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Satan's Choice (1965)

| Documentary, Short
A rare "inside" view of a motorcycle club in Toronto. The names they adopt (Satan's Choice is only one) are as individual as their special ethics and views of life, all freely expressed in this film.

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A rare "inside" view of a motorcycle club in Toronto. The names they adopt (Satan's Choice is only one) are as individual as their special ethics and views of life, all freely expressed in this film.

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Documentary | Short

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The origins of a famous Canadian motorcycle gang
30 September 1998 | by (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

This is a fascinating National Film Board documentary about the Satan's Choice motorcycle gang. What makes it so interesting is that they are not a gang (yet). At this point, 1965, they are apparently just an extension of radical 1960's youth culture. The "club" members view themselves as counter-culture rebels, which perhaps comes as no surprise, but they are staunchly opposed to the crass commercialism of conventional society, or so they say. It's possible to read the members as working-class, left-wing idealists striving to recreate some simpler society. Loafing layabouts is another way to take them. They talk a lot about how in a couple of years they will have to settle down, get married, and get proper jobs, but for the time being they are busy drinking beer at the clubhouse (out of old-style Canadian stubbies) and racing their motorcycles up dirt tracks on hillsides. Just kids having fun before they grow up.

It's possible that the director, Don Shebib, was naive and was completely deceived. But you get to see the interior of the clubhouse, with its sparse furnishings of a secondhand chesterfield or two. The members do not appear to have much money, and the irregular jobs a few of them mention would account for the little they do have.

One is led to the conclusion that the director captured them as they really were, prior to their transformation into a motorcycle gang as we understand them today. It is worthwhile to note that the director made a second short film in 1967, also called Satan's Choice, about a trial concerning some of the people shown in this film. Did the club evolve into a gang between 1965 and 1967?

The music in the film is provided by The Sparrow (not "the Sparrows", as the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll prefers to call them). The Sparrow were part of the Yorkville folk music scene in Toronto in the mid-'60's, along with others soon to be famous such as Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and Rick James. The Sparrow are much better known under the name the reformed group adopted in L.A. in 1968, Steppenwolf.


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