So, it's 6.6.2006. And are we at the opening night of a demonic brat remake? No. Are we watching a Beelzebub movie? No. Not quite. I've got an idea - let's watch some hairy 70's bikers instead! Why? Because they like to drive really fast, kick people's heads in, smoke loads of weed, drink mindless amounts of booze, mess around with loose women, and... well, that's enough for me actually.
Tonight's first movie, Stone, is an obscure Australian movie from 1974 which I tracked down after Mark Johnston at www.revengeismydestiny.com listed it in his 'Hot 100' with a wicked review that made me want to see the movie that I, for some reason, ignored on the video shelf all those years ago. Next up is Dark Sky's release of The Losers from 1970, a mixed-up, drug-fuelled, hairier version of The Dirty Dozen. In the jungle. Go get 'em, boys.
Tonight's selection was brought to you by Zomblee in association with lots of hairy people getting stoned.
Plot Undercover cop joins the Grave Diggers
Zomblee "That's the beach from The Horror at Party Beach! I recognised those rocks!", shouts an excited Jim as Stone opens. On a beach. Then we are treated to freeze-frame style opening credits which Rawshark really liked, after which we have the sight of a load of hairy bikers riding on the open road, at which point Rawshark says, "This is why road movies should only be shot in Australia. In the 70's." Yeah, he's right about the 70's thing anyway. I love the 70's, me.
So, what's Stone all about? Well, it seems that members of the Gravediggers Motorcycle Gang are being knocked off one by one. In this case, they are not only being killed, but in most cases literally being knocked off their choppers. But who is executing these atrocities? Can the police help? Well, not if the hairy bikers have anything to do with it. They hate cop scum. Unless, that is, the cop scum happen to look a bit like them, and that's where our titular 'hero' comes in. With a face that resembles a ferret's, and acting capabilities that, well, resembles a ferret's, Stone nevertheless holds his own against these unwashed engine enthusiasts.
Where Stone tends to go wrong is its tendency to show us, at great length, inside the mind of this motley crew, demonstrating that although they could do with a wash and a breather off the wicked weed, they are just human beings like you and me. Such scenes are hit and miss but obviously add significantly to the overlong (103mins) running time. Jim was particularly dismissive of any of these attempts to show us the innards of biker culture, and just wanted everything to happen really fast, despite the fact that the movie opened with a pretty impressive 'bikers getting killed' sequence. It's peppered with fist-fights, ample nudity, stoned waffling with (surprisingly effective) blur-o-vision, bike races, and some half-arsed plot about who the bad guys really are. In the end though, Stone just gets a massive beating by the gang, then the movie ends. I couldn't believe it when the ending credits appeared. Neither could anyone else. But I guess you have to, eh?
"The reason we're burying you standing up is so that you don't have to take anything from the evil one lying down."
Rawshark Yes, I’ll happily admit this movie had me at hello. Australia, glorious sunny beaches, ace freeze-frame motorbike credits (“I don’t care for them much actually” – Jim), frightening music and a sniper on a rooftop – what’s not to love? Immediately after that there’s a biker decapitation whilst another biker is killed when a car pushes him off a cliff. Yep, seems someone’s got it in for the Grave Diggers Motorcycle Gang.
So our beloved hairy biker gang set off on a funeral convoy (which looks amazing with 500 bikes on the open Australian roads, although as Jim quite rightly pointed out ”You can’t do a road movie in the UK because you’d be there by teatime”) to bury their dead, standing up of course. They then retire to a bar and over beers and boozy, bolshy Ozzie banter, we get to hang out with them, learn their names (The Undertaker, Ferret, Stinky, Mad Max, Pinball…) and all is good in the world of Zombie Club. And then the idiot in the white outfit turns up.
You see, for all it’s cool Oz landscapes, biker culture leanings, the appearance of Toe-Cutter from Mad Max and excessive violence, Stone is hugely spoilt by Stone himself, the undercover cop who infiltrates the gang. It’s such a shame, because imagining someone else in this role, anyone else, and I’d have been happy to declare this a cult classic. As it is, it loses a point for casting an effeminate Rocky Horror Picture Show dropout in the lead role of an undercover cop in biker gangland.
Thankfully, there are enough treats in store to make this movie worth your time. There’s an excellent bike race initiation thing, a ”crazy, crazy shot” (Zomblee) as a girl practises yoga upside down by a pool, an anecdote told with the use of drums and lots and lots of shots of bike-riding montages set to cool music (”Check out the bass – it’s just bass!” - bass-player Zomblee). And that (uncut) ending? Well, let’s just say it was one of the most powerfully abrupt and brutal endings ever screened at Zombie Club, and good to see Stone got just what he bloody deserved.
”You got gotten. But believe me, whoever got you is going to get got too, and that’s a promise, right?”
Jim “Before Mad Max, there was Stone!” said the video cover, proudly. “Stone’s got loads of tits in it,” added Zomblee. Brilliant, this was going to be my kind of evening.
And Stone opens strongly enough. That guy who played Toecutter in Mad Max (yeah, the one from The Man From Hong Kong too) is tripping his tits of on a rooftop when he bumps in to an assassin with a rifle. For whatever reason (c’mon, it was Zombie Club, I can’t be expected to catch everything) the assassin doesn’t kill Toecutter there, but spends the rest of the movie killing off bikers because, well, they all look the same, don’t they? They’re all hairy, ride bikes, stink and, well, that’s it actually.
So the killer kills his first biker and the bikers have a funeral, which is really just a big excuse for a big biking montage, where we learn a bit about helmet colour conventions (“Guys – blacked out helmets, girls – anything you like!” – Rawshark). And why bikers are buried standing up (“The reason why we’re burying you standing up is so you don’t have to take anything from the evil one lying down!”) Then, of course, it’s off to the bar.
And this is where Stone turns up. Look like a cross between Jim Morrison and Chuck Norris (“Chuck Norrison?” – Zomblee), Stone is perhaps the most unlikely cop ever (“He looks a bit like Jim Dale,” – Rawshark), but he gets right into the biker gang thing and, well, with a better ending this could have been a great movie. As it happens it all gets hampered by too much sitting around boozing and pointless waffling. Still, that young lady from The Man From Hong Kong is also in this, which makes the padding easier to swallow (“I don’t mind any scene that she’s in,” – Zomblee). And yes, she does expose herself again, so that’s alright then.
I wish that idiot in the top hat would have taken it off when they all ran naked into the water though, that bit was a little ridiculous. About as ridiculous, in fact, as me saying that’s the beach from The Horror of Party Beach, which was obviously filmed in California, not Australia. Damn.
Director Sandy Harbutt
Cast Ken Shorter
Runtime 103 mins
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The Losers (1970)
Plot A group of Hell's Angels drink, fight and love before embarking on a dangerous rescue mission in Cambodia. With motorbikes. And big guns.
Jim Before tonight Zomblee had told me all about The Losers, several times I think actually, but for some reason or other I just wasn't paying attention. I mean, I knew it was a 70s biker movie with guns in it, but that’s all I remembered. Hell, maybe that's all I arrogantly thought I needed to know. Needless to say when I found out the truth, I was stunned. War movie? It's a war movie? "It's a Vietnam biker movie for Christ's sake," exclaimed Zomblee, "you knew that!" No I really didn't, and it took about 20 minutes for me to get over the shock and get my head round how brilliant an idea for a film that really is.
So, this crazy flick opens with a bit of pre-credits Vietnam action before the obligatory mission briefing where all the leads get introduced. Yes, now we know who Limpy, Curly, Duke, Chet, Speed and Dirty Dan are, so off they go to terrorize a local town, proper Hell's Angels style. Although remember this is a crack platoon of 70s hippie bikers in the Vietnam jungle, so it's more like a little Vietnamese village they trash, which is a bit weird.
Anyway, after the 'village trash' the bikers just carry on doing what you'd expect bikers to do in the jungle I suppose, and that's cause more random mayhem. There's an opium den scene, a tavern brawl, a stoner sequence that's not bad but not as good as the one in the last film, and a hilarious scene where one of the bikers goes ape when he finds out some Vietnamese kids have stripped his bike. He beats so many locals up that his mate has to rip a tree out of the ground and knock him about with it just to get him to stop. Genius.
After that there's a good tool-up sequence as they strap even bigger machine guns on their bikes and a romantic montage as Chet gets it on with a Vietnamese honey ("It's not a true Zombie Club unless there's a 70s romantic montage!" - Rawshark) before everyone gathers for the final mission. They may look "like the dirty dozen but with longer hair" (thanks Zomblee), but when it comes to machine gunning people from motorbikes, they rock. Shame it was so long since the mission briefing, really. As Zomblee pointed out, "You know at the beginning of the movie what they're there to do but it takes them 'till the end of the movie to actually do it..."
"What have they got to do again?" Phew, cheers Rawshark, not just me struggling to follow the story arc from the bottom of this bottle of Shiraz then.
"Ran into a water buffalo and this super spook helped me out!"
Rawshark It’s true, it’s a simple plot, but the five bikers in The Losers spend far too much time fanny-arsing around in the jungle on Yamahas in the mid-section of this film, that I’d completely forgotten what it was that they were there to do for their main mission. But hey, it’s such a great concept – a biker movie set in Vietnam – that I was prepared to overlook this, and just settle back to enjoy the (bike) ride. Oh, and that bit with the guy whipping the other guy with a palm tree he had just ripped out of the ground was indeed hilarious.
So along the way we get opium dens, whorehouses, villages that need to be trashed, soy sauce and prison, but this is all just leading up to the main event, and we all knew it, even Jim who had ”saved a glass of wine for the end sequence”. And with cool buggy and motorbike stunts, hut demolishing, machine-gun fire and slow-mo explosions, the main mission is no disappointment at all, especially considering the wheelying tricycle and the fact that the film-makers were able to “afford a tank” (Jim).
However – Shock! - The Losers fail on their mission, and the three remaining bikers are caught and sent to prison where they meet Chet Davies, the politician they were tasked with rescuing in the first place (oh yes, I remember now). The film then gets a conscience with a soldier / politician conversation that is brilliant, and a last 10-minute escape plan which features our heroes taking cover behind an impressive mound. ”I love mounds” said Zomblee, ”and that’s one of the best mounds ever”. He wasn’t wrong.
Nicely shot, hugely enjoyable and with an astute political awareness (although that ”Love is a flower that needs peace to grow” song played over the death montage ending may have been stretching it a tad too far), The Losers is great fun. Check it out.
“And we didn’t start out as three, we started out as five! There are two dead bikers out there and you’re not worth a pimple on their arse!”
Zomblee You know what? This movie has its faults. Loads of them. Annoying music, excessive padding and dated hippy ideals are apparent throughout but when what you’re essentially getting is a Cambodia (not Vietnam but close enough, yes?) biker movie with a huge slice of Peckinpah-style carnage at the end (and the beginning), you can count me in. That definitely goes for Jim too – he even saved a glass of wine to enjoy throughout the entire end sequence because I was nice enough to warn him about it beforehand. I’m good like that.
There’s so much going for The Losers. It’s one of those ‘mission’ movies where the mission is given to the hairballs at the beginning, then the movie navigates its way though a myriad of non-essential sequences whereby they go to “love you long time places” (Rawshark), fall in love with local ladies, swig beer, intimidate locals, uproot trees with their bare hands, and, best of all, build some seriously heavy machinery for the final assault – a kind of hybrid of Evil Kineval and The Wild Bunch. Does that sound good? That’s because it is. It kicks serious arse and, what’s more, it is shot with great skill and flair and you may well want to rewind one of those great bike-wheelies-over-hut-whilst-dropping-
huge-grenade-into-it-then-it-explodes sequences. I’m a sucker for all that shit. Always will be.
William Smith is great as hard-as-nails hero Link Thomas. When I say ‘hard’, I mean his arms are fucking enormous; maybe they should’ve let him pull the tree out by the roots – I’ll wager he could manage a much bigger tree than that other fellah. Smith is the veteran of some 255 movies and, in case you’re interested, managed to land a small role in one of my favourite ever TV movies, Crowhaven Farm (1970). But lets face it, as I’ve already reviewed The Losers here on eatmybrains, I can’t think of anything more to say about it, except that it’s possibly the only movie where you’ll see what happens when you shotgun a drum kit. Fantastic.
"They gotta be weapons on wheels. Jackson will give you everything you need."
Director Jack Starrett
Cast William Smith
Ronald C. Ross
Runtime 95 mins
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And so the curtain closes. Actually, we don’t have a curtain here at ZC. Or a big screen, but our day will come. Maybe the day will come for Stone to be released on DVD the way Dark Sky have done for The Losers; it’s no masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination but when you look at the amount of absolute shite that gets released these days it’s hard not to wonder why so many cult gems like this remain exiled in VHS wilderness.
Next week, Jim will be blowing the dust off his TV recording of arty-farty ant mayhem Phase IV to team up with the not-so-arty Empire of the Ants for Rawshark’s long-awaited Ants in your Pants Night.