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HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS

title: HELLS ANGELS ON WHEELS
year: 1967
cast: Adam Roarke, Jack Nicholson, Sabrina Scharf, Jack Starrett, Jana Taylor
rating: ***1/2

A young pre-EASY RIDER Jack Nicholson delivers a terrifically subtle performance as a passive gas station attendant joining ranks with the Hell's Angels, but the real credit goes to Adam Roarke, a cult actor who appeared in other underdog classics such as FROGS and DIRTY LARRY CRAZY MARY, and how natural he is on screen. While he's not big and burly, his slowburn, devil-may-care attitude is just right here: a wily cockiness making him the perfect centerpiece of a biker movie that delivers much more (thanks to director Richard Rush and cinematographer Laslo Kovacs) than you'd expect from the usually vapid genre. After a beautifully shot opening credit sequence involving the hogs cruising down the open highway, and then barraging into a small town, the real story develops through Nicholson's character getting more involved with the nefarious rollers. A developing romance between Jack and free-loving Sabrina Scharf adds a legitimate love story that doesn't slow down the pace. And the fact she still digs Roarke, no matter how many other chicks he enjoys on the side, makes our vulnerable protagonist realize how the biker life might not be for him. This is the epitome of a low-budget drive-in flick with everything: including some pretty risque scenes (and situations) for the time which, although was quite normal in the biker culture, still had a few years to catch up on screen.
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