Films

50 Years Of Easy Rider – A Good Time To Recall Other Biker Genre Gems

Abhishek Srivastava - 32 weeks ago

After Midnight Cowboy and Once Upon a Time in the West, now its the turn of Easy Rider to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Dennis Hopper’s cult classic Easy Rider will turn 50 coming July. Fifty years later, the movie arguably remains the most influential film in the history of Hollywood.

The success of the film was such that soon after Universal Studios gave nod to five low budget films with the promise that the directors of the films would have complete creative control. The five films that were greenlighted by the studio were -The Last Movie, The Hired Hand, Silent Running, Taking Off and American Graffiti. Needless to say, barring George Lucas’ American Graffiti none could match the studios’ expectation but Easy Rider successfully devised a grammar for small budget films which is still in practice even today. The success of the film was such that it completely eclipsed other biker-genre films. As a mark of celebration for 50 years of Easy Rider, The Film Hashery digs out those biker films which have somehow slipped from memory but have withstood the test of time. 

Quadrophenia (1979)

Quadrophenia was the first full-length feature film of actors Timothy Spall and Sting. Director Cameron Crowe of Jerry Maguire fame considers this as his favourite film. The British drama directed by Franc Roddam deals with the disillusionment of a young London boy from his job and family. As an escape route he takes recourse to party, rock-n-roll and bikes. The swinging era London has been deftly captured in the film coupled with an amazing soundtrack. Depiction of the mod subculture in the film was appreciated by critics and audiences alike. 

Stone (1974)

Many believe that George Miller got inspiration for Mad Max after watching this film. Stone was a low budget film that was also the debut feature of director Sandy Harbutt. The core plot dealt with a police officer who goes undercover and joins a motorcycle gang just to find the killer who has been murdering members of his own group. Despite being the foundation of Mad Max, this film actually piggybacked on the success of Mad Max when it went to Cannes Film Festival in 1980 to seek distributors. The success of Mad Max a year back had prompted makers of the film to seek distribution in other parts of the world. 

Electra Glide in Blue (1973)

The film was directed by James William Guerico who at one time also managed the rock band, Chicago. The story revolves around a motorcycle patrolman who, after being transferred to the homicide unit finds it difficult to please his boss. The film was shot by ace cinematographer Conrad Hall and his high salary could only be accommodated after James took a cut in his remuneration for the film. The film was also screened in competition at the 1973 Cannes Film Festival where it failed to cut ice with reviewers. No one had a clue it would make it's way into the cult path.  

The Girl On a Motorcycle (1968)

This erotic film came a year before Easy Rider and dealt with a married woman who leaves her husband and then goes to see her lover – crisscrossing the journey on a motorcycle. This was also the first Hollywood film to be awarded an X rating. The film also redefined leather jackets and full body suits came into vogue after the film was released. The film was also scheduled to screen at 1968 Cannes Film Festival but riots in France led to its cancellation. 

The Born Losers (1967)

Directed by Tom Laughlin, The Born Losers dealt with Billy Jack’s tirade against a motorcycle gang. The plot was inspired by a real incident which involved the rape of two teenage girls by members of Hells Angels. The film was also the first of four which featured the character of Billy Jack. The Born Losers was American International Pictures biggest hit until it was taken over by The Amityville Horror. The film made close to $40 million when it was re-released in 1973. 

The Wild Angels (1966)

It is believed that Peter Fonda got the idea of Easy Rider during the shooting of The Wild Angels. The film directed by Roger Corman, one of the most prolific producers in the history of Hollywood, dealt with a motorcycle gang’s brush with the local Californian police after a raid to recover a stolen motorcycle. Peter Fonda, Nancy Sinatra and Bruce Dern headlined the cast and was the opening film of the Venice Film festival in 1966. 

The Wild One (1953)

The Wild One, apart from being a great biker film, is also remembered for Marlon Brando’s iconic performance. The film talked about the rivalry of two motorcycle gangs and how they terrorize a small town. The Wild One was produced by Stanley Kramer and while Brando was initially hesitant to sign the film, he said yes only because Kramer had produced his debut film. The popularity of the film can be gauged from the fact that a photo of Brando as Johnny is featured on the cover of Beatle’s Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band cover.

Tags

Easy Rider / Quadrophenia / Stone / Electra Glide in Blue / The Girl on a Motorcycle / The Born Losers / The Wild Angels / The Wild One / Cannes Film Festival / Venice Film Festival / Marlon Brando /

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of The Film Hashery.

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