Review by John
= Highest Rating
Devil's Advocates are a biker gang who ride the desert roads
in search of the next great kick. Their endless pursuit of sex,
drugs, and rock 'n' roll hits a bit of a snag when they make
an ill-advised visit to a satanic monastery. Does the film live
up to its undeniably great title and striking poster art?
sound of jangling guitars introduces us to our denim-clad road
warriors, defiantly tearing down the highway on their choppers.
They are led by the confident and commanding Adam (Stephen Oliver)
and his girl Helen (D.J. Anderson of Count
Yorga, Vampire). The third key member of the group is the
aptly named Tarot (a very cool Duece Berry), a sort of spiritual
guru who specializes in reading cards. Tarot reads them for
Helen at a gas station and predicts an ominous future for her
and the rest of the Devil's Advocates.
That prediction is
realized when the gang stumbles upon a remote monastery in the
woods. A group of hooded monks emerge and offer the intoxicated,
rowdy bikers some bread and wine, which they happily accept.
The generous gifts are of course drugged, leaving our heroes
incapacitated and helpless to the sinister motives of the monks.
That evening, through satanic influence, a hypnotized Helen
takes on the role of the "Bride of Satan" and performs
a nude ritualistic dance for the monks. Her orgasmic screaming
wakes up Adam, who is a little more than disgruntled to find
his women missing; he gathers up the rest of the gang to bust
some heads and save Helen. The monks don't put up much of a
fight and the bikers are back on the road in no time. Little
do they know that Helen's striptease tango with the Prince of
Darkness has gotten her infected with a bad case of lycanthropy.
I bet she wishes she used protection...
Clocking in at a lean
79 minutes, Werewolves on Wheels
is a fun exploitation flick if approached in the right frame
of mind. First and foremost, those expecting ample werewolf
action will likely be disappointed. The hairy beasts don't show
up until halfway through the picture, and even then they are
relegated to the shadows and brief glimpses of gory nocturnal
maulings. We don't actually get to see any werewolves until
the crazed finale, and when they do show up the tacky dime-store
makeup effects make for a good laugh (and an odd juxtaposition
with the fleeting shots of gore). Despite the title of the film,
the real focus of this picture is on all of the satanic mumbo
jumbo. The big ritual scene that occurs early in the film is
gleefully laden with all the clichés we've come to expect from
cult cinema —
animal sacrifices, snakes,
skulls, fire, smoke, and a hilarious black mass narration by
the leader of the monks, known only to us as One (an excellent
Severn Darden who, according to the commentary, ad-libbed most
of his inspired monologue). The biker scenes are also quite
enjoyable; due to budgetary restraints the filmmakers could
only afford a handful of professional actors, which meant that
most of the bikers that you see in the film are the real deal.
This lends a kind of naturalistic authenticity to the picture.
It also helps that a lot of these guys are actually pretty funny,
in particular a fellow dubbed "Movie" who in a memorable
scene poorly impersonates John Wayne.
Speaking of memorable
characters, the aforementioned Tarot is featured prominently
in the plot and what little significant dialogue that occurs
in the film is mostly centered on his philosophical hippy musings.
In one scene, he holds a meditative pose for what seems like
an eternity while discussing the matters at hand with a skeptical
Adam. Adam is frustrated with his friend's vague warnings of
tampered "vibes" and spiritual goings-on, in particular
with the unnerving effect that they are having on the rest of
the gang. A scene immediately prior to the climactic action
sequence focuses on the faces of the weary bikers, cold and
distant... Granted, while there's not much horror during most
of the second half of the film, the filmmakers are successful
in creating a subtle feeling of paranoia among the gang.
All in all Werewolves
on Wheels is a very strange movie, although if you dig
on weird genre hybrids like I do, this satanic cult/werewolf/biker
flick is probably right up your alley. Director Michael Levesque's
film has its own sort of weird internal logic, perhaps best
illustrated in one scene where driving through a sandy gust
of wind across a highway inexplicably transports the bikers
way off road into the desert. There's an endearing pedestrian
surrealism to the film, especially illustrated by Levesque's
penchant for fire imagery. The concluding moments of the film
don't particularly make that much sense (even with the explanation
offered in the commentary), but in the end the filmmakers make
good on their promise to get a werewolf on a motorcycle.
That's got to count
arrives on DVD thanks to Dark Sky Films and they've done a phenomenal
job. The anamorphic 1.85:1 aspect ratio is really a thing of beauty.
I would never have imaged an obscure film like this to look as
good as it does here. Print damage is minimal and a handful of
the night scenes are a little dark but other than that the film
looks amazing — a real commendable job. The 2.0 mono soundtrack
is also good and compliments the rock music score quite well.
the extras front there's an audio commentary with director Michael
Levesque and co-writer David M. Kaufman. The track is moderated
by David Gregory (from Blue Underground); it makes for an engaging
listen. Gregory keeps things on track and both filmmakers have
a lot of fascinating tidbits to offer about the film. The inevitable
comparisons to Easy Rider are of
course brought up, but there's also some interesting information
about would-be social commentary and some fun anecdotes. One unfortunate
fact that is often brought up in the commentary is how the MPAA
drastically forced the filmmakers to edit out a lot of the violence,
which according to Levesque was much more explicit in earlier
prints. The photo gallery is pretty disposable, as those things
usually are, but the radio spots are very amusing. Rounding out
the extras are an extremely battered theatrical trailer and a
trailer for what looks like another unique biker film, 1970's
The Losers (AKA Nam's Angels).