Skip to content

Sunday Morning CAR-toons! Mouse & Duck

September 3, 2017

The Dognapper (1934)

Police officers Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, chase Pegleg Pete down in a sidecar outfit after he dognaps Fifi, Minnie Mouse’s pet Pekingese.

‘The Dognapper’ was Donald Duck’s third film and was the first to feature both Mickey and Donald together. This was the second of only three B&W cartoons to feature Donald Duck, the other two being ‘Orphan’s Benefit’ (1934) and ‘Mickey’s Service Station’ (1935). Because the color of Donald’s feet doesn’t show in black and white, his feet were black in these cartoons.

Directed by David Hand, ‘The Dognapper’ features the voices of Clarence “Ducky” Nash as both Mickey and Donald, and Billy Bletcher as Pete. This was the first and only time that Mickey was voiced by Nash, as Walt Disney was in Europe at the time and was unavailable to record his lines, and Nash took over. – wikipedia

In ‘Hollywood Cartoons, American Animation In The Golden Age’, author Michael Barrier discusses how in these early years of talky cartoons, dialogue was sparse, and it was Donald Duck’s distinctive voice brought to life by Nash that landed him the roll in his first film ‘Orphan’s Benefit’, and launched his career.

Mickey’s Service Station (1935)

Mickey, Goofy & Donald have 10 minutes to fix Pete’s car. Or else!

The film, which stars Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy as car mechanics, is notable as the first to feature the three characters as a comedy trio. The film was also the final black-and-white appearance of Donald, Goofy, and Pete, and the penultimate animated black-and-white film produced by Disney after Mickey’s Kangaroo which was released later the same year. Mickey’s Service Station was directed by Ben Sharpsteen, who at the time, had directed only Silly Symphony shorts, and starred the voices of Walt Disney, Clarence Nash, Pinto Colvig, and Billy Bletcher. – wikipedia

Orphans Benefit (1934)

While this film features no vehicles, it’s included here as the first film in the trilogy of Black & White Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse team-up cartoons. Enjoy!



A Trip To The Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune) 1902

September 1, 2017

Released today in 1902, ‘A Trip To The Moon’ directed by Georges Méliès, was the first of the science fiction genre (and one of the first vehicular) to grace the screen. The film was inspired in part by Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon (1865), and H. G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon (1901), and shot on one reel (825 feet of celluloid) at an astronomical cost of over 10,000 francs. 

The film follows a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule, explore the Moon’s surface, escape from an underground group of Selenites (lunar inhabitants), and return to Earth with a captive Selenite.

“The greatest difficulty in realising my own ideas forced me to sometimes play the leading role in my films … I was a star without knowing I was one, since the term did not yet exist.” – Georges Méliès

Created by the pioneering french filmmaker and magician, Méliès made over 500 films, inventing groundbreaking directorial, production, and special effects techniques as he went. He is estimated to have acted in over 250 of those films as well.

While the film received critical acclaim, it was also widely bootlegged. less than 20 years later most printed were lost or melted down for boot heels during the war effort.

The film was almost entirely lost for decades, and until 1993 it was unknown that the film was originally released in hand painted color as well as black and white. The discovered print dating to before 1906, was restored and released at the Cannes Festival in 2011. The New York Times noted that the discovery and re-release was “surely a cinematic highlight of the year, maybe the century.”

A  Trip To The Moon fits snuggly into the Cine Meccanica vehicular film collection, for the mechanical ingenuity of production at the time, and the limitless reach of the industrial revolution to transport the body and mind to another place by way of machine. Set your sites on the moon, light the cannon fuse and away we go!



A Chip off the ‘ol motor block

July 22, 2017

Cartoons have shaped much of my life. Perhaps not something to boast about, but in my dad’s house Bugs Bunny was king, and Jim Henson a god for whom green candles were lit in memoriam on May 16th 1990. I may not be terribly well adjusted as an adult, but I haven’t dynamited anyone in the face…yet; in part due to the fact that somewhere in among the falling Acme anvils, nose dives off of  impossible cliffs, exploding everything,  and never-ending senseless brutality between the animal species, there were wonderful tidbits of morality left to seep their way into our violence clouded brains and settle into our subconscious. This sweet vehicular gem, directed by Tex Avery for MGM in 1952 touches on the dilemmas of parenting, responsibility, and the timeless trials of coming of age.

– Corinna Mantlo

One Cab’s Family (1952)

The lineage of a cartoon:

One Cab’s Family (1952) is based, if not entirely lifted from the 1937 classic, Streamlined Greta Green (1937) made for Merrie Melodies by the Leon Schlesinger Studios…

Streamlined Greta Green (1937)

…In 1953, MGM and Tex Avery released yet another version, Little Johnny Jet. The premise is the same, but this time around the cast is a family of airplanes.

Little Johnny Jet (1953)


*originally published on Cine Meccanica in 2013

Hell On Wheels!

December 28, 2016


Road Racers (1994)

Thursday, December 29th

Film starts at 8pm

at Aunt Ginny’s Bar (652 Woodward Ave, Queens, NY 11385)

Free Popcorn and $5 Bingo for Prizes, PRIZES!

Hey, now you pay attention to something here. These kids ain’t the same anymore. And you know what’s behind it all? Rock ‘n’ roll. That music is turning the kids into a bunch of sex hungry, beer drinking, road racing werewolves. 

Where should I begin? Well this film has it all, all as far as this film critic has any concerns. From action to comedy to romance to sci-fi and most important, Rock-n-roll.

Nixer: Little dab’ll do ya.
Dude: Hell on wheels. 
Yes, from the very first scene which is a car chase to the last scene which is also a car chase. I first viewed this gem with my former bandmate/roommate at the time Harley Davidson. A younger Robert Rodriguez directed this retro made modern timeless tale which stars David Arquette (Dude) and Salma Hayek (Donna) as the two estranged lovers caught in a small Texas early 60’s town which Gene Pitneys’ ” Town without pity ” tune comes to mind to describe their harrowed romantic plight which only they can truly appreciate.

I know you hate this town. I know you hate Teddy; I do, too. But I also know you love your music. So fight for what you love… not for what you hate.
Before this film came out I really did not take note of David’s prior or later performances. He truly earned my respect though after this Made for Showtime TV film was created. I always considered Salma to be pretty but after Roadracers I thought her downright sizzling.

Sarge: Y’know, I’m so close to kicking your ass right now, I can damn near taste it. 
Dude: It’s got a bit of a wing to it, don’t it? 
For the music score there is everything from Link Wray to Hazil Adkins to Gene Vincent. The comedic parts are almost cartoon like in their absurdness yet they are real life actors, actresses. From the race with the Sheriffs son (Arquette’s Antagonist) to the roller rink hi jinks and the discovery of Arquette’s favorite local band being sell outs. You will meet J.T., a greasy spoon Cook who deals out poignant words of philosophical nature alongside his not so appreciated burgers and fries. You can’t ever forget Dudes’ sidekick Nixer whose antics and chemistry add even more to this flick. Then there is the evil Sheriff who apparently is trying to either incarcerate Dude or chase him out of town as he did to Dudes’ father. The evil sheriff has an evil spawn who the Sheriff is trying 24/7 to get him to take care of eradicating dude from the picture. Let us not forget the sci-fi movie that tends to permeate the theme of this movie. The main actor (Miles) from ” Invasion of The Body Snatchers ” has a great bit part as well making one think (just a little) as one rolls off ones chair with raucous laughter.

You’re just a fadin’ image in my rearview mirror 

Even the quotes in this film are witty and unforgettable. From the Sheriffs philosophy of the then youth “Nothin’ but a bunch of beer drinkin’, road racin’ werewolves” and lets not forget what the good Sheriff tells his number one in regards to not getting rid of Dude in a timely manner…”If excuses were worth a cent you’d be a silver fuckin’ dollar” My personal fave is when Dude is givin’ his last regards to Donna….Donna says with big lamb eyes all prettied up” Where does that leave me? ” where Dude replies before leaving rubber “You’re just a fadin’ image in my rearview mirror”.
If you do anything worthwhile anytime soon make sure you go check this flick out….and soon!!!

Les Vegas, Entertainer, bad poet and sophisticated drunk

The making of a Degenerate Hot Rod Flick

Rebel Highway was a short-lived revival of American International Pictures created and produced by Lou Arkoff, the son of Samuel Z. Arkoff and Debra Hill for the Showtime channel in 1994. The concept was 10-week series of 1950s “drive-in classic” B-movies remade “with a ’90s edge”. The impetus for the series, according to Arkoff was, “what it would be like if you made Rebel Without a Cause today. It would be more lurid, sexier, and much more dangerous, and you definitely would have had Natalie Wood‘s top off”. Originally, Arkoff wanted to call the series, Raging Hormones but Showtime decided on Rebel Highway instead. Arkoff and Hill invited several directors to pick a title from one of Samuel Arkoff’s movies, hire their own writers and create a story that could resemble the original if they wanted. In addition, they had the right to a final cut and select their own director of photography and the editor. Each director was given a $1.3 million budget and 12 days to shoot it with a cast of young, up and coming actors and actresses. According to Arkoff, the appeal to directors was that, “They weren’t hampered by big studios saying, ‘You can’t do this or that.’ And all the directors paid very close attention to the detail of the era. We want these shows to be fun for the younger generation and fun for the older generation”.

The series premiered with Robert Rodriguez‘s Roadracers on July 22, 1994.

The Rebel Highway films

Motorcycle Duel…With Death To The Loser!

December 19, 2016


Motorcycle Gang (1957)

Thursday, December 22nd

Film starts at 8pm

at Aunt Ginny’s Bar (652 Woodward Ave, Queens, NY 11385)

Free Popcorn and $5 Bingo for Prizes, PRIZES!

motorcycle_gang_poster_02Hey what’re you trying to do, start a fire.

Nick, the leader of a small town sickle gang returns after a 2 year stretch in the clink for clipping an old man during a drag. To his surprise, the new head cat, Randy (who walked form that same wrap with only a suspended sentence), has taken the club square. He’s got them teamed up with the local race set, and their priorities have switched form tearing up the town, to qualifying for the regionals. Nick tries to take the gang back, but Randy’s not quite as square as he looks. IMG_0629I uh thought I knew every sickle cat in town.

Teresa ‘Terry the Terrible’ is new in town. Staying with her uncle for the summer, she’s got only one thing on her mind…burning rubber.

IMG_0630You’re a ‘shol’…a sharp doll

She’s hard to miss, and the local bike set is quick to spot her. Randy’s smitten and invites her down to the Blue Moon to meet the rest of the kids.

IMG_0655Burning rubber is my one big vice. Last guy who tried this lost an arm and a leg.

Pretty quick, Terry gets herself involved with both Nick and Randy, which only fuels their riff. Randy’s still on probation so street fights are out. He challenges Nick to the next PNG event, a 100mile off rode race.

IMG_0661You’ve got a one cylinder mind

Racing neck and neck, Randy wins by a hair even with Nick riding dirty. Of course, Nick’s a sore loser and challenges Randy to a race of his own. Pushed too far, Randy agrees. IMG_0681Look who’s having trouble with their clutch assembly.

After a series of stunts, Randy wipes out riding the rails after Nick sabotages the track. Now, Randy’s in the hospital and the kid’s aren’t impressed with Terry’s antics playing both sides anymore. She’s lost her fella, her friends and ruined her and Randy’s shot at the regionals. IMG_0678Remember when you told me that maturity was setting in, and I told you I hoped it wasn’t contagious?…well, it is.

Nick doesn’t mind her tactics however, and he still wants her, but now Terry has seem the error of her ways and is disgusted. Terry gets  Randy to forgive her and take her back. PNG also forgives them and Randy is allowed to race the regionals.

IMG_0622These aren’t PNG men…these are alley cats on motor cicles. There’s a big difference.

Nick and his sore loser goons resort to booze and rebel rousing. They terrorize a local café and take the owners hostage. Randy and the gang come to the rescue with the help of he race organizers…Nick and the hods land back in the clink. Terry and Randy settle down, and all is well in Coolsville, daddy-O!

Corinna Mantlo

Teenage cycle hounds out for one thing…Thrills!

Motorcycle Gang was remade in 1994 by John Milius and starring Gerald McRaney and Jake Busey as part of Showtime’s series Rebel Highway.


Rebel Highway was a short-lived revival of American International Pictures created and produced by Lou Arkoff, the son of Samuel Z. Arkoff and Debra Hill for the Showtime channel in 1994. The concept was 10-week series of 1950s “drive-in classic” B-movies remade “with a ’90s edge”. The impetus for the series, according to Arkoff was, “what it would be like if you made Rebel Without a Cause today. It would be more lurid, sexier, and much more dangerous, and you definitely would have had Natalie Wood‘s top off”. Originally, Arkoff wanted to call the series, Raging Hormones but Showtime decided on Rebel Highway instead. Arkoff and Hill invited several directors to pick a title from one of Samuel Arkoff’s movies, hire their own writers and create a story that could resemble the original if they wanted. In addition, they had the right to a final cut and select their own director of photography and the editor. Each director was given a $1.3 million budget and 12 days to shoot it with a cast of young, up and coming actors and actresses. According to Arkoff, the appeal to directors was that, “They weren’t hampered by big studios saying, ‘You can’t do this or that.’ And all the directors paid very close attention to the detail of the era. We want these shows to be fun for the younger generation and fun for the older generation”.

The series premiered with Robert Rodriguez‘s Roadracers on July 22, 1994. This is incidently also next weeks film. Be there or be square!

The Rebel Highway films

“Speed’s expensive…How fast you wanna go?”

December 14, 2016


Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (1974)

Thursday, December 15th

Film starts at 8pm

at Aunt Ginny’s Bar (652 Woodward Ave, Queens, NY 11385)

Free Popcorn and $5 Bingo for Prizes, PRIZES!

Larry: Nice ‘lil town

Deke: Any town’s a nice ‘lil town, when you nail a broad

Hi, Asshole

After a one night stand, amateur race car driver and Nascar hopeful, Larry (Peter Fonda) leaves a sleeping Mary in bed, and heads out to pull of a heist with washed up race car mechanic, Deke. While Deke holds a supermarket manager’s (Roddy McDowell) wife and daughter hostage, Larry collects the $150,000 in cash from the supermarket safe.

Ok Miss Mary, have it your way, but any time you want out, you just holler

The plan goes off without a hitch, until Larry returns to the escape car, a 1967 Chevy Impala, to find Mary sprawled in the front seat. Having followed him to the scene of the crime in her grandaddy’s 1947 Chevy 3100 pickup, Mary refuses to give back the keys, unless they let her come along for the ride.

Alright so I didn’t say goodbye…I had a robbery to pull off, woman!

On the road the trio bicker relentlessly. Mary’s all over Larry, but pissed that he slept with her and then bailed. Larry rags on Mary in a painful yet entertaining grade school crush sort of way, and Deke just wants her gone.

Yea, ok so we’re off to a bad start…Know what a bad start means to a guy like me…Not a god damned thing!

On the road, they try to get rid of Mary, but every time they end up needing to take her back. She gets pissed and walks, but Deke needs her help as a third to fix the car. Then they try to ditch her at a road stop but she knew to take their getaway map with her as collateral, and they soon return to pick her up.

You get over to Steve’s and pick up that Interceptor

Captain Everett Franklin (Vic Morrow), an odd ball cop with long hair, and a problem with authority, who refuses to wear a gun or badge, takes the heist and escape personally. He obsessively sets out to capture the trio in a dragnet, calling in a souped up police interceptor, and a Bell JetRanger helicopter to track the convicts.

Car 13 out of commission

Questioned at every turn by the sheriff, only Franklin seems to know how Larry thinks, and tries to use his race driver mentality against him, only to find his patrol cars woefully inadequate to catch Larry, Mary and Deke after they switch from the Impala to a souped up 1969 Dodge Charger.

He’s crazy Deke, crazier than I am!

Utilizing the 2 way radio, Captain Franklin sends confusing roadblock instructions, sending the Charger into a tail spin as it tries to evade the cop’s plan…Franklin knows the only way to beat Larry is to make him out drive himself, as no one else is a match for him.

Remember Robert Mitchum at Thunder Road…I’m gonna powder his face!

Having crashed the Interceptor, and run the copter out of gas, it’s just the charger and the outlaws on the wide, open road. Larry and Deke congratulate themselves on the heist and plan for their return to the race circuit. It finally looks like they made it. Mary, for the first time gets a contented look on her face as she comments to herself, “you know what? I think I’m ready to unload”….

….Just then…WHAM…The Charger slams into a passing freight train and goes up in flames.

Check out all the cars from the film HERE

See hundreds of images from the film HERE

Back story:

“Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry” is based on the novel originally titled “The Chase” (later renamed “Pursuit”) by Richard Unekis, and published in 1963. The story incorporated a phenomenon that was relatively new in 1963: major auto manufacturers were putting powerful V-8 engines into mid-sized cars (the dawn of the “muscle car” era), and young thieves behind the wheel of these cars were now able to out run the economy 6-cylinder sedans driven by police in many jurisdictions. The protagonists of “The Chase” used such a vehicle, a Chevrolet, and made use of the checkerboard of roads in the farm country of Illinois to outrun the police. – wikipedia

Stranger than fiction:

In the late 50’s, My father, Comic Book writer, and real life Legal Aid super hero, Bill Mantlo was taken hostage in a heist almost identical to this film’s plot. My grandfather William Mantlo worked as a bank manager in Long Island and was met one morning at the bank by a man who said he had my Grandmother Nancy, and their 3 boys, Arthur, Mike and Bill held hostage at gunpoint at their home near by. My grandfather of course complied with the robber, and my grandmother was let go. My father and uncles, just young boys at the time, knew nothing of the incident as they were upstairs asleep. I looked high and low for the newspaper article of this that I’ve had forever, with no luck….details to follow when I find it in the archives.

Corinna Mantlo

The most terrifying film of your time!

December 6, 2016


The Wild Angels (1966)

Thursday, December 8th, Film starts at 8pm

Aunt Ginny’s Bar652 Woodward Ave, Queens, NY 11385

Free Popcorn and $5 Bingo for Prizes, PRIZES!

Their credo is violence…Their God is hate…and they call themselves ‘The Wild Angels’

Join us this week for the first film at the new kickin’ location, Aunt Ginny’s bar. Good food, booze and the best of vehicular Cine Meccanica films as always. Be sure to check out the bingo game this week which is upping the anty with some serious swag. See you at the flicks!

Corinna Mantlo

Posted on Jul.27 09 by Big Book of Biker Flicks in the category Movie Mondays“They hunt in a pack, like wolves on wheels!”
wild_angels“The picture you are about to see will shock and perhaps anger you. Although the events and characters are fictitious, the story is a reflection of our times.” — from the prologue to The Wild Angels

Marlon Brando had scored with The Wild One, Anthony Quinn had staged The Wild Party (1956) and Elvis Presley had gone Wild in the Country (1961) by the time Roger Corman kick-started the big screen’s cycle-gang machinery with The Wild Angels… By then, filmgoers had also been treated to the likes of Wild Women of Wongo (prehistoric cheesecake, from 1958), The Wild Ride (early Jack Nicholson, from 1960), Wild Guitar (show-business shenanigans, from 1962), and Wild Is My Love(Russian roulette, college-boy style, from 1963).

Biker Group: The Hells Angels
Leader: Heavenly Blues (Peter Fonda)

wild_angels_cycles_625pxThe constant among these titles is not the motorcycle — although Arch Hall, Jr.’s riding is more impressive than his musicianship in Wild Guitar — but rather the ticket-selling magnetism of a particular term. More than 20 such variants on wild surface in Michael Weldon’s The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film, a perennial reference work first published in 1983, and practically any movie-trade almanac or Cine McNuggets thumbnail-reference book will stack column upon column of movies that have staked their marquee appeal upon the electrifying promise of the word W-I-L-D in red block letters two feet tall. “Well, if I was trying to couch The Wild Angels in any historical, culturally wide-awake context, I’d say I was coming directly off The Wild One, which of course wrote the book on what a biker picture should have to say for itself,” Wild Angels producer-director Roger Corman told us in 2000. “But the franker truth is, a movie with wild in its title has a proven better chance, especially if the movie delivers the goods.”

Well, this one delivers — even if its title during shooting title was the wild-less All the Fallen Angels — adopting a you-are-there style to chronicle the rampages of a purported Hell’s Angels faction at large around Venice, California. The glory-stomping grounds are authentic, and so are many of the backup players; only in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958) has this all-American mockery of Italy’s Venice looked seedier or more forbidding. Charles B. Griffith’s screenplay (allegedly reworked by future auteur Peter Bogdanovich, a new Corman associate at the time) The Wild Angels is more a pageant of Hell’s Angels tribal lore — each brutal anecdote is sharply observed, if exaggerated — than any attempt at narrative coherence. Coherence, for that matter, is irrelevant to a picture whose leading character envisions freedom as merely one escape hatch after another in a headlong course of misadventure.


Three years after The Wild One and nine years before The Wild Angels, producer Alex Gordon and director Edward L. Cahn had taken a half-hearted stab at spinning off a subgenre of cycle-mob movies with Motorcycle Gang , covered elsewhere in this book. This development occurred, significantly, at American International Pictures, which as usual was first if not foremost at making the box office an alluring and preferably forbidden gathering-place for teenage America. Motorcycle Gang never escaped the gravitational pull of the larger J.D. (as in juvenile delinquency) genre, but it planted in Corman, a younger talent in the AIP circle, bigger ambitions yet to develop. “I doubt that I could’ve done it any better if I’d done Motorcycle Gang,” Corman said, “because although the interest was there, the time was not right. The Wild One had said all there was to say for a good long while, and the nature of the real gangs, as they evolved from the ’50s on into the ’60s, came to make even The Wild One look quaint by comparison. So we really needed the 1960s to give us the distance and the perspective, and to present us with a social and cultural climate where we could feel freer to challenge the film industry’s repressive code of institutionalized censorship.”

So, when the time was right, came The Wild Angels, in which Peter Fonda’s surly, inarticulate Heavenly Blues emerges to make Marlon Brando’s presence in The Wild One seem chivalrous by comparison. Blues’ idea of liberty is simply doing what he wants, when he wants, where he wants, how he wants, and then of slipping away to the next altercation, waving a swastika or an upraised middle finger as might suit the occasion.

The-Wild-Angels-1Though conceived at some point, at least in part, as a star vehicle — itself a quaint, Old Hollywood-style concept — for the son of Henry Fonda and the daughter of Frank Sinatra, The Wild Angels makes little use of Nancy Sinatra beyond a welcome measure of tough-chick posturing. (According to some sources, Fonda was bumped up to the top male role after West Side Story’s George Chakiris balked at the notion of all that bike riding and split.) Corman explained that the Sinatra casting was just a matter of cashing in on her hit-record career, which had established her more as a fashion plate for miniskirts and man-stomping boots than as any kind of singer. At least she looks the part, wisely keeping mum most of the time.

Drugs, strong drink, orgies by consent and/or force, and turf wars are the stuff on which Heavenly Blues’ mob thrives. Bruce Dern lends a touch of dramatic depth as Loser, Blues’ best pal, whose death at the hands of the law — while attempting to steal a police cycle — prompts an elaborate free-for-all funeral. Rather than have the corpse lie appropriately in state, the gang makes Loser a prop at his own ceremonies, a reefer dangling from his lips, after they have trashed the chapel and given the preacher (Frank Maxwell) a severe bullyragging. Blues’ attempt at a eulogy deteriorates into a rambling diatribe on What Freedom Means to Me, the manifesto of a spoiled-rotten brat grown dangerous. In the film’s most impressive sequence, Blues leads a procession from the church to a graveyard, where the intended burial turns instead into a forced confrontation with the enraged townspeople.

Fonda is just what the role requires, a virtual model of self-contradictions from his fashion-plate good looks to the contemptuous set of his jaw. Acting ability is beside the point, the point here being to present a self-absorbed character whose existence is a hollow procession of defiant poses and fast getaways. Blues’ one articulate complaint is that “there’s nowhere to go,” a late-in-the-game realization that screenwriter Griffith can only have absorbed from a fable fundamental to existentialist thinking: Ever hear the one about the guy who didn’t even know he was alive until he woke up dead one morning?

wild_angels_funeralRoger Corman has never denied the exploitative purposes of The Wild Angels, which of course made most of its money as an attraction for rowdy crowds who found such antisocial on-screen behavior safely exhilarating. But the film in its day also infuriated many of the real-world Hell’s Angels, who complained of its defamatory aspects. Primary among those was Sonny Barger, longtime president of the Oakland Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club at the time, who’d go on to considerable big-screen fame himself in several biker pictures. When we visited with Barger a couple of years ago, during his national tour to promote the autobiographical book Hell’s Angel (William Morrow, 2000), he insisted that no Hell’s Angels ever appeared in The Wild Angels. “Actually, we sued ‘em for a million dollars for saying there were Hell’s Angels in the movie,” Barger recalled. “We ended up settling for ten thousand. And I saw him [Corman] and Peter Fonda on a program the other day about motorcyclists, and he still to this day claims there were real Hell’s Angels in there. And he says, `You know there is, because they settled for ten thousand dollars.’  “That guy’s a jerk. And so’s Peter Fonda, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t have any more use for Peter than I do for Jane, you know.”

In addition to the disagreement over the participation of authentic Hell’s Angels in the film, there are also, all these years later, split opinions on whether The Wild Angels bears accepting as a valid social-problem picture. One school of thought is represented by the critic and historian Danny Peary, who finds it “a despicable film that thrives on brutality, vulgarity [and] cheap thrills” (see Peary’s blessedly opinionated Guide for the Film Fanatic, published in 1986). On the other hand, The Wild Angels — along with another of AIP’s youth-in-revolt thrillers, 1968′s Wild in the Streets — has enjoyed a perfectly respectable afterlife as a teaching tool in college-level sociology courses. Angels’ uncomplicated documentary-like structure is made to order for classroom discussion, and its frenzied camerawork and nerve-wracking guitar-distortion score seem almost to have anticipated the epidemic attention-span deficiency brought on by a culture that offers too many choices and insufficient time in which to choose wisely.

Like The Wild One and any number of lesser J.D. pictures, The Wild Angels owes its existence to such Depression-era kids-gone-wrong dramas as Dead End and They Made Me a Criminal. But The Wild Angels retains a provocative relevance noticeably greater than that of its distant ancestors.

the-wild-angelsThe most lifelike portrayals come from Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, cornerstone talents with the Corman stock company; their daughter, Laura Dern, would emerge during the 1990s as an acclaimed screen player. Frank Maxwell is genuinely affecting as the beleaguered minister. Perhaps the most interesting bit of casting comes with Joan Shawlee, playing an amoral mother figure called Mama Monahan. Fans of TV’s classic Dick Van Dyke Show — which was running weekly at the same time The Wild Angels hit America’s screens — knew her as Pickles, the wife of Morey Amsterdam’s character, Buddy Sorrell.

The Wild Angels remains the linchpin of Peter Fonda’s slow-burn career as a movie star, conventionally defined in a convention-busting genre. Nearly two generations after the breakthrough, Fonda still regards The Wild Angels with affectionate modesty. “I suspect The Wild Angels did me more good than I did for it,” Fonda told us in 1997. “But together we launched a bona fide genre — not just a subgenre, but a genre all unto itself, however limited. And it gave me a theme song, which still strikes a chord today. A very distorted chord, I might add.”

7127_1Mike Curb and Davie Allan wrote The Wild Angels’ theme song, “Blues’ Theme,” as a vehicle for the emerging fuzztone style of guitar-whanging, in which intolerable levels of electronic distortion would be used deliberately as an attention-getting gimmick. The Beatles had already piloted a fuzztone bass effect on the Rubber Soul album, but Allan brought this style to the lead guitar like a Duane Eddy on steroids, creating an irresistibly obnoxious sound well-suited to Peter Fonda’s character.

Propelled by the film’s success and influential L.A.-area airplay from disc jockey Casey Kasem (himself a lesser-light presence in the biker-flick genre), “Blues’ Theme” would, by 1967, establish Davie Allan & The Arrows as the country’s top-selling rock-instrumental group — a pretty sharp accomplishment for a repetitive piece that amounts to little more than a 12-bar blues with hog-revving sound effects. Although never again a huge hitmaker, Allan and his music continued to turn up in movies, including the wacky 1967 documentary, Mondo Hollywood.

– Review courtesy of Falcon Motorcycles