He's not hairy, he's my brother. Nice tagline, huh? Too bad the filmmakers didn't go with that one. Instead, on the DVD box it says, "If you're hairy, you belong on a motorcycle!" They probably won't be roaring off the shelves, but if you can find it priced right — and if you're a devotee of the 60s counterculture — then Werewolves on Wheels is definitely worth a spin.
The movie starts off showing our antiheroes on the two-lane blacktop, smoking reefers and toting their bad mammas while stunt-riding their tricked-out choppers. If it sounds like Easy Rider, then you shouldn't be surprised; both movies share a producer. The director, Michel Levesque, was a first-timer and sometimes it shows, but there's enough original stuff here to please fans of witchy horror.
Even though the movie is ostensibly about werewolves, we see a lot more in the way of witchcraft. It all begins when one of the bikers, the peaceful Tarot (Duece Berry), reads the cards for groovy chick Helen (D.J. Anderson), and foretells a bummer future for her. The leader of The Devil's Advocates motorcycle gang, Adam (Stephen Oliver), doesn't believe in all that mumbo-jumbo — as if to prove his point, shortly after the reading he escorts the gang out to the sacred grounds of an isolated monastery where they will party hearty and raise hell.
The monks drug the hippies, and while the men are sleeping the cowled villains steal Helen and make her their… witch. During an elaborate ceremony led by One (Severn Darden), Helen gets naked and sexy-dances with a boa, and a bony human skull. Meanwhile, the monks chant, wall sconces flicker with fire, a black cat is sacrificed, and an amulet is revealed to invoke all the dark powers and turn Helen into The Bride of Satan.
The bikers wake up, rescue Helen, and head out once again for the open road. Unfortunately, they cannot escape the mad monks' curse. Helen is howlin' at the moon and before long, she turns her old man, Adam, into a wolf too. In secret, they start feasting on their friends. The ones left alive just think it's a string of bad luck, but seer Tarot knows the score: "That was no accident. It was heavy. Someone's controlling the vibes."
Like most movies made in a cloud of pot smoke, Werewolves on Wheels is just little too self-indulgent. I can picture the filmmakers watching the dailies… "Wow, man, that's beautiful. Don't edit that." Many scenes go on endlessly (think: the campfire/acid sequence in Easy Rider), and it takes an awfully long time to get to the point.
It is very dated because the characters themselves are not timeless, but in spite of its problems Werewolves on Wheels is worthy of a look for more than just the curiosity factor. For one thing, the cinematography is absolutely beautiful, and the soundtrack is apropos without being overbearing.
Unfortunately for horror fans, Werewolves on Wheels has a flat tire when it comes to the scares. The creatures, when we finally see them in all their mangy glory, are nothing more than Universal wolf-man clones in hiphuggers.
The DVD features brand new commentary from director Michael Levesque and his cowriter on the film, David M. Kaufman. I love these kinds of commentaries, ones with plenty of perspective. The filmmakers' memories serve them well, and they chat without pause about everything from how the actors were cast to how they did their research on the black magic aspects of the plot. They also explain why they kept the "bad parts" in the movie (the explanation really doesn't wash, but at least they say something), and why the werewolves looked so much like Lon Chaney. It's interesting to learn that the MPAA gave Werewolves on Wheels an X rating twice, and just how much nudity they had to cut out, because of the prevalence of drive-ins at the time.
The DVD also includes:
- Photo Gallery
- Radio Spots
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson