Carrying over one of the more popular features on our Message Board Review Section, it's a genuine drive-in double feature from the fabulous '50s, as originally presented on our nation's finest outdoor screens.
After striking box-office bonanza with low-budget Westerns (Gunslinger), sci-fi thrillers (It Conquered the World), post-pubescent horrors (I Was a Teenage Werewolf) and rock ‘n’ roll musicals (Shake, Rattle, & Rock), Sam Arkoff and Jim Nicholson and their American-International Pictures turned to the relatively untapped goldmine of cycle pictures for their 1957 offering Motorcycle Gang.
Virtually a remake of Dragstrip Girl, released earlier that year and also written by Lou Rusoff and directed by Edward L. Cahn, Motorcycle Gang features Steve Terrell as Randy, an all-around good guy who fixes and races motorcycles. Unfortunately, his old rival, John Ashley (one of the few AIP players to make the transition from the studio’s B&W exploitation films of the 1950s to its color exploitation films of the 1960s) is back from a 15-month vacation in reform school and itching for a fight. New in town is red-hot Anne Neyland as Terry, a motorcycle mama whose thighs were meant to wrap themselves around a chopper and whose lips were meant to wrap themselves around Randy. “Burning rubber is my one big vice!” she exclaims pointedly. John Ashley sees himself as more Terry’s type, though, and pretty soon he’s trying to remove Randy from the picture - permanently.
There’s a lot of action in this one, and rather surprisingly, not all of it consists of process shots of the cast riding stationary bikes in front of rear projection. There’s also a lot of soap opera, as Terry alternatively whines and purrs to get her way with good ol’ Randy. And you’ll find some snappy 1950s dialog, too.
Snappy 1950s Million-dollar Dialog:
Terrell: “If you’re smart, you’ll keep away from me.”
Ashley: “I’m not smart, kid.”
Terry pantingly explaining why she loves her motorcycle: “It’s something that’ll do what I want it to do. I say go faster and it does!”
Randy’s sexy ex-girlfriend Marilyn, consoling him with a loaded question: “Feel like a ride?”
Eventually, Ashley and his motley band of cretins terrorize the occupants of a small town diner (including Paul Blaisdell, sans She-Creature suit) until Randy and his pals ride in to save the day. Please hold your applause until I mention that Randy’s sidekick is portrayed by none other than 30-year-old former Little Rascal Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, in his penultimate screen role. Switzer has way too much screen time as the unfunny comic relief. On the plus side, you’ll find old-time character actors Raymond Hatton and Edmund Cobb lurking around in the exhaust fumes.
A fun movie, and after a Mr. Magoo cartoon (Magoo is mistaken for a bank robber with a time bomb) and AIP coming attractions for more monster and rock ‘n’ roll pictures, we’re on to our second feature, Roger Corman’s Sorority Girl.
Stunning Susan Cabot is Sabra, a troubled young woman indeed. Despised by her mother and hated by her sorority sisters, Sabra has plenty of dough but no friends and nothing but hatred for the world and everybody in it, including herself. She tortures the poor chubby li’l pledge that has been assigned to her as a little sister, at one point even giving her *gasp* a good spanking! Events soon spiral out of her control, though, and her slippery slope of loathing soon leads her to blackmail, extortion, and revenge. And when I say soon I MEAN soon, because the whole damn movie is only 60 minutes long!
I like Sorority Girl a lot. In addition to Miss Cabot (who gives her best performance ever here, despite the fact that at age 30 she was a little long-in-the-tooth to be a sorority girl), there’s Barboura Morris (the sexiest of all ‘50s AIP starlets), June Kenney (well remembered from Attack of the Puppet People), and the ubiquitous Dick Miller (somewhat surprisingly playing a character not named Walter Paisley).
Roger Corman said that AIP presented him with the script and asked him to make the picture quickly and cheaply (no surprise there); Corman was used to being involved in his screenplays, so he worked on it as quickly as he could while filming commenced. He shot the picture at the USC campus and rented, rather than built on a set, the sorority house, to accomplish maximum frugality. It gives the film a nice college atmosphere (watch the cast hanging out at USC landmarks just to show they were really on campus).
The film’s brief running time allows for no humor, and suspense builds nicely to the picture’s climax. (I shouldn’t say NO humor; look for the lamps in Sabra’s room: they are ballerina legs with tutus for shades!) In the end, when all of the sorority sisters finally confront Sabra on the beach (“You’re not human, you’re something the SEA cast up!”) I actually felt sorry for the poor little sociopath.
More Million-dollar Dialog:
Sabra, looking for sympathy: “All I did was SPANK her a little!”
Between our two features there are more gorgeous young AIP starlets than any of the studio’s other double features, a big selling point if you ask us, which you may or may not have done. Neither are available in the U.S. but we worked on the British DVDs about 15 years ago and they’re still out there somewhere.