Review Date: March 16, 2006
Released by: Dark Sky Films
Release date: 2/28/2006
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.78:1 | 16x9: Yes
Generally speaking, genre picture hybrids are usually one of two things. They usually are either strokes of genius, or the sign of a desperate person who is out of ideas. The horror genre has been crossed with almost every other genre, whether it be westerns (Billy the Kid vs. Dracula
and more), war films (the war/vampire saga The Lost Platoon
), beach party outings (Horror of Party Beach
) or others. Therefore, it was probably ordained by the stars that there would be at least one biker-horror film out there, and Werewolves on Wheels
is it. So let’s see what makes this baby run...
Meet the Devil’s Advocates, a typical scruffy gang of Vietnam-era motorcyclists. The film opens as the group barges into a desert gas station and kicks the stuffing out of a young man who was riding in a truck that ran one of the gang members off the road. After that is done with they take over the station itself, helping themselves to the beer on tap and making sure the outnumbered gas station attendant knows who’s boss. As this is going on, at the behest of gang leader Adam (Stephen Oliver
), the group’s spiritual guru Tarot (Deuce Barry
) gives a reading of the cards which bear his name to Adam’s “mama” Helen (D.J. Anderson
). The cards reveal that a somewhat sinister fate will be hers.
Later on the gang stumbles upon a creepy-looking monastery out in the middle of nowhere. Leaving their bikes behind them, the ruffians enter the property on foot and are confronted by a silent column of hooded monks who offer them bread and wine. The bikers gorge themselves and then begin to pass out as they are approached by another monk who identifies himself as “One” (Severn Darden
), who describes himself as “the one who speaks for them who must remain forever silent”.
Night falls, and, with the bikers still asleep, One holds a black mass where he and the other monks sacrifice a cat. He calls upon Helen and magically wakes her up, and then summons her into the monastery. Under their spell, she performs a nude dance with a serpent and skull. Outside, Adam wakes up and realizes she’s gone. He and the other bikers storm the monastery and rescue Helen, roughing up the monks in the process. They flee the property and appear to be home free - that is, until the next night when two of them are killed at their campsite by a pair of savage, unseen animals. Two members of the party now have the mark of the beast, and it’s anyone’s guess how many more will have to die before the gang figures out what is going on...
Werewolves on Wheels
is a dated and disappointing hybrid of the biker and horror genres, and readers of this site who are not into biker movies will probably find little of interest in it, as there is far more motorcycling than monster mayhem. The last ten minutes are when most of the werewolf action occurs. Until then there’s a lot of drinking, drug use, fighting and profanity, with the biker clichés only being interrupted by the black mass ceremony (itself full of Satanic movie clichés) and several isolated attack scenes. As is often the case with movies of type, the concept and title proved to be much better than the movie itself. It’s hard to understand how it’s so easy for such a simple concept as this to become so fouled up. The title Werewolves on Wheels
implies that the film is more of horror piece than a biker one, yet the overall content will be of little interest to someone predominantly interested in watching it as a horror film. Even during the last ten minutes there isn’t any horror content worth getting excited about. Other than a brief moment where one of the beasts tries to run away on a motorcycle, it’s the usual mundane monster action – werewolf attacks people, people fight back.
Even as a biker flick, the movie is overshadowed by others in its field. It’s certainly no Easy Rider
, nor would one expect it to be. The problem is it’s not even up to par with other low budget biker films like Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels
or even Al Adamson’s poverty-stricken Satan’s Sadists
. By the time of the film’s release in 1971 the biker sub-genre was in its downswing phase anyways.
However, looking beyond the movie’s plot and conceptual problems, it is possible to say that it is reasonably well put together. The desert photography can be evocative and eerie. There are some surprisingly vivid moments of bloodletting, and the monster make-up is actually quite good for a film of this budget. The acting is not terrible either. Stephen Oliver and Deuce Barry seem a little uncomfortable with their roles, but in the end they acquit themselves nicely. As the Satanic cult leader “One”, Severn Darden chews the scenery but is at least entertaining to watch. The other actors who make up the Devil’s Advocates seem authentic enough, which should be hoped for considering a number of them were real bikers.
However, it’s still difficult for me to really recommend Werewolves on Wheels
. Despite the exploitable concept and adequate production values it still remains the absolute worst kind of movie – the boring kind.
The film is presented letterboxed at 1.78:1 (the back of the case states 1.85:1, but this is wrong) and is enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Overall this seems to be a well above average presentation. The film was shot using a naturalistic color scheme that is preserved well here, with things likes flesh tones and the vivid blues of the desert sky properly reproduced. The image features bold, clean blacks (though inadequate shadow detail) during the dark scenes, and those same scenes look remarkably good. Most of the time it is easy to tell what is actually happening in night scenes, which is reportedly a vast improvement over the film’s earlier VHS releases.
The film elements the transfer was struck from show very minor signs of wear and tear. There is a limited amount of speckling, a few scratches and blemishes and the occasional splice or two, but overall the image looks remarkably clean and detailed.
The Dolby 2.0 Mono soundtrack is above average, with decent range and fidelity. The track is well balanced and music and sound effects come through clearly. However, there is some minor hissing and crackling during some of the movie’s infrequent quieter moments.
Optional English subtitles are included, and although the dialogue is reproduced clearly and without distortion, I found myself turning them on occasionally simply because some of the biker lingo left me saying to myself, “Did I hear that correctly?”
The only big extra is a commentary track with writer David M. Kaufman and director/co-writer Michel Levesque. Both men have vivid recollections of making the film, though they seem to hold it in higher regard than is necessary. All aspects of the production are covered, some of the more confusing plot aspects are clarified and the filmmakers provide explanations for questions such as the lack of werewolf action in the finished film (they were only able to have the make-up artist on set for three days). They also talk about how they had to make numerous changes to the production to avoid getting an X rating from the MPAA, resulting in a substantial amount of violence and lewd dialogue ending up getting cut out. The chat is moderated by David Gregory of Blue Underground, who keeps the men primed with questions.
This release is rounded off with trailers for it and The Losers
(also a Dark Sky release), two radio spots and a still gallery of posters and lobby cards.
Werewolves on Wheels
is a real snoozer of a horror film, with nothing in it worth getting excited about. Even a minor special edition like this seems to be too much for a film of its caliber. But at least this a good release in and of if itself with an above average transfer and decent supplements. In fact, the only thing about this edition that honestly can’t be recommended is the movie itself!
Movie – C-
Image Quality – B+
Sound – B-
Supplements – B
- Running Time – 1 hour 20 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English 2.0 Mono
- English subtitles
- Commentary track with David M. Kaufman and Michel Levesque
- Still gallery
- Radio spots
- Theatrical trailers