The Rebel Rousers (1970) Poster

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good for a curio, not so much as a exploitation/biker flick
MisterWhiplash29 July 2006
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.
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Good for some cheap laughs, that's about it.
Infofreak30 September 2002
'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.
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It's a hard days work. Baby blues, biker trouble.
lost-in-limbo13 September 2008
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.
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Waste of celluloid, as well as the viewer's time
PickUrFeetInPoughkeepsie15 September 2003
This film was in the cult section at the local video store, and I've come to 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 a 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 gang, 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.

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Bad Biker Flick
Jill-6812 March 2001
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 either one of them kept a straight face during the proceedings is beyond me.
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This made no sense
vchimpanzee8 December 2004
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?
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Was there even a script?!
MartinHafer5 June 2010
Many times as I sat watching this god-awful film it sure looked like there really wasn't a script. In many places, it looked as if the director, if there was one, just told everyone to 'wing it'--and often the actors talked over each other, spouted gibberish or just talked to hear themselves talk. In addition, sometimes the actors did things that made almost no sense--giving further evidence to the idea that there was no script...or even plot. This is especially true for at least the first half hour of the film where most of it just involves a biker gang running amok. Amidst all this, there is a plot that keeps trying to appear that involves Cameron Mitchell trying to get his pregnant girlfriend to marry him. Eventually the two plots intersect as the two are eventually terrorized by the evil bikers--but in the interim there is still more rambling and pointless prattle. All this makes up the last 2/3 of the film. Not a whole lot more to it than this. Amateurish and silly throughout but not outlandish or silly enough to make it fun for bad movie buffs.
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More Than Meets The Eye
angelsunchained31 December 2004
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.
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Wasn't Nearly as Fun or Exciting as It Should Have Been
Uriah439 November 2015
Warning: 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 aforementioned 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.
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Great Actors In An Exploitation Flick
Bolesroor28 April 2010
Warning: 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 disposable film.

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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Great Acting, in service of what?
Scott_Mercer19 February 2006
As another commenter stated, I believe this film sat on the shelf for a while, not being able to get a release since it was so bad. Then, once Jack Nicholson's career break-out occurred, this was rushed out to the drive-in circuit.

The 74 minute running time of the film gives away its intentions: classic B movie fare, bottom-of-the-bill, baby. Okay, for 1960's drive-ins, and not the 1940's neighborhood Bijoux, but the same principle is at play. This film looks like it was shot in two days on a budget of two cents. They drag a film camera, about ten motorcycles and a ten-year-old Ford out to some blot on the map out past Barstow, then start filming. There were about six locations, and most of them were outside, including a beach. Half of the dialog sounds improvised. Much of it is incoherent yelling.

Nobody actually says it, but I think this is supposed to take place in Mexico. And what a horrible, stereotyped version of Mexico it is. (Call me "politically correct" all you want, this film is ridiculous). All the Mexican characters are played by Gringos with "seester" type of phony accents, if they even tried to fake an accent at all. A lot of lazy, siesta-taking, serape-wearing caricatures. Pinatas hang from every ceiling. They have no modern technology; the "sheriff's office," a crumbling adobe hut, has a hand-cranked telephone! No wonder this hasn't been out on DVD.

The plot, what little there is of it, is highly simplistic. Bikers, led by Bruce Dern, menace Cameron Mitchell and pregnant ex-paramour Diane Ladd, taking her prisoner and beating him up. But Dern doesn't like it. He tries to keep his sadistic buddies in line, he just wants to ride around and party and doesn't like all this violence, man. So how did he end up leading a group of violent bikers? "It's a long story, man." That's it? That's all the back story we get?? Lame!

The only positive thing I can say about this movie is the acting. Watch Nicholson, you'll begin to see why has the legendary career he has today. Dern is quite good, coming across as his usual jittery, manic self, tempered with sincerity and gentleness. Diane Ladd is quite believable as The Post-Feminist Woman Who's Gonna Have Her Baby By Herself, Dammit. Harry Dean Stanton is also around, providing some goofy charm. Also seen are Robert Dix and the omnipresent (if you watch genre movies) John "Bud" Cardos, later director of the William Shatner clas-sick "Kingdom of the Spiders"!!

I give this movie a four only for the acting. Unless you are a biker movie completist, you should give it a pass. Other biker movies I would recommend: The Wild Angels, The Tormentors, Satan's Sadists.
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So-so biker exploitation flick
Woodyanders12 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Architect Paul Collier (an incredibly insipid performance by Cameron Mitchell) stops off at a small Arizona desert town to visit his headstrong pregnant girlfriend Karen (a sound and sympathetic portrayal by Diane Ladd). Paul bumps into old high school buddy J.J. Weston (the always solid Bruce Dern), who's now the amiable and laid-back leader of a gang of rowdy bikers. Naturally, J.J.'s scruffy chopper chums take an unsavory interest in Karen. Sound exciting? Well, alas it ain't. Martin B. Cohen's bland direction, working from a drab and talky script which he co-wrote with Michael Kars and Abe Polsky, relates the meandering narrative at a draggy pace, fails to bring any real tension or vitality to the proceedings, and gets further bogged down in a sappy love story between Mitchell and Ladd. The cast do their best with the sub-par material: Dern and Ladd contribute respectable work, Jack Nicholson sports an amazing pair of gloriously ghastly striped pants and makes the most out of his regrettably minor role as volatile rotten apple Harley hound Bunny, and Harry Dean Stanton is a hoot as flaky hipster Randolph Halverson. Both Laszlo Kovacs' fairly polished cinematography and William Loose's groovy jammin' score are above average. While the movie occasionally bursts to life with some decent fisticuffs and motorcycle races, it's overall not gritty or energetic enough to qualify as anything more than a strictly passable time-waster.
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"I think that's what it' all about"
drippy119 July 2004
"I think that's what it's all about" - Jack Nicholson pretty much sums up this movie, "Rebel Rousers".

Brilliant, moving, and real are other words I can use to describe this definitely dated documentation of the times. Cameron Mitchell.... Paul Collier: a biker with a biker attitude. Bruce Dern.... J.J. Weston: A stereotypical Architect businessman whose character embodies the prevailing male, city dweller of his time.. strong and weak at the same time. Diane Ladd.... Karen: A confused 60's girl in a big wild world. Jack Nicholson.... Bunny: The Rebel Rouser whose independent stand takes him all the way to the end. Harry Dean Stanton.... Randolph: Strange man in a strange place.

Halverson Neil Burstyn.... Rebel: Has to lve with himself. Lou Procopio.... Rebel: Others have to live with him. Earl Finn.... Rebel: There's one of these guys in every crowd. Unfortunately. Philip Carey.... Rebel: Just along for the party. Robert Dix.... Miguel: A brave and just lawman. Sid Lawrence.... Townspeople: 60's fer sure. John 'Bud' Cardos.... Townspeople: 60's Western US male. Jim Logan.... Townspeople: Struggling to survive the 60's Helena Clayton.... Townspeople: Surviving the 60's Frankie O'Brien.... Townspeople: Simple life of the 60's hero.

"Rebel Rousers" is a faithful rendition of the crazy party life of a small California gang of bikers. None of them knew what they were doing... just doing it... right or wrong. They each had different ideas of what a rebel was. Much the way real life is. Triumph for some... failure for others. Some fought to live some fought to die. A reminder not to "live to win", but rather "win to live". Beautiful West Coast scenery. Magnificent acting that captures the essence of a day as a "Rebel Rouser".
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Only of interest for the cast
preppy-39 May 2010
J.J. Weston (Bruce Dern) belongs to a biker gang that includes a man named Bunny (Jack Nicholson). He runs into an old college buddy named Paul (Cameron Mitchell). Paul is living with Karen (Diane Ladd) who's pregnant with his baby. The biker gang get Paul and Karen alone on a beach. They beat up Paul (for no reason) and propose to marry Karen to Bunny. J.J. wants to stop this...but how? Boring and stupid biker flick. A terrible script really sinks this one. The biker gang acts and sounds like no biker gang I ever heard of. The dialogue is stilted and the basic plot is just so stupid it's mind-boggling. The part where J.J. starts a "marriage" between Karen and Bunny is just beyond belief. This is only of interest for the cast. It has a pre-stardom Nicholson (wearing the most annoying striped pants I've ever seen) and a very young Dern and Ladd (who I believe were married at the time). Their acting is great but it can't help the horrendous script. A curio at best.
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Great Cast; Fair Picture
Michael_Elliott27 April 2010
Rebel Rousers, The (1970)

** 1/2 (out of 4)

Silly but mildly entertaining biker flick about a man (Cameron Mitchell) who travels to a small town to try and get back his pregnant wife (Diane Ladd) but while the two are talking he's beaten and she's kidnapped by a biker gang led by Bruce Dern. The battered husband manages to make it back to town where he tries to find someone to help him. The highlight of this film is the wonderful cast as we get not only Mitchell, Dern and Ladd but supporting performances by Jack Nicholson and Harry Dean Stanton. As far as biker films goes this one here is a long way away from titles like EASY RIDER and THE WILD ANGELS but there's enough mild charm here to make this worth viewing. The film runs a fairly short 78-minutes and I do wonder if there's some stuff on the cutting room floor as there are a few side plots that never really add up to much and we even get some questionable moments from start to finish. We're told that Mitchell and Dern played football together but this never really adds up to anything. We get the escape scene with Mitchell taking off yet it's never quite clear why his wife doesn't try to escape with him. Probably because if she had then the movie would have ended right there. The kidnapping leads to a pretty good ending when some Mexican guys with rakes show up to get back Mitchell's wife as well as one of their daughters who was delivering tacos to the bikers!!! Mitchell is a real head-scratcher here as he pretty much sleepwalks through the role and his scenes crying are pretty funny as there's obviously no real emotion behind them. Ladd is charming as the wife and it's always fun seeing Stanton no matter how small the role is. Dern clearly steals the show as the "mature" biker who is always saying the right thing even though it's hard to trust what he's saying. Finally, there's Nicholson wearing some zebra colored pants that are a real hoot. Fans of the genre will want to check this one out but others should see the classics first.
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Much better than it's made out to be.
wentz_nicholas16 May 2005
I think that "The Rebel Rousers" is not even close to the worst biker movie ever made. I think this is quite good on a low budget. Bruce Dern is always cool and my hero Jack Nicholson is the best "Rebel" I think this beats the hell out of "The Wild Angels" which even though the talented and groovy duo of Dern and Peter Fonda were in it. I think "The Wild Angels" is the worst biker film ever made, not "The Rebel Rousers". Granted that I wish that there were more scenes of actual motorcycle riding and that most of the movie took place on a beach. I enjoy the opening music of the movie and the location in which the film was shot. Jack Nicholson is delightfully sadistic as "Bunny" especially where he beats the hell out of Cameron Mitchell. The biggest kick I got out of seeing Jack in this movie is his black and white striped pants. Bruce Dern is out of sight as the "Rebels" leader, "J.J." Bruce is much better in this part than his role as "Loser" in "The Wild Angels" which reminded me of Terry Kiser in "Weekend At Bernie's" where they all drag Bruce's dead body around.
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