B-Movie Blast: The Sidehackers, aka Five the Hard Way (1969)

You just never know when it comes to Mill Creek sets. We first reviewed this bike-racing flick on March 7, 2020, because we just enjoy digging up ’70s drive-in junk. Then we revisited it August 4, 2020, when the film popped up as part of Mill Creek’s Savage Cinema set, a box set which we reviewed in full.

Yep. Mill Creek “goes green” once again, as they also include the film on their B-Movie Blast 50-Film pack. Ah, but those scamps at Mill Creek changed it up: now they’ve included the film under its alternate title of Five the Hard Way . . . and we, at first, though they included, but mistitled, Gordon Parks’s blaxploitation actioner Three the Hard Way. But this isn’t a blaxplotation picture. So, while there’s no Fred Williamson, we do get a Ross Hagen and Micheal Pataki fix in the bargain.

But, after watching, we still don’t know what a “sidehacker” is.

Well, we do, actually, as Sidehackers is part of the late ’60s fascination with bikers, a genre that got its start — to an extent — with Motorpsycho (1965) and featured the likes of The Wild Angels (1966) and hit its peak with Easy Rider (1969). However, that didn’t stop low-budget studios from pumpin’ out more biker flicks into the mid-’70s,with the blaxploitation genre offering their takes on the genre with The Black Six and Darktown Strutters (both 1974).

Sidehackers, however, isn’t mention within the biker genre, as we are not dealing with any Hell’s Angels or Satan’s Sadist or Born Losers, here, but legit motorcycle racers — sidecar motocross racing, in particular. Yes. If you ever wondered if there was a movie made about the obscure sport of sidecar motocross, well, the fine folks at Crown International gave you one. And much like Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer indulging Tom Cruise’s love of stock car racing into a movie with Days of Thunder (1990), Crown indulged Ross Hagen’s love of the sport.

As with most racing movies — a trend that carried out to the likes of the sort-of-apoc “death sport” rip Ground Rules (1997) — we have a mechanic — who is also a “sidehacker,” as well — who wants to be a racer behind-the-handlebars, in this case, Rommel, played by producer Ross Hagen.

Now, every race flick must have a villain; Tom Cruise had Michael Rooker, right? Here, our villain, J.C, played by the always welcomed Michael Pataki, who excels at dickdom when he needs to, is abusive to his girlfriend, his crew, and his gang. And as in every Fabian or Frankie Avalon stock car flick (1966’s Fireball 500, for one; 1967’s Thunder Alley, for two), the bad driver’s girl goes “femme fatale” and pines for the good racer.

So, how do you get even when your “woman” makes you look bad: beat the hell out of her and blame her crush; so J.C’s gang comes after our man Rommel and his woman, Rita (Diane McBain, who we reviewed in Wicked Wicked, but she did the racing flick thing with Elvis in Spinout; yep, she’s in Thunder Alley, too).

That’s pretty much the movie. But what raises Sidehackers above all of those Elvis, Fabian, and Frankie Avalon racing flicks is that there’s no stock footage, here: all the racing was shot specifically for the film.

So, yeah. What we have here is a stock car racing flick, just with sidecar motocross racing. But even with the original-to-the-film racing footage, we’d still — as in the somewhat similar Rollerball (without the ball, natch) — we’d wish there was more sport and less romantic drama.

And what’s this all have to do with Goldie Hawn?

Goldie’s husband, former Broadway dancer Gus Trikonis — who appeared as one of the “Sharks” in West Side Story (1961) — made his directing debut with the film. He’d go onto direct the always great Richard Crenna in The Evil (1978), as well as giving us the hicksploitation romp Moonshine County Express (1977), the nasty-scuzzy country fallen star romp Nashville Girl (1976), and one of the more successful movies-based on songs, Take This Job and Shove It (1981). He and Hagen would also go against the grain and break the mold with the only film — ever — dedicated to the illegal “sport” of cockfighting: Supercock (1975). Okay, well, two: we can’t forget Monte Hellman of Two-Lane Blacktop fame (1971) made one: Cockfighter (1974) for Roger Corman.

So, there. Now you know about the two films made about cockfighting — by way of the only movie made about motocross sidecar racing.

As we dig through the credits, we notice that Robert Tessler — a stuntman who formed Stunts Unlimited with Hal Needham, and made his acting debut in Tom Laughlin’s own biker flick, The Born Losers (1967), and appeared in Burt Reynolds’s football flick, The Longest Yard (1974) — appears. Also keep your eyes open for B-movie warhorse Hoke Howell (Humanoids from the Deep, 1980). Screenwriter Tony Huston went “biker” again with Outlaw Riders (1971), but previously gave us the female-centric biker flick, Hellcats (1968).

You can watch Sidehackers on You Tube. Here’s the “thrilling” opening sequence.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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