Monday, November 8, 2010

Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

Title: Werewolves on Wheels (1971)

Director: Michel Levesque


Werewolves on Wheels was one of the movies I wanted to talk about on a recent article I collaborated on called Werewolves of the Blogosphere! Sadly, I didn’t get to watch it in time, and I had to post the article without my thoughts on this film. But I finally gave Werewolves on Wheels a watch. I thought to myself that if this movie was half as fun as its title and its poster implied that I should be in for a fun time. Was I right?

Werewolves on Wheels is the story of a biker gang called The Devils Advocates that goes around stealing, harassing, beating up and destroying as much as they can in their cross country adventures. You know, your regular Hell’s Angels type of biker gang. So these guys basically don’t give a crap about anything, they spend most of their time running around their bikes, drunks or high on cocaine, searching for their next big thrill. One day the stumble upon a strange monastery where hooded monks worship Satan himself. The bikers think it’s all a joke, and partake in a ritual that makes them all pass out unconscious. While they are unconscious, the hooded monks take one of their biker chicks named Helena and decide to sacrifice her to Satan. Of course, when the bikers wake up they don’t like the sound of that, so they thrash the monastery and kill many of the hooded monks and manage to escape! Unfortunately, the joke is on the bikers. Unbeknownst to them, Helena has now been turned into a werewolf! How long before she kills?

So this movie starts out with an interesting premise. I liked the idea of a pack of werewolves riding their bikes around town under the full moon. There’s something very rock and rollish about the whole idea behind these werewolf bikers. And I loved the satanic angle! The satanic ritual that takes place in the monastery was a highlight of the film for me, these scenes have that artsy fartsy kind of vibe to them that only a satanic movie from the 70’s can have. Very surreal in nature, very edgy and very abstract at times. There is this awesome sequence in which Helena dances for Satan naked with a snake in her hand, I got flashbacks of Salma Hayek as Santanico Pandemonium in From Dusk Till Dawn (1994). If only the movie kept being as interesting as this. Sadly, for me, this movie lost it’s steam quickly after its monastery sequences.

If only more of the film had been like this!

The problem for me with Werewolf on Wheels was that it didn’t live up to it’s premise. After the biker gang leaves the monastery the film turned really dull for me. The werewolf angle was incredibly downplayed, we don’t really get a good look at the werewolves, and that to me is a sign of a film that either didn’t have enough budget for its make up requirements, or the director wasn’t happy with the final result, so he hides his creatures in shadows. I don’t know what the case was, but we only get to have a really good look at the werewolves in the last 10 minutes of the film. Seeing a werewolf in biker gear made me wish more of the film had been like this! Unfortunately, it’s the kind of movie that never really satisfies. The werewolves are kept off camera or hidden in shadows for most of the film. Too bad, because had the filmmakers had the guts to show the werewolves a bit more, and taking its premise as far as they could, we might have had a real fun film in our hands.

Werewolves on Wheels seemed more concerned with the ‘wheels’ part of its title, as we get scene upon endless scene of guys riding their motorcycles across the U.S.A. In this I will say the film succeeded. A lot of the scenes with the bikers riding in the American landscape turned out really beautiful to look at. The thing is, that afer a while, a lot of the scenes with the bikers going cross country felt like padding, like filler. No matter how beautiful they looked. Still, I’m pretty sure that bikers across the world love this movie and hold it in high regard. Hell, it feels like a mixture between The Devils Rain (1975), Easy Rider (1969) and The Wolfman (1945). It captures that feeling of freedom I imagine one would get from riding a motorcycle across the country. This is why bikers are usually associated with rebellious and subversive tendencies, with a motorcycle you are always in movement, running fast. If someone is going to catch you, they are going to have to give it a good try. So this movie captures that way of life, riding around town harassing people, stealing gasoline, always hanging out in a packs, always together. Supposedly the filmmakers used real bikers on this movie as it was being shot. So if a lot of the behavior and lifestyle captured on Werewolves on Wheels feels very genuine, it’s because it is. By the way, a lot of the footage of the bikers riding their bikes feels like a documentary.

Unfortunately, the horror side is downplayed, and that’s where the movie disappointed me. In order for this movie to succeed, it needed to be both a good werewolf movie and a good biker movie. As it is, its werewolf side is next to non existent in my book. Seeing this movie made me think that an updated version of it would work wonders. A remake could take more advantage of the werewolf angle, augment it a bit more. As it is, this movie feels half assed on all accounts. There is this scene where one of the bikers is named “movie” and all the bikers start yelling “where are you movie? Where did movie go? Mooovie!” and by this point I was asking myself the very same question. Maybe this was the filmmakers way of showing how they really felt about the movie they were making? After a while, Werewolves on Wheels felt like it was going nowhere, pointless and without direction. It had a good premise, but didn’t play it out they way it should have. It didn’t take advantage of its themes. Instead it feels like the filmmakers ran out of steam as they were shooting. So much so that the film simply ends without really answering all its questions or bringing any kind of finality to their plot points. Some might think that the films abrupt end was to leave it open for a sequel, but it feels like the filmmakers just didn’t give a damn anymore…

Rating: 2 out of 5

Werewolves on WheelsThe Devil's RainEasy Rider (Special Edition)Easy Rider [Blu-ray]


Mr. Fiendish said...

This movie is definitely more a cool title than a cool movie. I found it pretty boring for the most part, but I still liked the satanic ritual and the ending with the werewolves going crazy on the bikes.
let's do the remake ourselves, we'll keep the bikers and satanic sex and put more cheesy werewolf action

venoms5 said...

I never cared all that much for this one, either. Back then, though, a movie's title, or even a made up poster could sell the flick before a script had even been written.

I'd love to see that kind of thing come back again.

Aaron said...

This is one of my favorite movies of all time. I adore WWOW. A lot of people dislike it because they're led to believe that it's a werewolf film, only to be disappointed for the obvious reasons. When I first saw this, I knew there weren't going to be any werewolves until the end of the movie, so it didn't bother me that much. I see it strictly as a Biker film, and it's a great example of the genre, in my opinion. I love the soundtrack, the desert setting, and the general weirdness of it all. And yes, the "where's movie?" line was an inside joke that the filmmakers threw in there.

Franco Macabro said...

@Mr. Fiendish: I liked the Satanic Ritual as well. I seriously think that Tarantino and Rodriguez saw this movie and were inspired by it to shoot that Santanico Pandemonium dance in From Dusk Till Dawn. I mean, the chicks dancing with a snake, only this movie had the balls to have the girl dance naked.

@Venom5: They migh as well have called it "The Devils Advocates" (the gangs name in the film) and it would have made more sense, but I guess putting the werewolf element on it sold more tickets. Cool poster though, its kind of cartoony, which at the same time is also misleading. For some reason, I was expecting a funny film. When I saw the film wasnt funny at all, I was like "oh, I see" Both poster and title are misleading in a way. They lead you to believe you are going to be watching some other kind of film.

@Aaron: Hey Aaron, just out of curiosity, are you a biker?

As a biker film, it delivers. But, as a werewolf film it doesnt. It should have been equally good on both sides, the werewolf and the biker side.

Thanks for commenting people!

Aaron said...

Haha, no I'm not a biker. I just have an obsession with biker movies from the 60s and 70s.

Cal said...

heard a lot of great things about this movie but never realy faniced it me self

I Like Horror Movies said...

I consider this one a biker movie with werewolves in it, not a werewolf movie with bikers in it. For what it is, the cinematography surprised me more than anything else. A solid D in my book, entertaining for what it is, but nothing special.

Franco Macabro said...

@youngblood: its beautiful to look at in certain moments, but if you want werewolves, you'll have to wait a long time to see them! It does have a psychodelic satanic ritual that was interesting, but everything else felt like filler for me.

@Carl: Thats a good description for this movie Carl!


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