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Hustler Squad/Wild Riders 
Written by: on September 3rd, 2006

Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1976 (Hustler Squad), USA, 1971 (Wild Riders)
Directors: Cesar Gallardo (Hustler Squad), Richard Kanter (Wild Riders)
Cast: Karen Ericson, Liza Lorena, John Ericson (Hustler Squad), Alex Rocco, Arell Blanton, Elizabeth Knowles (Wild Riders)

DVD released: August 22nd, 2006
Approximate running time: 98 minutes (Hustler Squad), 91 minutes (Wild Riders)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame (Hustler Squad), 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Wild Riders)
Rating: R
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo (Both Films)
DVD Release: BCI Eclipse
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $12.98

Hustler Squad: Major Stony Stonewall is given the task of infiltrating a secret Japanese hideout in the Philippines that caters to Japanese officers sexual desires. He devises a full proof plan to get into the complex without being noticed. It involves recruiting women assassins who also are willing to go all the way sexually. He has only a few weeks to train these ladies before sending them on this most deadly mission.

Hustler squad starts of with a flurry of action as some locales attack a Japanese compound. Then about six minutes into the movie we shift over to a U.S. general who tells us of his plans to attack the same compound. It is right around here where the film starts to go down faster then the Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean. The movie can be broken down into three parts. The women assassins are recruited, the women assassins train and finally the women assassins kill their targets. Sound simple enough and yet getting form point A to point B is like pulling teeth. I wanted to like this film so bad since the premise is ingenuous and should have provided for some quality exploitation fun. Unfortunately everyone involved found a way to screw up what could have been a trashy film.

Wild Riders: Pete and his dimwitted sidekick Stick are kicked out of a biker gang after they murdered Pete’s girlfriend. They then go on road trip to California where they come across a secluded mansion with two women all by themselves. Pete gets the lady of house to reluctantly to left them stay for awhile and what starts out innocent enough quickly turns violent when Stick rapes a woman. Pete and Stick plan of going to Mexico as soon as they can raise enough cash and until then anyone who gets in their way will feel their rage.

The first thing that springs to mind when watching Wild Riders unfold is the Wes Craven shocker The Last House on the Left and even though this film came out a year before. One has to wonder if Wes Craven took any of his ideas for Last House on the Left from his film. The end result is a film that has enough of its own identity to things interesting and fresh throughout. Richard Kanter direction is solid and he manages to create a few impressive visual set pieces. One of the films underlining theme is betrayal as and in most of the cases it is the women characters betraying the men they love.

Even though the film starts off as a biker film and the two main characters Pete and Stick are bikers the film is more a tale about revenge then your typical biker road trip film. Arell Blanton and especially Alex Rocco totally embrace their characters dark sides which gives the film a nastier edge. Elizabeth Knowles perfectly plays Rona that master manipulator. Sherry Bain as the virginal Laure is pretty to look at and she spends most of her time screaming and being tormented. Ultimately Wild Riders is an opera of violence that never builds to an unbearable climax that is just a shocking as everything that came before it if not even more disturbing.

The DVD:

Hustler Squad is presented in a full frame aspect ratio. The framing on this transfer doesn’t look cramped and thee is enough headroom to suggest that this might be an open matte transfer. The colors fluctuate and print damage is noticeable through out. The image looks fuzzy a few times and lack sharpness overall.

Wild Riders is presented in a Anamorphic widescreen that preserves the films original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Outside of some minor print damage the rest of transfer looks pretty good with good color reproduction and detail looks sharp though out.

Both films come with one audio option their original English audio which is presented in a Dolby Digital stereo. Hustler Squad’s audio sounds thin and the volume at times needs to be adjusted. There is noticeable hiss that is present for most of the film; still it never becomes excessive or distracting. Wild Riders is crisp and music blends in nicely with the rest of the mix. Outside of some minor instances of hiss there are a few occasions when the audio becomes distorted and dialog is muffled during these instances.

The extras for this release are limited to concessions stand ads and previews that are supposed to get you into the drive in vibe while watching the two films included with this release.

Hustler Squad is one of the worst war films that I have ever had the pleasure to see and Wild Riders despite aping the more successful entries in the biker film genre still ended up surprising me when all was said and done. Ultimately BCI’s Starlite Drive in Theatre double feature pairs two distinctly different films together at a more then reasonable price.

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