Directed by: Anthony M. Lanza
In Peter Biskind’s glorious book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘N’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood Dennis Hopper is depicted as an unstable drug dependent maniac. He’s a spent force, no longer the cherubic innocent young man who starred opposite James Dean. In the sixties Hopper bears all the scars of popular American culture and the death of the rock n’ roll era; he personifies its descent into despair.
‘The Glory Stompers’ came before ‘Easy Rider’, but ‘Easy Rider’ wiped the film from Hopper’s filmography as his one true biker movie, which is just as well because ‘The Glory Stompers’ is an embarrassment, one of the worst films I’ve had the misfortune to sit through. Yes, it is even worse than ‘Clawed: The Legend of Sasquatch’.
In the film Hopper plays Chino, leader of an outlaw biker gang called The Black Souls. Small and wiry, like a disorientated chimp Hopper staggers through each scene dropping several “maaaan’s” at the end of each of his lines. Chino rules by fear, but it is difficult to understand why a biker would throw Karate poses and use Judo chops when he engages in fisticuffs.
‘The Glory Stompers’ tries to put across the danger associated with biker gangs but ends up spewing clichés. It is hopelessly inauthentic despite the encouraging sound of loud engines that rev over the opening credits. There are also gratuitous close-ups of shiny hogs, moustachioed bikers and nubile young women in bras. Until Hopper staggers on screen there is almost a reason to be optimistic that this won’t turn out to be a stinker.
Most of the story is built around The Black Souls kidnapping the innocent blonde girlfriend (played by Chris Noel) of a biker from The Stompers called Darryl (Jody McCrea). Hopper and co lay the boots, and Judo chops, into Darryl and leave him for dead. They realize when they have the blonde in their care that she is unnecessary baggage and rather than have more blood on their heads they hatch a plan to drive across to Mexico and sell her to some dubious Mexican chaps. Darryl in the meantime wakes up dazed and bloodied and follows the trail left by The Black Souls, he hops on his bike and heads off to rescue his girl.
The Black Souls are a pathetic bunch, although I’m guessing this probably wasn’t the intention of the directors. They are dysfunctional, sure enough, and rag tag, but come across more as wannabes, than a bona fide legit outfit. Hopper constantly bickers with his ‘mama’, who gets jealous of the blonde. You’ve got Magoo (Robert Tessier), a big lump who spends most of the film getting beaten up by the diminutive Hopper, and humourously rejected by women because he looks like disfigured Tolkien character. The conscience of the group is a clean cut biker called ‘Clean Cut’ who falls in love with the blonde and seems reluctant to indulge in the savage lifestyle of a biker. Then there’s a Keith Lemon faced member who provides the kind of impression of a bad LSD trip that might feature in an educational anti-drugs video.
‘The Glory Stompers’ is the kind of exploitation film that an auteur like Quentin Tarantino would flesh out, fill up with hip dialogue and turn into a violent classic. Unfortunately it is as unpleasant as inhaling a lungful of exhaust fumes. Hopper is creepy, but incoherent and unconvincing in his role and everyone bar Magoo seem hopelessly miscast as bikers. There is scope for firing shots at the objectification of women in the film with close up perv shots that veer into the world of Russ Meyer, but it’s a gripe with the times, and probably worth looking at in greater detail on another occasion.