The Devil’s Eight (1969)

Oh American International Pictures. You knew exactly what the kids wanted. In 1969, they wanted their own version of The Dirty Dozen. Who better to give it to them than you?

Based on a story by AIP story editor Larry Gordon and the first draft was by James Gordon White. It was eventually rewritten in ten days by two of his assistants, John Milius and Willard Huyck. The future director of Conan the Barbarian quipped, “It was called The Devil’s 8 because they didn’t have enough money for a full dozen.”

White wasn’t a fan of the final film. “They took the Southern flavor out of it and I’m from the south, so I know from whereof I talk.” Take it from the writer of Bigfoot, The Mini-Skirt Mob and both movies about a head transplant, The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant and The Thing with Two Heads.

Originally known as Inferno Road, this movie has an all-star cast. And by that, I mean an all-star AIP 1969 cast.

Christopher George (Day of the AnimalsCity of the Living DeadPieces and about a hundred other movies that I love) plays federal agent Ray Faulkner, who starts the movie on a road gang before he breaks the rest of the guys out and forces them on to a helicopter at gunpoint. They are:

  • Sonny (Fabian!) is in prison for murder but he’s a great driver. Unfortunately, he has a drinking problem.
  • Frank Davis (Ross Hagen, The Sidehackers) used to drive for the mob, but then they murdered his brother.
  • Billy Joe (Tom Nardini, Cat Ballou) is a mechanic who just wants to drive.
  • Sam (Joseph Turkel, Dr. Eldon Tyrell from Blade Runner and Lloyd from The Shining) loves to get in brawls.
  • Henry (Robert DoQuia, the sergeant from the RoboCop movies) is an African-American prisoner who can really handle the wheel.
  • Chandler (Larry Bishop, son of Joey, who was in Wild In the Streets) would rather read the Bible than get involved in all this.
  • Stewart Martin (Ron Rifkin, L.A. Confidential) is a rookie fed.

After training “The Eight…you’ll either love or hate!” in high-speed driving and throwing bombs, they work their way into Burl’s (Ralph Meeker, who was actually in The Dirty Dozen, as well as Without Warning and The Alpha Incident) illegal moonshine operation. There are all manner of double crosses and not everyone makes it out alive, but Burl’s mistress Cissy (Leslie Parrish) ends up with her real man, Davis.

Let me talk about Leslie Parrish for awhile. She’s led a pretty amazing life, starting under her birth name Marjorie Hellen, which she changed in 1959. While she was a teenager at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music, she started modeling and became a human test pattern for NBC known as Miss Color TV, as they used her skin tones to test how well they’d transmit over the airwaves.

In 1956, she started her contract with MGM and appeared in redneck classic Lil’ Abner as Daisy Mae. In fact, it was director Melvin Frank who convinced her to change her name. She was also in The Manchurian Candidate and a ton of TV shows at this time, as well as being the Associate Producer on Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Part of that job meant caring for the real seagulls and keeping them in her hotel room, as well as being the mediator between her husband, author Richard Bach, and director Hall Bartlett after they stopped talking. Despite all that, her role is only listed as researcher in the credits.

While acting paid the bills, her real job was activism. She was a member of the Jeannette Rankin Brigade, a coalition of women’s peace groups and had private audiences with politicians and led huge public protests. She has also been incredibly involved in environmental activism and even created KVST-TV, which looked pretty much like C-SPAN does today, but all the way back in 1967. Today, she continues to develop and lead the Spring Hill Wildlife Sanctuary on Orcas Island in Washington. And oh yeah — she was also in The Giant Spider Invasion. Check out her official site!

The Devil’s 8 is decent, but as always, I’m on the side of the bootleggers. Don’t make me divide my loyalty by putting Fabian on the side of Johnny Law! Come on, AIP!

You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

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