Sunday, August 13, 2006

Werewolves On Wheels

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.


Anonymous said...

I think my favorite part of WOW is that little "what the hell?" moment when the bikers are on the road and become lost in a dust cloud. The bonfire attack sequence was also pretty cool. Joe Solomon's Fanfare Corporation came out with some entertaining little B movies during their short run. Can you imagine catching both THE LOSERS and WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS together on a drive-in double bill?

BTW - isn't the coven's mansion the same lair used by Robert Quarry in THE DEATHMASTER?

Marty McKee said...

You know, it might be. Levesque tells us where that place is in the commentary. It's in the Hollywood Hills. And I'm sure Robert Quarry says where the DEATHMASTER house is in his commentary, but I don't recall.

Anonymous said...

Hey Marty, thanks for sharing your thoughts on THE LOSERS and WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS. I saw both of these just recently for the first time after picking up the recent Dark Sky discs and found them both enjoyable.

THE LOSERS is obviously the superior film, but WOW had an engaging weirdness that was a lot of fun. It was definitely a better film than I expected going in. How strange was the world in 1971 to see bikers encounter Satanic monks in the American southwest? Yeah, the title is a bit of a cheat, but I felt like I got my money's worth early on during Donna Anderson's nude dance!