Michel Levesque, 1971
Starring: Stephen Oliver, D.J. Anderson, Deuce Barry
The Devil’s Advocates, a biker gang, are traveling across the desert when they decide to spend the night at an old church. Unfortunately for them, the church is home to a group of Satan worshipping monks. The monks give them drugged food and the bikers pass out. They wake up to their leader’s girlfriend doing a strange, satanic dance and she is secretly transformed into a werewolf. Soon she begins infecting members of the gang and it becomes an all out battle between human bikers and werewolves.
Werewolves on Wheels and its British satanic biker counterpart, Psychomania, are two of my favorite ‘70s horror/exploitation films. Two of my favorite subgenres, outlaw biker exploitation films and satanic horror, are spliced together for a delightful hour and a half romp full of naked ladies, drug use, motorcycles, satanic monks, occult rituals, and the best ‘70s werewolves this side of Paul Naschy.
The film is not perfect, though its flaws are endearing and anyone who loves ‘70s exploitation cinema will be able to ignore them, if not outright embrace them. Director and writer Michel Levesque got his start as art director on a number of Russ Meyer’s films and there is a certainly similarity here. This is far more exploitation than horror and though there is a little gore, it isn’t excessive. The second half is far slower than the first and unfortunately we don’t really see the werewolves till just before the end of the film. With that said, they look great and lovely creature design makes me wish we saw a bit more of them.
The satanic rituals are excellent - better than most B-grade satanic horror from the period - and it’s a shame more wasn’t done with them later in the film. There’s also a wonderful scene with Donna Anders (Count Yorga, Vampire) doing a sexy, satanic dance with a skull and a snake while the rest of the bikers are dosed with LSD, resulting in one very interesting evening. It’s script ideas like these that make me wish the ‘70s were alive and well, minus the hippies of course.
Though this is a pretty run of the mill exploitation film with a basic script, there’s some wonderful cinematography from Isidore Mankofsky (Better Off Dead) of the desert and a fantastic score from Don Gere. The psychedelic blend of rock, country, blues, and folk is equally as memorable as the film, if not more so. Listen here.
The acting is about what you would expect from a movie called Werewolves on Wheels. Stephen Oliver (Motor Psycho) is decent as the gang’s leader and some other genre regulars make appearances, such as D.J. Anderson aka Donna Anders (Count Yorga), Gene Shane (The Velvet Vampire), and Severn Darden (Battle for the Planet of the Apes) even makes an appearance as the amazing leader of the satanic monks. William Gray (The Day the Earth Stood Still), in addition to acting in the film, was a motorcycle collector in real life. The cast was rounded out with some real bikers, who do little other than ride their motorcycles around and try to look tough. They mostly accomplish this, despite the fact that the bikers are pretty friendly as far as exploitation characters are concerned.
Werewolves on Wheels comes highly recommended and is the pinnacle of satanic-fusion cinema in the ‘70s, at least on this side of the Atlantic. There’s a nice DVD from Dark Sky, which includes some great special features, namely a commentary track from Levesque and a few others.