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The Rebel Rousers a few times feels like it could be aiming for
something more on its lunch-money used for a budget. It's got a very
simple crux to the story- Bruce Dern and Cameron Mitchell as old school
friends (hey, they may be oh two decades apart, but it was college I
guess) say hello and go their separate ways at the start of the film,
the former being a biker club leader and the latter a soon-to-be father
of a possibly illegitimate child by Diane Ladd's character. Then, some
of the bikers one day find the two in a car, take them down to a beach,
and beat the crap out of him for just, well, being there. He slugs off
to get help while the other bikers race to see who'll get their 'time'
with her, with Jack Nicholson's Bunny (ho-ho) vies for the prize.
This crux is given some actors who actually say very basic lines of dialog with some conviction and faith in the material, but not much. Some of the acting, or at least casting, is a little strange though. Nicholson is given the top billing on most VHS releases of the film, but his is a supporting role that is like RP McMurphy from Cuckoo's nest with his wonderful sarcasm replaced by striped pants (which the director decides to use to block some shots). There's also the versatile Harry Dean Stanton among the pack, with possibly the most ridiculous get-up in his whole career. It all leads up to a climax that includes a fight, but also a letdown in not having the bikers square off against the Mexicans who show up with their pitchforks on the beach after finally being alerted.
All of this is up for good times in the B-movie guilty pleasure sense by the sound of it, and everything that can be made as 'surface' as possible is used for dramatic or just 'there' effect; Mitchell and Ladd's characters have not much else to say except the baby and marriage; the bikers, aside from Dern and possibly Nicholson (who when he does have a line or something to do is very funny), are hard to discern with any distinguishing characteristics; the police are (amusingly) very limited to a Deputy who's never around and a lummox with bricks for brains. There's even a very good scene where Mitchell gets no response from a bar full of patrons even in his beat-up, bloodied state. But the problem with all of the expended effort put into The Rebel Rousers is that it's too amateurish to be taken at all seriously as a fun time, if that makes sense.
Producer/writer/director Martin B. Cohen seems to understand point and shoot (and the previously mentioned stripe-pants blocking shots), and not much else. There is also the issue of lighting, to which it looks like the filmmakers didn't have enough money for or just didn't give a crap about- the climax is a letdown mostly for how you can't see a damn thing that's going on. It's ironic to think that Laslo Kovacs went from Easy Rider to this (or vice versa). His music choices are mostly awful, at least a few supporting actors brought on look like they're improvising on the set (and not for the better of the actual script), and any real guilty fun (ala Angels Hard as They Come) of seeing a bunch of bikers being really mean and ruthless is compounded by the Mitchell/Ladd moments which are un-evenly paced.
But even with all of this, as a pre-Easy Rider kind of spectacle (shot before it but not released till after it came out, a shelved movie for three years), it's not bad to look at as a curio piece for some of its main players. For fans of the actors who got their feet wet in these kinds of pictures it's of a little interest to see Dern as the unlikely protagonist and Nicholson as the grizzly heel, or Stanton in his sometimes whacked out state. That it leaves no real lasting impression is no surprise though, aside from being a mixed bag.
"The Rebel Rousers" is an obscure and cheaply made biker flick is one
of the least exciting or action-packed entries into the genre. In fact,
there's not really a lot of rumbling or anti-socializing going on.
Fortunately, it has lots of nearly surreal moments of stupidity that
make it rather entertaining, at least a lot more than I expected.
The amazingly charisma free Cameron Mitchell goes with pregnant finance Laura Dern to a small desert town. He meets an old collage chum Bruce Dern, who is now in a biker gang (never mind the fact thats there's a roughly twenty year difference between the two actors). Among members of the gang are a pre-stardom Jack Nicholson (the flick was filmed in 1967, but not released until 1970 to capitalize on the success of "Easy Rider") and the great Harry Dean Stanton, playing the weirdest movie biker of all time. Seriously, the gang dresses more like The Monkees than The Hells Angels. The biker gang beats up Cameron Mitchell (seeing Jack Nicholson whip Mitchell is oddly satisfying for some reason) and kidnap Dern, all to the dismay of Dern, who wants a better life for his gang or something. Mitchell comes back to fight them eventually, armed with some locals from the town.
The so-called "climax" is extremely disappointing. Mitchell and the town members find the biker gang, and proceed to do absolutely nothing. Stupid, pointless, and with some boring stretches (Mitchell and Dern talk about interior decorating for what seems like an hour), but oddly entertaining all the same because of how bizarre it can be at moments. Note, even though hes listed as the star on a lot of the video and DVD versions, Jack Nicholson is hardly in here nor is his character even remotely interesting. (5/10)
This film was in the cult section at the local video store, and I've come
find that "cult" films are often one of two things. They are either
masterpieces which are over-the-top/bizarre/cryptic/left-of-center and can
be watched again and again, or they are very lame films with little-to-no
redeeming qualities which have gained a cult following because people get
kick out of unintentionally bad films. This film falls into the latter
category. I can't imagine anyone would think this was actually a decent
film. Everything about it is lame. The best (best meaning worst in this
case) part of the film was when one of the men escaped from the biker
got a car, and drove into town to the police station. When he comes into
the police station, he's out-of-breath and fatigued. Wasn't he just
driving? He's worn out from driving? This film is awful.
'The Rebel Rousers' sat in the can for two years before eventually being released to cash in on Jack Nicholson's success in 'Easy Rider'. It's awful, only good for some cheap laughs, and playing spot-the-character-actor. Nicholson is actually only one of the supporting players. His biker Bunny is mean and nasty but by no means the focal point of the movie. Bruce Dern plays the biker's leader, and as always he is good, even if the movie isn't. B-grade legend Cameron Mitchell ('Hombre', 'The Toolbox Murders') plays an architect who is trying to convince his pregnant girlfriend (Diane Ladd - 'Wild At Heart') to marry him. The two get caught up in the mind games of the anarchic Rebel Rousers. Harry Dean Stanton joins Dern and Nicholson as one of the bikers - quite possibly the strangest movie biker of all time! It's almost like he stepped in from a completely different movie and provides some cut rate surreal touches and comic relief, often unintentionally. The rest of the bikers will be familiar to b-grade exploitation fans, and keep an eye out for 'Forbidden Planet's Bob Dix as a Mexican no less. If you want to see a good 60s biker movie starring Dern try 'The Wild Angels', and Nicholson is much better in 'Hells Angels on Wheels'. 'The Rebel Rousers' is a watch once and file under forgettable trash kinda experience, that's about it.
This late carefree, but crudely gruff low-cost b-grade biker exploitation (that was shelved for a couple of years before being released because of the fascinating performance of Nicholson in the 1969's biker flick 'Easy Rider') is nothing more than a minor curious piece for its well oiled cast, who would go onto better things. Namely Jack Nicholson and Harry Dean Stanton. Really they only have support parts. Stanton who engages with his little screen time (one of the rowdy bikers who are far from threatening with their clown-like appearances), looks totally out of place though. However there's something oddly captivating (strange in stupidly oddball and ditsy sense) about this feature, even though it's overly talky and demonstrates plenty of posing about to stall out the time. Watch as there's conflicting confrontations, trivial exchanges, more conflicting confrontations . Again the usual conflicting confrontation rears its ugly head. Boy how exciting (well it would've been if there was some fiery interest inserted) and sometimes it just goes on for too long. Many of the dialogues are awkward, stiff (although a spirited Bruce Dern admirably tries his best to infuse life) with the padded nature only making the short running time meander even more. A sombre Cameron Mitchell could be mistaken for a wooden plank and Diane Ladd is there too look all worried. Nicholson (in some eye-boggling pants) laps it up as the low-brow, cruel biker, but his performance is pretty much on the fringe. An unhinged, funky-dory score hits its cues with force and there's a few striking scenic views. The story is quite sparse and scratchily old-hat. A couple is terrorised by bikers and the town's folk want nothing to do with it when the husband escapes looking for help. In the couple of action sequences, the scrappy direction is laughably staged when it does happen and it's the mugging filler that takes the spotlight. Maybe worth a geeze for the names, but the glaring problems are hard to digest.
Ahh, bad biker flicks. Bad biker chicks in underwear. Bad Jack Nicholson before he got any respect. Bruce Dern is the star of this piece, and he's an actor in search of a plot. His wife (in real life) Diane Ladd, has a thankless role as a damsel in distress, at the mercy of a juvenile motorcycle gang. Cameron Mitchell is no help. Jack Nicholson leers and trys to look menacing. And I believe Harry Dean Stanton plays the comic hipster biker in the 1940's be-bop suit. But I could be mistaken. The best scene is when Nicholson and Dern are arguing, and Dern tells him to quit grinning....how either one of them kept a straight face during the proceedings is beyond me.
The strange behavior of various characters in this movie made me wonder
if this might be a parody of biker movies. It was funny when the
stereotypical dumb, lazy and cowardly Latino deputy was on screen. He
and the sheriff were the only law, and at one point even the sheriff
wasn't around. The bikers could have taken over and terrorized the
town. And yet they weren't as mean as they could have been, which was
never really explained. It was like there was an on-off switch deciding
whether the bikers were going to be violent, or funny, or whatever.
Some of them were more peace-oriented than the others and tried to get
the meaner ones to behave.
What really made no sense was the reaction of Cameron Mitchell's character to the bikers. At first I thought he and Diane Ladd were giving good performances. Now I have to wonder. I can say this much: I enjoyed the music that was played in the scenes where Cameron Mitchell and Diane Ladd were together, and of course the funny deputy.
Other than that, what was this?
A quick once over and The Rebel Rousers seems nothing more than a good guy versus evil biker gang midnight movie. But,look closer and you see a story about the conflict of conforming to the norms of society or rebelling against them. The star of the film is a heavy-set Cameron Mitchell who plays a middle-class businessman in a stormy romance with Diane Ladd. Mitchell meets a former high-school buddy played by an intense Bruce Dern(kind of weird pairing here as Mitchell is 18 years older than Dern in real life)the leader of a gang of misfit bikers. Both men seem both happy and sad to see each other. It's as if each man is jealous of the other's lifestyle. Yet, neither one is happy. A rugged looking Jack Nicholson is Bunny, a psycho member of the Rebels. It's clear even here, that Nicholson is a star in the making. There is not one moment when you feel he is "acting" his part. The main focus of the film is Nicholson's attempt to rape Ladd, with both Mitchell and Dern preventing it. Ladd's character represents the family values of the 1950's and Nicholson's Bunny is symbolic of the devil-may-care 1960's lifestyle that may destroy it. If you like movies with a "meaning' The Rebel Rousers is for you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Paul Collier" (Cameron Mitchell) is an architect who drives into a small town in search of his girlfriend, "Karen" (Diane Ladd) who is noticeably pregnant. He wants to marry her but she essentially wants to raise her child all by herself. As it so happens, a gang of motorcyclists known as "the Rebels" rides into this same town and begins causing trouble. Fortunately for Paul, the leader of the gang, "J. J. Weston" (Bruce Dern) is an old high school acquaintance of his and because of that they are on good terms with one another. Unfortunately, J. J. doesn't quite have as much control over some of the more violent members of the gang and when they take an interest in Karen things begin to turn extremely ugly. Now rather than reveal any more of this movie I will just say that this film wasn't nearly as fun or exciting as it should have been due in large part to the chaotic script and lackluster direction. Additionally, I personally didn't care for the use of a pregnant woman as a sex object. But maybe that's just me. In any case, I would think that having a cast which included Jack Nicholson, Harry Dean Stanton and the afore-mentioned Bruce Dern and Cameron Mitchell would have been more than enough to ensure a somewhat interesting biker film. Apparently, the director (Martin B. Cohen) wasn't up to the task and because of this I have to rate this film as below average.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Rebel Rousers" is a short, sloppy biker pic from 1970 that
showcased future stars like Harry Dean Stanton, Dianne Ladd, Bruce Dern
& Jack Nicholson. The cast is so good they give gravity to an otherwise
The plot is silly... a biker gang terrorizes a young married couple because... because the script says so. Much of the dialogue sounds improvised, and many of the scenes run far too long on one note, the result of under-edited footage... or an experimental director. It's Nicholson and Ladd who steal the show... when they're on screen you see no one else, and they're simply ten times more Watchable than anyone else around them.
If you're a huge fan of Jack, Diane or biker flicks you may want to check this out... but it's safe to say that all involved would go onto greater things.
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