Directed by William Dear and Thomas L. Dykevideo94
Cannon Films, 1976
84 minutes

 

by Susan Starr and Kevin Kocur

Susan sez: In a lot of ways, “Northville Cemetery Massacre” is your typical ’70’s biker movie, with many long shots of the bikers riding their choppers around the country side, their long hair flowing in the wind, stopping once in a while to smoke grass and practice free love. Because the bikers are so free, no one wears a helmet. In these movies, freedom is incompatible with safety.

The twist in this movie is that these bikers really aren’t bad guys. They aren’t riding the countryside causing mayhem. They are riding the countryside doing good deeds, like changing a flat for an elderly couple. Everything would be perfect if this peaceful bike club wasn’t getting hassled by “The Man”.

The cops are continually harassing the bikers. Or maybe they are just annoyed at constantly being referred to as pigs. There is a misunderstanding and the bikers are blamed for a rape they didn’t commit. The girl’s father gets a posse together so he can kill all the bikers. The bikers get some guns and the rest of the movie is slo-mo shots of people getting shot, and lots of blood spurting out. It reminded me of the Monty Python sketch, “Salad Days”.

That description could be of a good movie, but this is a bad, bad movie. I think I have a new entry for my “worst of all time” list. It isn’t bad in a campy “so bad it’s good” way. It is just dull, and lame. The acting in this movie is particularly painful. The lead actress had a screechy whine to her voice that made me want to get earplugs, while most of the other actors speak in monotone. Bad acting doesn’t necessarily ruin a movie (look at “Clerks”) but this movie has a dull, humorless script, and very low-budget production values.

Kevin sez: OK, OK you can blame me for finding this turd. I found it online, and when it arrived I had high hopes of an evening full of biker-style mayhem and merriment. Instead, the bikers got high and, as the film progressed, I ran out of hope. The disappointing soundtrack by Mike Nesmith didn’t help.

If you get into a little of the film’s bio, you can at least understand why the acting is so bad. It’s because the biker gang, The Spirits, are played by real bikers, The Scorpions MC out of Detroit. On top of it all, the studio dubbed over some of their voices. The biggest head-scratcher for me, is that they dubbed over the voice of the one guy who wasn’t a biker and could sort of act. And who had the honor of the voiceover? A young actor named Nick Nolte. Why they didn’t get Nick to just star in it is beyond me. Maybe it was during his sober days when he was able to use better judgment. Although…
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The bikes are the usual assortment of chopped Panheads and Sportsters, with a Shovelhead thrown in once in a while. Occasionally you can catch a glimpse of a Brit parallel twin as well. You can pretty much tell which era the movie was made in by the abundance of Z bars and chromed girder front ends. While it was fun looking at the bikes, the real thrill (for me anyway) were the three 1969 Superior Cadillac hearses near the film’s end. Sadly for me, that was the only real highlight in the movie. Including the boob shot.

Still, Susan and I were able to have fun predicting what would happen next in the plot. It wasn’t very hard. When The Spirits go on a run to get guns, they pick up a few hand grenades. In a later scene involving a helicopter, I exclaim, “they haven’t used the grenades yet—I’ll bet they blow up the helicopter! And I’ll bet they use a really bad model!” Sure enough, the inevitable shot of the grenade blowing up the ‘copter is equivalent to every scene in a James Bond movie that involves a helicopter crashing into a cliff. Boom.

M.M.M.

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