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As biker movies go, Chrome And Hot Leather is unusual. Biker films,
tended to highlight the wild lifestyle of the outlaw biker culture, as
desirable. But this film doesn't glorify bikers. In fact, the military
establishment, and their straight-arrow values, are the focus of
heroism in this movie.
It's true that by the time this film was made in 1971, outlaw bikers were no longer romanticized like they had been just a few years earlier, by the youth culture. Still, it's hard to believe that during the Vietnam war era, when antiwar sentiments were strong, Hollywood goes and makes a film with the military as the good guys.
The plot centers around a Green Beret Sgt. named Mitch, who is headed home after his tour of duty in 'Nam. He's engaged to be married to a beautiful young woman, and ready to begin a new life as a civilian. Meanwhile, as his fiancé and her friend are out for a drive, they're harassed by a biker gang. This results in an accident, that kills the two women. Mitch, along with a few of his army comrades, are determined to catch the bikers who are responsible for killing his fiancé.
Actor Tony Young infuses the character of Mitch with a steely, square-jawed resolve, to avenge his fiancé's murder. The great R&B singer Marvin Gaye, appears as Mitch's Green Beret buddy. Marvin does an adequate job in his role, but he's a much better singer than actor. William Smith plays the biker gang leader. William has appeared in more biker films over the years, than probably any other actor. With his burly, threatening appearance, Smith seems like he was born to play badass outlaw bikers.
Mitch and his Army pals work together as a cracker-jack military unit, to accomplish their mission of nabbing the biker gang. The way Mitch and company carry out their quest for justice, reminds me of the fictional TV military group, called the A-Team. I wonder if the creators of the A-Team, were inspired by this movie.
Chrome And Hot Leather isn't the best biker film around, but it's different. For fans of biker movies, this one won't validate the bikers as cool. This movie would be most enjoyable for those that admire the military, and how it's members triumph over the bad guys.
The saddest thing about "Chrome and Hot Leather" (1971) is that it
could have been a fairly decent film; at least by American
International biker film standards. They seem to have had a large
budget; at least enough to cast in quantity if not quality; and to
outfit their biker gang (Wizards) with Harley's-something that was
often beyond the budget of these things.
They had William Smith, the best movie baddie of the day, for their gang leader T.J. and Michael Haynes for the chain-throwing mama slapping Casey. In fact the whole biker thing is handled pretty well by the standards of the early 1970's.
Then they had an extremely young Cheryl Ladd (she looks about 16 although she was 18) and former Miss Ohio and Miss America Runner-Up Kathy Baumann (note the John Havlicek Basketball Camp t-shirt she is wearing). In high school she dated someone I knew and she also looks about the same in this film as she did then. Unfortunately neither actress gets to show much in the way of acting skills or exploitable assets. .
This is one of those movies the Army and Air Force Exchange Service saw fit to show us GI's at posts and bases around with world back in the early 1970's. To us at the time virtually everything military related was unintentionally hilarious, from Peter Brown's non-GI haircut (if it was a paying role couldn't he at least have cut it enough so you could see a portion of his ears) to the moronic combat training. It got laughs from us for months whenever someone brought up the topic. On the other hand what was supposed to be the film's comic relief, sequences of Peter Brown and Company learning to ride motorcycles is funny only to those amused by things totally lame and stupid.
In retrospect the film never had a chance given its director Lee "The Man With Two Heads" Frost and its star, the aging Tony Young. When you look bad in comparison to a non-actor (Marvin Gaye plays Tony's pal) it is time to find another line of work. Young lined up the financing for this baby and hired Frost on the condition he be given the lead. You won't find a more wooden actor than Young, whose character looks like an extremely dour 55 year-old man and is supposed to be the love interest for the two teen actresses.
Several times they appear headed in the self-parody direction (if that is what they had emphasized the film would be a classic) and Smith lets you know that he is playing this thing for laughs. But this tiny attempt at real humor is dwarfed by the unintentional hilarity and the giggles you will get from the many continuity errors that occur throughout the movie.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A biker gang led by William Smith has one bad cog(Michael Haynes), who
runs two girls off the road. Both are killed, one being the girlfriend
of a Seargent(Tony Young) in the Green Berets. The Sgt. and few of his
buddies, including singer Marvin Gaye,set out to do what the local
authorities are having trouble doing...hunt down the biker gang. Buying
motorcycles and "borrowing" some Army weapons and a truck, the small
group of Green Berets seek out the gang, The Wizards, to deal revenge
and justice. Also in the cast: Peter Brown, Katherine Baughmann, Herb
Jeffries, Bobby Pickett, Cheryl Ladd and Dan Haggerty.
NOTE: Pickett is the same Bobby "Boris" Pickett whose original "Monster Mash" hit the Billboard's Top 100 on three different occasions. Motown artist Gaye does not sing in this his one and only film appearance.
Lee Frost was a capable and half-way decent director and
cinematographer, I guess. He has a catalog of work from the 60s and
70s, such titles (and such titles I've yet to see the movies of) that
includes Zero in and Scream, Mondo Bizarro, Nazi Love Camp and The
Black Gestapo. I don't know if having such a catalog of work and a
halfway decent eye as a DoP meant he made good movies. Probably not
entirely the case. But Chrome and Hot Leather, aside from its
hard-knock-awesome title, has a few things going for it. For one thing
its star, the Lieutenant who returns from Vietnam to discover that his
girlfriend was run off the road by a hothead member of a biker gang
called the Beards (?), has a hard-jaw face and voice that's like a
knock-off of Sterling Hayden. It's also got a likable-cum-sleazy cast
of biker folk who get drunk, arm wrestle and sometimes have some group
sex. Not that you see too much of it, of course, since it's PG-13 (at
least today, maybe it was G-rated back then, who knows).
But the few things going for it, which also, I should add, includes an absolutely hilarious climactic battle where the Lieutenant and his army buddies take a whole lot of ammo and bombs and bullets to the bikers just to, you know, scare them and get them loaded with gas that the ex-Vientam guys need gasmasks for (!), are not enough to make it something you should rush out to see. Even if you're into trashy biker movies from the 60s and 70s, such as I am in that true-blue guilty pleasure kind of way, it's something to see further down the pike, preferably on the double-bill I viewed it with, the Mini-Skirt Mob. It's got a plot that's got enough meat on it to keep things a little interesting, even as the acting is sewer-tastic and the final showdown between the Lieutenant and the (accidental?) killer of his girlfriend is underwhelming to say the least. But, yet, Lee Frost puts in little moments, like one particular line by a biker in a bar about harassing someone, and seeing how the soldiers hilariously train on their newly purchased Kawasakis. You'd think they were getting ready for a reenactment of the video-game Excitebike as opposed to seeking vengeance on a bunch of dopes.
I saw this movie today on cable. I enjoyed the beginning of the movie and up to the part where the three Green Berets rescue their friend from the bikers. After that, it became pretty obvious that the movie was quickly going down hill. All the army equipment scenes were pretty cheesy. I never saw LAAW rockets used in the manner the Berets used them here. Why, if someone is shooting off rockets and mortar rounds, would the biker gang not leave the valley the minute the rocket blasts started. My favorite biker movie is MAD MAX. Now that was a mean biker gang.
I appreciate the cheesy and inept exploitation flick as much as the next person--in fact, probably a good bit more--but even by by basement standards, "Chrome and Hot Leather" is a piece of crap. The whole story of Green Berets vs. Bikers is lame and unconvincing on all sides, the bikes are nothing special, nor is the riding done on them. But one thing does set this film apart and that would be the presence of the legendary Marvin Gaye as one of the aforementioned military types. And it makes one a bit sorry that he didn't do more acting (his only other dramatic role seems to have been alongside Lee Majors in a similarly forgettable film): Gaye's on-screen presence is as relaxed and charming as his musical style and he was certainly easy on the eyes. Still, what drove him to make supporting appearances in drive-in fodder escapes me--probably the same thing that drove him to train with the Chicago Bears. But, if it's biker trash you want, I suggest the classic "The Wild Angels" or the magnificently sleazy "She-Devils on Wheels." And, if you want to appreciate Marvin Gaye's talent, you might be better off tracking down one of his "Shindig!" or "T.A.M.I. Show" appearances.
Come on now...a biker flick is supposed to be violent and sleazy. This one is so antiseptic it would have made it by TV censors in the 70's--even if the original American-International ads tried hard to suggest otherwise. It does contain one great line: As the biker gang leader prepares to rough up one of our heroes, he is distracted by a fellow gang member playing a noisy pinball machine, leading to remark, "Gabriel, can't you see that we're menacing someone?" Ludicrous music, seemingly from another film, accompanies one of the climactic fight scenes. Sadly, this film could give the Hell's Angels a good name.
William Smith who during the Seventies and Eighties played a lovely
garden variety of villains bordering on the psychotic is top billed
here in Chrome And Hot Leather. Smith heads a biker gang which harasses
and later kills young bride Cheryl Ladd. They soon have reason to
regret that bit of fun because Ladd's intended was Tony Young of the
Green Berets who is stateside training other would be Green Berets.
Young enlists his three Green Beret sergeant buddies, Michael Haynes, Peter Brown and Marvin Gaye to track and fine the bikers responsible and bring them to justice.
Bikers are tough, but Green Berets are combat trained and Young borrows a few of their toys to help round them up. It's really no contest once his pals arrive.
Most interesting performance in the film is that of Joey Bishop's son Larry who plays a gay biker who spends his time playing pinball and giving Smith wistful glances. Toss him out of the gang if he gets too explicit.
After giving Young a really serious motive, the film devolves in the end to some dopey type comedy. I'm sure the drive-in crowd loved it back in 1971 as they wouldn't miss much as they concentrated on other things.
Sad but true, this double feature of CHROME AND HOT LEATHER plus GOD FORGIVES, I DON'T was a crowded night of goggle eyed teen adventure (I secretly went without mum and dad knowing) and saw it in 1971 at Sydney's home of the crap double feature The Capitol Theatre. Lots of customers there that Saturday night, plenty of couples (I wonder what the girlfriends thought) and me and my pals scoffing lollies and staring at the screen. One memorable scene in CHROME was a bikie being stopped by a cop on a rural road. The cop comes over and we all expect him to harass the bikie. Instead the cop shows what a nice guy he was by telling the bikie how much he liked his bike, admiring those hot chrome exhaust pipes..... I do not know if a sex scene followed and was edited out, but today that would play like a pick up to raucous laughter. GOD FORGIVES I DON'T was a terrible Italian or Spanish western with Terence Hill. However we all went home satisfied. Cost 70c I remember. The 70s were such fun.
1969 Mitch(6th SFG), Tom, Lowel (both in the 82nd) forced all the biker
gangs in Fayetteville to go underground. We put over 17 gang members in
the hospital over a one month span. For almost a year you could not
find a male gang member in a bar.
It was Lowel's girl friend that had been gang raped by a motorcycle gang in Mississippi. Lowel never found the gang, he left home and joined the service. He had been a starting guard for Ole Miss and walked away from college and football. He was one of the biggest guys I had ever seen but was gentle as a kitten until one night in early spring at the Cellar (sight of the Airborne Museum) in 1969 when he had an altercation with a motorcycle gang, this started the war. We decided the next day to see if we could clear Fayetteville of motorcycle gangs and spent the summer working toward that goal.
I would love to know who created this story.
Mitch, Sgt 6th SFG
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