Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bizarro-Worthy Movie: The Losers (1970)

The Biker Flick emerged as one of the staples of drive-ins and grindhouses of the 1960's and '70's. Born from the leather-clad loins of the Marlon Brando vehicle, The Wild One, in 1953, Biker Flicks followed the exploits of Hell's Angels (or variant cycle gangs) as they terrorized unsuspecting members of 'straight' society.

Roger Corman, exploitation visionary that he was, ushered in the peak years of the Biker Flick with his 1966 opus, The Wild Angels. It made actor Peter Fonda a counter-culture hero and made a mint. Corman--and hordes of other independent moviemakers--soon saturated movie screens with roaring hogs, drug-and-alcohol-fueled decadence, action, violence, and sex.

Like a lot of B-movie genres, The Biker Flick mutated as the years rolled by, offering up Undead Bikers (Psychomania), African-American Bikers (The Black Angels), Werewolf Bikers (Werewolves on Wheels), and even Alternative-Lifestyle bikers (The Pink Angels) before the genre died out in the mid-1970's.

The Losers stands as a high point of the genre. It's essentially The Dirty Dozen gone Hell's Angels, as a small team of condemned bikers heads to Viet Nam to execute a suicide mission against the Cong. Director Jack Starrett (a former stunt man himself) knows his way around on-screen ass-kicking, and he wastes no time hurtling the audience into the action. Starrett even sneaks a little bit of social conscience and pathos in, all without tarnishing the movie's steel cajones.

William "Big Bill" Smith portrays the gang's leader. More than any other actor, Smith was the Face of The Biker Flick. Rugged, tough as nails, muscular, and ferociously charismatic, he showed up in several Cycle Epics, usually playing the heavy. He played Conan's dad in 1982's Conan the Barbarian, and in less than five minutes of screen time made Schwarzenegger look like the Pilsbury frickin' Doughboy. If Big Bill Smith is not the baddest bad-ass in the movie firmament, he's sure in the Top Eight (Ye Olde Schlockologist had the good fortune of meeting him a few years back, and lived to tell the tale here).

Darned if The Losers wouldn't make for a great Bizarro Movie Night...But will it show up this Saturday?? 

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