The Cycle Savages

The Cycle Savages

D: Bill Brame (1969); with Bruce Dern, Gary Littlejohn, Scott Brady, Steve Brodie, Chris Robinson, Melody Patterson, Tom Daly.

The biker movie was an incredibly popular exploitation genre in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Watch The Cycle Savages and listen closely: You'll hear the sound of barrels being scraped. Keeg (Dern) is the scumbag leader of the local bike gang; the gang's hobbies include terrorizing people and abducting girls to sell into a white slavery ring run by Keeg's older brother (who is played by Casey Kasem). Trouble comes in the form of Romko (Robinson), an artist who sketches the gang while they're up to their usual habits. Keeg's boys slice Romko across the belly with a razor, and he's patched up by the gang's unlicensed doctor, Docky (Daly). Despite eight fresh stitches, Romko kicks the crap out of two gang members; the others ransack his apartment before getting the idea of breaking his hands in a vise. Docky is picked up by the police (Brady and Brodie, playing detectives for the umpteenth time in their careers), and soon their attention turns toward Keeg and the gang. At the core of this ugly morass of clumsy edits, dodgy camera work, an irritating fuzz-guitar soundtrack, and stilted hipster dialogue is an unusually overheated and bug-eyed performance by Dern. There's an inescapable feeling that the script was little more than notes for Dern, and the director gave him a blank check to improvise lines while simply telling the other actors where to stand. Once again, though, he shines at what he does best: playing a sadistic, warped mental case. As is often the case in biker flicks, the other goons in the gang are short on tattoos and hair, simply wearing dirty clothes and three days' worth of beard. As Romko, Chris Robinson is as expressive as a dancing bear and generates no empathy from the viewer; Kasem makes one appearance only, wearing a ruffled cantaloupe-colored shirt and elaborately styled hair while hanging out by a pool and talking on the phone to his younger sibling. If Romko's erstwhile girlfriend Lea (Patterson) looks familiar, it's because she also played Wrangler Jane on TV's F Troop. Still, this fairly miserable film is worth sitting through for this one line from the gang's bartender: "You kids … you kids think you're pretty smart with your marijuana!" Now, they just don't write lines like that anymore.

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