WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS is one of the all-time great exploitation-movie titles. How can you not be intrigued by it? Unfortunately, in this case, like CHAIN GANG WOMEN (in which there are no chain gang women), it's also a major cheat. It takes about 75 minutes for the werewolves to really appear in this 79-minute movie. Only one of them rides a motorcycle for a short, dimly lit chase sequence.
Michel Levesque, an art director by trade, made his directorial debut with WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS when the distributors made it known that they were looking for either a biker movie (which were still popular then) or a horror movie. Levesque and co-writer David Kaufman decided to combine the two genres and deliver the world's first (and only, as far as I know) werewolf biker flick.
Stephen Oliver, later the "big, dumb turd Dugan" in THE VAN, stars as Adam, leader of the Devil's Advocates biker gang that runs across a weird monastery in the desert populated by Satan-worshipping monks. The monks offer the bikers drugged bread and wine, and after they pass out, the monks lure "hip-mo-tized" biker chick Helen (Donna Anderson) indoors for a groovy ceremony involving weird chanting (led by former Second City actor Severn Darden as "One"), cat-sacrificing and--best of all--Helen dancing naked with a snake. Give Anderson the Good Sport reward for performing such a goofball scene in front of fifty male actors, extras and crew members.
The bikers wake up, beat up the monks, and escape with Helen, but some of the bikers have been, er, transformed. Mysterious deaths begin to rock the gang, and it isn't until the end that they discover what's been going on--Helen and Adam are rip-snorting werewolves in pretty decent makeup that resembles the Lon Chaney Jr. wolf man.
Give Levesque and Kaufman credit for trying something new with the well-worn biker genre. Almost all biker movies look, sound and feel exactly the same, and only occasionally would filmmakers introduce an interesting twist to an entry. THE BLACK SIX cast then-current NFL stars as bikers, while HELL'S ANGELS '69 cast Sonny Barger and other actual Hell's Angels in a melodrama that mixes biker cliches with a caper plot.
WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS is not particularly good, but it offers some nice cinematography, decent acting, enjoyable music, and the fleeting novelty of a flaming werewolf riding a motorcycle through the desert at night. Levesque directed only one other feature, which I wish someone would release on an extras-laded DVD the way Dark Sky has with WEREWOLVES. Levesque's next movie was SWEET SUGAR, which is a terrific women-in-prison picture filmed in Costa Rica. Stacked Phyllis Davis (also in the great TERMINAL ISLAND with Tom Selleck) is Sugar, a smartass hooker busted on a marijuana charge who forgoes prison for a two-year sentence in a Costa Rican sugar cane plantation. There she not only runs afoul of brutal guard Burgos (Cliff Osmond), but also the psychotic warden, Doctor John (Angus Duncan), a perverted physician who performs medical experiments on the prisoners.
Besides the Costa Rican locations, SUGAR isn't much different from other women-in-prison potboilers of the period. It's perhaps more cartoony, especially concerning the Dr. John character, who sits on a throne (!) sipping brandy while watching a woman in a bamboo cage dangle above a roaring fire, hooks female prisoners up to a machine (which resembles an ordinary car battery charger) that measures their sex drive, and punishes misbehavers with an army of horny kittens! Of course, Sugar eventually leads the climactic revolt against prison authorities in a blizzard of bullets and explosions. SWEET SUGAR moves fast, has some erotic nude scenes (Davis was one of the sexiest B-actresses of the era), and incorporates a nice score by WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS composer Don Gere.
It's great to have WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS on DVD now, but SWEET SUGAR is a better movie.