David Hewitt started his career as an illusionist for a traveling spook show called Dr. Jekyll’s Strange Show before Forrest J. Ackerman helped get him into movies by getting his script Journey Into the Unknown made into The Time Travellers. His directing debut was 1965’s Monsters Crash the Pajama Party, a movie where actors would run into the audience to enhance the film’s antics.
He also directed Dr. Terror’s Gallery of Horrors, which had a title way too close to Amicus’ Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors, so it also ran as Return from the Past, The Blood Suckers, Alien Massacre, The Witch’s Clock and Gallery of Horror. He also directed Hell’s Chosen Few, The Mighty Gorga (he’s also Gorga, the giant ape) and The Tormentors. Later in his career, he moved into optical effects, working on films as varied as Inspector Gadget 2, Willow and The Quiet American.
Today, we’re here to talk about bikers vs moonshiners vs. the syndicate vs. the government exploitation film The Girls From Sunset Strip.
The screenplay for this film came from Pat Boyette, a news anchor in San Antonio, Texas who went on to become the producer of a daytime talk show, a puppet show and TV commercials. Turning to comics, Boyette worked mainly for Charlton Comics, where his character the Peacemaker — he loves peace so much he’ll kill for it — became the inspiration for the Comedian in Watchmen. He wrote and drew hundreds of comics for Charlton, including s Ghost Manor, Ghostly Tales, Space Adventures, The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, Cheyenne Kid, Korg: 70,000 B.C., Flash Gordon, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, The Phantom and The Six Million Dollar Man. He was also responsible for writing and directing films like No Man’s Land, The Dungeon of Harrow and The Weird Ones.
Three hillbilly girls — Red, Jessie and Lil — take on three bikers, led by Teach (Gary Kent, The Black Klansman) and aided by Animal and Todd. Of all people, Casey Kasem plays the government man, Conrad, while Jack Starrett (Race with the Devil, Cleopatra Jones) is the sheriff. The hero is Pike, who is played by Jody McCrea. He was in a ton of beach movies, including Operation Bikini, Beach Blanket Bingo and How To Stuff a Wild Bikini. Interestingly enough, he was the only American International Pictures actor who could actually surf. And oh yeah — Bing Crosby’s son Lindsay is in this.
But we’re here to talk about the girls, because this movie isn’t called The Boys From Thunder Strip. Red is played by Maray Ayres, who is also in The Cycle Savages and looks a lot like Mary Woronov. Jessie is Megan Timothy, who appeared in three of Hewitt’s films, as well as Al Damanson and Bud Cardos’ The Female Bunch and the Russ Meyer directed Good Morning… and Goodbye! Lil is Melinda MacHarg, who really didn’t do much other than this film.
The film starts with one of the girls being assaulted by one of the boys, but honestly, stuff just happens after that. I mean it — sides are constantly switched, cops are brought in and turned on in moments and Pike keeps getting beat up.
It was shot on Spahn Ranch, a 500-acre property located in Chatsworth, California. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. In Brian Albright’s Wild Beyond Belief!: Interviews with Exploitation Filmmakers of the 1960s, Gary Kent said that members of Manson’s Family would often visit craft services and beg for food.
The Girls From Thunder Strip was shot by cinematographer Gary Graver, who was, of course, the preferred cameraman for Orson Welles. Honestly, the behind the scenes stories of this movie are probably way more interesting than what was filmed.
You can watch this on Amazon Prime.