Saturday, February 17, 2018
OCCULT BIKERS FROM HELL
Of all the movies screened in the late 1960s, EASY RIDER stands out from the pack as emblematic of the times. The iconic still (also made into a popular wall poster) of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper riding their "hogs", has remained indelible in American pop culture as a symbol of the emerging hippy cult of the "wild and free".
But, beneath this dreamy surface lies the dark world of drugs and violence that exposes the so-called "free spirit" that can come with a cost -- all one has to do is make a big score on the sale of some illegal drugs and then you can do whatever you want. Unfortunately, as seen through the lens of EASY RIDER, the story is another version of dragging a 10-dollar bill through a trailer park to attract its sleazy denizens; this time it's Fonda and Hopper's long hair and motorcycles riding across the American landscape to the music of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" that draws out the sleazy denizens and ultimately leads to a violent end.
Sure enough, it wasn't long before the popularity of the biker film fell under the scrutiny of B-movie exploitation filmmakers, and it was South Street Films, an independent production company, that developed the idea of combining bikers with horror films. Not too big of a stretch as both induced various degrees of fright with the American public at the time. So, behind a script by David M. Kaufman and Michel Levesque and director Levesque, WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS was born. Kaufman wrote only two other movie scripts in his brief stint with Hollywood and Levesque plied his trade more often as Art Director, credited in films such as NAKED ANGELS (another biker movie), ILSA, HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHIEKS, and BENEATH THE VALLEY OF THE ULTRA VIXENS.
By all means, a marginal film, WOW was not surprisingly popular with the young crowd. The combination of a werewolf, the occult and biker culture, encapsulated by the excellent movie poster art of Joseph Smith, was all it took for teenagers to flock to the drive-in. THE MONSTER TIMES covered WOW in its August 1973 (#25) issue, and more recently FORTEAN TIMES ran an article on bikers and the occult in its October 2017 issue.
Outlaw Biker culture found its way into mainstream media in the 1970s, due in large part to stories of motorcycles, gangs, girls and violence appearing in the pages of men's adventure magazines. Easy Riders magazine was another outlet that included fiction and pictorials of "biker chicks". Even the bodacious soft-porn star, Uschi Digard got in the act by appearing on the August 1973 cover of Easy Riders and being photographed alongside the custom-built Cinderella Cart.