Written by: Giuseppe Rijitano on August 26th, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: USA, January 5th 1973
Director: Thomas J. Schmidt
Writers: Larry Bischof (writer), Gloria Goldsmith (screenplay & story), David M. Kaufman (writer), Michel Levesque (writer)
Cast: Diane Hull, Michael Ontkean, Kathleen Cody, Ralph Waite, John McMurtry, Pamela Serpe, Richard Grayling, Michael Kopsche, Charlie Picerni.
DVD released: August 31st, 2010
Approximate running time: 79 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: Scorpion Releasing
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.95
Debbie (Kathleen Cody) and Karen (Dianne Hull) are a couple of teenage girls hitting the road and making their way to the beach for the summer weekend, they’re looking for adventure and most importantly boys! On the way they’ll pick up a care-free hitchhiker, flash strangers on the road and generally drive like stoned hippie jailbait all the way to their destination. Their paths will also coincide with that of troubled young Vietnam vet Will (Michael Ontkean) whom they decide to join on his visit to ‘The Institute’ a hippie commune run by bearady smiley happy John (Ralph Waite) where love is taught as a way of life. Unfortunately there have also been unexplained murders of young girls in the area and the killer looks like he may be in residence at the commune……
A forgotten cult 70’s drive-in classic written by Michel Lavesque and David Kaufman, the scribes behind Werewolves On Wheels. Directed by Thomas J. Schimdt an assistant director/producer for whom this was his first and only feature as director due to his career being cut short by his sudden and tragic death at the age of 36.
It’s a road movie for the most part, sometimes a bit whimsical, with shades of that 70’s Little Darlings/Last Summer kind of teen innocence. The female leads are average at best, Kathleen Cody seems to be doing a spot on impression of Velma from Scooby Doo for most of the flick, if Velma had a penchant for flashing motorists her tits that is. The real draw of the film is the cheeseball performance by Michael Ontkean (Twin Peak’s very own Sheriff Harry S. Truman) as Will, the baby-faced, loopy-as-fuck, Vietnam vet with anger management issues. Incessant cornball flashbacks (distorted camera angles, wavy, dreamlike) of the war and Will’s conversations with his army shrink in which he speaks of his violent tendencies hint at the fact that Will might be the serial killer alluded to throughout the film and when I say hint I really mean smash you over the head with a sledgehammer style, red neon sign above his head flashing PSYCHO KILLER type subtlety here. But then red herrings abound and there are other candidates – take for example the memorable little turn by Ralph Waite as the creepy cult leader that just wants everyone to love one another, it’s not every day you get to see Pappa Walton hitting on underage girls is it. Plus John McMurtry as nutjob ‘The Maker’ another traumatized Vietnam vet that likes to paint his face, build sandcastles and go all queer whenever Will’s around. Not to mention the hippie hitchhikers, bikers and truckers around every corner. But for a film advertised as a thriller it’s not all that thrilling I’m afraid. Despite the mumblings throughout via news reports about a possible serial killer that part of the story isn’t brought to the fore until about the last 20 minutes of the feature when someone starts throttling hippy chicks and then the film suddenly becomes a pre-Halloween style girls on the run slasher flick that builds to a terrible anti-climax which will leave you thinking ‘what the hell!?’
Ultimately this is a nostalgic time capsule of 70’s drive-in fun, it’s well paced and kept me fairly entertained over it’s relatively short runtime.
The ‘Brand New 16×9 (1.78:1) widescreen master from the original negatives’ looks very good indeed; colors are strong and vivid, good contrast levels, solid blacks, some minor print damage that is fairly unnoticeable. Mono English audio track is clean and clear with the bouncing hippy soundtrack coming through nicely balanced with the dialog.
Maker: An Interview With Writer David M. Kaufman – Running 8 minutes this is an honest little chat with Kaufman in which he discusses Werewolves On Wheels, director Schmidt’s failure to use a lot of the material he and his co-writer had provided and just amiably takes the piss out of the finished movie.
Remembering Thomas J. Schimdt: An Interview With Tom’s Friend David Walsh – Running 10 minutes this is a brief chat with cinematographer Walsh about his time working with Schmidt and his pleasure that his friend’s movie has been rediscovered on DVD.
Alternate Title Sequence – Changes the title of the flick to Girls On The Road.
Plus an original theatrical trailer and bonus trailers for Point of Terror, The Devil Within Her, Nothing But The Night and Cheerleaders Wild Weekend.