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Werewolves On Wheels (1971)

Directed by Michel Levesque
Dark Sky Films DVD

THE FILM
By default, guys in biker gangs have terrible karma. You just can’t go around kicking people’s teeth in and sniffing coke over mass graves without feeling the heat. Adam has just found this out. The hard way.

Forget about the title. If you expect everything that an exploitive master stroke like Werewolves On Wheels seems to promise, you’ll be par for the huckster’s course. Now, with that aside, you’re free like the wind. Ready for anything. Ready for a jittery night terror with no solid path and a hair-trigger apex that hits like a face full of nails. Isolation. Bad drugs. Screeching violins. The night is dark and the road calls.

The Middle Of Nowhere, USA. The callous Adam (Stephen Oliver) leads “The Devil’s Advocates,” a rowdy pack of beer guzzling bikers with nothing on their minds. The Advocates aren’t the toughest bikers around (especially when they kiss each other), but they hold their own. Random ass kicking, footloose sexual encounters, some hootch ‘n’ drugs — that’s what they’re up to. But after the chance discovery of a Satanic monastery, the party’s over. Unknowingly ingesting the body and blood of Satan, the gang fails to notice when Adam’s girlfriend, Helen, is summoned to the brood. The cult’s leader, “The One,” has chosen her to be The Bride Of Satan. Helen dances with a snake! Her boobs shake! Adam gathers the dudes and they rescue her, but not before the Satanists grease a few Devil’s Advocates with black shoe polish across the face. That’s where the fangs come in.

Belying its flamboyant title, Werewolves On Wheels is a classy, tripped-out, day-in-the-life portrait of dirty living. Unlike the majority of low budget biker films from the late 60s through the mid 70s, Werewolves keeps its own beat. No social statements. No clear message or point. It’s not as crude as Satan’s Sadists (Al Adamson, 1969) and not as serious as The Northville Cemetery Massacre (William Dear, 1976). It’s just an obtuse exercise in weirdness. Director Michel Levesque, who worked as Russ Meyer’s art director on many films, serves it up mellow and fashionable. The film unfolds slowly, but Levesque keeps the visuals mysteriously exciting. Edits are smart, shots are interesting (the spurting gore, in particular), and the locales are desolate. There’s a sinister aura that grows out of the director’s style, helping to push a goofy concept into a much more rewarding experience. With the believable acting and a great Meat Puppets meets The Ventures score, the film is a plain unto itself.

When the sun comes up over the beer cans and gutted eyeballs, will it all be forgotten? Ride on, werewolves, ride on.

AUDIO AND VIDEO
What Dark Sky did for The Flesh Eaters, they do here. If you’re used to pitch black VHS versions of Werewolves from companies like Unicorn, you’re in for a treat. The anamorphic widescreen print looks like it was struck yesterday, while still retaining that necessary 70s vintage. Visuals are absolutely crisp, with even, subdued colors and night scenes that we can actually see. The occasional spots ‘n’ speckles show up, but that’s a given. The mono sound was perfectly balanced — not too tweaked, not too muffled. Just right, like the entire presentation. Very impressive. Optional English subtitles are also included.

EXTRAS
First, the little brothers. We’ve got an eight screen strong photo gallery comprised of lobby cards and posters, two amazing radio spots (one 60 seconds, one 30 seconds), the film’s ratty theatrical trailer, and a trailer for The Losers, another 1970s biker film that Dark Sky has released on DVD.

Now, the leader of the pack. Director-writer Michel Levesque, co-writer David Kaufman, and moderator Dave Gregory deliver a stellar full length commentary track. Levesque reveals the intentions behind the film’s loose plot: “No matter how bad you are, there’s someone badder.” From there, we’re off for a good ride, with loads of nuggets on the locations, MPAA gore cuts, the mostly improvised script, and the indulgence of actual beer and pot on set. For shame! All three commentators are intelligent and well prepared, making for a very satisfying listen.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Hock your expectations on the side of the road and Werewolves On Wheels becomes a wonderful ramble of late-nite trash. There’s no better way to experience the film today than with Dark Sky’s outstanding presentation. Yes, get it.