Reviews

Road Of Death (1972)

Amidst the hubbub of day-to-day stresses, it’s easy to become cloistered from the world at large. The very perception of “living life” can be taken for granted, and perhaps, eventually, diminished over time. It’s a sad thought to ponder.

Then you watch Road Of Death.

The biker-rockunroll-rape-revenge disaster area that is Road Of Death was allegedly filmed in Tampa, Florida. It’s also rumored that porn star leads Jack Birch and Carol Conners would go on to conceive Thora “Ghost World” Birch. Want more? Producer Joseph Fink is probably a pseudonym for the mysterious Richard S. Flink (Love Goddesses Of Blood Island), who also used the name on posters for Death Curse Of Tartu. But enough conjecture. It’s time to get serious.

Road Of Death depicts a scummy three day binge in the lives of a group of 24-7 weekend warriors. But that’s not all it does. This film renews the juices; it sharpens the wit; it makes you BELIEVE again. I know — this is a lot to take in. Of course, the same could be said of Frozen Scream. And look where that got us.

“Let’s get us some of that turkey-ass!”

Delving into “plot” details is unimportant. As with any kind of enlightenment, Road Of Death is about the big picture. There’s a seven man gang of bikers. There’s power-pop bar rockers The Joe Banana Thing (and their girlfriends). The two parties meet. Tragedy strikes. A major turning point relies on a biker’s wallet. Yes, a biker’s wallet. Naturally, hell hath no fury like a steroid-cheeked, pockmark-sporting, over-enunciating muscleman guitarist named Frank (Jack Birch), who’s out for revenge. Especially when the guy Frank’s out to get just carved his name into girlfriend Lisa’s (Carol Conners) “turkey-ass.” Their words. Not mine.

Late-blooming for the biker boom, Road Of Death appears to be an exciting romp into the abrasive world of no-budget ‘cycle exploitation. Surprise! It’s not. The film’s implications are far more advanced than that. Road Of Death reaches beyond the schemes of the standard in atrocious filmmaking, both behind and in front of the camera. Rather than the expected trash film experience (occasional laughs, lots of deviance), we get the revolutionary trash film experience — a film that is so unequivocally ridiculous and puzzling that it can only speak for itself. And so it shall.

Bikers who yell, “Let’s flip some coins, man!” and do just that. People talking while the camera examines plants. Two full song performances by The Joe Banana Thing, complete with a giant Chiquita prop. People who look (and talk and stare and fidget) like bonafide extraterrestrials. Disgusting make-out sessions. Partial nudity and lots of pawing. Gratuitous sandwich creation. Shared bathwater. An extended outdoor dance party with no clear source of music. 25 foot motorcycle journeys which require three minutes of screentime. Shoot-outs and fist fights that feel like afternoon naps. Major usability issues with bulletproof vests. And finally, sheer perfection in chintz-gore, throwing-a-guy-through-a-window climaxes.

Hilarious, pleasantly non-threatening, and wielding all the sexual cognizance of a “touched” caveman, the very strange Road Of Death may be a padded-out abomination. Or, it may be your chance to live again.

Care to flip a coin and find out?

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