Written by: Carroll Jenkins on October 10th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1968
Director: Anthony M. Lanza
Writers: James Gordon White, John Lawrence
Cast: Dennis Hopper, Jody McCrea, Jock Mahoney, Chris Noel, Robert Tessier
DVD released: September 29th, 2011
Approximate running time: 84 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English
DVD Release: MGM Home Entertainment
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
This is my absolute favorite biker film bar none, partly because it hits home as the most ‘real’ AIP type biker flick. Jody belongs to the Glory Stompers biker club. They like to party, ride, be cool. Dennis Hopper is the leader of the outlaw biker gang the Black Souls. They like to rape and pillage. We had both counterparts in my home town during the late 70’s – Frog Level and The Brotherhood. I lost my wallet at a party of the ‘good’ club and got it back completely intact. Not only with the money, but they wouldn’t accept a reward. On the other hand, I had been throwing keg parties at my rambling (and ramshackle) farmhouse which had become a tradition, but my new housemate invited members of the other club. Everyone was welcome (and encouraged) to stay the night if they had too much beer – but I discovered some female guests had been violated in their sleep. End of an era, and I never gave another party.
The film should really be titled "The Black Souls", because we spend most of the run time with them, and their captive Chris. Dennis Hopper is sublime as the ruthless Chino. Too self-controlled to be labeled psychotic, that tag does fit Magoo (Robert Tessler) to a ‘T’. Tessler was nearly always clean shaven (‘Cueball’ in ‘The Born Losers’), but here he sports a shaggy mane and just about steals the show from Hopper, which is no mean feat. The third most impressive player in the Black Souls is Hopper’s gang moll Sondra Gale (aka Sandra Bettin, ‘The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm’). She is believable as the tough, devoted, and jealous girl gang member. Her actions (and performance) may be misguided, but never melodramatic. Hey, she’s a tiger girl.
One signature aspect of the film is that there is not a single indoor scene – it’s filmed entirely outdoors on location. Another is the wild freakout party at about the 3/4 mark where the other Glory Stompers get back into the picture. Next is the outstanding cinematography by Mario Tosi (‘Carrie’, ‘The Stunt Man’) that is sometimes breathtaking in the 2:35 widescreen format.
Now, the official Glory Stompers soundtrack album on Sidewalk features various Mike Curb productions (‘bands’), but forget that. The third album of Davie Allen and the Arrows was by far their best, and contains two killer instrumental psych masterpieces. Both the title track Cycle-delic (album version runs 6:45) and Mind Transferral are used as un-credited background for the freakout and various fight scenes.
This is a MOD DVD-R presentation with a ‘best available source’ disclaimer, but it looks fantastic. A silhouette of the bikers pulls back into a wide shot landscape of sand dunes, and you feel like you’re there. Soundtrack is exceptionally clear. This is a quality presentation (despite the lack of subtitles).
The Glory Stompers has many things that most biker films lack. The original outrage is over in about 10 minutes (including the pre-credits ‘stock’ footage biker party) and that gives the film both tension and a time element. The ‘slaying’ of McCrea and the presence of captive Chris cause rivalries to build within the gang that eventually explode into violence. Certainly the film presents many aspects that had become cliche, but it surpasses everything before and after, and can be considered the pinnacle of the outlaw biker genre. Even Casey Kasem gives a good performance.