Trash or Treasure: Werewolves On Wheels (1971)

Vrroom Vrroom!! Grr Grr!! Boom Boom!!

“One person’s Trash is another person’s Treasure”, but with so much stuff out there how will you ever know which is which? Well, just follow the Raggedyman as he uses his extensive experience of watching practically anything that crosses his path to sieve through the old, the obscure, and the just plain odd so you don’t have to. Take his hand as he leads you through cult classics, underground favourites, forgotten wonders, and new discoveries to let you know if it’s celluloid Trash or hidden Treasure.

When you go looking for a werewolf movie and discover there is one called “Werewolves on wheels”, that pitches itself as a cross between Sons of Anarchy, The Devil’s Rain and Easy Rider, there really is no option but to watch it. And, after sitting through these particular 85 minutes of 1971 low budget horror, I can happily confirm that it’s the finest weird-west satanic-horror biker-gang lycanthrope road-movie I’ve ever seen. Then again, writer and director Michel Levesque doesn’t exactly have much competition in those stakes – which makes it a shame that there are a lot of nice ideas without enough solid execution.

“Dear lord, that’s just not how you arrange petunias!”

Things start promisingly enough, with a gang of bikers doing fairly generic biker gang things to the sort of decent townsfolk who would never look at a motorbike. Led by Stephen Oliver as Adam The Leader, with D.J. Anderson as Helen The Leader’s Girl and Deuce Barry as Tarot The Strange One, the gang thunder around the desert to a rather catchy Southern Country Rock soundtrack, being surprisingly egalitarian about gender politics and the usage of violence, whilst being unsurprisingly Altamont Free Festival about sex and drugs. Then they find a Sinister Temple in the middle of the desert, drop acid, take all the food and drink the Sinisterly Cowled Monks give them, break up the monks’ satanic ritual and hit the road again. Because that’s just what you do for an afternoon if you’re one of those types.

Snake works hard for her money

Things take a turn for the worse (well, for the bikers) when the audience find out that one of the gang is now a flesh-eating werewolf, and people start getting eaten through a series of cheap but heartfelt attacks. They are fairly low gore, but there is plenty of tension and a couple of heads rolled around to make it work in the attack sequences. Somehow, this is also where the movie goes a bit naff, as the gang are too stupid to work out what’s happening and the director too intent on going all experimental and art house. Weird camera angles, plot diversions, discussions on the plight of Native Americans, and the kind of skulduggery that Mr Bean could see through, all get in the way of untethered body parts flying around with gay abandon. It has to be said that a lot of the ideas themselves are nice, but they feel very much like filler that could have been avoided if the gang just had a couple more members wearing suspiciously all-red jackets.

“It was a bit chilly, so I thought a fire would bit nice”

Thankfully, the final act manages to bring things back into order through the classic high-cinema technique of killing people, setting people and bikes on fire, and having things randomly explode. The last 20 minutes are crammed full of genuinely tense and trippy moments that are just irritating at this point as it mocks you by going “this is what you could have won!”, and an ending that none of those watching saw coming.

“Did I leave the gas on?”

Overall, it’s an interesting concept with some grand moments, but all together committed the crime of being a bit dull, with sequences that either taste like cliché filler, or are so out of nowhere that everyone was just pissing around to bulk out the run time. There is some production curiosity as it was shot in 16 days and most of the gang are actual bikers who got roped in, giving it a certain experimental reality feel, or you could just read the IMDB trivia page. At most, it’s maybe worth watching so you can say you’ve seen it but, overall, it’s a disappointing curiosity that ends up in the Trash pile.

The Raggedyman

You can watch Werewolves on Wheels over on Shudder right now!