Monday, March 3, 2014

DEATH RIDERS (1976)




For the Cult Cinema Drive in 200 Movie Box set I am currently working through I just pick a disc at random and go from there. Sure, it comes with a little booklet that gives a brief synopsis, but what would be the fun in that. I saw the title, DEATH RIDERS, and thought it would be pretty cool.
I was right, but not in the way I thought.
DEATH RIDERS is a documentary that chronicles the 1974 tour of The Death Riders Thrillseeking Motorcycle Show. You have a group of youngsters  no more than 20 going across the country from state to state doing what they do best.
Crazy ass stunts.
What makes a motorcycle jump or car crash even better?
Setting things on fire, that's what.
I would have been twelve when they came through Van Buren County. Yes, they show the fairgrounds sign in the movie. I probably saw something like this if not that show.
Very cool.
I did think it was funny that they manages to capture the true exploitative feel of the times with some nudity. How, you may ask? They did a show at a nudist colony. Sure, some of these people needed to put their clothes back on, but it was all in good fun.
Now, with stunts involving fire and motorcycles and cars you expect something tragic to occur.
Never happens.
The movie does open with a list of former members who lost their lives and in what stunt it was. That kind of makes you a little nervous when one of the new members does the stunt.
But, with all of this there is the one stunt that I can't believe they do at every show and there are a ton of volunteers for.
They do a motorcycle jump from a two foot ramp over people from the audience!
Sure, I know what you're thinking. That wouldn't be that bad. You can jump a few people pretty safely, right? But what if the ramp broke and you plowed right through those people on your bike? Plus, a few people would have been a comfort. The end of the film had one of the guys jump forty-five people.
Yeah, you read that right.
Forty-Five People.
Yeesh!
In the end you get a documentary that feels so honest and pure. It is a perfect time capsule of 1974 through the eyes of master camerman Vilmos Zsigmond. Yeah, you read that right, too. The guy that gave us things like Sugarland Express and Close Encounters of the Third Kind spent a summer following a group of kids doing crazy stuff and got some great shots of it all.
This is a sweet film of a time that is lost forever and it shows how much fun people were having being crazy way before something over polished like Nitro Circus ever even thought of it.
This is my favorite film in the box set so far.

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