The Hellcats

June 6, 2011 at 1:03 am (4 Heads, Hellcats, The) (, , , )

The Hellcats – 1968 – United States

I dig biker flicks. Outcast dudes/dames and open road freedom enthrall me. Herschell Gordon Lewis’ She-Devils on Wheels (1968) is a favorite, along with High Desert (1993)—so obscure it isn’t on IMDB. It’s a rather miraculous feat that The Hellcats takes this lively subject and saps out all its life.

After a highly uncool soft-pop Beach Boys-esque theme song, drug-running bikers and their mobster cohorts assassinate a narc. Fueled by vengeance, the narc’s wife and brother infiltrate the gang, meeting Six Pack the lush, eye-patched Cyclops, boss Snake, and other zany characters. Between infrequent heroin smuggling, the gang endlessly parties, dancing and pouring beers over their heads. The monotony breaks only occasionally for (terribly choreographed) chain fights, dragging folks behind bikes, and other savagery. The narc’s wife is a prude, but the brother becomes increasingly enamored with the biker lifestyle, even shagging a biker chick in the name of “duty”. Eventually, plot occurs as the infiltrators rally the bikers against their mobster overlords, culminating in a rather helpless fight in which Snake dies so anti-climatically you might miss it. In the final scene, the brother dons sunglasses and becomes a biker for real.

Hellcats stretches twenty minutes of plot as hard as possible. Overlong party scenes are in excess, occupying a majority of the running time. Instead of character development, we watch the gang senselessly kiss, fight, and fall down. The large cast is impossible to care about. Dizzying handheld camerawork and a rock soundtrack of varying quality irritates further. I spent much of the movie reading the posters on the walls, including psychedelia and a legalize-it flier reading, “I’d rather get high than cancer!”

Other then the seasick camera, Hellcats is stylistically starving. The shots and edits are arbitrary and the locations are lifeless. While dialogue is sparse, the acting is wince-worthy, aggravated by meaningless and embarrassing lines, (“Peace.” “What do you mean by that?” “Like, no war.”). Hellcats is technically comparable to Herschell Gordon Lewis’s roughest work. Unlike HGL, Hellcats is tame, gently implying all the violence, sexuality, and depravity—a big mistake in the raw world of biker cinema.

What a boring mess. 1968 through 1970 is so saturated with bikesploitation (Satan’s Sadists, The Cycle Savages, Angel Unchained), there’s no reason to watch this. Unless you deeply love dirty cavorting bikers, steer clear.

Rating: 4/10 Shrunken Heads. See why bikers get a bad rap.

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