SAVAGE CINEMA: Death Riders (1976)

Let’s roll the dice on that Mill Creek Savage Cinema box set one more time. This time? An American mondo exploration of the Death Riders, a group of stuntmen travelling the country, picking up ladies and blowing one another up real good.

You have to love a movie with the tagline, ” A Motion Picture Dedicated to Those Who Don’t Make It.” Yes, the teenage and twenty-something boys — barely men at this stage in their lives — that make up the Death Riders are carny barnstormers, heading from town to town putting on all manner of stuntwork for audiences that, at times, swarm them with affection. It’s also the only movie that Jim Wilson would direct, although he did serve as the cinematographer for the Chuck Norris movie Good Guys Wear Black.

Oh Crown International Pictures. Oh Mill Creek. When the two of you unite, I get crazy films like this to take my mind off the world and how much it upsets me. Can we just go back to 1976 and put me inside a wooden coffin with no safety measures and explode me in a field to the delight of some kids who are bored on a hot summer night?

Vilmos Zsigmond — yes, the same man who shot McCabe and Mrs. Miller, as well as The Deer Hunter and Close Encounters of the Third Kind — was the director of photography on this. And it was edited by Phil Tucker, who in addition to also cutting The Nude Bomb directed the burst of insanity known as Robot Monster.

You’ll feel like you’re part of the gang, pranking one another, forgetting a girl by the next town and randomly winning $5 for a motocross race out of nowhere. This movie is the mid-70’s, a lived in, dog-earred, threadbare and sun-drenched mess, but so enjoyable all at the same time.

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