Saturday, November 15, 2008

Defending Larry Bishop's HELL RIDE

I recently had the pleasure of viewing HELL RIDE, the latest film written, directed and starring a man so well-versed in the hey-day of the biker film trend of the '60s and early '70s, Larry Bishop. Here, it's my belief that, Bishop has succeeded in providing a welcome return to this bygone grungy, fuel-charged film craze.

Despite Bishop's well-intended efforts, there are plenty of naysayers out there, picking and prodding at the film's story, characters, et cetera. Who in the hell cares about these things?! It's a BIKER film! This was never a style of film known for it's complex characterizations or astounding dramatics. A biker film is an acquired taste, and I'm not referring to the most famous film of all, EASY RIDER, the one that broke through those conventions.

The key ingredients to any worthwhile biker flick are: sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Bishop's film contains all of these elements and more, including a great cast of scene-chomping veterans: Michael Madsen, Dennis Hopper, David Carradine and Vinnie Jones. Not to mention, there are several nods to earlier films in the genre, including musical cues from THE WILD ANGELS, HELL'S BELLES, THE SAVAGE SEVEN and "Jenny Take A Ride" by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, which was featured in the notorious Joe Namath/Ann-Margret biker flick, C.C. & COMPANY. So, I have to ask, what more could a biker film enthusiast want?!

Wait a minute, could it be that none of these naysayers have seen a true biker film, after all? Would they know who Adam Roarke is? How about other genre staples like William Smith, Ross Hagen, Luke Askew or John "Bud" Cardos? I'm sure they're aware of Peter Fonda, Hopper and Jack Nicholson, but I'm sure they'd be hard pressed to name the other biker flicks these actors had done previous to EASY RIDER.

If you are a true biker film fan, then I'm willing to bet you will get a nice jolt of nostalgia from HELL RIDE. Bishop is in top form with this one. Sure, the character's backgrounds may come off a bit hazy and could have been lost in the milieu of creating the film's authentic vibe (enter style vs. substance argument here) but, ultimately, such details are not that big of a concern to the overall experience.

At any rate, the film serves as a nice capsulization of Bishop's involvement in the genre and marks the 40th anniversary of his first cycle flick, THE SAVAGE SEVEN. In fact, HELL RIDE almost serves as a sequel to that film, as links are clearly evident. The pivotal "Cherokee Kisum" character is a perfect example. In THE SAVAGE SEVEN, Adam Roarke portrays the leader of a biker gang who infiltrates a Native American community. His character, "Kisum," falls for a local Indian girl named "Maria". Had the script for HELL RIDE been tweaked a bit, "Cherokee Kisum" could have been the offspring of these characters, adding further substance to her already symbolic role.

Whatever the case, I felt this HELL RIDE was an enjoyable one and I'm a sucker to see these cats on screen together, knowing full-well that they all had a blast making the film. It would be nice if someone out there had the sense to put on a Larry Bishop biker film marathon, showcasing the AIP trinity: THE SAVAGE SEVEN, ANGEL UNCHAINED and CHROME AND HOT LEATHER. Then, top it all off with HELL RIDE as the main attraction. Biker flick Heaven... count me in!

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