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Savage Cinema: 12 Movie Collection DVD Review

Savage Cinema: 12 Movie Collection

April 7, 2010

Director: William Grefe, Will Zens, Gus Trikonis,
Starring: Steve Alaimo, Willie Pastrano, Marty Robbins, John Ashley, Ross Hagen, Diane McBain, Chris Warfield, Sally Fraser, Karen Black, Fabian Forte, Dan Haggerty, John Alderman,

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DVD Review

The folks at Mill Creek Entertainment have released a box set of 12 exploitation films from the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the films that are part of this eclectic collection include, The Wild Rebels (1967). After Rod Tillman crashes his stock-car during a race, the disillusioned driver sells off his gear (in a slightly awkward and uncomfortable scene), jams with a bar band (busting out a tune that would fit right in with the Stax label), hooks up with some boozy bikers known as Satans Angels, and runs afoul of the police – all in one day! Being a decent guy, Rod accepts their offer to go undercover and infiltrate the biker gang.

Hells on Wheels (1967) is another story focusing on stock-car racing. Marty and Dell are brothers involved in racing. The former drives ‘em while the latter fixes ‘em. Dell resents living in the shadow of his flashier brother and aspires to be a driver himself. There is lots of snazzy footage of cars racing that is quite dynamic for such a low-budget film. Things pick up when an unscrupulous businessman takes advantage of the bitter sibling rivalry and recruits Dell to fix stock-cars for him.

The Sidehackers (1969) makes good use of freeze frames over the opening credits a la Sam Peckinpah as it chronicles the exciting world of sidehacking – the racing of dirt bikes with side cars. We get cheesy footage of a racer and his girlfriend frolicking in a field in slow motion. There is also plenty of exciting footage of bikes racing around a dirt track with their off-track exploits wedged between them. This mainly involves drinking beer and hanging with their buddies.

Less interesting is the horror film Dangerous Charter (1962) which involves three fishermen trying to make ends meet. During a fishing trip, they come across a mysterious ship floating out in the water. It seems to have been abandoned. What happened? Where did they go? Who cares?

Mixing things up a little is Little Laura and Big John (1973), which depicts the exploits of Florida-based criminal John Ashley and his girlfriend Laura (played by Karen Black) in the 1920s. They were friends as kids and she dreamed of being rich. They grew up and their friendship blossomed into something deeper. After accidentally killing someone and then trying to dispose of the body, John eludes the cops by hiding in the Everglades. For a period film it mystifies with its choices for music, a recurring funk instrumental that comes right out of the blue. It would be a ballsy, radical move if the film wasn’t so clumsily made.

Perhaps the most interesting film in this set is Pink Angels (1971) – here’s a concept we don’t get enough of: gay, cross-dressing biker gangs. The film begins with a surreal prologue and just gets stranger from there as if everyone responsible for it dropped acid while making it. You can see what they were shooting for: a transvestite version of Easy Rider (1969). Like Dennis Hopper’s film, there are plenty of musical interludes but with music by no one you’ve ever heard of before. This is one of those offbeat exploitation films that could only have come out of the 1970s. This has to be the most fey bunch of bikers ever put on film but also a lot of fun to watch. What a strange film!

Special Features:

None.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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