Chrome and Hot Leather (1971)
This provocative title is another in the long line of motorcycle pictures under the AIP banner that came late in the era of the nomadic biker drive-in flicks. And while it doesn’t have the presence of Fonda, Dern, Nicholson or Hopper, it does have the intimidating force of William Smith to recommend it for a late night viewing.
Produced by Wes Bishop and directed by Lee Frost (The Thing With Two Heads) this rather tame genre effort begins with a group of bikers known as The Wizards out on the open highway. Smith is the leader of the Wizards which includes a hot headed Michael Haynes as the one gang member who would like nothing better then to take control of the free wheeling group which includes a woman for every guy. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Haynes was an inspiration for Ben Stiller’s look in Dodgeball.
Trouble and turmoil hit the gang when Haynes forces a car off the road resulting in the deaths of two young women. One of which is a young Cheryl Ladd who happens to be the fiancé of Tony Young. The green beret of the poster. He wants answers and when the local sheriff can’t supply him with any, he enlists three other soldier/pals to ditch their military duds and hit the open roads on cycles of their own in search of the bike gang witnessed at the scene of the crime. Included in the military foursome with Young is Marvin Gaye in one of only two acting credits on his resume according to IMDB.
The group splits up to pursue leads on the open road and it’s Young who comes across Smith and company. Their jackets fit the only lead he has. The word devil was spoken by Ladd before she died and the Wizards have a large red devil on their custom jackets. When Young confronts the gang in a bar looking for information, Smith has a great line when cornering Young, “Can’t you see we’re menacing someone?” he says to another biker as he attempts to intimidate our green beret out for justice.
Young will do his best to infiltrate the gang and even takes up with Kathrine Baumann leading to a severe beating from both Haynes and Smith. Luckily his army pals are about to turn up and launch a full scale military operation to take down the gang and bring the guilty parties to justice.
Though far from being a classic this biker flick offers some positives and a few laughs along the way. The highlight of the camera work comes from an interior shot of Ladd’s car careening down a cliff face that stands out. Kind of makes you wonder why we couldn’t squeeze some more inventive shots into this typical fare from AIP.
Another actor in the cast is Larry Bishop who Tarantino pulled back to the screen as he has been known to do for a role in Kill Bill. Makes me wonder why Quentin hasn’t featured William Smith in something along the way as he starred in countless seventies B flicks and drive in fare like Hammer and The Ultimate Warrior before taking Clint Eastwood on man to man in Any Which Way You Can. Just the kind of films that seemed to have influenced the influential filmmaker himself.
The title, the poster and William Smith give this one a leg up on some of the other biker flicks of the day and if you are a Marvin Gaye fan then that to might offer a little extra enticement to check this one out.