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The Roughest Ride in Town!

May 16, 2011

Hell’s Belles (1969)

Tuesday, May 17th 9pm

Otto’s Shrunken Head

538 E. 14th street (A & B)

The bikes were fast! SHE was faster!

Directed by Maury Dexter, Hell’s Belles seems to borrow it plot from the classic Jimmy Stewart flick Winchester ’73 (1950)…replacing the stolen high dollar prize rifle with a Motorbike (see The J.D Films, 1982). Whether you consider this a pro or con, make sure to give this cult classic biker flick a chance, it’s a rompin’ good, action packed chase film, set to a groovy 1960s musical score by Les Baxter.

Next year? Hell, I want that bike!

When “Cowboy” Dan (Jeremy Slate of Hell’s Angels ’69) wins a super slick bike, a
A Rickman 650 “Desert Racer” based off a Triumph Bonneville, as a prize in a motocross competition. Carl (Michael Walker) tries to buy it off of him cheap, but Cowboy wants 2k cash for it to pay off the mortgage on his ranch. So, Carl being a sore loser, ambushes Cowboy on the road later that night, knocks him out and steals the bike.

Cherry baby, get your butt off the man’s motorcycle

That same night at a roadside bar, Tampa (Adam Roarke, of biker flick fame) and his gang checks out the stolen bike. Carl protests, but they in turn, knock him out and steal the bike.

Hot on Carl’s heels, Cowboy finds Tampa and the gang with his bike and demands it’s return. Tampa instead beats him up and leaves Cowboy with his old bike and his old girlfriend turned mamma in “fair trade” for the cycle and they tear off for Nogalas, Mexico.

Why you miserable crud

When Cowboy comes to, he and Cathy (Jocelyn Lane) hit the road to track the gang and the twice stolen bike down. Of course Cathy starts to wear on his nerves, so he decides to ditch her. They roll into a small town to dump her at the bus stop, but find that just minutes before Tampa’s crew while goofing off in an impromptu gasoline fight have managed to blow up the town’s only gas station.

What’re you taking me home to your mother?

While the townies are putting out the blaze they see the biker couple, and assuming they’re part of the gang that torched the gas station, they come a running. Being to nice to leave her for the angry mob, they hop on the bike and tear off together, hence following the classic 1930’s screwball comedy theme of a couple thrown together against their will, until the unexpected series of events quickly turns their hatred into love despite all their fussing…

Cowboy: You recognize those bikes?

Cathy: They’re like men…all the same

Anyway, After beating information out of a couple of gang members sent into town for beer, They track the gang to the hills where they’re hiding out. Of course Cowboy knows the hills like the back of his hand and the race is on.

That dude’s crazy!

Picking off the gang one by one with wild west style cartoon stunts that would make the Roadrunner proud: ropes across the road, avalanches of boulders, snare traps, exploding gas tanks, etc…Cowboy’s getting the job done, until Cathy rides off on his bike. He follows on a wounded gang member’s ride.

First you bust them up, then you put ‘em back together….doesn’t make sense

Running her off the road, he makes her get back on and ride to return the bike to the wounded riders so they can get to the hospital. She can’t figure out why he would help the very rivals he’s been tracking down. They bond over their troubled pasts and she begins to appreciate his uncompromised morals…and they begin to fall in love.

You guys are the biggest bunch of old ladies I’ve ever seen

The mad chase finally comes to a head when Gippo kidnaps Cathy, Cowboy fights him for her and during the tussle, Gippo rolls over on a rattlesnake and dies. Cowboy pleads with Tampa to see that Gippo was killed by accident, but he won’t listen. He’s consumed by hatred, and the need to win, and can’t be reasoned with. By now, even Tampa’s own gang’s has had enough. They’re sick of hiding out, being chased, and pushing bikes up hills in the desert, all for Tampa’s stolen bike. They split for Mexico, leaving Tampa and the and cursed bike behind…talking to himself, by Gippo’s grave.

Hey Cowboy, you come for this?

Tampa, still not willing to let it go, challenges Cowboy to a motorcycle riding, chain wielding fight. They battle for the bike (and Cathy). Tampa’s arm is broken badly, and though he pleads with Cathy to stay with him and swears he won’t ever leave her (or turn her into a mamma then trade her again), but Cathy doesn’t cave. She’s seen the kindness in a fella like Cowboy, and she no longer needs the abusive gang ways any longer. Tampa is left now totally alone. Left first by his gang, then his “woman”. Both lost for the sake of a bike that now he can only watch Cowboy and Cathy ride off into the sunset on, to start a new life on Cowboy’s ranch….or do they?

– Corinna

“Hell’s Belles,” operating in mountainous Arizona, involves Jeremy Slate as an improbable cowboy cycle champ in a one-man vendetta against an outlaw cycle pack who’ve stolen his prize bike. There are fewer beatings in this number, and perhaps the scenery is a mite prettier in color, but a fairly sane viewer gets the feeling, even as our hero varooms into the sunset on his retrieved bike, that only devout worshipers of violence and, say, Harley Davidsons, would give a fouled spark plug for either “Hell’s Belles” or “Cycle Savages.”

NY Times (4/30/1970)

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