I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Born to Be Wilding: Werewolves on Wheels

by Ryk McIntyre
Oct. 28, 2012
You have to understand –  it was the early 1970s. The Vietnam war was still going, the Beatles had broken up, the Peace Movement had turned to drug-addled terrorists, the drug-addled terrorists had gone off to some monastery, and cheap films were being cranked out as fast as cheap ideas would allow. A great example of two tastes that were tasteless together, is Werewolves on Motorcycles (1971), which lays claim to being “the first ever horror motorcycle movie!” and was filmed in “we’re surprised it works”-o-rama. MST3K should get their robot hands on it. 

Like many movies of the genre, I don’t think an actual script was involved here. To call the acting “improvisation” would be really, really mean to improvisation as both an art form and a way to cut costs on your film. The night/dark room shots are damn near unwatchable, and while there are other charming disabilities this movie lives with, well.... it does have a certain cheapness to it that is almost endearing. Unless, of course, you’re an actual biker, or an actual student of the Tarot... but especially if you’re an actual biker.

The story-line basically covers a wild biker gang (The “Devil’s Advocates”) riding around and causing trouble. There is one of them that reads Tarot (his name is “Tarot”) and believes all kinds of “mystical crap.” We’ll get back to him. The gang, after terrorizing a gas station, rides around until they encounter a monastery where the quiet monks in red give them copious amounts of bread and wine, laced with some sort of drug. Soon as you can say “obligatory python” the main biker’s lady, Helen (I’m guessing her last name is “Wheels”?) is dancing naked at the satanic ritual. She is rescued by the gang and they ride off.

What they don’t know is that she’s a werewolf, which happened as a result of the satanic ritual, as opposed to the more traditional “bit by another werewolf.” Slowly the gang is picked off one, by one. Helen, apparently, doesn’t remember her transformations, and is also haunted by the image of a wax statue in the various campfires and bonfires the gang builds. I don’t want to give away the thrilling ending, but it does include a werewolf-on-motorcycle chase scene, where the gang has some awesome torches that won’t extinguish, even when you’re driving your bike at 65 mph.

Like most awful, cheap movies of the early 1970s, this has some rough charm, acting so horrible you root for the werewolf, and of course, naked breasts. (For those of you to whom this is vital: 8 minutes, 31 seconds and 25 minutes, 59 seconds, ok?). The dialogue goes from poetic (“Shadows are the sails of night, they soon will come to hide the light,” as the main priest chants) to the sublimely awful (the same priest says, “I pound with what my evil eye has gleaned!”... me too buddy, it’s called “masturbation” and everyone does it), and the werewolf growls sound an awful lot like someone getting violently sick.

I think my favorite moment is either when the satanic priest sing/chants and I swear to God, it’s done to the fractured tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire,” or after the second or so mysterious death/disappearance of one of the bikers, and Tarot intones “That was no accident! That...was heavy. Somebody’s controlling the vibe!” Ah... written like someone who clearly only knew some people that knew 1960s counter-culture.

Still, if you'd like to throw your own MST3K party, you could choose worse than Werewolves on Motorcycles, the movie with the preview tag-lines “If you’re hairy you belong on a motorbike!” and “This Gang Thought It Was Tough… ’til it found a new type of hell…The Bride of Satan!” You should also know this review has 666 words in it, so you’re damned anyway.

Ryk McIntyre is a Multi-Hyphen sort of person. Poet, critic, performer, workshop facilitator and co-host at both GotPoetry! Live (Providence) and Cantab Lounge (Cambridge,MA). He's been living in RI for the past 6 years, with his wife and daughter. Ryk has performed his work at Boston's ICA, NYC's New School, Portsmouth, NH's Music Hall and Lollapalooza, to name just a few. He has toured the US, performing in countless Poetry open mics and festivals.  He turned down Allen Ginsburg once.