Wild Riders (1971) - So far my Biker films have been a real mixed bag, a couple decent ones and a couple real duds, so when Wild Riders arrived from Netflix to break the tie I immediately found the time to watch it. I have to say though that it did not really impress, it is less a biker movie and more of a home invasion film. The opening scenes set up our main character Pete (Arell Blanton) and Stick (Alex Rocco), a young woman (Linda Johanesen) is being abused by bikers who are all around and laughing and jeering, we don't see exactly what was done to her but the after affects as she appears to be dead bound to a tree. Next we have the bike gang leader Dirty Denny (his real name) telling Pete that all the old ladies in the gang are too uncomfortable with the murder of the woman in the beginning and want him and Stick to leave the gang. There will be heat from the police as well and the whole gang will not tolerate going down with the two. Pete tries to explain that when he saw the woman with the black member of the gang he flipped. He uses more colorful language but Dirty is not hearing it. He is not a racist and the decision is made, the two have to go their own way.
It is something to see that the motorcycle gang finds the two too repulsive to allow in the gang. Also that the woman in the gang used their relationships with their men to move the two out. The first scene at first looks like an assault and the gang just laughing at the woman. We only learn afterwards that she died. Pete says things got out of hand so the viewer is left thinking that Pete is not necessarily a bad dude but maybe like he said things just went wrong. Next we get the required tracking shots of Pete and Stick riding across the country to California. They are desperate, low on cash and towards the end of the credits looking for food in trash bins. This is when Pete looking through a site seeing monocle sees the two woman in a house. Sitting by the pool in the plush California hills home. He and Stick make for the house.
The two woman at the house are a lonely housewife named Rona (Elizabeth Knowles) and her college years friend Laure (Sherry Bain). Rona's musician husband (Ted Hayden) is traveling so the two women are having some girl time, enjoying the pool when the two bikers show up. Pete being the more handsome of the two talks his way into the house. Rona attracted to the handsome biker makes the poor decision to let the two in. Laure not inclined to socialized with the two dangerous looking guys is apprehensive. Rona is a woman bored with her life. A woman with a boring husband who is constantly on the road she is looking for any adventure to liven up her lonely life. Pete is just the answer for her, he easily seduces her. Unfortunately this leaves his less than stable friend Stick in another part of the house with Laure. Things go horribly wrong!
Director Richard Kanter wrote the screenplay for this film from a story by Sal Comstock and I don't know if it was intended it but seems to be making a comment on biker society. They are a group outside the law, but Pete and Stick are too bad for even the bikers. Is it because the bikers already are outsiders that they ever accepted the even crazier pair. Do the craziest in our gravitate to these groups? Well we soon realize that Stick is completely off his rocker. Angered by a frog statue he thinks Laure put in front of him, he loses his cool. He accuses her of making fun of him and starts man handling her, ripping her clothes and then he rapes her. Kanter cuts back and forth between this scene and one of Pete seducing and making love to Rona in a gentle caring way. This editing is quite fucking disturbing and editor Marco Meyer should get credit for screwing with the viewers brains.
From this point forward the film moves to a real hostage situation where Pete tries to get them to let go of the act that Stick did. His charming nature is replaced by a hard edge as he bullies the women. They know although he is still coming across as the kind one that their is danger just behind his eyes. We learn more about Stick, obviously mentally ill he has no impulse control nor a sense of right and wrong. We learn that he is the one who lost it on the girl in the beginning of the film and staked her to the tree with metal spikes. So we have a picture that Pete who has been best friends with Stick since childhood is the guy who tries to keep him in line.
Needing money before they can move on Pete takes stuff from the house to sell at a nearby fence. Each time he leaves the house is a frightening experience for Rona and Laure as they are left alone with the unstable Stick. Still it is also an opportunity to escape the situation and they do try. They fail a couple different times but still they give it an effort. This behavior only antagonizes Pete and Stick and they become more hostile as the film goes on. On the second trip out to the fence Rona convinces Stick that Pete has left him behind to take the fall for all that has happened (which included the murder of a neighbor) and get him to agree to take them on the road as he heads to Mexico. They figure they have a chance if they can get out of the isolation of the house. They almost make it too, if Pete didn't show up right at the moment they were getting in the car. He loses it and it is revealed that Pete is much more dangerous than thought too.
Things seem really gloomy for the women, and when the husband returns in a cab the final sequence plays out in a violent fashion. What I liked about this film was the slow development that showed the relationship between Pete and Stick one way, and then flipped it on its head. As the film goes on and it is revealed that both are really sick individuals changing how we as viewers approach them. Actor and fellow Bostonian Alex Rocco is great as Stick capturing the schizophrenic behavior of the character and being both simple and complex. Still not sure this can necessarily be called a biker film. It is certainly a lesson about not letting strangers into your house. I would have to say though that the bad films now out number the good in this little exercise. This film although not horrible is really not very nice. Women are mistreated and there is rape and bullying and murder and although the ending was acceptable for all the behaviors presented, I am left with a negative feeling in the end. Available on dvd at Netflix.