest of the gang is more or less throwaway characters with the exception of Tarot (Berry). A Kevin Spacey clone (albeit one with long hair) if I’ve ever seen one, Tarot is the spiritual one of the group, always wanting to read the cards of his namesake for his brothers to illustrate their fates for them. He’s also intelligent and a long-time friend of Adam’s, so their relationship is the strongest of the movie.

After roughing up some local boys and having their fill of gas and food, the group decides to party the rest of their day away on the grounds of a satanic church. Its presence is never really explained, nor is it clear if the group just stumbled upon it or have partied there frequently, but the Satanic monks in residence don’t like their land tampered with. They offer the group food and wine, which knocks them out. As they lay passed out into the night the monks’ leader, One, lures one of the women into the church to become the bride of Satan in what is one of the most bizarre and… well, 70’s moments of the entire film. One is chanting about how cool and great Satan is, the girl dances around naked with a snake, and eventually the bikers are clued into what’s going on and enter the church punching.

The monks barely fight back but apparently do something to them because once the Advocates leave the grounds and start their travels again, their numbers begin dwindling. The group is being attacked by either a werewolf or someone with hair hands and claws, since that’s all we see until about the last 10 minutes of the film, but since the title has “Werewolf” in it, we’ll go on the assumption that it’s the former.

Pretty soon Tarot is telling the group that they’re all doomed, an opinion that Adam isn’t too fond of. Sure, he’s okay with dying, but he doesn’t grove on the whole magical mystical shit. After yet another member of their clan turns up slaughtered, they decide those damn monks hand something to do with this all and head back to kill them all. Forces beyond their control don’t want them to get there, however, and during their last night at camp it’s revealed who the werewolf is. Instead of the beast being destroyed, however, a motorcycle chase ensues (there’s the title!) which leads them back to the church and where, apparently, they all become satanic werewolf bikers. Roll credits.

Sound trippy? Not nearly as much as you might think. A lot of time is spent watching the bikers roll around with one another (maybe a bit too much… ahem), drinking, smoking or riding their bikes. They’re not really doing much in the ways of outlaw biker havoc, aside from that first scene, and after a while you start to wonder what the point of it all is. The werewolf comes along too late for the title to really be justified, but again back then it was all about the asses in the seats, not necessarily accuracy, and I know I would’ve made it a point to check out a movie that appeared to be about biker werewolves had I be around when it was released.

The good thing about the film is that Dark Sky got their hands on it, so the actual film itself looks fantastic. Clean as the proverbial whistle, with nary a scratch or indication of print damage of any kind. The sound is passable, a nice solid stereo mix, and thank God they didn’t go the 5.1 route because I don’t know if I would’ve wanted some of the crappy songs on this soundtrack surrounding me.

The only real feature is a commentary moderated by Blue Underground’s David Gregory with director/co-writer Michel Levesque and co-writer David M. Kaufman. It’s lively, interesting, and will likely give you a better appreciation for the film as a whole. Levesque did a lot of work with classic sexploitation movie mogul Russ Meyers, and is more than willing to talk about what that was like frequently. Fascinating stuff. The history of production, casting, and filming in the California desert is covered. It’s worth a listen, and chances are if you’re getting this disc, you’re doing so because you want more info on the film anyway.

There’s also a still gallery, which features old production art and lobby cards (that’s what I want to see in a picture gallery, damnit), trailers for this and The Losers, and some radio spots. All in all not a stacked disc, but it’s just enough to make it worth they buy if you’re into weird 70’s cinema. Not many films deal with both Satan and werewolves, and if they do they usually don’t have naked chicks dancing with snakes, so for that Werewolves on Wheels I invaluable.

3 out of 5

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Johnny Butane

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