2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 19: The Honeymoon Killers (1969)

DAY 19. BEYOND THE DARKNESS: Watch one with a love story in it. There’s more than one way to get mushy!

Inspired by the true story of Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, the notorious “lonely hearts killers” of the 1940s, The Honeymoon Killers tells the tale with Tony Lo Bianco and Shirley Stoler, in her film debut, as the leads.

Ray starts the film by seducing Martha and stealing money from her, but it turns out that she may be every but his equal, using her wits to help him con and even kill numerous women from lonely hearts ads.

From relationship to relationship, Ray promises to never cheat on Martha, but there’s no way that he can keep up the con. Along the way, every one that crosses their path dies, often horribly.

Originally to be directed by Martin Scorsese, who was fired from the film, it was taken over by writer Leonard Kastle, who only created this one film. Named by François Truffaut as his “favorite American film,” it looks more like a grim documentary than an exploitation film.

American-International Pictures was going to distribute this, even making ad materials, but dropped it due to the film’s “extremely gruesome and misanthropic” tone. Their loss — it’s a work of art.

I’m enthused by the fact that an ad appeared in Variety at some point in the late 70’s announcing a sequel. Although never made, the story would have involved an imagined death row conjugal visit between Ray and Martha , resulting in the prison birth of brother/sister twins who were separated at birth. Years later, the pair meets and becomes adult murderers/lovers, never suspecting that they are siblings. This movie needs to be made.

Demir Pençe (Korsan Adam) (1969)

With a title that translates as Iron Claw (Pirate Man), this movie is also called Iron Claw the Pirate and comes from the magical brain of Çetin Inanç. Fantomas — if you’re here worrying about copyrights, you’re in the wrong place — and his goon Bechet goes up against Iron Claw and his Batgirl-esque assistant to keep the villain from invading Turkey.

Somehow between 1967 and 1969, Turkish filmmakers learned that superhero cinema had moved from 1930’s movie serials to 1960’s Batmania. This feels similar to Yilmaz Atadeniz’s own Casus Kiran, a riff on Spy Smasher, which makes sense as Inanç started as an assistant to Atadeniz.

Much like most Turkish superheroes, Iron Claw is allowed to sleep with all of the evil women he wants and keep his lady Mine. Perhaps even sadder is despite the fact that she is shown to be a capable hero, she’s never given a superhero name of her own. She’s just a nameless helper who dresses in a much sexier version of our hero’s costume. Iron Clawette seems like too easy of a name and look, I spent more time worrying about it than the people who made this movie.

Yildrim Gencer — the man who played Kilink — is also in this as a mustache sporting agent on the side of good.

Beyond the steel fisted Behcet, Fantomas also employs Cancel, who is played by Feri Cansel. If you think, that might be the best villain of all time, let me tell you that he also gets away with things no movie serial villain ever does, like murdering a kindly old professor and then making a sacrifice of that man’s daughter on an altar. Well done, Fantomas!

This is another magical trip to the no limits world of Turkish film, a place where innocent kink exists fist in glove with murderous superheroes and masked villains who get away with it.

You can download this from the Internet Archive.

The Maltese Bippy (1969)

As a kid, I was thrilled when Laugh-In came back to TV. I’d read about it — I was already a devotee of pop culture — and was excited to see this stream of consciousness show for myself. Yes, it was a time before the internet, when we couldn’t just dial up everything instantly that we wanted to see.

While date — any of the moment show will be twenty years later — it was still incredible to watch. At the center of this mad show was two men: Dan Rowan and Dick Martin. They were the everymen who couldn’t keep the wild energy of the show from bursting through the screen. But they were also really fascinating people in their own right, who knew that the show itself was the star.

Dan Rowan spent his childhood years following his parents from town to town as they performed their carnival dancing act. He was orphaned at 11, spent four years in an orphanage and by the time he was 18, he hitchhiked to Los Angeles, where he got a job in the Paramount mailroom. Soon, he was the youngest writer on the lot.

During World War II, Rowan served as a fighter pilot, winning the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart. He returned from action and formed his comedy duo with Martin. He was married three times — to Miss America 1945 runner-up Phyllis J. Mathis, Australian model Adriana Van Ballegooyen and TV spokeswoman Joanna Young — and retired in the early 80’s, only returning to help celebrate NBC’s 60th anniversary in 1988 by appearing with his comedy partner.

Dick Martin didn’t serve in the war — tuberculosis kept him from combat — but was a young writer as well, working on the radio show Duffy’s Tavern. He started teaming with Martin in 1952, playing nightclubs, hosting NBC’s Colgate Comedy Hour and appearing in the movie Once Upon a Horse Together. He also played Lucille Ball’s neighbor on The Lucy Show before Laugh-In became a big hit. After his partner retired, Martin was a frequent game show guest and TV show director. He was married to singer Peggy Connelly and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls star Dolly Read twice.

Anyways…The Maltese Bippy.

Sam Smith and Ernest Grey (Rowan and Martin) are the producers of nudie cuties — their latest film is Lunar Lust — and they’re forced out of their office for not paying the rent. Somehow, a G-rated movie in 1969 could concern pornography and no one cared.

They move into Ernest’s house by the cemetery in Long Island, a place where a mutilated corpse has already been found and a woman was frightened by a howling man. Oh yeah — Ernest also is given to barking like a dog.

Somehow, despite not being all that much of a success, Ernest can have a housekeeper (Mildred Natwick, Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate). He also has two roommates, the bubbly Robin Sherwood (Carol Lynley, The Poseidon Adventure) and Axel (Leon Askin, Hogans Heroes), a Swedish violinist.

Meanwhile, the Ravenswood’s next door — Mischa(Fritz Weaver, Creepshow), Carlotta (Julie Newmar!) and Helga (Eddra Gale, Fellini’s 8 1/2) — are vampires who want Ernest to join their pack. Sam thinks they should be a variety act, but the truth is that nearly everyone just wants in the house to search for a giant diamond that is inside the house. (and more to the point, inside the corpse of the home’s original owner).

Hijinks ensue and everyone but our heroes perishes. But that’s not good enough, so they both present their own happy endings to the audience and walk into the sunset together.

Look for a pre-Brady Bunch Robert Reed, David Hurst (the head waiter in Hello, Dolly), character actor Dana Eclar, voiceover actor Alan Oppenheimer, Arthur Batanides  (he was Mr. Kirkland in Police Academy 234 and 6), Jennifer Bishop (who is in the William Grefe movies Mako: The Jaws of Death and Impulse, as well as Al Adamson’s Horror of the Blood MonstersJessi’s Girls and The Female Bunch) and Garry Walberg, who played Jack Klugman’s poker buddy Homer “Speed” Deegan on The Odd Couple and his boss Lt. Frank Monahan on Quincy, M.E.

Director Norman Panama wrote White Christmas and 1959’s Li’l Abner. He also directed the Hope and Crosby — with Joan Collins! — film The Road to Hong Kong.

This isn’t a great — or even alright — movie, but the TV lover in me appreciated it and found joy in discovering this buried moment in time.

Django the Bastard (1969)

Sergio Garrone made plenty of interesting films, like the George Eastman-starring Western Terrible Day of the Big Gundown, some gothic horrors with Kinski like Lover of the Monster and The Hand That Feeds the Dead and three different Django ripoffs, including A Noose for DjangoKill Django… Kill First and this movie.

This movie is more supernatural than Western, with this version of Django (Anthony Steffen, The Night Evelyn Came Out of Her Grave) a bloody avenger much like Kinski’s character in And God Said to Cain (which I coincidentally watched on the very same day).

Said to have influenced High Plains Drifter, this Django was killed by three Confederate officers who betrayed their own men. He’s dug his way out of the grave and out of the Great Beyond to plant crosses for them before he’s even killed them. Nothing will stop him — I mean, if death couldn’t, what hope do mortal men with their guns?

At the end of the film, the wife of his main villains (played by Rada Rassimov, the sister of steely-eyed giallo king Ivan) says that they have enough money now to live rich and happily ever after. Django replies that he won’t live forever and literally fades away, like the ghost he is. According to this article, she says, “What a lot of dollars, they’ll be enough for a life!” The answer? “I already had a life.” And again — he disappears.

The best part of the Django-named films is when you come across one that’s even better than you expected. This would be one of them.

You can watch this on Tubi.

Ehi Amico…c’è Sabata. Hai Chiuso! (1969)

That title translates as Hey buddy…That’s Sabata. You’re Finished! Gianfranco Parolini had gone from making Eurospy films to If You Meet Sartana Pray for Your Death, which was a success but the series ended up being given to director Giuliano Carnimeo.

Producer Alberto Grimaldi then got in touch with Parolini to make a new series. He had a great actor to star in it, too. Lee Van Cleef, whose work in Leone’s films is the stuff of legend. What may not be known to many is that a car crash in 1958 nearly cost the actor his life and career. He actually went into interior decorating with his second wife before getting back into movies three years later, but any time he rode a horse, he’d always be in great pain. That’s kind of amazing, because for someone so well-known for being a cowboy, he gutted through it to give us all these awesome roles. What can you say for a guy whose tombstone literally says, “Best of the bad?”

Sabata is basically a man who can’t be stopped. He can hit any target and has really no morals, which is a great combination for the Italian West. He carries a four-barreled derringer and a rifle that he uses to wipe out just about everyone he meets.

The one enemy that he doesn’t immediately kill is Banjo (William Berger), who keeps trying to play every side against each other. He also has a great weapon that he hides in the music instrument that lends him his name.

There’s drunk Civil War vet Carrincha, who throws knives at people, and his only friend, a Native American named Alley Cat who can escape anyone and is the master of acrobatics.

The bad guy here is named Stengel, one of the town’s leaders who is robbing the bank to buy a railroad. Sabata learns the secret and has to deal with thugs being sent his way for the rest of the film. Stengel has a dart gun in a cane, which is pretty awesome, and he’s played by Franco Ressel, who was in 121 movies, a resume which includes Hercules the AvengerBlood and Black LacePassword: Kill Agent Gordon, Have a Good Funeral, My Friend… Sartana Will Pay and Naked Girl Killed in the Park.

This movie is a blast — everything great about Sartana but with Lee Van Cleef as the hero instead of Gianni Garko (or George Hilton, George Martin, Jeff Cameron, William Berger, Hunt Powers, Johnny Garko, George Ardisson, Robert Widmark or the lack of anyone playing the role in a movie named Let’s Go And Kill Sartana).

You can watch this on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Me & Will (1999)

So, did you know . . . sandwiched between the ‘60s original and Phil Pitzer’s 2012 revisiting, Easy Rider: The Ride Back, there was another unofficial “sequel” to Easy Rider, which concentrates on a search for the famed Captain America chopper that appeared in Easy Rider? Never heard of it? It’s okay. No one did.

Be it an unintentional sequel or a loose remake—with a Thelma and Louise twist—of the counter-culture classic Easy Rider, there’s definitely a dash of another late 60’s cinematic classic, Midnight Cowboy, in these engine revs written and directed by its stars, Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr. (Another Easy Rider-inspired biker-epic, the better known Roadside Prophets, made in the early 90’s with John Doe, the bassist and singer from X, and a Beastie Boy, may even come to mind as the story unfolds.)

Told from the point of view of Jane (the “me”), a hard-living aspiring writer, she meets an equally burnt-out artist-cum-party girl named Will in an L.A. drug rehab clinic. After watching a late-night showing of Easy Rider on TV, Jane (Sherri Rose) and Will (Melissa Behr, aka “Doll Chick” from Bad Channels and its sequel, Dollman vs. Demonic Toys) decide to make like Wyatt and Billy and break out of rehab to embark on a trip to find the legendary chopper ridden by Peter Fonda—which is rumored to still exist in the city of Willsall, Montana.

As the road trip unfolds, Jane and Will meet the usual cross section of bikers, hippies, burnt-out garage mechanics, psycho waitresses, abused women, and abusive cops—as well as the rock bands Space Age Playboys (yes! Kory Clarke and Warrior Soul!) and Keanu Reeves’s band Dogstar. (I played Dogstar on the radio and went to their shows back in the ’90s; they were a solid indie, alt-rock band and not the “actor-gimmick” they were smarmy-labeled.)

What helps this lost bikers-searching-for-their-souls flick is the cast featuring those actors we care about at B&S About Movies: Seymour Cassel (Trees Lounge), M. Emmet Walsh (Escape from the Planet of the Apes), Steve Railsback (Lifeforce), and Grace Zabriskie (Galaxy of Terror). (Oh, shite: she was also George’s mother-in-law on Seinfeld. Sorry, Sam.) And keep your eyes open for Johnny Whitworth (Empire Records), William E. Wirth (The Lost Boys), and Tracy Lords (Shock ’em Dead).

Oh, and Jane’s boyfriend, Fast Eddie, is Patrick Dempsey (the ’80s cable comedy-classic Can’t Buy Me Love and “McDreamy” from TV’s Grey’s Anatomy). Of course, when Grey’s Anatomy became a ratings juggernaut—and as with Katherine Hegyl’s equally unknown 2006’s Zyzzyx Road—the DVD reissues of Me & Will feature Dempsey front and center—with Rose and Behr kicked to the curb.

In addition to the ‘Playboys and Dogstar appearing on the soundtrack, there’s music by Dwight Yoakam, Josh Clayton, formerly from School of Fish (remembered for their ’90s hit, “Three Strange Days”), in addition to classic tracks by the Doors and a solo-bound Mick Jagger. Matt Sorum of the Cult/Guns n’ Roses scored the film—with a guitar-style that almost leaves it feeling like a Tangerine Dream-scored film (Thief comes to mind, IMO), sans the synths and moogs.

To dismiss Me & Will as a vanity-driven “female Easy Rider” and to be alpha-male ruffled by its “female empowerment” message is a chauvinistic disservice to Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr’s efforts to dissuade the film from disintegrating into a hail of bullets of a gone-wrong crime caper, ala the somewhat similar Don Johnson and Mickey Rourke buddy-biker action flick, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man (1991).

Me & Will is a gallant effort; a heart-felt, solid indie-film and Rose and Behr certainly deserved better than their exploitation resumes allow. And kudos to Columbia Pictures giving their blessings and not having the proceedings degrade into the legalese haze of Phil Pitzer’s not-as-bad-as-they-say Easy Rider homage. You can watch Me & Will as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTv or without ads on You Tube.

So, as with Phil Pitzer’s Easy Rider: The Ride Black: Me & Will is an alright effort. So do Sherri Rose and Melissa Behr a solid and support indie film by streaming the ad-stream version on TubiTV, will ya?

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

Easy Rider: The Ride Back (2012)

So . . . did you you know Easy Rider was followed forty years later by an unofficial sequel? It’s okay. No one does. . . .

The existential subtext and counterculture viewpoints (somewhat) of the original are lost . . . somewhere on a dusty, Baja road in this “sequel” (also working as a prequel) that explores the family history of Peter Fonda’s character Wyatt “Captain America” Williams through the eyes of his older brother, Morgan: a pot-distributing, Vietnam war deserter and custom jewelry-designer (specializing in Maltese crosses; not for the reasons you think, the eventual reveal is a clever trick-of-the-script) living in luxurious solitude on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

The drama and struggles center around Morgan’s cycle-lovin’ family friend, West Coast (Jeff Fahey of The Lawnmower Man, Psycho III), Williams sister Shane (Sheree J. Wilson of TV’s Dallas and as Alex Cahill on Walker, Texas Ranger; she also produces), and her wealthy-hubby (Michael Nouri of Flashdance) as it flashes to and fro from the 1940s to the present, concerned with Wyatt’s brother, Morgan (Phil Pitzer) visiting his dying, disapproving father. So, along with West as his “Billy,” Morgan mounts Wyatt’s Captain American chopper, which he recovered back in ’69 and restored, slaps on his brother’s old leathers, and takes a “ride back” to bury those family demons.

Of course, when it comes to making a sequel, the smart bet is to file legal actions against Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the producers of the original through their Raybert Productions (the force behind The Monkees TV series), to block them from reclaiming their expired film rights. And don’t bring back any of the original’s cast or crew. And cavet those emptor for the ol’ home video bait n’ switch: courtesy of the flashing-back-and-forth, Fahey, Wilson, and Nouri are the marquee-stars, but only here as supporting characters. This show belongs to Phil Pitzer and Chris Engen (as the young, troubled third-brother Virgil; who despite his bigger role, is bumped off the marquee).

So goes this vanity-vision by producer and screenwriter Phil Pitzer, a former lawyer who, with a desire to enter the film industry with a bang, manipulated legal loopholes to get sequel rights. His co-writer and director, Dustin Rikert, fared better: his names pops up as a producer and director on a slew of telefilms broadcast on the Hallmark, Lifetime, and Syfy channels. Their Easy Rider part deux was initially completed in 2009 and appears in filmpedias with that release date; however, by the time it went through the festival circuits and film markets for distribution, it was formally released in 2012.

So, is Easy Rider: The Ride Back the most-unwanted-not-a-sequel since the days of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (which I really like) or House II: The Second Story (which I didn’t) or House III: The Horror Show (which I did, because well, it’s a friggin’ Lance Henriksen and Brion James movie)? And is stuffy ol’ Leonard Maltin—who hates everything the B&S About Movies crew likes—justified in calling the Pitzer’s effort “a staggeringly bad, cash-in bomb,” solely based on Pitzer’s clandestine legal maneuvers?

Eh, well . . . to Pitzer’s credit: He does, as you can see, resemble Fonda, so it lends to the credibility that he’s Wyatt’s brother, as well as “being” Wyatt in flashbacks that lend to the film-to-film continuity. All of the bikes (especially Wyatt’s chopper reproduction) and time-period designs (props, costumes, cars, etc.) are correct, the Korean war sequences are well-shot, and the cinematography by Brian Lataille (videos for Incubus and Linkin Park), while not up to the László Kovács-standard in the original, is pretty solid. And yes, as with any indie, flick: there’s a few strained thepsin’ moments. So, while it’s not exactly Easy Rider, Pitzer’s effort is not a Tommy Wiseau (or Neal Breen) biker joint as some threaders and reviews claim. No, it’s definitely not The Room on wheels” as some have said.

While the flashbacks and bike-riding interludes of Morgan’s and West Coast’s contemplations (most in voice overs as majestic “post-card moments” unfold) about life, e.g., homelessness and hunger, ecology, the meaning of patriotism and true freedom, make the film seem a bit longer than its 90-minute running time, Pitzer nonetheless crafted well-rounded characters for his actors to sink their thespin’ teeth into. He also developed a compelling “history” for an initially ambiguous, metaphorical-drifting character. So kudos to Pitzer for giving a structured “focus” to a film that was admittedly an “out of focus,” scriptless-improv in the first place (that Fonda and Hopper openly admitted in interviews).

And besides: I always enjoy seeing senior actors (e.g., the recently-released Nana’s Secret Recipe) given meaty roles and, to that end: Newell Alexander (who’s career goes back to the ’70s TV series Barnaby Jones and Battlestar Galactica ’79, The Kentucky Fried Movie; he also appeared in Walker, Texas Ranger with Sheree) and Ron Howard’s pop, Rance (The Andy Griffith Show, Grand Theft Auto, and Cotton Candy) are both excellent in their roles as Poppa Williams and his ol’ hog-riding Korean War war buddy, so much so, you’d like to see more of them in the film.

All in all, despite Leonard Maltin and the Internet hoards of war, Easy Rider: The Ride Back it’s not as Wiseauian bad as they’ll lead you to believe. (The same arguement we had with our review of Jeremy Saville’s radio dramedy, Loqueesha). And for those who have stated Phil Pitzer “thankfully, has never made another movie” and “hasn’t made another movie since”: Phil produced the upcoming Cannes Without a Plan (2021), the third writing-directing effort from Julie Simone Robb (NBC-TV’s Homicide: Life on the Street) that also stars Pitzer’s The Ride Back cast member, Jodie Fisher (of Charles Band’s Blood Dolls).

Courtesy of a new distribution deal with retro-imprint Kino Loeber, Easy Rider: The Ride Back is available worldwide as 2019-issued Blu and DVD and VOD stream on Amazon Prime and You Tube Movies. Yeah, you’ll find that errant You Tube freebie (you know you look there and TubiTV first before you buy), but do Phil Pitzer a solid and support indie film, will ya? Pay for it, okay?

Like Kowalski said in Vanishing Point: “Fuck the man!” Keep on making movies, Phil. You’re alright, kid. . . .

So, did you know . . . sandwiched between the ‘60s original and Phil Pitzer’s 2012 revisiting, Easy Rider: The Ride Back, there was another unofficial “sequel,” which concentrates on a search for the famed Captain America chopper that appeared in Easy Rider? Never heard of it? It’s okay. No one did. Join us at 3 pm for more tales from the fast and the furious . . . with Me & Will.

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

The Existential and the Furious: Part 3: Vanishing Point (1971)

Author’s Note: Yeah, we know you’ve seen them before and know them well. But we’ve got some movie “Easter Eggs” in these reviews. Thanks for revisiting the classics with the B&S gang, where we coddle the obscure and the forgotten films of the VHS, UHF, and Drive-In yesteryears.

This 20th Century Fox tale reminds a lot of Elektra Glide in Blue, United Artists’ 1973 existential road flick entry about a disgraced biker-cop (Robert Blake) produced-directed by James William Guercio, who managed and performed with the Beach Boys and produced several albums for ’70s pop-meisters Chicago (who appear in the film). We also had Vanishing Point on the short list for “Radio Week,”* thanks to Cleavon Little’s blind DJ. While it was bumped for that week—but it’s prime fodder for “Fast and Furious Week.” Thank god for Dodge Chargers. . . .

Kowalski (Barry Newman) is a Vietnam veteran, disgraced ex-cop and former professional road racer of motorcycles and stock cars. To cope with his personal demons, he lives on the open road as a driver for a car delivery service. Before heading out on his next assignment—transporting a supercharged 1970 Dodge Challenger from Denver to San Francisco—he scores a hit of speed and makes a bet with his drug-pusher that he can make the trip in 15 hours.

As the police follow in hot pursuit, Kowalski becomes a folk hero to the roadside eccentrics and Vietnam-war worn masses, thanks to the on-air updates of the cross country chase by a blind DJ “Supersoul” (Cleavon “The Prince of Darkness” Little of FM) on KOW, an 50,000-watt R&B/Soul station broadcasting across Nevada, Utah and parts of Colorado and California. (Little’s engineer—an unaccredited role—is John Amos of TVs Good Times, but youngins know him for his work in Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Coming to America.) (And, is it just me, or is Outside Ozona a slasher version of Vanishing Point? That’s not critical insult, but a kudos.)

Yeah, we love this movie, but this movie also really wants to be the next Easy Rider, with its replacement of Steppenwolf by way of the equally biker-acceptable Mountain with “Mississippi Queen,” along with the counterculture band Delaney, Bonnie & Friends (see the history of Eric Clapton and Fleetwood Mac), who also appear in the film as a singing group at a religious revival caravan.

There’s no online streams, but Blus, DVDs, and used VHS-tapes are available on Amazon to watch Vanishing Point. . . .

So, we teased you about the two “sequels” to Easy Rider . . . but did you know their was a remake to Vanishing Point? It’s okay. No one does. Join us tomorrow, August 7 at 6 pm, for more tales of the fast and the furious . . . and the vanishing . . . with Vanishing Point ’97.

How much is this film loved? It has die-cast cars!

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

The Existential and the Furious: Part 2: Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Author’s Note: Yeah, we know you’ve seen them before and know them well. But we’ve got some movie “Easter Eggs” in these reviews. Thanks for revisiting the classics with the B&S gang, where we coddle the obscure and the forgotten films of the VHS, UHF, and Drive-In yesteryears.

This Universal Studios tale in which the bikes of Easy Rider meet the Dodge Challenger of Vanishing Point was on the short-list for our “Rock ‘n’ Roll Week” tribute (ran Sunday, July 19 to Saturday, July 25) of films as result of ex-Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson starring as the “Mechanic” and ‘70s soft rocker James Taylor as the “Driver.”

But wait! There’s those celluloid bonus points, since this is directed by Monte Hellman, who made his directorial debut with Roger Corman’s Beast from Haunted Cave (1959)—a relationship that lasted for several films over fifteen years. And Hellman gave us Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out (another “unwanted sequel,” ala Phil Pitzer’s Easy Rider: The Ride Back, that’s actually better than you think, as result of the Hellman touch), and he executive-produced Reservoir Dogs. So, courtesy of that Corman lineage, Hellman’s not giving you a typical Universal picture. This is an A.I.P-styled romp that’s not for the mainstream cinema folks.

As with Wyatt and Billy’s biker travels, Two-Lane Blacktop is an existential road trip into metaphorical ambiguity—only from inside the cockpit of a Black 1955 Chevy 150. Unlike most major studio buddy-road adventures, this one’s void of exposition to the point of silence: the Chevy’s passengers are perfunctory to the story, operating more like “parts” to the car than actual people.

As the stoic duo travels across country entering impromptu and legalized dragstrip races, they pick up the hitchhiking “Girl” (Laurie Bird, who became Hellman’s girlfriend), meet a homosexual hitchhiker (Harry Dean Stanton, later of Alien and Repo Man), and a New Mexico to Washington D.C. “pink slip” challenge is made by “GTO” (Warren Oates), an insecure braggart who discover a vicarious purpose through the freedom-lives of the Chevy’s “internal parts.”

Regardless of its rock-star casting, neither Wilson nor Taylor provide music to the film and no Easy Rider-styled soundtrack was ever released. The film does, however, features songs by the Doors, Arlo Guthrie, and Kris Kristofferson. Lori Bird, in a James Dean-tragic life, only made three films: two with Hellman, the other being Roger Corman’s Cockfighter (1974; also with Warren Oates), and in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977; as the girlfriend to Paul Simon’s character). Coming to live with Simon’s musical partner, Art Garfunkel, she committing suicide-by-pills in his apartment at the age of 26.

There’s no online streams, but Blus and DVDs (co-issued by Universal through Criterion Collection and Anchor Bay) and used VHS-tapes are to be found on Amazon.

My buddy Eric, as with Easy Rider, takes me to task with this movie as well: “Duke, your idea of “classics” sucks ass,” he tells me. According to him—a car nut, mind you—”nothing happens.” “It’s like watching a stoner version of Seinsuck.” (Sorry, Sam!)

Friends and film, huh? It’s not so bad: chicks and film is worse.

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

UPDATE: Out in the social media ethers, reader Jake Garrett schooled us on this fun car flick fact: The ’55 Chevy in Two-Lane Blacktop is the same car as Bob Falfa’s in American Graffiti. Did you know that? We didn’t. Hey, we’re big enough to admit that we don’t know all of the film trivia out there. Thanks, Jake!

The Existential and the Furious: Part 1: Easy Rider (1969)

Author’s Note: Yeah, we know you’ve seen them before and know them well. But we’ve got some movie “Easter Eggs” in these reviews. Thanks for revisiting the classics with the B&S gang, where we coddle the obscure and the forgotten films of the VHS, UHF, and Drive-In yesteryears.

While The Fast and the Furious franchise began as crime caper flicks that transitioned into spy flicks of the xXx variety, there’s no denying Universal Studios’ “big engine” is rooted in the rock ‘n’ hot-roddin’ juvenile delinquency flicks of the ’50 (we have a “Drive-In Friday” night this week covering a few of those films), the biker-centric counterculture flicks of the ’60s, and revin’-car flicks from the ’70s (reviews for a whole bunch o’ them this week!).

For long before the good intentions of Paul Walker’s LAPD officer Brian O’Conner’s law-enforcement soul was drugged with the scent well-weathered leather, hot metal and oil, and the scent of a Mitsubishi’s exhaust (R.I.P., Mr. Peart), Easy Rider was the godfather of them all—and that celluloid patriarch brought forth two sons. . . . And those sons were fruitful and multiplied with the ’70s “big engines” of Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (also starring Peter Fonda) and Gone in 60 Seconds (no, not that one, the 1974 one!).

In between, there was this cop movie called Bullit that starred some guy named Steve McQueen toolin’ around in a 1968 Mustang Fastback going head-to-head with a 1968 440 Magnum Dodge Charger. And they slipped “The Duke” (of all people) into the cockpit of a souped-up 1973 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am “Green Hornet” in McQ. But we were diggin’ Roy Scheider in his 1973 Pontiac Ventura Sprint in The Seven-Ups. And let us not forget: Producer Philip D’Antoni is the guru of rubber who gave us memorable car chase sequences in not only The Seven-Ups and Bullit, but The French Connection, as well. Then, for a twist, instead of a souped-up muscle car, Robert Blake slipped onto a 1970 Harley touring cycle for the “motorcycle cop” version of Easy Rider: 1973’s Electra Glide in Blue.

Released in 1969, Easy Rider became a counterculture epic that set the pace for the early ‘70s car chase classics to come: Two-Lane Blacktop and Vanishing Point (as well as Electra Glide in Blue)—regardless of the transportation and “mission” of their protagonists’ “trips,” each film equated the open road with freedom of the soul.

Wyatt and Billy (Peter Fonda, who became a biker icon courtesy of Roger Corman’s 1966 biker epic, The Wild Angels, and Dennis Hopper, who was able to get financing for his 1971 ego-boondoggle The Last Movie as result of Columbia Studios raking in $60 million worldwide on a $400,000 budget) embark on a western-without-horses motorcycle trip across America from California to New Orleans for a drug deal (instead of gold prospecting or stage coach robbing). Along the way to make their “big score” they meet up with communal hippies (in lieu of Indians), partake of drugs and sex, and frolic about New Orleans (in lieu of say, Dodge City, Kansas, or Virginia City, Nevada) in a Seinfeldian “a movie about nothing” existence (sorry, Sam; quoting my buddy Eric’s take on the movie)—and it all comes to an end by way of the ubiquitous, hippy-hatin’ rednecks (the Indians got ’em).

Jack Nicholson stars as Wyatt and Billy’s gold-football helmeted sidekick: ACLU lawyer and jail cellmate, George Hanson (the trio first collaborated on The Trip, Roger Corman’s 1967 stoner flick written by Nicholson; who did his own biker flick, 1967’s Rebel Rousers, which was released post-Easy Rider fame, in 1970), music Svengali Phil Spector (The Big T.N.T Show) stars as “The Connection,” and future MTV video queen Toni Basil (“Hey, Mickey!”) also appears in a minor role (she worked with Nicholson on the Monkees’ Head). The soundtrack—inspired by the successful use of pop and rock music for 1967’s The Graduate— features music by Steppenwolf (who also provided music to another psychedelic film, 1969’s Candy), the Band, the Byrds, and Jimi Hendrix.

You can watch this everywhere, pretty much, but it streams on Amazon Prime.

Ah, Easter Eggs: So, did you know Easy Rider was followed forty years later by an unofficial sequel? Two, in fact. It’s okay. No one does. Join us tomorrow at 12 noon and 3 pm for more tales of the fast and the furious . . . with Easy Rider: The Ride Back and Me & Will.

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