outlaw biker film, but there's a first for everything. Here's 1968's The Savage Seven.
At a tiny, isolated desert shanty town, a young Indian man, Johnnie Little Hawk (Robert Walker Jr.) is one of many poor Indians under the thumb of a very greedy, very sinister American businessman, Fillmore (Mel Berger). There is a constant back and forth as Fillmore consistently keeps the people down, but there could be a solution for all involved. One day, a biker gang led by Kisum (Adam Roarke) rides into the town and immediately starts to wreak havoc. The bikers don't seem too interested in getting involved with anyone else's problems; instead they want to booze, drink and party before moving on to the next town. Kisum is drawn though to Johnnie's younger sister, Marcia (Joanna Frank), and the gang sticks around. All bets are off though when Fillmore tries to cut a deal with Kisum and the gang to rid himself of the Indian villagers. Let the chaos and violence ensue.
The outlaw biker genre was a perfect time capsule of its era, the late 1960s and early 1970s. Rebel groups of motorcycle riders terrorizing towns and populations......well, because they can. Who wants to stick it to The Man? We do!!!! Who wants to take what we want and forget about the consequences? We do! We're bikers so who cares?!? These are low-brow, cheap flicks that were meant as part of a double-bill at a drive-in on the weekend. We're not talking Shakespearean scripts here. We're talking about a biker gang with characters called Joint (Larry Bishop), Stud (John Garwood), Bull (Richard Anders), and Wolf (Walter Robles) among others. Cliches, stereotypes, cheesy one-liners, 'Savage' has it all, and let me tell you.....it's an entertaining mess of a movie that kept me entertained from beginning to end.
So like any sub-genre, know what you're getting into, and that will go a long way in determining what you take away from it. Director Richard Rush knows exactly what he's working with here and in its own oddness, delivers an almost perfect genre flick.
The formula here is as simple as they come. A movie that runs just 94 minutes is full of fistfights, brawls, drinking, riding and bizarre male bonding. Seriously....no more than five minutes go by at any point where someone doesn't get punched in the face. This isn't the type of flick that stimulates your brain, making you think for hours and days later about what you've just watched. You sit back and let it wash over you. Then, because the movie is pretty dirty -- literally dirty in terms of actual dirt, not sex -- you want to go take a shower. The story of bikers fighting Indians, Indians fighting bikers, Indians and bikers teaming up to fight the Man, it's always on the move and never slows down. It's incredibly stupid, but boy, is it fun.
Though he's buried a bit in the cast listing, Roarke is the star here as biker leader Kisum. He's the perfect roguish anti-hero. His mindset is simple; take what you want, and if you can't take it, take it anyways. In this case, he wants Joanna Frank's Marcia. At this isolated little Indian village, he sees some chances for fun and entertainment, becoming almost a biker Robin Hood (almost, he's still a dirty biker). A familiar face of the biker genre, Roarke is a scene-stealer. Walker Jr. is all right in a smaller part as an Indian (and he doesn't look the part at all), but he plays second fiddle to Roarke's Kisum. Playing the evil Man, Berger is a perfect evil, dangerously overweight, corpulent bad guy while Charles Bail is his karate-kicking enforcer, Taggart. The enforce announces one his attack intentions, yelling 'KARATE!' to which Bull answers 'CHAIR!' and hits him with a chair. You couldn't make up that type of quality script-writing if you try.
Without a lull along the way, 'Savage' still manages to ratchet things up in the final act in a battle royale at the village. After a brutal incident pits the bikers versus the Indians, Kisum's gang descends on the barricaded village, throwing themselves and the bikes at the heavily-guarded barricades. It's an extended action sequence that features some truly impressive biker stunts and jumps, not to mention some pretty rough hand-to-hand violence. It goes on for at least 15 minutes, not too bad for a cheap drive-in flick. 'Savage' is pretty low-brow and requires no heavy lifting in the brain department, but I enjoyed it from the start. Even Eric Clapton and Cream sing the theme! Listen HERE.
The Savage Seven (1969): ***/****